It Gets Better is a noble sentiment, and maybe for some people part of a stigmatized group it’s true. I certainly hope it is.
But I’m not convinced it’s an accurate statement for the fat kids out there; especially not those who grow into fat adults.
For people of size, I’m not sure it does Get Better, at least not naturally.
Left to its own devices, the Western Beauty and Culture Machine will happily crush you underfoot –for your own good, of course– for being too big for their britches.
Everywhere you look there will be pop-up ads and billboards and interchangeable vapid reality TV “stars” admonishing you from photoshopped pages to change your body into something society deems acceptable. Only then will you get invited to the cool parties, have a partner who loves you and finally be worthy of full human status.
Oh, and don’t you dare be angry. They’re just doing it so you’ll feel better about you! They’re “just worried about your health”. Did they mention you have Such A Pretty Face? Did they make the Pointed Sigh?
It’s not like people really need much of a push to treat fat people as sub-human anyway. We’re manifestations of weakness, of the laziness and sloth they fear in themselves, we deserve our bad treatment because really, we’ve brought it upon ourselves. (You can try pointing out science refuting the claim that size is more than just a case of calories in vs. calories out, but be aware it’s dancing-with-a-pig futile in many if not most cases.)
Nope, you’re a lazy cow and there’s nothing sacred about cows in this culture: They just get slaughtered…or worse, slaughter themselves.
Bullying is now news, after too many –one is too many– kids, perceived or identifying as something other than cut-and-dried hetero, committed suicide.
But bullying, we all know, is not new news and it’s not solely the domain of gay kids.
Yet how many front page human interest stories do you hear about the plight of the fat kid being bullied in school?
Whither our tearful congressmen? Where’s the garment-rending when a bullied fat kid commits suicide?
More importantly, where are our 24-hour specialized hotlines to stop those suicides before they happen?
Tormenting fat kids is less of a headline and more of a forgivable rite of passage, swept neatly under the Children Can Be So Cruel rug (Children Can Be So Cruel, a fully-licensed subsidiary of Boys Will Be Boys and She Was Asking For It In That Skirt Partners, International)
Yeah, children can be so cruel.
Is it a newsflash that adults can be too? The “War on Childhood Obesity”, however good its intentions might be, is just another way to codify and institutionalize size discrimination against the people least capable of defending their own interests: children.
Regardless of age, if you’re fat, Society, either openly or covertly, wants you to hate yourself thin. Except we can’t hate ourselves thin, at least not in the long term. Sometimes only thing that sticks from years of being hit in the head with the anti-fat hammer until our ears ring with self-hate is…guess what? Self hate.
So it’s hard to say It Gets Better because really, it’s going to get worse. Subtler, to be sure, but worse.
What’s the solution? We can’t wait for it to GET better. We have to MAKE it better. Individually. Put on your own oxygen mask, then help your neighbor.
Make it better by applying a critical eye (and okay, sometimes a critical finger) to anti-fat bias.
Reject any media that celebrates a culture where our bodies are punchlines and our feelings don’t count but still want our precious, precious dollars. I’m not the smartest girl on the block (and it’s not even a very big block) but even I have a problem with giving companies money to insult me.
Stop watching E! and its equally abysmal coterie (Those channels make you stupid. They just do. Read a book. Watch a documentary. Just step away from the “Reality TV” before mindless describes more than just your choice in entertainment).
For the love of all things holy, stop buying women’s magazines.
Watch the runway shows if you want to be up on fashion, at least you’ll only subject yourself to the models and not hot pink headlines offering quadruple chocolate fudge bombs, plastic surgery tips and “630 Ways To Drop Fifty Pounds By Thursday You Pathetic Spinster Cow!” on the same cover.
Find your own path, define your self BY yourself.
McDonald’s (stay with me now) has served “billions and billions” and is probably technically the most popular restaurant in America, but it isn’t popular because it’s good or because it has meaningful value. It’s popular because McDonald’s is non-threatening, low-investment (mentally and economically) and easily accessible.
Those descriptors are fine if you want to grow up to be a Happy Meal, but consider setting the bar a bit higher if you want to be a Happy Human.
Speaking of being a happy human, getting to that goal is easier when you recognize just because someone is in a position of authority in your life, it doesn’t mean they’re right.
Easy to see on the macro level –we disagree with politicians all the time– but a little tougher in the micro.
One of the greatest gifts my mother ever gave me was the day she denied me a glass of juice by announcing “Orange juice has a lot of fat in it.”
My teenage brain wobbled with confusion.
How, precisely, does a product whose one ingredient is naturally fat-free get to have “a lot of fat in it”? Were the otherwise trustworthy and respectable people at Tropicana sneaking sticks of butter into my freshly-squeezed not-from-concentrate?
Maybe she meant to say orange juice has a lot of calories, maybe she was on some low carb kick and was convinced downing even a drop of juice was the nutritional equivalent of slurping from Satan’s own toilet bowl, maybe she honestly thought the big zero next to the grams of fat on the nutritional label was a mountebank’s ruse used to trick the foolish and unsuspecting into a life of obesity, though –it must be admitted– very little scurvy.
No, my mother was just wrong.
And if my mother was wrong about that, maybe she was wrong about other things too. Maybe other adults were wrong about things I never thought made sense. That certainly would shed some light on the whole “You’re never going to get anyone to like you if you’re fat but don’t hang around black guys because they like big butts.” conundrum of 1995.
It’s not easy, this whole Making It Better thing, and we’re all dealt a different hand. Sometimes we come up with aces in terms of supportive family and friends and sometimes we’re playing five card stud with two baseball cards and the remnants of an Uno deck, but you CAN make it better, just a little bit at a time.
If you are a struggling young person, or know a struggling young person who could benefit from counseling, size-positive resources or heck, even a one-on-one chat with your not-in-any-way-professional-counselor Pal Plummy, please email me at email@example.com. I can’t promise to make things better, but I can promise to listen and try.