Fat Hatred Kills, Part Two

 Guest post by Thorn

I just wanted to take a moment, before getting into Part II, to
thank everyone for the compassionate response I received to Part I.

I’ll be honest – I’d been petrified to put it up there, but also felt
like it was something I needed to do. I spent yesterday compulsively
checking comments, except when took my kids to the park for a while,
before they drove me crazy. I’d much rather have stayed at the
computer and responded to every single comment, for all that I imagine
it would have meant spending most of the day with tears running down
my face. Even so, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call “dry-eyed”

The comments tore me up. I know my mom’s experience was not especially
unique. I know the way she was treated is altogether too common for
fat women and men to endure. But I was absolutely not prepared for how
many of you came forward with similar tales of your own, of how you
and/or your loved ones were dismissed or disregarded by people who are
literally oath-bound to help us.

I spent yesterday overwhelmed by sadness, for my own sake and for the
sakes of all of us who are at the mercy of these so-called healers.
This is dreadful. It is awful and unconscionable. How can we live in a
world where the quality of our health care is determined, essentially,
by how attractive our doctors find us??

Thank you all again, for your condolences and kind words, and thanks
especially to those of you who shared your own stories.

I wish I could say that the anger at the doctor lab-coated shit-stain whose callousness contributed to my mom’s death is the sum of all the anger I’m struggling to cope with these days, but it’s not. I wish I could say that first part was the end of my Hating The Fat-Haters story.

But it’s not.

My mother dying because some doctor fat-shamed her out of believing she deserved health care ought to be enough, certainly is enough, to make me want to wreak some violent revenge on fat-haters everywhere.

But alas, there’s more.

Because the fat-hating didn’t end with my mother’s former doctor.

I mentioned before that I moved out-of-state several years before my mom’s death. It’s not too far, just 120 miles, but far enough to make just shooting down there for an afternoon impossible, especially with a coupla kids in the mix.

I got the call that my mom had died on a Thursday afternoon. I called my husband, who naturally rushed home to be with me. We then decided that we would leave the next day and stay with my sister for the duration of the funeral arranging and everything.

So Friday we drove down, arrived at my sister’s, and Rose (not her real name, but it goes nicely with Thorn, don’t you think?) and I made arrangements for our collected kids and my husband while she and I joined my grandfather, one of our aunts (Joan*) and one of our uncles (John*) the next day. We’d meet at Grandpa’s, then go to the florist, the funeral home, and finally the church where Mom’s Funeral Mass would take place.

Saturday morning we got everyone situated and then my sister and I headed out. Rose’s cell phone rang as we turned onto Grandpa’s street. It was Aunt Joan, wondering where we were. I remember being restless and kind of pent-up emotionally – it would be the first time I’d seen my mother’s family since learning of Mom’s death. I was torn between wanting to cry with them, that whole sharing grief and comforting each other thing, and wanting to keep a good Stiff Upper Lip going, since we had a lot of things to take care of that afternoon.

Aunt Joan rushed out to meet us as we got out of the car and proceeded to lecture us about how we need to not take it personally if Grandpa was “testy” because “he’s devastated.”

As you might guess, my aunt’s got a real way of just saying the most appalling things like they’re nothing, and this was no exception. Rose and I tried to overlook the implication that somehow we were just jolly about the sudden death of our mother and silently nodded and shared a good “God, I wanna slap her” glance before we headed into the house. Uncle John came out midway through Joan’s lecture about Grandpa’s emotional state, said, “I’m sorry kiddo,” to me and hugged me. At which point Joan kind of looked annoyed and said in the most rote, insincere way possible, “Oh yeah. Sorry Thorn.” (She’s a real people person, can’t you tell?)

Once inside, Grandpa and Rose updated each other on calls they’d each made, having started a lot of the arranging Friday, and then Grandpa said he was going to get ready so we could go.

At which point Joan said, “I need to say something.” We all stopped and looked at her. She looked uncomfortable, which was kind of shocking already, and then went on. “I don’t mean to be offensive or anything,” at this Rose and I looked at each other with alarm. What could be so awful that Joan was aware that her words might be offensive???

