In sixth grade, I was fat. And in 8th grade. And in 10th. And at 25. People who meet me now have a hard time believing that. At almost 32, I'm a size 4, weigh 53kg (about 115 lbs), and generally eat well and stay active. When I tell people I used to be fat, they all look at me in astonishment, and then congratulate me on losing all that weight. And it does feel good, what can I say? I feel healthier, I have more choice in clothing, I have better stamina, my mind is clearer, and people treat me better.
But, wait...what? Let's read that last bit again. People treat me better. And it's true. The same people that used to spit on me in the hallways of Wilson Jr. High (yes, literally spit on me) now flash me smiles and offer to buy me drinks. The same people who used to oink at me as I ate my lunch now laughingly encourage me to stuff myself at all you can eat buffets -- I mean, it's not like I'm fat or anything, right? But, who knows. Maybe those people are just nicer now because they've grown up and seen the error of their ways.
Or maybe not.
In a recent discussion, the topic of weight came up. Opinions flew around like flaming arrows -- much verbal flailing and attacking and maiming occurred, and no clear victor ever arose. Probably because it was a stupid discussion. I did learn in the midst of it, however, that many of the issues I accumulated as a fat fourteen year old have not disappeared through age or weight loss. As I listened to such enlightened comments as "let's not be silly, we both know if a thin girl wanted you, you'd drop any fatty in a heartbeat" and "people only fuck fat chicks because they don't have anything better available to them", I was shocked to find myself shaking and on the verge of tears. I felt like that fat fourteen year old again, and wondered for a moment if there was spit on the back of my jacket. I thought I was over all that, I really did. I thought that, after almost eighteen years, much love, many positive changes, and (hopefully) a bit more wisdom, the cruel words of stupid teenagers were a quickly fading memory. Apparently, I was wrong.
The comment that bothered me most, however, was much more subtle. What bothered me even more was that it came from a friend. He said, upon my questioning the insulting and degrading of overweight people that "degradation of obesity is perfectly acceptable". In fairness to him, he did go on to explain that he meant the condition of being fat, not the fat people themselves. But...what does that mean? Hate the fat, not the fatty? That sounds rather reminiscent of a philosophy that has not worked all that well in the past. It's a philosophy that has been used to both justify and forgive atrocity. More than that, it's a rather absurd concept, to me. How does one degrade obesity without degrading the obese? By pointing out it's unhealthy or unattractive? Does anyone think overweight people were previously unaware of that?
And this is the crux of the issue, to me. Fat people know they're fat. Sure, a few might be in denial, or cling to some fat-pride philosophy that makes them feel better about themselves, but the majority of overweight people are well aware that they are fat, and most of them aren't very happy about it. What they should or should not do about it is up to them, and more likely than not, all of them will at some point try to do something about it. Because of this, I have to seriously question the motives of those that call out fat people and see them as justifiable targets.
Most "fatists" (their term, not mine) will say it's an issue of health -- they don't want to encourage people to be unhealthy, and so "call a spade a spade" in regards to obesity. Well, okay. Sure. That sounds good on paper, but it's just not fucking true. Now that I am thin and no one knows about my apparently shameful fatty past (well, until now...), no one expresses concern for my health when they see me eat a plate of Chinese take-out. They most certainly had something to say about it when I was fat, though. My best friend used to smoke a pack a day and eat Doritos for breakfast. Do you think anyone degraded her for being unhealthy? No -- she was a size 4, so no one had any reason to. Having now lived on both sides of the scale, I've come to the admittedly cynical conclusion that these "fatists" don't give a single fuck whether someone is actually healthy or not -- they care that fat people look gross to them, and therefore deserve reprimand.
But, so as to not sink into a non-objective pit of reactionary vitriol, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. I will assume, for the sake of my faith in humanity, that they are genuinely concerned about the health of others. If that is so, we can assume they will respond openly upon being made aware that their words and behaviour do not help. Making someone feel like shit about themselves is not a valid form of constructive criticism, and does not in any way encourage positive behaviour. In fact, it encourages the complete opposite. It was those people that made chocolate cake preferable to hopscotch in the first place. For a child, it's a rather simple equation: chocolate makes me feel happy; being laughed at on the playground makes me feel sad. And what we learn as children carries us into adulthood.
