2003-02-06 3:31 p.m.
A concerned reader wrote me an open and heartfelt email recently regarding something I wrote on my web page
. Their email is first, my email follows. I changed their name as per their request.
I've been reading your diary for ages now and there's something that I've wanted to ask you for a long, long time. I feel like you are so full of love and kindness; you write about striving for such a world. I share a lot of your ideals and I've often thought we could be good friends, you and I. I, too, am an interesting, open, and fully loving person. I also see from reading Andie's page that she thinks of you that way as well. I love it when you talk about one another. I especially loved the entries about the proposal, because I could see the way you dealt with questions you had--it was tender but honest and direct. I hope for as much from my own partner, and I seek a relationship with as much equality and kindness as it seems you and Andie have.
And still, there is something that has always troubled me. You see, I am overweight. Significantly. At my heaviest I weighed 300lbs, although I have since lost quite a lot and am still working on losing.
When you wrote the entry about fat people at McDonald's, I was really shocked by the ugliness in your treatment of them. I hurt to think of being on the receiving end of some guy's cruel jokes on the Internet. I hurt to think what you would think of or say about me if you ever met me, even though I am a wonderful, intelligent, and kind person. And I was confused because it was so at odds with your normal messages of love and acceptance.
I don't know that I can actually form a coherent question about this. Perhaps I just wanted to point out that the words you write affect others, and I have spent 7-8 months thinking about that entry. I wouldn't go so far as to say I've been hurt about it for all that time, because that would be silly. But when I read an entry like the one you wrote today, where you said, "I can only hope that someday all people will treat one another with love, compassion, andmost of allforgiveness. I strive to sculpt a world where we can spend more time laughing and singing and less time negotiating our convoluted and selfimposed mazes of suffering," I think about the time you talked about the fatties poured into their cars, and I quietly wonder.
You have no idea what sort of suffering I have been through. While I think it is useless to play the "who suffered more" game (because we all suffer, nonetheless), I do feel that I have had a lot of pain in my life. Not as many as some, more than others. And you can say that doesn't excuse my turning to food as a source of comfort, but I did, and that's over and done. I'm learning my way back to a healthier place, but in the meantime I am still thought of as just another stupid fattie (even though I don't eat fast food--having also read Fast Food Nation recently--and even though I have been practicing martial arts for over 2 years now). I have a masters in psychology and a graduate certificate in women's studies. I'm working on a PhD, but I know that if someone saw me at the mall they might wonder whether I'd graduated high school. Those are the stereotypes I live
I've wanted to write you about this for so long, but I've been afraid, and I didn't know what to say. I guess I just want to say something to tell you that I'm on your side. I'm working for the same sort of world you are. And I was surprised by such vitriol, such cruelty at the expense of people who look like me. I've never been able to forget the things you said there, and in some ways it has made so many other things you have said ring false. I believe we are all just doing our best in the world, our best to get by, to make something we are happy with. And those people at McDonald's, maybe they weren't doing as well as you, but they may have
been doing their best, too.
P.S. Please know that my sharing this with you is indicative of the trust I still grant you, although I don't know you at all. I would appreciate it if you didn't post this to your diary without talking to me about it and stripping it of my identity. This material isn't anything I even talk about in my own diary, as it is far too sensitive and personal. I just want you to know this isn't an attack at all, just a way of expressing my feelings.
I thought about this and let it stew in my mind for a few weeks before I replied. I wanted to really let her thoughts sink in. I wanted to take the time make sure I honored her points while still explaining myself. Here is what I wrote:
First of all, let me start by saying thank you. I appreciate so much that you took the time to open yourself and share such intimate thoughts and perspectives.
You are the second person to email me about that same diary entry of mine. The other person was a very insecure man with what he called a "weight problem". From what he expressed, he was unhappy about himself and this had a cyclical interrelationship with his weight. I am sure you are familiar with this cyclical phenomenon that I speak of.
But, I digress.
There are three things that I think -- three spheres of thoughts on this issue.
Why does Justin write?
I write because it feels good. It's like masturbation. Except I can do it in public and not get in trouble. I write things because they make me laugh. I am not a public figure or a public writer. I write for myself. I never asked to be "famous" or "popular". I write for me. And, more than anything, I write things that make ME laugh and make ME happy. Yes I poke fun at retards and others. Yes I talk about urine and penises. I love that stuff. But, do I really hate retards? No. Do I hate fat people? Not at all. But, do I write things that make me giggle and laugh out loud? You better believe it, yes!
I surely don't claim to be right, although I have been told I write with an air of authority. I am surely not an expert on anything I write about, although I wish I was. And, of course this doesn't mean that you shouldn't feel hurt by what I wrote. Yo have every right to feel whatever ways you do.
I just want you to know why I write and where I am coming from.
Being fat is fucking weak. You feel bad about yourself, and people place heavy judgements upon you. I was pretty fat until I was 14-15. Then I got deathly ill from dysentery and the majority of the weight went away. Violently, I might add.
I remember my mom always told me that we had to shop in the husky section. I didn't know what that was, but I know now that she was trying to protect me from the stigma that being overweight carried. But, the kids at school were not as kind. Nor were my relatives. Speaking of my relatives, I went to visit them recently after not seeing them for many years. They all asked, "Why aren't you fat anymore?" Classy folks, let me tell you.