Joan went on. “Your mom’s death was preventable. Your mom didn’t have to die. She was 53 years old, that’s too young. She was lucky, she had her kids early.” She then looked at my sister and I with her eyes wide, I suspect to indicate her “earnestness” and said, “You two need to see your doctors. You need to do whatever you need to do to get healthy. You don’t want your kids to grow up without a mother. I know how hard it is to lose your mother, mine died only two years ago! You don’t want your kids to go through that. So… just see your doctor. Get healthy so you can see your kids grow up.” There was a long pause. “I just needed to say that.”

Rose and I stood there silent, in shock for a moment.

Seriously? Joan’s big “offensive” thing was to call us fat? Seriously?? Did she think we don’t have mirrors?

Then Grandpa chimed in. “It’s not easy, I know. I’ve had to give up eating sausage and I walk a couple miles a day every day now in the morning. I’ve been doing that for a couple months now and I’ve lost 17 pounds. It’s not easy – you know how much I love sausage – but it’s your health.”

John had the grace to look uncomfortable, but that didn’t stop him from mumbling something as well, about how he also knew it wasn’t easy, but by then I’d kind of stopped listening.

They knew how hard it was? Grandpa had never been more than 30, maybe 40 pounds overweight. I weigh 280 pounds. I could lose 17 pounds and not even notice!

John and Joan? They knew how hard it was?? As if any of my mom’s siblings had ever managed to be more than 20 pounds overweight! Neither of my aunts had ever even had a problem losing their pregnancy weight, never mind gaining anything besides!

John was on medication which actually made it /difficult/ for him to gain weight, and was naturally on the slim side to begin with. What the FUCK did they know about how hard losing weight was?

Rose and I assured them we were seeing our doctors regularly and that everything was fine. Rose – being better at this game than I – even thanked them for their concern.

Finally someone changed the subject and we managed to get out of there so we could go to the florist to order flowers for my mother’s wake.

My aunt, uncle and grandfather got into my aunt’s car. My sister and I got into her car and shut the doors. We sat there a moment in stunned silence. “Did Joan just say what I think she said?”

“The bit about how we’re lard-asses and if we were better mothers we’d drop everything to be skinny like her?”

“That would be the part.”

“Yeah. She can go to hell.”

“No shit.”

We cussed out Joan on the way to the florist, managed somehow to get through that entire ordeal, and then managed to shake the rest of them for our trips to the funeral home and the church.

In case anyone was curious, so far as I can tell there is no event so emotionally devastating that you can’t make it worse by calling someone on the carpet in front of other people to lecture them about how fat they are.

We were able to ditch my aunt, but her words lingered.

They permeated everything.

We tried to let them go, but it was impossible. We should have been focusing on saying good-bye to our mother. Instead we found ourselves fuming again and again over what had been said, the hundreds of different ways it was thoroughly unjust.

Saturday night Rose and I sat up until the wee hours sorting through photographs, finding pictures of Mom to put up on poster boards for the wake. After Rose went to sleep, I sat up, trying to write some kind of eulogy for my mother, despite all our differences. If I didn’t do it, I knew no one would. But Joan’s words kept echoing in my head, and instead of my mom’s eulogy, I wound up writing the precursor to this guest-blog series. No one ever did write Mom a eulogy.

Originally, we had planned to spend Sunday working on the poster boards with our aunts. But we were both still much too angry at Joan, so instead, we opted to work on them at our dad’s, who was happy to help out. For all that he and Mom had divorced years before, they’d always managed to remain cordial for my and Rose’s sakes.

We had a hell of a time with those poster boards. Neither of us could concentrate – we were still so pissed off. At one point I was telling my dad about what had happened, when I realized that Rose was in the next room, on the phone with our Aunt Brenda* telling her about what had happened.

Rose said Brenda planned to give Joan a stern talking-to about it. “Joan really should have waited a few weeks for that,” she said.

I tried not to scream my fury about how that was really not the point.

When my grandmother died, two years ago, I remember her wake and funeral as being very healing. We all cried, we all shared our grief and comforted each other. I remember feeling closer to my mother’s family than I had felt in a very long time, possibly ever.

I contrast that with how I felt during my mother’s wake and funeral. I cried a lot, of course, and I hugged everyone, even Joan. I cried and snotted all over Uncle John’s lapel. He’d always been my favorite uncle, and fatphobic comments didn’t change that. But I didn’t feel close to the family. I didn’t feel healed or comforted. Because through it all, some small part of me was seething.

