Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summertime Judgement

I don't know what I weigh at the moment because the number means very little to me. My appearance also means little to me, except to the extent that it draws unwanted attention. For awhile, I was "passing" in public as I walked around at 186 pounds. In clothing, the fact that most of my excess weight is hanging below my waist was camouflaged, especially when wearing a coat or sweater.

Summer has brought shorter pants out of the closet and had me walking around in public with my much fatter lower body drawing attention. The looks that I was spared throughout winter are back with a vengeance. People look down with gaping mouths at my super chubby calves, follow them up to my hips, thighs and stomach and finally make their way up to my face and look into my eyes with a look which I'm all too familiar with. It's the look that says I'm less than human because of my fatness. My body, which is now more fully exposed, has dictated my low value.

During the winter, people looked at my face first, not my legs. My face and upper body are pretty much "normal", and I was judged by my hair, eyes, shoulders, and chest. These met with either disinterest, or approval. As long as I hid my fatness with clothes, I could pass for human. Now that the heat has revealed it, I'm back down in the puddle with other lesser creatures.

This experience is an unnecessary reminder of how differently people are treated based on body image. I say that it wasn't necessary because it's not like the decades of being gawked at, made fun of, and openly scorned has faded from memory after a brief winter exposure to being treated roughly as "normal". It's just a more profound experience for me to be flip-flopped from one side ("normal") to the other (fat enough to be gawked at) without actually changing my body size appreciably. It also pretty clearly demonstrates how superficial such judgement is, despite the fact that most people say they are concerned with weight and health. I am at the same health level whether I'm wearing long pants and a coat or wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

It was a relief, for awhile, to be free of such openly rude and pejorative behavior. It didn't make me feel like I'd joined a new tribe though. Many people who lose weight revel in their status as "normal" and this is part of what fuels their diet and weight loss zealotry, but I've never felt that way. Part of the reason is that I'm still fat (and probably always will be - it's just a question of how fat), but a bigger part is that the tattoo of fat prejudice left on me goes down to the bone.

I won't forget how I'm regarded based merely on how the lumps and bumps of my body are visible or how large they are. I won't forget how arbitrary and mind-numbingly ignorant such behavior is. I certainly can't forget that I'm the same person now that I was before and that the approval I receive for my appearance (or the lack of censure) is actually an insult. I also won't forget how fleeting and unreliable such approval is, as I've experienced just how ethereal it is in a span of months.