No Fatties: The Ethic of Funny

People urge me to try stand-up comedy. A natural, they call me. A funny girl.
And, hey, they’re right.
What, it’s wrong I should know I’m funny? I shouldn’t acknowledge it? Right, like I’ve spent my life cracking jokes so I can play the fool now.
Jokes are hard. Funny is tough. Humour’s a fine line.

I pride myself on a having higher funny “ethic” than I think most people ever will. There are things I won’t touch: I don’t insult people for their size or weight, or for their colour or abilities.
Your job, clothes, where you live, how you act, what you do with your time — those are all choices, and I feel absolutely fine about ripping them apart and going to town on ’em for jokes. It’s commentary on who we’re opting to be as a society. Get on the bus in thigh-high rubber fuck-me boots and a LaToya Jackson studded-special leather jacket? Sure, yeah, I’ll use it for humour. Your choice.
But I don’t hurt people with nasty public jabs made about a weight problem, or vision issues, or a goiter, or anything like that.
You think people wouldn’t change those things about them if they could? You think they’re not aware of how outside the norm they might be?
Somehow “fat” is different from all the other discrimination out there, because people “choose” to be fat. That’s another argument for another time, considering the modern food industry, media, how government’s been bought and sold, and more — so I’m not going there.
This whole posting sprang up because I got all pissed off about some remarks a young guy was making about “fatties” on Twitter today, mocking overweight girls trying to glam it up for a profile shot — saying how they’re just getting fatter and fatter, and he wants to puke.
Who the fuck does he think he is? He’s perfect? Does he KNOW what it’s like to be 300 pounds and feel like losing weight is the hardest thing in the world? Um, no.
Know who does? I do. I know what it’s like. I’ve weighed that. Note the past-tense.
I’ve hauled my 275-pound body up a 30-floor highrise’s stairs and back down again, I’ve cycled 70km in a day, lived through the hellish pain that comes from waking up a body that’s long been hibernating. I know.
I know the looks a girl gets when she’s pushing 300 pounds and has the audacity to enter a gym — the skepticism, the obvious wondering about how long she’s gonna last.
Fat people are NOT encouraged to change. When they try, they’re largely scorned and mocked just for even attempting that. Trust me, I know.
It took watching my father almost die from diabetes to wake me up; I didn’t want to die like THAT. And it was the hardest road I’ve ever travelled.
Mocking fat people clearly hasn’t been working. Look at our world.
Insulting the disabled removes them from our world, while denying us the possibility of another Ray Charles or Stephen Hawking because of shame felt from having to endure the mockery that comes from a large portion of the public.
Making a non-specific insult about a body-type or disability or skin-colour doesn’t have to have an intended recipient — without one, you’ve broadly painted everyone. They’ve all been struck by the ignorance of that comment.
Have YOU ever been that person behind the computer screen when an insensitive generalized remark is made, and you react with “is he talking about me?” because it could totally be about you?
Passive-aggressive hate is everywhere on the internet. Its passivity should in no way suggest it is impotent. It rises up and harms many.
My tweet about it said it best: Being mean isn’t cool. It’s never been cool. And if you make it funny, it’s still not cool. Grow up. High school’s over.
We’re an unhappy society. What’s causing it? Is it the ever-present derision and commentary about each other that sets us constantly on edge? People are less secure than ever, and some are striking out at others as a result. Suddenly, it’s no longer a grown-up world, but a return to all I loathed about being in grade 10.
Seriously, what’s going on?
When I hear waif friends panicking about calories, “oh, god, I’m getting fat!” and they’re a size four, I wonder where the fuck we all went wrong.
Maybe some people still haven’t gotten over their elementary-school mocking and want to take it out on everyone else. I don’t know.
What I do know is, in an age where we have greater glimpses into other people’s lives than ever before — their pains, their sorrows, their struggles — I find that we’re getting crueler, more ignorant, and more insensitive when we’re supposedly civilized.
I often wonder if it’s the culture of the celebrity-gossip blog that’s killing kindness in society.
Instead of pettiness being confined to blogs about celebrities, we’re now visiting it on everyone.
The thing about this whole thing that’s most odd, this little fight with this ignorant kid, is I might consider myself somewhat overweight, but I know I’ve changed a LOT about myself — I’ve lost more weight in the last couple years than most people could even fathom. I KNOW what it takes to lose 3 pounds in a week, I know what kind of hardcore activity is required week-in, week-out. I could probably kick your ass.
There’s a reason most people fail in trying to not be “fat.”
It’s not a two-month course-correction — it’s trying to change for the rest of your life what it took you a lifetime to become. There are years of up-and-downs as you learn about yourself before you one day figure out what it takes for YOU to have success. There are medications and environments that can artificially influence weight. It’s not a black-and-white thing.
And there is no addiction in the world more difficult to overcome than food: We are faced with making choices about it three times a day, at least. Every holiday revolves around it. Every social outing is based upon it.
Overcoming weight issues and other addictions is a massive challenge.
It’s NOT society’s job to fix anyone’s life. It’s on EACH PERSON to improve themselves, and using excuses why you won’t change just doesn’t cut it — because some of us find the strength to change even in the face of our largest adversities.
I don’t accept that being unhealthily fat is a lifetime sentence. I believe every unhealthy overweight person* can change their life and improve their health — because I could, even after a decade of injuries.
And I think we can be better people.
We can be a kinder society.
We can accept that words and actions hurt others.
We can try to understand how it might feel on the other side.
I don’t WANT a world where everyone’s NICE all the time. Do I strike you as a sunshine-and-roses kind of girl?
I just want a world where people are treated with a little respect.
I didn’t need the world to give me a hug and tell me everything was gonna be all right when I was super-fat. But I sure as hell needed less skepticism when I finally had the courage to go to the gym and try to change my life. I needed people to understand and support me when I started on my path of change, rather than presupposing I was just going to be another failing fatty who would give up on everything.
I may have ate the food, but EVERYONE in life around me helped perpetuate my mammoth size that by saying all the things that made me insecure and hurting in the first place — which drove ME to my security blanket of food. Yes, I still take the blame, but at least I understand the reasons, too.
Too bad I didn’t have an emotional dependency on cocaine — at least then I might’ve been a hottie and socially-accepted in my svelte size four. After all, nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels, says Little Miss Kate Moss, who might be confusing how skinny feels with the high she’s riding from her cocaine addiction that fuels her size-zero money-maker.
We’re ALL fucked up.
Don’t try to pretend you’re not. YOU know it. I know it. We ALL have things we’d rather not have come to light at a party.
People with obvious physical issues can’t hide theirs, though, so they don’t get off easily. Instead, they’re publicly hurt.
That’s my problem.
That it’s somehow been deemed acceptable behaviour in today’s world?
That’s our problem.
* “Skinny-fat” is the new phrase out there — people who look healthy ‘cos they’re skinny but their numbers are off the chart, all because they luckily have a quick metabolism so they can hide their true health. There ARE overweight people who are healthy, I’m definitely one — since I can climb/descend 30 floors in a high-rise after cycling 15 kilometres and get my 6 cups of veggies a day — but society still isn’t talking about how health is about internal numbers, not outward appearances. Stop judging on looks or abilities.