Where was that closeness I’d felt after Grandma’s funeral? Where was that unity? Here I was, in my hour of greatest need, and all I could do was look around and wonder who to trust. I looked at my aunts and uncles, at Mom’s cousins, at the whole family, and I couldn’t stop wondering who was judging me and how. Do they think because I’m fat that I’m a bad mother? That I’m lazy? Or greedy? Or that I lack self-control? That I’m stupid?

Joan’s words had isolated Rose and I, had othered us from our own family. We had been deemed unfit, just like our mother had been unfit, and we felt ostracized, at a time when what we needed was comfort and support. I mean, our mother was dead. We were supposed to be angsting over what to do for her for Mother’s Day, not pillaging The Avenue for something to wear to her funeral.

But we didn’t get that, because Joan was so worried about our “health.”

I’ve often thought, in the two months since, that if Joan was really so worried about my and my sister’s health, perhaps she ought to overlook our fat asses, and worry more about our broken hearts.

* Names changed to protect me, not the fatphobic.

48 thoughts on “Fat Hatred Kills, Part Two

  1. When people start in with “I just want to say something” or “Let me tell you something” (that was my Dad’s fav), I have now learned that what is missing from the rest of that phrase is REALLY : “I just want to say something…because then later on, I can pat myself on the back that I had ‘ticked off’ that item on my “to-do” list and I really could not care less how it makes you feel.” These are entirely self-centered and exhibitionistic pieces of communication. So now when someone starts in with that, I try really really hard to cut them off with, “Is this something that is only designed to make you feel better or superior or something like that? Because if it IS, then it is also designed to make someone ELSE feel inferior, or bad about themselves and I’m not interested in being involved in that game.” I too have been hooked into that by family members (my very tall and thin mom and sister), and it frankly sucks. Thin people are not superior because they are thin. Thin people are thin due to accidents of genetics. Culture allows them to feel superior and encourages them to inflict their delusional thinking on the rest of us. Thorn – your mom’s health provider was neglectful not only because he viewed her as fat – he was another of the huge number of health providers who see all females as creatures of appetites and emotions – whose health issues are “in your head” or “emotional problems” and who marginalize all issues that they associate with women. That is sexism as well as fat-ism. Period. My two cents.

  2. At your mother’s funeral she told you this?! I mean, it would be inappropriate at any time, but her funeral? That’s just so terrible. I can’t even believe it. =/

  3. Why is it that people assume that fat people don’t realize we are fat? How can they not know that we are bombarded with messages all our lives that our fat will kill us, we’re ticking time bombs, yadda yadda? I was reading a pamphlet online for doctors about how to approach “obese” patients, and they had the patient in the example saying “oh, geez, I guess I had an idea that fat was bad, but I didn’t realize how bad…” This is crap.

    It seems easy to them because it is easy for them. My dad, who is skinny like a skinny thing, once told me a little story about how he gained some weight once but he took it off fairly quickly. Yeah, thanks. If only fat people tried exercising once in a while and eating less than an entire box of Crispy Cremes per day, we could be thin too!

    This really burns me up, as you can see. I’m really sorry you had to hear that from relatives who are supposed to be there for you and support you.

  4. I am having trouble thinking of a curse word vile enough to express the deapths to which your Aunt Bitch has descended. I do not think such a word exists, for if it did it would be too ugly to be pronounceable. It would be as ugly as she is on the inside for being that self righteous, and hateful.

  5. This is what your aunt should have said:
    I am just so sorry you lost your mother. I am sorry that she was made to feel like she was less than human, less than wonderful. Hopefully, you will not have to feel that way – you should know that you are loved by your family as you are, in every way.
    Then she should have shut up.
    I know it’s Utopian of me. But I wanted to give you the words you should have heard in your grief – just so you know that the entire world is not full of judgment. My condolences.

  6. It makes me angry just to hear about it – because she blamed your mother’s death on your mother. Not on the fucking asshole doctors who wouldn’t treat her like she was a human being. Way to blame the fat people for their own troubles, Joan. Again, I am so sorry.

