Fatty Fatty has a 2 x 4

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.



6 thoughts on “Fatty Fatty has a 2 x 4

  1. I’m always puzzled about why people seem to be unafraid of picking on others who are bigger than them. I’m with you on what you’re saying here. And, I like being a little scary too.

  2. Bravo, Terri! And I’d add that fatties who are picked on daily are not at fault for this, just that fending off negative comments is (in theory) a teachable skill.

    But it can be hard to learn. When I was a kid, I wasn’t fat, but I was picked on for every other aspect of myself. I couldn’t defend against it, because I’d get emotional whenever it happened. I’ve gotten better at controlling my reactions, but the biggest change is that I hang out with people who are less likely to pick on me.

  3. What an excellent post! You’re so right about using the perception of size as power. There is an obnoxious woman I have to work with, who is quite tiny. What she lacks in size she makes up in personality, although not in a good way. Recently, she was directing her vitriol at me, so I squared my shoulders, took a step in towards her and since I tower over her, looked down at her. She got the message and backed off, like she was scared of me. Good!!

  4. Awesome post! I too have gotten those ‘when I first met you I was kinda afraid of you’ comments. I think it has a lot to do with the way I carry myself. I usually have a very stern look on my face. I don’t mean to, I just do, and that seems to make people hang back a bit. But once they take the time to get to know me they find that I’m quite shy and very nice.

  5. It’s a little funny, because my reaction to Lesleigh has always been one of relief. Yes, it is a relief to deal with a woman who deals strongly and boldly and makes it plain what her rules and boundaries are. I’ve told her she reminds me a lot of Carrie Hemenway, the chair of NAAFA’s feminist caucus when I first joined, who shared this kind of quality of being consistent in her politics and positions but not put off about talking about it.

    I am a little guy, and from my experience, sometimes little people feel like they have to claim respect by force, and sometimes that can become excessive.

  6. This is absolutely a teachable skill. I found that as I became more comfortable with my fat self, I have experienced less direct confrontations and more acceptance. But that does not mean that people aren’t stigmatizing me nor does it mean that when I do face a direct confrontation, I’ve done something wrong. Stigma is never the fault of the stigmatized. Period.

    But fear does encourage those who would hurt us and often it is the mechanism that bullies rely upon the most. The less apologetic and the less I care about what others think about my fat body, the less fun it is for the bully.

    As the joke goes: “What did the sadist do to the masochist? Absolutely nothing.”

    Being fearless in the face of stigma accomplishes two things. First, it takes all the fun out of the meanness and second, it puts people like me out there, visible. The key to thinking about a group of people in 2 dimensional stigmatized terms is to believe they are less than human. That is way easier to do when the stigmatized hide. The more visible we are, the less likely the stigma will hold up.

    To borrow a phrase, “We’re fat. That’s that. And we are not going away.”

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