16 thoughts on “No Fatties: The Ethic of Funny

  1. Julie

    Thank you for this post. It hits home for me and many others I’m sure. Your journey is truly one that inspires all of us struggling with losing pounds.
    .-= Julie´s last blog .. =-.

  2. Diamond Minx

    I was rehearsing with a lady who is a model last night – she is a size zero, and hates her thighs because they are a size 1. *sigh*

  3. Rebecca

    Awesome post Steff. You rock with reason, and it’s so encouraging. I’m another one of those healthy but heavy girls, and I also know what it takes to lose the weight – a lot of HARD work. Our bodies are amazing at all shapes and sizes, and it takes so much effort and momentum to put a change into motion. But it CAN be done and sustained, and there’s nothing worse than people around you who either deride you or in my own personal experience, ignore how large you’re getting and don’t warn you or have a concerned conversation. In any case, it feels damn good to be at the gym and have other girls come up to me and tell me how hard I hit it when I’m there, and I can tell them that just four months ago, I couldn’t even make it 15 minutes on the elliptical at level 1. Now I can do 50 minutes on level 5, plus weight training. Push ups? Hell yeah. Thanks again Steff!
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Back to life… back to reality =-.

  4. CW Cheeks

    I am so tired of reading and hearing hateful comments about fat. To me, it feels like one of the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination. Yet, as I write that, after reading all the feedback on various other Social Media tools, it would appear not everyone thinks it’s socially acceptable. So why is it that this form of discrimination still exists? Because people laugh? It really is time we learn to be kinder to each other. We can’t effect change via cruelty. It’s one thing to feel concern for someone’s health, it’s entirely another to tell them they’re gross, disgusting and vomit-inducing. Thanks for writing this, Steff.

