I was skinny for a little while, back in college and then again for about six months into adulthood. I was never yellow-polka-dot-bikini skinny, bones thrusting from the skin skinny, exercise and eat right and you’ll have a flat tummy skinny. But I wasn’t fat, and I suppose that’s as skinny as I’ll ever get. I wore single-digit size jeans. I never ate lunch or snacked on warm, gooey chocolate cookies or slices of spongey yellow cake or crisp, freshly fried onion rings. I could shop in stores where the salesladies didn’t smile at me pityingly. “Poor thing,” they all seemed to think. “Just can’t stop shoveling Big Macs down her gullet. Perhaps her parents hit her a lot.” That’s the thing about skinny people; the vast majority of them seem to think there’s a problem hiding somewhere in your fat rolls. They seem to think being fat’s a problem. Hell, most fat people think being fat’s a problem.
I had no idea I wasn’t fat. In fact, being skinny caused me more misery than hauling around extra wide hips ever did. All of a sudden, my body was shrinking. It was in constant danger of expanding, bloating back into a ship. So I tried to shrink, too. I shrank into starvation and dizzy spells. I disappeared into a world that fainted and growled and wore its hunger like a badge. My mind was a shallow pool of hunger and little else; I accomplished next to nothing during those years because all I could focus on was how much I’d like to eat a big ribeye steak, medium rare, with a baked potato smothered in cheese and bacon and sour cream, and a side of buttery, salty lima beans, the whole thing followed by a big slice of Tiramisu.
Food. Its planning, its consumption, its effect on my body were on my mind every five minutes of every day. Being skinny took everything I had and then some. And I was unhappy.
Inevitably, the weight comes back. Not all of it, but some, and that’s when, very briefly, a fat person’s world ends. All that hard work, gone in a brief glimpse of the scale. Bang. Back to plus size with you, fatso. You start to notice the salesladies’ looks again. The way they smile alarmingly at your love handles. Men (or women, although I can’t speak to this) like to tell you how they would never, ever, have sex with you because you’re honestly just too fat for fucking. Men love telling fat women how ugly we are. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe, on some level, our fatness is offensive to those men. Who knows why. If there’s an intensive psychological study exploring the relationship between media, thinness, and beauty and how men correlate those things over time, I haven’t heard of it.
Family members like to tell me when I’ve gained weight. I walked in wearing an old t-shirt with a cartoonish Godzilla on it and shorts. I loved that shirt. My father took one look at me and said, smiling, “The diet’s not working out, is it?” The shirt was damned to the part of my closet reserved for pajamas. I haven’t worn it outside since. My mom’s cousin was bragging during a family reunion about how much weight she’d lost.
“When I started getting into double digit jeans, that’s when I knew something had to be done.” I was pretty sure she meant for me to hear that, being the biggest of the women in my family. They’re all skinny and manicured and lovely in their tight Banana Republic shirts. I don’t quite fit with my plus size dresses and my plump smile. I always look out of place in the family portrait. The fat cousin hanging out awkwardly behind her trim aunts, painfully aware of her ugly duckling status.
I am jealous, on some level, of all my former fat friends who’ve lost weight. I ignore their calls, their e-mails, their inquiries into my well-being. They make me feel fat, and honestly, feeling fat is tiresome, so I try to pretend that these former fat friends don’t exist.
Fatness can make you irrational. There’s a part of me that assumes strangers are tracing my fat rolls with their eyes as I walk by, quietly dissecting me and mocking me. There’s a part of me that assumes everyone cares about my body. And some strangers do. I’ve been told on countless occasions, in less than kind terms, how fat I am. Fatty fat fat fat. As if I was unaware. “Thanks, kind sir, I’ll get right on that.”
But honestly, I think most people don’t care. At least, most reasonable people don’t. And why in the world do I care about what the other ones think? Anyway, no one told me I needed to be ashamed of my fat. So I guess, I’d like to end with a call to chubby arms. Fat people: flaunt it. Be big, glorious ships.
by E.E.W. Christman
Feature image from Healthtap