Hey, Tubby! Let’s Be Friends!

On Saturday, Al and I went to the Tesuque Pueblo Flea Market, expecting it to be like one of our standard midwestern flea markets (Al was secretly hoping to find an old Atari), only to discover it was essentially an arts and crafts fair — and a pretty upscale one at that. I fell in love with Lisa Chun’s stuff and bought this to hang over my desk, but other than that, it was pretty much the same stuff we’d been looking at all week: turquoise and silver jewelry, handwoven scarves and blankets, fetishes (I had to learn there’s a whole other meaning for that word after walking by like five “Jewelry and Fetish” shops, and going, “HUH?”), etc.

So we hit the food tents to try some fry bread, which is pretty much a funnel cake — and a close cousin to the locally ubiquitous sopaipilla — but hey, it was TRADITIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN CUISINE; we had to get some. Al went to another booth to get himself a drink while I went looking for a table. They were all full. But two older men started calling out to me, all, “Ma’am, you’re welcome to sit over here!” (When did I become “ma’am” to men old enough to be my father?) I was stupid enough to sit down and engage before I noticed the one dude’s “Freedom Isn’t Free” T-shirt. They were from Texas. The “Freedom Isn’t Free” guy was up there on some sort of Baptist mission. (To stamp out all that Catholic influence, I guess?)

He turned out to be the one I liked better.

Because the other one — after making a “feather or dot?” joke on a fucking reservation — decided it would be hilarious to keep ragging on Al about his weight. “Boy, you’d better be careful! Looks like a stiff breeze might blow you clean away!” “You sure you need that fried dough?” “Well, you do look hungry!” It was like that was the only kind of small talk he could think up, after he’d realized we weren’t interested in slagging off Native Americans with him. (For the record, Al ate like two bites of the fry bread, which he was splitting with me in the first place. Between the two of us, we consumed about a third of the portion we were given. But hey, we all know fat people are not allowed to have a taste of anything that, you know, has a taste. What can I say? We were hamstrung by the lack of a celery and oxygen tent.)

And you guys, here’s the awfulest part: I didn’t know what to say. I mean, “Drop dead, asshole” was an obvious choice, but the words wouldn’t come out. I didn’t even think to say something like, “Hey, I love him exactly as he is!” I was just so totally flustered by it, because dude was insulting my boyfriend to his face, repeatedly, but it was all supposed to be a big joke, so it’d be impolite to tell him I hoped he fell off a cliff, right? ARGH. Why, at 32 years old, do I still feel the need to be polite to people who are anything but? Why, twenty years after beginning the phase in which I locked myself in the basement and listened to the Smiths obsessively, do I still give valuable time to people I’d much rather kick in the eye?

The upside of this experience, I guess, was that I got a good lesson in how things are different for fat men and fat women. ‘Cause here’s what I finally did say, which actually stopped the jackass in his tracks: “Hey, you’re talking about me, too!” I have no idea why that’s the only rejoinder that made it out of my mouth, but it did shut him up. He would have kept after Al all day long, but he didn’t want to insult a lady, apparently. (On the other hand, we left about 90 seconds later, so maybe he was just taking a breather.)

For as many times as I’ve argued that this culture is somewhat harder on fat women — if only because we’re all expected to be conventionally beautiful, while men can often get away with being merely smart and accomplished — I haven’t had to deal with anyone making non-stop fat jokes to my face since the seventh grade. People who are trying to give the appearance of friendliness (even if they ultimately give the appearance of passive aggressive assholishness) don’t generally greet strange women with, “Hey there, tubby! You haven’t missed too many meals, have you?” That’s pretty much reserved for men. (Though it’s excused, interestingly enough, with the exact same bullshit that’s frequently used to justify inappropriate comments about a woman’s body: Hey, it’s just a joke! I didn’t mean anything by it! Lighten up!) The fact that this dickhead finally stopped when I pointed out he was also insulting me kinda drives that home. You don’t do that to a lady! Ladies have feelings! It’s only men who have to suck it up and take it, because hey, I was just giving you a hard time, buddy.

I can’t speak for Al regarding how he felt about all that, but I can tell you a couple things I know for sure:

  1. This guy was being mean. I don’t care how much he was smiling or laughing or winking — he was a passive-aggressive dickshine of the first order. He was absolutely trying to make Al feel small (uh, so to speak). And when it didn’t work, he just tried harder.
  2. Men actually do have feelings. Or so I’ve been told.

