Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Big people have feelings too

I was all in a big huff yesterday afternoon because of a letter to the editor.

Some local woman had written in to complain about the upcoming demise of the Ontario Northlander, a train that links Toronto to North Bay. Hey, I'm not happy about it either. In fact I wrote my own opinion piece for the North Bay Nipissing Life blog, here. (By the way, I'm really trying to stir up interest in this blog – it's for a magazine I work on, and it's new, and it's hard up for comments and followers - hint, hint.)

But I really took offence to the her comment about a "very large woman" on a bus whose flesh overflowed onto her own seat, who ate garlic meat pies and belched continuously.

In retrospect, I can see that the smell of garlic, of someone else's leg touching my own, and continual burping would be gross. I would probably move.

Still, my first reaction to the letter was to get pissed off. Being a fat person myself, I am very sensitive to crude remarks of any kind directed to overweight people and it seems to me that it's OK to make fun of them, it's socially acceptable. It's not OK to point out the colour of someone's skin or their accent but it's still apparently all right to comment on their size.

It was the tone of the woman's letter that upset me the most. It was so derogatory. In the next paragraph she commented on someone's kid sitting in the seat behind her. Instead of calling him a child or a kid she called him a little "brat" who repeatedly kicked the back of her seat even after she told the mother to keep control of him.

So what I get from that scenario is an angry, skinny kid-hater who generally can't stand to be around other people and should probably fork over some cashola for a bubble-wrapped car so she doesn't have to ever take public transportation again.

I remember reading a short story a few years back about a person who worked in a retail store and had an obese woman as a customer. The woman paid for whatever she bought with coins from her pocket and the main character was repulsed by the warmth of the coins. The writer made it clear that the cashier didn't even want to touch the coins because they were warm from the fat woman's grotesque body.

I don't care how fat you are or how skinny you are, if you have money in your pocket it is going to be warm! Obviously the cashier wouldn't be offended at all if the warm cash was coming from the pocket of some stud-muffin.

I went off on a rant about that story and, honestly, I shouldn't have. The writer was being honest about the situation. If the cashier wasn't grossed out, I guess it would have been less realistic. The writer was doing her job and the story was actually pretty good.

I guess I just don't like to see people being discriminated because of their size. I know a woman who told me she would never hire a fat person because they're lazy. She said this to my face. I felt like smacking her.

Yup, we've come a long way in the fight against racial stereotypes but unless you're skinny you're still feeling the rage that comes your way when you're not.

52 comments:

  1. Hmmm... Touchy subject for sure! As you know I grew up as a fat ugly kid and was told about it repeatedly from young and old alike. Unfortunatly it affects a persons mind for their life time. I think I can remember ever ignorant fat remark thrown my way! But now I look at people a different way. I have NO use for people! A very cruel and destructive species of that I'm sure! So now I look at skinny good looking people and think hostile thoughts of "Skank, what a Bimbo, or Asshole. Sorry, they've made me that way! I don't think people's opinions will ever change, as long as your happy with yourself, Hey! That's all that counts!

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    1. Exactly, Liz.
      Well time is the best revenge in your case – you are probably one of the most beautiful 40-something women I have seen. So take that, insulters.

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  2. A touchy subject indeed but at least we live in a country where no one is afraid to express how they feel about things. Just imagine the simmering repressed anger if we couldn't.

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  3. Cathy, all this shows is the ignorance of the original writer. I think it's socially unacceptable to highlight a skin colour or accent because the owner can't help that...they were born with it, but the "belief" is that fat people can diet and all can be Kate Moss skinny.

    It's the same as it being okay to rant against gays because, you know, they "made" that choice and they can "make" the choice to be straight too, right? Right, because, you know, when I was about ten or so I sat down and had a long think with myself and, after much soul-searching, I decided to be straight. Yeah, right.

    It's the same thought here. Fat people obviously choose to be fat.


    The truth, obviously, is a lot more complex than that.

    The thing to remember is, there's a lot of stupid, uninformed, or willfully ignorant people out there that only see the bad in others. Just imagine how frustrating life must be for them, never finding anything good to say, everyone else always falling short of their ridiculous standards.

    Ah well, let's just avoid them as though they ate a lot of garlic or kicked at our seat from behind. Breathe in, breathe out, move on, as Jimmy Buffet says.

