Typically narcissistic blogging.

Posts tagged “bodies

One Simple Trick

I’m at work, and my new coworker sees my driver’s license photo, which was taken over a decade ago.

“You’ve lost so much weight!” She exclaims.

“Yeah, well, I experienced traumatic injury and illness this year…”

“Congratulations!” She hasn’t even heard me. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I’ve lost weight. “I want to do that, too.”

Between the loss of an actual extremity, stress, emotional distress, and a vicious C. diff infection, I lost about 40lbs in the course of maybe 2 months, and I had no power over that at all.

My relationship to food and eating after both intense trauma and gut infection has completely changed, and I have a genuinely difficult time consuming all the calories I need. This is important because I work my ass off at the gym in my ongoing attempts to build the strength and endurance I need to function as well as I’d like with a prosthetic foot.

Today I managed to get down:

  • 3 bites of cereal
  • a mocha
  • part of a bag of chips
  • several determined bites of chicken and rice
  • part of a slice of bread

I can’t tell you how much I would love to have been able to eat even one full meal. I continue to have very little power over my weight or how much I lose, and that is something I am working on (this is not an invitation for advice, either).

This isn’t every day. Some days I manage 3 squares. Some days I manage seconds (this happens almost never ). Most days I average 1-2 meals.

Every time somebody compliments me on my weight loss, I am reminded of days spent in the hospital unable to find my appetite through the physical agony and emotional shock I endured. I am reminded of days spent unable to function, unable to eat, in despair as I lost even more control of my life and my health. I am reminded that I have not fully recovered, that I am struggling with this daily.

But the fatphobia in this world is so intense, so hardwired, and so fucked up that it would never occur to anybody that my weight loss was anything other than desired.

The entitlement people feel towards the bodies of others is so automatic, and has gone so unexplored, that it is not the fact that they have commented on my body that goes questioned, but the fact that I am struggling to respond graciously.

And the entitlement people feel to graciousness upon the “gift” of a compliment, however unwanted or unasked for, ensures that I must either do the emotional work for them—of fielding their ignorance, their insensitivity, their not-so-subtle programming in patriarchal values—or have my attitude questioned (rarely a safe option for a queer genderfluid person of color) and work harder all around.

This is bullshit.

Fuck your fatphobia. Fuck your concern trolling. Fuck your entitlement to my body and how it looks. Fuck you for not stopping to think for a second that there are so very many reasons a person might lose weight, and actually setting out to is only one of them.

It’s time to stop remarking on other people’s bodies, especially when you don’t know the whole story. I would say it’s time to stop making assumptions, but I don’t have a lot of faith in the ability of folks to make that leap. So let’s start with shutting the fuck up and letting people move though their day and their lives without wondering who is going to comment on their bodies next.

As a post-script to the fedora-wearing motherfuckers who think people should just be happy to get a compliment and will comment here and on FB to that effect:

giphy


You Look Like You Lost Weight!

“You look like you lost weight!” I don’t know why people think this (or any variation on this) is an acceptable compliment. I really, really don’t.

I had a girlfriend once who had me in the gym between 3 and 5 days a week, eating flavorless shit and being generally worried about everything I put in my body. I looked good, but to be honest, I was pretty miserable.

“Don’t worry,” she’d say, “I’ll want you no matter how you look.” But she only really praised the way I looked when I was at my thinnest, and would make comments specific to the weight I had lost. Relatedly, the number of times I have expressed interest in a woman and heard, “Oh, she’s looking for somebody…um…athletic,” or something to that effect, which is just like saying, “You’re too pudgy for this one, move on,” is officially too many.

Perhaps most scarring, the only compliment my mother has ever given me on my appearance, since childhood, has been about my weight (or, when I’ve just gotten it cut, my hair). Growing up, my entire understanding of my physical attractiveness was based on my weight, and my perspective is not unique.

Now, I know that we live in a world where “thin” is somehow synonymous with “attractive,” and that fat is considered unattractive, gross, unhealthy, etc. There are lots of blog posts and articles about that, and lots of people much more willing to have the argument about how fat doesn’t automatically mean unhealthy, unattractive, or gross, so I don’t really intend to delve into that discussion. Rather, I am going to discuss this so-called compliment.

“You look like you lost weight!” and “Have you lost weight? You look great!” and “Are you on a diet? Because you look fantastic!” are all, despite whatever encouragement and good feeling are behind them, backhanded compliments.

1. It unnecessarily enforces the “thinner is better” idea.
2. It suggests that the person was insufficiently attractive before the weight was lost.
3. It suggests that the person is only attractive because the weight was lost.
4. If no weight was actually lost, it suggests that the person only looks good to you at the moment because they happen to look a little thinner.

Before you accuse me of being oversensitive, consider just how stigmatized even a little extra weight is. Look at television, magazines, the requirement that men be perfectly cut bodies, the transition of Angelina Jolie from gorgeous curvy vixen to bony, underfed Hollywood victim. Look at fashion—not just the models, but the way that clothes are designed for the thin. Look at how fat people are portrayed in movies and television, as either evil or comic relief.

Now think about this supposed compliment. Why couldn’t you just say, “You look amazing/beautiful/gorgeous!” or, “How handsome are you, is that a new shirt?” or, “Hot damn!” Why would you mitigate a compliment with the suggestion that an individual looks that way because of his or her weight? Even if it’s true. Regardless of whether you think that fat is ugly, and regardless of whether you actually think that this person only looks good because he or she has lost weight, why not just compliment him or her? Why not remember that part of what makes this peson attractive is personality, smile, eyes, hair, dimples, and so on, and so forth? Why not forget which size jeans this person wears for the seconds it takes to compliment him or her?

You don’t need to put your assumptions about beauty and health on your friend’s plate—believe it or not, we overweight types don’t want to eat everything that is put in front of us. Reconsider your choice of words. Compliment the person, not the size.