Our Fat Bodies Are Not Your Metaphors

A look at reactions to Gabourey Sidibe’s engagement reveal a frustrating, persisting reality: when good things happen to fat people, the world doesn’t know how to act.

Marquisele Mercedes

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A compilation of comments under theshaderoom’s announcement of Gabourey Sidibe’s engagement.

I once had a conversation on campus with a few fellow graduate students about the upcoming weekend. I, like every other weekend, was going to spend time with my husband and pretend that I was in no way affiliated with an academic entity. One of these students did not know that I am married; they were, in general, unaware of most facts about me, since I’d already gotten the clear hint that they were not very interested in getting to know me.

Their reaction to finding out I was married is still one of the most uncalled for responses I’ve ever received. First, they were stunned and silent. Then, they laughed, hard and uncomfortably. They looked at the others sitting nearby, perhaps for confirmation, and then back at me.

Weeks later, this person saw my husband in his white, straight-sized glory and was, I think, very confused. I believe they were confused because, the next day, they asked me many questions about how we met, how long we’d been together, and the nature of our time spent together. I answered as best as I could, but without them asking what they really wanted to know, I could not help them.

What they really wanted to know was how. How had I — a fat, ungraceful woman of color — managed to trap someone like my husband, who, by virtue of his race and size, was out of my league? There are some fat women who have “skinny faces” (meaning “beautiful” faces with pronounced bone structure and a singular chin and dainty noses and big eyes that most thin people do not have anyway) and long, thick hair and adorable mannerisms and interesting hobbies, but I am not one of those women and never have been.

So how.

It doesn’t take very many hints to know when someone doesn’t think very highly of you. But fat people get lots of hints, all the time. When people comment on a change in your size that may or may not exist. When people assume you do not know things you probably do know. When people look intensely at or comment on what you’re eating. When people see old…

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