Does this insecurity make my ass look fat?

Amanda’s got an interesting post about the way women run themselves down as a matter of course, both to bond with other women and to show others that they don’t suffer from any grand notions that they’re actually self-confident:

Some researchers have looked into female self-degradation and found that women tend to treat the practice of making derogatory comments about your own body as mandatory. (Hat tip, Lisa in KS.) Hating your body is considered a baseline behavior to demonstrate that you are not exhibiting threateningly high levels of self-esteem.

Fat talk also allows females to appear modest, a prized quality in a culture that shuns egotism.

“We tend to dislike arrogance and especially dislike it in women (‘bitches’)”, Martz explained. “Women are perceived as OK if they fat talk and acknowledge that their bodies are not perfect but they are working on it.”

What the researchers called “fat talk” functions as a form of female bonding, basically over our shared understanding that we can never measure up.

See, this is one of those things that my status as a lifetime fat person has given me a much different perspective on. I’m pretty much exempt from mandatory self-deprecation (because, yes, my ass *does* look fat in these pants, because *my ass is fat* and I don’t need to solicit anyone’s opinion on that, thanks, because someone will be sure to scream it out a car window), though it is my role to assure other women that no, they’re not fat — certainly not like me.

This started in junior high, when girls I didn’t interact with much would come up to me in the locker room and ask, “Zuzu, do you think I’m fat?” Why? Because I’m the expert? Because I’ll say of course not? Because anyone who didn’t look like me was, by default, thin?

I always wish I’d had the guts in those days to look those girls in the eyes and tell them that, yes, you’re looking a little chunky there, Susie. Because this was just another reminder that I wasn’t like them, wasn’t normal, and wasn’t part of their world. But instead I just felt shame.

It’s about 25 years too late, but fuck you, Susie.

68 comments for “Does this insecurity make my ass look fat?

  1. March 14, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    This post makes me really sad. On the other hand, it was maybe for the best that you didn’t quite fit the mold of your superficial classmates and peers. If you had spent your whole life with that mind of yours inside a conventionally attractive body, you would have inspired more suicides than you’d probably be comfortable with.

  2. Esme
    March 14, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    I’m actually really enjoying telling people I’m fat in a non-self-deprecating manner. No, I don’t feel guilty eating this huge pile of food, because I am fat. “No you’re not.” Yes I am. And I’m okay with that. Why aren’t you?

  3. Abbey
    March 14, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    Go Zuzu! It always makes me angry when girls my size (I’d consider myself pretty dang thin) talk about their “fat” arms, stomachs, whatevers. I immediately point out that they’d have to be stupid to think they are fat, because they obviously aren’t, and the only people who would say things like that are girls that a)truly believe it, because they have eating disorders or b) are just fishing for someone to reassure them that they are not fat.

    That usually shuts them up for a while.

  4. Cara-he
    March 15, 2007 at 1:15 am

    Zuzu, rock on you!

    I have a girlfriend who regularly greets me with the question:

    “Do I look like I’ve gained weight?”

    I finally started telling her that if you ask a stupid question you’re going to get a stupid answer. I doesn’t always shut her up, but at least it reminds me that I don’t owe her (or anyone) a compliment that is elicited SPECIFICALLY at my own expense.

    Someday I hope to have the courage to say, “Actually, you probably have gained some weight”

  5. March 15, 2007 at 2:11 am

    Someday I hope to have the courage to say, “Actually, you probably have gained some weight”

    Word. I don’t have this problem near like I used to now that I work from home, but oh, if only I’d had the nerve back when:

    “To be honest, you might want to watch it on the junk food for awhile. I mean, unless you want to wind up looking like me.”

  6. March 15, 2007 at 2:53 am

    I was at the pool the other day and went to stretch in the hot tub. I was greeted by a couple of size two-ish freshman girls whining loudly about the shape of thier stomachs and thier “rolls”. They were in two pieces and pointing at these perceived imperfections.
    My racerbacked, not-size-twoish, swimsuit-falling-apart self ended up excommunicated to the other side. People like that are mental poison. And everybody knows to steer clear of that.
    Thier breed of bullshit pissed me off on several counts. While I understand that people of all shapes and sizes face body insecurity, I don’t see why they/we need to spread the unlove.
    I usually feel good about my body after I work out but this ruined my day. Stuff like this should not happen to begin with. And it definately should not decide whether my day is good or bad.

  7. March 15, 2007 at 4:36 am

    Ugh, yes, good post. I definitely get that, as a plus-sized woman.

    Other things people do to fat girls that piss me off?

    1. Tell me I look like I’ve lost weight when I haven’t. How fat is the image of me you have inside your head? Either that, or you think that’s some sort of compliment.

    2. Treat me like some sort of human food disposal unit. I get that at work a lot. “Vanessa, I don’t want these fries, here you have them.”

    3. Buy me giant clothes. Hello, just because I’m not a size eight doesn’t mean I’m a size 38! If only I had the guts to tell that to my mom when I unwrap the giant tent clothes she gets me every christmas.

    Thank you for posting about this.

  8. March 15, 2007 at 6:52 am

    I have a friend I’ve known since we were kids who, any time anyone said she’d lost weight, would snap back “No, you just think of me as fat!” That was pretty severe case of low self-esteem – she took the self-deprecation thing to the next level. Having said that, it certainly disrupted the bonding ritual of self-deprecation – no one knew what to say after that! If it hadn’t come out of her poor self-esteem, it would have been a pretty funny response.

