Just Worried About You, and Other Poisons

Recently I went to the doctor, and despite my protestations he spoke with me for a few minutes about a well-known healthy eating plan that could help me lose weight. Today, my thumb seems to have some sort of stress injury and my stomach is… well if the internet can be trusted, I have a bleeding stomach ulcer, but I haven’t been back to the doctor. I’m a grown woman (and kind of a badass) so when I tell you that it’s nearly impossible to overcome fat bias and fear to discuss my body with strangers, please take me at my word.

In 2013, I joined that very same well-known healthy eating program. I lost 83 lb of fat from my body, without starving or depriving myself, but eventually I gained it back. The ghost of that time lives in my bones now. It wraps itself around my ankles and tugs at me until it bruises my flesh. It’s on my mind every minute. I’m quick to anger when I can’t keep up or when my knees ache. I sweat profusely when others seem dewey and comfortable, and it makes me want to scream.

The size 10 version of me got to see the world as a “normal” person sees it, and I’m here to tell you, y’all are fucked up. The way we perceive fat bodies — and make fat bodies our business — is criminal.

Fat women are told what to do constantly. We are made to feel inconsequential and also too large to fit in the room. We are taught that we are disgusting, undesirable, and weak. We are reviled and ridiculed, often through third party sources like ad campaigns and “jokes.” We are told — if not every day then every week — that others are just concerned for us. They’re just worried about us and our unhealthy habits. They just want us to be happy, while wielding the weaponry of our unhappiness. If we were truly worried about fat women and our habits, we would react the same way when thin women eat french fries in public, dare to wear form-fitting clothing, or visit the doctor for any reason. I must say this, because somehow we still don’t believe fat women, and somehow this still needs to be said.

The most startling difference in my size 10 life was that men looked at me. On the street, in the workplace, and everywhere I went, men looked at me. It was like shedding an invisibility cloak and stepping out into the sunshine. It wasn’t always sexual, but it was this gift of notice that drew me in. I was also afraid. In every glance I felt a looming threat to my safety, because I was reminded of all of the times when men had encroached upon my body. I had less natural physical strength, and the spotlight of non-invisibility meant I could no longer hide in plain sight.

I won’t tell you that people stopped feeling emboldened to comment on my body. As men started to see me, women started to engage with me differently. Some women, especially queer women, automatically rejected me as other. I remember wondering about my place on the Kinsey scale (a solid 3 for a long time, I made the happy choice to own the term lesbian years ago, and now feel like more of a 5). The male gaze is intoxicating, even while it debases us. I was single at the time, and I found myself asking hairdressers to make me “look more gay” and wearing large rainbow accessories to try and fill the perception gap my traditional body shape caused.

Other women, especially straight women, reacted as if to a threat, responding to a primal drive that tells us the male gaze is a finite resource to be rationed. As I shed sizes 24, 22, 20, and 18, my acquaintances were proud of me. But when my body became smaller than theirs, they objected; they stopped me in my tracks to tell me now maybe I was too thin, I should quit losing weight, they’re just worried about me. To be clear, I wasn’t, I didn’t need to, and they thought they were.

Women’s bodily autonomy is not guaranteed. We have to fight for what is given to men. We do this every day and we do it whether we share my views or disagree with them. We do battle for the right to choose our food, our clothing, and of course, our reproductive futures. We attack the concept of beauty as pale, blonde, and thin, but with every blast, we only chip away at it. It’s worth noting that my struggle, which sometimes threatens to swallow me whole, is nothing compared to the challenges faced by People of Color, trans people, non-binary people, and people with disabilities.

I believe that the first step is to own my story. Everything I write has been written before, but today is my turn. When I put language to the crimes laid upon my bodily autonomy in the name of compassion, I take some power back from those who would rob me of mine.

I do what I want.

Wow, She Really Loves You

When Love and I were first together — not the beginning, but the good, spiritually-fulfilling, we-just-said-i-love-you-and-no-one-has-ever-meant-it-more, commercials-make-me-cry part — people kept commenting about how they looked at me.

We would be spending time with friends, and Love would go grab a beer or some other such banality, and the friend would look at me, eyebrows just raised, and say, “wow, she *really* loves you.”

