Please, Just Call Me Fat
Thin people correcting me when I call myself fat is just another form of marginalization
I am at the airport security checkpoint when I hear a small and tender seedling of a voice behind me. “Look at that fat lady!”
I turn around, meet the bright eyes of a three-year-old, and smile. Her mother’s face is stormy, voice sharp. “Don’t call her that.”
“It’s okay,” I offer. At 340 pounds, my size is undeniable. “She’s right. I am fat.”
“No, she’s not. That’s not nice.”
“Some people don’t like to be called fat, but I really don’t mind.” I look to the girl. “You’re right — I’m a fat lady,” I say, puffing up my cheeks.
The child smiles tentatively before her mother cuts in again, her angular voice coming out in jagged shards. “Don’t ever say that word. It’s a bad word, and I never want to hear you say it again, do you understand me?”
The child bursts into tears. Her mother, all sharp edges, shoots me a serrated glance. She is a knife and I am her steel.
“Now look what you’ve done.”
As a fat person, this has become a regular feature of my life: Trying to convince straight-size people — that is, people who don’t wear plus sizes — that I am not deeply wounded by the word fat.
I am fat, yes. I am also tall, blonde, and 34 years old. These are simple facts of my body.
When I refer to my own body as fat, I’m met with a knee-jerk, syrupy, “Sweetie, no! You’re not fat!” When children observe plainly that my body is fat, their straight-size parents reliably make a scene, sharply disciplining their children, insisting fat means pain, and that fat bodies are not to be seen, discussed, observed, or embraced. Their children’s sense memories of daring to say the unspeakable word are always imbued with deep embarrassment, confusion, and sometimes humiliation.
I regularly try, and almost uniformly fail, to convince thin people that I do not mind the word fat — that I strongly prefer it to kid-glove euphemisms like “curvy” or “fluffy,” and to medical terms like “obese” that make me a whetstone once again.