  7. Unbelievable. I had to read some of the paragraphs twice to make sure I was really reading correctly what they put you through. I think if I were you, I’d be pretty tempted to print out your amazing series and send them to your Aunt, tucked inside a copy of “Rethinking Thin” with a very sweet dedication in the front. Something like, “Thanks for making one of the hardest times in my life even harder. I’ll never forget your ‘unconditional’ love and support.”

  8. That’s just…I’m speechless. People, especially family, can be so callous sometimes. I don’t even know what to say. Again, thank you for sharing this incredibly personal and painful experience. ((()))

  9. What’s interesting about this is that she somehow had the insight to know that she was being offensive. Most people who express such things often believe that they are being loving and concerned.

    I know that I wouldn’t have necessarily been able to say this, but it probably would have been really satisfying to say, “You may not mean to be offensive, but you are.” Just naming it.

  10. It makes me angry just to hear about it – because she blamed your mother’s death on your mother.

    Exactly. My god this pisses me off. And after reading your unbelievably heartbreaking post yesterday, too. Honestly? It’s probably not nice, but if it were me, sending Joan a copy of that post, with an introduction about how this is what people like her wreak on the world, would make me feel a whole lot better.

  11. Toby – Wow. 1) Way to head the jackasses off at the pass, what a great response! 2) That bit about people viewing women as creatures of “appetites and emotions” is so dead-on, and is something I’ve been grasping toward expressing myself lately, in relation to other discussions recently. Thank you for helping crystallise my thinking on that. And yeah – things like this make it so plain that fat is a feminist issue.

  12. BostonFem: That always shocks me – the people who seem to think they’re the first to ‘confront’ me about my fat. And /I’m/ supposed to be the dumb one in that scenario? WTF?

    Shinobi: I had to grin – Joan’s been dubbed “Aunt Harpy” around these parts for a while now.

    Cory: Thank you. That was really beautiful.

  13. Oh Jeebus, Thorn, that’s awful.

    I have another similar story: recently, a friend died of a sudden heart attack. Prior to that, she had been following those rules to lose weight and had lost maybe about 30 pounds. She had health issues for several years, wasn’t eager to go to the doctor, but still, her death was sudden. And wouldn’t you know it, at the memorial service, (which was beautiful and touching, as she was a person of many accomplishments) there was a family member who went around haranguing everyone about the need to be “healthy” and to “stay fit.” His callousness made me furious because I could hear what was being implied. She was someone who worked tirelessly in education and charity. He’s thin, which I suppose in his mind, makes him superior to someone who worked to make life better for others. (last line is sarcastic, of course)

  14. Oh, nice. Very nice. “Your mom’s dead, it’s her fault for being such a glutton, and you’re going to keel over yourself if you don’t slim down NOW?” At her FUNERAL?? I mean, really. Even if the person who died was a crack whore who got killed by a john — and fat isn’t comparable to that — it’s in roaring bad taste to bring it up to her children at her memorial service. You showed admirable restraint in not decking her or embarrassing her in some way at the service. I’m not sure I would have been that restrained.

  15. Of all the words, it’s the ones from the people who proclaim they love us that are the most hurtful.

    I recently realized that as a child, the *only* people who told me I was fat was my family. Of course I internalized it and believed it. Now, 75 pounds heavier, I look back on photos and want to scream at my entire family for making me believe something untrue. Because for 30 years I believed I was “too fat” for everything.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Thorn. Those of us who have read it won’t let our doctors get away with the “lose weight” cop-out anymore, and you know, that will save at least one life.

  16. Thorn, I am so sorry. If you want someone to slap the shit out of talk to Aunt Harpy, I can be on a plane tomorrow. What unmitigated hubris.

    The day we buried my parents, I didn’t go to the reception at my brother’s house both because my own Aunt Harpy would be there and because my SIL had made it a point to tell me that because I just stopped functioning after my father’s death that (among many other things) I’m “greedy,” self-centered,” “selfish,” and that I “live on a planet where nothing’s ever [my] fault.” I’ve sworn that short of family weddings and funerals, I will never be in the same room with her again.

  17. Good lord.

    I’ve lost . . . 4 family members and friends in the past couple of years. And people say the most incredibly tactless, stupid, thoughtless, wrongheaded, and offensive things when deaths have happened. Perhaps it should not surprise me, but I’m human enough that I am always surprised by the inhumanity of others.

