This morning I wrote a tweet, which started a conversation that made me think. I wrote this: “To me, fat is not funny or sympathetic. As a dangerous, debilitating, & easily-avoidable self-inflicted medical condition, fat is just sad.”
In response, I was told by a thoughtful man that what I had said was offensive to him. Now I am well aware that facts can be offensive (both in the immutable way that boys are generally stronger than girls and in the very mutable way that boys are generally paid more than girls). But was this offensive statement a fact, or was it just an offensive statement?
Keep in mind, I am talking about the physical dangers of being fat. I have never implied that fat is less smart, less attractive, less aesthetically pleasing, or less kind.
Smart: I have known brilliant minds whose bodies carried around the cross of this disorder.
Attractive: I have had girlfriends who were unilaterally considered overweight. Many people find certain kinds of fat very attractive (see this article’s featured image).
Aesthetic: Here in Mexico, they have a compound word ‘gordi-buenas,’ literally put together from the words ‘fat’ and ‘hot,’ implying that they are one and the same. (NOTE: Gordi-buenas refers to women. I have never heard of Gordi-buenos.)
Kind: I often think that due to the humor and ridicule many people (not me) associate with their condition, fat people tend to be kinder than most human beings of ideal weight.
But they’re also dying a lot faster.
I had made a number of very specific claims in my statement – that fat was 1: dangerous, 2: debilitating, 3: easily avoidable, and 4: self-inflicted. I wanted to find out if these were really the case. On a scale of one to 10, how specious was I being? Was fat really dangerous? Was it really self-inflicted?
One of the most obvious and (to me) one of the saddest types of fat also turns out to be the most dangerous. It is the visceral menace that accumulates around your waistline: belly fat. Researchers describe this fat as a brand new active organ that you have unwittingly grown inside your own body – an organ that steadily pumps poison into the rest of your organs.
Central obesity increases a woman’s risk of heart disease five times, her risk of breast cancer by a third, and doubles her risk of gallstones. It also increases men’s risk of erectile dysfunction, and of something called ‘all-cause mortality.’ That literally means that being fat increases your chances of dying early from anything, period.
Not only is fat dangerous, it is living on the fucking edge much more than skiing or skydiving. Statistically, eating and inactivity can beat any extreme sport hands down.
A debilitating disease is one that drastically weakens your body. Like congestive heart failure (four times more likely in obese persons). Or degenerative (osteo) arthritis (five times more likely in overweight persons). Or 37 other horrible illnesses that fat women are more likely to experience, and 29 debilitating conditions that fat men are more likely to develop.
In fact, the most dangerous type of fat mentioned above (belly fat) is actually the easiest to get rid of because of its proximity to the liver (fat-burning being one of the liver’s main jobs). Unfortunately, this means making healthy lifestyle choices. Every. Fucking. Day. It means taking that shit out of your mouth and getting up.
Eat actual food. Not too much. Move around. How much easier could it be?
Genes influence human physiology, but single-gene forms of obesity are very rare. It turns out that in most people, genetic factors only make a very small contribution to their weight – a contribution that can be easily counteracted by positive lifestyle choices such as physical activity and low caloric intake.
Is it because audiences see fat people as being jolly? As being out of control? As failing at being sexy so being forced to develop humor as a backup plan? A glance at Rolling Stones’ list of the 50 Funniest People in the World shows a much higher percentage of funny fat performers per capita than serious celebrity lists (Louis CK, Lena Dunham, Zach Galifianakis, Ricky Gervais, Rebel Wilson, Mindy Kaling, Tracy Morgan, Melissa McCarthy, among many other household names).
But if you are fat and you disagree with this post, chances are you mean well. A recent study on the indelible link between sugar and obesity (high sugar consumption = 50% increased likelihood of obesity) also highlighted another interesting fact: fat people are often in denial about how much they eat. The study indicated that people with a higher Body Mass Index tended to underestimate the amount of food they had eaten.
Fat people don’t make me laugh, they make me sad, much in the same way that chain smokers or heroin abusers don’t make me laugh. So if this post is fat-shaming, it is so in the way that the hideous pictures on cigarette cartons are smoker-shaming.
Cigarettes kill people. Fat kills more people and faster.
Back in 2001, Surgeon General David Satcher announced that fat was poised to take over tobacco as the leading cause of preventable deaths. In the 15 years since that announcement was made, fat has given smoking a sound beating year after year in the arena of killing humans.
But Surgeon General David Satcher was skinny and handsome and therefore not to be trusted.
Because as everyone knows, all beautiful people are stupid and have terrible personalities.
or Sex Is a Dance, but Dance Is Not a Sex
Some people think that Good Dancer = Good Sex. I believe there is only a fragile, superficial relationship between dancing and sex that rarely translates into real world correlation. It is possible to be good at both dancing and sex, just as it is possible to be good at both bowling and collecting stamps, but they have little bearing on each other. Here’s why.
