Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ever thus

At the left: Variation #209,873 on making something completely out of one's control--body type--a fad, so as to spur impotent fanciful longing and money-spending, a reaching for an ideal that has likely SFA to do with what your own body looks like, however big it is or isn't. It is not possible, note, to move your body fat around like clay, to pad some bits ("keep your [socially-acceptable] curves") and lose the "extra." Not how the human body works.

When I was growing up it was all the same, just a different ideal: if you dieted and spent money and worked hard enough you could suddenly be a hipless preppy wonder. The ideal changes, the longing to change doesn't. "Spot-reducing exercises"...remember those? They were supposed to make the right things thin, leave the rest.

I hate when people push any look as the Real Whatever. The whole Real Women Have Curves thing, for instance, is such crap. Real women: have boobs, don't have boobs, have hips, don't have hips, are big, small, thin, fat, tall, short, blah, blah. Nobody needs the validation of "real"--any woman is a real woman. To use the word real is only, as people say, to suggest its opposite.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I was excited at first to see this photo in People; it's a promo shot from the new Judd Apatow movie, Bridesmaids, and, Mike & Molly aside, I am just a big Melissa McCarthy fan. Kind of hard not to be--she's so pretty and funny and there she is wearing hot shoes and skipping across the street. Go Melissa.

For some reason I had Bridesmaids conflated with another bunch-of-chicks movie and thought Melissa McCarthy had a fun part in it, but then I checked out the previews. Ungh.

I do not think fat actresses shouldn't play grotesque, macabre characters. I do not think fat actresses--any actress--should always have to look pretty or aren't allowed to risk being out there.

But--ungh. Some part of this fat girl died a little inside when I saw McCarthy's outfits. If this is The Hangover for Ladies, McCarthy seems to be Zach Galifianakis: she's the icky one. She dresses in a weird, mannish way, is artless, kinda gross, weird. Bigger people in Apatowian films are like giant gruff babies, unaware of their inappropriateness, barging around, causing problems.

I haven't seen the movie, so I'll shut up for now, but from the previews it strikes me as strange casting. McCarthy is a great comedienne and can do lots of parts (she was in the Groundlings), but she's also very pretty and feminine and not really a second-banana type--she looks more like the lead to me than Kristen Wiig. Not really sure why she gets to be the Alan Garner here, at a squint, other than size. We'll see.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Yes, there is a closet.

Gawker recently posted a blind item from Buzzfoto in their gossip column:
This actor, known mostly for his great hair and good looks over his acting ability, might surround himself with stick thin supermodels at times, but we're told he has a 'big girl fetish.' He scours the internet for listings and photos of lovely, big, and curvaceous women and hooks up with them whenever possible!
There are a lot of closets to find fascinating in the weird world in which we live, but this one--the men-who-like-big-girls closet--is my favorite. Well, it's not my favorite; it's not fun--it's hurtful and depressing--but it sure is chronically fascinating. It is a real thing, filled with a wild mix of people. I find it especially interesting because most people don't know it's there, as is often the way with closets. (Why would you even need that closet--nobody likes fat women anyhow, right? You might get saddled with a fat woman as you age and make the best of it, but nobody chooses them from the outset, yes?)

I saw the blind item in a blog entry by Tami Winfrey Harris, whose writing I like, in which she said:
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how sick we are about weight in America.

I am accustomed to blind gossip items being the domain of cheating spouses, drug addictions, five-finger discounts and other bad celebrity behavior. Apparently, loving a little junk in the trunk and meat on the bones is a) a fetish (Curious that a love of underweight models is never deemed a "fetish.") and b) a moral sin comparable to crack addiction.

I'll alert my husband to beware the vice squad.
She is quite right that it's all ridiculous, that "fetish" is the wrong word here, and that model beauty is a very weird norm, but I also think she might be missing something by pointing a finger at the gossip writer and not at the facts (can you even use that term about a blind item?). She, in a way, would also seem to be saying: why do you even need that closet?, although for opposite reasons than those I described above--she's saying it shouldn't be weird to like big women (it shouldn't). But the truth either way is that the FA closet (I am going to use the sometimes divisive industry standard term here: "FA" stands for fat admirer) is a really deep one and isn't just a media construct.