And it is for this reason that I was not able to lose weight and change my lifestyle until I got far, far away from those people. It was not until I was surrounded by people who love me for who I am, people who speak words of encouragement, people who make me feel good, that I was able to find the strength to change myself. It was not the people who spit on me and called me names that encouraged me to lose weight, it was the people who got to know me. The people that would take me out for coffee when I was sad instead of letting me drown myself in a piece of chocolate cake. The people that went for walks with me, and didn't laugh at how slow I was going. The people that taught me how to bake low-fat blueberry muffins. The people that told me I was already beautiful, now I just needed to get healthy. Those were the people that really encouraged me.
Everyone bears the burden of personal responsibility. I had to choose whether to keep doing what I was doing and stay overweight forever, or change my life and take control of my weight. For other people, the choice is in whether you want to help or hinder. I made my choice. Now, it's time for you to make yours.
I've been called a lot of things in my day, but "extrovert" has never been one of them. Much more common are terms like "loner", "introvert", "bitch who never answers her phone", and so on. Thank the various possible Gods, I've made a few friends over the years that accept this about me, and are always there when I'm ready to come out.
I do believe, however, that I owe them all an apology -- them, as well as every asshole customer that I secretly wished death on, and every boss that I begged to let me leave early. I have taken them all for granted, and I have learned this the hard way.
I don't talk much about my personal life here, and I'm not about to start. Let's just say that, for various reasons, I up and left everything last April. Quit my job, ditched my apartment, left town. Just like that. It's certainly not the first time (or even the 5th...) I've done such a thing, but it was the first time I did it with no intention of doing anything after that. I didn't get a job right away, or even try to. I didn't have any friends waiting for me, and I made no attempt to make any. And you know, for awhile, that was really nice. It was quite freeing to have no past, no plans, no obligations. I could just be. If I wanted to write poems all day, I did that. If I wanted to spend the day telling people on Facebook how stupid they are, I did that. I spent a lot of time painting. I learned to row a boat. I spent almost a month in Pinatan, a town that consists of a lake, a one-stop shop, and a payphone. No cellphones, no computers. I read 5 novels, got a terrible sunburn, and got completely wasted at 10am. It was delightful.
Until it wasn't any more.
I began to realize I had taken my friends for granted. Being the introvert that I am, I declined most of their invitations to come out, choosing to be alone instead. Now, without even the option of seeing them, I began to wonder what the hell I'd been thinking. All those times they had wanted me around, and I had rejected them -- and now, here I was, feeling sorry for myself because there was no one here to want me around.
I even began to miss my job. Don't get me wrong, the shop I worked at before this little adventure was awesome. I loved everything about it -- the people, the atmosphere, the job itself -- but, after years of digging myself deeper and deeper into the rut that is customer service, I had reached a point of complete exasperation. Every rude customer felt like another nail in my coffin. Still, after a few months of being unemployed, I started missing even them. I hadn't realized that working in customer service was largely what had kept me connected with society at large. It forced me to talk to people -- many, many people -- everyday. That was, in fact, exactly what I hated about it. Now, it's exactly what I miss about it.
Through all of this, I've had to re-examine my position as loner. It's no secret that humans need some form of interaction with other humans, but I had no idea to just what extent. I had no idea that even dealing with an asshole customer or a rude waitress was better than talking to no one at all. After a year of general solitude, however, I take it all back. Every time I said I would rather be alone, every time I cursed having to talk to all those horrid people, every time I let my voicemail handle those pesky phone calls, every time I turned down an invitation -- I take it back.
That's not to say I have changed my introverted ways. I don't think that will ever happen; I think I will always need time alone, time to recharge, and I will probably not ever love the idea of large parties or giant crowds of strangers. But I have learned the value of having people in my life. I've learned that, without people to share it with, life quickly becomes dull and drab. And I've learned that the next time someone wants to go for a drink, I should probably say yes.
Wherein I say
whatever I want.