I don’t want the people who love me to avoid the reality of my body. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable with its size and shape, to tacitly endorse the idea that fat is shameful, to pretend that I’m something I’m not out of deference to a system that hates me. I don’t want to be gentled like I’m something wild and alarming. If I’m gonna be wild and alarming, I’ll do it on my terms.
Thank God for Lindy West. When I first read Sbrill, which in my opinion is one of those books we’ll look back on in twenty or thirty years as a seminal feminist text, it enlightened me to something I had never before considered—that I didn’t have to experience shame surrounding my identity as a fat person. Shrill taught me, or perhaps reinforced for me, the idea that shame is a cultural construct wielded as social currency by dominant groups to keep the outgroups marginalized and silent.
I’ve had so many loved ones, so many friends and family members, shy away when the topic of conversation shifts to my body. Or worse, they say something like, “You’re not fat. You’re beautiful.” Ergo, I can never be beautiful and exist in a fat body. Meanwhile, I know they’re lying to my over 300-pound ass. I know it. They know I’m fat. I know I’m fat. We are both cognizant of the shared knowledge of my fatness. To pretend otherwise, to tacitly ignore the reality of my body, is an act of erasure. And it is unacceptable.
There’s also a nuance, just below the surface, subtextual, corrosive—that implies that I’m not like those other fat people, those disgusting people who shovel in food at buffets—I’m one of the good fat people who does everything right and just remains fat as a cruel act of God. It rains on the just and the unjust. Being fat, though, is neither a punishment nor an unfortunate act of God. It is not a consequence of poor choices or diet or any sort of ableist bullshit you’ll encounter on daytime television—that blesséd time of day when we degenerate fatties are vacuuming up potato chips with our hungry mouths and finishing everyone’s leftovers from the night before.
Fat just is. And I deserve—we all deserve—the unabashed and unadulterated truth of our bodies. Let us be celebrated or let us be damned. I will not accept a third option.
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