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  4. Cathy, please don't let this woman upset you. It's not worth it. Consider the source and move on.

    And I dropped a comment on your other blog. I'm sorry about your train. I had no idea this chopping mentality was in Canada, too. Sad, eh?

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    1. OH! Thank you for the comment, Kittie! I was SO happy to see you there. Thank you thank you thank you! That poor blog is so lonely.

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  5. Cathy - This woman needs to get a life! In this day and agd of equality there should be no discrimination - it seems to be working in race/gender/religious circles but it still has a long way to go. The cult of youth and skinny (yes - I hate the ageist discrimination, too!) need to be aware that each time they point the finger there are three more of their own pointing back at them!

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    1. Oh yes, ageist discrimination. I have a single friend who was laid off when she was 60 and she had a HELL of a time finding work. So sad that when you get so close to retirement someone decides you're not important anymore and gives you the boot.

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  6. I would have been upset, too. Like you said, the garlic burps and the invasion of personal space would have probably annoy me as well, and I would have moved. But the individual who made the comment loses all her points when her words are preceded by stereotypical hatred aimed at someone just because of the way they look. All people have feelings, and nasty-minded people seem to forget that. You do well reminding them.

    Fat is only another way of saying "a little more to love."

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    1. Awwwwww, thank you Magaly. I agree with you completely.

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  7. Yeah, ignore her and move on.
    Unless you'd like to start a movement against stick figures!

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  8. Funny you should post about this today, Cathy, in the respect of "fat" persons, as my sister-in-law voiced to me just last evening that she is "sick & tired" of being constantly told by our other SIL, that she needs to loose weight. My response was ... "yes, I realize it would be more healthy to do so, however it is a personal choice and not as easy done as said, and it is her life belonging only to her." It is very difficult to loose weight, and keeping it off for some of us. What other people don't realize there might be other underlying problems, etc ... so that lady, as well as others, should mind their own business and stop judging others, especially when they do not know those other people, what they are feeling, or what they are going through in their lives ... I look at the person for who they are, how they are with me, as well as their beauty inside, not how they look on the outside .. how awful would it be if we only spoke to people because they "looked" a certain way? I would miss out on so many wonderful people, as they would miss out on me with my extra 20 lbs,wrinkles, as well as my non-stop talking!

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    1. Losing weight is the HARDEST thing I have ever done. It requires complete focus of the mind, total dedication and denial for every delicious, comforting morsel you've ever had. I believe people are genetically predisposed to being overweight and it really is easier for some to stay slender than for others. I'm not saying it's easy for anyone – I know most in-shape folks work at it with exercise and healthy eating and they've probably got better mind-over-matter than others. But you know what? They might have their own issues. Maybe they smoke. Maybe they drink too much. Maybe they do drugs. Maybe they screw around or beat their kids. I don't know anybody who doesn't have their weaknesses and my weakness is food. Cooking it, eating it makes me happy. Simple as that. When I'm dieting I can fool myself into thinking I don't need food to be happy but that's all it is, fooling myself. Sigh. My sympathy to your sister-in-law. And yes, the other SIL should learn to keep her big mouth shut. You have a wise outlook, certainly one I share.

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  9. there is a difference in over weight and morbidly obese. I am sorry, but on an airplane or other confined conveyances I don't like to sit next to some huge person that can't fit into their own seat. I also think these people are a danger in an emergency situation. As an EMT I was once called to a woman who was so large she could not get out of bed. The fire department had to remove the door frame in order to get her out of the apartment and two fireman, another EMT and I had to carry her down three flights of stairs to get her to the ambulance. Is this sad? Yes. Disgusting? Honestly, yes also.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. I'm sure she felt your disgust. For people who are overweight, food is a comfort. When they are depressed about being fat, they eat more. It's like being an alcoholic, they know booze is the problem but they drink more to medicate their unhappiness. I would bet that having to be carried down the stairs by those men was probably the most horribly embarrassing moment of her life. If it was me, I would wish I was dead.

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  10. We've come far, but civility has been left behind. Too bad you could not have heard her rant in person so you could smile kindly and turn on your heel, without saying a word. But then, she's too cowardly to air her prejudices in public.