    What is most surprising is when it happens with that air of self-righteous priggery, that stuffy, snotty, better-than-you, condescending tone of an adult confronting a spoiled child. As if, having lost a parent, what we need is a lecture to set us right.

    The part that infuriates me the most is their insistence that they knew how hard it is to lose weight. I’m speechless with fury. I think I might rupture something.

    Where do people find the unmitigated gall to say things like that?

    I did not comment yesterday, I am mostly a lurker here anyway, and I found myself too upset by what you had written to formulate a response (I’ve been told to “just lose weight” before, and I lost my mother a year and a half back, so it was a painful read).

    I want to comment today to tell you that I’m terribly sorry for everything that happened to you, that you are not alone, and that you are a very brave, strong person for putting this out there where people can read it. It is absolutely the right thing to do.

    I’m sorry you lost your mom. And I’m sorry it happened how it did. And I am sorry some self-important assholes pissed all over what should have been your time to be gathered into a greater love so that you could mourn among family.

    Amazing how death can in its dreadful immensity make some people so pathetically small in their hearts. I’m glad that you don’t seem to be making the mistake of thinking, even for a second, that what they said in any way lessens _you_.

    I’m sorry that, wounded, you were wounded again by the very people who should have been offering you nothing but comfort and understanding.

  18. Oh my god, I’m sorry. I do understand; for years, my grandmother went on and on and ON to me about how much happier skinnier people are, and how much nicer and more “pleasant” it was to be thin. This is the woman who told one of my _boyfriends_, in my hearing, that the two of them were so wonderful because they were “svelte,” and shouldn’t everyone else be like that? (to his credit, he answered “No.”)

    When she died, my other female cousin and I realized that for years…/years/…my grandmother had been criticizing me heavily for my looks (why can’t you look more like E?) and criticizing her for her smarts (why can’t you be as intelligent as M?). Families can hurt the absolute most. They know the soft spots.

    Again, I’m so sorry. My dual condolences for your loss and for you & your sister’s wounds. How awful. :(

  19. Oh, Thorn…how awful. And how this hit home for me. I have a mother who has been after me about my weight all my life. You’d think she was thin, but she isn’t. And yet, she’s obsessed with MY weight. And guess what — the one time in my life that I was thin, she told me I was too thin and I looked gaunt.

    Our family members just don’t understand how hurtful it is when someone who’s supposed to be innately on your side tells you you’re fat — no matter in how “caring” (yeah, right) a manner in which it’s done.

    I recently visited my mother and sister and one thing my sister, who isn’t as heavy as I am but has also battled weight her whole life, mostly by being an exercise addict, said to me was “Somewhere along the line you decided you were unattractive.” She dissed the fact that I wear my hair short, my weight, my clothes, everything.

    The next day my mother had a borderline meltdown (as in borderline personality disorder) and while I got out of the house before screaming, I couldn’t stop crying for days — and what my sister said had a lot to do with it.

    It doesn’t matter what they MEAN, or how “helpful” or “caring” they think they’re being. Like you said, we know we’re fat, we don’t need people who are supposed to support us telling us so — and telling us, in essence, that we’re less than worthy as a result.

    The “good” news for you is that hopefully now you can tell your “caring” aunt to stick it where the sun don’t shine and never see her again.

  20. “Somewhere along the line you decided you were unattractive.”

    Anon, my grandmother said that about me (to my dad, who passed it along for some ungodly reason)–that I decided not to be pretty. It’s unbelievable what people who love you are sometimes willing to say.

    Thorn, again, I’m so sorry you had to go through this. By sharing this story, you are moving so many of us, and hopefully helping others to stand up for themselves in the future.

  21. My grandmother once said of my brother “that’s not my grandson. My grandson is a fat slob.” Fortunately my brother was 800 miles away at the time and I, the only witness, decided not to tell him she’d said it.

  22. You have made me bawl 2 days in a row. I can’t believe your aunt would say something so ucking horrible and, in essence, co-opt and undermine your grief.

