who your shaming will hurt.
whether under the guise of concern, or just plain moral superiority people carelessly throw words around all the time. and there are some things that get thrown around that we not only think that we have a right to say it, that we need to say it for someone’s own good, but sometimes people don’t really know at all what they are talking about, or who.
i recently, via Thursday blogwhoring, read a great post by Renee, dissecting a piece she ran across that essentially tears black women apart for referring to themselves as “thick” or otherwise, and argues that they are in fact in denial about their weight problems. the piece she links to seems to try to come off as concerned for their health, but that is how it starts. we as a society seem to believe that we have a responsibility, or rather a right, to inform people outside of the norm of acceptable size that they are too fat for their own good. we shame them right to the core, and it comes from every angle. in magazines, movies, on the TV, in our favorite restaurants and shit even in Starbucks w/ their “skinny” lattes, thin is in and anything else is so dangerous you are lucky if you don’t (die this very second you big fatty don’t you know you are going to get diabetes/have a heart attack/have a stroke/ and) die! the multibillion dollar diet industry is constantly in our faces, and every where we turn we are browbeaten w/ books like the Skinny Bitch’s Cookbook, or You On A Diet, and other such shelf toppers.
and some people become upset that we are ignoring that “skinny” people get teased (like what is happening in the discussion w/ the oh so brave ‘Anonymous’ commenters at Renee’s place), or that we are just enabling the fatties to ignore their own health. really, you can’t have a conversation about fat acceptance w/o people popping up to make it all about them and their strife as a skinny person who is misunderstood by the evil skinny hating chunky butts, or the concern trolls who just want to save our lives.
and they can’t understand that they are not helping anyone w/ what they are doing.
when i was in college i developed an eating disorder. i hit a record high 165 lbs for my 5′ 7″ frame, and was so mortified that i started throwing up. i abused ipecac syrup for months, and was really really good at cutting up food and moving it around my plate to give the impression of eating, and i was a champion of escaping to the restroom in restaurants after a meal. i wasted myself away to about 130 lbs, which looked a lot like death warmed over on me, but you couldn’t tell me that. i was thrilled to wear a size 2 shorts, but was still too ashamed to put on a two piece bathing suit. and for all my efforts i all too often woke up in a puddle of my own bile b/c my gag reflex had diminished and i threw up involuntarily.
who knows what would have happened if i hadn’t gotten pregnant that year. for some reason the thought of having to take care of something other than myself snapped me into a relatively healthy habit of eating. and i ate. everything. it seemed that i was “cured”. easy as that.
after giving birth i managed to lose all but about 15 pounds of my pregnancy weight, but apparently it looked good. i joined the military and after boot camp i found myself in the best shape of my life. but the constant PT caused me frequent injuries, and every other month i found my self forbidden from PT. my weight went up and down so often that i had three sets of uniforms. but at least i had the navy there to tell me that i was too heavy, and that i had to be on a Fitness Enhancement Program.
FEP was designed to get all of the lazy fat sailors back into shape. it didn’t matter that you wound up there b/c you were sick or injured and unable to PT, and that you might need to ease back into it. you worked out five day a week and you worked out hard. we were trained by EOD sailors and sometimes lower ranking marine corps officers. if you slowed down or dropped out of group formation runs you were belittled and teased or forced to do more. it was no wonder that i was injured more on FEP than any other time. i ran until i had stress fractures and shin splints so bad that my profile was adjusted so that i was to never run again. my body could not take the wear and tear.
now i suffer from chronic pain, and while some doctors say Fibromyalgia, no one is willing to put an actual label on it. my weight has reached new highs, so high that i can not even type it. and i can not exercise in a way that will help manage my weight b/c even light swimming causes me pain for days. i feel helpless.
and ever since the Guy and i have become engaged my peer to peer sites like Myspace and Facebook have switched the advertisements to be all about “getting skinny by your bid day!” or “don’t have back cleavage in your dream dress”, to even “secrets of skinny brides”.
i have read more than my fair share of Shapely Prose and other fat acceptance blogs, and even try everyday to kid myself into thinking that i am OK w/ the way i look.
but yesterday i tried on the beautiful sundress that we ordered for me to get married in, just a casual aloha print dress, and everything i hate about myself seemed to jump out at me. and i sobbed my eyes out for over an hour. and then, as i started talking to the Guy, i realized that i am not “cured”.
i have been skipping meals. daily. some days i eat only if w/ the rest of the household, and i lie about it. seriously, i barely noticed that i was doing it. but i found myself ashamed to admit that i hadn’t had breakfast or lunch, and always always justified it.
(added after initial post) i secretly feel guilty about every single bite of food that passes my lips. i am obsessing over how many calories are in this, and how much activity i have to do to make up for that. i have not had a single meal in six months that i can remember not feeling guilty about. or feel exposed that anyone watching me eat is groaning about what the fat girl is putting in her mouth.
i have been throwing up. a lot. some days b/c i feel nauseous. some days, b/c i shove a toothbrush down my throat to make it happen. i didn’t think i had done it that much, but when the Guy asked me how often, it is pretty regularly. i have been excusing myself to the restroom at restaurants, and taking extra long showers.
i won’t eat when certain roommates are around. sometimes i won’t eat dinner until they go to bed for the night. i have to leave the room to keep myself from crying when he talks constantly about working out, how great it is that his incredibly beautiful society standard thin wife has nothing else to do but work out on her deployment in Iraq, that it must be so good for her. i cringe when he jokingly calls the Guy “fatty” for eating pizza or skipping a workout. i know he isn’t trying to be hurtful, but it hurts me all the same.
and i didn’t realize how bad i was.
and the Guy has decided that it is time for help. i don’t know what that means, but we have cancelled all but the most basic of wedding plans, since this is a formality out of necessity for us anyhow, but there won’t be any big party and no photos. we are changing the officiant to a close friend so we can have only the most intimate people to us there. we are wearing clothes we already have, and are making it as casual as possible. it still hurts, but it is better than what we had.
the point here is not to feel sorry for me. that is not what i want right now. the point is that we need to really think about what we say/type. we need to be careful how we word things, b/c not only do words mean things, but we just don’t know who we are hurting w/ our careless words, our concern trolling, or our idea of humor. we just don’t know.
not only does shaming someone about their weight not help them or their health, but we need to know that we could actually be making a bad situation worse. not only am i afraid that i am not healthy, but i am afraid to see a doctor b/c i am afraid that they are going to either judge me or not really believe i have a problem due to my size. and honestly, i am not as big as some people are, some people who deal w/ harsher judgement and more criticism and prejudice than i could ever imagine (and i can be pretty imaginative). i shudder when i get weighed, i beg nurses not to tell me how much the scale reads, and yet i know that i am still quite privileged in that department.
still privileged and still hurting.
so, before you off handedly say something, before you judge, before you shame, even out of concern, before you brag about how much weight you have lost, before you gloat about how much you love working out and how incredible it makes you feel, think. think long and hard about the people in your life, and how your words may be causing them harm. way more harm than the fat ever will.
please feel free to discuss, but all concern trolling or shaming will be deleted and the commenters banned.
and no pity parties for Ouyang Dan.