I had a strange experience the other night which I’ve been mulling over for a few days. I was out rocking my freshly cut hairs* and one of my new and most excellent bras when I ran into an assemblage of friends at Headlands, and we gathered to sit and talk about this and that, as people do. Somehow, the topic of donuts came up, and I extolled the two greatest donuts in the world: the donuts at Bob’s and the Beignets of Nicholas, which are not technically donuts but they are in the donut family, so I argue that they count. I also started musing on the possibility of making donuts in the next few days, because I haven’t made them in awhile and it might be fun.
“Those are really bad for you, you know,” someone said, looking directly at me while he said it.
“Er, yes,” I replied. “I am aware that donuts are not among the healthiest foods. However, I prefer to find excellent foods which I enjoy and eat them.”
“You really shouldn’t eat donuts,” he said, still obviously addressing me directly.
This is usually the moment in a conversation when someone realizes that they are making a mistake, and they should probably stop talking. In conversations with me, this moment is accompanied with a sudden tightening of the lip, and a change around my eyes. It’s a bit subtle, I grant, but most people notice.
“Because they are really bad for you. Donuts make you fat.”
“Yes,” I said, icily. “There are lots of foods out there that are bad for you. This is true.”
“Well,” he said. “I have a body. And I take care of it.” Unlike you, his subtext clearly said. Obviously you don’t take care of your body.
I was really torn, for a moment, about what to say. How does one respond to this? Do I make a scene, or do I try to defuse the situation, even though this is an issue which really bothers me?
“Well, I take care of mine by eating awesome food,” I said, finally, while the other people at the table began to look awkward, and he repeated his claims about “caring about his body.” Repeated them several times, actually, as I am apparently deaf as well as fat.
“But donuts are bad for you! They are filled with bad stuff!”
“You know, a lot of commercial food is filled with bad stuff,” I said. “I think that a lot of things are both bad and unhealthy. I think that moderate unhealthy food is not such a bad thing, as long as it’s good unhealthy food. I do not approve of consuming bad food of any sort, unhealthy or not.”
This thought is held by a lot of the world’s population, I would like to point out. It is only in America that we are simultaneously enthralled and terrorized by bad, unhealthy food, although we are trying to pass the sickness on to others. In other countries, people romp through rich cheeses and pate and other sinful delights without too much concern, because they know that great food is why we live. Great food is why I live. When I am paralyzed in bed in the morning, filled with uncertainty about whether or not I want to be alive, let alone wake up, I remember that there is good food in the world. I think of a particular moment, a flavor, an elusive instant, and I swing my feet out of bed and pull on a kimono and put the tea kettle on.
This was the first time in my life that someone has ever directly criticized my diet or lifestyle in a way which suggests that I am stupid, or that I should be ashamed of my weight. It’s also the only time anyone has criticized my diet, period, actually. I have eaten monstrous ice cream sundaes alongside people whom I know have a problem with fat, and they have not said a peep, because they understand that I am aware of the link between ice cream consumption and fat, and they trust me to make my own decisions. I mean, there was the drive by oinking, which I think was supposed to be humiliating, but it didn’t come across that way. This was someone, a friend, someone I respect, who was basically saying that the way I take care of my body is bad, implying that I don’t care of myself. Someone, incidentally, who does not eat a very good as in healthy or as in delicious diet.
Who went on, later, to order a large dessert which is probably way worse for you than donuts. And who said that he really liked pasta in cream sauce, and went on to list a bunch of other “bad” foods. Who, when I mentioned that I enjoy pasta in cream sauce as well, frowned.
I wouldn’t say that my primary emotion about this is shame. It’s sadness. For me and for this person, who apparently loathes my body so much that he seized on an opportunity to repeatedly slam my diet, because the above conversation is a bit redacted to remove redundancy, and it in no way conveys the agonizing circular conversation that we had. It made me sad that this person obviously has some kind of issue with the way I look that he doesn’t want to address, and it made me sad to live in a society where it’s ok to criticize me for expressing a fondness of donuts. Had he criticized me for liking black men, everyone at the table would have jumped on him. If he’d said that he didn’t approve of the homosexual lifestyle, someone would have said something. But apparently it’s ok to treat someone like shit “for their own good.” Because, obviously, I’m delusional and stupid, and I have no idea that eating foods loaded with fats and sugars will make me fat. They don’t teach you that in college, you know. Or in…life.
There are so many things I wished that I had said, now. I wished that I had said that I have actually read a lot about diet and nutrition, that I am intelligent, that I am aware that eating food makes you fat, because that’s how life works. I wished I had said that I have discussed this issue with my doctor, that she doesn’t think I eat an unhealthy diet. Or that I had said that my diet was actually way more healthy than his, with a larger focus on whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, essential fatty acids. I wished I had said something, anything, rather than taking it with a forced smile and making a witty comment in an attempt to deflect it. Rather than saying nothing, which suggests that he was right.
I know that fat bashing is really the only politically correct bashing allowed these days, but I’m really getting tired of it. So, I have a newsflash for you, dear readers:
Fat people know that they are fat. They are not under the delusion that they are slim, delicate nymphs wandering in an enchanted forest with unicorns. They are also fully aware that you find them repulsive, and some of them are ashamed by that because they have been told to be, while others think that you are petty, sizeist hypocrites who surely have something better to do with your time. It is actually not helpful to tell fat people that their diets are making them fat, because they already know that. It is also not helpful to make disparaging comments about fat, or suggestions about their lifestyles. The reasons for being fat aren’t always hanging out there on the surface, and you may cause intense pain or personal offense by making obvious and stupid statements. So please, don’t. Because I know that all of you are smarter than this.
By the way, here’s a link to the Sixth Edition of the Big Fat Carnival. I suggest that you take the time to read it, because there’s a lot of really awesome material in there, and I am pleased to see that the Big Fat Carnival has been brought back to life.
*For those readers who are not familiar with this particular Northern California expression, I was “sporting my freshly cut hairs,” or even “wearing my freshly cut hairs with elan, pride, pleasure, and a hint of style.” One can be said to be “rocking” a number of things, from a difficult piano solo to an examination. It implies a superior, excellent, and admirable performance. I suspect that it is related to the phrase “rock out with your cock out,” since it also suggests a certain amount of self confidence, the sort of self assurance that would allow you to, well, rock out with your cock out. Assuming that you have one. I’ve always said “rock out with your rack out” when referring to ladies, but for some reason this has never caught on. I admit that there is a rhyming difficulty with “rock” and “rack” which one does not encounter with “rock” and “cock.”