The Texture Of Things

The Language of Fat, Part Two*

May 14th, 2007

Picking up from where we left off

Imagine a hypothetical instructor in a classroom, returning hypothetical papers to hypothetical students in their seats.
the aisle between rows of desks is roomy – no thought relating to size and space crosses the instructor’s mind.
on another day during another semester, the aisle is not as roomy – the instructor thinks, “Hm, this seems tighter.”
she meets difficulty walking between desks – she thinks, “I don’t fit here so easily.”
she is unable to slide between desks at one point in row – now “I don’t fit here anymore.”
she hesitates to attempt going all the way down the row – she ponders, “I might not fit there. Should I try it?”
she tries it and meets a too-tight squeeze – “I shouldn’t have tried it.”
she hesitates to attempt the row a second time – “I won’t fit there. I don’t fit there.”
she does not try anymore, finds another path – “I can’t.”

Repeat over time until she cannot fit down any aisle in the room. She must find a new way to return student papers – perhaps have them come up to lectern? Meet them at the door?

These are small changes, but they inform more than just the first 10 minutes of class; they guide a fat person’s thought and self-talk by restricting her/his actions.

“I can’t” means “I don’t fit,” which becomes “I can’t because I don’t fit.”
“I can’t because I don’t fit” becomes “I shouldn’t try that way.”
“I can’t because I don’t fit” becomes “It’s not for me.”
[add to this internal monologue seeing other people, presumably thinner people, taking that path, which leads to a sense of exclusion]
Ultimately, “I can’t because I don’t fit” becomes “I’m not allowed to because I will fail because I am fat.”
“I fail because I am fat.”

With a mindset like this, is it any wonder why an already challenging feat like losing weight (and keeping it lost) is so difficult for people? Sure, I am probably projecting on the majority of overweight and obese Americans- no, I am projecting – but I cannot be alone in this. I cannot be the only one to have negative self-talk floating around in her head. But in case I am, let me return this exercise to me alone.

It was only a matter of time before “I will fail because I’m fat” and all its attending negativity would lead me to “I’m so fat. If I can’t manage to be not-fat, why should I deserve cute shoes/ pretty clothes/ a cheap swimsuit/ a dessert after dinner/ and so on? Really, why?” Which brings me back to my surgery.

Yes, if you’re reading this and anticipating that I actually hesitated scheduling a surgery that three doctors agreed I needed but that I felt I didn’t deserve because I’m fat, you’re right. Yes, I’m scared of dying, of a long recovery, of the pain not being fixed, of finding out it is all in my head, but that is not the whole of it. The rest of it is that, well I don’t know. How can my modicum of pain (however regular or debilitating) warrant the money and effort this surgery will require? Beyond the actual operation, I’m going to need a lot of help from people for weeks. Weeks. I don’t know how or when to ask for help for little daily stuff (HG can attest to this), how the hell am I going to do this? Why the hell should I put so many other people out? For what?

True – the endometriosis and the scar tissue could happen to anyone, but the hernia? Caused when I slipped on some slush while loading the tot into her car seat. Probably it was caused by my being out of shape, by my being fat. How exactly do I not deserve the hernia as punishment for not correcting my weight problem? How exactly do I deserve to have it fixed?

Of course I know I deserve this surgery, like I deserve any other medical care, like anyone in need of medical care deserves to be treated. If it were any other medical problem, I would not hesitate to have it fixed. Wonky-looking mole? Might be my fault for not using enough sunscreen, but I’m damn sure getting it fixed. Injury from an accident? Regardless of how the accident happened, I’m getting the broken part fixed – No Question. But this, somehow this is different.

*The continuation of this post will appear sometime today or tomorrow. Please stay tuned.

1 Comment »

  1. KLee says

    You ARE NOT the only person who feels this way. As I tried to say in my numerous posts on this, not only do fat people have that internal monologue – that constant refrain – inside their heads AT ALL TIMES, we have to hear those comments from other around us. And hearing those comments from others around us reinforces the notion that we are no good, unworthy, a failure. It’s like validation of our own worst fears of ourselves. And other people only see the surface. They don’t care that you’re a good mother, a caring wife, a talented writer — all they see is the shell.

    As far as you being undeserving of treatment, would you say that I brought my recent ankle break/sprain on myself? That I *deserved* it? No, I feel sure you wouldn’t. That’s not the type of person that you are. Yet, in some cases, it’s the God’s Honest Truth. I’m fat. My ankles and knees take a pounding because of all that excess weight. My ankles have been weakened by years of carrying far that weight. My center of gravity is much lower than many other people’s. I’m large, ungainly, and move like a lumbering elephant. This all factors in to my clumsiness. Yet, even though I’m fat, I deserve treatment. As do you.

    Would you tell an addict that he or she does not deserve rehab because they brought it on themselves? Or would you tell a stroke victim that they must not have been living right all those years, in order to have such a bad thing happen to them? No, you wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t. That attitude of “I don’t deserve this” is THE most insidious aspect of fat. We deny ourselves *so much* because we feel like it’s our just punishment for letting ourselves become what we are. That’s the part I hate most. The part that talks us into hating ourselves. It’s bad enough hearing it from others, but to have your own Inner Person tall you the same thing — that’s a level of hell that neither you nor I deserve.

    I know that this was hard for you to write. I thank you for your strength, and I’ll be proud to help you in your struggle in any way that I can.

    May 14th, 2007 | #

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