They carry parasites.

My yoga teacher is thin, but he’s becoming a fat acceptance advocate, which is what he was talking about before class started the other day. He described being at a party where several guests were smack-talking fat people. Not, you know, specific fat people, but rather the Platonic Anti-Ideal — lazy, smelly, disgusting, etc. Apparently someone did, in fact, say, “They carry parasites.”

At that point my yoga teacher intervened, reminding the party guests that they were, in fact, talking about people, and that he felt these comments were unacceptable. He said (to us, the students warming up) that he was struck by how, in their smack-talking, the guests were really reflecting their own fears in the ways they condemned the nameless fatties. Another student piped up, “Well, I have a hard time. I mean, I see a fat person, and sometimes I feel sorry for them, but sometimes, like if a fat woman’s coming out of Starbucks with a big fat drink, I just think, ugh, that’s disgusting.”

Any pre-class calm I had managed to develop evaporated. “Do you think that when you see a thin woman with the same drink?” I asked. “Oh, I don’t think I’ve seen thin women do that,” she said. I suggested that she might be more likely to notice a fat woman with said beverage, since we are conditioned to look askance at fat people consuming anything. “Maybe I just want that big drink myself,” she conceded. Then: “And I mean, I need to lose thirty or forty pounds.”

What I didn’t say, as I touched my forehead to my knee (I tend to stretch more aggressively if pre-class conversation touches a nerve): You know you’re talking about me when you talk about fat people, right? I am a lady who has purchased multiple items from Torrid, not to mention our fabulous local stores, Savvy Plus and Fat Fancy. Did my fellow student realize? Or was I, to her, Stealth Fat?

I put it out of my mind, or tried to, and concentrated on the day’s series of poses. But I found myself wishing that I did carry parasites; parasites that would infect her brain with questions about why other people’s bodies inspired such pity and loathing.

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  • shinylib
    July 9, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Agh, I have this encounter out in the world at least once a week. I struggle with the commonly-used-in-Portland descriptor, “You know…fat? But not fat fat.”

  • Sara
    July 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Fat fat? Makes me want to rewrite the Shaggs song.

  • Ali
    July 9, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I’ve been involved in the same conversations where the underlying thought seems
    To be ‘oh I’m not talking about you – you’re fat in a good way’. and
    Then there was the time I was in the “women’s” section of Nordstroms
    Talking to a clerk and a lady interrupted with, “excuse me – where are the
    Clothes for NORMAL people?” thanks for the post SAra.

  • vj
    July 9, 2010 at 8:32 pm


    thanks, Sara!

  • Sara
    July 9, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Ali, VJ, you’re welcome!

  • Deborah
    July 10, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Did you see this article? (“Does my butt look fat,” by Kate Harding.)
    Final line: “I am a kindhearted, intelligent, attractive, person, and I am fat. There is no paradox there.”

    • Sara
      July 10, 2010 at 10:53 pm

      Indeed! And the Shapely Prose blog has many other fine articles as well.