Thank you for your opinion.
Yesterday, someone responded to one of my more emotional pieces with a comment that was both complimentary and nasty.
My article is about being fat, which I am, and how it feels to be fat despite one’s best efforts, which I make, and the way the world treats fat people.
The comment praises my writing and the way society makes life hard for fat people. My new friend Peter starts out by telling me I’m making it sound like fat people are discriminated against, but that that discrimination is positive because it gives fat people a reason to lose weight. He goes on to talk about “a range of products to make people thin.”
I went to the commenter’s page, and read his poetry and some pieces. He seems to be an older man, possibly widowed or divorced, and I think he’s in the UK. I’m not sure from what I read that I would like him if I met him in person, but I did enjoy some of his writing. I knew the best thing I could do was move on.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said. For him, it was probably a toss-off comment. For me it was a mental splinter, pricking me to think about the way I’m seen as I move through my day.
So I wrote back:
I’m glad you liked the writing!
Note: This is genuine. I was glad he liked the writing — I put great care into my words, to be clear and literary and helpful, and I’m glad when people notice.
Yesterday I read several of your pieces, and your poems are beautiful and sad pictures of what it feels like to expect one thing and then get another. I think we have in common a good bit of nostalgia for the way things might have been once, but certainly aren’t anymore.
We differ on a lot of our views.
Note: We do differ deeply. My commenter is a very traditional man, who claims the label “patriarchal” and feels personally attacked by Women’s Lib, and he is a climate change denier.
You say there are “a range of products to make you thin.” There’s also a lot of information out there about the efficacy of various kinds of weight loss, for children and for adults, and how that relates to health, beauty, and the fear of death. There’s also a fair amount of scientific evidence that weight stigma (like what I described in this piece) makes people fatter.
Note: Anecdotally, reading (again) about how it is essentially impossible to lose weight permanently has made me very sad for the past 18 hours or so, which kept me from eating much at several meals but also kept me from going to the gym. So I guess that’s a wash?
I also have several more pieces about how weight loss has worked for me personally, if you care to read:
Don’t Be Fat Class
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent -Eleanor Roosevelt*
I’m hopefully publishing another long piece about weight and weight loss soon, this one less rooted in my experience and more in the science contained in the articles I linked above. I’m also working on another one about the denouement of my study experience, and have one planned about being a fat musician.
I might come back and link these when I finish them.
All of this is to say: I’m doing everything I can to be healthy, and most of what I can do to be thinner, and I write to try to reconcile those. I’m one of the “good” fat people, insofar as that’s a thing.
But how many healthy behaviors I have doesn’t and shouldn’t matter: heath, beauty and humanity are all different, and we shouldn’t ask people to change their basic characteristics before we’re willing to treat them like people.
FYI, I worked hard enough on this reply that I will probably excerpt most of it into a separate piece.
Note: This is the whole comment, not just most of it.
And it’s true: we should not be asking people to change their basic characteristics before we are willing to treat them like people, but it’s something lots of us experience every single day.