ColumnsWhat A World

The Final Frontier

Hate the fat, not the fattie
By Nancy Ford

Shortly after Bristol Palin’s almost-championship appearance on last season’s Dancing with the Stars made us eternally grateful that real elections aren’t conducted on cell phones, a second Palin offspring also made headlines. Responding to a fellow Facebooker’s negative critique of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, her family’s reality show, young Willow Palin tossed out an F-bomb.

Electronically calling a poster a “faggot” and commenting, “That’s so gay,” the teen illustrated the oppressive sensibility that apparently passes as acceptable in her family’s household—even though one of her mother’s best friends is gay. (Remember that tidbit from the 2008 presidential campaign?) The whole ugly incident occurred when the issue of teen bullying was a lead story in myriad media following multiple gay teen suicides.

In reality, Miss Palin dropped two F-bombs in that Facebook posting, only one of which was found to be worthy of cries of discrimination. In addition to calling the young man “a faggot,” she also called him “fat.”

In my universe, them’s fighting words, too.

When the story broke, a huge outcry from the gay blogosphere condemned Willow for the “fag” slur, while barely a mention was made of the “fat” slam. The incident inspired me to ask several gay guy friends of varying poundage which would be the more stinging insult: to be called fat or to be called a fag? Their responses:

“Fag to fag is okay.”

“Fag is uneducated, but fat is just mean.”

“Fat would hurt more.”

Dare I argue, it’s more socially acceptable to be a fag than fat. Attach “fat” to any insult and the tension is automatically escalated. It begs the question, are overweight kids taunted less often than gay kids? Where, then, are the candlelight vigils and support groups for them? Where is the Fat Pride parade? Ever hear of PFFAT?

Hurt feelings aside, if you think fat people are denied employment and housing and dignity any less frequently than gay people, think again: a 2008 Yale University study suggests weight discrimination is now as ubiquitous as race or gender discrimination. Further, a 2006 study at Western Michigan University found that weight discrimination affects all aspects of employment including hiring, salaries, and promotions.

I can hear it now. “You can’t choose your race or gender,” the familiar Exodus-ian cry for “normalcy” continues, “but
you can always choose to drive past House of Pies.”

True, it’s rare that one chooses to be fat, but that’s a much different non-choice than sexuality. If they choose, gay people can pretend to be straight. It’s more difficult for a fat person to pretend to be thin.

Besides, wanton gluttony is not necessarily what causes one to be fat. Childhood trauma plays its role, as do class and poverty. And genetics. Adding incessant bullying to that mix can result in lifelong emotional issues that make the physical danger of obesity pale in comparison.

So be nice to us fat fags; it’s hard enough trying to be jolly all the time.

Admittedly, I am sensitive to fat bullying. As one who has been blessed with a smaller than average appetite but cursed with a snail-like metabolism, most of my life I’ve carried enough excess mass to build another fully developed adult. It’s like having an imaginary friend who always tags along for the ride, but never picks up a check. But the past year brought to my expansive world a new concern beyond my wildest, infrequent dreams.

A year or so ago, a prescription for Ambien finally addressed my lifelong sleep disorder, but I began waking to discarded food wrappers beside my bed. Seems I had a candy fairy with a sweet tooth. Soon, side effects from the sleep aid coupled with my lagging metabolism packed even more pounds on my already plenty-ample frame. The gain, along with increasingly poor health, lack of energy, and wardrobe options limited to sweat pants, prompted me to make a change.

Instead of spending evenings nestled into my recliner in front of the flat screen, I began doing the back-and-forth thing on a glider that simulates the motion of cross-country skiing in the comfort of my own living room. I can enjoy all the visual stimulation of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network with none of the gastronomic blowback. To tone up, I installed one of those resistance bungee cord weight bench exercise machine thingies in my bedroom. (Its real name doesn’t matter; it’s only important that I use it for something other than a clothes rack.)

Despite what I’d seen on all those past-midnight infomercials, I believed it was absurd to think that as little as 15 or 20 minutes of activity a few times a week would have any marked effect on my body. Seven months later and a small child’s worth of weight lighter, seems I was wrong.

It’s a new world. As part of my new healthier living regimen, I am learning to shop the perimeter of grocery stores, venturing down previously unfamiliar aisles: I’m a regular Babe in SoyLand. I find myself Googling questions like “How many calories are in a Claritin?” And as the pounds evaporate, learning more about my metabolism vs. caloric intake, I’ve calculated that I can lunch on a Schlotzsky’s double-cheese pizza slathered in ranch dressing if that same afternoon I walk from my office to the moon.

But my weight-loss impetus has not been a Facebook insult, traditional New Year’s resolutions, or even the Kevin Smith-like threat of having to buy two airlines seats for my one ass. I just want to live. The added prospect of eventually no longer being recognized as a member of the most bullied class of humanity is, if you will, icing on the cake.

I’m still happily a fag, though. That will never change. Take that, Willow.


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