August 11, 2010

When five men called me fat

It actually happened:  Five men called me fat.

A rambling exposé of my thoughts on "fat."
(please comment!)

Crater Lake, Oregon.  July 2010.

I was enjoying the gorgeous scene with my good friend Chris.  We hiked down to the lake's surface through thick mosquito clouds.  I wore more clothes than the warm temperature required to avoid being eaten by the pests.

When we arrived by the lake shore, we struck up conversation with five guys.  They ate pot brownies at the rim and were more than goofy.  Rather hysterical, I might say.  They were in their 30s and from the East Coast.  Every year they have their "man time" and go do something manly for a week.  This year included bleaching their hair and growing Hulk mustaches. 

I took off my pants (was still wearing shorts), took off my sweater (was still wearing a tank top) and wandered off to touch the water and take photographs while Chris and the boys joked around.

I returned to the jabbing of one man - "Soooo, you guys together or something?"
I took off my tank top and was left in my bikini top.
"Naaaah," I replied.  I'd already worked out the response to this inevitable question knowing that the guys might come to my defense.  "He won't propose.  Said something about me being too fat."

The entire group of men busted up laughing.  They got to know Chris well enough to know I must be joking.  So much for trying to have a chivalrous man step up in my defense.

At that moment my world went a little hazy.  The five guys began cracking fat jokes about me.

I am not fat.  I am thin.
I weigh 120 pounds and am 5'7".
To be frank, I love my physical appearance.  I have no complaints, and nothing about my body that I want to change. 

The rest of this blog is quite difficult to articulate.  Feel free to be offended if you want to.

I can't remember any of the boys' jokes.  They were creative and "funny."
And yet even while the guys looked at me and each cracked their best joke, I inwardly cringed.  "I'm not fat."  "None of this is me," I told myself, trying to remind myself that what they said about my body was absolutely untrue. 

I sat on a ledge and shot a few photos of them talking.  They guy on the bench is indeed beginning to open his arms to demonstrate just how fat I am.

While I watched them, I wondered why I was affected by their words.  Logic says that there is no reason for me to even pay the jokes notice.  Yet they affected me.
How much more so would they affect someone who was of normal body composition?  Obese?  Morbidly obese?

I do not believe that these boys are the problem.  The jokes are only offensive because we as a society choose to make them offensive.

Our society decided to support two beliefs:
It is acceptable to be fat.

It is unacceptable to label someone "fat."  Kindly allow me to use the label "fat" below as it is the easiest word to describe someone who is... well... fat.

If you are fat or obese, it is unlikely an acquaintance will pause you and have a short heart-to-heart about how you should be more vigilant of your health.  Hell, even your relatives ignore it.  Compare this to smoking - We have all told a friend they need to quit smoking.  But have you ever eaten out with a fat person and told them they shouldn't order the double burger and soda, and steered them toward the salad instead?  I think it unlikely.

And what about your friend with crooked teeth, Bucky?  Or the one with skinny legs, Chicken Legs?  Or any other myriad of names that we nickname our friends with physical abnormalities...  These are o.k. to use. 

If someone called you "fat-so," would you feel good?  In Latin America it is endearing to be nicknamed gordita, or "little chubby."  Our culture has trained us to be repulsed by this nickname.  While living abroad I was called variations of gorda and chanchita, "piglet," and I was never able to accustom myself to it.

Yet, we accept nicknames like Bucky which are labeling physical realities which are not caused by choice.  And often one's body weight is able to be affected.  Why are we mean to those who have no choice, and try to be "nice" to those who are fat?  And why do we need to be "nice?"  Can't it just be reality?  She has brown hair.  He is short.  She is Indian.  He is fat.  She is black.  These are all valid descriptors.  This point is one relieving cultural difference between us and Latin America.  Down there I am allowed to say, "The black guy sells the bus tickets."  Here we can't say "black guy."  I'd have to do fancy footwork to say "guy in the red uniform walking over by that wall."  Really.

 I digress.

Don't read me wrong.  I am not insinuating that we have a tremendous cultural revolution and begin lovingly calling everyone fat.  I do not feel that because I am thin I am insensitive to those who are "fat."  Nor did I intend on blogging about this at all.  It rather just dumped out.  

To be sure, I deal with my own issues of women unhappy (bitchy) when indirectly indicating my body is thinner than theirs.
I receive male attention that is completely unwanted when I'm in my summer clothes.  Men are so horrid in hitting on me when I'm in a context of wearing less clothing that I made a guideline:  Never date a man I meet in the summer or on the salsa dance floor.  I hate the process of screening guys.  Don't ever assume that an attractive woman has an easy time finding a good guy - She may have more "good" guys approaching her, but guaranteed she has ten times the volume of sleazy ones.  I find the whole mating dance obnoxiously tiring.  (I'm praying that God will send me the right guy soon.)

