Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Responding to "Do you believe in the big girl code?" at Manolo for the Big Girl

Miss Plumcake wrote:
Do you expect a level of solidarity from fellow big girls? ... I’ve come to realize I expect a little something extra in the way of friendliness or conversation when a fellow fatty crosses my path. On one hand I sort of know that’s unreasonable. I don’t expect a thing from my fellow tall or pale girls. On the other, I do slightly expect –and receive– the silent shoe-check of appreciation from other divinely-shod members of society. I’m always a bit chummier with a big girl, as if we’re both members of some sorority, Alpha Gamma Thigh Chafe or something  
 My response:

Just like you, I totally believe in the big girl code. I sometimes get it with tall people, and have shared many a bonding moment over the inevitable jokes about the weather and requests for reaching etc. I have moments with fellow pale skinned people, bemoaning the lack of suitable cosmetics etc. (yes, I know that people with darker skin have had (and possibly continue to have) a frustrating experience at the cosmetics counter, but being tall and pale are different to being fat. As idiotic and unjust as it is, those two attributes have been considered by many societies as positive attributes. Being fat- especially on the larger end of the scale (pardon the pun)- is different because it so often has negative connotations. So, I frequently expect solidarity, sympathy and understanding from fellow fatties, but get confused when it doesn’t manifest. I wonder if it is because so many of our fellow fatties are still entrenched in the culture of dieting, fat hate, fat shame, self loathing? When I see a fellow fat girl in the plus size section, I see a potential friend who understands my experiences, who I could go shopping with etc. But maybe she sees me as a very real reminder that she is in the plus size section, and maybe that makes her unhappy. Maybe she isn’t in the same place as I am in terms of accepting and embracing my body and my size. Maybe she is looking for clothing to cover up her body, rather than to celebrate it. Maybe when she sees me, she sees herself reflected back, and is not yet in a place to even begin liking what she sees.I think this because I know it took me a long time to even identify as fat. I always thought of myself as a thin girl in a fat body, that one day I would be thin (& rich, & fashionable etc). I didn’t want to identify with fat people, because I wasn’t like “them” – I was different, I was going to lose weight, blah blah blah. It wasn’t until I engaged in the radical practise of self acceptance that I could begin to identify with other fat people. I have to accept the sad fact that although I want to live the big girl code, some people aren’t ready to accept that they are big. And you just can’t tell. That girl in the dressing room I complimented on her dress? She was happy and confident not because she loved herself the way she was, but as she told me, she lost 20lbs, and “you can do it too!”I’m beginning to think I can only live the big girl code with fat people who are accepting and embracing themselves, but then how to find them? It’s easy on the internet, but real life is different. In my experience, asking someone if they know about/engage in fat acceptance, fatshion etc., risks (a) offending them (b) them laughing at you or (c) being offered diet tips and/or being told that “you have such a pretty face! don’t give up!” Finding an ‘out’ fattie to befriend IRL is difficult in my experience – probably due to the culture of the place I live.One thing is springing to mind as I write this – when my younger brother came out as a teenager, and was accepted by friends and family, he suddenly became ‘super gay’ – his phrasing. He felt that he had to show the world that he was ‘gay and ok’ – his phrasing again. He became much more camp, wore more flamboyant clothing, even his voice became louder. It was just a phase, and he says it came down to the contrast between hiding his true self before he came out, and finding his true self afterwards.I wonder if big girls need to have a similar phase: something that announces to the world that we are just fine with being big, a signal to other self accepting big girls. We can’t rely on body size alone to mark whether we identify with each other. Intellectually I know this, but I still get disappointed when fellow fat girls don’t meet my eye in the plus size section, or when I don’t receive back the solidarity I try to convey to other people my size. 

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