    Now I’m older I would never dream of using “you’ve lost weight” as a kind of generic compliment to someone (unless they really have lost a lot of weight and it’s clearly a big deal for them), but I did when I was younger. I didn’t think too much about it – it was a “white lie” thing to say. I like it much more when people say nice things about my personality than my appearance – although I like knowing that my boyfriend finds me attractive, the best compliment I’ve ever had from him was telling me he loves how funny and clever I am.

    I still sometimes say things like “I like your hat” (meaning “my god, what is that thing on your head?”), when I’ve been unable to take my eyes off the monstrous creation and can’t therefore get out of making a comment on it. But I’m trying not to give false compliments any more. False compliments certainly don’t reduce the incidence of people wearing unflattering hats…

  9. kali
    March 15, 2007 at 7:14 am

    I’m skinny, but those conversations infuriate me too. Because I start feeling like I should be obsessing about the bulge of my tummy or whatever, when women who look really good and athletic start criticising their own bodies. It makes me feel like crap, and I honestly don’t dislike my body at all most of the time. I can’t even imagine how annoying it must be to have someone do that to you when you’re actually fat. And it surprises me, because like Amanda said it’s generally a female-bonding ritual. Surely they know that it’s only going to piss you off?
    Also I recently had to reassure someone who was four months PREGNANT that no, she hadn’t gained too much weight and she still looked slim (that was actually true, but it’s hardly the point. Gah!)

  10. holly r.
    March 15, 2007 at 7:16 am

    (I’m now going as “holly r”., as opposed to “holly”, as there was another just plain “holly” on pandagon, the other day-just lettin’ ya know)

    I’m right there with you, Zuzu! What I especially loved about this ritual of changing for gym class- the girls who would do this while eating something like a Hostess Cupcake, or some other fucking nonsense. But, yeah… I felt like what you wanted to say was the appropriate response. But, then, I already was a social outcast; so I wasn’t about to up the unwarranted animosity towards myself.

  11. Hawise
    March 15, 2007 at 7:39 am

    I had someone do the ‘Am I fat?’ thing while I was moving boxes, I handed her the box. She dropped it. I answered, ‘You’re not fat, you’re out of shape.’ She seemed insulted. I may be 200 lbs. but I know how to use it. I stopped worrying about it when I realized that it was about the looks and not the health.

  12. alice1
    March 15, 2007 at 7:45 am

    Maybe I’m just a bitch (Ok, no maybes), but I always read that “I’m so faaat” stuff as “Compliment me please!”, rather than bonding. I’ve adopted the look & the “hmmmm” response.

  13. March 15, 2007 at 7:57 am

    I always tell people I’m dating (once it gets to the point that they’re likely to see me getting dressed) that in the unlikely event that the words “does this [dress] make me look fat” come out of my mouth that there are two possible responses: a) “yes dear, you look fabulous;” or b) “of course not, that dress can’t make you do anything — you’re fat all on your own.”

    Another good response I got once was “you say that like it’s a bad thing,” which is what I now say to people thinner than I am when they ask me if they look fat, or engage in any of that “fat talk.” Shuts ’em right up.

    As one who is recovering from fifteen or so years of insanely disordered dieting, I detest that ‘fat talk’ phenomenon. I have a couple of friends with whom I’m willing to discuss diet and exercise, but generally I don’t want to hear about it. I will get a little bent out of shape when I hear somebody start down the “if you just eat less and exercise more, you’ll lose weight” road and start citing research to the contrary. Also, as someone whose weight once climbed to 225 as my calorie intake dropped well below 1000 a day and whose workouts sometimes occupied more time than sleep, or classes, or my job, I can tell you that there’s a little more to it than that.

  14. Anka
    March 15, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Once, a graduate school classmate and I were in the gym together, and she started the “oh, I’m so fat…” thing. At the time she looked like a short little elfin Czech supermodel and was a widely acknowledged babe in our department. I was neither fat nor thin at the time, but was obviously much larger than she was. She was clearly expecting a compliment and a little self-deprecation, so I just said perkily, “Well, winter’s coming–we need some extra poundage because it gets cold around here.” Her jaw dropped a little but she stopped. I felt cruel but it was really satisfying!

  15. March 15, 2007 at 10:34 am

    These conversations make me inutterably frustrated (I try not to do the fat talk myself), but I get the feeling that the person who says it really does feel fat or is looking in the mirror and looks fat to herself, and that makes her really depressed. I feel kind of helpless about it. Like that quote says, we can never measure up, no matter what we look like.

  16. snappy mackerel
    March 15, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Over the last few years I’ve crept into double-digit clothes (I’m a short woman, so I’m all hips and thighs), and I’m just now realizing the fact that I don’t have to devote my precious time to constant workouts, dieting, dressing to hide “flaws,” etc. if I don’t feel like it. And while that has been an amazing relief to me (I just bought some rockin’ new outfits, so I literally can’t lose any weight until the summer ends!), I’m astounded by how “fat language” pervaded my relationships with the women in my life. It’s like we can’t talk about anything else until we’ve covered the basics–what we ate today (and felt bad about), what we’re wearing (and feel ugly in), and what we’re going to feel bad about in the near future (right now it’s bikini season, apparently).

