NO PIC-A-NIC, BUT THERE ARE WORSE THINGS
I believe – no, I KNOW – that being fat in America is no picnic. A pity, because picnicking is my favorite form of al fresco dining. Nice plump thighs and breasts – of fried chicken, that is, with potato salad and homemade apple pie and all the other goodies that go with a fine old-fashioned American pic-a-nic.
I learned about being fat when I was around ten years old. My parents and maternal grandmother worried that I was GOING to be fat. I suppose, in retrospect, I can sort of understand why they might have thought that. After all, there I was, with curves developing in places where girls of that age at that time didn’t usually have curves. Compared with my still-pixie-ish little sisters, I must have looked much as I felt – an awkward child jerking into adolescence with little grace and lots of hormones. Even so, I hardly see why anyone fretted that I was going to be FAT!
Nevertheless, believing that a potential problem should be headed off at the pass, the grown-ups took measures they thought would help.
Mom cooked for me – nutritious and dietetically sound meals that were completely different from what the rest of the family was eating, thus guaranteeing that I would feel even more isolated and self-conscious than I already did.
Why Dad thought that calling me “bucket-bottom” and “garbage-gut” would be beneficial was then, as it is now, totally beyond me, but he evidently felt that repetition would enhance the benefit and used the phrases as often as possible within my hearing.
My grandmother chose a more positive approach, and clued me in on how fat people could make themselves more acceptable to the world at large. Herself a hefty woman, she would confide in me such tidbits as “It’s important to keep the ends of your mouth turned up – no one wants to see a sour-looking fat woman” – as if anyone would want to see a sour-looking SLIM one!
Lest I sound sour myself, I hasten to say that these well-meaning people truly believed they were acting in my best interests. They were trying to prevent a problem, never realizing that they were, in fact, creating a psychological Frankenstein.
From these early beginnings I learned to believe that I WAS fat and unattractive, and I grew to hate myself for every bit of food I put in my mouth. God only knows why I didn’t become a bulimic. Well, actually, God and I both know why – I couldn’t force myself to throw up. Wasn’t for lack of trying, though.
I spent decades loathing myself for eating, and paradoxically I consoled myself with food. I was tortured and conflicted, and utterly convinced that there was nothing worthwhile about me – and I managed to diet my way into the very weight problem I’d been trained to avoid. What a nightmare.
At long last, I’ve had enough. After failed diets and lapsed exercise routines and unsuccessful surgery and a life defined by how much I weighed, I’ve taken stock and come to some conclusions. I’ve faced the truth, the whole, awful, truth. I’m a middle-aged fat woman in a culture obsessed with youth and, above all, slenderness.
I’m stopping the insanity. I refuse to hate myself any longer. I’m possessed of integrity, and am a loving and loyal daughter, sister and friend. I’m bright, with an occasionally wicked sense of humor, an enviable work ethic, a decent job. In fact, I have a number of excellent qualities, skills and talents. I’m not a failure as a person simply because I have a significant weight problem. My cholesterol is normal. My blood pressure is normal. The only thing that sends my heart into palpitations is Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, and I can live with that!
Being fat in America is no picnic, but there are worse things. THIS, I believe.
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