Sometimes I encounter someone so invested in diet culture, so tortured and beat down by it, so overwhelmed by their own existence in a non-conformitive body that it just breaks my heart entirely. And isn’t it always the way, when this person is beautiful inside and out and can’t see it in themselves?! What’s worse is when they are highly intelligent and skilled and seemingly in control of every other aspect of life? And yet…
“So I was at my weight loss meeting the other night…” She said to me at the front desk (I’m filling in up there until we can hire a new receptionist). I give a gentle sigh in response, rub my eyes and before she can continue, say, “Ugh, I’m so sorry! I’m still not fully awake yet. I woke up with the worst headache. I hope you’re feeling well today, you look great!” She seemed visibly shaken by this sudden change in conversation and just smiled, and as more people entered the tiny lobby, she shuffled away. I felt bad, but I couldn’t allow this dialogue to enter my already compromised brain.
This is how I handle many of these situations, changing the subject or the focus as best as I can, especially when I don’t know the person or it’s a mixed or work situation. I’m not “out” with my fat activism at work yet, though I’ve dropped the occasional hint. It doesn’t mean I welcome the diet talk bullshit!
It’s difficult, to be certain. It’s not easy for either of us in this instance, but I also feel as though she may be attempting to bond with me in that “don’t all women hate their bodies” sort of way. I hate that shit! I love that someone would want to bond with me, but just not in that way ever! In more confident moments or well acquainted groupings I would be more direct and explain that “we are all perfect just as we are right now! Stop punishing yourself for not being something none of us can ever be!?” and some other such things, but it’s not in me. Not this week, not today, and not at work…yet.
The tougher part of this is that I’m in charge of taking photos of our new hires for our massive employee photo wall and she’s evaded having hers taken four times now, today will be the fifth. I want to tell her that she’s othering herself by avoiding the photo, that’s it’s only a head and shoulders shot, and wouldn’t it be best to just get it over with anyway?! But I feel her inner pain, it shows on her face when she smiles at me each time she encounters my very fat body. I have felt that pain myself and for many years, avoiding any situation that involved a camera.
I want to hug her and reassure her and explain that there is another way to live your best life! That you don’t have to put a damned thing on hold until you lose weight! You can be a Diet Industry Dropout and live a healthier and more fulfilled life at the same time! But such notions feel radical and I fear being too aggressive, making her feel bad, or getting hurt myself somehow. There’s no easy way to handle this shit.
Every time she grabs a hard candy from the dish at the reception desk she makes self-shaming comments to me about how awful it is and how she must do and be better. I counter this, as I have on many such occasions, with my love of reading interviews of the oldest people in the world and how they all seem to eat bacon, smoke cigars or drink whiskey and just try to enjoy the life they have right now and not worry over every little thing. People tend to chuckle at least at the thought, if not laugh heartily at the absurdity of modern stresses.
Seeing her in the kitchen, faced with too many choices, it’s apparent that the world is but a giant “NOT FOR YOU FATTY” sign to her, though her frame is so much smaller than my own. It seems to physically overcome her as her posture drops suddenly as she slinks away with her snack of choice to a secluded corner of the office to work. I want to tell her it’s okay! There’s no moral value to food. Feed thyself, woman! Ha-ha!
I don’t know her. I don’t know her life. But somehow in small mannerisms, turns of phrase, or how one holds themselves it’s all so unbearably familiar. I remember being the corporate office fatty who never felt okay or comfortable ever, while the world never thought a thing was out of place. Because of this I want so badly to offer love and rad fatty support to her, but at the same time feel terribly selfish about it, too. Not that I’m seeking credit or points or whatever, just that, well, sometimes it’s not the right thing to do to approach someone about such things. I am not sure how I would have handled someone mentioned fat acceptance/liberation stuff to me before I discovered it on my own. It’s very personal and while obvious to me, probably not as obvious to most straight sized folks around the office, ya know? I definitely don’t want to make her feel worse! So, I am for now choosing to let it go and just try to be my usual friendly self. But how to get that photo taken care of?! (It’s a big part of the company culture.) I think I’ll wait until she comes in very dressed up (she always looks fab and has a great sense of style) and make a fuss about the perfect day for a photo! Maybe? No? UGH!!!
Rad Fatty Love,
P.S. Will you be in Oakland tomorrow for Cupcakes & Muffintops?! I’ll be there about noon, I hope to see you there! Say hi!
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