Taking up Space
I haven't been feeling great this week, so I have had the time to sit and read through random social media posts. Not that I don't do that on a normal day -- I just had extra time since I couldn't move without getting queasy. Sooo, I did more than usual. And I have to say, I got so mad after one series of stories, it might have been enough to enrage me into good health.
Perhaps some of you have seen this photo of model Tess Holliday on the UK version of the magazine of Cosmopolitan. I've seen Holliday online quite a bit. In fact, I follow her on Instagram. What I see when I look at Tess Holliday is an attractive woman who is just living her life. She has a job. She has a family. She appears to live boldly. She doesn't hide who or what she is. She appears to live fearlessly and in abundance. She is what's known as a plus - size model. "Plus-size" is a term I hate. Tess Holiday is a model. Her size? I don't really give a shit.
But other people do. Cosmopolitan UK has received all sorts of cheers and jeers for their decision to put her on the front page, in a UK size 24 bright green swimsuit no less. On the positive side, folks were glad to see something other than the size 00 model on the page of a fashion magazine. So few of us look like that in real life. People come in all shapes and sizes. The more we get to see people who reflect what we see in the mirror, the easier it is to understand we all don't fit into a standard size or image.
For others though, the image promotes obesity. By putting Holliday's ample body on the front page tells the world it's ok to be fat and by fat, they mean unhealthy. British broadcaster Piers Morgan even took the time to write Holiday an open letter, saying she needs to go on a diet, that she's delusional and my personal favorite; "I'm worried about you."
Let me assure you that is unadulterated bullshit. At no time in history has anyone looked at a fat person and said "I'm worried about you" and meant it. Not once. Not ever. They might think they mean it, but they don't. I have heard the line "I'm just worried about your health," in regards to my weight more times than I can count. I never believed that line. Never will.
What those well-meaning individuals really want to say is "I am worried about what people will think about me if I'm seen with a fat person like you." "What if people see me with you and they think I think it's ok to be fat?"
I'll tell you how I know they're not truly concerned about my health. They weren't worried about my health when I lost my kidney to cancer. They weren't worried about my health when I had pneumonia twice year for ten years. They weren't worried about my health when my parents and my brother died and they sure as hell weren't worried about my health when I was so depressed I couldn't get out of bed. Without exception every single person who proclaimed, "I'm just worried about your health" in regards to my weight was absent when I truly had a health scare. When I truly needed help and support, those people were not there.
Here's the bottom line -- Actually, maybe a few bottom lines:
1)My health is none of your fucking business. I have a great medical team. I have physicians, nurses, physical trainers, counselors and more whom I pay to be concerned about my health. If you're not on that payroll, stay out of it. You have no idea what I've been through with my health. You have no idea how much emotional pain I've overcome to just get out of bed in the morning. So take your "concern" and shove it. You really aren't concerned about my health, you're concerned about my appearance.
2)I am allowed to to take up space. So are you. So is Tess Holliday. I might take up more space than you think I should, but that's not my problem. It's yours.
3)I'll say it again: Humans come in all shapes and sizes. No one should be expected to fit into some standard of "beauty". Beauty is not held in my pant's size. It's held in my heart and soul. So is yours and everybody else's. There is no way my body will ever fit into the American standard of beauty. Hell, if I weighed what the BMI (which is another pile of shit, but I'll save that rant for another day) says I should weigh, I'd look gaunt and emaciated. Stop, for the love of all that is holy, telling people they have to fit into anything. Let people be who they are.
4)The numbers on the scale have no relationship to my health. The numbers on the scale show only my relationship to gravity. That's it.
5)It's an oldy, but a goody: fat is a feminist issue. Nothing terrifies the patriarchy more than a confident, fearless woman. If ya'll keep us worried about our pant's size, we don't have time to rule the world. When we all move on and worry about more important issues, we are a threat to the current power structure. When I think about the time and money I've wasted worried about numbers on the scale, I shutter. I could have spent that money and time on something that really matters. I could have supported a charity that does good work. I could have written 10 novels. I could have climbed mountains. Instead, I supported an industry that profits off my insecurity.
6)The names you've been called become the names you believe about yourself. They become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have been called "fat" my entire life. It didn't matter if I was a size 9 or a size 28, there have always been a certain contingent of people in my life who determined I was too big. Part of my identity has always been "fat". Looking back at photos I can see that I, in fact, was not fat. But I thought I was. And eventually, I became what I believed. That's not true for everyone. It's certainly been true for me. It's a complicated and frustrating issue. I fight my negative self image every day. Sometimes, every moment of every day. But more often than not, I now win those battles. I do have fat. I have more fat than others and less fat than others. But WHO I am is far more important. That's what I try to focus on now.
7)Despite claims to the contrary, my appearance is not the most important thing about me. It's not about you either. Tess Holliday is beautiful and she's fat. She'll tell you that. It's not secret. So am I. But that tells you nothing. Is Tess Holliday a nice person? Dunno. I think I am a nice person most of the time. I am smart and compassionate. I have a pretty good sense of humor, I think. None of those things has anything to do with my weight.
8)But Karma, you might be saying, "You eat right and exercise? Aren't you always trying to lose weight?" Well, no. I'm not trying to change my body. I'm trying to change my mind. I want to be strong. I want to be able to climb mountains. I want to walk without worrying about falling. I want to be able to lift a 50lb feed bag with ease. I have spent my whole life telling myself I can't do anything of those things because I was too fat. I'm not waiting around anymore. I have been on every weight loss medication on the market. I have had three-quarters of my stomach removed. I have lived off 900 calories a day. All that any of those things have left me with a damaged metabolism and a destroyed self esteem. I just want to do the things that bring me joy. The rest is trivia.
9)If you're truly worried about someone's health, show kindness and compassion and love. Snuggle in the dark under the blankets when they're too depressed to leave the house. Show up at the funeral when their mother dies. Offer to bring dinner when they have surgery. There are lots of ways to show you're concerned. Sitting down with them to have a heart to heart about their weight -- because you're concerned? Nope. Frankly, it's too late for that.
10) If Peirs Morgan and others like him are so "concerned" they choose to write an open letter to a stranger, they need to take a look at why they're so concerned. Are you really "worried" about her health or does the thought of a bold, brave woman owning her world and her body terrify the shit out of you? My guess? You're intimated. That's on you. It used to bother me that I intimidated people. Not anymore. Lead, follow or get of my way.
So cheers to Tess Holliday and CosmoUK. I'm glad to see a bold, bright and vivacious woman on the cover of that magazine. Notice what I left out there? I didn't say "a bold, plus-sized, bright...woman." Because her size doesn't matter. And neither does yours.
Today, Queendom, go out and live your life boldly, fearlessly and with compassion and kindness. That's what we are all called to do. It's time we all start to do it.