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March 8, 1999 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Well, I thought she looked lovely. Hair a bit helmety, but otherwise: perfect eyebrows, porcelain skin, and what was that splendid lipstick? Healthy. Radiant. Bright, guileless eyes. "Sensual?" Indeed (though I'd quibble with "thong" as "subtle" or "dance"). All of us who gathered in the Studio Apartment of Justice to watch -- the cast/crew/Brooklyn Lager supply of Breakup Girl LIVE -- found her beautiful. I'd go so far as to say that Paul the Intern has an itty bitty crush.

Not that any of this matters.

Well actually, it does.

See, if you also watched Politically Incorrect, you also heard: fat jokes. Hardy har. On one level, to be expected; on another: striking. As my big beautiful buddy Wendy Shanker noted, "Isn't it amazing that the most powerful man in the world picked an 'overweight' lust object, and that still doesn't sweeten the deal for the large-and-passionate?"

It's time to talk about


Talk, yes. Answer lots of questions definitively, no. Because there are as many mixed messages out there about this issue as there are pills and programs and Camryn Manheims and "Feed Kate Moss" T-shirts. And we -- not only The Man -- are sending and giving them.

You guys already know the deal about Society. I could go on and on about how it is bad and mean and wrong to disparage fat people about and how a new study confirms what many of us already know and live every day: that nearly half of girls surveyed report wanting to lose weight because of a magazine picture. About how Chris Farley could never have been Dennis Miller. About how, yeah, the geek may get the girl, but never the fat guy. About how "the thin one" died.

But in this context, that would be Reiterating Ophelia. Because how many of us say "Eeeuw, how can Calista do that to herself!?" while thinking, "...and how can I do that to myself?" How many of us say "I love me the way I am!" while thinking, "And I'd love me more if there were less!" How many of us like fat Oprah because she failed at being thin? How many of us have friends of all sizes yet put weight maximums in our personal ads? And is that sincere preference, or programming? And even if it's the latter, so sue us, what are we supposed to do? How many of us are writing advice columns that get all righteous about size-stupidity while eating stromboli with sausage and broccoli rabe and being aware of some "extra" in the tummy area and thinking, "No more carbs today, Breakup Trainer tomorrow" -- ?

Complicated, huh?

I asked Wendy, who has written brilliantly about size -- and many other issues -- for magazines such as Bust and Mode and Hues, to share some thoughts.

  • Fear of fat. I have yet to figure out what it is about fat that's so scary to other people. I think that most people fear that if you love a fat person, or touch a fat person, that somehow fat will be contagious, that you will just blow up. I think people think getting fat is about letting go, letting down discipline and reason and just physically taking on craziness in your body. What doesn't make sense about it is that we live in a society that celebrates abandon -- rock and roll, party, do drugs, have great wild sex in staircases and cars and tell everyone you know about it. We want excess money and sex and power but not excess body. People also say fat represents laziness, like you don't even make the effort to keep your body under control. But I've never heard anyone say, 'Well, I really like this guy, but he's so lazy...he never does his homework.' There is this angle of choice and blame when it comes to weight that doesn't fit in with other physical stuff, like acne or missing limbs or crazy height. Like somehow it's your fault, you chose this path, and you deserve to suffer the consequences. I think it's a lot more complicated than that."
  • Fat by association. "Another element about fat is what other people will think of you if you love a fat person. That will make you a loser, and you can't have that. That's why the jerk in high school always dates a skinny girl, and will always date a skinny girl. He can't like a sort of overweight girl, because what will the dudes say to him in the locker room?"
  • The "good" kind of fat. "Some experts see a consistent personality type that matches a body type. For example, you don't meet a lot of warm, empathetic anorexics. Somehow the boniness, the gauntess extends to personality. In the same way, you know that slightly heavy girl who was friends with everyone in high school. Popular, friendly, but never the prom queen. Fat people (while not necessarily jolly) do -- for better or for worse -- tend to fill in between people, to spread the love in the same way that you spread the flesh. So here are all the nice, kind, gentle, fat girls and boys, who grow into nice, kind, gentle fat men and women, hoping to luck into love the same way everyone else seems to.
  • Wearing thin. "The other night I heard a comedian whom I like do a fat joke. I go up to this guy after the show, we chit chat for a sec, and I say, "Hey, the joke about asking out the fat girl." I'm like, "you can do better. You're funny enough that you don't have to do fat jokes to get a laugh. I know you're smarter than that." He sort of looks embarrassed and says "Okay." That's it, we say goodbye. Now, he may well do the joke again, but he will never do it without thinking of me first. And I felt great. It was like, 'What's some guy gonna do, call me fat? I am fat. So freaking what. I'm in charge of it.'"
  • Weight and see. "I do think there's something to the dream of the man or woman who is able to see past it all. I mean, that person is few and far between, but the fantasy is that some fabulous wo/man comes up to you and says, 'You know, I can see that you've put on this layer between yourself and the world, and I can get past it. I think you're beautiful and smart and funny and all that...I can totally get into your mind and your body, and you can't scare me away." And then you would say, 'Okay, great, I've found him/her, and we're good to go. ' Now, this scenario isn't all that different from anyone else's, who hopes their dreammate can see beyond all their neuroses and family trouble and horrible past and find the 'real' them. Not that 'fat' is 'troubled.,' or 'a disease.' But still.. The difference is the fat man or woman, as far as anyone is concerned, iswearing his or her issues. Look, there's plenty of alcoholics out there getting married, know what I mean?"
  • And be seen. "My point it that the physically way imperfect among us appear to be damaged goods -- and yet we are not. I know I'm the shiznit of the biznit. We just have to get past our own BS to look at someone else and see them as we wish to be seen."
  • Survival of the...? "Now there is a whole theory about the biology of beauty, and that mammals need to perpetuate the best of the race, and that's why we like small chins and big boobs and clean skin and all that. I think it's partly true. but I also think we're nutty little kids in our own worlds, lonely and looking for love, and telling Darwin to go to hell."
  • Big beds. "I think we need to see images of fat people who have normal sex lives in pop culture. That will help, it will make all of us less defensive. The minute Brad Pitt does a romantic comedy with Camryn Manheim, the world will be a much better place. The apocalypse will also start."

[BG ALERT: If weight has become an issue in your marriage, please email BG at bg@breakupgirl.net; you may be able to help her with a research project, and she, in turn, may be able to help you.]

So let's start your letters:



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