Because of this, I sometimes serve as an object of disdain in some people’s minds. And that’s ok. I get it. Sadly, some people need someone to feel superior to, and some folks choose me for that role. I’m ok with that. Here’s why.
Let’s start with the situations where folks reveal their disdain. It usually doesn’t take much, so people generally give themselves away by saying things that are considered socially acceptable.
There are the perfect strangers I meet at gatherings who look at my waistline and say things like, “You look like you like bread” (true story).
There are the people who make comments about the volume of food I eat, or will accidentally reveal they are monitoring my carb intake when we’re out at dinner. They won’t talk to me about their athletic pursuits, but will tell a thinner co-worker I’m standing right next to, assuming that I don’t exercise. Or they DO know/assume I exercise, and think that I do it to shrink my body.
Sometimes they randomly dispense well-meaning recommendations about outdoor activities I could do with my child that I have definitely done with my child. Or they’ll wiggle their eyebrows and say things like “It takes 30 days to make a habit and 30 days to break a habit” while making erroneous assumptions about my health habits. Other times they make assumptions about my capacity to go up stairs or hills. And lest we forget the coworker who sees me eating a salad and says, “Good for you!”
They say this shit to me, and you know what? Most times, I just let them.
It’s not because I’m a doormat, or I’m lacking in boundaries. Truly, me and boundaries are, like, BFFs at this point.
Sometimes I let them because I enjoy seeing how uncomfortable my body can make them.
Sometimes I let them because micro-aggressions can be the most difficult-to-challenge aggressions of all (it’s the element of plausible deniability that can be so frustrating).
Sometimes I let them because godDAMN I am tired from the world and retreating into myself is all I can do to preserve myself.
But mostly I let them because I just fundamentally disagree with their view of me.
It doesn’t trouble me for them to feel superior to me because I know that their take is just not true.
It troubles me about as much as it troubles me that I’m not a brain surgeon, which is to say, 0%.
The times where it does upset me, where I get defensive and my heart starts to pound or I go home and cry—those are times when I know there is work for me to do because, in those cases, a part of me does agree with them. So I explore those thoughts and try to figure out why I think that way and if there’s an alternative view of myself that I can take or if there is any action I want to take with that person.
It’s true that I have never, ever been good at a clapback, and if I was, maybe I would approach this differently. I am good at being an advocate, though, so the times that I challenge people—or I try, since I’m not perfect at this—are when they are either saying disparaging things about themselves or about fat people in general. I always want to let folks know that they don’t need to atone for their bodies or their existence in front of me, and I always want them to know that I have no truck with fatphobia.
But I’m often just not interested in spending my energy correcting their fatphobic beliefs about me. Not just because their beliefs about me generally don’t matter, but because I’m not interested in seeking validation from those particular folks. The people who gives themselves away through their commentary about my proximity to a bread basket are not the people whose opinion I value. Who wants to seek validation from someone who thinks being fat is an aberration?
I have to love you a lot to correct your beliefs about me.
Otherwise, I just don’t care about the opinions of people who honestly think that the size and shape of my body means jack shit about my intellect, my quality as a person, or my worth. I’ll note it, know not to trust you in future, and simply move on.
I can serve easily as an object of disdain in someone else’s mind because I don’t live in their mind.
So someone who needs to use me as a crutch to validate themselves really oughta learn to love or accept themselves on their own terms. I know I do.