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Waves of Flesh

(Why are all the fat people on tv black?)

Swimming at the Y today, I squinted in the bright sun. Everywhere I looked, fat oozed out of bathing suits - from 2-year old toddlers to 80-year old grandmas. Rolls of flabby skin filled with fat curled around bikinis; cellulite displayed like a prized possession.

When I weighed 130 pounds at 12 years old, I was the fattest thing walking. I was called "Pacer" (a car from the early 70's) - "the car with the wide rear-end." I could never have imagined I would see 7-year olds weighing 130 pounds on a regular basis.

I can't believe how fat people are now. It was more common at the pool to see obese people than people of "normal" weight.

Years ago, right after my gastric bypass, I joked that I was woefully late with fashion sizes - that during all the years of people being thin, I was fat and just when it seems fat is becoming popular, I was going to be the minority again! How weird is it that fat is now the norm. Is this healthy?

Through the years, I've been swimming from 90 pounds (at 7 years old) to 350 pounds (at 40 years old), always ashamed of my flab and jiggly-ness. Even when I was a lifeguard, the most fit time of my life, I was still far fatter than my co-workers and friends. Hiding behind towels, huge tee shirts and bathing suits with little frilly skate skirts was the only way I could walk from any locker room to chair or chair to pool.

I've lived a life of being made fun of. I've had oranges thrown at me when I was out exercising. Another time, a group of kids threw eggs at me. I've had more moo's than any cow could ever emit. Once, in an Italian restaurant, a group of men were so mean, I started crying. My amazing partner, a cop at the time, walked over and asked them how proud would their mothers be right at that moment. "Look at her! You made her cry! She's a person, you know. Knock it off." Kids have asked if I was pregnant, pregnant with twins, just had a baby and why I was so fat. I've been laughed at, mocked, pointed at, humiliated and pitied.

When I had the gastric bypass, the most disconcerting aspect of it all wasn't the weight falling off, but the silencing of those evil voices from strangers and comments from innocent children. Almost like someone pressing the mute button, once I lost 100 pounds, people stopped laughing and pointing. It took many months for me to stop throwing up my guard when groups of teenage boys walked towards me and I was stunned when young men opened the door for me - something that NEVER happened at 300+ pounds. My guard has virtually vanished.

That's why, when a little girl at Winn-Dixie in New Orleans said, "Mom, why is that fat lady bald?" I knew it was time to do something about my weight. I mean, I knew I needed to do something before I went to New Orleans, but that mashed it right back in my face. I hadn't been called "fat" in over 4 years. It didn't feel good.

In Louisiana, fat was the norm. I felt sexy and sultry in the wet heat. I joked that I didn't need to lose weight, I just needed to move. (Women in Southern California are sooooooooooo tiny and sooooooooooo pretty.)

Until today, I was feeling abnormal again.

With the sea of swimmers at the Y being fat, I wasn't quite as abnormal as I thought I was.

Today, sagging flesh, puddles of fat, jiggling and cellulite-covered, I walked without a second's bit of shame.

I believe, for the first time in my life.

Reader Comments (6)

barb, i'm totally submitting a pic to the shape of a mother website. :)

i'm also posting it on my blog! i challenge you to do the same!

July 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSage Femme

I'm gonna! As soon as I can slow my partner down long enough to take the picture.

(What will my clients think of me?! My former husband reads here off and on. I'll have to do it anonymously, I guess.)

Hey, go re-read the comments in the New Orleans breastfeeding story (all of you!) - comment if you feel led to.

July 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I have been reading your blog for quite sometime and enjoy it tremendously, but I had to comment on this post. To say that all fat people on tv are black is kind of a broad generalization and almost offensive to me. More often on tv we see women who are unrealistically and unhealthfully skinny, who most women use as their standard of beauty. We black women don't look to the media's portrayal of beauty because it doesn't reflect us. We look to other women within our community, women of color on tv, women in our family and see curves and think "Ah, they look like me, that is what I should look like, that is beauty, that is me."

I have accepted that I am designed to be bigger and stronger than most, it is just the way it is and I can't change that. I can change how fit I am, so I do, but I let go of the things that I cannot control like looking like Jennifer Anniston when really I am shaped like Mo'Nique! It is good to see her on tv, because she reflects more of the population than any of the Desperate Housewives.

July 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

You surely know I meant no offense.

I had spent several hours with the tv as background noise and everytime I looked up, all the Anglo folks were thin, and the ONLY fat people I saw were African-American. I did not mean, nor say, that ALL AA on tv were fat, just that the only fat people I was seeing - whether on tv shows, commercials or infomercials - it was merely an observation of what I saw.

Again, not that ALL blacks on tv are fat, but the only fat people I saw were black.

I hope that clarifies.

And how wonderful not to look to tv as a gauge for beauty! But, I am sure not all blacks feel that way considering those in my family have and do - and the proliferation of ads geared towards the AA community.

As much as I hate to say it, I wish I had Jennifer Anniston's body and hair. Isn't that just stupid?

July 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Hey, what channel are you watching? LOL I have a hard time finding black people on TV period, let alone fat black women! LOL Do you have cable? I am really missing something!

Love your site!

July 25, 2006 | Unregistered Commenter"Loving Pecola"

Loving Pecola: Thanks... and yes, cable is full of great crap to watch. *laughing*

July 27, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

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