Kitty Fisher

Size-positivity, feminism, self-esteem crises, ginormous tits.

You’re Not Fat

Posted by Kitty on March 18, 2008

I get this a lot. I’ve always been a fairly blunt person, so from time to time I’ll have reason to make some reference to being a person slightly too large for the world. I see no reason to tiptoe around the issue, so I simply use the word “fat”. The reaction from my friends is usually a shocked, slightly hushed, “You’re not fat!”
I usually reply, “Medically, I’m obese!” with a big cheesy grin. But I’m aware that I’m treading in a minefield with this one.

I think, in most people’s minds, I classify as an “inbetweenie”, and pretty much always have. I see-saw back and forth from not quite fitting into a size 12 up to not quite filling out a size 16. (And we’re just not going to get into the complete and total fiasco that is sizing for my upper half.) I have the sort of shape that can sometimes “pass” for non-obese, with most of me in reasonable proportion to the rest (we’ll discuss the titties some other time), and a well-defined waist, and other markers people look for when judging whether someone’s “that fat” or not. (But pointing these out are classic hallmarks of denial! I can’t tell you how long I’ve spent on this paragraph trying not to sound like a delusional or judgmental asshole.)

I know I’m too fat for Society– I get plenty of feedback about that, thanks. But I’m not big enough to qualify to be Fat. People bigger than me think I’m mocking them when I try to squeeze into their group. People smaller than me are shocked, shocked when I call myself fat: either they don’t think of me that way, or sort of do and are rather frantic about denying it. One thing’s for sure, people are really, really awkward about the topic of Fatness. And the same women (universally much thinner than I) who exclaim, horrified, “You’re not fat!”, often then go on to remark upon their own problem areas and how they need to lose weight.

And, of course, we are always bombarded with examples in popular storytelling (ads, books, movies, sit-coms) of the Fat Girl In Denial. She is an archetypical character: a fat girl who just doesn’t realize that she’s outside the norm, and deludes herself into believing that she is completely acceptable the way she is. The normal kids string her along into thinking that they’re truly her friends, and that she’s really accepted, and that there’s nothing wrong with her. At first she may be hesitant, skeptical, but eventually she throws herself entirely into the fantasy the normal kids have created, whereupon they spring the trap and everyone points and laughs at the Fat Girl Who Thought She Was Normal. Ha ha!

When people trespass where they don’t belong, they deserve to get slapped back, and we must all laugh to prove we understand.

It’s hard on the fat kids, to be sure. But it’s hard on the inbetweenies, too. Because they don’t dare assume they’re safe, but if they at least attempt to take comfort in their outcast status, they get rejected from that side, too. There is nowhere they can go that is not a trespass.

You might think I’m talking about kids on the playground, here. But… I was probably 24 when this happened. I went to the mall. I had a job interview. I needed something to wear. I went into Express or some store like that with my fashionista sister, who was at that point a size 8 on the bottom and a size 10 on top. She knew, she assured me, alll about problem figures. So she led me through the store, and we tried on everything. Their largest size was some abominable hybrid called “13/14”. While the style flattered me, all the garments were too tight. “We need, ah, the next size up,” my sister said delicately.
“Um,” the saleslady said, apologetically, not looking at me. “There, um, well, isn’t one.”
We went from store to store. My size fluctuates, and some days I’ll find something, but on that day, the gods were frowning. Nothing fit me. Nothing interview-y, at any rate. Finally, I despaired, and dragged my sister with me into Lane Bryant, despite her protests that it was the fat lady store and I wouldn’t find anything there either. I grabbed a size 16 from the rack, in the first style I saw that seemed right. It fell off of me. OK, 14 then. It also fell off me. Bewildered, I stepped out of the fitting room. “Can I help you?” the saleslady said.
“Do you have this in 12?” I asked. “For some reason the 14 is too big, even though in all the other stores, the 14s are too…” I trailed off because the woman had started laughing.
“Get out of here,” she said. “You’re not fat enough to shop here.” The other sales lady joined in her laughter.

Normally it would be shockingly rude for a sales person to laugh at you when your clothes don’t fit. But I deserved it. I had trespassed, and as we all know, trespassers need to be slapped back. I had spent the whole day trespassing. The skinny people stores did not need to ridicule me; in their world, not being able to shop there was punishment enough. But shopping at the Fat Lady store is something reserved only for Fat Ladies; to go in there, somehow, is to seek refuge. If you seek refuge without having refugee status, then you are trespassing. It is assumed you will be delighted to find that you do not have this refugee status, and so they don’t really have to be nice about it.

I abandoned my sister to her reverie at the Gap sale rack and went to the bathroom and cried. You’re too fat to shop anywhere else, but you’re not fat enough to shop here. There is nothing here for you, you freak. Put your money away and go home.

So I did: I went home and my mother pinned up the hems of a pair of her pants so that they’d fit me. I wore an old blouse with a stain on it that I just wore a scarf over.

I didn’t get the job.

I was later fired from another job, and one of the reasons they gave was that I “just didn’t dress professionally enough” and didn’t fit in. At 28 I still sometimes overhear my coworkers giggling at what outfit I’ve cobbled together for that day, and getting dressed in the morning is my least favorite chore of the day.

I don’t know what credentials you really need to be a Fat Acceptance advocate. But all I want is to be allowed to be what I am, look how I look, and to not be considered a trespasser everywhere I go.


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