    Question: how do you steer the conversation without shaming people for buying into their socialization? When I told my mom I didn’t want to watch “What Not To Wear” with her because it was mental poison, she got really hurt. How do you let people know you’re against mentalities, and not them?

  17. Dianne
    March 15, 2007 at 10:38 am

    zuzu: This is probably beside the point, but based on the morphed pictures of yourself you posted here a while ago, you are conventionally beautiful, whether your weight is “ideal” or not.

    I love the answers people have come up with to stop “fat talk.” Wish I’d had the guts to use them when I was younger. These days I’m likely to start talkling about leptin levels and other obscure point of biochemistry when someone mentions fat and that usually keeps people who are looking for compliments from asking again.

  18. zuzu
    March 15, 2007 at 10:53 am

    zuzu: This is probably beside the point, but based on the morphed pictures of yourself you posted here a while ago, you are conventionally beautiful, whether your weight is “ideal” or not.

    Thank you. And really, it’s not entirely beside the point, since I’ve come to realize that my attractiveness is not entirely related to my weight. I still get a lot of positive feedback about my looks, so there’s not a one-to-one relationship between “fat” and “ugly.” It took a while to internalize that, though, and I’m much better off for it.

    I do have to say, though, that when I was thinner, and closer to “normal,” I was much more neurotic about what people thought of my body.

  19. DWF
    March 15, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Oo, snappy mackerel, interesting on the “What Not to Wear” thing. I have a love/hate relationship with that (I don’t have cable, so I really never see the show, but did watch it on Oprah the other day). On the one hand, it is amazing some of the crazy clothes people will put on (though really it’s their prerogative). On the other hand–so much pressure for us to look perfect! Our absolute best! All the time. After watching that Oprah segment I literally stared at myself in the mirror, convinced my jeans were all wrong, my jackets were all wrong, and that I was going to have to throw everything out and start over with a new $4,000 wardrobe.

    I read the book prior to getting married, and actually wrote a cartoon about how I became obsessed that my arms were too fat for my wedding dress! Possibly my most creative moment, ever. I literally obsessed over it for weeks to the point where I was convinced my only memories of me on my wedding day would be my fat arms!

    Has someone ever done a post on that show?

  20. Rose
    March 15, 2007 at 11:06 am

    I tell you a story from about 9 years ago. I was 27 years old, new to my job, and at the heaviest point of my life (I never weighed in at that point, but I’d say I was about 160 lbs at 5′ tall). I’m sitting at my desk in the “secretarial pool” and about 4 very thin women are going on endlessly about how fat they are, each one trying to one-up the other in their body-shame. I’m trying to ignore the whole conversation and keep looking at my computer, pretending I’m working, hoping I won’t be noticed. Finally, one woman says to me “Rose, what are you doing to lose weight?” and I respond “Nothing, I don’t really care that much about being heavy. I’m comfortable in my own skin.” This inspired gasps of horror from my skinny co-workers. My role in this was suppose to be to say repeatedly “Oh, how I WISH I looked like you!” so they could all feel validated by the fat girl and my refusal seriously pissed them off. So they start with “What about your health?” “Don’t you care about yourself at all” “Doesn’t your size bother you?” And I said “No, so why does it bother you?”

    That shut everyone up.

  21. March 15, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Interesting—I never thought about how “fat talk” functionally excludes some women from participating in female bonding.

  22. March 15, 2007 at 11:19 am

    I actually wrote a blog post about my love/hate relationship with What Not to Wear yesterday. As much as I loathe the stereotypes they perpetuate on the show, I can’t seem to tear myself away, and I do appreciate the emphasis they place on buying clothes that fit rather than worrying about the number on the tag. Every time I watch it, though,and find myself getting caught up by the “positive” message, I have to remind myself, if they really thought we looked fine as we are, they wouldn’t be telling us we need to spend five grand on clothes that make us prettier!

  23. Anna
    March 15, 2007 at 11:25 am

    I -hate- when people start with the fat talk. Especially because then there’s that “Well, aren’t you going to say something?” moment. Instead of letting the awkward silence sit, I’ve begun saying “You know, I think I look damn good. :D” in the perkiest tone imaginable. It gets me labeled as overconfident (constantly) but hey, it’s true. I’m happy with my body, and I don’t need to self-deprecate just so people can coo at me and say I’m not fat. I know I’m not fat. I also know there’s nothing wrong with -being- fat. The pissing and moaning about weight is something that is just not necessary.

  24. Rose
    March 15, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I think of these conversations as more like “female bondage” than “female bonding.”

    I’m not saying women should sit around kissing each others asses all day long, but I see bonding as having something to do with being supportive, decent and loving to one another. These conversations revolve around a sort of one-up(wo)manship of who can be the most degraded about their body. The underline message of the statement “No, you’re not fat, I’m fat!” is “Yep, you are fat. And I’m fat too. The only reason I like you at all is because you don’t threaten me by being too self-confident. We sure are a bunch of pathetic fat asses, aren’t we? Hey, let’s find someone even fatter than we are and see if we can make her cry!”

    I’m not saying this type of 6th grade, mean girl interactions between women doesn’t pass for bonding in a culture as debased as ours is, but I think it’s pretty sad that it does.

