I have been chewing on this one for a while, folks. This particular rant was triggered by someone saying to me that I carry more weight than I should because I don’t want people to get close to me.
It is not the first time I have heard that. Finally, I call it what it is; bullshit, and a reflection of the originator’s prejudice and body issues as well as a “safe” way to get in a dig at me for other reasons. It is their stuff, not mine. But, oh dear Jeebus, did it ever stir up some sediment in the murky depths of my psyche. Which is what the originator of that comment wanted to do. Unfortunately, I am not wrapped in kevlar and am not cool enough to ignore the comment.
You know why I may not want people to get close? Because I have been hurt too many fucking times by knee-jerk judgments and reactions based on purely superficial criteria. Online dating sites and advertising take to an extreme what we do to each other every day, consciously or not. Get a few gray hairs and things can get even worse, but that is a whole ‘nother soapbox to climb on.
From the time I was very young, I have had people on my case about being overweight. I remember as a preschooler being ashamed of my pot belly; not wanting to be seen in a bathing suit. When I was at my “ideal” weight according to the insurance tables my husband at the time asked me to please loose weight so he would not be ashamed to introduce me to his buddies. In nursing school, the entire class was hauled into the director’s office once a month and weighed because she did not want our uniforms to be too tight and make us “look bad”. I don’t even want to go into the things my family said to me.
And the dating wars, dear God, the dating wars. Blind dates set up by friends or through dating sites and the looks of disappointment on the faces of my dates when I showed up. Personal ads looking for women who are “fit”, “trim”, or “athletic”, “weight proportional to height” placed by guys with beer guts and double chins or athletic alpha males. Falling for someone only to be “friend-zoned” or being the wingman to other women because they thought I made them look better.
Media stereotypes are everywhere because sex sells. Not just for women, but for men as well. Even the plus sized models for women’s clothing companies have hourglass figures and God love the poor man who does not have washboard abs and manscapes regularly.
There are “suggestions” and outright insults from members of the medical profession and boilerplate lectures about diet and exercise. I have told more than one doctor to grab a shovel and keep up with me in the garden or during an evening of contra dancing. When I was in my 30’s and running daily I was still considered overweight.
I have read serious studies about biology and attraction. I understand the role hormones play in body fat distribution and that our commercialized sexual ideals actually have a basis in biology. Men are attracted to women who are estrogen dominant and who thus signal fertility. Women are attracted to men who give off the signals that they would be good providers. Biology 101 and freshman psychology. Fashion is centered around that basic principle and has been for as long as humans have been covering and decorating themselves.
No one ever talks about antibiotics and hormones in our food supply. Yes, even in the veggies. And what about gut flora and neurotransmitters? Genetic predisposition? In my case, untreated polycystic ovarian disease because when I was younger it was not considered a problem and rarely diagnosed. I am not listing these as excuses for a lack of personal discipline but rather to point out that there is more to consider before fat-shaming someone and spewing out the knee-jerk “lifestyle” speeches. I can also point you to studies about metabolic syndrome, waist to hip ratios, body fat percentages and so on ad nauseam. Care to get into pharmacology and biochemistry? I can do that, too. Go ahead and guess at how many commonly prescribed medications have weight gain as a side effect, especially in our era of antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds.
Consider also that in these times obesity is associated with poverty. Slap the word “organic” on a label and you can practically double the price. You get more bang for your buck buying carbohydrates than you do protein. Read food labels and pay attention to the huge amounts of sugar added to almost every processed food out there. People working two minimum wage jobs in order to pay the rent and keep themselves fed barely have time to sleep, much less cook, and it can take enormous amounts of time in the kitchen to “eat healthy”. When people tell you to eat like your grandmother they forget to tell you that granny started preparing the night’s supper as soon as the family left the breakfast table.
It is also a racial and class issue in many cases. It takes money and time and emotional support to learn to decipher food labels and cook, or go to an exercise class, or even find the time in your day to walk for 15 minutes. It is not always an issue of discipline and motivation. Most of the populated areas in the US are designed around the automobile. Sidewalks are rare. It is a sad irony that you often have to drive to get to places where it is safe to walk or ride a bike. Couple that with the need to watch your gasoline consumption so you will have enough to get to work or the grocery store or daycare center. Voluntary poverty can be cool and hip, involuntary poverty is anything but and can show up in surprising ways. It is a vicious cycle. Hungry people don’t learn to read food labels, they are too worried about how to stop the pain in their bellies.
Poverty and hunger wear many faces, not always economic as we tend to assume. Even those of us with superficially easy lives can be inwardly poor and hungry.
I know someone who owns her own business, lost 80 pounds over 3 years and recently went through extremely expensive and painful plastic surgery because she didn’t like the way she looked naked in front of her husband after having had 2 children. She is so afraid of the world that she feels the need to carry a gun, a can of mace, and a knife at all times. She is knockout gorgeous and garners attention wherever she goes. She also told me that she is always hungry and that she has no friends except for me.
End of rant.