Categories
body liberation Depression Living While Fat My Story

Self-Image

When you close your eyes, how do you see yourself? Like most properly acculturated fat people, for my entire life, when I have closed my eyes and visualized myself, I have seen a “normal girl,”* maybe a little curvy but basically thin and fit and pretty. I feel that I am a pretty typical fat person in having always thought I was “a thin person trapped in a fat body.” But you know what? I’m not. I’m fat. Fat is me. I’ve been fat my whole life–the first time I was openly called fat by others was in kindergarten–and my fatness is intimately tied up with my self identity, my life experience, and really everything about me. Isn’t it high time that my self-image matches reality?

Well, apparently, at long last and without fanfare, it does. Just about a week ago, for the first time, I happened to be thinking of myself with my eyes closed and I noticed that saw myself as I actually am. It was a surprisingly weird experience. I was confused. Who was this woman in my head? Turns out she was me. And she didn’t bother me. She didn’t offend me or gross me out or make me feel ashamed. She was just me how I was.

A couple of days later I had another related experience. I was lounging in bed in my sleep shirt and I happened to catch sight of myself in my tall mirror. And my first, instant thought before my frontal lobe kicked in was “I look cute!” I had a positive reaction to my belly!

I give credit to the fact that I have been regularly taking pictures of myself and posting them. Not only am I getting very used to looking at the shape of my body, but I am luckily getting used to positive feedback and positive, if sketchy, attention from men online. It’s actually very rare for me to get any negative responses. I realize that if I stay online long enough and get enough Instagram followers, trolling is inevitable, but in the meanwhile I have discovered that there is an entire community of fat-loving men out there and it is like a soothing bath on my skin to be admired.

I do realize that I need to be careful about such things–and to be clear, I am happily married and not looking for anything or anyone else–but the reality is that after 43 years of being embarrassed of my body and assuming no one would ever want me, this is huge. And yes I do also realize that I have been happily married for over 20 years to a man who manifestly does want me, but I always assumed that was just a fluke, that he loved me in spite of my body not because, and that he might veer off at any moment.

This business of knowing and accepting my body as me, and even enjoying how it looks and feels, and knowing and accepting my body as desirable, well, it’s a lot, in a good way. I don’t know how things will proceed from here, but it sure will be fun to find out.

*Notice the use of “girl” here, which is another whole story by itself; a story about sexism and our culture, lack of respect for myself as an adult, etc etc etc.

Categories
body liberation Living While Fat My Story

Body Image, Gender, and Sexuality

I’m learning to accept my body as it is. It’s not always easy–it comes and goes–because I am very, very fat. Somewhere on the edge between superfat and infinifat, depending who you ask. Some days I am completely at home in here, and other days I feel like a caricature of a human being.

The thing is, I have been married a very long time (20+ years) and before that I never had any serious sexual or romantic relationships. I would have told you back then that I was entirely unattractive and no one would ever want me. For the first three or five years of my relationship with my now husband, I held my breath–not knowing if he was with me in spite of me being fat, and would one day “wake up” to my hideousness and move on. Eventually it became clear that he truly loved me, but even now I don’t know whether his appreciation of my body falls into the category of a fetish.

Now that I am learning to normalize the diversity of shape in the human body, I have certainly accepted that many different body types can be attractive. I spend time on Instagram admiring selfies of all sorts of people. But am I attractive? If I were to put myself out there, would men be interested in me? If they were, would it be “real” or would it be a fetish? What does that even mean? Is it possible for a person as far out from the norm as I am to just be attractive, or must there always be a frisson of the weird and taboo about me?

A related question is that of gender identity. I am a cis woman, and always have been, but I won’t say I’ve never had trans thoughts. Being a woman in a man’s world (and my work world is even more of a man’s world than 2019 America is in general) is not easy. I am a strong, assertive, impulsive, conflict-accepting personality. Combine all that with my body image issues and consistent self-desexualization, and you have a recipe for a person who wishes they were a man. I have done so for many years. I like to lip sync to the radio, to songs with male vocalists. Sometimes, just at the peak of the song, just for a moment, I can believe his voice comes from my throat and I am truly a man. And then the image snaps and I am back to confusion.

