Though I normally don’t indulge in anger I allowed myself the rare treat of getting worked up after first reading that calling someone fat has become more offensive than calling them worthless scum and then Wiki-walking myself to the Anti-fat Bias and The Thin Ideal articles. The relief I couldn’t help but feel for knowing I inhabited the safe section of the human form spectre and was therefore exempt from being harassed on the account of my weight only served to further my aggravation. I’m not much into enjoying the thanks-god-it’s-not-me sentiment as I find it all too similar to the toxic schadenfreude for my emotional comfort.
But seriously, why is it suddenly so wrong to be chubby? Not so long ago, some meat on your bones was considered a plus; a woman with ample curves was seen as appealing while a man with a nicely-rounded belly was perceived to be well-off and a guy to be reckoned with. At least where I live, there hardly seems to be any shortage of sayings to this effect. An entertainingly inebriated chap once told me he preferred a heavily-set lady to a lean one any day. (Why? Because, according to this wise fellow, the skinny one is liable to be concentrating on sucking her tummy in even under the sheets.)
As always, things became a lot clearer when I calmed down a bit. There’s no denying people have been obsessing about each other’s shape since times immemorial. Currently there seems to be a certain advantage in being thin but this could change at any time and there are reasons to believe it soon will. People tend to admire what is difficult to obtain and now when most of the (Western) world is well-fed and the majority of (Western) jobs don’t involve as much calorie-burning as they did when people were working the fields instead of staring into computer screens, it’s hardly a surprise we consider a slim body something to aspire to. When food was scarce and work was hard, I imagine it was super cool if you managed to store some fat under your skin and strut your stuff before the famished waifs that most human beings were back then.
That fact remains we still seem to be hard-wired to believe that someone’s dress size can reveal a lot about them. Arguably, it can signal the fact they have access to an abundance of food, which was an awesome feat to pull off for a good part of the history of mankind. But nowadays it is increasingly viewed as a measure of a person’s degree of control over the most basic of human instincts (i.e. to fill your stomach as thoroughly and as often as you can), which has somehow become more important than anything else about your personality. Sure makes me wonder if a lot of people are envious of the fact somebody both has food and enjoys eating it. Or is it just that now, with sexism, racism and all kinds of other ‘isms’ being less well-tolerated, they’re struggling to find a safe target for their pent-up aggressions? I’m inclined to believe that someone who’s making generously-built individuals feel miserable today is exactly the sort of person who’d be sporting a white hooded robe and a burning torch in another time and place.
I won’t argue the fact you have every right to like or dislike anyone’s physical appearance and I don’t see any problem with that. It’s a matter of preference, possibly stemming from your genes telling you what kind of a mate you should aim for to ensure your offspring have a viable combination of traits. But what good can one reasonably expect to come from taunting and ostracising those you don’t find particularly attractive? Bullying has long ago stopped being cool and its ability to generate unnecessary suffering is surpassed only by its effectiveness in informing the people around you that you’re lacking in both intelligence and self-confidence, and quite severely at that. I honestly believe you have no business commenting on anybody’s frame unless you happen to be on the very brink of collapsing from hunger while looking at a paunchy individual downing their fourth serving of macaroni and cheese right before you. I suppose then you’d have a valid reason to suggest that perhaps they’ve had enough and ask them if they could spare a few bites. Unless you find yourself in this exact situation, chances are you would do better keeping your insecurity-fuelled opinions to yourself.
I recently witnessed a guy boasting about how much he could eat without gaining any weight, followed by my Mum calmly informing him, much to everyone’s amusement, that farmers would fast-track piglets with similar traits to the cauldron as wasting food on them wouldn’t be prudent. The hilarious exchange made me wonder about how much longer we could afford to applaud someone for arguably not being very energy-efficient. Everyone knows that humanity is growing in numbers, and with food-price manipulations being one of the ways some less-scrupulous individuals increase their wealth on the account of others, it’s not unreasonable to expect that things are about to turn. I once read that certain human populations possessed a trait called ‘the thrifty gene’ that enables their people to digest food more efficiently and obtain more energy from it, which means they are flirting with obesity even if they’re eating relatively little. They may be cursing their luck now but the time when their genetics become highly sought-after may be nearer than we’d like to believe…
On a positive note, rest assured you need not watch your weight at all. Everybody else will gladly do it for you.