For an inspiring story of juxtaposition, head on over to Lord Bargain's and read about his night, Friday night.
The juxtaposition I want to consider here is not terribly uplifting. My thoughts originated yesterday, as I was over at Shapely Prose reading about a couple in Australia trying to adopt a child. At issue is the woman's weight. Because of a medical condition she is both unable to conceive a child and obese. She has been ordered to lose a certain amount of weight in order to be considered for the adoption, and even though weight loss and maintenance has been shown to be largely unsuccessful for the majority of the population, she is working on it and has lost 10% of her bodyweight.
Kate's piece refers you directly to a blog report at Salon about the issue, and what struck me about this was in a comment in response. Now there are trolls in the world who will respond to any type of writing about fat people with all sorts of insults. Most typically, those of us who identify as fat are told that we are ugly, that we should be ashamed of ourselves and lose weight. We are told, ad nauseum, that we are unhealthy and are in denial of the facts (as if we could avoid hearing about those facts even living under a rock these days) and that trying to accept ourselves is a hazard to ourselves and a burden to others.
This commenter made the ironic comment to the effect that it was a good thing that "wideloads" had the opportunity to experience the discrimination that so many others felt in the adoption process. I had just finished writing the previous piece on debt and it got me thinking about how much shame and pain it is that people experience when they accumulate large amounts of debt. It can be an utterly devastating proposition...and it too is something that can block your chances to adopt.
But then I considered which of these two aspects of my life effected me more, in terms of other people's reactions to me, and hands down being fat (or a wideload...I kind of like that term cause of how I carry my weight) has had a greater impact across the spectrum of my life.
Extreme debt is a crisis in your life. I have watched what it does to an individual and a family. But the reality is that when you walk down the street no one knows that you have debt. You can make a change which will at least stop the harrassment that you receive (and let me be clear that I believe there is a special level of hell for those who choose to be debt collectors...really, there are other jobs available). In this day and age, it's not a great option, but it is an option.
But the harrassment for a fat person never stops. It's overt and it's subtle. It takes the form of well-meaning professionals who make comments about weight and losing weight when all you want is a relief from an infection. It's in the knowledge, when I walk down the street with S, that there are people walking by who wonder why he's with me. It's in not being able to go into a store like Old Navy and find either the variety or even the option to buy clothes that are in my size. It's in the experience of watching a news story about being overweight and seeing people not being fully experienced as people, but only as a large ass or stomach (and worrying that someday I'm going to recognize the outfit that fat person is wearing as mine).
My cousin is being married in Hawaii next year and my parents are planning to fly out of Los Angeles. My dad has already started wondering aloud whether he can take a boat because he knows that they are going to ask him to buy 2 seats on the plane, and rather than being thankful that he can now afford to do so, he's ashamed that people treat him differently.
It's just so striking to me that someone would assume that a wideloaded person would have never have experienced discrimination or would not know what it was like to be denied something because of their weight when the most basic thing, respect and dignity for that individual, is what is most often withheld.