  25. Rachel
    March 15, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    As a college girl who (sadly) regulary participates in this kind of fat talk, not everyone who does it is seeking compliments. I know logically i am not fat nor thin at 5’3 and 112 pounds, but when I look in the mirror I see a fat person. I complain to my roommates, who all have the same issues…but its not like we go around talking about it everywhere, just when we are at home. But don’t automatically assume the thin person just wants a compliment, or knows they are skinny and is only saying it to be snarky. Sometimes the skinniest people have the worst body images of anyone.

  26. Zos
    March 15, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    I have a friend who, every time I see her, the first thing she says to me is (in an incredulous and semi-panicked tone of voice) “Have you been losing weight?!” It really, really irritates me. I have never owned a scale, but I have been a consistent size 4 for the past 10 or so years. I don’t understand why she keeps doing this when I always look the exact same weight as the last time she saw me, and I have never dieted or talked about dieting. I can’t figure out if it’s supposed to be a compliment or WHAT, but I hate it. I don’t totally fault her though because her Mom does the same thing to me. (And both of them are normal-to-thin people).

  27. March 15, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    See, this is one of those things that my status as a lifetime fat person has given me a much different perspective on. I’m pretty much exempt from mandatory self-deprecation (because, yes, my ass *does* look fat in these pants, because *my ass is fat* and I don’t need to solicit anyone’s opinion on that, thanks, because someone will be sure to scream it out a car window), though it is my role to assure other women that no, they’re not fat — certainly not like me.

    Ditto. Ditto ditto ditto.

    I can’t tell you the number of times very thin women acquaintances or colleagues (sometimes literally half my size) have complained to me about how “fat” they’re getting and ergo how ugly they’re getting or how much they “hate” their “hideous” bodies. I know I’m meant to say, “Oh you’re not fat, you skinny little thing!” But instead I say, “It’s too bad you can’t find a way to be happy with your body, irrespective of its size.” I’ve found that, if nothing else, it stops them in future from trying to coerce me into flattering them at my own expense.

  28. ACG
    March 15, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    I -hate- when people start with the fat talk. Especially because then there’s that “Well, aren’t you going to say something?” moment. Instead of letting the awkward silence sit, I’ve begun saying “You know, I think I look damn good. :D” in the perkiest tone imaginable.

    Anna, that’s actually something I’ve had to learn to do. I’ve spent the past eight years recovering from the most pernicious ED I could ever hope to have, and part of that recovery was learning not to say stuff like, “Oh, God, I’m sooooo fat” – because I’d always believe myself when I said it. Learning to actually say approving stuff about my body, even when I wasn’t really feeling it, has been a big part of my recovery. So now when my coworkers are doing the “sooooo fat” litany and they’re waiting for my contribution, I’m able to just shrug and say, “Sorry, can’t help you. My body is slammin’.”

    I have a girlfriend who regularly greets me with the question:

    “Do I look like I’ve gained weight?”

    Cara-he, I tried that just once with a friend of mine, and the response I got was, “Yeah, I think you have. Yeah, turn arou–Oh, wow, God, yeah, you’ve put on a ton.” That was enough to learn me about fishing for compliments.

  29. March 15, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    I do have to say, though, that when I was thinner, and closer to “normal,” I was much more neurotic about what people thought of my body.

    Zuzu, doesn’t that completely nullify the point you were trying to make about skinny girls? Perhaps it’s your own neurosis that led you to believe they were somehow laughing at you when, in fact, they were “neurotic” about their skinny bodies.

    And when normal girls (and I mean ‘in the head normal’ not ‘body normal’) ask if they have gained weight, it’s because they actually want an honest answer, not a compliment. My friends would tell me, I would tell them, in fact we both have.

  30. zuzu
    March 15, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Zuzu, doesn’t that completely nullify the point you were trying to make about skinny girls? Perhaps it’s your own neurosis that led you to believe they were somehow laughing at you when, in fact, they were “neurotic” about their skinny bodies.

    No, because the purpose in them engaging in this little female-bonding ritual with me was different than when they engaged in it with each other. Because while they could assure each other that they weren’t fat, and I could assure them that they were not fat, I could receive no such assurance.

    And they knew that. And they knew I knew that.

    When I was thinner, I felt more pressure to conform to the norm because I was closer to it. And that meant that if I complained about my weight, I would receive assurance that I wasn’t “really that fat.”

    “Fat,” here, being a proxy for undesirability, uncoolness, lack of social value, you get the picture.

  31. Daisy
    March 15, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    I am so lucky that my college roommates this semester don’t engage in any of this kind of talk. Unfortunately, my best girlfriend and my mom (who I am very close to) are all too prone to disparaging remarks about herself. It always incredibly awkward for me because these are women that I love and I’m not sure what kind of response I should provide.

    “Fat talk” is interesting to me because no matter how horrible my body image, I have never said anything about it to anyone. I was always embarrassed to talk about dieting and excercising to lose weight (even though I was doing it), because I wanted to appear confident. I think I also was always afraid that if I ever said anything about being fat, someone would agree.

  32. zuzu
    March 15, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Zuzu, doesn’t that completely nullify the point you were trying to make about skinny girls? Perhaps it’s your own neurosis that led you to believe they were somehow laughing at you when, in fact, they were “neurotic” about their skinny bodies.

    And BTW: “It’s all in your head” isn’t a valid answer here.

