Not My Baggage


There are times when we take burdens that we were never meant to carry. Maybe we were raped at age four and given the tremendous baggage that came along with it. We go on and carry it around for almost four decades because we never quite realized it was never really ours in the first place.

That rapist took many things from me that day, but the worst thing he did was gave me a huge parcel of shame that I would internalize and lug around for decades because I’ve never realized I could let it go.

It’s not my baggage.

Likewise all the negative criticism I’ve received because of how I look is not my baggage to carry. I kind of realized that today when I read a juvenile and offensive blog from a Marie Claire writer. Her beef was with fat folks, stating specifically that she didn’t want to see “morbidly obese” TV characters making out.

The exact passage was, “I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.”

So in this blogger’s mind, it’s “aesthetically displeasing” to see fat people doing anything, which has nothing to do with the distress of seeing an addict engage in unhealthy behavior, no matter how much her little aside at the end would have you believe.

She does go on to dole out some nutritional advice for us fatties to lose our disgusting rolls of fat so we won’t be so darn aesthetically pleasing and put a big fat wrinkle into her day. Like she says of Mike and Molly’s lead characters being in Overeaters Anonymous, “So … points for trying?”

Either way, her very bigoted, insensitive and hateful dialogue tried to crawl up on me like an unwelcome parasite; a tick or leech that would dig its way into my ear and attach itself to my brain so that my inner Chatterbox would forever spew this type of unnecessary vitriol.

Guess what…

It’s not my baggage.

Her issues with my weight are exactly that – her issues.

She maintains that people can’t be healthy when they are morbidly obese, something she says in a dutiful apologetic update to her original blog as “100% more than their ideal weight.”

For me that would mean I would weigh somewhere around 318 pounds, which … incidentally… I don’t weigh. I *used* to weigh that much and more but have lost enough weight than I am under that scary 300-pound mark. It’s something I’m pretty proud of, but because I’m not thin yet it’s something that doesn’t really count when people are bigoted against fat. All they see is the fat right now, not the stuff done behind the scenes to fix the issues that made me fat in the first place… like that baggage of shame I inherited when I was only four.

They don’t know what I eat or what I do to lose weight, they just assume I’m eating like a cow because I have “rolls and rolls of disgusting fat”. I’ve come a long way, with a long way to go. And I’m never going to make it as long as I’m weighing myself down with the unnecessary baggage of everyone else.

Per the *real* measure of morbid obesity – the BMI scale – my range of obesity is anything over 192 pounds. Yeah. I kinda weigh over that. Morbid obesity would put me at anything over 256 pounds, which I’m not afraid to say I do weigh.

It’s not like I can hide it. You know I’m fat just looking at me. What you don’t see is that I’m a great mom, a talented writer, a devoted friend, a loving wife and a passionate advocate. All that requires a little more effort on your part to look a little closer.

Just like I might not have known she was a bigot just looking at her. I had no preconceived notions at all. I let everyone’s actions and words speak for themselves.

How they look? Eh. That’s way too fleeting and superficial. I may be fat, but I’m not emotionally lazy. People are often too beautiful to miss. Dismissing them for any reason can often be a real loss on our part, and is far more indicative of our own insecurities rather than their absence of value.

There are some folks who jumped to her defense as if all us offended “fatties” suggested in any way that obesity is healthy. It wasn’t defense of obesity as much as it was (rightly) attacking her very apparent intolerance and utter ignorance why people tend to be obese at all (such as carrying around all the baggage of everyone else).

Let’s go back to the core of her discontent:

I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room…”

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the health of the obese person in question. She’s not trying to figure out why they’re fat so that she can help them be healthier. Again, it has everything to do with her own level of discomfort.

You could literally take out “fat” and put “black” or “gay” or “disabled” and it would still be the same comment. It says I have to change or hide for her comfort, and sorry… that’s not happening. It has nothing to do with the object of her disdain or any feigned concern for their health. If you care about the health of someone else, you don’t couch it from the perspective of your comfort. This blog has to do with her own inability to accept others as they are as opposed to what she’d like them to be.

Apparently it is more socially acceptable in this country to be mean than it is to be fat, which is somehow more of a failure than the lack of empathy and tolerance. Since fat is considered a “choice”, the general mentality is, “If you don’t want people to treat you poorly because of your size, lose the weight.” And if we don’t, or if we in the process of but it doesn’t happen overnight, then our ridicule is somehow deserved by “normal” folks.

