Thursday, May 17, 2007

a very full rant

I'm a walking stereotype.

I have at least two strikes against me: I'm black and I'm a woman. Oh, yeah, I'm fat, too. That's a curse word in this society, so excuse my language! In my neck of the woods, I get more flack for being overweight than anything else, so let's stick with that subject for now. (Note: Don't worry, this isn't a skinny bash, it's an ignorant bash; now we can move on. ;-))

So, what's the big deal about weight? Does it all really have to do with this childish notion of "fitting-in" at whatever cost, being popular, or making the cut? Is it all about being able to love freely: giving and recieving; finding the perfect mate or that special someone? Is it concern for health that motivates some people's obsession with those numbers on the scale? Well it could be one or all these things and many more for people, but for me, the real issue is the need to feel validated as a person. It's when your personal existence is recognized as equal, and when you can be estimated in the same capacity as any other human being, be it good or bad.

Some of my happiest moments occur when I realize I can relate to people without having to worry, or obssess over what I look like. But that's not always the case. Often times I'm on the sidelines before I have the chance to play. Well really, this is something that happens to everyone, all the time, and it's nothing out of the ordinary. It's something we are all guilty of: Judging a person, and especially judging them at first glance based on their looks. While we may not get it right all the time, or even much of the time, judgement does have it's place, although it's a discussion for another post. (Never completely believe a person who says "I never judge anyone."...In fact steer clear of that person, they probably don't know where their own hind quarters are located!) What I'm referring to is stereotyping, something much more malicious.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, stereotyping is: "Something conforming to a fixed or general pattern; especially a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgement."

Hmm..I'm not sure the looks and comments I get can be called "uncritical". Most times I'm likely (and some would say, "lucky") to be overlooked, but there are just as many times when I'm treated as a child, unable to perform even simple tasks without trouble, or condescended to by people who think they are doing me a favor, perfoming their daily good deed by looking me in the eyes. There are also people with the mistaken belief that overweight people don't know they're fat, and need that fact repeated to us in the loudest, crudest way possible. Alot of men treat me as if I'm asexual, or I should be. It certainly would make me easier to label (Would that label read "Return to Sender"?). And it never fails to frustrate me when I can see that look of shock when I open my mouth to speak: "You mean this beast can actually string a sentence together???" *Holding chest* Alert the media!!

But all joking aside, it's this feeling of isolation that really crushes my spirit. This idea that people are looking at me and talking about me, but not taking me, my life, or my contributions seriously (in fact, not expecting much from me in the first place) that would make a normal, happy person paranoid. And let me make myself clear, for all of you who are quick to point the finger at fat people for not simply losing weight: It's not the fat itself, it's the reaction other's have to it. It's the repulsion, often not based on concerns for the health or well-being of a person, that makes you feel like you have some sort of deadly, catching disease, like an affliction. And for me, it's also that loaded word: FAT. (I use the word fat in this post, because it's likely to get your attention, not because I support it's conotations.) By definition, the word isn't so bad..But in general, everyday use, it can be devastating.

So, to cure me of my aversion to the word, I'll jot down some statements for recitation based on things that I've learned over the years and you've probably heard once or twice before:

GLUTTONY does not equal FAT. (repeat 4x)

FAT does not equal LAZY or OUT OF CONTROL. (repeat 8x)

FAT does not equal UNHEALTHY. (repeat 10x)

FAT does not equal UNHAPPY. (repeat 8x)

FAT does not equal DESPERATE to lose WEIGHT. (repeat 10x)

FAT people do actually NEED to EAT. We haven't learned how to exist on sunlight alone yet! (repeat 8 times)

THIN does not equal ACTIVE. (repeat 6x)

THIN does not equal GOOD, HEALTHY, or HAPPY. (repeat 15x)

Being THIN does NOT GUARANTEE ETERNAL HAPPINESS. A person can have a wonderful life, full of triumphs and challenges, while being fat. FAT doesn't have to stunt your life if you don't let it-this goes out to anyone struggling with their weight, wether they're fat or thin. You don't have to wait to lose weight to start living, that's just a waste of your time! (repeat 30 x, and then as often as neccessary)

And finally, hold your breath:

FAT is not the ENEMY. (repeat daily, all the time, especially while looking at yourself after brushing your teeth in the bathroom mirror.)

...Oh, and f.y.i.:

THIN isn't the ENEMY either.

And I really do mean this. We need to accept and appreciate all types of bodies as good, and healthy. We've really got to widen our horizons. I'm not saying I'm perfect, I have a long, long way to go, but I'll leave you with a little anecdote before I end this post:

My mother and I were taking care of my niece a couple of months ago, when my mom let slip the "dirty word"...FAT! She actually called herself fat because we can be rather self-deprecating in my family. Well, my niece is five (with an elephant's memory) so there's no backsies on that type of thing, and we're very sensitive not to give my niece some sort of complex about her weight, since she has a genetic predisposition to being overweight, and since the age for eating disorders keeps dropping.

My niece considered a moment before saying, "Grandma, don't say that. You're not FAT, *pauses and looks at her meaningfully* you're FULL!" Well, besides wondering how she could be so adorable, I've started to want to believe that statement. Yep, I'm full of life, full of laughter, and kindness...and alot of other things (some not so good too, but all very, very human). I'm just usually too distracted to see them. We all are pretty full, haha, if this is not getting too corny!

Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Not only on fat, but on other stereotypes that you have had to overcome.


Celine said...

I love what your niece said to your mom!
and yeah. I'm tired of people making judgments based on what other people look like, instead of on what's inside. that's why I feel way safer/happier when I am at home than when I am surrounded by people who will inevitably make me feel like crap because I don't wear make up, don't dress up, have short nails that are never manicured, etc. no matter what, you can't win. hooray for like minded spirits and for the affirmations you wrote on your blog!

danucal said...

yeah, the affirmations are about weight, but there are so many stereotypes, it's very easy to switch out the relevant issues to make them your own! lol, they're actually just there to make a point, i don't expect anyone to actually repeat them!

my niece is very funny like that. like most kids, you just never can tell what's going to come out of her mouth. i know it was corny, but it was also a cute story that we'll never forget.

makeup-smake-up, celine! i've seen your pics, you don't need it! ;)also, you've earned your short nails by making some of the most delicious food i've seen yet. you already won! and i love your comments, thanks for sharing.

danucal said...

another comment for celine:

i visited have cake will travel, and i saw you added me to your blog roster!^^ i'm very honored!*blushes* i wanted to put you in my blogroll (whenever i get around to posting one :P), but I was kind of embarrassed to ask you. i hope you won't mind if i do, because i'm going to get my list together now..

Celine said...

are you kidding? it's an honor to be added to your blogroll AND it was also totally natural for me to add you to my own, because hello, YOU AND YOUR BLOG ROCK! :D