I am fat. I have been fat, to varying degrees, pretty much since the first stirrings of puberty. It is not news to me. The mirror has been telling me for a quarter of century now. And in case I missed the memo (I didn’t), my classmates told me, my mother told me, my students told me, the height-weight charts told me, my boss told me, seats on airplanes and in theatres told me, and pretty much every futile shopping trip I’ve ever made told me.
Got it. Thanks.
Like most folks who have struggled with their weight, my weight has gone up and down, and lately, given my various physical problems, it’s up and I must confess, I’ve gotten pretty upset about it. Borderline depressed. I have had nothing but unkind words for my body of late, and a fair amount of self-loathing. I’ve felt like an ugly, hopeless failure on the appearance front. And that negative self-image affects multiple aspects of my life, every day. It kicks my ass every morning as I stand in the closet trying to find something that fits, if not flatters. It puts a damper on what is otherwise a happy sex life, because I don’t feel sexy. It makes me self-conscious when I’m with others. It takes over my thoughts to a shocking degree, thoughts that could most definitely be put to better use. It makes me a hypocrite when I tell people that weight doesn’t matter, while I secretly stew over it myself. I guess that’s not hypocrisy; I am right…I just don’t always believe me.
The thing is, I have skirmished with this particular issue over and over again. Sometimes I win, and feel good about myself regardless of my pants size. Most times, I lose, and after I’m done flogging myself, I begin to have fantasies of thinness that I know will never come true for many reasons, the least of which is will power. I have spent 25 years doing this.
What a colossal waste of time and energy.
The reality is that our genes have as much to do with our body shape as diet and exercise, and probably more, and what it would take for me, personally, to become a thin person would border on mania. I know, because I did it once. 6 days a week at the gym, taking aerobics classes and lifting weights, and even then, I was never slender. I was just less fat. If 6 days a week isn’t going to do it, I don’t know what is.
Why am I telling you this? Because this post, my friends, is my declaration of independence. I am done. I am done hating myself for my weight. I am done hating my body. I am done evaluating my beauty on the basis of my BMI. I am done wasting my time on self-doubt, self-criticism, and angst over my amplitude. I read a great quote on a blog the other day about the shame we fat folks feel, and are made to feel by society at large, for being fat. She said “If shame made people thin, there wouldn’t be a fat person in this country, trust me.” Amen, sister. I can tell you this without equivocation: No one has expressed more disgust about my weight than I. I have worked through most of my internal “stuff” over the years to my satisfaction, and finally came to accept and love who I am, as-is, on the inside, but somehow I have always stopped short of accepting how I look. That continued to be fair game for all the neurotic obsession I could cook up. But you know what? I’m tired of beating myself up.
I’m tired of feeling uncomfortable in my clothes, but unwilling to buy new ones that fit because it is a sign of surrender, if not outright failure. Or not shopping because pretty is impossible for a fat girl, so why bother? I’m tired of comparing myself to others and always coming up short in my mind. I’m tired of being shackled by beauty standards that this body has no hope of reaching, short of developing an eating disorder, a coke habit, and training like an Olympic athlete. And frankly, I’m tired as hell of thinking about it. I just want to live my life, in the body I have. That’s it. I don’t think it’s too much to ask; I just have to give myself permission already.
There is nothing that I have ever really wanted to do that being fat has stopped me from doing. It didn’t stop me from getting an education, or falling in love, or being loved back, or getting married, or having great sex, or making music, or creating art, or expressing affection, or speaking my mind, or writing deep thoughts, or helping people, or laughing, or rock-climbing, or being physically strong, or running power tools, or teaching kids, or making friends, or being kind, or earning a decent living, or igniting lusty fantasies in male minds, or learning about my world. The only thing that has ever really been in my way has been how I FEEL about being fat, and that is just a ghost I don’t have to keep being spooked by. I’m turning on the light. “Fat” may describe me, but it doesn’t define me, and there is a whole bunch of other adjectives that describe me as well; “fat” is merely one.
This has been a long time in coming, but the full-blown decision-making epiphany arrived in just the last few days. Somehow, I came to the point of “enough is enough.” I decided to go shopping to get some clothing I could feel comfortable and attractive in. I ended up at an Etsy site looking for a sundress for Scott’s 20th reunion this summer, and I found one. The designer who makes these custom plus-size dresses models them herself. And she is designing for herself as much as the rest of us. But I looked at her picture and thought, “She looks gorgeous.” And I thought, “I can look gorgeous, too.” It isn’t all about my size, unless I choose to make it so.
I understand that appearance does matter; it matters to me, too. When you look good, you feel good. And I’m going to, despite my size. I’m deciding that for myself, here and now. I know there will always be those who will judge me harshly for not devoting my life to slimming down to conform to their personal standards of beauty, just as there are those who will disqualify skinny girls from the beauty contest for not having huge boobs. I’m just not going to be one of them anymore. To them, I offer the myriad diet and exercise efforts of the last 25 years of my life as evidence, and ask them what more they’d like me to do. Here’s the reality: it ain’t happening. So I’m claiming the next 25 for me.
I am fat. And it’s okay.