So, I feel like I am Eeyoreing around on this blog a little bit. I feel like I am presenting an image of a person who is in pain because she is fat. And that feels really weird to me.
I'm dealing with fat stuff, and with eating-disorder stuff, more right now than I have for years. For me, though not for all fat people, those things are really deeply enmeshed, and they have lately made a resurgence in my consciousness and my emotional life. Basically I think what's happening is that I have reached a point at which I can deal with these things—because I'm tough enough and together enough in the rest of my life (although, let us not speak of how much time this is taking away from my dissertation, because, holy God, I am never going to get a job ever).
Let me be clear: I do sometimes feel pain because of stuff related to my body (and often feel a heightened consciousness of my body, which is not pain exactly but also not a walk in Central Park in springtime), and this is the world's fault. It's not my body's fault. My fatness is not responsible for the way other people respond to it. Other people, or more accurately the ideas that hold sway in the minds of other people, are responsible for the way they respond to my body. And when they respond negatively to my body, or when people justify the treatment they get from the world by pinning it to the offense of their own fat bodies, this makes me angry. Really angry. And I have too a vestigial shame that will peg their responses onto my wobbliest bits, and blame the bits and not the responses until I can get my head straight. Sometimes that head-straightening takes longer than other times.
But as much as I want to not have that shame reaction, ever, I won't blame myself anymore for what the world did to me. I won't blame myself for sometimes hating my upper arms. Hating them was not my own spontaneous genius childhood invention, and it was not a property of their inherent hatefulness. I have been taught to hate my upper arms, and I still get that lesson reinforced eight hundred times a day (accidentally and on purpose, by people who like me and people who don't know me and corporations that couldn't care less either way), and I am a good student. Why should I pile on myself the second burden of pretending that I don't sometimes passionately hate my upper arms, getting mad at myself that I still do? I won't. You taught me to hate my upper arms, I want to say to the world instead. Okay, it worked. I hate my upper arms. It makes my life worse. Thanks for your help! Oh, wait, actually, fuck you, is what I meant.
What I can and will and do do, though, is try to be conscious of how I frame those feelings. This is the thing that people get wrong on the internet most often, I think. I hate my upper arms, therefore my upper arms are ugly and gross and the cause of my dating troubles, therefore anybody who's telling me I don't have to hate my upper arms is deluded and stupid, morally lacking, lazy, self-justifying, deceptive, malicious. I don't have to endorse these feelings that I have. I can have them and also look at where they come from. I can say, yes, these are feelings I have, they're feelings that are part of an apparatus of ideology, and that ideology is doing sweet fuck-all for me except bringing me down, giving me a distraction and a false cause to chase and a lot of tsuris. I am not the only person it's bringing down.
I do have a sense of responsibility to other fat people, particularly fat women, particularly young fat women, in this endeavor. I want to be a good example. I want to be a good ally. This is what makes saying things like "I hate my upper arms" difficult for me. Because I hate that there aren't more people free of this thing, and I know from my own experiences that replacing body-hating messages with body-neutral and -positive ones made a tremendous difference in my life. I know that I wouldn't have had some of the joys and successes I've had without the influence of those messages, the ones that told me in chipper and funny tones that it was not as big a deal as I had always thought. I know that it makes a difference to hear someone else be positive about a body that is outside the beauty standard, a body like one's own. But I also know that that positivity has to be real. Has to be earned. And the reason that thing is so valuable is because it's so difficult to attain, because it is so outside the norm, and there are so few allies and so few footholds.
I am not there yet. I don't mean this in a way that normalizes hating one's body, like the gross wallowing on mostly-bullshit sites like Jezebel and xoJane (Lesley Kinzel aside!) do when they get weepy about how sad it is that size-twelve women think they're fat, or give women who are deep in body hatred platforms to talk about how they're a size four and they know it's bad but they really hate their bodies and gaining weight makes them feel like failures and here let them tell you about it in great detail and you can't say shit because these are their REAL FEELINGS, you guys. That shit is destructive. It is like the way teenage girls with eating disorders tear through eating-disorder memoirs, which are mostly pretty terrible (Marya Hornbacher aside!). But I think there is also something destructive about making oneself a representative, about always having to say the thing you want someone else to say to you. It is productive for other people, a lot of the time, is the thing: that representative can do a lot of good. I have benefited from the work of representatives enormously. But I am not in a place to be one myself. It leaves me shuttling between what I want to be and what I fear I am. It doesn't have a lot of space for the present, for presence. Which is sort of where I think I should be. And it's tough for me to say that I am going to choose my own individual needs over doing something worthwhile for other people, because really there's no defending that except that this is what I need. I do hope that in attending to those needs, I will become a person capable of helping others in a meaningful way, and I also hope that maybe there is something in and of itself valuable on a broader level about attending to one's own needs.
So this is I guess a kind of difficult task I have set for myself. There isn't anyone else that I've seen who is doing this in quite the way I want to do it, quite the way I think it should be done. But I am just not going to do it anybody else's way anymore.
Maybe I will be fat forever, and eternally working out how I feel about that, or maybe I will be fat forever and I will reach fat enlightenment, in which I will figure out peace and bodily joy and how to issue a cutting comeback that is simultaneously funny and thought-provoking. Maybe these two forces will meet in the middle, and I will be kinda fat and kinda enlightened. I guess it is also theoretically possible that at some point I won't be fat anymore, but that seems unlikely and weird, and even if it were true, I'd never have a body that hadn't been fat; I will always wear no matter what size the residual effects of my lifetime of fatness (sometimes I mourn this; right now I am so grateful for it, because imagine what would happen if this kind of significant life experience were just erased). But even if I can't figure it out, even if I am fat forever and always have bad days with it, I am just so motherfucking over the additional layer of effort that goes into mediating my own feelings about this entire situation.
Yesterday I started to cry spontaneously in my session with my nutritionist (I know! It's like a place I go just for crying in!), and it wasn't because of the thing we'd been talking about, it was about the fact that I was talking at all, and I wasn't watching myself do it, and I wasn't trying to figure out the ramifications of the sentences I was making; I hadn't been managing myself, I'd just been doing stuff. And the doing stuff included telling the truth about this knotty, difficult thing that's hard to talk about. Basically, I think that the truth will set me free, and I am going to do my best to tell it until it does.