“She looks just like a big slab of bacon,” one of them was saying as I took out the garbage on my way into town to pay the rent, and a gale of deep throated male laughter arose, the kind of laughter that makes me nervous. I nodded genially as I dropped the recycling in, and the Neighbor With the Chainsaw nodded back, a bit sheepishly, as I took out the garbage. I hope he hasn’t been reading my blog, I thought, wondering what the expression was about and then shrugging my shoulders and heading off down the alley.
I had bigger fish to fry, like my rage over Saturday’s mail, and I was a fair way down the alley when I heard the next comment in the conversation, pitched specifically for my ears, I’m sure.
“You oughta go hoggin‘,” one of them says, and a gale of ugly laughter rose up as I realized that they were talking about me. The jokes, the ugly laughter, were about the passive aggressive neighbor who nods genially when she takes out the garbage and writes blog entries about chainsaw usage. Only they don’t know that I write passive aggressive entries about chainsaw usage, all they know is that I’m a little weird but generally friendly. Oh, and I’m fat. I did the only rational thing I could do in the circumstances, which was to square my shoulders and keep walking as if I hadn’t heard.
They must eat some moldy-ass bacon, I thought, looking down at my fuzzy green zip-up hoodie.
I’ve been thinking about my place in the fat activist world lately. I was actually going to write an entry today about how I am hesitant to classify myself as a fat activist because of the implied baggage which comes with that, and that I prefer to think of myself as advocating for health at any size, and then as I was walking down the street thinking about how someone had just compared me to a piece of bacon, I realized that this is unacceptable. I cannot keep walking as if I haven’t heard, and I can’t say I advocate for health at any size (although I do), when I really advocate for acceptance, and for treating people like human beings. To restrict myself to a health at any size view is to say that some fat people shouldn’t be treated like people, to suggest that it’s ok to go be mean to those other unhealthy fat people.
I wonder why they chose bacon. I think of bacon as a delicious, flavorful animal product which is filled with goodness. To paraphrase Mark Twain, to compare me to a pig is a credit to me and an insult to the pig. But I think really that guy was just saying I’m a pig as in fatty. Lardo. Porky. A big ole fat slab of bacon ripe for abuse.
And no one should be treated like that, healthy or not. We don’t shout at lepers anymore, so why the fuck is it acceptable to call someone walking down the street a slab of bacon? The only appropriate response to that situation is anger, whether or not the person is healthy. And that is why I am a fat activist, because you don’t need to think that fat is beautiful (I don’t always think so), and you don’t need to think that fat is right (it’s not, for everyone), and you don’t even need to think that fat is healthy (although it is, for some), but you do need to think that fat people are human beings. And fat people have emotions and feelings, and our weight is not a good excuse to insult is, to belittle us, to refuse to hire us, to deny health insurance to us, to treat us like second class citizens.
I personally think that protruding tumors are gross, but you don’t see me heckling stage IV cancer patients. I’m also not a big fan of dreadlocks on white people, but I don’t harass hippies when they walk down the street. Because these people are human beings. Because what they do with their bodies is not my business. Because I don’t know what they might be struggling with, the complex emotions and permutations that have gone into their physical presentations. I listened to an interview with several fat activists yesterday in which the interviewer kept saying “you’re saying you think fat people deserve acceptance,” in this horribly skeptical and horrified way, like the activist was saying “I think we should kill all old people,” and the activist just kept saying, simply, “yes. I do.”
On the way home, I stopped by Purity and picked up a Cappuccino It’s-It. I drew out my consumption of my favourite ice cream treat until I was walking down the alley on my way home, and I happened to hit the last bite right as I passed the now shrunken group. As I delicately picked it up and bit down, I looked right into their eyes and smiled.
“Those spics,” one of them was saying, “they need to come into the country like anyone else.” As he was talking, he turned, and realized I was passing, and there was a moment of awkward silence.
Chinga tu madre, cabron, I thought. Chinga tu madre. And I dropped the It’s-It wrapper on top of the garbage and went inside to make myself some coconut lemongrass soup with brown rice.