On Pants and Fat Shaming

13 Jan 2011

Today I went shopping for new work pants. You’d be amazed how hard it is to find khaki colored pants that aren’t straight legged. Straight leg pants make me look like a penguin, but I digress.

I originally had three pairs, but one got lost in the move, one is now way too short, and one is so old it has holes ripping in the thighs (a constant problem for me). Amazingly, I found that I’d dropped two pant sizes since I last bought pants, down to a US 18 from a 22. First thought through my head? Shit. How do you shrink denim?

I made the mistake of texting this “amazing weight loss” to my mother. She proceeded to tell me, in numerous texts and exclamation points, how proud she was that I was losing weight. I rolled my eyes and headed home.

She called me this evening while I was eating a sandwich (the first chance I’ve had to eat today, mind you). When I asked how she was doing, she replied, “Never mind how I’m doing. Tell me how excited you were that you lost two pant sizes!”

I was honest: I’m indifferent. I just want my damn jeans to fit, but I suppose that’s what belts are for.

Really awesome Mario Death Mushroom belts:

Super Mario Bro's style cartoon mushroom belt buckle, dark silver and white, a skull symbol in the middle of the mushroom cap, and crossbones through the back, on a worn black leather belt.
[Image: Super Mario Bro's style cartoon mushroom belt buckle, dark silver and white, a skull symbol in the middle of the mushroom cap and crossbones through the back, on a worn black leather belt]

But again, I digress.

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. Now, even seventeen words into our conversation, I could tell she had been drinking. You don’t live with an abusive alcoholic and not pick up on the nuances in their mannerisms. No matter what I said, this phone call would not end well.

“Why aren’t you happy about slimming down?”

Because my life was defined by my weight for almost twenty years. Because, even though I was an avid dancer, living in the studio four hours a day, six days a week, I was told I couldn’t advance my pointe studies because I was “too heavy” (at 5’4″, 160 pounds, and massive leg muscles). Because I’ve been fighting EDNOS (eating disorder – not otherwise specified) since I was 16. Because I’ve finally learned that my life will not be over because of what I weigh.

She tried shaming me, questioning why I was eating right now because I’ll gain those sizes back, saying she believed I weighed too much, that my health would start suffering, and hey I bet you’re borderline diabetic and might have some cholesterol problems because you know your father has Type II diabetes and he’s got cholesterol problems and you don’t want people thinking you’re a lazy slob do you? A year ago, that would have worked, and I would have begun restricting my food intake down to 300 calories a day. Now? I just take another bite of my sandwich.

When I confronted her about her comments (which has taken me years to build up the courage to do), she hung up on me, calling me back twenty minutes later, saying that she didn’t intend to try to hurt me, she was just looking out for my health.

Well, mom, guess what? Intent is fucking magic. Even though you think you mean well, that your comments are really for my own good, you’re telling me that I’m not good enough, that I don’t fit some sort of ideal you have. I’m sorry you’re not happy that I’m not jumping up and down about losing weight and solemnly vowing to lose more. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve learned that it’s completely possible to be healthy at every size. Exercise on my own time, doing things I want to do, with no goal to eventually fail at, and just… eating. Eat for the sake of eating, that it’s completely alright to eat when you feel hungry, and stop when you feel full (this being the hardest thing for me to learn).

The Fatshionista LiveJournal community has been a huge help to me; to see so many people enjoying their bodies, embracing the “deathfat” (“morbidly obese” body mass index) label, and finding ways to look amazing was inspiring. I wanted to be that, to be happy with myself; to smile in pictures, even though I never translate well into photographs. So, with the help of my friends and lovers, I began changing my outlook.

Fat acceptance is still a learning experience for me, but goddammit, I’m learning. I wish I could say the same for you, mom.

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