I would have guessed that if I ever became free of my mental issues, I would become more, not less, trans. Trans is something our culture frowns on, so wouldn’t I be more willing to be openly trans if I were free?

Apparently not. The further I go in this body liberation dive, the less trans I am. I guess it’s not really odd. I’ve never been so at home in my own body. In all its plush, padded, feminine soft glory. I’ve started wearing makeup, jewelry, skirts and dresses. Even perfume sometimes. I primp before going out. I love being a girl, and I identify with women. I crave friendship with women. I read feminist writing and watch feminist works. Maleness has become so foreign to me that the idea of wanting to be a man is pretty much horrifying.

I no longer fantasize about being a man but instead think about smashing the patriarchy so that no one ever has to wish they were a man for purely political/social reasons ever again. So that true gender identity and expression, as well as sexual identity and expression, can win free and be based on what’s inside, not on the outside. And so that all bodies, no matter how far from the “normal” look, are free to be fully themselves, fully sexual, fully loved.

Categories
Living While Fat My Story

Fat Accessibility

I’m lucky in my life these days not to face a lot of explicit fatphobia. But what I do face, and I think all of us super- or infinifats face, is fat ignorance, fat invisibility, and a lack of fat accessibility.

This weekend I attended a large, many-hour event at an old public building. I was not the focus of the event, but I was supposedly a fairly important player. The experience, from the perspective of my fat-colored glasses, was pretty awful.

The venue had about 30 steps up to get in the main entrance. The elevator was in a different wing and required a long walk each way. I actually walk pretty well so the walk didn’t bother me, but what did bother me was that every time I needed to detour to the elevator I would be forgotten and left behind, or sent ahead and forgotten. The whole large party would do whatever it wanted and as far as I can tell not one person ever asked where I was or why I wasn’t there.

The one and only accessible bathroom was next to the elevator. So every time I had to pee, same story. Again, I’m not talking per se about handicapped accessibility–I don’t consider myself handicapped. I don’t need a handrail or a raised toilet, I just need a stall wide enough to fit my ass. (And I don’t mean that to say that it shouldn’t be more accessible to everyone, particularly the genuinely handicapped, but just to be clear about my needs.) This older building did not have full size stalls except in the handicap bathroom.

The venue did not have chairs. It had strategically placed benches, but those could not be moved. The chairs that had been rented for the event were not sturdy. They creaked when a six year old sat on them so I wasn’t about to try them. I am actually very lucky that the event facilitator had brought two chairs with her that worked for me. One of them was filthy, and I was wearing beige, so that brought us down to one working chair in the entire extremely large building.

The chair had to be carried around by someone everywhere we went. Sometimes the chair would vanish, and I would have to stand, in significant back pain (standing still is the worst for my back), for 5 or 10 minutes waiting for the chair to catch up. Sometimes the chair would be in the wrong place and I would have no choice but to stay with the chair so as not to lose it.

Eventually the people running the venue got pissed and put me in a wheelchair. This was humiliating. It was also very hard to get into and out of because it was soft and tended to tip over. The wheels ran over my dress, undoing my labor of refusing to sit on the filthy chair.

I lost it. I got tired and cranky and I started yelling at people. I was told to calm down. I tried. I felt awful. It was not my event and I didn’t want to cast a shadow on a joyous day. I didn’t want or need to be the focus of attention. So breaking down and getting dramatic about my needs only made me feel worse.

I’m not sure how I could have navigated the situation better. I am working hard to be expressive of my needs and I don’t think that hurting myself on narrow chairs with arms, tiny bathroom stalls, or long flights of stairs without banisters was the solution. I don’t think that not attending was the solution. I don’t think that losing it and throwing a fit was the solution. I don’t have a solution.

All I can say is if you have a fat person in your life and you are planning an event and you want them to feel welcomed and loved, please think of them when you’re planning. The event facilitator had been warned by the event hosts that I would need to sit down for any long stretches when others were standing, and that helped a lot, but that was far from enough to make me feel comfortable and, well, human, through the day.