    Your post yesterday mirrored so many circumstances of my own mother’s death last year: her lifestyle was very unhealthy and I include in that designation of unhealthiness the amount of bullshit medication being prescribed to her by her damn doctors, doctors who she always believed had to be right as they were men and she wanted to be “good.” She died within 3 weeks of being prescribed an SSRI since her osteo-doctor said she was also “depressed”: an SSRI with severe and fatal contraindications with the NSAID she was on, the phen fen she’d been given to lose weight, the Lipitor, the high blood pressure stuff, you name it. But three weeks after the Lexapro, which can, it says right on the sheet can cause fatal stomach bleeding if you are

    a) over 60
    b) overweight
    c) taking NSAIDs
    d) taking a high blood pressure med
    e) history of heart trouble
    f) smoke
    g) all of the above applied to her.

    I am babbling.

    I am so sorry Thorn. I miss my mom every day. I am so so sorry for you and crying really hard.



  23. I would strongly encourage you to send the pieces you wrote both yesterday and today to your Aunt Joan. You can include a note that says “If you have anything decent and meaningful to say to me in response to this, please give me a call. If you want to use it to further fat-shame me, my sister, or my late mother, I think it’s best that we not speak again.”

    Does she deserve anything at all from you? No. But I think you deserve the opportunity to let her know how hurtful she’s been to her family and that it’s not okay.

  24. I think if I were you, I’d be pretty tempted to print out your amazing series and send them to your Aunt, tucked inside a copy of “Rethinking Thin” with a very sweet dedication in the front. Something like, “Thanks for making one of the hardest times in my life even harder. I’ll never forget your ‘unconditional’ love and support.”

    This, I mean. And what’s just above too.

  25. I’m so, so sorry, Thorn. So, so, sorry.

    I lost my dad last year and, in retrospect, the fact that no one cornered me about my fat is one of the greatest blessings of that time. Usually at least one relative will express concern about my size at family gatherings…which is why I’ve come to avoid them.

    The worst I got was an aunt telling me I shouldn’t give up on getting married (I’m 36) and that someone will love me someday. Ohhhkay.

    My own Aunt Harpy’s best was about 7 years ago when I was visiting her for the first time in years and telling her about my life, including the fact that I had found a boyfriend (who wanted to marry me) who “accepted me just as I am”. She was appalled. “Maura, the LAST thing you need is a man who accepts you the way you are — you’re FAT! No one should accept you the way you are – it’s so unhealthy!”

    I haven’t visited her since then. (The guy turned out to be not such a catch after all, but still it was an awful thing to be told when I was sharing my happiness with her.)

    Again, I’m so sorry for your loss and so thankful to you for sharing your story.

  26. Boy, am I glad both my parents were only children! I’m speechless, Thorn, at the self-righteous crassness of your Aunt and am in total agreement with all the suggestions to print out your posts – and all our responses, (let’s see how she enjoys being on the receiving end of people passing moral judgement on her) – and send them to the self-righteous old cowbag. By all means include a copy of Rethinking Thin, though I rather think your dedication should simply read, “I need to say something.”

  27. The mind boggles. The heart struggles to understand how a ‘loving’ family member could actually say that…right before a funeral.

    I was too upset yesterday to even post my condolences, but this makes me so angry and sad and outraged.

    Gods, my condolences.

  28. My mom had thyroid cancer, it was removed, and since it help regulate metabolism, she has gained a tremendous amount of weight. Even when she was thin, she felt fat, always dieted, exercised regularly. But now, since she gained weight, she is even more relentless on herself.

    It is hurtful that my mom, who is kind, whose line of work is helping others, can see none of her good qualities because her mother and coworkers make rude, cruel remarks to her.

    Yesterday, there was a baby shower at her job and there’s a game played when teams try to guess the inches of the mommy-to-be’s belly. One of her coworkers said, “Let’s measure Mary and work DOWN from there.”

    When my mom told me this, i was outraged. “Did you tell her to fuck herself then go to hell?”

    What is with people? Why does anyone feel like they’re in a place to say anything to anyone else? It’s infuriating.

    My sincerest condolences to you for the loss of your mother, the lack of comfort and love a child needs terribly, whether the relationship was good or bad and the fact that the world abounds with buttholes.


  29. I’m so sorry you’ve gone through all of this, both the loss and the callous and thoughtless relatives.

    I’m also terribly sorry that you were so crippled by anger that you couldn’t write the eulogy. That is so sad.

