Monday, July 16, 2018

Revolution, Revelation: Living in Dietland

This weekend, I met Plum Kettle.  With some time to myself, I decided to try out Dietland.  I devoured the first 8 episodes like I would devour Plum's chocolate layer cake were it in front of me right now.

Plum's experiences and feelings hit incredibly close to home.  The heart and soul connection to Plum was almost immediate.  How could I take my eyes off a character I can identify so strongly with?  Finally, she is here.

Finally, a show about being fat that isn't about either using size as comedic relief or a plot device centered around weight loss.

Finally, a woman I can root for, really root for, because there is so much about her that is me.

Finally, a woman who decides to break the mold instead of shrinking to conform to it, a woman who is real and who is learning to be unapologetic about existing.

Plum on the bed in the throes of her withdrawal from antidepressants rolls over and her shirt rides up, exposing the soft skin of her stomach.  It is a revelation.  Such a small thing, but so overwhelming, to see skin like mine, there as part of the full scene, a moment, just a piece, not exploited, not for humor, not to shock, just a matter of friction and movement but so unheard of on TV.  Or anywhere.

I am fat.  I won't apologize for using that word, even if it makes some people uncomfortable.  Fat is not a bad word.  It's a description.  It is not the antithesis of beautiful or of healthy or of worthy.
Plum: I don't want to be a glamazon. I just want to get on an airplane and not have to apologize to the person I sit next to. I want to go to a bar and get hit on by some bald guy, and I want us to argue whether said bald guy is actually into me or whether he just wants to get laid.
Steven: I know.
Plum: You don't, Steven! You can't! Going off Y, I got my feelings back, and it made me remember why I wanted 'em gone.
This is my life too.  Talking to people who try to understand is like walking into a glass pane and expecting to go through it, the way seems clear but you are unable to proceed.  You may sympathize, or even empathize, but the feeling of sitting at my desk listening to coworkers half my size talk about how they want to lose weight just to be more fit, not for looks and about which diets work and the "science" behind them is one I cannot explain to you.  The feeling of friends 100 or 150 pounds lighter complaining about being fat or their pants not fitting is dehumanization.  It is confirmation that I am outside the circle of normal.  I am not a part of this conversation.  The world tells me that I should not exist this way, that I am what acceptable people are afraid of, the worst fate they can imagine.
Everyday I walk around in this skin people look at me like I have the plague. They act like I'm a stain. They stare and laugh and yell, and worst of all, they tell me I have such pretty face and then they lecture me on how I can fix my body because how I am is wrong. - Plum
When someone doesn't like something I've done, they don't just call me a bitch.  I am a FAT bitch.  When I deny a man's advances, he decides I am an ugly cow, no one would want to fuck me anyway and I will die fat and alone.  The words curl, smoke, and stink of disgust and vitriol, they hate what I am, they hate the body I walk in every day.  How do you survive in a world that bombards you with that, and not start to hate yourself even just a little bit?

In the museum of my life, there is an entire wing made up of paintings and moving pictures of my wrongness, the snippets are burned in my memory for always.

This frame holds the moment I first asked for a seatbelt extender on an airplane.

This screen replays the exasperated defeat and disappointment in finding that the "plus" department only reaches size 24.

This photo captures me sitting alone, knowing that my blind date showed up and left because they did not like what they saw.

On this wall, a photomosaic of the faces of the men who've liked me because I was fat, not in spite of it, the BBW fetishists who mask objectification in a paper thin layer of desire.  The man who rubbed himself on my belly fat before I knew what was happening, and to whom I was too shocked and ashamed to object.  The one who disappointedly says "you've lost weight" when I get naked, even though I haven't.

On this screen, I walk in to the eye doctor I visit annually for a checkup, as I have been doing for 30 years.  I got my first pair of glasses in 6th grade, then later contacts.  I had Lasik when I was 25 or 26 and still have 20/20 vision.  Five years ago, I was diagnosed with a condition that affected my vision and optic nerves.  I have been asymptomatic for several years now, the condition has resolved.

And yet.

He tells me to lose weight.

The heat creeps over my skin, the neon sign in my brain flashing "evidence based care???" so brightly I'm surprised he can't see it and explain himself.

He has me come back a month later for a visual field test and an OCT.  When he walks into the room, he makes a pleased-sounding comment about how I'm losing weight.

(I'm not.)

Everything looks good.  Normal, even. But at the end of the appointment, he tells me to lose weight.

Despite the fact that he is an optometrist, and not my general practitioner.

Despite the fact that I do not show any symptoms of the one condition I've ever had that it would be appropriate for him to comment on.

Despite the fact that when I was at the height of my illness, I DID lose weight, on an awful, miserable meal replacement plan, and it didn't affect or improve my condition in any way.

Despite the fact that for all intents and purposes, I appear to be completely in remission.

Despite the fact that I am a 37 year old adult woman, and surely he cannot think he is the FIRST PERSON IN THE WORLD to remind me that I am fat and that's not okay with people.

Because it's "really important."

To whom?

To him?  Is this not my own body?  Does it matter what I want, how I feel, whether there is any evidence that losing weight would make me less likely to have too much spinal fluid once again?

To the world at large?  Because I am offensive?  Because if you are fat and sick, you must be sick because you are fat, and if you are fat and not sick, it's just a matter of time?

Instead of saying any of this, I nod my head in compliance, my nerves burning hot under my skin as I walk out the door.

This is one day.  This is one image in the museum.  This is bullshit, and these are the moments I choose to leave this wing whenever I can.  Like Plum, my self-doubt has largely turned to anger.

Plum:  I hate being like this.
Verena:  What if it’s not you that’s the problem?  What if it’s everybody else that needs to change? What if it’s not you that’s wrong, it’s them?

The path I walk is not the path of least resistance, there are switchbacks and there are snares.  I surround myself with people who are like me, and we grow and learn together, they inspire me little by little to believe that I am worth more.  I try to believe in myself, and some days I can do it.

Other days, I look around me, and all I see is Dietland.

3 comments:

  1. Brava! Excellently said. When you said an "entire wing made up of paintings and moving pictures of my wrongness". That was powerful. Thank you for a great blog.

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  2. Very well written! Things you’ve expressed I have felt all my life. For me having a medical reason for being fat doesn’t even come into peoples minds. Majority of people think your fat because you overeat. They assume your a fat slob that eats chocolate and Big Macs and don’t get out of your chair and are repulsed by this.

    I’ve had many Drs do the same mentioning I need to lose weight. It’s like yes I know i’m Fat I don’t need to be reminded of that fact.

    After years of feeling crappy about myself I am starting to love my body for what it is. I can’t change the fact that i’m Fat. I have tried every diet under the sun and I don’t want to put myself through a major surgery to lose weight. It’s a constant battle to love yourself but surrounding yourself with people who have confidence in their body image to me has helped. A friend recently encouraged me to do a bourdior photo shoot. I’m hoping it’ll give me more confidence in my journey of self love.

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    Replies
    1. Yes! It will do wonderful things for you. I have done two boudoir shoots, and I want to do 100 more. They made me feel powerful.

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