[First, an apology for my unexplained absence last week. I took Labor Day off of work, which (as I should have expected) threw off my whole concept of days. Tuesday felt like Monday, and by the time I realized that Tuesday was actually Tuesday, I needed to go to bed. Le sigh.]
So, a friend of mine was trying to describe me to someone who had met me once but couldn’t recall me. The person to whom my friend was talking asked if I was tall and thin, to which my friend replied “no, she’s tall and fat.”
There were gasps all around. How could someone – especially someone who supposedly likes me – describe me that way, so brazenly?
My friend went on to explain that I am a size acceptance activist, and that if given the opportunity, I would describe myself in similar terms. And she’s right, of course, but I still think the shock and horror are kind of funny.
We’re so scared of this word. Fat.
When I go out to a restaurant and Bradon has already been seated, I tell the host(ess) that I’m looking for a very handsome fat man with long, curly blond hair. The looks I get are…interesting. I have yet to have someone actually say something, but I can see when I break someone’s brain with the juxtaposition of “handsome” and “fat.”
Words are so fascinating. The definitions and connotations and contexts, oh my!
Most descriptive words have connotations. If I describe someone as short, thin, and blonde, chances are that you make different assumptions about them than if I describe them as tall, muscular and brunette. It’s little things, tiny twists of ideas and prejudices and cultural expectations, but it’s there.
Of all the descriptive words, “fat” is among the most evocative. If I tell you that someone is fat, the assumptions come fast and furious. Fat people are lazy. Fat people are ugly. Fat people are jolly (or sassy, or introverted.) Fat people are gross, or messy, or unmotivated.
All this from a little, three letter word. Fat makes us uncomfortable.
So we search for euphemisms. Fat people we like are “zaftig”, or “fluffy”, or “big girls/boys”, or “plus-sized”, or “heavy.”
When, really, they’re all just fat.
Many people within the size acceptance movement have been quite passionate about reclaiming the word fat. (Marianne Kirby of the Rotund is particularly in love with the word “fat”, as well she should be.) It’s a word. It’s a descriptor, and an accurate one at that. I’m not zaftig or, heaven help me, fluffy. I’m fat. It’s awesome.
So, no, I wasn’t bothered by my friend describing me as fat, because I am fat. To pretend otherwise is both disingenuous and ridiculous. I’m fat, and tall, and I have brown hair and blue eyes and more than your average number of piercings. When someone calls me fat in an effort to hurt me, I can only laugh and reply, “Why yes, I am fat. How very observant of you!”