Dancing is a rhythm.
One, nonstop, continuous rhythm following a steady beat. Within the song, the movements may change; the tempo and the accents rarely do.
Sex is not a rhythm. Sex is rhythms.
Sex is continually changing, biologically-responsive rhythms that break and crash and slow and speed up and above all adapt to ever-shifting moods in a way that dancing never could.
Dancing is about how you look, not how you feel.
The best dancers are not those who feel great about themselves, but those who conform to a strict objective standard of how a certain dance should appear. White people and Asians are generally marginalized when they dance, not because they feel any less good but because they tend to look less good (more awkward).
Sex is not about how you look. Sex is about how you feel.
Some of the best-feeling sex may look something not unlike a rhumba of rattlesnakes slithering slickly against each other in a writhing, terrifying ball of slime and scales. Or like a passel of pigs rooting at their troughs to get at the last kernel of slop. Or like a rhumba of rattlesnakes swallowing a passel of pigs whole. Sex discards looks for feelings in a way that dancing could never understand.
Dancing that looks great is real.
Dancing that looks good is usually an indicator of an intense emotional/psychological connection between the partners.
Sex that looks great – and steamy and tantalizing and picture perfect – is usually fake.
The indicators of intense emotional/psychological connection between sexual partners have nothing to do with observing how they look together. Sexual connection may be intangible to any but the two (or more) people involved and can be all but undetectable to the outside world. Only you two can say for sure exactly how deeply connected you are. Sex finds the essence of its connection less in practiced-movements-performed-robotically-to-synchronous-perfection and more in the organic flow of actual connection.
Porn, on the other hand, is not about how you feel.
Porn is about how you look. Good dancers might not necessarily be very good in bed, but they make great porn stars.
PS: For the purposes of this article, don’t confuse dancing with grooving. Dancing involves steps and systems and choreographies and performances. Grooving just involves music for your body to interpret in the way it feels best, as well as, occasionally, alcohol. Grooving is not dancing at all. But grooving is a lot like sex.
or Wicked Game
I did a bad thing, and I felt bad about it. But I didn’t do it with bad intentions.
I was honest with the First Sister when we sat in my car late at night making out half drunk, and she knew exactly who I was.
I was honest with the Second Sister when the First One left to travel the world. She knew about me and her sister, and I told her we should just be friends. I don’t remember how that changed. Somewhere in between the piano and the sketchbook, our clothes found themselves forgotten on the floor, and our hands found themselves intertwined in each other’s hair. We bonded over everything, the lyrics, the music, the movement, and the moments, and then we drifted apart. She also knew exactly who I was.
I was honest with the Third Sister when the Second One fell in love, got pregnant, and got married to a beautiful man. She knew about me and her sister, and about me and her other sister, and I told her that I wouldn’t touch her because it might hurt the Second Sister or the First One.
She knew exactly who I was when she tackled me on a lazy afternoon, held me down and forced her tongue between my lips and my hand between her thighs. She knew exactly who I was when she took it upon herself to deliberately seduce me, then go straight back to her sister and inform her. And she knew exactly what she was doing when she showed up to my house a third time, pitch black and soaking wet, to seduce me again then go back to her sister, her own sister, and rub it in her face again.
I did a bad thing, and I felt bad about it for a long time. But then it occurred to me: Whereas that bad thing just makes me a horny dude who can’t say no to the tall, hot blondes in my life, what the fuck does it make her? What kind of a rotten, horrible, hateful, abusive person does something like that deliberately, premeditatedly, and repeatedly… to her own flesh and blood?
I did a bad thing, but I feel less bad about it.
or Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist/Sexist
This is me.
I am white, male, 30 years old, born and raised overseas. For better or worse, I’ve been a victim of racial and sexual discrimination my whole life.
In China, 1990s, old people call us “gwai lo” (white devils) and spit as we pass, while young people cluster around us because it’s cool to have a white friend. University students throw “American” parties where guests come as rednecks, rock stars, and other white racial stereotypes.
In Pakistan, 2000s, young men glare knives at us from their dark eyes, call us “bahan chodh” (sister fuckers) to our faces, and become spontaneously violent with the “foreigners” at sporting events with little provocation. I eventually have to leave the country because of the danger to white people of mob lynchings and beheadings.
In Mexico, 2010s, half the country resents and despises the color white, and half the country is enamored of it. No one is color blind. Both criminals and law enforcement categorically substitute economic profiling for racial profiling to target us for mugging, kidnapping, and extortion. The racial slur “gringo” (the g word) is thrown around playfully and haphazardly with connotations of stupid and origins as a chant that literally calls for all white people to leave the country immediately. (In Mexico’s defense, they are slightly behind most developed countries in the moral prejudice arc of the universe: African descendants are still commonly referred to as Little Negroes and conjoined twins as Siamese.)
