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.