    I think a hard thing to learn (but a possible thing, not an impossible one) is to say no when you see it coming.
    “There’s something I want to say.”/ “Not now.”
    “I don’t want to be offensive…” /”Then stop now.”

    People don’t have a god-given right to finish their sentences, they just don’t.

  30. I realize that fat hatred was the source of the content of these comments but I’d like to point out that, by God, people can also be separated from the herd (or show their undying membership IN a herd) by showing such awful manners–not being able to see the other person’s point of view.

  31. I was sent here by one of my friends after posting that my best friend’s little brother had passed away at 23. He’d been overweight all his life (severely) and I’m pretty sure it was his breathing problems due to the fat around his throat that actually killed him, though I’m not sure.

    Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. At 27 years old and 321 lbs, I can only dream of being back to 280. I even got down to 240 for a while and felt SO THIN to be wearing an 18/20, but that didn’t last long. Now I’m doing the lap-band pre-op stuff so that I can have surgery.

    I started gaining weight when I was five years old, so I know as well as your mom all the comments people can make, though a lot of them I heard from the point of view of a child.

    I remember clear as if it was yesterday my step-mom telling me that the outfit I’d tried on made me look pregnant. I never went shopping with friends in college because I couldn’t go clothes shopping in those stores and didn’t want to drag them in to Lane Bryant with me. These days even THEIR clothes aren’t big enough and I’ve been relegated to digging through Avenue for their 30/32s.

    It’s embarrassing and humiliating. I didn’t even want to visit my parents last Thanksgiving because I had gained so much weight and knew that my dad would give me the “just diet and exercise” speech.

    I’ve been blessed with a strong spirit and, since high school, a rather bull-headed nature towards idiots. For the most part, anyway. I still don’t take it well when other problems are blamed on my weight.

    I went to my doctor last year, who I love, but he wasn’t in and I was sent back to see his dad instead, who I do not love (a lot). I can’t remember for sure, but I believe it had to do with my migraines at the time. Well, he was sure to tell me that 1) I should get off of my anti-depressants and 2) I really needed to lose weight.

    Well, no kidding I need to lose weight, I do have a mirror. But the anti-depressant thing got me, as that’s all that keeps me together! Of course, I left there and bought a bag of cookies and another of baked lays, and ate them all while I cried.

    Things are a little better these days, I guess. My dad was amazingly supportive about the lap-band idea and hasn’t given me one speech since. Possibly because he’s at his heaviest weight ever! My step-mom was completely against it, but recently there has been a lot of good press on it, and then she found out that the owners and chefs of our favorite Italian restaurant both had it done, so she seems much more positive about it now, LOL!

    Unlike many people, I am fully wanting to lose weight for my health and well-being. I’m blessed to have some amazing friends who could care less what I look like, and my parents live half a country away and are not a big part of my every day existence any more.

    However, in my quest for more information on the lap-band, I’ve read a lot of stories from a lot of people who do this surgery for their husband or boyfriend or family more than themselves, and I hate that. People lose all this weight and their partner’s response is “I got my wife/husband back!” Well, no, they were there all along, you were just too much of a jerk to see it.

    And if you complain about leg pain (a college problem I had), you are told “well, you are 100 lbs overweight…” and no one ever checks to see if there could be another problem, because being 100 lbs overweight wasn’t exactly a new condition in my life!

    Okay, have I ranted enough to you about stuff you already know? I thought so! I wish you and your sister the best, and hope that you don’t have to see much of your aunt, if at all possible.

    No one but the medically obese will ever understand the daily struggle involved with food and weight. To never know what it feels like to be “full.”

  32. Unbelievable. I just want to come down and slap the stupid out of that woman.
    Sorry you had to be the recipient of such insensitiivy during such a difficult time….

  33. I’m so, so sorry for your loss, and for the horrible way your aunt compounded it. Sometimes I’m shocked at the rudeness people will display when they think it’s for someone’s “own good.”

