The Texture Of Things

The Language of Fat, Part Three (Finally)

May 14th, 2007

Again with the picking up from where we left off

I am trying (repeatedly) here to get back to internalized language, and I find the connection hard to reveal even to myself. The negative, internalized language comes from so many places – upbringing, culture, individual personality, etc. – that is hard for me to make it clear to anyone besides myself how being fat can make a person feel like second-class citizen, from the inside out. This difficulty is why I’ve hesitated writing this a dozen or more times.

I have also procrastinated because, frankly, I am too aware that I undertake additional risks with this surgery, directly related to what one of my doctors called my “elevated BMI.” For example, if they have to convert from a laparoscopic procedure to an open incision because, essentially, I’m fat, then my recovery will be longer and harder, and whose fault is that? Although my weight problem might be due to a lot of factors, ultimately the buck stops here and I know it.

In the end, I guess I’m not sure what the moral to this story is. Perhaps it is a lesson we can take to heart about all people – that what appears on the outside is not the whole story.

Years ago, when I was watching ER in reruns, I found myself particularly moved by the opening scene of the episode wherein Dr. Greene floats through his last day working in the ER. He has brain cancer and has given notice that he is quitting.

The scene opens with Greene outside in the ambulance bay, shooting hoops. Carter comes out, clearly flustered by something. When Greene asks him what’s wrong, Carter reveals that “Blue Bertha” has died. “Blue Bertha” was a regular patient with emphysema who always came in for treatment but would never implement her treatment at home for any meaningful length of time.

Carter’s exasperation is clear; he wants to know why she wouldn’t do something as simple as quit smoking or some other some-such, for sake of her health. Zen-like, Greene replies, “As hard as it was to treat Blue Bertha, it was harder yet to be Blue Bertha.”

Greene is right. We can never know what it is like to carry Blue Bertha’s burdens, so it is incumbent upon us to treat her as we would hope to be treated – as an individual, if not with understanding, then at least with a little respect.


  1. KLee says

    And, having a doctor tell you that there might be additional risks due to your size — that was a devastating blow, wasn’t it? I know it was — the very first time I ever saw “morbidly obese” on my medical chart, I came home and threw myself across the bed and cried for about two hours. It’s bad enough that YOU know you’re fat. It’s worse when other people around you make fun of you because of your weight. And then it’s yet another thing entirely when your doctor formally tells you that you are *different.* It’s like getting a life sentence behind bars. You do not escape from it, ever.

    Andrea commented over at my place about larger people tending to take in fewer calories in a day than a regular weight individual. I can totally see that.

    It took Greene’s own mortality to show him that Blue Bertha deserved the respect that was due her as a human. Even the name by which they called her was a slap in the face. I just hope that the rest of society won’t need a terminal diagnosis in order to conclude that they way they treat people needs to change.

    Thank you again for this series. It’s hard to write. Rest assured that you have at least this reader who not only knows what you’re talking about, but who has dealt with it as well. You are a lot braver than you think you are. I may not be able to hold your hand after surgery, but I sure can send you get-well prayers, wishes, and cards.

    May 14th, 2007 | #

  2. liz says

    This is a beautiful series of posts. KLee sent me.

    I know that negative inner voice, too. I think most of us know it. I hope that one day you will feel deserving of good things. You are obviously a loving and insightful person, a person who cares for others. You deserve to be taken care of too.

    Hugs and good wishes.

    May 15th, 2007 | #

  3. marni says

    I can completely and totally relate to everything you have said. I had the surgery 3 years ago and am SO happy I did it. Your body will change fast, but the mental talk takes a long time to go away. Be patient…

    You are doing something that is so hard for other folks to understand. I do… please, please, please email me if you need someone to talk to.

    Good luck!

    May 16th, 2007 | #

  4. marni says

    I apologize… I thought your surgery was the gastric bypass… just went back and read more posts… you are having hernia surgery…. Ooops!

    Either way — I still 100% agree with your thoughts of being a fat person.

    The invitation is still open to talk, too!

    May 16th, 2007 | #

  5. coffeypot says

    Amy, I like the conclusion you came up with. I had rather be treated with respect than ogled over as the sex-god I am.

    All my life I was taller and skinnier than anyone in my class, and was called “worm” many times because of my build. When I went into the Navy I was 6’ 4”, 170 lbs, and I stayed that way until my early thirties. Now, that time and age has soooo swiftly moved up on me, I weigh 205 lbs, but still lanky with a bit of a gut. When I lay down I look like a water hose with a bubble in it. I am not now, nor have I ever been a guy the girls think of as sexy, but, even more importantly, I don’t care.

    Life is so much more than my weight and body, or if my hair is combed, or did I wash behind my ears. I have two wonderful grandkids to marvel over, a daughter and son-in-law to be proud of, two step-kids that are amazingly smart and caring, and I have my Sweet Tea who actually loves me.

    I have dealt with depression (still do at times) because of my upbringing and stuff, but I am a blessed man and all I need in this world is the respect you spoke of and the winning lottery numbers.

    You probably would have had the hernia even if you had one of the young hard bodies, so just deal with it and get on with your life and, if you have a dream about a set of numbers, call me.

    May 16th, 2007 | #

  6. yankee,transferred says

    KLee sent me, too. Lovely, thoughtful post. Sending virtual hugs.

    May 18th, 2007 | #

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