When I was a kid I was a lard ass, and this abundance of fat stuck around into adulthood. When I was really little, I guess it was cute. I was one of those kids whose cheeks were always getting pinched. I remember the day when it turned from cute to embarrassing. It was the day I had my first ice skating competition. I won a gold medal. There were only two of us competing at that level, but still I was beyond proud. I was so proud that when they took a picture of the two of us standing there on the platform with our medals, my entire torso was puffed out in all its glory. I was proud. My mother was mortified at the size of my stomach. Thus began my first diet and a lifetime of yo-yoing weight.
When I look at the offending picture as an adult I wasn’t really fat, but this started me on the path to fatness. Dieting taught me what it felt like to be so hungry that when you finally ate you had no sense of when you were full. It was dieting that made me fat. And as I got fat, people got interested. Instead of “hello” and a hug, I got “hello” and a pinch of my waistline to see how much it had grown since the last time someone saw me. People recommended different exercise programs and sports that were sure to solve my issue. Everyone had ideas about what I should or shouldn’t eat. Suddenly it seemed as if my body was everybody else”s business.
When I became pregnant, this whole childhood ordeal came rushing back to me. I was acutely aware that people were staring at me and thinking things about how much I’d gained. And, just when I convinced myself that I was being paranoid, my aunt would tell me I had gotten so fat or a perfect stranger would ask me if I was having twins as I walked by her on the way to work. It was embarrassing and humiliating, especially in the context of my life at the moment which consisted of getting weighed and having my belly measured every two weeks. Luckily I soon had a darling little newborn to distract me from these troubles.
Now over a year later, the weight has mostly come off, but it’s been replaced with a little anger. What makes someone think it is acceptable to make fun of a coworker’s weight in front of the rest of the company? Why would a person feel entitled to ask someone if they “really should be eating ‘that’”? When did one’s weight become anyone’s business but one’s own?
Last night I was recounting to my cousins how one of my aunts used to feel my belly every time she saw me to gauge whether I had gained or lost since the last time she saw me. After more than a decade of this, I finally lost it and told her to mind her own business and keep her hands off me. That offended her enough so that she didn’t talk to me for a very long time. The question I still have is how did I offend her? She started it, right?
Right? Well, maybe, but my behavior was wrong. When all else fails, I turn to one of my heroes, Miss Manners. “When one is treated badly, behave courteously.”Â After all, I am only the master of my own behavior. I cannot make other people mind their own waistline instead of mine, but I can watch that I am not guilty of judging others for their size. And I can, as Miss Manners suggests, dismiss such inferior behavior as coming from inferior people. I may be fat, but damn it, I’m not rude. And that makes me a better person.