I wanted to title this “To be or not to be: Fat”: Signs I’m taking myself too seriously. Or terrible at titles.

While I was writing my last post, I used the adjective “fat” a handful of times, and I distinctly remember thinking “I hope no one feels compelled to tell me I’m not fat.” (In an honest-to-god Freudian slip of writing, I initially wrote for the first two drafts, “I hope no one feels compelled to call me fat.” Yup. Let’s discuss that later.)

In the meantime, let’s discuss my desire to leave let my fat identifier stand. In large part, this is rooted in the truth is: I am, technically speaking, fat. (This is new. I’m saying this online, but I’ve yet to say it in person.) Presently, fat has come to be shorthand for lazy, stupid, and ugly. I am not any of those things, and on a good day I believe that I’m not. When a plus-size lady identifies as fat, and everyone rushes to tell her it isn’t so, it stings in a particular way because you’re efforts–despite coming from a good place–reaffirm that fattness is a really bad thing. Ironically you’re reinforcing that fat = lazy, stupid, and ugly. And we all sure as hell know that your fierce friend is none of those things! But here’s the nasty secret–when we jump up and down about how NOT FAT a plus size lady is, we’re reinforcing that fat is inherently a bad thing, when in reality it’s just a thing.

I grew up in a house with beloved fat relatives. I also grew up in house where, if someone was an asshole and fat, their weight was a legitimate target for ridicule. There were lots of “fat idiots” on the chopping block. I don’t think this experience is unique.

In this moment of my adult life, I am, technically speaking. fat. However, I am not lazy, stupid, or ugly. (Feel free, in the comments, to tell me how active, smart, and beeeeautiful I am. Okay, just kidding.) I think it is a little bit my hope that acknowledging “fat” as a reality, but not a dirty word can take the sting out of all the implications that come along with that word. I am fat. I also have brown hair, glasses, and a birthmark on my right ankle.

And now to the “omg, don’t tell me I’m fat” thing. This, in perhaps obvious ways, is harder to write. I really want this blog to be an honest and feminist space. In order to make the former true, however, I have to give a voice to the negative battles I struggle with. So here’s my confession: I have at many points in my life, looked around to see “how fat I was” in comparison to the people around me. If I could find worse offenders, I could pat myself on the back–for telling myself I was better–whatever the eff “better” meant. (And here’s where I should disclose, despite talking about this as an activity solidly in my past, there’s a 50% chance I did this within the past week.) I’m writing a blog on body positivity, but I’m in this shit deep.

The truth is, I want to be okay with being fat. I also, desperately, want to wake up being 40 pounds lighter. I want to be liberated from the expectations and pressure of our society–but I also don’t want to be engaged in constant warfare with them. In my dream world, I wake up many sizes smaller and, magically, don’t give an eff. I want to both escape and beat the system in one fell swoop. On good days, I know that not giving an eff is more valuable than playing the game, but I’d be lying if I said that was an easy thing to see as truth.

I don’t have a neat conclusion to this post. I think tidiness would actually be really dishonest. Ultimately, it’s important to realize that my complicated relationship with my body is not actually tied to my weight. I’ve been 20, 30, 50 pounds lighter, and still struggled to find peace with this body. I’ve been strong enough to commute 20 miles round-trip on a bike, to run a half marathon, to hike mountains–and I was still at war with this body. Weight gain might bring these issues more sharply into focus, but I’m not struggling to see the strength and beauty of my body because I gained weight. I’ve struggled my whole life to accept my body–whatever it looked like–because the game is rigged; we’re bombarded with reasons to feel dissatisfied and uncomfortable. And, ultimately, what I’m trying to figure out is: can I just stop playing the game?

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7 thoughts on “I wanted to title this “To be or not to be: Fat”: Signs I’m taking myself too seriously. Or terrible at titles.

  1. Rebekah says:

    I really like this series of posts and glad you are writing about this stuff. it’s so complicated, and worth exploring, and I’m glad that you are–you in particular, w/ your combination of wisdom and gentleness and humor–and your acknowledgement of contradictions (“I want to be fat and not care” + “I want to be smaller”)

    I have/had friends and lovers who are technically fat but I still can’t call them fat. Even if they call themselves that I want to disagree. I like the word “big” or “bigger.” Fat is just so fucking loaded, and so often used as an insult. It’s kind of like the word dyke? Like I can call myself a dyke–I’m not sure I want other people to call me a dyke. It might be like reclaiming? I’m not sure.

    • Tea & Strumpets says:

      I’m so glad you’ve liked reading them! I was a little afraid there was too much navel gazing or that they were too one-note. Thank you; you’ve been so supportive of my writing always and it means a lot.

      I think you’re right re: terms. It is about reclaiming something that has been hurtful. And it’s interesting, because no one has ever called me fat, so I’m not even reclaiming something that has been hurled against me, specifically. And even though I’m using it here, I would be upset if someone called me fat. And I’d be annoyed if they denied it, for the reasons above. Which I think speaks to how complicated this stuff can get, but maybe also is about wanting to remove a whole topic from consideration?

  2. Jill says:

    I don’t know how I missed that you’ve been updating your blog–I need to catch up!

    But I just wanted to say that this post in particular really struck some chords for me. When you say that you’ve always been at war with your body–your body that’s run a half-marathon, that’s carried you so far in your life, that’s strong and healthy and human–it’s so fucking true and harrowing and awful. So many of us are at war with our bodies, no matter what they look like on the outside. I love that you’re trying to explore these complicated contradictions, of wanting to not care but caring all the time, of not shying away from the word “fat” but also rejecting it as a label others should use for you–it’s so messy, but I understand all of it.

    I hope that writing about it is helpful in some small way-as scary as it is to put all of this stuff “out there.” Thanks for writing about it.

    • Tea & Strumpets says:

      Thanks Jill! I started blogging again very quietly, so that’s why you didn’t notice!

      It’s intersting and, as you say, fucking awful, that writing about this negative baggage is something so many people recognize as their own experience.

      I’ve notice that writing, especially with the intention of forming a post, pots a different spin on my thinking and I end up at far more interesting places than if I just cary all the words in my head. So thank you for the support!

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