In a comment on Rachel’s post about experiences with mental health providers, I mentioned my therapist’s main practice is in evaluating candidates for weight loss surgery. I didn’t know that when I found him – a good thing, since this was pre-fatosphere for me, and I probably would have wanted to ask him about it, and then he probably would have told me to do it, and then ick – but he’s a good guy, the best therapist I’ve ever had, and my weight has never come up.
Until last week, I’d never chatted with anyone in the waiting room. I keep my eyes down, read a book, smile when the door opens but never start a conversation. Last Thursday, though, a middle aged woman dropped her keys and laughed and made a joke about how clumsy she was. I smiled and said “me, too” and she took that as an invitation. After a bit of small talk, she asked “Are you having the surgery soon?” I blinked. Paused. And just said “Oh, no.” “I am,” she said. “Next month.”
Her question threw me for a loop. This woman was nowhere near big enough (I would have thought) for weight loss surgery. I’m terrible at estimating things (truly, I can’t tell the difference between a three-year-old and a seven-year-old), but I’d guess that she was a size 14 at most. She was a bit older than middle-aged and a bit saggy in the places that older ladies (and me!) are saggy, but not at all out of the ordinary. I’m not surprised that she wants the surgery – she was far enough from the cultural ideal that she must feel a lot of the societal pressure we fatties feel with regards to our bodies. I am surprised, though, that her medical team – including my therapist! – are on board with her decision
More than that, I was offended by her question. In part, I was offended because I wanted to respond with some fat acceptance bloviation (“No, I would NEVER dare do something so harmful to my body just for the sake of social acceptability. I am SO MUCH STRONGER than you. But good luck with your little surgery.”).
But to be honest (and this part is hard to admit) I was put off by her question because I want to draw a bright line between me and “those people” who are fat enough for surgery. (Never mind that this woman was smaller than me and was in line for the surgery.) Sure, I’m fat, I wear a 22/24 dress, I weigh around 300 pounds, but I think of myself as basically “normal”, while the people who sign up for weight-loss surgery are huge, behemoth, definitely “abnormal.” Hearing from a stranger that she sees me as someone who needs surgery? It hurt. It exposed the ugly thoughts I’m harboring about other fat people, then turned them around and lobbed them at me.
I have come a long way on fat acceptance since I started reading Shapely Prose last year, but experiences like these show me how much farther I have to go.