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Can’t I just be fat? | Manolo for the Big Girl

Can’t I just be fat?

Seriously now.

Your pal Plummy was up all night doing important things (definitely NOT Googling “Xabi Alonso shirtless” and slurping her way through an undetermined number –which may or may not be four– of coco paletas while petting her dog with her foot) and my dander is now officially in the upright and locked position.

I’m a grown up, I pay damn good money for the insurance that includes vision so when I look in the mirror I know exactly what I see. I see two strong legs, broad pale shoulders, a mysterious bruise that frankly asks more questions than it answers, and I see fat.

Can’t I  just be fat? How is that such a bad thing?

Why do we skirt coyly around the word? It is like Voldemort now? (I was going to ask “is it like Bloody Mary now?” but I don’t know how many damn times I said it in the mirror, a cocktail never appears). It’s not like we’re going to be  magically unfat if we describe ourselves as “fluffy” or “more to love” or whatever cringe-worthy term allows us to not use the F word.

It’s just a word, and to me it’s a lot less embarrassing to be fat (which is to say not embarrassing at all) than it is to be Grown Damn Woman who can’t look in the mirror, call it how I see it and move along with my day.

I say away with the euphemisms.

Not just because it’s embarrassing to be afraid of a three-letter word, but it’s also taking some of our best adjectives away. Curvy = Fat. Voluptuous = Fat.  Oh and don’t even get me STARTED on the term BBW, I might pop that weird little pulse-y vein in my forehead and I just used my last Band Aid to cover up a paleta stick splinter.

What do you think? Am I being unreasonable? If you don’t use the term fat what do you use instead? Why? Put it in the comments.

33 Responses to “Can’t I just be fat?”

  1. masukomi September 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    As was noted on twitter. There’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem here. un-fat people aren’t socially allowed to use the word “fat”, and until the vast majority of fat people adopt the term and use it for themselves everyone else will be avoiding it, which indirectly encourages fat people to not use it. It’s going to take a sea-change like that of gay people taking “queer” back. Even now that that’s happened non-queer folk still have to be really careful about using it because so many use it as a negative.

  2. Ashton September 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I am (for the most part) happy with my FAT self! I’m may be fat but I’m happy! I have more to worry about then diets and calorie counting. Maybe I’m so happy because I eat what want, when I won’t and I never feel guilty about it. Life is to short to pass on dessert ; )

  3. Margo A September 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    My therapist once winced and told me she wished I wouldn’t call myself fat. She had so many patients who said it with self loathing that it took her a while to grasp that I was using it as a simple description.

  4. Andrea September 7, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    You’re right! I should be using the word “fat”. I typically use the word “big” to describe myself but it’s not really appropriate. I’m not big. I’m very petite. I’m 5ft tall, I wear a size 6US shoe. Things like gloves, hats, socks are always too big. When I buy petite or short jeans and trousers, I have to shorten them. I’m a small woman who is fat, not a “big gal”, as I usually say.

  5. La Petite Acadienne September 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    It took a LONG time for me to feel even partially comfortable saying “fat”. Everybody has their own mental image of what “fat” is, I suppose. And it’s as though we sort of categorize ourselves. In my mind, I categorized body sizes as tiny, slim, average, “bigger build” (which to me, was about the size 14-16 range), “big girl”, and then, finally, “fat”.

    I’ve bounced between a size 12 and a size 18 for my entire adult life, and lately (size 18) I’ve been referring to myself as fat, but even now, it’s not 100% comfortable. And that’s because I’M not 100% comfortable being this size.

    I don’t say it in an insulting way, but I can’t be quite matter-of-fact about it either — there’s still a tinge of self-deprecation there.

    I think the reason why so many of us don’t feel comfortable with “fat” is because we’ve put so many negative connotations onto the idea of BEING fat. And so to call oneself fat feels like conceding defeat in the perpetual body wars.

  6. Sarah Fowler September 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    I use “fat” matter-of-fact-ly to describe myself. It’s a simple and accurate descriptor. Many non-fat people gasp and protest when I say it, though; “You’re not FAT…” Okay thank you, but yes I am. I’m a size 22. It’s just a word!

  7. Jen Anderson September 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    The problem is that to many people, “fat” now means “stupid, lazy, sloppy and unhealthy” instead of “having a larger than average amount of adipose tissue”. (I’m paraphrasing either Maryanne Kirby or Kate Harding here.) I’ve learned to be comfortable with the word “fat” and use it freely, but for a lot of people, those connotations and associations are still there.

  8. catrandom September 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I think Jen is quite right. The word is, like it or not, considered by many a devastating insult. It’s looked at as a guaranteed-effective, argument-ending putdown of a fat person, and when used against people (nearly always women) who are *not* fat, it is a bombshell designed to undermine confidence and end any debate, or at least change the subject. Usually works, too.

