Guest post by Thorn
Yep, it’s me again.
Are you exhausted by this story yet? Wrung out? Wondering what fresh hell I’m going to visit upon you today?
Trust me, I know just how you feel.
But sad to say, the story still isn’t over yet.
After the funeral I packed up my husband and my kids and headed home. Two weeks later I returned, this time on my own, for the interment of my mom’s ashes. We’d elected to have a little ceremony for it, presented by this pastor who’d known my mom really well. The cemetery was beautiful, it was sunny and warm outside.
I’d spent those intervening two weeks railing to everyone I knew about Joan’s asshattery, and had managed to work out some of my fury. I still felt distant to the family, but I’d decided to try to get past it. Joan was and always has been a rude bint and we all knew it. She’d been talked to about her behavior, and there wasn’t anything more to do about it but move on.
So after the interment ceremony, when we all went to a nearby coffee shop together, I tried to just be calm and focus on the next step: helping Rose out as much as I could, seeing as she’d been stuck with a lot of the heavy lifting in dealing with Mom’s estate.
So when it was my turn to order, I ordered just like I normally would – a skim-milk chai latte and a cranberry muffin, which I chose because I like cranberry muffins, not because it was low-fat.
I sat with Rose and Joan, who’d been helping Rose out a bunch, and we discussed handling Mom’s condo. Things were starting to wind down, and I got a call from my husband back home. I stepped outside to talk to him, and as I walked back inside after I hung up I was met by Uncle John.
He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me off to a corner. My first instinct was that he was going to say something kind to me, after the snotting on his lapel incident at Mom’s funeral. “So hey, you remember that thing Joan was talking about?”
I pondered. After I’d left, Joan had gotten pretty deeply involved in helping Rose with clearing up Mom’s affairs. “I don’t know, she’s talked about a lot of things,” I said. “Which thing in particular?”
John looked uncomfortable and stammered, “You know, the uh… the weight thing.”
My heart plummeted.
“Yeah, I remember,” I replied dully.
“You gonna work on that?”
What could I say?
“Yeah,” I mumbled.
“Good. We wanna keep you around for a good long time, you hear?”
I nodded silently and John gave my shoulders a final squeeze before releasing me and walking away.
I’ve never been bulimic, thank dog, but at that moment, I thought perhaps I could understand the impulse. My half-finished skim-milk chai latte and low-fat cranberry muffin curdled in my stomach and I threw the rest of my food away. I was so angry, I felt sure if I opened my mouth I would either scream or vomit.
I did my best to avoid John until it was time to leave.
Finally we all left, and I fumed the entire way back.
I tried to talk to my dad and his wife about how angry I was. And while they agreed that it was seriously ill-mannered of John to bring it up then (apparently my shouted, “Am I not allowed to FUCKING mourn my mother in peace?? Is that too goddamn much to ask??” was an unassailable point), they just wouldn’t get behind the rest.
I mentioned the twin-studies showing weight to be about 80% genetic.* I mentioned the experiment about weight set-points and how naturally thin people have to ingest as much as 10,000 calories a day in order to become fat. I pointed out the several people on both sides of my family tree who are fat. And finally I pointed out that my fatness hurts no one but myself, and it is my body and my choice to accept myself and strive to be healthy at whatever size I might be, or to indulge in self-hatred and go on diet after diet, hoping that somehow I will wind up being part of that lucky 5% or less who manage to maintain their weight loss for over five years.
My dad and his (naturally thin) wife just couldn’t get behind me on any of those points, though. It was all about John’s bad timing.
Later, at our mom’s condo, I told my sister about what had happened. She said, “Did you tell him to go fuck himself?”
Rose has always had a talent for getting right to the heart of a matter.
I admitted I’d been too shocked to do much but nod along. She went off on a little tirade of her own, and finally announced that she was calling our aunt Brenda about this. She said how this was just the limit, how if they love me so much and are doing this because they want me around for a good, long time, how come they’re doing it in such a way that if they keep this shit up, I’m just not ever going to come visit them at all?
We ranted together about what jackassery it all was, and I felt better, knowing that at least my sister understood, and at least she was willing to stand up for me, even if she didn’t entirely understand all my reasons for being so mad either.
I haven’t been back down at this point, and find myself unable to look forward to the big family picnic which takes place every summer. Am I going to get treated to another lecture? If anything, in the aftermath of my mother’s death, I’ve more likely gained weight than lost anything. Am I going to have someone give me stern looks if I have my annual serving of Aunt Tina’s Candy Apple Salad? What if I go back for seconds? Am I going to have to explain how I only ever have it once a year, and promise to eat nothing but lettuce and water for dinner that night?
I’m not upset at being called fat. Heaven knows I’ve been called far worse. And besides – I am fat. I’ve been fat for close to 20 years now. I’m well aware of it.
What I’m upset about is the fact that apparently the importance of lecturing someone about being fat outweighs (har har! oh, the funny pun!) the importance of being kind and compassionate to someone whose mother died suddenly just a few days before. And how it’s so very very important that you don’t dare pass up even a single opportunity to remind them of their fat and just how much they need to be ashamed of themselves and their bodies, even if that opportunity is a mere hour after having their mother’s ashes committed to soil.
And the part that really gets me? The part that makes me want to grab each of them by the shoulders and shake until their teeth rattle? Fat didn’t kill my mother. It was a blood clot. Not cholesterol. Not a Twinkie. Not any of those things. Yes, obesity is one of the many, many risk factors for DVT, but it’s certainly not the only one. And it is the only risk factor Mom had, at least until it got bad enough that it forced her into a thoroughly sedentary lifestyle.
Being fat didn’t kill my mom. What killed her was being too ashamed of being fat to go see a doctor on an even moderately regular basis. What killed her was being so ashamed of her fat that she didn’t advocate for herself when she needed to. What killed her was the message she got, day in and day out, that if she wasn’t considered fuckable by the majority of the population, she didn’t deserve to be treated with dignity or respect. What killed her was a fucking DOCTOR deciding that his Hippocratic Oath didn’t cover fat chicks, and thus my mom’s health wasn’t any of his concern.
That’s fat hatred.
And that’s what killed my mother.
And if I’m not careful, if I don’t call these fuckers on their bullshit now, if I don’t stand up for myself right this very moment, it could kill me too.
* All things I had learned since starting to read this very blog a month or two before Mom’s death, so thanks to Kate for helping me be educated enough to fight this stuff when I needed it most.