I like my body.  I know I'm thin, but somehow the media has caused me to second guess my appearance when others say I'm fat.  (How sad!)  At the same time, I can be frustrated with the attention that being thin brings along.

What does that leave us with?
I'm not sure.

But here's a video of the guys saying goodbye as they run from swarms of mosquitoes.


  1. Hey, we met at a salsa gig, and you gave me your number...

  2. Absolutely!

    There is a fine distinction between going on a date with a man I met while sensually salsa dancing with him and having a friend to call on a Friday afternoon who you know will be a fantastic dance partner for the evening.

    I've only spent time 1-on-1 with a guy I met salsa dancing twice... The first time was with an internationally renown dancer, and he made it clear that he wanted to have sex with me. I quickly escaped.
    The second was local.
    Even though we were doing a completely inert activity in the community, he STILL found a way to show me I could not trust him. What a bother.

    The evening we danced at the bachelorette party with Orlando and Freddy (and his friend) was an anomaly to my standard decision making - And I had a great time! I looked forward to hanging out with you guys, and justly so. The prior experience was not redeemed, but grabbing hummus and pita with you guys allowed me to at least loosen up about the whole thing. I'd certainly relive that experience!

    Cheers, and I DO look forward to seeing you on the dance floor! Remember - Bald is always sexy. Unless you forget to trim your nose hair.

    ;) r

  3. Doug "FF" RedingAugust 11, 2010

    Hey Cuz...

    Rose, I am offended. You are not fat. *I* am fat. Not only am I fat, I am a *FF*. (Fat F****r.) I have worked hard for this blubber. When a skinny person gets called fat, it offends me because of all of the hard work I have done to gain all of this lard. And I completely agree that it should be allowed to call fat people fat. In fact, I ask people to call me "FF" rather than calling me by my first name.

    OK, in all seriousness, those guys were probably just making "fat jokes" about you because A) they were stoned and B) they knew calling you "fat" was absurdly laughable. Imagine if you HAD been a 300 pounder, and your remark was "he thinks I'm too skinny". They probably would have joked about how rail thin you were and would have started offering you food. Perhaps telling you to quit exercising so much, etc. etc.

    Moral of the story, which you already know, is to not let it get to you. Like all of the female cousins on this side of the family you were blessed with a great body. Like all women who already have great figures, the only thing you or any of the female cousins on this side of the family could do to improve upon what they have naturally would be to lift weights, which you know because you've already done that. But you don't want to be TOO hot now.

    Hopefully I've helped to stoke your ego a bit. :)

    Love ya...


  4. Thanks, Douggie! (or should I say, FF???)
    Your post made me laugh. It was absolutely true that they only made the jokes because of the obvious, supreme absurdity. I weigh about 300 pounds too little for the jokes to have made any sense at all.

    I wouldn't say that it "got to me," but that I was surprised to see that the comments still rubbed me the wrong way and made me pause and think.

    *** I only wonder how many times they'd thought these comments in the past toward fat women but never had a chance to say them aloud. *** THIS is what concerns me.

    You're also right - us Reding cousins ARE gorgeous! Thanks to good blood! (The men ain't half bad either :)

    I don't remember you looking like a FF. I'll let you know the next time I see you.
    Love you, and lol -
    Miss Rose

  5. "Never date a man I meet in the summer".... hmmm... cutting your chances a bit there, Rose :)

  6. and... a guy who is attracted to you sexually is not necessarily a scumbag... I should know :)

  7. I'm not sure I followed your reason throughout the entire post, but here are my two cents:

    1. There's a huge difference between acknowledge that someone is "different" (from "white", "male", "Protestant", "skinny", "rich"), and taking advantage of him/her and disrespecting him/her because of that. What these guys did was to "joke" during their "man time" (... I'm still speechless by that term, btw) about you. In my book, that's called patronizing. For the same reason, so many people refuse to believe that working poor class not only exist, but constitute the largest percent of poor population in some capitalist countries.

    2. These guys were, IMHO, unworthy of your time and effort in the form of a friendly chat. Even your voice sounds broken (to me) in the short video you posted. Some ignorance should be addressed, not merely forgiven.

    3. (Perhaps rephrasing #1) There's really no reason why would anyone try and hurt, rather than help, "different" people. In this case, you were "fat" because you weren't "them". And I kindda want to kick them for making you question yourself.

    4. As if it needs to be repeated, you, my dear, aren't fat. You're a stunning human being which was graced with a stunning body.

    5. You were affected by their disrespectful words because you are human. Not because they were true.

    That's how I see things, Miss Rose.


  8. Of course you aren't fat, Rosita! And I know that you know that. Chalk it up to silly, half-baked "man time" jeering. Not always appropriate, not always nice, but you'll find it everywhere. You're correct, the "fat" label is not socially acceptable. But the irony amuses some people . . . probably every single one of us knows a rather large individual nicknamed "Tiny." And I was called "Tubby" for years by musicians in the Midwest (still am), and you know how big I'm not.