If a young actor "known mostly for his great hair and good looks over his acting ability" likes somewhat acceptably chubby or unacceptably fat women, wherever you're drawing the line, and on whatever side of it he falls, then he is in the closet. Either way. Other than women who generally top out in the size 12/14 range, such as Pierce Brosnan's wife Keely Shayle Smith and Freddy Rodriguez's wife Elsie, name one contemporary high-profile entertainer who walks the red carpet with a more-or-less-consistently-fat girl on his arm. (Women like Mo'Nique, Gabourey Sidibe, and Dawn French, who are the celebrities in those cases, are separate from the issue I'm addressing, although maybe Lenny Henry could be our exception here--I can't say.)

Think about it. You can name a flurry of people who say positive things about size, or sing songs about fat girls, or paint fat women, or maybe once admitted [nsfw] to sleeping with a fat girl, and most everyone either used to or still does obsess about their weight, or "struggles" with it, so that the issue of size becomes relevant to everybody (I think just drawing breath in 2011 makes that happen)--but that's different. I'm talking about celebrities who choose to date or marry actual fat women and are actually seen doing so. It's pretty difficult to point to any images of it happening. I'm not saying people who say positive things about size but have thin partners are by definition in the closet, I'm just saying--when do you ever see the fat partners? Nor am I trying to sneer at size 12/14 types to say they're "not fat enough," I'm saying: that isn't actually the absolute end of the fat girl size rainbow--more like the beginning. Nor is whom you love a test of anything but whom you love, but (to say it again), when do you see a guy, whatever his size, with a big woman?

People probably assume you don't see fat girlfriends with celebrities because celebrities have earned the right to choose thatwhichismostdesirable (thin partners). And there's no getting around male celebrities' ability to re-up with new young wives as part of the equation. The fact, though, is that some men like fat women. They just do. (Usual thinking is 5-10% of the population--who knows).

Whoever thinks that the pressure to date thin people isn't real isn't really looking at the fanatical disgust with which fat is generally treated in our lives. If fat is disgusting, what does that make someone who is often, or even exclusively, attracted to fat people? Physically attracted? Someone perfectly capable of loving the whole person, but likes when it is a whole big person? The drone of Fat=Unhealthy, which has created a real "reason" and a million new ways to hate fat people, makes it all more tenacious too, because now not only do FAs' families and friends get to disapprove, they get to "justify" it, because how could you love somebody who is killing themselves with fat? We just want to help you honey.

Men who like large women: don't see in the media (especially in the white world) images of men, whatever size, with large women; can be ridiculed for liking them ("you must have been really drunk when you took that one home"); can be penalized professionally for being married to them. I know men married to large wives who have been told when their partner leaves the room that they have somebody in mind for them when they're ready to do better. I know men who lost friends and family for coming out of the FA closet.

Not every man is ready to risk that kind of criticism for themselves or is ready to risk subjecting someone they love to it. Not every man is ready to risk loving someone he's attracted to who doesn't fit the mold. Not every man is ready to risk facing the "guilt" of being attracted to an aspect of someone they love that will make them die young (or so the messages go). Not every man is ready to defend a sexual predilection or call it important, whatever their inclination toward divulging personal information.

Everybody's horny, though. Some FAs will not risk going public, but as ever, the horny will out--sort of. At least into the closet. Some closet cases park there for the rest of their life, surfing fat porn, buying sex, dating and sleeping with fat women on the DL. Many of them embody all the fat-hate and fat-lust within themselves, saying without any sense of disconnect, "Of course I wouldn't date her" about somebody they'll go to great lengths to spend time with. Closet cases can do a lot of damage to a population that can be pretty damaged already by the messages the world sends about how nobody will ever want you if you're fat.