  33. March 15, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    When I was thinner, I felt more pressure to conform to the norm because I was closer to it. And that meant that if I complained about my weight, I would receive assurance that I wasn’t “really that fat.”

    Maybe they were looking for the same assurance.

  34. zuzu
    March 15, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Karol, follow along with me:

    My role was to give assurance, not receive it. I could never be assured that I wasn’t fat (and therefore a social pariah) because I was. This little game is only beneficial for those who can actually be reassured that they’re within the range of acceptable. It’s also only beneficial to the extent it’s reciprocal.

    Once you start asking for assurance that you’re not fat from a fat person, a person who cannot ask for and receive the same assurance, you’re simply reminding that fat person that she’s not as good as you and that you don’t want to be anything like her.

    You dig?

  35. zuzu
    March 15, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    Also, Karol?

    Calling me crazy doesn’t help your argument much.

    Especially when I have Bloglines.

  36. Matthew
    March 15, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    This is a continual source of bewilderment to me. At lunch I’m typically the youngest person at the table, and the only guy.

    The women I sit with are constantly obsessing about their weight and going on diets. When I was working regularly with one of them in particular, she asked me one of those questions about her weight. I gave her the honest answer that I thought she looked fine, and didn’t need to lose weight.

    This led to an interesting conversation, in which I expressed a dislike of the constant imperative to be thin, instead of being healthy. I have a very good friend who definitely has more weight than most medical types would approve of. And she looks damn sexy at that weight. She overcame an eating disorder when she was younger, and she looks healthier now than she ever did before.

    What it boils down to is this: healthy people are attractive. And contrary to popular opinion, thin does not necessarily mean healthy. It takes considerable effort for me to gain weight. I’ve gained about fifteen pounds, and I’m hoping to gain about ten more (for a while I was living a rather sedentary lifestyle and not eating properly). Well, health and confidence. And dressing well.

  37. March 15, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    This post is crazy, sorry for stating so plainly. Though I’m not sure how it hurts my argument.

    I’ve been overweight my whole life. Sometimes, I’m more overweight than other times. And I have asked fatter people than me if I’ve gained weight. I wasn’t fishing for compliments, I just felt they’d be honest.

  38. zuzu
    March 15, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Though I’m not sure how it hurts my argument.

    For starters, by relying on “Zuzu is cuckoo!” as an argument rather than, you know, actually having an argument. Particularly since you haven’t actually pointed out anything crazy in the post. Your sole problem seems to be a comment.

    I’ve been overweight my whole life. Sometimes, I’m more overweight than other times. And I have asked fatter people than me if I’ve gained weight. I wasn’t fishing for compliments, I just felt they’d be honest.

    And why do you think they’d be honest?

    Do you understand the distinction between a fat person asking another fat person an honest opinion about weight and a thin person fishing for compliments from a fat person using a technique that, when used among thin people, results in mutual compliments and reassurance?

  39. March 15, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Do you understand the distinction between a fat person asking another fat person an honest opinion about weight and a thin person fishing for compliments from a fat person using a technique that, when used among thin people, results in mutual compliments and reassurance?

    I’m asking Zuzu how she is so sure that’s what they were doing. It seems like she carried around a lot of anger and bitterness over situations that might not actually be as they seemed at the time.

  40. March 15, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Sorry, didn’t realize the comment above mine was actually from you, Zuzu.

  41. zuzu
    March 15, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Were you there in the locker room with me, Karol?

    If not, you’re projecting your own bullshit onto me.

  42. March 15, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Ok, but I’m not the one cursing at ghosts 25 years later.

  43. zuzu
    March 15, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    No, but you’re trying to tell me that you somehow remember my childhood more accurately than I do.

  44. Ugly in Pink
    March 15, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    I was the fat girl of my high school, and the phenomenon Zuzu is describing is quite real in my experience as well.

  45. March 15, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    I don’t see why it’s so hard for Karol to understand this:

    you’re simply reminding that fat person that she’s not as good as you and that you don’t want to be anything like her.

    which is basically what the whole post boils down to.

  46. zuzu
    March 15, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    I suspect Karol is a Randian.

  47. evil fizz
    March 15, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    This post is crazy, sorry for stating so plainly. Though I’m not sure how it hurts my argument.

    What argument, exactly? Because you’re really not making a point, other than slinging mud at zuzu.

  48. March 15, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    I’m not going to deny that thin women can actually believe they are fat, because I’ve had that experience. I chalk a lot of it up to the insane definition of “thin” we have. It’s not always fishing for compliments. It can be a genuine fear.

    Having said that, it doesn’t require a lot of thought or sensitivity to realize that asking the question “Do I look fat” to someone who is overweight is a crappy thing to do. I tend to take protestations with a very large shaker of salt. There’s no particular reason to think an overweight woman is more likely to tell you the truth than a non-overweight woman. And even if there were, so what? You don’t have the right to expect any kind of answer from another person, especially when what you’re asking that person will only serve to reinforce any insecurities she might have. “Hi, I’m going to reinforce your insecurities so I can dispel my own” is pretty damn selfish.

  49. evil fizz
    March 15, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    I suspect Karol is a Randian.

    Ding, ding, ding!

  50. Allison
    March 15, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    You don’t have the right to expect any kind of answer from another person, especially when what you’re asking that person will only serve to reinforce any insecurities she might have. “Hi, I’m going to reinforce your insecurities so I can dispel my own” is pretty damn selfish.

