Hi, Aunt Fattie
For awhile I’ve been wanting to reach out to other plus sized people in public, but I don’t know how to approach them. I think they would most likely be defensive towards me, because of all the fat prejudice they’ve encountered, which I can personally understand. Since I feel somewhat defensive around people who weight less than I do, which I think is another problem with size bias. It keeps people from being able to relate to other people.
So how would I approach someone who’s plus sized in public. Just say hi? I feel like I want to let them know I know how they feel, but I think they’ll look at me and think “Uh-huh, you’re only 200 pounds, like you know what it’s like being stared at EVERYWHERE you go!” You know what I’m saying?
How do you open a conversation with a fat stranger? To quote Miss Manners when she was asked how to greet a gay couple: “How do you do?”
Truly, Aunt Fattie understands your desire to reach out, especially if you’ve been participating in FA for a while. You feel a sense of kinship with every fat person you see, a sense of participating in a larger struggle. This is lovely. But not every fat person is in on the struggle with you, and not every one who is wants it acknowledged in public. Also, not every one is lovely. Some fat people, like some thin people, are really mean — take, for instance, some of the SP trolls, or Fillyjonk.
To avoid embarrassing someone or getting the sharp end of a vicious tongue, it will suffice to treat fat people in public as you would anyone else towards whom you wished to be pleasant. Here are some approaches to try:
- A smile.
- “I love your top/shoes/belt/earrings.” (Use only when you love their top/shoes/belt/earrings. Or rather, employ the appropriate term when you like the respective item, as a top/shoe/belt/earring is not a standard piece of sartorial equipment.)
- “Honestly, this bus is always late, it’s ridiculous.” (Again, use only when appropriate, NOT randomly.)
In short, Aunt Fattie would have the same advice for you on talking to fat people that a less esoteric advice columnist would have for someone asking how to talk to “men” or “women” or “homosexuals.” The answer is: “like people.”
If you’ve got your own questions on fat, fatphobia, fatshion, and fatiquette, send them to email@example.com.