Author's Note: Chomp through this one with your morning cuppa' chai! News on where I've been to and back, and Seven kinds of people who love to tell us we are fat!
My funny bone has been the source of much comfort and more hilarity to me for all of 25 yrs. It felt overworked and unacknowledged and thus chose to teach me a lesson by disappearing without notice. I am very contrite and duly chastised. These 4 months have been hell. I have touched the depths of despair. I have been mired in frustration. I have wallowed in self pity and given in to the urge to throw a giant tantrum that has gone largely unwitnessed.
I don’t know what exactly brought this on; I have been fat as far back as I can remember being, I have always struggled with weight loss, I have cried on occasion but largely been unconcerned and alarmingly flippant about the “issue”. Why now then? Is it because writing this blog, and the emotional and intellectual process that goes into purposefully exploring the socio-personal reality of “being fat” has brought into sharp focus the bountiful ugliness it breeds in? Is it that I have lost perspective as I have become more aware of and gotten too deeply enmeshed in the “ignominy” that I set out to investigate? Is it the fact that I am an extremely industrious person who has been on a forced vacation since May 2012 for the express purpose of losing weight; yet despite efforts I have only GAINED weight? Is it because I investigated that only to find out that my hormones (including Thyroid) have been going bonkers on me and that my doctor believes that - I must lose 60 kilo’s if I want the ticking time bomb that is my already battered health to not explode – no amount of diet or exercise is going to help me – I must seriously consider bariatric surgery? Or is it because I have been feeling sluggish and worthless and generally like the scum of the earth? I believe it has been all of this that caused my funny bone to flee, or perhaps it was because it fled that I have been perceiving the facts of my current state of existence with such morbid dejection. No matter. I have been aware of the futility of being this depressed and happy that something happened to shove the awareness into a more proactive direction.
It was quite funny really. Most people who know me would agree that I am generally mild mannered, extremely patient, can see the humour in most situations and that without question I am a jolly good sort. Yet, I recently turned into this virago spewing bitter remonstration and a rather prickly porcupine who my parents have been tiptoeing around lest I explode. What caused this shameful situation was brought sharply into focus when my uncle visited us from Ahmedabad. Of course, that the sole topic of conversation once the pleasantries had been exchanged would be my being fat and what I could and should do to be thin isn’t surprising. Then there were my mother and father, justifying my fatness by divulging my recent thyroid levels. Obviously my health and my weight being pressing community concerns there had to be a lengthy discussion (no one noticed I wasn’t participating in it) about weight loss formulae and well, you get the picture. I just snapped I guess. I literally launched into a tirade of how much I hated Jammu (which isn’t really true) and how the people here are asses, that it is no business of anyone how much I weigh, that I’m done with ill mannered people who have nothing to do but to remark upon my being fat and that my brain would surely rot while I’m here for it seems that people are unable to acknowledge that I am indeed a person with a rather sharp mind who needs to talk about more than the sad state of her health and body! Phew, even just recounting this makes me cringe. I was surprised, after my uncle left, to find my mother very angry at my rudeness. My father looking at me with concern and asking me what has caused me to be so frustrated and bitter. Not to mention the subsequent tiptoeing around topics of conversation and shielding other people from my wrath by cajoling me into seeing that people are mostly harmless and generally concerned. Of course, by then I didn’t need reminding. I had indeed peeked into a mirror and found myself unable to look into the eyes of the gal in the glass. The accusations of being frustrated and bitter stung for I realized that in the past 4 months I have allowed those to states to mould me into a person whom I did not wish to be.
Since then my good humour has been fully restored; the fragile emotional state is being strengthened daily. Just to put everything in context, I must tell you that I have taken a break to come to my parents, in Jammu, for a few months. Doubtless, I have needed it. Anyway, having found my funny bone again I decided to look back at the instances of being “remarked” upon and see if I couldn’t find a way of categorising these people. I must confess that it is an exceptional tool that allows me to inwardly chuckle and nod along with them the moment they cause themselves to be slotted into the familiarity of these tags.