    In America today, “fat” is about the most brutal thing you can call a woman that is not an actual obscenity. (And I think, if they absolutely had to pick one, an overwhelming majority of American women would rather hear the b-word or even the c-word applied to themselves than to be called fat.)

    The way most people, including most fat people, feel about fat people is contempt leaning to hatred. So it’s a word a lot of nice people don’t like to throw around.

    When I know “fat” will startle people, such as when I’m describing myself to someone I haven’t met, I sometimes use “round.” (“Look for the short round redhead with glasses and a harried expression.”) It’s less loaded, and in my case definitely accurate. But only once. Ever after, it’s “fat.”

  9. Meg September 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Yes. Thank you. I love this so much.

  10. coffeeaddict September 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Brava!

  11. mimi September 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    I also hate the word “curvy” as a euphamism for fat. I’m fat but not necessarily curvy — more straight up and down like a marshmallow on toothpicks. If you are curvy, great, good for you, but it doesn’t describe everyone who is fat. Along with this, magazine editors – plus size is not a “body type” so please don’t include it as a single description when doing the requisite article on finding jeans or bathing suits or whatever that fit your body type.

  12. Heidi September 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    I think Jen is on the right track. I don’t have a problem with the word fat, but I do get irritated with the other things some people associate with that word.

    By the way, as soon as I read the first line of the post I was Googling Xabi Alonso shirtless. Thanks for adding that bit of happiness to my day!

  13. milaxx September 7, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    If I’m talking about myself I use them all; fat, curvy, fluffy, too much to love and all the other euphemisms. If someone else uses it, they better be careful. It really depends upon the person using it, the relationship I have with them, and the context in which they use it. However, make no mistake about it, at over 300lbs I am fat and I don’t even begin to pretend otherwise.

  14. Marsha September 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    See, a friend of mine and I once had a disagreement with a pal’s girlfriend. During the course of the (pointless, I know realize) argument, my friend – who is lovely by any measure – was called a “bitch”. While I, reeling, processed the epithet, I was called a “fat bitch”. It doesn’t take a super genius to realize that being a fat bitch is ever so much worse than being a regular-sized bitch.

    The reason that I don’t use the word in daily discourse is that I’m not into ironic self-related rhetoric. I think it’s possible that people with whom I interact on a daily basis (colleagues, friends, my husband) may have forgotten that I’m fat, what with my wit, charm, and shockingly green eyes and all. If I remind them by using the word, it can only be to my detriment.

  15. Sarah September 7, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    I totally, totally agree! I don’t like euphemisms – to me, it says that you’re ashamed of yourself or something. “Curvy” is the one that sends me off the deep end. I am straight up and down with small boobs (and FAT) – more akin to Grimace or Spongebob than JLO. You can belt this waist ’til the cows come home, but I still have more corners than curves. Let’s not sugarcoat it people!

    I do tell people I am a “whole lotta woman” sometimes. Which is true, in more ways than one.

  16. anonymouse September 7, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    I think the significance here is that when I was exposed to the word ‘fat’ the first 1,000 times, it was not in a matter-of-fact, body-positive way. It was strewn at me hatefully, as “FAT!”, the same way you’d yell “MURDERER!” or “RAPIST!”

    So yeah, I prefer not to call myself something associated with such feelings.

  17. AnthroK8 September 7, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    I am with you.

    Although zaftig is lovely, because it means juicy. But you don’t have to be fat to be juicy, and it is such a sexy, intimate word, I wouldn’t want to have it be used by just anyone.

    So, anyway, yes. Infantilizing language and coy avoidance pissed me right off.

  18. Leigh Ann September 7, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    I have a problem calling myself “fat.” Perhaps if we reclaimed the word for ourselves it would eventually lose its emotional baggage and become just a descriptive word, but right now, for me…no. Baggage? Still there.

    I usually call myself “plus size.” And yeah, I know it’s a euphemism. But I like the idea of “plus,” as in more, in addition to, extra. Sometimes I say I am a “big girl,” though that’s not exactly right, since while I am size 16-18, I’m only 5’2″. I do like “curvy,” since that is what I am: I’m not so much an hourglass as a figure 8. I’m rounded everywhere. No straight lines!

  19. Mel September 7, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    I only use it when I wish to irritate my sister. Especially when shopping. There’s nothing quite like the look on her face when we walk into Neiman’s and I spot the prissiest sales girl and ask where the fat lady clothes are. The sales girl always corrects me and says – oh, you mean the women’s department. Which is rediculous, 80% of the floor space is for women.

    Anyhow, I’m a big girl – because I like double entendre. Or ambiguity.

  20. Mel September 7, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    Oh, and I forgot to say that Masukomi is seriously good looking.

