Here at the Aunty Christ blog, PRIORITY IS JOB ONE!
You like that, huh? How about:
TRYING HARD. IT’S WHAT WE DO.
Crap. I don’t know. I’m thinking I should incorporate this shit, right? Rich Bachelor is always going on about how he wants someone to just go ahead and publish his writing. I’m not so artistic-minded; I just want a business card and some lousy tax cuts. What will Aunty Christ, Inc., do? I dunno. Same thing the others do, I guess. Read into that what you will. The complaint line is down for the moment. There was a typhoon in Karnataka or something.
So what were we talking about anyway? That’s right: Whining. I watched the first hour last night of the new season of “America’s Next Top Model” and learned that women 5 feet 7 inches tall and shorter have lived under the harsh yoke of oppression in this country long enough, due to their not being able to become models. Thank the good lord Tyra Banks has taken it upon herself to free said shorties from such oppression. I say hallelujah! I mean, I require a lot of identity-pain viewing, and there’s only so much fat pain the contestants on “More to Love” can vomit all over the confessional booth: They never went to prom, or had a date, or their dates were always embarrassed of them, or they feel uncomfortable in a bathing suit. They would like the viewing audience to know that unlike every other person on the planet, they’ve felt pain, goddammit.
And now, we learn, so has this group of women who are both really, really gorgeous and fairly average in stature, at about five and a half feet. They’ve always wanted to be models and they’ve never been able to be models! Unlike everyone else on the planet, who get to be models all the time! It’s so unfair!
It seems to me that as the tent of oppressed peoples becomes ever more expansive, the easier it gets to (a) overlook the fact that some oppression is actually more damaging than others, and (b) confuse the issue. As to point (a), it’s kind of unfashionable to say, but I’ll say it: Some oppression really is worse than others. (Ergo, some girls’ mothers’ oppression is worse than other girls’ mothers’ oppression.) It’s clearly nothing but awful that petite women’s dreams of modeling can never be fulfilled, but when weighed even against the pain of the “More to Love” girls, it seems pretty weak.
So we move on to the really bewildering question: Why? Why do we feel the need to identify—and compete—with the oppressed and the beaten-down? If there’s a prize for who’s been hurt the most, it comes only in the form of having the conversation stop being about those other guys and their pain and start being about us and our pain. I get it. Somewhat. Someone’s going on and on about how difficult it is to be a Muslim in
Of course the other thing we get by complaining, besides a voice in the complaint soup that is our national dialog, is pity. And who doesn’t want pity? Crap, I want pity. Until I get it, I mean. Then I’m all, “Why don’t you keep your pity to yourself, Mister Man. I don’t need your pity! I’m just complaining about how awful everything is.” My theory? With pity comes embarrassment. All you wanted is to be heard and to be counted, and you were counted all right. You were counted as a loser. An oppressed. An other. But you never wanted to be one of those. You just wanted to say something and have other people care for a minute.
But it’s hardly a new thing, all Americans trying to prove that they’re the poorest little baby, so why bring it up now, Aunty? First of all, let me just say that I’m so sick of whining. Me! Everywhere I look, I see another reason to feel sorry for myself. And pointing my finger at everyone else for how badly they’re acting is my way of deflecting my own guilt. But I’ve also been chewing over this blog post and comment thread over at Shapely Prose, and let me say first of all that I totally get it that a fat lady (such as myself) has enough in life to deal with, and doesn’t necessarily need the added stress of having to convince people that she is, indeed, fat.
We’re talking about the “Oh no, you’re not fat” syndrome. Which the Shapely Prose contingent seems to blame exclusively on society’s inability to parse the fat = disgusting/sloppy/smelly equation that the media constantly feed us.
Having been one of those naysayers several million times in my life, however, I can say that there are a lot of things going on here. Such as:
1. I’ve been an American woman all the years of my long, long life, and as such I have had many opportunities to comment or not comment on many women’s weights. It’s not like I haven’t thought about this. Women—stick-thin and not—have been sidling up to me since I could speak, almost, saying, “God, I’m so fat!” And most of the time the correct-est answer to this plaint is, “Oh, no you’re not!”
Because no answer is actually correct.
2. But the question remains, why am I even being given the opportunity to say “You’re not fat”? Sure, every once in a while a person is going to say something like, “I don’t feel like going to the Gap with you, because they don’t carry my size,” and then the other person will say, “What are you talking about? You’re not fat!”
But probably 98% of the conversations that contain the words “You’re not fat” stem from someone saying, “I’m fat.” Which is—although it needn’t be—a complaint 98% of the time. And when you complain, the listener generally feels compelled to offer a suggestion or make the problem go away somehow. Which is why we end up with would-be well-wishers saying things like, “Oh, I’m sure your car wasn’t towed,” which is what I actually said to Rich tonight, even though I had no idea where he had parked, or what the parking rules were in the area where he had parked, or, you know, anything. I wished that he wouldn’t worry about getting towed, since his worry wouldn’t solve the problem. And I was hoping that he hadn’t been towed.
This isn’t an exact comparison, but when I’ve said “You’re not fat” to people who have expressed to me that they are so fat, what I’ve meant is more, “I hope you’re not beating yourself up about your weight, because I care about you.” Or something like that.
3. Other things that I might mean are:
“You’re not fat.” As previously alluded to, even the tiniest birdlike creature will occasionally call herself fat within the earshot of a larger person such as myself. Clearly, the desired response is “You’re not fat,” but what else can you say? (Glaring meanly works too, depending on your goals.)
“You don’t look fat to me.” I don’t know how much my friends weigh, and I can’t do a BMI calculation in my head.
“I don’t know you well enough to discuss this with you, or to know what you want from me.” Going back to point one, denial is the tried and true response.
“You may actually be technically overweight, but using a rough estimate of the average fatness of people I see everyday, I would guess that you’re no fatter than most people.”
You know, it’s possible I’m setting myself up as one of a special class of oppressed people whose oppression consists of being annoyed by the complaints of other oppressed people. But damn, if I had it my way? People might actually listen when other people’s complaints are valid, instead of only opening their own yaps to complain how they too have kind of been mistreated. Or maybe they’d try to understand, even in a limited way, other people’s responses to their complaints, which may be valid or not, welcome or not, endlessly repeated or not, instead of leaping to the conclusion that the world is set up in a way that justifies their insecurities.
Not that that will cure all that’s wrong with society, of course. Oh, not by a long shot.