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    1. Well that's the thing, Joanne, she DID air her prejudices in public, in the form of a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. On one hand I would hope that people would respond with letters of their own but honestly I'm sure the majority either agree with her way of thinking or just don't care enough to write.

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    2. OH! I almost forgot! THANK YOU SO MUCH for the follow on the North Bay blog. You, my dear Joanne, are a peach!

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  11. I feel sorry for the poor, 'skinny' woman. Why she should move? Why the fat one can't stop eating those garlic meat pies while on public transportation? Why she has to act like a pig? Where the heck is the respect for others? Why we should be very understanding of the 'large' people who are rude and disgusting? I'm fat too but I work on it. I do not expect extra privileges because of my size. And the kid? Well, if that would be mine it would get a pretty good spanking or at least a good slap on the back of the head (the Italian way). I'm the old school and in my opinion kids should have good manners and respect for adults.

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    1. I think most people would feel sorry for the skinny woman. And yes, eating smelly things in public and burping is rude. (I never eat smelly things. Or burp. hehehehehe)

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    2. OK, so I fart sometimes... sorry.... :)

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  12. There are just too many things I could say, and I don't have the time today :(

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    1. Hey, that happens to me, too. Quite often, as a matter of fact.

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  13. Yeah I'm wicked sick of the fat phobia out there. How we are made to feel 'guilty' because we eat. And it's mostly aimed at women. I even saw some old magazine ads from the 1930s, advertising for women to buy and ingest tapeworms so that they can remain slim. So it goes farther back than just the Twiggy 60s. I have always been made to feel like shit for being overweight. I am very fortunate to be with a man who is a chubby chaser and loves my curves and body. But it makes me sad to go out in public and be thought of as fat and lazy or someone who can't push away from the table. Years ago I was trying to get into an inside seat on the bus I took from San Francisco to Marin County. The woman would not move at all to let me in so I had to climb over her. She angrily retorted, 'Maybe if you weren't so fat you'd be able to get in.' I was sooo hurt and I snapped back, 'Well lady I may be fat but you're UGLY. At least I can lose weight.' And this was when I was still thin!!!! WAY thinner than I am now. People are just mean.

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    1. *STANDING OVATION FOR YOU, JOJO!*
      Wonderful, thoughtful comment. I LOVE that retort about being ugly! LOVE!

      I'm wicked sick of it too.

      But, um, can you still buy those tapeworms???? LOL

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  14. I wont get into a fatest debate
    suffice to say
    You are not fat!
    x

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    1. I think I just look skinny because we're so far apart... yes, the Atlantic is very slimming! Or you need new glasses, my handsome friend!

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  15. People really are mean and ignorant. There's a reason I avoid them. I didn't know it was socially acceptable to poke fun at overweight people like that? But maybe that's because I don't mingle anymore and I'm out of touch. Or because I don't think like that. You always kind of hope that people see things like you do, as much as I've learned that isn't so (the hard way). I went through some rough years trying to fit some unachievable ideal, put my body through hell, and for what. So I can fit in with "those" types of people? I tell ya, there's nothing better than having a husband who loves you for who you are to make you see that it matters jack shit what other people think, and to focus on your mind and what makes you happy. Who cares what I look like. I'm bigger and happier than I've ever been. Don't let them win, buttercup. X

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    1. Here, here!!!! I have a husband like that, too, and THANK GAWD for that! And thank you for calling me Buttercup!!!! oxoxo

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    2. Yeah, I figured your Dave was for you what Brandon has been for me. He sounds like a great guy your Dave. :)

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  16. I am proud of my round, squishy belly. And now, even my Mommeh is growing one to match mine!

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    1. Yes, it takes a lot of work to get that squishy!!!

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  17. Nice to meet you on Alex's blog. I don't like this type of injustice either.

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    1. You too, Carol! Best of luck with your book - the cover looks amazing!

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  18. As a Bear/person of a certain size, I simply recognize that I'm the size I am. I try not to intrude into other peoples' space, something I do not find difficult.

    The letter writer is someone who is in sad shape. Her nightie is in a knot; she's uncomfortable in her skin. Which is always a sad case.

    You, on the other hand, do not appear to be the least bit fat. Substantial, in keeping with your writing. But you've no reason to have "stick figure envy."

