I think it would be very cool to be an internet phenomenon. I’m actually kind of annoyed - and a little insulted, frankly - that I have not yet become one myself.
People are constantly emailing me these “hilarious” personal essays that half the rest of the cyber world has found so amusing that they feel obliged to forward them to everyone they know. Sometimes I even get the same one two or three times in a week, from completely different people, usually accompanied by some pithy comment like, “This is so funny! It made me think of you!” even when the topic is golf, fly fishing, or something equally uninteresting and I’m on a distribution list with ten thousand other people.
In my quest to develop my own rabid internet following and thus secure a nice, juicy book contract so I can go on all the talk shows and become a wealthy pundit, I have begun this weblog, where I post all of my essays for the enjoyment of my public. I also keep sending my favorite pieces out to all of my friends with the instruction that they forward each one, along with the link to my blog, to everyone they know. I want to see how long it will take for one of my pieces to boomerang its way back to me, complete with the attendant fame, glory, and pithy comments about how “hilarious” I am. In the meantime, I am constantly checking out my competition - dredging my way through the mindless dreck that others have sent me in the smug certainty that whatever I am reading is so annoying and stupid that my own (much funnier, if I do say so myself) material should be, at this very moment, zipping its way about the information highway like so much literary lightning.
The particular piece of dreck that caught my attention this week is a tepidly humorous rant from some woman in Middle America who had apparently starved herself dizzy for two weeks straight and then, still unable to squeeze herself into her high school prom gown as planned, decided to stay home and eat a pizza instead of attending her class reunion. The piece was resplendent with self-deprecating wit and utterly revolting descriptions of the logistics of stuffing jiggling rolls of uncooperative flesh into highly constrictive spandex undergarments.
The whole time I was reading this thing, I kept wondering to myself - what would make a woman hate her own body so much that she’d actually refuse to attend an event that she had been looking forward to for months rather than allow herself to be seen at it? And what is wrong in a world where she would not only refuse to attend the event, but that she would then a) feel compelled to share this humiliating incident with millions of strangers; b) expect other women to not only identify with her but find the experience amusing; and c) become an email heroine to the masses?
Finally, and most importantly, if she’s that upset about not being able to fit into her outfit, what the hell is she doing sitting around eating an entire pizza?
And there you have it. The problem with Fat America in a nutshell. We want to have our cake, eat it a la mode, and then whine about it after the fact.
Now, before I go any further, allow my to establish my credentials on the touchy-touchy subject of the Politics of Body Image. Throughout my life, I have binged and purged my way up and down Old Obesity Mountain, going from being quite overweight to quite thin and then back again. I now hover somewhere in that french-fried netherland between “waif” and “circus lady,” but this much I can tell you: even when I was at my absolute largest (after I blew out my knee skiing and was forced to spend three months immobile on the sofa, plying myself with wine and painkillers in front of the first O.J. trial), I didn’t exert a lot of energy hating myself because of it. Hell, I didn’t exert a lot of energy on anything, come to think of it, but I certainly didn’t spend any time whining to my friends about how ugly I felt. Nor did I expect anyone to think my situation was comical.
But for some reason, everyone else seems to believe that obsessing about one’s weight in between giant mouthfuls of Chips Ahoy is the patriotic duty of every Proud American. That, and, of course, yakking on your cell phone about the Atkins Diet while waiting in line at the McDonald’s drive-thru.
The reason why fat is still considered the last acceptable prejudice in the United States is because it is the only form of oppression in which the victims are all-too-willing participants in their own persecution. I’d venture to guess that most victims of other forms of prejudice probably don’t loathe and despise themselves nearly to the extent that fat people do.
We loooove to complain about how fat we are. We revel in our obesity. We’re constantly starting new diets that we never finish, just so we can cackle in glee at our own failure. And we absolutely thrive on comparing ourselves to other people in the fervent hope that there’s someone else on the planet who looks worse than we do in a thong.
Our hatred of all that is flabby is so ingrained into our daily lives that comments on our friends’ weight often take the place of regular greetings:
Nice outfit! Have you lost weight?
Me? Oh, god, no - I’m so fat. I ate an entire cheesecake last night. Just look at my thighs!