  5. ariane c

    Ironically enough, when I was at my thinnest was when I was also at my most self-loathing. “Oh come on, I can drop another 2 lbs.” – For months I was really fit and enjoying the energy and clothing purchases derived from having lot a good amount of weight. However, each and every meal was indeed scrutinized (only by me). Being fanatic did help my cause, and I did keep my figure for years, but I do remember a happy time when a couple of glasses of wine with a meal AND dessert weren’t the end of the world: it only meant that staying thin wasn’t going to work for me.
    I suspect that keeping active and moderating everything should keep the “skinny-fat” syndrome at bay.
    I have a couple of friends who are really heavy but don’t seem to be bothered by it, until they are out with me clothes shopping. Then again, watching how often and what they eat during the day does send warning signals to my brain: don’t eat *that* much, or you will look like *that*.
    The never-ending battle…oi.

  6. carolbrownec

    I read this part:
    I often wonder if it’s the culture of the celebrity-gossip blog that’s killing kindness in society.
    Instead of pettiness being confined to blogs about celebrities, we’re now visiting it on everyone.

    and have to agree. I stopped reading all the celebrity blogs about a year ago. I used to read all of them and realized it was just meanness. I know all about the weight thing, too.
    Thanks for writing this, smutty steff.

  7. Catherine Winters

    Thanks for writing this, Steff! I saw that asshole’s tweets earlier and they made me pretty sad. What a jerk.
    Speaking as someone whose “skinny-fatness” almost crippled me, I’m glad you emphasized health versus appearance. It says so much about our society that we let people get away with really only caring about the latter, while claiming it’s okay to put down “larger” men and women on the basis that they’re only concerned for their health.
    Yeah. Right.
    I mean, it took tests and specialists to even determine that I had joint problems because I was in terrible shape, because it simply never occurred to my doctor that I might not be healthy, given my appearance. Worse, at my peak weight, my BMI was juuuust in the “healthy” range, which demonstrates how useful that number is. At 6’3″, I’m used to numbers not lining up for me, but that’s ridiculous.
    .-= Catherine Winters´s last blog ..Boobquake: in which Catherine gets annoyed at the press =-.

  8. Zoeyjane

    I was hoping you’d bring up skinny-fat. That’s where I hold myself – a “waif … [sometimes] panicking about calories, ‘oh, god, I’m getting fat!'” I’ve been known to describe my body as ‘a ballerina’s, who let herself go’. Why? Because there’s a division out there that if you’re not talking about getting healthier, skinnier, losing weight, eating better, than you’re one of THEM. And THEM is bad, I’m programmed to think.
    After 22 years of struggling with eating disorders, self-image and the logic that tells me what I see in the mirror isn’t what’s actually visible to anyone else, fat jokes hit me (I’d wager) nearly as hard as they might someone who actually wears above a size 0 or 2. Worse, I find myself joked with because I apparently belong to the thin-is-in-ideal and therefore, it’s assumed that I must loathe anyone who belongs in the other camp.
    It frankly disgusts me. That tool this morning on twitter, I couldn’t even acknowledge him. Because I know exactly where he comes from – I used to, at my skinniest, most ‘successful’ anorexic state, be him – and it’s all about self-elevation as a means of compensating for something that is lacking: whether that’s humour, personality, penis girth, or whatever.
    But, I do have to clarify one thing: Kate Moss’ comments are pretty old, and after she had her kid, she was apparently pressured into regular cocaine use because the jobs stopped coming as often (because of her post-baby body). It was my experience, and I’ve heard lots of other stories, of agents or others in the business becoming dealers to models. “It will give you an edge/take off the baby fat/chisel your features/make the time pass/open you up to the camera, etc..” I just bring this up because at the time she made that comment, I think she was like, 16, and it’s been quoted a million times (especially by pro-anorexia websites), but it’s likely not even close to how she really feels; she’s probably more for being comfortable in her own skin now, but being so is a employment hazard.
    .-= Zoeyjane´s last blog ..Acceptance =-.

  9. Bruce

    Thanks for the impassioned and eloquent piece, Steff. You’ve laid out what drives me crazy about the media- & externally-focused culture does very well, and what each of us needs to do in response. Listen. Set your boundaries. Respect yourself first, then those around you. Everyone IS screwed up. It’s called being human. Goals are hard (if they’ve been set correctly). Change is hard.
    But it’s worth it. You rock! I’ve never met you, but I know you rock.

  10. baltimoregal

    I was thin (or reasonably so, in a rounded curvy way) but unhealthy and thought i was fat. smoked, ate junk, didn’t exercise. Now i’m overweight but eating well- problem is the way i treated my body has made it hard to lose the weight now!

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