There’s a lot of construction going on where I work right now; throngs of people in and out every day, it would probably be impossible to remember all their names, if you even knew them to begin with.
A pair of electricians show up one day; one older guy and a younger guy behind him. Both in work clothes, a little sweaty – my interaction with them is so minimal that all I can tell you is their names are Greg and Mike. They seem friendly enough; I point them in the right direction and off they go.
Oh yea, Mike is fat.
My boss returns from some errands and starts telling a story about said electricians … “So I’m talking to the fat one…” I felt my eyes widen, I felt surprised by his distinction, I say ” oh, his name is Mike” and I just assume he didn’t know and let him finish his story.
He leaves again and the guys come back past me and ask a few questions that I don’t have the answers to, but say I’ll pass them along. The next day I say to my boss…
“Mike wanted to know about moving that one outlet, if you still wanted to do that?”
“The electrician….?” I respond
“Is he the fat one or the other guy?”
I just couldn’t – even though it shouldn’t have been such a surprise – I couldn’t believe an adult, a successful business owner would categorize people that way. A grown man with children, who would more than likely pass that classification on to them, he can’t be serious!
“I guess he’s overweight yea, but his name is Mike”
“What do you know him or something?”
“You seem defensive is all”
“I am, I mean, if we know a persons name that’s how we should address them, isn’t it?”
Awkward staring at each other.
“All right, Miiiiiiiike and the other guy. Better?”
“Yea, sure, that’s better. It just makes me wonder how many people referred to me as ‘the fat one’ if they hadn’t known or remembered my name?”
“Haha you made your point, now you’re just pushing … you’re not even fat”
This is the thing about people who only know me now, in my less uncomfortable, smaller body. They are comfortable to make judgements about other people’s bodies, to shame them in my presence and to make fat jokes without a second thought.
I’m more offended by jokes now, than I was at almost 300 pounds. I feel like a traitor sometimes to be present for them, like I somehow tricked these people into thinking I was one of “them”.
I’m getting better about speaking up. I try.
I try to speak up for the people who don’t get the chance to for themselves, the people who are unknowingly the butt off others jokes for merely existing.
I try to speak up because there are people I love, admire and respect, who are also fat. I try to speak up because I hope people have done it for me.
I try to speak up because fat is just a thing we have, not who we are.