I knew it for a fact most of life. From about 8 to 21, when I met Gus. I knew I was fat and that any time anyone wasn’t mean to me, especially boys, I should be grateful.
Fat matters less when you’re older; when people add more to the equation of your success that your appearance. When you’re 20, you haven’t risen in your career, haven’t bought a nice house with nice things, you haven’t raised happy kids, your conversation and intelligence may be sharp to your peers, but you secretly know how green you are compared to the real grownups. The best indicator of who you are, who you’re going to be, is your looks.
But then came the love and sexual virility of Gus. I felt pretty. I bought young, fun clothes, even though they were double digit sizes. My comfort with myself bloomed to being downright pleased with myself as the years went on. My value was as largely apparent, as much as my ample apple-belly. The other stuff grown women judge themselves and others on, marriage, husband, popularity, children, intelligence, wit, compassion, fun…I lacked little and built a sweet world where no one seemed to be bothered by what I was missing.
So the cold splash of hate. It was completely my fault. What’s the first rule of internet forum interaction? Do Not Feed the Trolls. This means, do not reason, do not rage, do not plead. If you worked with them, or were their neighbors, they might be humans. But the anonymity of the internet turns them foul and bloodthirsty.
And on my own article! That’s a double mistake. Never argue what you’ve written. What you’ve written stands alone. (Although, technically I wasn’t arguing about my article, just a tangent shooting off of it).
The gist: I think Lena Bryant (who, because of a misspelling on a loan application became “Lane Bryant”) was cool for being the first person to commercially manufacture clothes for “the stout.” To provide nice clothes that didn’t make them feel bad.
This offended a reader. Virulently. That fat people should try to escape the shame they had created, the shame they deserved. Then I read those words that are, to me, an indication of someone who is not an original thinker. “Put down the fork!” Button. Pushed.
And I responded. As did she. And then me, and her again. By her last post I was a lard-ass who was ruining the country. I was wrecking the environment because of the extra fuel needed to haul my fat around. I was enjoying free insurance while she couldn’t get any. (For the record, fatties usually have to pay big premiums).
The strangest thing was, she wasn’t actually arguing with me. It was if she was yelling at a fat ghost standing next to me, a ghost who was saying the things she had a prepared response for. The things Iactually said (fat people being happy doesn’t need to detract for your happiness; live and let live) what not what she heard (“FAT PRIDE! GIVE ME FREE EVERYTHING! I’M AN OPPRESSED MINORITY!!”) The fact I said none of that just didn’t land.
So I stopped, leaving her the last word. It’s hard to do that, isn’t it? Let those awful insults hang there, and just walk away. But it’s the only way out.
Here’s the thing tho. The second rule of Internet forums. Forget about it, they aren’t actually talking to you. The woman in question had behavioral problems, as her Twitter immediately revealed. Her personal description lists all the kinds of people she finds “retarded.” She declares a few lines down how much fun trolling is. Not someone to be concerned with. Except that she says she is a nursing student. That’s just heartbreaking.
Oh but I violated that one too. I took it personally. The whole rest of the day I felt ‘hey fat bitch-20’ again. Or ‘does she leave holes in the ground where she steps?-13’ again. I felt like the lard-ass she said I was. I saw myself in the camera entering the Safeway, and was astonished at how obviously I waddled. How did I never notice that! I felt shame at my shopping cart, that had too many frozen foods in them. I selected and bagged my fruits and vegetables very slowly, shyly hoping people would see them and forgive me the space I take up. Suddenly people’s smiles were fake. Suddenly I was being tolerated by a world too polite to tell me they were disgusted.
Everything evened out soon after, of course. I enjoyed a trip to the landfill (I really enjoy going to landfill…a million reasons. Later post.) got home to the house of people who, annoying as they are, absolutely adore me and me them. I got a party invitation for tonight, a dinner with friend tomorrow night. I sent off an article, and am ready to start my second piece for the Atlantic. Reality closed around the wound.
The wound can heal. But not the scars. Probably not ever.