Microaggressions and fat-shaming.
Microaggressions and fat-shaming.
This image from prayitnophotography is even entitled “Healthy Entree”!!
Tomorrow morning, my partner gets on a plane to fly cross country to visit family for two weeks. In our almost 6 years of marriage, we’ve actually not been apart that long, so we wanted tonight to be a special night. We’ve been endeavouring to cook meals at home more than going out to eat, but tonight decided we’d go on a date as a treat — and even get dessert, just to make it extra special.
Truth be told, I’m a little anxious at the moment. As an introvert, I’m ecstatic about having two solid weeks with daily chunks of solitude. But I’m also going to miss my partner, and I’m a little intimidated about having to care for both of my pets and myself while he’s gone. I’ve just started 2 new medications, you see, and I’m a little worried about potential side effects. Especially since one of those medications is a sister to something I took 10 years ago that made me hyper-paranoid, lose massive amounts of weight and chunks of hair, and — oh yeah — made me irrationally irritable and suicidal. Thankfully, my parents are aware and live close by, and two of my close friends have offered to help keep an eye on me should anything start to go awry.
It was with this kind of baseline anxiety that we entered the restaurant. Despite said anxiety, I was still greatly looking forward to the rare treat of a date out on the town.
Our server was a middle-aged thin white woman. She seemed cheery at first, asking us for our drink orders and if we wanted any appetizers. I told her no, we’d be fine with a couple baskets of their biscuits as an appetizer. Her smile froze and her eyes widened, but she said nothing, and I didn’t think much of it. She brought our biscuits and drinks and gave us time to look over the menu.
When we were ready to order, I went first, ordering a half serving of blackened salmon with mashed potatoes and fries. Her smile faltered, and she let me know that my meal came with broccoli. I told her I was aware of that, I just wanted the mashed potatoes and fries. Her lips pursed as she wrote it down, then told me that I still had another side. “Broccoli? Or green beans, maybe?” she asked earnestly. I frowned. “I guess I’ll go with broccoli.”
She wrote it down briskly, then told me firmly, “Your meal comes with a salad.” I shook my head. “I don’t want a salad.” She seemed clearly agitated. “How about cole slaw? Or another vegetable?” “No. I’m good. I can’t eat all of that, and we’d been planning on dessert.” Her lips pursed again. Panic began building in my chest, choking up into my throat, as memories flooded my mind of innumerable childhood lunches and dinners with family or church friends where my every food choice was scrutinized and judged, where I was judged.
My partner ordered a meal that was entirely fried foods and potatoes. She wrote his order down with no push-back, no comment, and no judgment. We asked for another basket of biscuits, and she faltered once again before agreeing to bring them. Glancing at my half-empty soda glass with just a hint of a sneer, she told me that she could bring me another soda, if I needed it. I thanked her quietly, then quickly downed the rest of my drink to chase the anxiety pills my body was screaming that I needed.
When she brought our biscuit basket, Michael peeled back the napkins and sat back in disbelief. There were 2 biscuits. Less than half of what is typical.
At this point, I was panicking. Feeling deeply ashamed. Going over and over and over my food choices to see if they really were lacking. I ordered a healthy fish. Yeah, I ordered two kinds of potatoes, but I did go with broccoli, too. The potatoes are for comfort and as a reward, honestly. Why do I even feel the need to defend my choices to myself?
I timidly asked Michael if he noticed anything…off. He nodded tersely. Unable to talk more about it without the fear of crying, I began live-tweeting my experience, wondering if others would see what was going on.
When our server returned with our food, I stared in disbelief. Over half of my plate was broccoli, spilling over and mostly obscuring my salmon. There were no mashed potatoes or fries to be found.
Heart sinking, assuring myself that it was just a mistake, I managed to weakly catch our server as she was hurrying off. “I should have mashed potatoes and fries?” I half-declared, half-asked, choking back the high-pitched tone of shame and anxiety that was creeping into my voice. Pursed lips again, then a forced, “Oh, that’s right. I’ll get that for you.”
She returned moments later…with only mashed potatoes. “Here you go!” she said woodenly with a too-bright smile, then she turned on her heel and quickly left to attend to other patrons.
By now, my heart had dropped to my stomach, and I began feeling sick. Is this deliberate? Did she…did she change my order to make me eat “healthier”?
Fighting tears, fighting anxiety, fighting old demons of disordered eating and disordered body image that assured me it would be better to never eat again until I lost enough weight to attain the Good Body society (and my server, apparently) insists I must have in order to earn the right to my own autonomy and basic respect, I managed to pick at my food. I was able to eat all of my salmon, some of my mashed potatoes, and half of my double serving of broccoli. Numb and defeated, I piled my dishes and napkin and sat back, arms crossed, trying to hold myself together.
Our server passed by and stopped abruptly upon seeing my plate. “Are you finished?” she asked, not bothering to hide her surprise. I nodded meekly. Her gaze shifted slowly, deliberately, to my uneaten broccoli, then back to me as she pushed back again, “Are you sure?”
Oh my god. I’m not making this up. Am I making this up? This can’t be happening. This is happening. Oh my god.
I nudged my plate closer to the edge of the table as I assured her that yes, I was finished.
Lips pursed once more, she asked stiffly if we would be ordering dessert. I swallowed back tears, told her no, no dessert today. She brightened slightly, and let us know she’d bring our check by as she bounced away.
I have no idea how I managed to make it until we were out in the parking lot to burst into ashamed uncontrollable sobs.
You know, I’ve heard all the fat-shaming bullshit all my life. About how people are so very concerned about my health. About the morality of food and what I put in my body — and not from a social justice standpoint, either. Most of the people who critique my body or my eating habits couldn’t care less about the ethics of where their food comes from or how it is grown or farmed. They only care about asserting dominance over the body I have that apparently isn’t easy for them to look at, interact with, or respect.
It is no one’s goddamn business what I eat, except for me and my doctors. I owe no one explanations for my food choices. I owe no one an explanation for my body. I’m not obligated to share my financial availability for Good Food, nor my health surrounding ability to lose weight or process nutrients in a way ignorant people think I should. My body does not require an explanation or an apology, and it shouldn’t elicit the spouting of erroneous information or meaningless advice from friends, family, or strangers alike — and it most certainly shouldn’t inspire complete strangers to pressure me into eating things I don’t want to eat and adjusting my restaurant orders to something they’re more comfortable with a Fatty McFatperson like me eating.
If I ate nothing but fruits and vegetables, I would not be worthy of more respect.
If I ate nothing but fried foods and sweets, I would not be worthy of less respect.
If I incorporated regular intensive workouts into my daily life, I would not be a more worthy human.
If I did nothing but sit on the couch and eat Cheetos all day long, I would not be a less worthy human.
And I hate so much that, despite working constantly on body positivity and self-care for the past 4 years, all it takes is a series of microaggressions from one terrible person to make me second-guess the validity of my existence and self-worth as a fat femme person.
I honestly don’t have the energy to list out all the resources about health and basic respect for fat people. I don’t have the energy to defend my existence to anyone any further than this post right now. If you’re actually interested in learning how to be a decently respectful human being when it comes to interacting with fat people, take a look at Melissa McEwan’s multitudes of writing on the subject. This post in particular is really relevant to today’s experiences.