In Which I Brainstorm About Childhood Obesity

Over at Brainstorm Nashville, they’re focusing on childhood obesity as their starter community “problem.” I am resisting the urge to holler “Fuck you, you hateful bigots” at the people I know involved in this, because it’s not really productive. I would feel better, believe me, but it’s not really productive.

So, I’m going to try assuming, for a second, that these people honestly mean well, there’s just some disconnect between how they view themselves–as good people who want to make positive change in our city–and what they’re doing–being enormous hateful bigoted troublemakers.

Here are the points I want to make.

1. I don’t have obesity. I am obese. It’s not something that I experience as being not me, since it is, literally, me. So, this way of talking about obesity:

“Tennessee’s kids are too fat. It sounds harsh, but the reality is that Tennessee’s childhood obesity rate teeters close to 21 percent, the sixth highest in the country. And for children 10-17, the number increases to nearly 37 percent. Everyone in the state is affected as the cost of treating this preventable epidemic skyrockets.”

Means that the folks at The Tennessean, folks I like and who I think like me, think that I cost the state too much and that people who are not me nor my doctor have the right, no, the obligation to single people like me out and get rid of us because we cost too much. I am supposed to understand that this desire to get rid of me is “concern about me.” But if you’re truly concerned about me, why can’t I exist?

2. If being obese is preventable, prove it. Show one form of treatment or one course of action that is scientifically proven to make the majority of people–hell, I’ll give you a slim majority; I’m talking 50.0000000001% of the people–who engage in that treatment or course of action who were obese before starting it not obese after five years. I’m not talking about things you “know” should work. Or things that “would” work if people followed them correctly or whatever excuse. I’m talking straightforward, show me something that works. The pressure on people to be thin is enormous and yet people are still getting fatter. Not just petulant assholes like me, but people who are literally trying everything, who are highly motivated to lose weight.

3. Being left-handed also isn’t good for you. Left-handed people are more prone to mental health issues, accidents, and we make 10% less than right-handed people. And you can retrain someone to use her right hand. So, what is it about obesity that makes it okay for you to busybody about but not left-handedness? Both are somewhat malleable traits that the person who has them suffers health issues because of. So, why is it okay to meddle with obese children and not with left-handed children?

4. If a group of well-meaning people got together and decided that divorce was such a negative factor in childrens’ lives that they had to step in and do something about it, would you, as a parent, feel comfortable with them intervening in the lives of all children of divorced parents? Or would you find it upsetting to discover that people who don’t know anything about your child’s particular circumstances or the issues surrounding your marriage had decided what’s best for your child and moved to act on it? Would it be okay if they did this without your consent if they had “experts” or “community leaders” on their side?

5. Did you know the CDC’s numbers on who’s obese are self-reported? More interesting than that, I ask you to look at this chart of childhood obesity trends. Note how high the line of 6-11 year olds reaches in 2003. Now look at how much lower it is in 2005 and then how it raises again in 2007. What do you suppose happened to all those obese kids in 2005-6? Did they all lose weight only to regain it? Or is the method of discovering how obese children are perhaps problematic? Are you really willing to mobilize a whole community against a certain group of children based on numbers that oddly fluctuate?

6. 5-10% of girls have this. Since one of its symptoms is obesity, the number of girls you’re targeting who have this condition is much higher than 5-10%. How much shame and harshness do you think you can administer to change a genetic disorder? Or are you and your helpful community leaders who care so much going to require that little girls disclose their medical issues to you before you leave them alone?

7. Anti-depressants often make people gain weight. Do you think it’s better for people to suffer from depression and perhaps die from it (20% of teens suffer from depression and suicide is the third leading cause of death of death among teenagers) and be non-obese or better for them to be obese and not depressed? Will you be demanding that pharmaceutical companies develop anti-depressants that are effective and don’t cause some people to gain weight? Will you still be insisting these children be smaller until your dream anti-depressants come on the market even though they can’t and be mentally healthy? Or will this be another instance where you require children to reveal private medical information to you in order to avoid your crusade?

8. Is there a point, when you make exceptions for the children with physical conditions and you make exceptions for the children with medical conditions and you make exceptions for the kids who meet the medical definition of “obese” but you’ve decided you like them or it doesn’t look that bad to you and exceptions for the kids whose parents tell you to go to hell, when you realize just how incredibly arbitrary and intrusive this is?

9. Are there things about you, physical traits or activities that others might look down on that you’re willing to have opened up to public scrutiny? If those same traits are present in children, would you be comfortable opening up those children to the same level of public scrutiny you’d be willing to subject yourself to?

10. The excuse you give for why this is necessary is “Everyone in the state is affected as the cost of treating this preventable epidemic skyrockets.” Could you put an actual number on how much money a person “costs” that makes you feel you own them? Or at least have a stake in their bodies? Is there anything about the idea that a child having a “cost” means that you get some say over that child’s physical appearance that makes you uncomfortable about this? Anything that gives you second thoughts? Even a brief pause?

Anyway, I will not be further participating in any brainstorming about childhood obesity because the whole premise behind it is disgusting. And I am embarrassed for the well-meaning people who think they can look at a child and and just by looking determine that the child is a problem the well-meaning people need to solve. It’s hard enough to be a kid. Being a kid who the local paper has determined is a charity case just by looking at her? Ugh, that sucks. And I’m certainly not going to participate in a public discussion about how I shouldn’t exist.

Seriously, fuck that shit. And shame on The Tennessean for engaging in it.

An Open Letter to My Mom

Hello, Mother,

So, there we are watching Conan the Barbarian–me (also crocheting a baby blanket for, weirdly, a baby who hasn’t been born yet), the Butcher, and the Red-Headed Kid. We’re just at the point where it’s gotten so unintentionally hilarious that we’re laughing through the sex scene. (Honestly, I thought it’d be worse. The commercials made it look like the kid who played Conan would be terrible, but I thought he did a fine job.) The phone rings. It’s Dad.

“So, your brother is coming to visit you for his birthday?”


“Coming up on Thursday?”


That’s what your mother tells me.


“Did you put that on Facebook and I missed it?”

“No, maybe [my brother] did.”

“I didn’t see it.”

“Hmm, maybe she’s psychic?”


(Oh, lord, people, you know in my family when someone says “perhaps” that there’s some Sherlock Holmes shit going down in their brain. I totally should have answered “Perhaps, indeed.”)

But I had already narrowed down the possibilities of how you, Mom, discovered this to two ways. 1.) You’re following me on Twitter. I find this unlikely since you are not not a scantily clad young woman with a name like WKN1039 who is lonely and wants me to click a link that will infect my computer with some terrible virus (unless you’re spending your retirement as an evil internet troublemaker?).  2.) You’re reading Tiny Cat Pants even though I asked you and Dad not to.

You can guess toward which explanation I am leaning.

Sadly for you, Mom, it’s all poop here all the time lately, which is exactly the same kind of stuff I talk to you and Dad about on the phone. The only reason I didn’t tell you my brother was coming here for his birthday is that I assumed he already had.

So here’s the thing: is there anything here at Tiny Cat Pants I really don’t want my parents to see? Eh, you know, I wouldn’t put it on the internet if I didn’t expect some busybody might send you a link to it sometime.

Maybe we can make some kind of Clinton-esque move. (No, not blowjobs in the White House.) What I’m saying is that we could move from “It’s forbidden” to “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” I don’t care if you’re reading Tiny Cat Pants, Mom (and I totally know you are, which means you’ve ruined your own Christmans present, which is totally your own fault), but I don’t want to know about it.

So, get sneakier.