|Inspired by this Radiolab episode about an artist who is creating and island of fat in appreciation for the substance itself.|
I tend to forget (at least consciously) for long spates of time that there’s supposed to be anything wrong with the size of my body. In the past twenty-five years, since reaching adulthood, I’ve wavered between size 18 and size 24, with a brief Southern California stopover at size 14. I’ve always loved clothes and love them even more now that there’s more cuteness available in my size(s). In general, I forget to not feel beautiful, assuming anyone who thinks otherwise is just a creep. My Aunt Connie always told me that “fat is jerk repellant,” and although I wish it were truer than it is, it’s comforting advice.
I never really thought about Fat Liberation or saw myself as having a marginalized body until the last few years’ deep dive into trauma work and feminism. Two of my favorite sources for body-positive fat advocacy are the She’sAll Fat Podcast and Lindy West’s book Shrill. These and lots of other sources have helped me to clarify my view of how body positivity fits into the overall project of justice.
Although I’ve never been all the way convinced (at least as an adult) that my body isn’t beautiful, there’s one insidious societal message that did get in there: “Fat women need to take what they can get when it comes to men.” When I first (polyamorously) returned to dating men back in 2011, one of my first guy-loves was someone who terrified me. I went almost immediately into an abusive not-relationship with a (not always consensually) sadistic jerk partly because I was so shocked and delighted to find a man attracted to me. Luckily at the time I was still with Amy who has always thought that I’m perfect (even when I’m really, REALLY not) and had a lovely FWB who treated me like a Mystery-Science-Theater-watching goddess. Still, the “you’re lucky to have anything” mentality was my accomplice in many, may nightmare scenarios with men who were more than willing to take advantage of that vulnerability—that was their fault, not mine, but I’m happy to be in a kinder-to-myself place.
Of course, my reluctance to have standards and boundaries was tied to the trapped-and-helpless residue of trauma, but a lack of general worthiness, especially when it comes to men, has made the trauma harder to come to terms with.
After a powerful year of trauma work, I feel fully entitled to decide my own body size, but I’m not sure my actual body agrees. There have been so many years when I’ve resolved to lose 40 pounds, and it has always been the most elusive (and honestly, least-cared-about) goal. They say if you keep not doing a goal, you don’t really want it, so I dropped it. Kept exercising and eating lots of produce and mostly forgot about it.
Then at a doctor’s appointment last fall, I found out that I weighed almost 300 pounds, and a few weeks later at the follow-up appointment, I was at 303. That’s the highest weight I’ve ever had measured. I gained 25 pounds last fall (I’ve been half-jokingly calling it my #metoo weight…) and I am freaked. I’m also freaked that I am freaked, because it feels like I’m letting my body positive sisters and brothers and non-binary siblings down.
Nonetheless, there’s that stupid goal on the list again—lose 40 pounds. I chose 40 because it feels like a reasonable amount to lose in a year, but it also feels impossible and stupid and embarrassing. I eat pretty well, just more than I am supposed to, but putting ANY restrictions on food makes me feel deeply anxious, like I’m holding myself up for judgement and taking my own privacy away. Mostly food is just delicious, and I don’t know why it feels like privacy, but also maybe I do.
Friday night on the way home from yoga I was listening to this interview with Roxane Gay that reminded me she also sometimes thinks of her body as “unruly” and that rang a bell. The 25 #metoo pounds made me feel out of control and made me worry that I had lost touch with myself.
So that’s where I’m at right now, just asking my body what it needs from me and doing my best to listen. I love my body so much for always being with me through this not-always-easy life—though trauma and bad classrooms and a housefire and those GODDAMNED election results, but also for niece-and-nephew hugs and gorgeous adventures and ramen at Morimoto and a long marriage and a wonderful time taking back the term “spinsterhood.” I’m proud of myself for keeping alive, for keeping safe, and I hope that my body knows I’m grateful.