One of the things that intrigues me about the way that people interact with fat people is the constant refrain of “oh, you’re not fat.” Not only is it patronizing, it’s an outright lie. And it’s ridiculous, because fat people know that they are fat. Most fat people are not in denial; they are well aware of their weight, and pretending that they aren’t fat is actually really offensive. For fat people who embrace their weight and are confident in their bodies, hearing “oh, you’re not fat” is really just a slap in the face, and a denial of that person’s identity.
I’m not quite sure why it’s acceptable to say that fat people aren’t fat. My Black friends would be pretty pissed if I said “oh, you’re not black.” Especially when the same people who say “oh, you’re not fat” to your face are quite happy to talk about how fat you are behind your back. Or when they point to someone they see and say “man, that person is fat,” and you look at that person and think about how he or she weighs significantly less than you do.
My irritation with the passion for size denial demonstrated by otherwise with-it people was recently piqued when I was on a search for a particular article of clothing. As I have stated elsewhere, I really try to support local businesses whenever possible, which is especially challenging when I need clothes because most stores here don’t carry stuff which fits me. I also really don’t like to interact with clerks since I am incredibly shy, so I kind of hide and skulk around the edges of stores unless I am forced to deal with a clerk.
At any rate, I went into a local store and one of the clerks immediately pounced on me to ask if I needed help. I said that I was looking for such and such a thing, and she immediately started parading me around the store to show me things.
I noticed two things:
1. Everything she was showing me was really overpriced, and way more than I wanted to pay.
2. Everything she was showing me was way too small.
Eventually I reluctantly picked a few things in the larger sizes off the rack for her to put in the dressing room, and then I wandered around the store on my own to see if I could find anything I liked. My shyness prevented me from just leaving and saying that nothing there was quite what I wanted, so I already felt guilty for wasting the clerk’s time as I quested in vain for something which would fit me and not empty my bank account. I happened to wander into the woeful plus sizes area of the store, and she immediately shouted:
“Oh, honey*, you don’t want to be in there, that’s the plus size clothing, it’s all way too big for you.”
“Actually,” I said, fixing her with an icy stare, “I hate to break it to you, but I’m fat. This is the section of the store that I should be in.” Yes, perhaps I was a little abrupt with her, but, damnit, she was being rude.
She glared back, huffed, and started talking with the other clerk while I picked out a few things and went into the dressing room.
Where I found that she had swapped the larger sizes I picked out with smaller sizes.
Do I need to explain why I find this offensive? And humiliating? And…ridiculous?
I tried on the plus sizes I had found, and discovered that they fit and looked good, although they were way too expensive. I also gamely attempted to try on one of the pieces which the clerk had swapped, and it very obviously didn’t fit, and since she was hovering outside, I said:
“Oh, I must have grabbed the medium by accident, could you please get an extra large, if there is one?”
And she came back…with a small.
So I left. I’ve had a history of problems with the staff of this store, and every time I try again to shop there, I am insulted. (Incidentally, Haddock, I have complained to the manager and store owners about the problem, to no avail.) Somehow, after that experience, I don’t think I’ll be coming back.
There’s a discussion on Shapely Prose about Marilyn’s Law, which states that “As an online discussion about fat women grows longer, the probability of a mention of Marilyn Monroe’s dress size approaches one.” Fat denial is ugly, my gentle readers, and it is also stupid, offensive, and just plain rude. As an advocate for fat rights and a member of the Healthy At Any Size movement, interactions like the one above are easy for me to deal with, although irritating; fat people who are still struggling with their weight probably find them soul crushing.
Fatties aren’t sailing down the Nile, kids. We know we’re fat, and you all can stop pretending that we aren’t. Don’t tell your fat friends that they aren’t fat, since it makes you look ridiculous. Not only that, but it implies that you don’t want to be associated with fat people, so you want to rationalize your fat friends out of a few sizes. If you don’t want to be friends with fat people, you’re a fucking tool, and don’t try to rationalize your fat hatred.
*Don’t. Call. Me. Honey. Or sweetheart, sweetie, or any other derivative. It is a 100% guaranteed way to make me extraordinarily angry.