I was defensive. “I really love her, too.” I mean, here we were, making love stories more poignant (yw, planet) and helping the flowers bloom, so yes, we loved each other in an equally significant, planetarily important way. Obviously.

Fast forward a few years to last month. We adopted a rescue dog in February, which brought about an era of beloved chaos. Love was terrified of the responsibility at first, but I knew the adjustment of the first few weeks would pass and our current state of adorable, furry bliss would take over. They have predictably become the far better dog guardian over time. I take our dog on 20 minute walks; Love takes her on epic urban hikes and comes home bright-eyed. In February, Love’s heart was at capacity and growing rapidly every day, but now they’re strong enough to love us all. They fuss over the dog’s well-being and squirrel bloodlust, forcing us into unnecessary vet visits and an infuriatingly helpful daily routine. By comparison, I try to trick doggo into warming up my feet by sitting on them.

Love is quiet, introverted, and subtle in expression. When we were first together — the actual beginning — I couldn’t tell if they liked me or if they were enjoying themself or if they would rather just go home and read Twitter. It was a divine mystery behind a polite (gorgeous) face. Eventually I learned to see what I call their microexpressions. It may just be a slightly widened eye to you, but I now I see plain as day that they’re thinking OMG I’M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND BECAUSE THAT IS THE CUTEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN; WHEEEEEEE.

When they look at this dog, especially when they don’t know I’m looking, I see our lives in fast forward. Picture a small round face with a slightly lifted chin, soft hopeful eyes, a tiny smile that’s only in the middle of the lips and not at all for show. It’s the look of someone who may just cry. It’s the look of a heart churning. It’s a look that doesn’t blink at commitment or compromise because you’re already intertwined and there is no excavating you from their heart. I think it’s what my friends saw back then. They *really* love us.

Thank you, lucky stars.

Fat and Sassy

My mom has at her disposal a bouquet of uncomfortably specific hillbilly phrases. While someday in the future I hope to spend an entire post extolling the virtues of “tapdancin’ and fartin’” and its finer descriptive qualities, today is Fat and Sassy’s day, and fat and sassy shall rule it.

Fat and sassy is a mood, or rather a state of being. Like most of my emotions, fat and sassy can best be understood through food, though food is not a requirement. Imagine you’ve just made and devoured a big dish of salty pinto beans (since we’re talking about my hillbilly roots) with ketchup on top. You’re proud, satisfied, and more than a little puffed up on your accomplishments. Your belly is out and that doesn’t bother you. You are, in that moment, fat and sassy. Now remove the food from the scenario. You’ve just finished painting your bathroom pink and your houseguest seems happy for you and a bit jealous, and you can’t help but to swing your ample hips and strut your fat and sassy self around.

Fat and sassy is round and happy. It doesn’t have to be fat, but it damn sure feels good that way. If fat and sassy danced, it would start with a toe tap and a grin. If it was watermelon, it would have a dash of salt that inexplicably makes it sweeter. It’s me, in my finest moments, and I’m it.

This blog has been in my soul for some time. Writing about my life as an unapologetic fat feminist is what I can never stop doing and what I refuse to start. It’s an identity I hold close while I push it hard until it’s a safe arm’s length away. I am, at is happens, full of contradictions. I contain multitudes. They’re here somewhere under layers of soft belly that I have often wished I could cut off — savage and final. I don’t always want to destroy my fat. Sometimes I want to cultivate it. Sometimes I bop it about like a round rubber ball or fall asleep with it cradled in my hands. Mostly, I just want to love it always the way I love it when I forget to remember to hate myself.

This tiny corner of the internet will be safe for fat acceptance. It will be safe for body love and bravery and poetry and pride and shame. It will also be a safe place for weight loss when it needs to be. I won’t be a part of a war waged between fat acceptance and weight loss because we all know that dichotomy is reductive. But this is not a weight loss blog and it is not a safe space for the phrase Goal Digger.

I am a goofy sap who meows loudly along to pop songs, a train wreck whose grief overpowers her from time to time, a caretaker who pushes food-shaped love onto all who know her, a font of determination who is always itching to give up. So that. This will probably contain some of that. Welcome to the party.