In light of those two things, there is no fucking excuse whatsoever for sitting there talking shit about another guy’s body, under the guise of being friendly.

I mean, teasing among people who know and respect each other is one thing. I come from a family that expresses love most often in the form of (hopefully) witty insults, which utterly horrifies people who come from families that are actually nice to each other. And half the reason Al and I are made for each other is that we spend a great deal of our time together having conversations like this:

Al: Wow, that’s a gigantic zit you’ve got there.

Me: Here, did you want to get a closer look? [Accosts him with bezitted shoulder.]

Al: I… I think it’s got a face.

Me: Is it winking at you?

Al: It’s saying, “FEEEEED MEEEEE!”

Now, anyone who knows me knows that, in the history of Kate’s Body Image Issues, acne places a close second after fat, and for a while — like back at that seventh grade lunch table — they were running neck and neck. Zits ranked pretty fucking high on my Adolescent Self-Hatred Checklist. So even now, if some guy I’d just met said, “Wow, that’s a gigantic zit you’ve got there,” I’d either deck him or cry, depending on what kind of mood I was in. But when Al says it (and, characteristically, refuses to let it die) I end up laughing my ass off.

So I’m certainly not too sensitive or too proud to understand the concept of bonding by pointing out each other’s flaws. But that was not remotely what this guy was doing. He was swinging his old man dick, trying to put Al in his place. And if Al had said something like, oh, I don’t know, “Why don’t you shut the fuck up?” you know this guy would have attacked him for not taking it like a man, for being too weak to accept a barrage of insults in a good-natured manner.

Maybe I didn’t say anything because I was afraid of contributing to that impression: the Fat Guy has to get his girlfriend to fight his battles. The horror! Maybe I didn’t say anything because it just wasn’t a battle worth spending any energy on. Or maybe I didn’t say anything because I’ve been conditioned to believe it’s okay to speak that way to a man. Men can take it.

It was probably a little of all three. And there’s only one of those reasons that I’m not ashamed of.

Posted in Fat

24 thoughts on “Hey, Tubby! Let’s Be Friends!

  1. what a douche! al rocks. those ignorant dopes would not have been enlightened by you or al speaking up more. it’s a macho mentality — men relating with other men by openly putting them down. they do it in sports and the corporate world all the time. i hate it. but then women talk shit behind eachother’s backs. not sure which is worse …

  2. What an *sswipe! Course I would have said so to his face! Then again, it depends on how the person with you feels. This weekend I was at a fest listening to this band. The lead starts going off about how a former girlfriend of his got up to 300 lbs and he didn’t find her attractive. Not a damned thing to do with the music. So, I went to one of the bandmembers who was near me after the show and told him I was offended. He INSISTED I go backstage and tell the lead myself. So I did! Honestly, with the kind of personality I have, I felt good. I can let the incident go. Before, when I didn’t speak up, I could never let it go. I probably would have never went to that fest again. It is a personal thing, but letting it out is better for me than holding it in.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, I did feel a bit bad for my cousin! (Although she knows me.) I also don’t care what other people think. Most people are more human than me, and value harmonious relations. Me, I would rather know I bit hard enough to possibly be a deterrent for the next person than have a my social calendar full. I think any movement needs its nice guys and radicals. (Or good cops/bad cops!) Bad cop is my preference. But there is alot to be said for tact and diplomacy too!

    p.s. Ample men are sexy!!!!!!

  3. I’m usually at a loss when shit like this is going down. On the one hand my instinct is to stick up for the person being picked on, but on the other I’ve been told more than once that I only made things worse by calling attention to what was happening. :-(

  4. I know this is totally off-topic, but fry bread is just what Indians started making when the white people gave them white flour.

    “What the hell are we supposed to do with this stuff?”

    “I dunno… try frying it?”

    My grandmother is Blackfoot, and she makes killer fry bread, along with tasty corn pone and fried mush, mmmm.

    Now, back on topic. What a weirdo! Who invites people to sit with them just to insult them?

    One of my husband’s uncles asked my DH what I’d been feeding him. It embarrassed and humiliated me– like he was insinuating that I wasn’t taking proper care of my husband, but DH didn’t really seem to mind. I guess since men aren’t defined by their bodies, they can take the ribbing better?

  5. Oh, the old school males and their ways of establishing the pecking order. *headshake*

    I don’t think your response (or lack thereof) is anything surprising. We’re not supposed to kick up a fuss, it isn’t polite, two wrongs don’t make a right, etc., etc., etc..

    The awesome thing is that you DID speak up and then you guys took action – you left.

