I’m writing this because of a comment I received on the Shopping post from a fellow named Perturbed. (I assume it’s a fellow based on diction and an email address you can’t see.)
I’m concerned by your post and the comments – just because it has become common to be fat in this country does not make it “normal.” If you compare our population with that of the rest of the world, where most people still eat healthfully, you would find that our sizes are aberrant. No, not more than a handful of people are capable of looking like models or actresses. But yes, if your waist is not fitting into any standard sizes, it is pretty safe to say that it “should be” smaller; designers that pander to obesity do not do anyone any favors.
In the comment thread, I went just a tiny bit off, and I felt kind of bad — Perturbed seems more clueless than malicious, and I didn’t explain myself all that well. I think maybe it’s because when someone starts in on whether people should be fat or not, I automatically commence the world’s most elaborate eye roll sequence. It is the boringest thing in the world.
Why is it boring? Because so many boring people talk about it so much! And I don’t want to have to repeat myself in comments for the rest of the life of this blog. So I’m afraid, Perturbed, that I’m going to have to fully and completely answer your comment now, so I can refer future queries to the link and stay focused on more interesting matters. (Folks who don’t want to get wet, move back a couple rows.)
Dude. (May I call you Dude?) You almost sound like I’m saying obesity is awesome and everyone should aspire to it. But that is not what any of this is about. What I am trying to do is help people be as objective and non-neurotic about their bodies as they can, to appreciate them for what they can do, and to stop throwing their energy down the body image black hole. No matter what size or shape they are — this kind of craziness is not confined to fat chicks!
I’m not going to go through all the ways in which your comment read so dickishly.
(Even though you kind of told me I shouldn’t wear clothes until I lose weight? Or something? I’m confused!)
However, because I think it might be fun for everyone, I will take this opportunity to educate you on the word “should.”
“Should” may very well be the most impotent word in the English language, because, although people use the word for all kinds of situations, the only “should” you can enact is one that is directly in your control. Like, inside the confines of your brain or in your house or on your website or something.
For instance, feel free to announce, “My kitchen should be green!” or “I should post on my blog!” and then make your shoulds into reality. Go for it, Dude, and mazel tov!
But if you say that teenagers shouldn’t have sex, or the US shouldn’t be in Afghanistan, or people shouldn’t be fat, you may as well go stick your head in the oven right now, because — guess what! It’s too late! All those things are already happening! AAAH! Why don’t you sit there going “This shouldn’t be happening!” because I bet that would be really helpful!!!
Ironically, this is the same message that I am trying to get across in my book, in an attempt to help people be less crazy: Reality is what it is, and having a cow about it doesn’t change a damn thing. Your body is what it is right now, and so is mine, and so is everyone else’s! And goddammit, we all need clothes!
Why is it just regular old makin’ clothes when the wearer is skinny, but “pandering to the obese” if the wearer is me? I don’t need any designers to do me any favors, I am just looking for businesses to make things I want and take my money (aka capitalism). This is the part of your comment that makes you sound like the biggest jagoff, so I will not linger lest I am tempted to unleash the fury of a thousand hungry hippos in response.
Let me just say this: dwelling on your strong opinions about the way other people live their lives will make you FUCKING CRAZY. I am not even kidding, Perturbed. You should listen to me on this. There is nothing good for you there. Only monsters. Just let it go and focus on yourself.
This is exactly why I decided to write about what’s happening inside each one of our individual heads. Because societal problems aren’t fixed by someone saying “should” and pointing a finger. They’re fixed when people learn new information, change their minds, and come together to think and relate in new ways. And then the old problems are resolved, and new ones arise in their place. That is how change happens. And it is a beautiful thing.
So. I think that if we as individuals can calm down a little bit about the whole thing … if we can turn the volume down on our jerkbrains and gain a little peace and a little capacity for objectivity … if we can learn to be kind and encouraging and persistent instead of harsh and judgey and whiny … then we at least have a chance at figuring out how to be healthy and strong and sane, as people and as a society.
Learning, paying attention, getting saner and saner by the day: THESE are reasonable things to say “should” about — things that take place inside your own heart and mind and body. Things that you’re in charge of. Not my waist, nor anyone’s anything else. Because not only is that disrespectful as hell … it is also totally batshit.
Let it go, P. Let the fat people go out of your brain. Be less crazy.