    Exactly, Lesley.

  51. Thomas
    March 15, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    For those who don’t know, Karol makes her living sucking the teat of the right-wing noise machine. She says:

    I am a PR consultant for right-leaning politicians and causes. My disclaimer statement appears in my sidebar. I maintain a calendar of events for Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, or any other sort of non-liberal person in New York, at RightEvents.com. I also co-write a poker blog called I Had Outs. I have a Wikipedia entry here.

    She claims to have a Wikipedia entry, but it comes up empty. (Also, a person should not have a Wikipedia entry unless he or she is significant enough to have one created by a person that he or she does not know. That’s my position and all reasonable people agree with me.)

  52. Rose
    March 15, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Karol, you are merely coming off as petty and mean. If a girl or a woman goes up to someone who is considerably heavier than she is, and asks her if she looks fat, you actually think this is because she wants an honest answer? If a woman thinner than me asks me if she’s fat and I say yes she could turn around and say “Not as fat as you!” and she’d be right! So it’s a set up to pay them a compliment, or take an unwanted hit over your own weight.

    If zuzu wants to share painful memories from her past, it’s her own damn blog and she has the right to do it. It’s cruel to mock her for it. I often find her honesty refreshing and moving, as I do with this post. You can disagree with her without calling her crazy. See my post earlier about grown women acting like they’re still in 6th grade mean girl cliques, you certainly seem to fit that mold.

    Also, Karol, if you want to know if you’re “getting fat” instead of relying on the honesty of your friends, why don’t you try a scale?

  53. Edward
    March 15, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    The website rightwingnews.com is trashing you and this article on the front page of their website. Just thought you might want to take a look. I am not a conservative, so don’t shoot the messenger.

  54. zuzu
    March 15, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Feh. Who gives a shit?

    They’re Rand-worshipping wingnuts, and Karol thinks they’re making some kind of exception from femaleness for her, so she runs to tell them how irrational and bitter feminists are.

    And then they talk about the size of my ass, and how ugly and bitter I must be, and the victimology of feminism, have a good laugh, and maybe some of them will wind up in our spam filter when they come over here to make sure I know that they think I’m fat, ugly and embittered. Oh, and probably can’t get a man.

  55. March 15, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Giving a person “assurance” that they aren’t fat more often than not simply validates the stigmatization of fat people. It validates the idea that fat is a state to fear and loathe. I don’t do that. If someone were to ask me if I thought they gained weight, I wouldn’t give them an answer at all. If they asked me if they look “fat” in something, I wouldn’t play into the subtext of the question.

    I do, though, think there are ways that “fat talk” can impact fat people. For one, while it doesn’t serve the same function as with smaller people, fat women among themselves often adopt the same patterns from my observations. Instead of serving to advertise insecurity, it is a way of demonstrating the one knows one’s supposed place. Its advertising the self-loathing expected of the genuinely fat. “Fat talk” is often imposed on fat people, too. I’ve often had people remark on presumed weight loss they think I have had. Naturally, it is always in the form of congratulations. I always make sure not to accept the congratulations and deflect any awareness of the situation. I don’t know if I’ve lost weight any more than I know if I’ve gained weight, and I don’t much care either way. Indeed, I quite resent being subjected to an assumpsion that I feel negatively towards my body.

  56. Vicki
    March 15, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    I was *gasp* honest with my chubby friend who started actively trying to lose weight during early college.

    Later she had lost a lot and we started complaining about our bodies on a visit a couple years later… we did the “fat talk” thing, but in a completely different way and she’s like “I still need to lose 30 pounds” and I say “cool”. And I say “I’d like to lose the 15 I’ve gained in college” and she’s like “cool”.
    But then we’re both really hip-heavy, I could weigh 115 and still have a big ass, so I guess bonding on a common “flaw” might be ok.

    I had a lot of really skinny friends (dancers) too though, and they were always like “Oh I’m so fat”. I was the same height and I weighed 10-15 pounds more the whole time, and I was like “give me a break”. I stopped complimenting and started saying “you know best”.

    That shut em up :)

  57. March 15, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Karol thinks they’re making some kind of exception from femaleness for her

    She’s one of the guys, see, while you’re just some cuckoo lady.

    I love how women like Karol also kid themselves that the guys don’t notice them being catty (and if running out of alarming news to post and resorting to calling you names isn’t catty, I don’t know what it is). But, Karol? Trust me. They notice you’re being catty, and every time you are, a little black tick mark goes right there on the line titled, “They’re Petty-Minded Backstabbers,” under column heading “Reasons Why Bitches Ain’t Shit.”

    But keep dreaming, and keep getting all bent out of shape over other people’s recollections of growing up. It just couldn’t have happened the way zuzu says it did; it just couldn’t have!

    That will really prove you’re one of the big boys, won’t it? Gonna get that Instalanche any minute now, yessir.

  58. Jeff R
    March 15, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    This is rather sad.

    One person in this whole thread makes a dissenting comment, and the rest of the posts do nothing but bash her. “Echo chamber” comes to mind.

    Not sure what her politics have to do with anything, unless you’re trying to imply that lefties are fat.

  59. March 15, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    I confess I’m one of those annoying females who never had to try very hard to live up to the most recent local Beauty Standard. Born at the right time I guess.

