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.

Posted in Fat Girl,