    This is OT, but I’m reminded of a time when I was 14. I used to go camping every year at the same site and roughly the same week each summer. There were several families that would do the same, and though we didn’t know each other outside that world, after several years we became fairly close. When I was 14, one of the girls who was about 2 years older than me was pregnant. When I found out (in a group of people who already knew) I said, “Congratulations!” Afterward, my friend’s mom took me aside and said that she was very impressed with me because it was the first nice thing anyone had said to this girl. Everyone had been clucking their tongues about it, as if she didn’t already know that it was considered less than ideal to be pregnant at 16. For god’s sake – is basic compassion and human decency too much to ask when confronted with people that make us uncomfortable for some reason? This, I think, is where manners are so important – not to make sure no one uses the wrong fork, but to set up a framework to ensure that people are verbally and physically respectful of each other.

  34. “No one but the medically obese will ever understand the daily struggle involved with food and weight.”

    With great respect, I have to disagree. Based on my own experience (once “medically obese”, now not) and based on what American women say (and a lot of European women, for that matter – and some friends of African relatives who have been stuffed prior to marriage to be “attractive” to their husbands – same problem, really, control over how women’s bodies look; just the inapposite cultural take) whom I talk to and/or read about daily. IMHO, every modern woman has an eating disorder.

    I also believe that, whether we stuff or starve, and really so connected to this story, it’s related to what we DON’T say. Particularly to people who are – deliberately or not – hurting us badly.

    More centrally On Topic: “I don’t mean to be offensive…”/”Then stop now.”

    What Deborah Lipp said.

    Also, what Toby Wallinsaid (especially in retort). As women, we are regularly regarded by the medical establishment as “emotional creatures of appetite.” I believe that a significant reason for that is that the majority of medical research is – still – based on how MEN’S bodies work.

    However, as women, if we’re not outwardly “emotional”, we’re also excoriated – even, and sometimes especially, by other women — if we’re analytical, logical, and/or plain-spoken. Because then we’re lecturing, cold-hearted b*tches.

    It really is a feminist issue. No matter what a woman does or doesn’t do, whatever happens that’s bad is her fault. How many of us eat to stuff down what we would have said? Or –feeling particularly germane in the case of Aunt Harpies the world over — what we would have said back?

  35. You realize, don’t you, that in writing about why your mom died, and what people did to make her and you feel bad about yourselves, you have written a finer eulogy than you ever could have delivered at the funeral? People all over the world know about your mom, care about your mom, care about what it meant to lose her. You’re DOING something about the hatred that killed her. You’re making the world a better place for all of us. Your actions are a credit to the woman who raised you. I do not want to push any set of beliefs on anyone, but it is my profound conviction that your mother is in a place of peace and rest where she can be free of pain and shame, and that she knows how much you love her.

  36. You wrote a beautiful eulogy Thorn. Parts 1 & 2. Your mother would be so proud of how you have chosen to remember her.

  37. I agree with Justme.. that is a beautiful Eulogy.. I wish things had been different for you during this dark time.. I wish you had been able to mourn has you should have been.

  38. I am very sorry…….I know the feeling of what you are going thru ……….my grandmother thinks fat people are nasty she came to my house and sprayed the bed and bath heavily with disinfectant the one time she spent the night ……….I have not talked to her in years !

  39. Thorn, this is a wonderful series, and you have done so much good in writing this. Your whole family should be proud of you.

    My mother died a few years ago from cancer. She had 3 kids from a previous marriage, who I barely know and who hate that I exist. These 3 didn’t help one bit during mom’s illness or funeral, and one of the 2 who showed up to the funeral wouldn’t get anywhere near me because I was fat. She’s an idiot, the kind who think fat is contagious, and she literally backed away from me constantly. I had to make sure I never stepped within 10 feet of her or she’d start backing into things.

    Like a professor of mine once said, it’s great you can choose your friends, and it’s a shame you can’t choose your family.

  40. I can so relate to what you have written about yourself and your mother. As the only fat member of my family no amount of professional, artistic. or personal achievement will overarch the fact that I am fat. My family isn’t even interested in my life, just that I’m fat.

    I live several thousand miles away (surprise) and rarely return to visit because I am not like your nice sister Rose and my standing up for myself in such situations always creates friction and “hurt” feelings. I don’t relish being a source of conflict so I stay away. When I return for weddings or funerals I’ve endured the stares, the shunning, the half veiled comments, the controlling statements of concern ala Aunt Joan. It’s galling to the extreme.

    Again I’m so sorry that you had to endure this poor treatment at the worst possible time. You certainly deserved much better.

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