posted by meowser
Posting has been kind of light around here because I spent most of last week writing a huge sprawling epic (over 7000 words, or a little under three times as long as the longest post I’ve ever put up here) about Asperger syndrome and how the diagnosis changed my thinking about….well, everything, pretty much, but especially the degree to which I had internalized “normalcy fetishism” and used it as a club to beat myself about the head. And Liss put it up on Shakesville on Tuesday, in its huge sprawling entirety! And people actually read it! More than the three I would have expected to get through the whole thing.
And it’s a tribute to the kind of community Liss and company have built over there that I’ve had over 160 comments on that piece excluding my responses, and not a single commenter was abusive or nasty, even though the entire piece was very pro-neurodiversity. Maybe they’re just ace trollzappers and I never saw any of the nasty ones, but in any case, it was all very gratifying. I could feel a few minds changing, and boy, that was exciting. If you don’t have time or inclination to read it, I totally understand, it is quite the river of verbiage. But I thought I’d pull one paragraph and talk about it here a little bit, because it’s about fat:
And there’s nothing like being on the autism spectrum to remind a fatasspie that all this “last socially acceptable prejudice” stuff WRT fat really is bunkum. There is no such thing as someone who loves and respects every kind of person in the world and draws the line only at fat people, because fat means something to the hater. And what it usually means is, “we can accept people being a little different from the WASPy/able-bodied/standard-brained/sexually binary/male-identified/upper-caste/heterosexual/monogamous/youngish norm (am I leaving anything out?)…but not that different. Not different enough to make us squirm.”
I actually think being aspie made it really easy — possibly unusually easy — for me to embrace fat acceptance when I first encountered it circa 1996. Even if I didn’t know then that I was aspie yet, I still instinctively knew that being thin would never make me “normal,” would never get me invited to all the cool parties (or any of the cool parties I wasn’t invited to as a fatass, really), would never make me socially acceptable, would never make me feel like the members of my peer group of “choice,” even if my peer group consisted of other “outsiders.” I had been much thinner, and none of that had ever come close to happening to me. So I had long since let go of that part of the FOBT, since I knew it wasn’t happening. I just didn’t know why yet, exactly, and wouldn’t until I found out about the Asperger’s.
I’m also starting to realize that being aspie is one potential reason I haven’t gotten anywhere close to the rations of shit that other fat white women have reported. Some shit, yes, but there are women my size and even smaller who have been subject to far greater abuse because of their weight than I have. I used to think it was some kind of flukish accident…but who knows, maybe it isn’t. If I’m aspie, I’ve already flunked White Womanhood, in the sense that I’m not going to live up to most people’s expectations of how white women are “supposed” to think and react no matter what weight I am, so why bother giving me a hard time about it? As it is with age removing me for good from the wolf-meat category, and thus not attracting anywhere near the amount of panting commentary from strange men that I used to get (and I don’t miss it, believe me), male-identified people are going to be roughest on you if they can convince themselves that if you just did things “right” (like diet your brains out), you’d be attractive and appealing enough as a white chick for them to want you around — as a friend, lover, employee, client, whatever. If you are too old, or too odd (or other too-something-elses I’ve not experienced) for that to be happening anyway, your fat ass is less likely to register with them; they’re going to notice the other “too whatevers” about you first. Privilege sometimes runs on a weird-ass track, let me tell you.
And I’m going to say something here that might surprise some of you. If you asked me which has stigmatized me more, being fat or being aspie, I’m going to say that overall, being aspie has, because it’s been there every minute of my life and impacted every minute of my life whether I was fat, thin, or in between. And if I contracted a wasting illness in my old age that cost me a bunch of weight, enough to make me “normal size,” aspiedom would still be with me. You might ask, then, well, why is she blogging about fat if she thinks that?
And it’s a good question. I started blogging here before I got my diagnosis, but it’s kind of an interesting deal that I knew I was fat when I was 8, but didn’t know I was aspie until I was 44. You just don’t hear about autism-spectrum issues with the relentless frequency and intensity that you hear about fat, fat, fatfatfat, from every blithering corner of the planet. Every goddamn magazine and newspaper and anywhere else they sell advertising isn’t plastered with ads about “how to get rid of your Asperger’s.” Television isn’t littered all frigging day long with “here’s how I became neurotypical and so can you if you try hard enough” stories. (“How I made my kid NT” stories are another deal, of course, but even they haven’t attained wallpaper status, not yet.) The autism-related issues are mostly kind of buried, underneath the surface, hidden in the matrix of human interactions and behavior. I’ve never once had anyone say to me, “I don’t want you around because you’re aspie” or anything even remotely like it; it was always more like, “God, but you’re strange, I can’t figure it out.” Fat was something I couldn’t help but know about; you’d have to literally be raised by wolves without electricity not to, and kids are getting the message these days even younger than I did. People on the autism spectrum are often blamed for not trying hard enough to pass for NT, but not so much for not actually becoming NT. Big difference.
But getting thin, as far as I’m concerned, is just another form of “passing.” Just because you can temporarily force your body to look like that of someone who maintains a much smaller size eating and exercising more like the way you used to than the way you do now that you have to frigging starve, doesn’t make you biologically all that much like that thinner person. Straining to force your weight down is very, very different from being a lower weight naturally (or even attaining a lower weight simply by eating in a way that works better for your body), and it boggles my mind that fat people are actually expected to live that way if they want full personhood. And probably the fact that my aspieness makes physical discomfort magnified about tenfold just makes me dig in my heels even more about wanting to prevent as much of it as possible for as long as possible.
Furthermore, I’m sure that if they really did come up with a special diet that rendered non-NT people temporarily NT, kinda Flowers for Algernon-style, and achieved temporary but dramatic results for millions of us, they’d start shoving it down autistic people’s throats too, and getting pissed and resentful at us for refusing it. Don’t you want to be normal? What’s the matter with you? What’s that old proverb again? “The only thing worse than missing paradise is a short trip through it.” Even if it really WAS all that and a travel mug of Super Sauce to be “normal,” which I don’t believe anyway, wouldn’t losing your supply of Super Sauce just feel that much worse than never having had it in the first place? When you’re starving, you don’t sit there and sigh with happiness thinking about the most awesome meal you ever had, do you? If you’re desperately lonely, you don’t sit around smiling about when you were voted Homecoming Queen all those years ago, right? Of course not. That runs counter to every instinct we have. So why would I want to knock myself out, risk what’s left of my physical and mental health, trying to get my fingers on something that’s just going to slip through my grasp anyway? That just sounds kinda…dopey. At least it does to my admittedly unusually-wired noggin.
Brain difference, body difference. Body difference, brain difference. It all kinda works together, doesn’t it?