I was at a media event a few weeks ago, talking with some folks about why I don’t do restaurant reviews for TasteTO myself. “I’m pretty unique looking, you know? If I’m out at something like this and meet a chef, they’re probably going to remember the fat girl with the red hair and sparkly glasses.”
It’s either that or dead silence. Maybe someone will pipe up and say, “oh, you’re not fat” in a way that lets you know clearly that they think you are. But people seem to really not know how to deal with a fat girl referring to herself as fat.
But here’s the thing – I’m with myself every day – in the shower, in front of the mirror, getting dressed… buying new clothes. I know what the scale says, what the size tags say and what the measuring tape says. And they all say that I’m fat.
And I’m okay with that.
Personal history, genetics, and a job where I basically eat and then sit down and write about what I eat – all of that aside, I’m fat and I’m probably never going to be skinny. Technically I’ve been fat since I was 10. And I don’t really have an overwhelming desire to be thin, skinny or “average”.
Fat is just a word used to describe a physique. Likewise thin, pale, freckled, curly-haired, brown-eyed, etc. Yet because our society has such a stigma against heavier people, “fat” has become an insult, an offensive word that should never be uttered. We use all kinds of polite replacements; plus-sized, rubenesque, big, full-figured, and if we’re being impolite a variety of words alluding to animals; whale, elephant, hippo, cow, pig, heifer…
People use the word “fat” to hurt others because we’ve been brought up to believe that it’s bad. I can’t count the times someone has called me a “fat bitch” thinking it would reduce me to tears, and have been taken aback when I retorted, “Yes I am, what’s your point? Is that the best insult you can come up with? You’re not very bright, are you?” (Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I’m stupid… or slow with the snarky witticisms.)
But I’m still confounded when my use of the word fat to describe myself makes others uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the Homer Simpson theory; “That’s our word for making fun of you!” If the fat girls take control of the word, then everyone who makes fun of us is going to have to use their brains and think up something else to criticize us about, or find a different word. Imagine.
Or maybe it’s that we’re never supposed to admit to the (pardon the pun) elephant in the room; that we’re supposed to keep to some agreement to not utter the f-word and destroy the fantasy of everyone being perfect and normal and average.
But perfect and normal and average is so boring.
Being fat is part of what makes me unique. It makes me memorable, along with other physical characteristics like my hair, my glasses, and the way I dress. I think I have a good sense of style and a good sense of my shape, and play up the assets while camouflaging the not so great bits, but there’s no denying that I’m a big strapping girl. One who looks pretty good (you know, for my size), and dresses well, but who will never ever (and who never wants to) be just like everybody else.
So let’s take the stigma away from the word fat – particularly when a fat person uses it. It’s a neutral adjective, no better or worse than any other used to describe the human body. Because our bodies are all different – and some of them will be big while others are small. Some will be dark, others light, some tall, some short.
And some will be fat. And hopefully those fat people will be as comfortable and confident in their own skin as everybody else. Because there’s absolutely no reason for them not to be.