Fat Shaming: Could we just not?

When I was in high school, I remember lying on the couch on my side. I was lighter than I am now, but not skinny by any stretch of the imagination. My mother came over to me, put her hand on my stomach, and grimly intoned three words that would stick in my brain for years to come.

“You look pregnant.”

That comment, along with a litany of others, rings in my head at my most vulnerable moments. When I’m standing in a store dressing room. When I’m deciding what to wear for the day. When I catch a glimpse of myself naked in a mirror. I am always hearing the voice of my mother in that moment. But I’m also hearing other people. I’m hearing my friends as well as strangers and the comments they make about women they see on the street.

“What business does she have wearing that?”

“Look at those thighs! They’re huge!”

“Why is she eating that? Isn’t she fat enough?”

“What a fat slob.”

Those voices and comments have stuck in my head to the point where they even make my efforts to lose weight difficult. When I go to the gym, for example, I feel the weight of the eyes of everyone around me. I have failed to go to the gym so many times for that reason. And I have one one occasion actually left the gym in the middle of workouts, near crying, because of the imagined gaze of fellow gym-goers.

The judgment that we aim at fat bodies is something we do so easily. It’s effortless. And it doesn’t get noticed by most people. It certainly doesn’t get called out most of the time. And while we are criticizing fat people as a society, we are making judgments about them, their lifestyles, and their bodies that we have no right whatsoever to make. Whether someone is fat because they eat a lot or fat because they have a medical condition, the bottom line is that it’s none of our business one way or the other. And judging them for their bodies is discriminatory and shitty.

The fact of the matter is that you can be an active person without being razor thin. You can also be thin and grossly unhealthy. Fatness and fitness are not mutually exclusive things. Just like thinness and health are not always concurrent bodily states.

I have been making an active effort in my life to criticize the people around me less. And not just when it comes to their size. The fact of the matter is that criticism and negativity have been truly damaging to me with regard to my body as well as to my sense of self in more ways than one. I encourage all of you to do the same. Fat shaming and other forms of unasked-for criticism don’t help anyone, but they do cause wholly unnecessary pain.

Featured image found here.

A fifth of November I won’t soon forget.

Today is the day I finish  my tattoo. I didn’t choose the date on purpose, I swear.

I planned my back piece for ten years. I thought about it. Obsessed over it. Poured over it’s meaning and symbolism. The dogwood tree for my mother. For the guidance she provided in teaching me about the natural world. It also stood for my Catholic upbringing. For the tree on which Christ was crucified. For consequences. For the way in which our actions can cause ripples in the lives of our inheritors. The dogwood is the first tree in this region to burst forth in springtime celebration. It’s life is brief. It is small and delicate. But it endures harsh winters. The tree on my back is a permanent reminder that spring is coming. And that fragile-seeming things can endure great hardship.

I have always maintained that tattoos are a way of finishing a body. Of putting the final flourishes on when you are incomplete. They mark the way through your life. They are also a way of taking the body back, be it from some type of trauma, from illness, even from ourselves.

I have not always loved my body. It is probably fairer to say that I do not always love my body. It is not my friend the majority of the time. It fights me. It is tired when I want to work. It does not fit into the clothes I want to wear. But it is so vital, so important. Marking it, finishing it, serves not only as an artistic act but as an act of claiming this thing I ride around in. This is my body. Tattoos seal my body to myself. They make me present inside my skin.

Anyone who has gotten a tattoo can attest to the fact that they can also be transformative. When I started it three years and two months ago, I was on the verge of ending a terrible relationship with an emotionally abusive sociopath. I walked in feeling sad and defeated. Something in the motion of the needle and the act of drawing on and making permanent this idea that had been dwelling in my brain for a decade… activated me.

I walked out of the tattoo parlor 8 hours after I walked in with a spring in my step that I had not had in years. The next day I packed up my most vital stuff in big ass trash bags, grabbed my cat, and moved out to my parents’ house.

My tattoo changed my life. It helped me to lay claim to my body. It has helped me to sort through my past. It has moved me forward in ways I find difficult to express.

It’s been over three years. Today it will mostly likely be finished. I cannot wait to be finished.