Sorry. In my world it’s not normal to be an asshat. You still have to take responsibility for what you say and how you think. Judging people so superficially is your failure alone.

If all you see when you see a fat person is how unhealthy we are, you’re completely missing out if we’re doing the long (and arduous) work it takes to be healthier. Just seeing someone on the street isn’t enough reason to throw your narrow-minded viewpoint onto the existence of a stranger.

In other words… it’s your baggage. And you can keep it.

I refuse to carry it anymore.

Especially since the entire thing was nothing more than a fluff piece that had no discernible merit. It was possibly meant to get the kind of attention inflammatory pieces tend to attract… hence the mealy-mouthed apology as if she had no clue the things she said could be so offensive. Here’s a tip: If you want to be a real writer, take responsibility for what you say or don’t say it at all.

The CNN article that she referred to in her piece was far more informative, better researched and as a result a lot less one-sided. Because that is actual journalism rather than just a talking-head piece for a fashion magazine. And that actual journalism showed that no matter what this blogger personally feels, a lot of people respond to “real” folks who look and act more like they do. Hence why the sitcom Roseanne ran successfully for so long. Both lead characters were obese, yet both still were able to be affectionate to each other and demonstrate love to each other.

And we loved them for it.

They lived their life unapologetic about being who they were because they knew the baggage of small-minded bigots and snark-for-snark’s-sake critics was not theirs to carry.

Let this be our lesson today. Outside approval is neither required or desired as long as we know that we’re doing what we need to do to be stronger, healthier and more empowered than we were before.

All the rest of that stuff is not our baggage.

So let’s put it down and walk away.

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11 thoughts on “Not My Baggage

  1. I am obese, and I was shocked and offended by Maura’s article. I am working harder than I ever have in my life to lose weight right now, so it probably didn’t hurt me as much as if I had not been taking better care of myself.
    BUT…when you say above that Maura could have just as easily been talking about black, gay, or disabled people..I think you’re wrong. Because, being black, gay, or disabled, while all presenting life challenges because of biggotry like obesity does, is not a result of choices you make. Being fat, at least for MOST people who are obese or morbidly orbese, is most certainly a result of choices you make. I may have a slower metabolism than my friends who can eat practically anything anytime and still maintain their weight. But that is not WHY I am fat. I am fat because I have chosen not to compensate for my slower metabolism. I have still given in to my cravings and eaten unhealthy food regularly enough throughout my life that I have always BEEN fat. My weight is entirely the result of my food and exercize choices. I have chosen to eat the wrong things too often and not be active, and so I am fat. People don’t CHOOSE to be black, gay, or disabled. But people do choose to eat unhealthy foods in unhealthy amounts for a long enough amount of time that they become obese.

    • Agreed, fat is something that we can change. But that doesn’t mean that bullies get the right to abuse us by being hateful and bigoted based on something so superficial.

      That was my point. Her anti-fat bigotry is no different than racism or any other kind of bigotry. Bigotry by its very definition is irrational, and it says because you are not like me I must revile you. That was why her article was so offensive.

      For instance, you’re doing the work to lose the weight – but that isn’t what a bigot will see. They’re going to see your fat and hate you irrationally because of it.

      That is the problem, and we shouldn’t be any more tolerant of this behavior simply because we can change our weight.

      We shouldn’t have to change to be treated with common courtesy and basic decency.

  2. I did not read the article and after reading your reply which was beautiful and so true I don’t need to. She doesn’t need to get more hits on hers.
    I agree that it could have been, black, gay, Jewish whatever! She is a bigot. I am heavy and I know other heavy people as well. It is a lot of the time genes. I know heavy people that eat healthy and exercise and it is just their make up.
    Also I know heavy women that are heavy because of what happened to you at 4 y.o. It is a protective shield and in my mind that is not their fault! Thank you for sharing this very beautiful. Hope you they publish this reply!
    xoxo

    • Thanks Janine! 🙂

      Whether we can change what is the target of someone else’s insecurity shouldn’t matter. We can’t blame the victim for the aggressor’s behavior. If there were no fat people in this world, she’d still be a bigot because she judges people on the superficial exterior. That is the source of the problem.