    Anyhoo, having gone through my childhood looking like the poster child for famine relief (I have Celiac disease), and having been called The Skinny Bitch for as long as I can remember at work, you’d better believe I have body image problems. Consequently I learned how to bash myself in front of other people so as not to come off as a woman with “threateningly high self esteem.” I hate my hair. I hate my zits. I hate this mole that nobody else sees. I hate my big toe. (whinge) Please don’t hate me because I’m skinny!!! (whinge) Please please please get to know me first and find a better reason to hate me?

    That went on for YEARS. Now that I’m over 40, eating more appropriately (no wheat) and old enough to have fat that flops over my brastrap I FINALLY feel like a member of the I-Hate-My-Fat sorority. I have fat issues too, see? Look here! No, closer! That one inch of poodge that drives me up a freaking WALL because I already exercise 4 times a week and WTF????

    Oh, freakin %^$#$#* I am so sorry. It didn’t even occur to me that my attempts to join the fat-bashing sisterhood would backfire. Now I’m certain the sisters REALLY want to slap this skinnybitch silly. For the record, every time I fussed over my fat I wasn’t looking for reassurance or fishing for compliments (I have a mirror at home); rather I was just trying to be a “joiner.” It never occurred to me that the heavier women around me were suffering the fat-bashing experience differently than the skinny women. I never thought “Oh, she’s a cow” in reference to the heavier women around me. I was so wrapped up in my own anxieties that I wasn’t thinking about them at all. It was all about ME ME ME ME.

    So, if I might project on the hapless SusieCupcake from a million years ago I rather doubt her motives were malicious. Still, what she did was hateworthy in that she was a narcissist. It’s not that she saw you as fat, it’s that (in a way) she didn’t see you at all.

  60. March 15, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    Whether clueless, malicious, or genuinely insecure, it is still a bizarre and often hurtful way to interact with other humans. Plus, participating in that kind of thing fosters a bizarre complicity in the damn patriarchy & what-all — it’s always kind of reminded me of that story about the bucket of lobsters or crawfish or whatever, all trying to pull each other back in.

    Hell, for all we know at this point, the girl’s body image was so distorted she thought she was in the same category of fatness as zuzu and thought she was expressing some kind of solidarity.

    I know that at 5’2″ and about 200 lbs I can look at myself in the mirror nowadays and smile, whereas at 114 lbs I would walk around an extra block to avoid a building with mirrored windows so as not to have to confront my hideous fatness. I have become my worst fear, and you know what? The planet is still spinning.

    Having said all that, though, I think it more likely that young Susie was seeking the kind of “at least I’m not as fat as you” reassurance that zuzu ascribes to her.

    This is a touchy issue for me too, lately. A woman I’ve known for almost 20 years has developed an unhealthy fear of fatness in the last four or five years and I can’t even talk to her about the subject any more. She asks me constantly how many calories/how much fat/how many carbs are in this or that (and of course I happen to know, having spent nearly half of my life on one diet or another) and is forever standing up and posing to display some imagined fat (she is extremely lean, to the point of being too skinny) and demanding that I agree that it is possible she has gained some weight.

    Her terror at the prospect is real, as is her disgust at what she sees.

    I’ve explained over and over to her that I can’t tolerate this, because all I am thinking is that if she sees herself as ugly, fat, and morally bad and lazy (and for her that’s a big piece of it), what in the hell must she think of me? I don’t feel merely criticized or subtly shamed, I feel downright accused.

    And I am so done with that shit.

  61. Aggie
    March 15, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    This whole conversion makes me very, very sad. I truly feel for the experiences of everyone who commented, no matter what side of the equation you’re on. It’s terrible that we have to exist every day in a culture where one of the most shocking, radical and hostility-provoking statements you can make is, “I’m happy with my body the way it is.”

    Up until recently, I’ve been extremely thin most of my life–due to a combination of an eating disorder and a rocket-fast metabolism–but when I hit my mid 30’s it all caught with me I put on about 30-35 pounds, and my body shape changed from straight and lanky to curvy and full. Even though I’m on the (high end) of my normal weight range, and actually feel much stronger and healthier, I railed against this change with exersize and tears severe calorie restriction until I finally realized I am damn sick and tired of being at war with my body. Short of developing full-blown anorexia, I am never going to weigh 120 pounds again. My body wasn’t healthy at that weight and I am much better off where I am now.

    I began NIA dance classes again recently and it’s been a very healing experience for me. When I dance, when I move, even if I don’t do it perfectly, I have these moments here and there where I feel truly powerful, truly strong and beautiful in my body. It’s helping me feel appreciative of my body for the first time in my life. It doesn’t matter if my stomach sticks out or my I think my arms look flabby, or I don’t like my thighs–I know that my body is inherently strong and powerful and graceful. This is helping me so much to finally, finally come to a place a peace about my body.

    I just wish I could hug all each and every one of you and tell you that you are all beautiful.

  62. March 16, 2007 at 12:41 am

    Aggie, I have the same issues. Skinny enough that I had friends offer to buy my 1000 calorie shakes because they thought I was unhealthily thin, even as they saw what I ate. Now I definitely have to think to maintain where I’m at. Hitting those mid-30s and having 2 kids really messes with the metabolism.

    But I just have to look at my younger sister to see how much of a role confidence plays in how people see you when you are overweight. She has always fallen into that category, but many men would describe her as beautiful, and she knows it. It gives her the confidence to not worry about the number. It’s a topic she and I have discussed quite frankly many times.

