THIS IS 300: Taking Pictures, Being Personal, & Weighing 300 Pounds

By | July 30, 2008

Where's my margarita?Good in yellow.

I have a wobbly relationship with compliments. On the one hand, they’re nice. On the other, fatter hand, they make me uncomfortable. I also hate it when folks respond to compliments by automatically apologizing, or arguing with the complimenter (”Oh no, I actually look horrible!”), even though this is often my automatic internal response. It takes a lot of effort to simply say “Thank you,” and not feel badly about it, not feel as though I don’t deserve it, like I should have refused it, like not arguing with it is the height of arrogance.

A year or so ago, I began taking semi-daily pictures of myself and posting them publicly to my Flickr stream. I did this for several reasons, but primarily as an exploration into how my body looks from the outside, how it looks when I am consciously presenting it to the camera, how it looks when I’m not. More generally I did it as a public demonstration of the fabled – culturally speaking – 300-pound dividing line. On the day I learned I had passed the 300 mark, circa 2005, I had been a fully-engaged fat acceptance activist for nearly ten years. And yet that knowledge hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks, in spite of the fact that it was not the result of recent weight gain, and that I knew, intellectually, that I must have been over 300 for quite some time. I based this on the realization that I was still wearing clothes that were many years old, and they fit like they always had; it was apparent that my longtime refusal to be weighed had simply kept me from knowing it.

In my experience, 300 is often levied, by fat and non-fat alike, as a sort of mystical dividing line between Just Fat and OH MY GOD Fat. I’ve lost track of how often, even now, I hear folks say “she weighs like 300 pounds!!” with no concept of what 300 pounds might actually look like, or what 300 pounds might be capable of. I’d assimilated this. And it was only when the number came a-knocking on my own fat door that I became aware of it. So the pictures I was taking were also an effort in publicly illustrating what a 300-pound person may look like. Eventually I started tagging my Flickr pictures with “300lbs”, and just the other day, the ever-keen Marianne of The Rotund pointed out to me that of all public images with this tag, I am the overwhelmingly dominant force representin’ 300lbs in the Flickr universe.

Getting to the point of this post, I’ve shied away from posting my pictures here, on this site. For one, I didn’t want it to come across as fishing for compliments, because I’m really, really not. For another, I didn’t want to seem horrifically egotistical, which opens a whole other can of worms, as the concept of considering my fat body worthy of photographing and sharing publicly is still something I struggle with (and is therefore also another point of exploration in my taking these pictures in the first place). It also makes me a little uneasy to think of this blog being plastered with images of me, especially since I share this space with several other incredible voices whose faces you never see.

But more than that – all of my personal, internalized shit aside, over the past year I’ve been the frequent recipient of emails and private messages from people who say that my pictures have changed them. These emails have been incredibly humbling and intense to read; it’s a bit scary to hear how something I’ve done as such a personal exercise has had far-reaching effects on people I don’t even know, people I will probably never meet, and other people who will never bother to contact me to let me know.

The thing is, while I don’t always have the focus or energy to pound out a many-word post here, I do take these pictures three to four times every week, and over the past several months it’s formed the crux of my activism, as it stands today. So I’ve decided to try an experiment, to collect my pictures every week, and to share smallened versions of them here, with a few words encapsulating my thoughts about them. Folks interested in larger versions or the origins of certain clothes can click through to the Flickr versions for more information.

This is a far more publicly-personal foray into blogging than I’ve done before, but I think it’s a natural next step in my project.

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