And so on.
The drive to diet is so intense that any and all weight loss is immediate cause for rejoicing, regardless of the circumstances. I once had a co-worker who lost her father to cancer after a particularly painful month-long decline. When she returned to the office after the funeral, having dropped twenty pounds due to grief and stress, she was immediately cornered by one of our more clueless coworkers:
“You look great! You’ve lost so much weight! How’d you do it?”
My friend kind of grimaced. “My dad died. Trust me, this is not the kind of diet you want to be on.”
But I swear…just for moment, I think I saw the hint of a satisfied smile.
Yup. That’s what our nation has come to. Next thing you know, The All-New Dead Relative Diet will be leading the New York Times Best-Seller List.
I am so very weary of all the whining and complaining that comes my way from both sides of the scale, I have declared a moratorium on all weight-related comments and discussions in my presence.
Thin people are hereby informed that telling a fat person that a new outfit is “slimming” is not considered a compliment by the recipient. You might as well just shout out, “Hey, looking good there, Shamu!” for all the warm and fuzzy feelings you are engendering. And you know this. That’s why you do it - to make yourself feel good by making someone else feel bad. So stop it.
People of all sizes are no longer permitted to ask their friends if a particular outfit makes them look “fat.” At our age, we should be able to tell for ourselves whether or not something looks good on us. So the next time you ask someone that question, the automatic response will be, “Yes. It makes you look fat because you ARE fat.” So there.
No one will be allowed to complain about how fat he is, even if he is fat but especially if he’s not. This is what is known as “trolling for compliments,” and it has no place in my New World Order. If you happen to forget and let a self-deprecating remark slip, don’t be surprised if you hear, “Yeah, you do look like you’ve been dipping into the Haagen-Dazs lately - what’s up with that?” Actually, I really hope someone does try it with me - and I hope it’s a thin person - because it would be kind of fun to laugh at the horrified reaction I’ll probably get when I say it.
Thin people are not permitted to look at other thin people and remark upon how fat the other person looks. That’s just mean, particularly when it is uttered in the presence of a fat person. Nor are two people of any size permitted to congratulate one another on how “thin” they look. Find something nice to say about the other person’s hair, if you must, but the weight topic is hereby off limits.
Fat people are not allowed to call a thin person a “skinny bitch.” Being skinny does not make one a bitch. Being a bitch makes one a bitch. Believe me, I’m a bitch and I’m not skinny, so I should know.
Both thin people and fat people are to learn the difference between “healthy” weight and “over” weight and adjust their expectations and body images accordingly. A size 14 is not a “plus” size, folks, no matter how many overpriced designers try to tell you otherwise. In fact, the words “plus sized” are to be banned from the national vernacular effective immediately, thrown into the trash along with all of the specialty boutiques and publications that tell you that you are an aberration of nature because you‘re not a size 0. Shopping at “The Forgotten Woman” and reading Mode Magazine are neither liberating nor empowering activities. You’re just turning yourself into a desperate market demographic so they can suck money out of your wallet by making you feel so bad about yourself that you think you need them.
Fat women are not allowed to refer to themselves as “real” women when comparing themselves to “thin” women. Here’s a news flash - we’re all real, ladies. If you really need to hate someone, I’d recommend…oh, say, Dr. John Gray for starters. You can never throw too much hate his way.
Look, people: being overweight is not the end of the world. It’s not a sin. It’s not even really hurting anyone (unless you’re that guy in New Jersey who couldn’t manage to get himself up off his mattress to take a leak but who still found the strength to choke down six dozen pizzas a day and eventually had to be removed from his apartment with a giant crane, thus endangering the well being of all the curious onlookers gathered on the sidewalk below). You may very well have other priorities, such as childbearing, taking your antidepressants, or - in my case - suppressing one’s metabolism inch by inch on the Daily Wine Bottle Diet. Don’t beat yourself up for putting other things first, because hating yourself 24/7 is no way to enjoy your life.
So, from now on, if you really want to lose weight, then shut your mouth, drop the chalupa, and just do it.
If you don’t, go ahead and order that pizza. It’s not going to kill you.
But if you don't keep your silly emails to yourself, I just might.