Rants & Raves
BIG BAD WORDS
By Lynne Murray
[This piece appeared in Issue 10 (January, 1996) of oooO Baby BABY Magazine.]
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words"—can break your heart. Playground insults are still painful to many of us who grew up as fat kids and large targets for hurtful words.
As a writer, I am fascinated by words. As a woman of size, I don't even have to go out to be pelted with painful ones. Simply turning on the television or opening a magazine will net me a bountiful harvest of messages telling me I am unhealthy, greedy, unattractive, unlovable, and sometimes downright evil, simply because of the percentage of fat in my body mass.
Words are slippery because our language changes every day and words go in and out of fashion.
FAT, the three-letter F-Word, has slipped downhill from a neutral or positive word. Who wouldn't want a "Fat Paycheck"? "Fat City" used to mean a place where the rewards flowed abundantly. In the last few years fat has become the demon that health-conscious people in particular love to hate. Fat is assumed to be bad wherever it is found.
"Fat Free" or "Low Fat" must be better than their cousins without the label, even though the fat-free food contains more salt, sugar or strange chemicals. Losing fat is thought to always be a good thing, even if it is caused by a life-threatening illness. I have known more than one gravely ill person who received compliments at losing weight when it meant they were close to death!
Fat may not be a four-letter word, but it is definitely a shock word. Whether a fat person decides to use it or not will depend on his or her own personal style. If you describe yourself as fat, some people will assume you are putting yourself down, as if you had called yourself sloppy-ugly-lazy or some of the other bad qualities fat people have been accused of embodying.
If you are an in-your-face activist, or just happen to be in the mood, you might relish this opportunity to rant and rave righteously at anyone who dares to assume such thing.
If you are a little more shy, or happen to be say, talking to an unsympathetic boss, it makes more sense to protect yourself. For example, I am writing a series of books about a big, beautiful woman who solves murder mysteries. When I described it to a local bookseller, he said, "Oh, an overweight detective." I didn't want to offend him (he's a tall, heavyset fellow who has been observed drinking canned diet shakes in the past), so I said, "Well, my heroine is a Sleuth of Size, so I call it a Size Acceptance Mystery."
Obviously, there is never one answer for everyone and every situation. Heck, my attitude changes from day to day depending on the phases of the moon and what I ate for breakfast. But I take heart from the fact that the terms "BBW-Big Beautiful Woman" and "BB/HM-Big Beautiful/Handsome Man" are starting to be known as ways of describing people who are large and in charge.
Attitude makes a difference. I like to think I'm growing an attitude. I try to water it daily with the milk of human kindness to myself and others. And, when the world throws another shovel of manure on it, I just rake it under and use it to fertilize and fuel future growth.
At the moment, my attitude is a stocky little sapling. One day I am hoping it will grow into an amazing, colossal redwood tower of strength.
© Lynne Murray