  21. Cat September 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    I write for a fashion and beauty blog that is intended to be inclusive of women of every size. I write mostly beauty product reviews, but occasionally do an outfit post in which I write about a particular look and include options in various sizes. I always shy away from using the word “fat” because I am not fat myself and I don’t want it to be taken as an insult. I usually say, “plus size” or “larger girls” or something along those lines, but I always wonder if that’s worse than just saying “fat.” What do you think? Is it the type of reclaimed word that’s acceptable only within the group to which it applies, or can skinny girls say it, too?

  22. Nancy September 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Is the name of this blog a problem?

  23. Catrandom September 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    @Marsha: “The reason that I don’t use the word in daily discourse is that I’m not into ironic self-related rhetoric.”

    Neither am I. To each her own, but I’m not seeing how a statement of fact or the use of a simple, accurate term is related to “ironic self-related rhetoric.” I suppose for some it could be a way of making a point or some sort of statement, but ironic?

    When I refer to myself as fat, there is nothing ironic (or rhetorical) about it.

  24. Thea September 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    I think ‘fat’ like many pejorative words and phrases can only be reclaimed by the people who live it. And like so many other pejoratives – if you try and ‘claim’ it or even use it casually when you don’t belong to the group, you are likely to get decked.

    I call myself fat, and I’ve also seen my friends flinch on my behalf when I use the word and tell me to ‘stop talking about yourself like that.’

    As an experiment, I alternatively describing myself as ‘dumb blonde’, ‘dippy’ and ‘bimbo’. I was gently corrected by people who love me for using all those words, but not with the venom of when I called myself fat.

    So why I call myself fat, I do realize that for many people, even who live it, it’s still the worst insult in the world. And I don’t want to insult others unless I mean it. Fat people get enough of that in the world.

  25. Miss Plumcake September 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    @Nancy: The blog had this name before I signed on. I’m the editor, not the publisher.

  26. MYRTLE September 8, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    i’m definitely fat. nothing wrong with it.

    i also identify myself as “black” rather than african-american.

    sort of for the same type of reason…for me, there’s nothing wrong with being black, or fat for that matter.

  27. Joan September 8, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    The problem with the euphemisms is that they take the meaning away from the words. If every fat girl is a “big girl”, what does that mean for someone who is tall, or broad, or…. I, for example, am 6 feet tall and have broad shoulders and hips. If I were to be underweight, I would still be a big girl. The label fits. My fatness is only part of what makes me big. Wow. That got rambly.

  28. Mimi September 9, 2011 at 12:24 am #

    Miss Plumcake, CAn I be you when I grow up? Please?

  29. Miss B September 9, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    I had an experience with this recently. I was having a conversation with a friend, who probably wears a size 18, while I wear a 24. I referred to myself as fat, and she said, “No, don’t call yourself that! You’re not fat! You have a pretty face, you have pretty hair, and you dress well! You aren’t fat!” I was surprised that her definition of fat meant sloppy, ugly, and having bad taste. I told her that I was fat, and I was fine with being fat.

  30. Cathy September 9, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    On the surface, I agree. But I don’t think of curvy as an euphemism. I *am* curvy and if I lost 40 lbs I’d still be curvy. I’m fine with fat as well, though it used to hurt and I felt apologetic for my size. A divorce helped me get my self-confidence back, even though I’m still roughly the same size I’ve been for years. (Between 14-16.)

  31. beacuz September 10, 2011 at 3:21 am #

    In my opinion, the word fat is usually considered an unflattering derogatory word when used while describing adults. I personally have no problem describing someone as fat – including myself and that is because I mean that they/me are meatier than most.

  32. DebDarling September 10, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    My nieces are now 16 and 14, respectively, but I remember when they were about 4 and 6, I made a comment about being fat. Thus shushed me and very earnestly told me they were not allowed to use the “f” word in their house. The particular “f” word they were forbidden to mention was “fat” because my brother and his wife felt using it would hurt my feelings. I matter of factly told them they should use it because that’s what I was!!! Fat! I use it all the time and see people cringe when I do. I think it’s more honest than curvy girl, big gal, whatever. However, I think its easier for me to own it than the more slender people around me.

  33. ZaftigWendy September 10, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    Well, as you can probably see, I call myself Zaftig, meaning Juicy, because I am. I like juicy colors (today’s outfit is a raspberry pink tank top, jean shorts, raspberry sandals, a tangerine/raspberry handknit shrug and a necklace with all the juicy shades – cherry, orange, lime, grape.

    I also call myself fat, because I am! I also refer to myself as a giantess, because I’m that, too. At 5’9″ and 230 lbs, I’m taller than most of the people I know (that I’m not related to).

    What I call myself most of the time, though, is “cute as hell.”