  6. Man, that SUCKS! I hate that, where we’ve been so conditioned to “take the high road” and not “stoop to their level” that we just take shit from asshole strangers. I mean, how come we never come back with, “Wow, that’s witty! A brain like that, I bet you work for NASA, don’t you?”

    I know I never can think of something like that until a few days later at least. It’s absurd. In the situation, I’m all, “Okay, how do I just kind of make nice and get out of this,” when really, /they’re/ the ones making things not-nice, not me! I was just fine, and /they’re/ the ones who had to go fuck shit up. And what am I doing about it? Trying to make it go back to nice. Grrrr!

    I’m sorry you guys had to deal with some of the rejects from the shallow, scummy end of the gene pool. That really sucks.

  7. I was just so totally flustered by it, because dude was insulting my boyfriend to his face, repeatedly, but it was all supposed to be a big joke, so it’d be impolite to tell him I hoped he fell off a cliff, right? ARGH. Why, at 32 years old, do I still feel the need to be polite to people who are anything but? Why, twenty years after beginning the phase in which I locked myself in the basement and listened to the Smiths obsessively, do I still give valuable time to people I’d much rather kick in the eye?

    It’s hard to be politely assertive, particularly when the *sshole is playing a game, you know he’s playing a game and he has set you up to lose no matter what you do. I don’t have any solutions or answers or even anything useful to say other than it’s important to be polite, but it’s as important to be impolite when you should be. It’s taken a lot for me to decide it was OK to say “no” or “Stop” or whatever in situations where the other party has stepped outside the bounds of polite society, relying on their victim to stay within those bounds.

    The other thing I’ve found is that girls are often not taught to be assertive, which means when we start discovering how we can set boundaries, we do it without finesse (the shrill bitch). I think this is horrible and means we have to figure out for ourselves how to set boundaries and maintain respect. If I ever work out the perfect way, I’ll let you know.

  8. What a weirdo! Who invites people to sit with them just to insult them?

    Seriously, I think my gut response would have been, “You invited me to sit here so you could make fun of my boyfriend? What are you, 12 years old?” And KH, sticking up for Al is a happy. My thing is, I’d want C. to do it for me, so I’d be happy to do it for him. No need for him to do all the “protecting,” not if I’m gonna walk the feminist talk.

  9. Miss Manners always has all kinds of withering responses to give to rude people. I always stop short of a raised eyebrow and either looking away or removing myself.

    It would have been so tempting to ask if they were so interested in his physique because they were gay.

  10. Yeah, I was going to suggest Miss Manners, too. If you can pull yourself together from the shock at just how RUDE these people are, arch an eyebrow, and make some comment about how you always thought people down South were supposed to have *good* manners, but you must have been mistaken, because gentlemen don’t comment about what other people are eating, or something, it puts the focus back on how inappropriate they’re being.

  11. Well, technically, Miss Manners would say that pointing out someone else’s rudeness is itself the height of rudeness. She might have some awesome veiled snark to offer, but I suspect she’d actually go with changing the subject here.

    Best suggestion I’ve heard was at Shakesville: just go with how you honestly feel (which is more likely than anything to make the other party squirm). E.g., “Wow, your fat jokes are really hurting my feelings. Why do you keep making them? Are you trying to make me feel bad?”

    There’s kind of no way out of that. If you admit your emotional vulnerability, then they can’t prey upon it and are forced to recognize it for what it is — fucking HUMANITY, not weakness.

  12. Don’t knock yourself too badly Kate. I’m a total pacifist and I hate confrontation. If I were in that kind of situation, I probably would have clammed up too, and then thought of a dozen brilliant and scathingly clever retorts days later.

    Though, I do have to give myself kudos. I’ve just recently gotten to a place where I can stop holding my breath every time I pass a group of young jock-looking guys. When I was in high school and my early 20s, I was subject to repeated fat jokes, most with sexual innuendos, from groups of guys my age. But as I’ve gotten older, combined with losing weight, the jokes have tapered off.

    A couple months ago, the husband was waiting for me in the car while I stopped in a store. I was walking back to the car and passed by two young punks, who waited until I passed them before they made a sexual comment. I didn’t even think before replying “No thanks, I’m sure you have dicks the size of peanuts.” (It’s one of my fav lines from Notting Hill). I’ve never been so proud of myself.

