posted by meowser
By the time I got this hat tip from Shakesville on an article for Self magazine on antidepressant weight gain (that was reproduced on both MSNBC and AOL; you can get to it through the Shakes link), Liss had already closed down the comment thread because of commenter issues. (That’s what I get for keeping vampire’s hours.) And although I pretty much covered this issue last time out, and won’t rehash it all here, I did find I had a few things to add after seeing the Shakes post and reading the article.
Okay, for starters, I’m not providing a direct link because of fat hate and ablism in the story, although it’s mitigated somewhat by the fact that the author (Lauren Slater), has actually experienced this. She knows that those of us who say we’re not living in a bathtub full of M&M’s and it really is the meds are not CBS-ing anyone, it’s really true that a lot of these meds can send you straight to Category 4 if you stay on them. And it’s in a Major Women’s Magazine and the frickin’ Today Show. Finally.
But eesh, just that title — “Rather Be Fat and Happy or Thin and Sad?” If you guessed that Slater comes down on the side of the latter — her friends don’t want to be seen with her! her husband is squicked out by her! her pets won’t let her pet them! (okay, I made up that last part, but still) — then you’ve obviously read one Major Women’s Magazine too many over the course of your lifetime (yeah, me too) and know that they’d never ever ever print a story that says it’s okay to be fat if it means you won’t ever have to be 5150-ed again. Gods forbid.
The hell of it is, I envy the shit out of Lauren Slater. She’s used to thinking of herself as a “petite person,” and has reaped the privileges that go along with that — great career, great circle of friends, great kids, great partner, and I’m guessing a fabulous home, too, and never any worries about money beyond the shouldn’t-have-charged-those-Jimmy-Choos-maybe-heehee kind. Yes, I know, there are fabulous fatties on the ‘Sphere and elsewhere who have nabbed all that for themselves without being thin (and since my Asperger diagnosis, I’ve become well aware that more of my social/professional difficulties have been about what’s going on above my neck than below it).
But though I do realize there’s a big dose of unhealthy entie-envy here, I’ve felt my whole life like my face has been pressed up against the glass watching women like Slater love their lives, those NPR-listening, oh-so-aware-and-sensitive ruling classers, whose words are actually listened to and respected, who don’t have to worry about anyone they want to know better rejecting them because of externals. How I’ve ached to be them, felt like I’ve been missing my whole life because I’m not.
If I had ever gotten to live her life, maybe I’d have been freaked out about getting Officially Fat too, even if the alternative was potentially being re-institutionalized. (Slater says she spent much of her childhood and young adulthood in mental institutions, so I know her depression had to be somewhere in the neighborhood of mine in severity.) But I had nothing much to lose by gaining weight, even a vast shitload of it. The partner(s) I eventually hooked up with weren’t going to have a problem with it, and the kind of friends I’ve tended to make don’t either, and I’ve never had a career (career? what career?) where my body habitus was going to mean diddleydoo. That doesn’t mean I’m 100% sanguine about it, mind you; I’d be lying if, as an ovary-carrying person with PCOS, I said I wasn’t concerned about what Remeron and everything else I’ve been on for the last almost-20 years could eventually do to me metabolically. But would I rather have diabetes than be perpetually terrified I’m going to swallow every pill in the house? On balance, I’d have to say yes, albeit gulping harder than I’d like to admit. (I hate needles something fierce.)
But I’m not her. Slater, in the end, sounds a lot less like someone who hates fatties than she does like someone who knows that the whole world hates fatties, and whose entire life setup depends upon maintaining her “petiteness,” regardless of how she feels about it personally. This makes me a lot more sad than angry, especially knowing that I’ve felt like a failure for much of my life for not being just like her. Losing what you and everyone else around you has come to depend upon is a lot different (not necessarily “worse,” mind you, just different) from never having had it in the first place. Slater isn’t really the problem; the anti-fat propaganda that has become our international wallpaper is.
But if Slater’s essay is dismaying, the AOL survey accompanying the story, which Liss put up at the Shakes link, is downright gabberflasting. The question is, “Would you be OK with weight gain if it meant you were happy?”, and out of almost 15,000 respondents, 76% said “no.” Wuh-what? As Scott Madin pointed out in the comment thread, tautology anyone? “Would you be happy to be happy if you were happy”? (Sounds like that old 70s song “Express Yourself,” doesn’t it? “It’s not what you look like when you’re doing what you’re doing/It’s what you’re doing when you’re doing what you look like you’re doing.” Cracks my shit up every time. The YouTube link, BTW, is audio-with-title-screen only.)
Besides, the wording is a bit nebulous, no? My next question would be, “As opposed to what?” Losing weight and feeling worse every day? Having a grand piano fall on my head? Being eaten alive by a pack of hungry opossums? I’ve experienced only one of those three things, but that’s enough to tell me that most of the people being surveyed have not. Do you have to have experienced life the way I have to know that there are far worse things in life than becoming a big whaleypants?