This is Not Just What I Look Like

One of the reasons that I get so excited about being distantly related to Lizzie Borden or Jonathan Moulton or whomever is that when I was growing up in these small towns where everyone was related to everyone, of course, we were related to no one. We had cousins, but they were all in Michigan. And this notion that there are a shit-ton of people out there, all vaguely distantly related to me is… I don’t quite know how to explain it. It makes me feel like, yeah, I am from here.

This rich tapestry of people spreading out across American from the early 1600s.

Which, yes, I guess, makes us the smallpox blanket of people.

So, that’s maybe not so cool for everyone.

But it brings me to the other thing that really upsets me about this whole doctor visit. I look like the people I come from. My body is shaped like my grandma’s. I have huge boobs like my other grandma. I have blue eyes like my favorite uncle. I am big and fat like a ton of the Phillipses (no pun intended) and their ancestors. I don’t just look like me.

So, when someone wants to suggest ways that I can dramatically be thinner? Sometimes, depending on how it’s delivered, I experience it as “these traits you share with the people you love, the things about you that remind you of them, are gross and should not exist.”

Which kind of feels like you, and the people like you, your family, should not exist.

Because, I have to tell you, I have watched the people in my family for generations struggle to be thinner. And I don’t know of a one who’s lost weight and kept it off. Believe me, while I am weak-willed and will eat cookies for dinner, I can tell you, the self-loathing about being fat that some of them have and the self-discipline they have especially about things that would allow them to lord over other Phillipses and prove how much better they were than the rest of us, if there was a way to be thinner and stay thinner that worked for my family, someone would have done it. And that person would be bragging about it every damn day.

So, it’s not as if we are people who have been saddled with fat and who can, if disciplined enough, remove the fat and keep it off and still be people. Not overall. It may work in individual cases, but I have not yet seen it. We are fat people. It’s an inherent trait. The same way that we’re grouchy assholes who abuse drugs and each other.

Yes, we can successfully take steps to mitigate those traits and not everyone is expressing those traits, but they’re there.

But here’s the crucial difference, I think. I do think that, when my family is not being grouchy assholes who abuse drugs and each other, they are happier. And I long, so much, for the people in my family to be happy. It’d be good to mitigate those things.

It’s not important to me that my family mitigate being fat. I don’t look at them and think “There are all the gross and disgusting fuckers who I love” the same way I look at them and think “God damn it, can we just try to be happy for like five seconds and not be assholes to each other?”

I don’t see them as gross and disgusting at all. That’s my family.

I don’t know. I had a point, but I just got caught up on the idea that someone could look at my grandpa and see him as round as a Christmas ornament, sitting in his chair at his game table, smoking his ubiquitous cigar and think that his biggest problem was his weight. I mean, lord almighty, if you had to make a list of all of the health concerns that should have been addressed at the Phillips household and you put “they’re fat” at the top or even in the top ten, you are either a fucker or a fool.

How incredibly short-sighted you’d have to be to gaze into the house on Riverview and see only a family that needed to diet and exercise.

So, that’s it. In short, I feel like I’m being asked to reject some fundamental part of my family as fucked up and disgusting, something that makes me a “problem.” And this is funny considering what my family is like and how “fat” is really, the most neutral thing about them.

And I love them.

And that’s that.

3 thoughts on “This is Not Just What I Look Like

  1. I love this. I wish I had something better to add that “I feel ya’,” but I do. I look at old pictures of my grandma or my great aunt and think, “Hey, we have the same weird teeth,” or “There’s my bushy hair.” My nose is my dad’s and his dad’s.

  2. I’m the only fat person in my extended family. I’m also the only person who had thyroid cancer. Both of these things are meant to have a strong genetic component, but I’m just special! It made me start to wonder if I was adopted, but I look far too much like my dad’s side of the family (just twice as big and much taller) for that to be true. And I have my dad’s funny eyebrows and locked thumb joints, too.

  3. I remember when Slartibartfast would get all up in arms about various topics that in whatever roundabout way were An Insult To His Dear Mama Who Raised Him.

    I always find critiicsim of fat people to affect me similarly. It’s not just me who is fat.

    Everyone I have ever loved and who has ever loved me is now overweight.

    And that’s not a short list.

    When it comes down to it, an attack on fat people is an attack on my entire world. Since blogging I’ve made a few standard-weight friends and a couple who are actually underweight. But outside of them my world is populated with those whose weight ranges from “mildly over” to “morbidly obese.”

    I feel like I’ve been one of the lucky people who has been well and truly loved by parents, siblings, friends and a couple of really good men. The fact that they were/are fat has not in any way diminshed that.

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