Today is my little brother’s birthday. Blithely ignoring his HIGHLY questionable sartorial decision making skills–lest we forget the pinstripe gangster suit, complete with patent pleather faux spats and stupid bifurcated goatee– he is my favorite person.
It wasn’t always thus.
As a child I was sardonic, standoffish and prone to plumpness. He was athletic, charming and had the metabolism of a coked out whippet. He would say horrible things about my size. He wasn’t alone.
My great grandmother’s final words to me were “Have you always been that fat?” and my grandmother had a long and glorious career of telling me I was fat, in case it had escaped my attention every single day of my life since I was nine years old.
My mother, who had her own struggles with weight, called me “Fatso Fogarty” a name made all the more vicious because I remember her complaining bitterly about how much she hated being called that by her parents.
So what’s the point of all this dirty laundry?
Here’s the thing: People say stupid stuff. I say stupid stuff all the damn time and I’m one of the more thoughtful people I know. I’m sure I gave as good as I got when I was younger.
I’m not saying it’s okay and especially as adults we ought to know and thus do better, but it happens and I think it happens even more to fat women because weight is a huge (as it were) bugaboo for many many people and odds are some of those people are going to be in your family.
If you internalize that stuff, if you hold onto it and nurture it, it will poison you from the inside, and poisoning is only good when you do it to rats…or that lady who took the LAST fuchsia cashmere cardigan in your size even though there is no way on this or any other earth she could possibly wear fuchsia even HALF so well as you. Because seriously, with her coloring? It is to laugh. Sleep with one eye open, you sweaternabbing harpy.
But anyway, you’ve got to get past it.
Let’s switch gears for a second. My grandmother in Nashville loves gin and one night when I was out to dinner with my favorite uncle and his groovy wife at Equinox, I ordered a gin and tonic. He laughed and said I came by it honestly.
It’s been my experience that people come by their fat hate or disordered eating honestly.
It doesn’t make it okay to say hurtful things, but I’ve found that by understanding the backstory, it makes it easier to go “okay, well of course that’s what she’s going to say. That’s about her, not about me.”
The woman who grew up starving in the Depression might very well equate hunger and thinness with virtuousness, the woman who remembered being teased and miserable in school for being a fatty fatty boombalatty might be a leetle too invested and easily triggered when she sees her young daughter filling out a bit more fully than the rest of the kids.
As we complete the old year and look forward to the new, I invite you to think about a problematic relationship you’d like to resolve in 2011. Resolution can look like many things, not just hugs and lollipops. If you’d like to, put the information in the comments. I’d love to hear them.