Now, I was not unhealthy or dying from my weight. But I couldn't do a single pull up or the things that other boys did. I think I weighed near 190, and I was much shorter then. Sure, lots of people were/are heavier than I was then. But this isn't a contest. The fact is that in our culture being overweight is binary. There is no grey area. You either are fat or aren't fat. And I was fat. Everyone told me with their actions and words.
The weirdest thing was the day when I came to high school and walked to where I hung out with my friends each morning. As I approached the girls stood agape. They laughed and laughed and then switched back to shocked and then back to laughing again. I asked what was up and one said, "Well, we were standing here and saw this guy coming across campus and asked one another who is that fine guy when all of a sudden we realized it was you. Isn't that weird?"
WEIRD!?!?! I was angry! I was the same person I had always been. It was just that I lost all this weight all of a sudden and people treated be VERY differently. And, because it happened very quickly, I sure as hell noticed. And I was pissed. I was so mad at them all for being so superficial. (I should also mention that I was also ugly by popular standards, as well. I was not like the really cute girls that happened to be overweight that I had crushes on my whole life. I was plain unfortunate looking according to my peers. And I had really bad hair. I was a mess, let me tell you. But, I digress...)
It was not until maybe seven years later that I got over my anger at them and realized that my unique perspective allowed me to see and experience things which most people would not ever see. I got to be on both sides, although I spent more time on the other side than this side. But still. I see how people treat me now. I know I was the same person before. But what was there to do but keep walking?
So what did I do with my accidental weight loss? I laughed at it. I treated it like this funny thing that landed on my shoulder. I no longer resent it and the way people treat me. I don't have time to fight that battle. It's not worth it. It's like being rich. Lame people think that their money reflects upon them and their worth. The few wise ones realize that the money is just this funny "thing". It might be gone at any moment. They know that they are normal people, only with more money. The money does not reflect on their worth.
Neither does being overweight. No matter what anyone tells you. No matter what you tell yourself.
Neither does being thin and good looking. People compliment me now. Do you know how weird that is? I have to laugh out loud! They act like I am cool or a good person simply because I am "cute" by today's standards. If they only knew...
But the thing is that we are given special and strange gifts and challenges. We ought to appreciate the unique perspectives they afford us. Tomorrow it might all be gone. (Example: Last night I lay in bed thanking God for my two healthy legs. I vowed I would take a WALK today.)
Ok, I lied. There are three parts to this, not two.
About the fat people at McDonald's.
Where is the part where I said they were bad people? Where did I say how I hated them?
I went to an airport and I noticed that all the people with the shittiest jobs were black. Am I a racist now? Hardly. I am just noticing what is around me. Black people only being able to get the worst jobs bums me out, too. Just like it bummed me out to see the people at McDonald's hurting themselves like they were. So, I wrote about it in words that make sense to me. I laughed at the silliness of life. If I censor so that I don't make you notice something that you don't want to see, then I am not being true to who I am.
And, if you were there, I think you would have noticed the same thing I did. You just may not have ever said anything about it because you yourself were hurting. Dude. They were fat. They looked like they were poured into their cars. It's not that it's ugly to me. It's fucking weird. Like a giraffe or someone who talks too loud but doesn't seem to notice. Or like when I went to Sweden for the first time and EVERYONE was white. I had never been to a place where everyone was white. It was a real sight to see. Life is full of strange stuff. And I write about it.
Perhaps I am wrong, but I feel that you read into my words sentiment that wasn't there based on your own feelings. I did not talk about fat–bashing or hate crimes. I did not talk about raping pudgy babies. I did not talk about how all overweight people smell like moldy sandwiches and like to infect orphans with AIDS. Why didn't I? Let me introduce to you the overweight people in my life: my mother, my stepfather, my grandfather, my grandmother, my stepmother, and my brother.
You might be right. Maybe I should be more sensitive and make sure not to say anything offensive to anyone in my diary ever. But, if we follow that path, how far do we go before we have neutered all expression? I have a feeling that there is a bigger, more powerful way of solving this issue -- this issue which exists with many more people besides you.
Stop correlating a person's WORTH with things like weight, looks, height, breast size, wealth, and other things which are often obtuse and out of anyone's control.
You are guilty of this behavior, too. I am as well. You are doing it to yourself in some ways.
(We all do this, though. My current thought is how it is weird to hang out with celebrities and not be wowed by them, star struck. I constantly tell myself that they are just normal people and I should not treat them special based on what they do for a living. In person I should judge them as if I knew nothing about them and was blind.)
Instead, replace your self esteem with things which you have 100% control over. Your character. Your love for people. The way you treat and pamper yourself and your body and your mind. Your education. Your achievement. Love yourself like you deserve to be loved.
Let me say that again. Love yourself like you deserve to be loved.
And when you love yourself not just in theory but with all your actions, you will hold your head high and smile and make eye contact because you know you always deserve this and more. And everyone in every room you enter will want a piece of you. And it is at that point that you will realize that you can break the self–imposed connection between weight and self–worth. And people will follow your lead. They will only capitalize on pain that you allow them to capitalize on. They smell fear like an animal can. Look down and say, "Yeah. That's me. I don't always like it, but I am committed to loving it." Everyone you meet will start doing the same. The smell of insecurity will be forever replaced by the smell of self–worth.
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