    For those who might be wondering, when we were younger and single, she was hit on by guys MUCH more than I was.

    I’m still getting used to my new size. It is definitely an adjustment, especially when people ask me if I’m going to lose the weight. I just tell them I don’t even own a scale. And of course there are the outfits I’d love to fit into again. But if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.

    And no, I’ve never asked anyone if I look fat. I’ve never been good at the usual girl talk.

  63. March 16, 2007 at 2:58 am

    Thinking further on it, there is someone I ask “Do I look fat” and it’s my husband. When we were first dating I used to ask him”Does this make me look fat,” all the time. And honestly, I was really asking if something I was wearing was flattering/unflattering. I wasn’t fishing for complements. It was kind of like having a human 3-way mirror.

    I stopped after once trying on a pair of jeans that didn’t quite fit me any more ad asking him, “Do these make me look fat,” and him sort of parroting “No, honey,” when it was obvious they were quite unflattering. I told him, you know, I’m actually asking “How does this look,” and it’s okay if he tells me it looks horrible, I’m not going to cry about it. So he said that I should just say “Does this look funny,” instead of such a cliche girlfriend loaded question like that.

    It was kind of a breakthrough moment in our relationship. although I was lighter at the time I was still decidedly plus-sized, and had obviously internalized the fat = bad idea that I was saying “fat” and meaning “ugly” without really realizing it. (Also, I think men are kind of programmed to think of women as delicate flowers who need constant compliments and can’t take criticism. One time I had goop in my teeth all day and he didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to hurt my feelings…come on, if I have goop in my teeth you can tell me!)

    Now that we’ve been together so long I not only ask him if something looks okay, but it if smells funny or if he thinks the stain can be scraped off with a pot scrubbie or if I should just cave and do laundry.

    Also I tweeze my lip hairs in front of him, but that’s probably TMI.

  64. March 16, 2007 at 6:40 am

    Because while they could assure each other that they weren’t fat, and I could assure them that they were not fat, I could receive no such assurance.

    And they knew that. And they knew I knew that.

    Word, Zuzu.

    It’s terrible that we have to exist every day in a culture where one of the most shocking, radical and hostility-provoking statements you can make is, “I’m happy with my body the way it is.”

    Aggie – it really is incredible. Whenever I read the stats about how many people say they hate their bodies, I am horrified, even though I’d count myself as one of them. Just try saying “I hate my mind” or “I hate my personality” to yourself – it sounds ridiculous, and rightly so. And yet, like so many people, I regularly think to myself “I hate my body” without even recognising that it’s at all weird to think like this about a fundamental part of myself.

  65. tzs
    March 16, 2007 at 9:04 am

    (Oh god, yes. Dancers can be incredibly neurotic about their bodies–one of the reasons I didn’t go on to become a professional was I couldn’t stand the tight circle of conversation topics: their style, other dancers’ style, and weight.)

    In a lot of cases, we can probably tell whether the individual in question is actually asking honestly or is just fishing for compliments. Asking honestly: answer honestly. Fishing? Depending on how mean I’m feeling, I’ll give some polite answer or ask point-blank out: are you fishing for compliments and if so, what would you like to hear?

  66. zuzu
    March 16, 2007 at 9:10 am

    It’s terrible that we have to exist every day in a culture where one of the most shocking, radical and hostility-provoking statements you can make is, “I’m happy with my body the way it is.”

    Remember when I asked people to come up with five things they liked unreservedly about themselves, and how difficult that was, even with the compliments not limited to physical ones?

  67. March 16, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    heh, this thread reminded me of a conversation I had the other day with a guy I know. We were talking about clothes and finding stuff that fits right and how good fit is such a big part of stuff looking good, and I said I have a big ass. He was all, it looks fine, and was seemed pleasantly startled when my response was, “Hell yes it does!*”

    It’s odd for me, because I’m kind of in-between – most people think I’m tiny on first glance, because I’m 5 feet tall and not dramatically overweight. “You’re so little! How are you a size 12? I didn’t think they made size 32 bras in F!” (and they rarely do, but that’s a different rant.) Hey, I’m not small, I’m just short.

    * I did thank him, though.

  68. March 16, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    I actually caught myself doing just what you’re describing recently, and I don’t even have the being-a-stupid-teenager excuse since I’m 33. Some kid called me fat (um, yeah, I’m a size 8, in what alternate universe is that fat?) and for whatever reason I took it to heart. So I bitched about it. Endlessly. It happened that I was complaining to a particular friend since she was with me that day (when we met the aformentioned kid). It so happens that this friend is on the larger side (sz 24) .She finally did give me the “no, you’re not fat” speech, and you know what? It finally clicked. How much it hurt her to be having that conversation, how helpless it was making her feel, and how selfish I was being to put her in that position just because I was having a bad day. I realised that I was fishing for compliments – not from her specifically because she’s bigger, just because she met the same obnoxious little brat I did, but still…it was unforgiveably insensitive of me not to stop and think about how that conversation would feel from her perspecitve. I’m lucky she’s still talking to me at all.
    Not everyone who directs those comments at a larger person is necessarily doing it because the person is larger, sometimes they’re just being clueless and insensitive. For me that moment was the first time I understood what the term “thin privilege” means.

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