You run into these guys as just a regular fat girl in the dating world: married men with trophy wives they're not attracted to and a never-ending extramarital career of dating fatties; the guy who claims he's attracted to all sorts of women although it gradually becomes clear he dates the thin ones in public and fucks the fat ones in private; men with two Facebook pages; the guys who want to come over to your house on your first date and won't be seen in public; the ambitious young academic who told me straight to my face he would never marry a woman my size but would always be most attracted to women who looked like me. They're out there.

I actually have sympathy for closet cases--to a degree. Nobody has a right to treat other people badly, but I understand where closeted thinking, at least, comes from. I know how easy it is to be a closeted fat person, to desperately try to not take up all of your needed space, to try to hide. I know how hard it must be to date people who often don't like the way they look, who find you in turn disgusting for liking something they hate about themselves. I know all the shitty cultural thinking about fat can skew things into the forbidden so strongly and at such a young age that it's pretty hard to put it straight.

For that reason I think closet cases need to be encouraged to come out, to work through their mixed, sometimes disgusted feelings and apprehensions, so that they can, you know--nut up and COME THE FUCK OUT. That would be the point there. As fat people always say when talking about this: I can't ultimately hide being fat, but you have the luxury of hiding. Who has it worse? Plus it's just sad. Life is short. You like what you like--why deny yourself it? Why hurt others, but why hurt yourself?

You have to wonder if a really high-profile celebrity FA came out what it would do to all this. I can't help thinking that it would do a lot of good if a famous man who was proud of his 350-lb wife just (wait for it)...went somewhere with her and was photographed while doing it (omgnoway!). More than once (noWAY!). Made it clear he was dating a fat woman. Held a fat woman's hand, escorted her with pride somewhere, let somebody take a photo and publish it. Whatever. Everyday stuff. The idea of such a photo seems startlingly revolutionary, more so even than a photo of just a fat woman, which is the biggest clue I can think of pointing to the closet's existence for people who don't get it. Fat women, when they are pictured, are pictured alone. Right now the only place you ever see an image of a man touching a fat woman is porn, but that's not because it's a fetish, that's because it's Not Okay anywhere else but damn if it doesn't have unstoppable momentum when it comes to our libidos. That is how closets work.

Last year, when rumors were swirling about a famous actor who secretly or not so secretly liked the fatties--please note, this is a favorite parlor game in Fatland; figuring out which celebrities might "really" like big girls from all sorts of clues--and the gossip is good, all the more because this shit comes out, yo--I thought that it might be cool to start doing flashmobs. Fat girl flashmobs, at this particular actor's appearances, or those of others known to be struggling with the closet. We would gather a group of 100 beautifully-dressed fat ladies, scatter ourselves in the crowd, then at an appointed time move forward to the front in a surge, so that as far as the eye can see there were gorgeously put-together fat women circling the celebrity in question, looking up at him like the little green aliens in Toy Story. We would not be shaming him or taunting him or indeed saying anything at all: just looking up and smiling, showing him and world what he likes in one long, long look, then walking away without a word.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

photo Tuesday

From Earl MacPherson's Pin-Up Art: How to Draw and Paint Beautiful Girls. Click to see larger version and read pin-up directions: "Enlarge bust line"; "Bring out curves"; "Dots indicate actual waistline before thin[n]ing for pin-up." I love pin-up art, but this is all still pretty amusing.

Thanks to R for the scans.

Friday, March 4, 2011

looking back, looking ahead

I created this schedule above [click image for larger version] for a field trip on the (ever-so-fake) holiday of National Fat Day as a semi-serious lark for my zine, Gastrolater, in 2002. I was looking at it the other day, in an idle curiosity about who among the mentioned fat celebrities might not be so big anymore, when I noticed this little bit (below). It's odd to think now about how far-flung and wild the idea of so much weight-loss surgery was at that point, but 2010 has come and gone and the rate of bariatric surgery has more than doubled since I wrote that.