22 June 2015

Reflections on Fatness

Note to self: Never look in the "Other" folder in your Facebook messages. There were three old messages, two of which were spam. The third told me I was fat and ugly and would be better off without a profile picture. Every so often, I get told something along those lines -- that I'm obese, unattractive (the former informing the latter, I guess). I know I shouldn't listen, but those words bring me back to my awkward teen years, trying to fit in, with a body much older than I felt. Throughout my twenties (I can say that now, right? as a freshly-minted 30-year-old?), I still struggled, and my chronic health issues (it's officially been ten years since my botched gallbladder surgery) have made my weight fluctuate, and with it, my confidence in my appearance.

The typical Compliments For Fat Girls™ don't help, either, and I'm not asking for pity or comparisons to Rebel Wilson or Melissa McCarthy (the "at least you're funny!" line). I am told these things often, by people who mean well, but the stereotypes sting, even the sugary ones. "At least you have a pretty face." ... "At least you have a good personality." ... Etc. These comments are completely unhelpful and shouldn't even be said.

There has been the occasional student who has treated me poorly because I'm fat. Around New Year's, I had received an email from a disappointed (and likely drunk) student about her failing grade in my class. She had to include in her email that she thought I was fat. I reported it to my superiors, but it was too late; she had evidently dropped out of school. In any case, there are people who don't think twice about belittling someone for their weight, no matter how completely inappropriate and unwelcome such a comment is. But to call someone fat is, to many, just pointing out the obvious. Some hide their insult behind a "concern for [my] health." You cannot tell a person's health by their weight alone; there are many other factors that go into it. It's incredibly presumptuous and also arrogant, particularly if you are not a health care provider, to tell someone that they are fat and therefore unhealthy.

Supposed friends have also pointed-out my fatness, as if it were news to me that I am big. No way! Thank you for noticing my weight! I had no idea; thank you for bringing it to my attention. And yes, I have removed a handful of people from my life, online and offline, for criticizing my weight and/or my loved ones' weight. I grew up around criticism; now that I have a choice in whose company I keep, I can afford to be more discerning.

In the end, my body is my business, and yet I am still stung when others, strangers and friends alike, take it upon themselves to make my fatness their business to comment on. Telling me I'm fat just sends me right back to being a fat child, fat adolescent. Certainly, it acknowledges my present fatness, and my life-long struggle to accept myself. I have good days and bad. For the past few years, the good days have out-numbered the bad, in terms of how I view myself. One day, I won't care whether some jerkclown thinks I'm "obese." But I'm thirty, and for now, I still care, and it still has the power to hurt me, or at least put a damper on my day. I'm not asking anyone to tell me to ignore the bullies. I'm asking people to be mindful of their words and how they carry deep meaning. Your words and actions hold more weight than you realize (pun intended), so choose carefully. Everyday, I try to be sincere, earnest, and compassionate. I'm no saint, but I'm cognizant of how my words and actions have incredible power. I'm not saying this because I write poetry and teach and otherwise find myself in situations where words matter. Everyone's do, regardless of hobby or profession. Sorry to be so preachy, but I'm tired of people being irresponsible with their words, and I'm tired of being on the receiving end of that carelessness.

Be more caring. Give a shit. Do better. Meanwhile, I'll be fat. I'll always be some degree of fat. Even at my thinnest, I was still "fat." Do me a favor and be kind about it.

18 June 2015


God's house holds
the shapes of every thing,
and between
the prayers of the grateful,
the utterances of the faithful,
there are unspoken truths
folded in light.
There are no safe places;
many times, those are just in stories.
But where there is comfort,
there should be no shame,
and as bell said,
there can be no love without justice.
God's house holds
the shapes of every thing,
the beautiful and the broken,
but accountability and fragility
are ours alone
to cradle and hush.

17 June 2015


They aged quietly, without
permission or notice.
They're OK -- flowing things, moving
from city to city and house to house.
Dreams are particles; dreams are waves.
They are usually consumed in silence,
but suddenly the radio
is in the background,
and the space is no longer empty.
It's safe, but they still scurry
to the dark corners.