I just saw this on a FB entry by the goddess Lesleigh, and I LOVE it.
I have often wondered why I have been lucky enough to negotiate our fat-phobic society without a lot of the problems so many other people encounter. I think the above slogan is the reason. Not only do I have a 2×4, there is a rusty nail stuck in the end of it!
Over and over again, I hear from people how when they first met me they were afraid of me. You’d think that would bother me — but I kind of like it. The people who need to be afraid of me keep their distance, and the people who are willing to get to know me, learn that I am not (necessarily) as scary as I first seem.
Let’s face it. If you are larger than most people, you can do them some physical damage. So why do people take potshots at fatties? I think a lot of fat-phobic people have this idea that we are all “gentle giants”. That they can poke and prod us (physically, verbally or emotionally) and we’ll take it. And unfortunately, they are often right.
I am not an advocate of violence; and in fact, have never been in a physical fight in my whole life. But I have a terrific GLARE (honed from years of practice); that can stop most people in their tracks.
An ex of mine, a big muscle-y guy; always said the trick was not to get into a fight, but to make people believe that you aren’t afraid to get into a fight. He would always be calm – disturbingly calm – when he was in a confrontation (when I met him he was a bouncer at a bar). And it worked.
So what can the average fatty do? I’m not sure, because I was born with the goddess-given talent of being able to put people on notice that I will not put up with their shit. Also, as Bill points out, as a woman, I can get away with saying a lot of things that he cannot. Things that I say that come off as edgy and funny, would come off as scary or offensive coming from a man. Not fair, but unfortunately, that’s how it is.
Carrying yourself with confidence and letting people know you value yourself and you aren’t going to make excuses or apologies for who you are helps. A well-placed “excuse me?” when someone says something snarky goes a long way.
Having a quick tongue helps. As Bill calls it: “kidding on the square”. Saying things that seem funny but have the edge of truth to it. (i.e., I sometimes tell people, “please don’t make me hurt you”). No I’m not going to hurt them, and they know it — but they aren’t quite sure. And there are nicer (or as I think of them “office speak”) kind of things you can say like, “Is there a problem here?”, “That is not acceptable”, “I find that inappropriate”, “I am not comfortable with what you said”, etc. If you have a ready supply of these kinds of phrases, you’ll feel better prepared to deal with the fat-phobics, and that will add to your confidence.
Another thing that helps is an attitude that you aren’t afraid. I know this is really tough for some folks. But practice makes perfect, and part of practice can be doing some self work in on facing your fears. I like the practice of writing down my fear, and then putting down – “and then what’s the worst thing that could (reasonably) happen” – and if that happens – “what’s the worst thing that could happen” and keep going until you get down to what you are really afraid of.
And while snarky comments may hurt, the ultimate damage done depends on you. If you somehow believe the comment – it’s going to really hurt – and you need to work on your own beliefs about yourself. Even after the fact, try to think of what you should have said. Even if you never use it again, you will know that if you run into that situation again you are prepared.
I find a good healthy dollop of anger helps. Fatties certainly have reason enough to be angry. Mostly my anger is under control, but I suspect it shows around the edges. I’ll be happy to let go of this anger once society lets go of the idea that I am somehow worth less because I am fat; until then, I have a right to be angry and I am angry.
All of this does not mean you should go around with a chip on your shoulder or picking fights. It just means that if you prepare yourself to deal with the kind of happy-crappy (or not so happy-crappy) that most fat folks have to face, you will feel more confident about your ability to deal with those situations, and your confidence will show. And if you actually use some of those skills, the fat-phobes around you will be put on notice and you’ll feel even strong and better able to take care of yourself.