      Trying to make a fat person ashamed of being fat is actually counterproductive. Shame is one of the main reasons we get fat and stay fat. The defense mechanism to this kind of abuse is just more shame.

      But a journalist who was thorough enough to do her research might have figured that out.

  3. I was forwarded this by one of my daughters best friends – i call her my “daughter” by heart- and she said she thought i would like it. Boy was she right!! What a beautifully, intelligently written blog in response to a small minded fluff bs piece! Thank you! Unfortunately the mind set of so many people is that overweight men and woman are second class citizens.
    I too am overweight and always working on it. A few years ago after dealing with a total jackass, while waiting for a friend to get done bar-tending, I was subjected to just this type of small minded thinking. Having put this jackass in his place politely, i left to get something out of my car in the parking lot. On my way a truck with this guy and his friend came speeding up to me , almost hitting me , screaming fat insults the whole time. I narrowly missed getting hit by jumping up on a car trunk. When i called the police i was treated like a woman who was pissed because they called me fat. NOT like a woman who had been physically assaulted and nearly run over. The policeman actually said to me – “Are you sure you aren’t just mad because they said you were fat”? If that had happened to someone who was black or gay or Jewish and insults were yelled while it was happening, it would have been considered a hate crime.(which it should be) But because it was simply someone call me a Fat ass , it was a nothing complaint. But i like your way of thinking and it’s so true. That is their baggage , not mine. Sorry for the long comment but your words have moved me. Keep fighting the good fight!! ~Stacey

    • Thanks so much for coming to the blog and especially for commenting, Stacey. 🙂

      I am so sorry that happened to you – you are completely right in that it was a hate crime. Again it goes back to blaming the victim for the behavior, which is why so many gay teens commit suicide and so many rapists are let off the hook.

      We allow aggressor’s this inexcusable behavior because we blame the victim for the attacks/assaults. It’s not right, it’s not fair and we should not tolerate it.

      But more than that we can’t take their hatred onto our shoulders and punish and abuse ourselves for self loathing. One of the comments to the Marie Claire blog actually said, “I agree with you. I’m fat and I’m disgusting.”

      I thought, “how sad.”

      Especially because she doesn’t love herself enough to fix what made her fat in the first place.

      Being obese is not a natural state – and we can work on those issues to make ourselves healthier. But we should never *ever* be shamed into changing to make someone else more comfortable.

      Big hugs and lots of support to you in your efforts to become healthier! 🙂

  4. Thank you. I was reading the CNN article today and I saw your post…and it clicked. I’ve been carrying other people’s baggage around for so long…and I never even realized it. The rapes, the beatings, and all the other stuff I’ve carried around for so many years…it’s not my baggage anymore. They can have it back. Thank you.

    • You are very welcome 🙂 It clicked for me when Tyler Perry said it on Oprah last week. That interview was jam-packed with gems like this one. He also said the strength it took for us to survive what we’ve been through is the exact strength we need to let it go. We can do this. Big hugs.

  5. Per the article: As you know, it pissed me off. I don’t think we should judge people based solely on their size. It works the other way, too. I hate it when women especially are mean to pretty and/or skinny women. How do you know they weren’t once overweight? When I was thinner, women would judge me and assume I was stupid because I was pretty and big-boobed. Even though I’m not as thin as I was, I still get women and others assuming I’m dumb or not worthy of dignity and respect simply because of how I look. It’s awful. In short, we should just learn to love and accept each other. That’ll make us better people and help us learn to live to our own potential.

    • Well that gets into a whole other discussion about how vicious women are to each other out of their own insecurities, and how doing so feeds into a misogynist culture that says women are only worth what they look like anyway.

      Bottom line: superficial judgment of any kind is ignorant and bigoted. No one is trying to understand another person insomuch as they are trying to stack them in neat categories to save themselves the trouble of actually being a good person.

      It takes a lot more guts to give someone a chance than to hate, and in this particular discussion we’re taught as a society it’s okay to hate someone if they make you uncomfortable.

      Let’s see someone try to slam someone’s religion and force them to change for their own comfort (same thing – religions can be changed just like waistlines) and see how well that goes over.

      You can’t pick and choose bigotry. It’s all the same thing.

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