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    1. Oh, I am, I am, I am. Like you, I recognize that I'm the size I am. I was doing well, diet-wise, but have fallen so far off the wagon that all I see is dust. I need to get remotivated, for health reasons, but man, it's sooooooooooooooooooooo hard.

      And yes, her nightie is so twisted I don't think she can breathe.

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  19. This big person has big feelings. And it is amazing how criticism of one's size can make a big person similtaneously feel that they are the size of a planet and also that they have only teeny weeny importance. Huge and insignificant in one foul comment.

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    1. Good point, EC. "The size of a planet, with teeny weeny importance." Very insightful.

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  20. I believe that some people can like or hate anything. Personally, I can't imagine being grossed out by warm coins. Slick with mucus, yes. Slick with chicken grease from your fingers, yes. But just warm from being in your pocket? Seems silly.

    Then again, I'm a fat guy.

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    1. I know, isn't that ridiculous? But there are people who won't follow a fat person into a washroom stall, or sit at a chair they just vacated. The lingering warmth of their bodies is an extension of their very fatness and, I suspect that some folks are so repulsed that even this shadowing warmth is enough to make them shudder. Perhaps they think it's a virus they might catch.

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  21. sounds like a real piece of work... warm $ - bet they wouldn't complain if someone gave them the cash for themselves!

    being of the non-stick person variety I feel compelled to eat garlic and belch

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  22. I've always been a sturdy person. And I remember well how cruel kids were towards others who were different.

    I think it's the self-righteousness that gets me. Most times it's not down to their great discipline or hard work to be skinny. Reminded me of my SIL, who as she lay dying of cancer, still had enough anger in her to rail at the obese woman in the bed next to her who was succumbing to lung cancer. She bracketed her comments with"I'm a good Christian woman, but..." and "she deserves this and I don't". Never forgot that and I wonder if the skinny ones who are so mean-spirited aren't really very fearful people.

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  23. I'm one of those in between body types that is prone to being heavy but works very hard to keep my body healthy as I have a family history of heart disease. The rest of my family also struggles with obesity and related heart disease. I agree that no one should be made to feel humiliated or otherwise bad about their body size. However, when I pay for a seat on public transportation, I pay for the entire seat. If you know in advance that you take up more than one seat, you should pay for two. It's not okay to put up the arm between the two seats and spread out onto my seat, just as it is not okay for my to use you as a pillow while I sleep or for me to allow my child to use you as a jungle gym. This isn't about size but about common courtesy. So, while I don't like HOW the woman said it, I do understand where she was coming from.

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  24. I am so over my weight. There's a great group on FB for women only called Big Beautiful Wellness BBW I am a proud member of the Advisory Board. People look at my size and shape and see fat and bumpy. They do not see a woman who climbs mountains. They do not see my perfect heart rate, blood plessure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. They do not see a woman who has mastered 26 letters and a pocketful of punctuation. They do not see a ghostwriter who has put words into the mouths, and onto the pages and websites of some of the best bodies around. I've been the voice of professional athletes - people in the top 1% of human physique. And guess what? They need my body and mind to help theirs express themselves!

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  25. I could stand to (re-)lose about 30 pounds. Then another ten after that. Being more active, getting outdoors more often, will help with that. Then again, my tennis-playing mom weighs 120lb soaking wet in a wool sweater, and has more cholesterol problems than my wife who weighs twice that. Some people are just meant to carry around something extra. Bony chicks aren't a turn-on for me anyway. :-P

    But yeah, the garlic was a bit much for public transportation. Not everyone can control their weight, but I think I'd skip the extra garlic unless I was trying to peeve a particular person on the bus. And the kicking kid is no fun. I can ignore Mason doing that to me in the car, but the wife can't.

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  26. Never mind Cathy...some people are just never happy! I love chubby, garlic, kids and public transit.

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  27. On a recent flight one of passengers was in tears after her weight was ridiculed by her seatmate. Who does that? We hustled her into an empty row and plied her with a glass of wine. She was a delight and she'd been hassled on two flights in the same day. Be happy, it's the best revenge.

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  28. It seems that woman must be truly bitter, if she comes across that vindictive.

    I'll check out the other blog. I've heard about the Northlander changes, and it's a bone headed decision to say the least.

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