The Rotund recently reminded me: I got catcalled again a weekend ago, at the mall. Crossing the parking lot, in front of a car that was stopped in traffic, I heard someone yell something about the rate at which I was moving my fat ass. I’m assuming the context wasn’t in my being slow, since I’m a pretty rapid walker and had just passed a cluster of slender teenage girls meandering slowly toward the mall entrance. Maybe it was the rapidity that got their attention.
I didn’t even turn around when this happened, didn’t feel even a twinge of the old panic such events used to evoke. Without turning my head I burst into a big grin and gave said fat ass – which was facing the harassers at this point – a big theatrical smack with my left hand, without making even the slightest adjustment to my pace. It was a weirdly positive experience, like my brain had somehow reprocessed the negative intentions of the harasser and converted them to a positive reminder that yes, indeed, I have a fat ass, and I’m all good with that, and it’s pretty damn excellent, being all good with that.
This makes two such incidents in a relatively short period of time, which is unusual since I’ve gone literal years without being catcalled in this way. While I certainly suffer from the common affliction a lot of fat folks have – that of not having a real clear notion of how big we really are from the outside – if I weren’t so certain of my immutable dimensions I might be concerned that I was growing.
I have been the same size now for a long time. I keep control garments to verify this – two non-stretch dresses I’ve owned for a solid eight years that fit exactly the same as they did when I bought them. Truthfully, I am as baffled by the degree to which my weight and size remain steady as anyone else might be. I eat good food. I’m relatively active (and even when I’ve gone through phases of being extremely active over the years, my size does not change). This has gone a long way in cementing in my own mind that this is just the weight I’m supposed to be.
This has also gone a long way insofar as enabling me to assemble a wardrobe of clothes that I love.
As a fat, diet-obsessed adolescent and teenager, my clothes were usually temporary and utilitarian. I hated shopping because I hated the limited selection available to me (doubly awful in the pre-Torrid world of the early nineties), and because I was always dieting, always on the cusp of being the True Thin Me anyway, what was the point in giving much thought to what I wore now? This body wasn’t mine, it was transient. Soon it’d be gone. Why give love and attention to something you hate? That’s dangerous! If you let fat folks wear stylish, well-made clothing, they might stop hating their fat bodies so much! And then what would happen? They may stop dieting! Some of them, anyway.
The above was actually a common argument when Torrid first began garnering national attention – for many people, the idea of giving fat teens access to trendy clothing meant giving tacit approval to teenage fatness. Obviously, this suggestion is both ludicrous and insulting, because it implies that fat teens aren’t punished enough for their fatness without also denying them cool clothes, and by extension implies that fat teens need to be punished in the first place.
What’s funny about this is that it’s partly true: today, I am significantly less likely to hate my body and thus attempt to diet because I do have a wardrobe I love, and changing the size or shape of my body would mean having to leave those beloved garments behind. To make a potentially-ugly confession, I honestly shudder at the idea of my body size changing – be it fatter or thinner. My effortless size-stability is sort of a gift, I acknowledge, and renders my fatshion experiences very different from those of people whose bodies are constantly in transition, by accident or design. Today, my avoidance of changes in my size is not rooted in fear over my body becoming socially unacceptable – it already is. My concern over any possible bodily shifts – in either direction – is instead related to the worry that my current wardrobe would become unwearable.
I feel like I’ve worked too hard to carve out my own style to handle that happening with any sort of grace or aplomb.
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