When I was 12 years old, I made fun of a fat person.
I was in Jr. High. I was very skinny at the time. A very fat friend of mine (go figure) suggested that we should yell out the name of the fat person (Joe) and then turn around as if we hadn't yelled it. Just to see what he'd do. Just to let him know that we knew...that he was fat.
We yelled "1, 2, 3, Joe!" He turned his head, I think. We laughed. And soon my fat friend (trying to deflect attention from her own fatness, probably) found a new target for her meanness.
It was the only time I ever made fun of a fat person--outwardly. And even inwardly, I rarely if ever felt the inclination to poke fun. Maybe the Joe Incident marred me enough. Or maybe I somehow knew intrinsically that if a person was fat, it was probably for a good reason.
Twenty years later, here I am. Truly knowing how a fat person feels. No, not because I apologized to Joe and he told me how I'd hurt him (though I did try to find him on Facebook so I could apologize, but to no avail). But because today, I myself--am a technically "obese" person.
"Obese" sounds so harsh. I still find it difficult to accept. My 5'10" frame has always hidden a few extra pounds well. And even after the past two to three years where I've struggled with the effects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and gained over 50 pounds as a result, you'd admit that I was definitely Chunky. But not "obese", as my medical forms indicate to me.
Regardless, here I am. Having gotten good at avoiding certain social situations, all in an effort to avoid seeing people who've known me for years.
"Have you seen Liz?" I imagine they'd ask one another. "Boy, did she get FAT!"
Meeting new people is equally frustrating. I always feel as if people are meeting a distorted version of Liz. Not the real me. I imagine that they, along with the people I've known for years, jump to all sorts of conclusions. Liz must've been fat all of her life. Liz must not exercise. Liz must enjoy eating large quantities of things such as Doritos. And Snickers. Or Doritos and Snickers.
During my last three-year stint in Chicago, when my siblings would visit from California, they expressed concern over my expanding girth. They knew that I walked miles a day and ate relatively healthily--but even THEY wondered about my lifestyle--and if I was doing something to propagate this new "look."
I've come to realize that most of the energy you expend as an overweight person is directed in three areas. 1.) Caring about what others think about you 2.) Wondering how you got to look the way you look and 3.) Wondering how you are going to get to a place where you no longer look the way you look.
Cute Single Guy at Bandera on Michigan Avenue, I hope you'll still look at me! I am not a Fat Person. I'm just...a Temporary Fat Person.
It may seem superficial of me. That what I've been concerned about (moreso than the fact that I have said PCOS, which consists of a number of chronic or sometimes-serious issues) has been my physical appearance. But it's human nature to want to look "attractive."
With all of this bullying business lately, for gayness or fatness or any other kind of different-ness that heartless people choose to focus on, I am especially aware now. Aware of the great amount of pain that can be present on the inside of this different-looking person. Aware of how very important it is for a person to be supported in his or her plight. Aware of just how similar many of us are.
Because while I may like to think of myself as temporarily fat, the fact remains that this fat is sticking around for another while. And while a good amount of people out there don't have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (or another medical issue) and do in fact gorge themselves on junk food and thus look the way they look, we are currently in the same figurative boat. And the world doesn't care about the Why of our fatness. They just see the fatness.
Kind of an important symbolism there. The circumstances that lead you to a destination might be different. But what do you do for one another now that you're in this...together?
I don't know. I'll explore it a bit more. But in the meantime, I'm thinking, how ironic would it be if Joe were now that Cute Single Guy at Bandera?
Might serve me right.
Sidenote: All kidding aside, if you think you may be similarly afflicted, your general practitioner may not know enough about PCOS to test for it. I visited the University of Chicago's Center for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and was subsequently referred to an amazing doctor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. If you have questions, feel free to email me.
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