Here’s my handy work:
2) The Food Police: These are instances that happen all too often when we fatties are in the vicinity of food. Mostly family and friends, who oftentimes in the presence of veritable strangers or more alarmingly in that of acquaintances feel compelled to remark that we should know better than to eat. Imagine when you are being entertained at someone’s house where you are offered a snack, you reach out to have one, and your mother/wife/husband calls your name in a warning tone. Then ensues the verbal volleying between the hostess and them about whether or not you should eat. Or at the dinner table when you reach for a chapatti you hear a “bas kar ab khana”(enough with the eating), or you order a dessert while out with friends and have to justify why you’re eating a forbidden food in response to a “Should you be eating that?” Unless we have specifically asked friends and family to support us in a diet or something, it’s more than a little presumptuous I would think. Sometimes it’s downright hilarious like when my uncle was here I picked up FOUR peanuts and before I had even had the time to place one in my mouth, my dad was heard to say it is this in between snacking that makes one put on weight!
3) The Name Callers: I have never figured this one out. These are mostly people you don’t know who shout out ridiculous names at you while you’re traipsing along fa-la-la-ing in your head. I have had a bunch of school kids shout “moti, moti, moti” (fattie, fattie, fattie) while the school bus passes by me. I have been pointed at by sniggering guys who think I bear a resemblance to Rambo. There have been men who have cracked fat jokes while I pass by them. I have in fact had a kid in the last school I taught at ask me “Ma’am, what is your name?” and when I responded with “Gurleen”, he cheekily smiled at me and said, “Gorilla!”. I actually asked him why he called me that (he was ten I think) and he replied with, “Because you are so dark and so fat.” I couldn’t fault his reasoning, though his attitude was a bit alarming, especially to an “empowerment” teacher. What I can’t figure out is why? What compels near strangers to behave this way? Is Rambo supposed to offend me? I have always found this an exercise in ridiculousness. Though I must admit one may be entitled to be chagrined at that most school friends and cousins seem(ed) unable to get past the obvious nick names of “MOTI!” or “MOTU!” to explore cooler more creative ones.
4) The Feet Eaters: These are adorable! They seem unable to say anything on the issue of weight, when around a fattie, without planting their foot firmly in their mouth and then chomping on it for good measure. Someone who’d point us to a sturdy, roomy chair in a drawing room and then rush to add, not that you’d break the other one if you sat on it! Or the senior from college who met me at a time when I had lost a considerable amount of weight and proceeded to tell me that I look good and that she was always amazed in college that I wasn’t self-conscious about how fat I was. The one thing more obvious than the foot they have in their mouth is the fact that they invariably are well intentioned!
5) The Jokesters: They are harmless. They are fun. They appreciate a good joke. They don’t have a mean spirit and best of all they don’t get all tied up in political correctness. They appreciate the fact that one is a person and are comfortable enough with the “weight issue” to laugh about it without being offensive. They are people with whom I have cracked many a joke, including ones at my expense, without feeling the need to wave about a fat-activist flag.
6) The Venomous Ones: They are the absolute opposite of the jokesters. They are snide. They are venomous. They speak to put you down. They are hate mongers who deserve not an iota of any decent person’s attention or emotional energy.
7) The Well-Wishers/Habitual Speakers: They are the ones who may well tie you up in conversations that get tedious but through the dialogue you are aware that they speak from genuine concern. Sometimes they are smart or sensitive enough to not sermonize and just let one know of their support or drop a line or two about weight and how it must be lost. They just seem to believe that being fat is the absolute worst thing to happen to you and thereby by virtue of their concern for you they must do their duty to you and talk about it.
It is being aware of these categories of people and seeing the social drama play out on a stage of prejudice (intentional or habitual) and real concern with an eye to humour that has enabled me to laugh through life and maintain a compassionate spirit. Only recently when I had a short experience of what one can turn into in the absence of these that I have consciously come to appreciate my funny bone. I believe that there may be some people who would tell me that to see humour here is akin to condoning the attitudes from which such thinking and these remarks stem. I could not agree more with the observation that there is something seriously wrong and destructive in the current attitudes that the society holds towards weight and fat. I however also feel that as reprehensible as these attitudes are, we cannot escape the fact that they exist. And the fact that unless they are the particularly venomous, unreasonable, hate mongers (and even those are a product of our society) most of the time people are just concerned, or misguided, ill-informed or unaware…and generally nice. Though they may be seriously overused, let us fatties not lose our compassion and our funny bones – or forget to appreciate those!
~The Fat Chick