  13. I”m super vigilant when someone says something about my fiancee’s weight. I’m not quite as big as him (only 264) but he weights more than twice of me. Anyway, if anyone says anything (always fun to go to the mall and walk around with the wild teenagers, I get downright confrontational. But if something like that happens to me, I back off and walk away. I wonder why I’m like that?

  14. In my family, we have a tendency to let people be if they are annoying. You know, ignore them and they’ll just go away.

    Sadly, this doesn’t always work and I have a temper. I have been known to chew people out that I don’t know for being assholes. That would have been one of those situations.

    Though, I find it hard to yell at telemarketers…

  15. My take on it is “idiot didn’t rank.” By that I mean he wasn’t worthy of two thoughts. I just ignored whatever he said — overall. I really could give a shit less, and I’ve never thought about it or him since. Some things are worth getting pissy about (Google ranking, and dinner plans), and some aren’t (what stupid old person thinks). Remember, he’s got to get it all in NOW, because he’s going to DIE SOON. Hopefully.

  16. Yeah, Al, as I said over at Shakesville, if I hadn’t seen a blog post in that experience, I probably wouldn’t even remember it by now. But you should know by now that I can and will turn all the trivia from both our lives into TERRIBLY IMPORTANT CONTENT. Because that’s a lot easier than reading articles about fat.

  17. I must admit that only five years back, I thought it was perfectly OK to make fun of my favorite male musician who’s fat, and I even used that as an excuse when someone called me on it. “He’s a man! And I like his music!” Well, at least I’m more mature than the jerk you sat with.

    It also reminded me of how I went to a wedding with my Mom last year and she saw my cousin with her husband (who is twice as big as my cousin, both height and weight wise). Mom noted immediately that he had lost weight, “Well, we shouldn’t go say anything, that’s rude.” Then, as soon as they come talk to us, she blurts out, “You haven’t been feeding him well enough, have you, har har!” I was so embarrassed. I think, since she said she wasn’t going to say anything, she genuinely wasn’t going to, and then it just came out.

  18. I kind of wonder if Oldy Craptastic invited you to sit with him because he thought you were cute, and when he realized you were happily attached, he decided to try and scare your man off…
    no?

  19. Kate, was he drunk at all or just generally a jerk? Interesting how he’d start on Native Americans. Maybe he took offense in that and wanted to find something to be rude about? It’s weird that sometimes guys make fun of their friends’ weights, too, and it becomes a joke with the circle of friends.

    I remember sitting in the uni cafeteria and listening in when this fat guy was eating fries and a steak. The friends were saying, “Ooh, you must be their best customer, always taking the steak meal.” He insisted he had only done this twice, but they wouldn’t have it. I almost butted in, I was so annoyed. I wouldn’t be friends with people like that. Maybe some guys feel they have no choice.

  20. Mmm…Frybread. I just made some for hubby, who is Navajo. Try it with honey or cinnamon for a different taste if you want.

    It is interesting that he started on Native Americans first. It reminds me of when some people complain about the free health care that is provided for Native Americans on reservations. Yeah it’s free, but when hubby is off the rez, he pays for it like everyone else. And it isn’t always the best care. My poor mother in law has to wait a month to have appendix surgery! All we can do is pray that nothing serious happens in between that time.

    And being of size, who is eating better for reasons other than just looks (I have PCOS and I’m trying to control it…and it was a relief to get that diagnoses) I hate the looks and glances I get for enjoying my food. I could be eating salad and water for the entire week but heaven forbid I indulge in a iced coffee or a burger! It’s like we’re expected not to eat at all, and when we do, it’s no wonder we’re fat. I guess we’re too much of a burden to be in public at all.

    By the way, regarding the ‘feather or dot’ thing, hubby has a way of using that when people ask him if he’s Indian. All he says is ‘Do you mean India Indian or Indian Indian?” For particularly rude people, he follows this up by talking about scalping people. The reactions he gets are priceless.

  21. Weren’t these guys Christians “on a mission”? wow…. How very Christian of them, to make fun of Native Americans and then straight on to Fat people. I guess these guys have answered the whole WWJD question for me.

    I probably would have used my standard insult – eye roll with disgusted look on face-“you probably voted for george bush”. And with these guys, it’d be true.

  22. I love posts like these of yours where you take some event in your life and just really really unpack it. I have learnt so, so much from reading your blog.

    I can’t believe anyone thinks it is ok to make jokes about a stranger’s body to their face.

  23. This reminded me of how I am bothered when men are referred to as “Big Guy,” I would be pretty upset if someone referred to me as “Big Girl.” Like you said though, apparently men don’t have feelings.

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