In the sexist arena, in all of those countries, unattractive women shower us with unwanted attention, catcalling under their breath as they pass us, undressing us with pornographic eyes, and grabbing at our bodies in dimly-lit or crowded environments or whenever given the flimsiest excuse. Attractive and insecure women insult us as a way to capture our interest.
People mock us, celebrate us, maim us, smooch us, cheat us, lavish us, fancy us, shun us, include us, exclude us, all because of the color of our skin or the symmetry of our faces and bodies.
We have to choose words and actions carefully because people are constantly measuring us against the image in their heads of the ugly/awesome American or the tall, handsome, and douchebag stranger.
To me, all of this has always just been the ups and downs of real life, unsheltered and sometimes scathing in the vast, loveless wildernesses of Earth 2.0 – where everyone wants something and bases the way they treat you on how likely you are to provide them with it. If you’re rich, everyone wants to steal from you. If you’re sexy, everyone wants to fuck you. If you’re smart… no one gives a shit. If you’re white or black or green, some people kiss you for it and some people kill you for it. It all depends on where you are and who’s in charge there. The world is a big, small, mean place.
It was only when I became more familiar with the haughty posturing of privileged postmodern pop culture that I realized you were allowed to whine about it.
or The Excuses We Tell Ourselves
(Allow me to commit the crime of generalization to make a finer point.)
Let’s hang out.
Come over and watch a movie.
I want to show you my collection of vintage records.
Let’s listen to some music at my place.
Come back for a nightcap.
I want to cook for you.
Do you know how to play gin rummy?
Baby, it’s cold outside.
I have some candy in my car.
Girls need ‘let’s hang out’ excuses to have sex.
Putting aside long-term relationships, marriages, and women over 30 who know exactly what they want, it’s rare to find a girl who will admit that sex was on her mind before it organically, magically just happened out of nowhere with you.
This is why dick pics don’t really work on girls.
Do you want to get out of here?
Come over and help me get a little exercise.
I’ve been having dirty thoughts about you.
Let’s get drunk together.
Come and see me, I need to relax.
Wanna come over and play tennis?
Come skinny dipping with me.
Can’t wait to feel you.
I’ve noticed you around.
I find you very attractive.
Would you go to bed with me.
Guys need ‘let’s have sex’ excuses to hang out.
It’s hard to find a (single, under 30) guy who will admit he likes hanging out with you and that it isn’t only about the sex. But after the sex, he may just organically, magically stay for hours in the afterglow chatting with you.
This is why naked pics really do work on guys.
What we have here is a failure to communicate. So we both use our excuses to get them over here with us so that then their real intentions can just happen to unfold naturally.
But wouldn’t it be nice if we all just admitted that we wanted to have sex with each other and hang out with each other because we actually both like both of those things.
or Essence of Beach
I don’t like sharing things that are mine.
If I have worked hard to earn a thing, or lucked into it, I don’t like to diminish that good fortune or good work ethic by thinning it out among others who have worked less hard or gotten less lucky. I feel that spreading things among people who haven’t worked or lucked for them diminishes the value of the things.
If I find a beautiful shell on the beach, to me it’s not only a beautiful shell. It comes with the whole experience of the sand giving way beneath my weight, of the flock of pelicans eyeing me warily just out of my reach, and of the force of the waves crashing inches away from my face, strong enough to tackle a football player off his feet. Bottled up in that shell is a little slice of time, a little gust of wind, a sunbeam, the taste of salt, and the frothy slap of whitewater. That’s what that shell is to me.
If your grandma gives you a shell that she found on the beach, all it is to you is a musty old relic that reminds you of death and old age.
The act of giving causes that shell to lose all its Essence of Beach. Its wind sputters out, its salt goes stale, and the shell becomes just a mound of calcified bone matter. The shell becomes just a shell.
The thing that you give away becomes just a thing. It loses the work you did for it, the joy of lucking into it, or the battle you fought for it.
I don’t mind sharing inspiration.
I don’t believe inspiration is mine. Inspiration is some kind of cosmic muse force that is always there to be pulled from when you put your straw up to the universe and suck hard. (I believe this firmly, and I’m not a superstitious man. Perhaps it’s something to do with the boundless human imagination or the endless combinations of matter. There’s always more inspiration.)
The metaphors and the melodies that occur to me in all their amazing alliterative anarchic energy… don’t belong to me. For badder or worse, they belong to us. They lose none of their Essence when they are shared, and I don’t mind sharing them.
I don’t mind sharing people.
People aren’t mine.
Anyone with the silly notion of Intelligent Belonging – that any personal pronoun can be used with any Proper Noun – might as well duct tape a ticking clock of looming disappointment to her or his forehead.
If I like you, I want you to be happy, and to that end I don’t mind sharing you. If I don’t like you, I want to distribute the burden of your misery evenly across humanity, and I don’t mind sharing you.
I am grateful to every moment of your sovereign existence, your Essence of Beach, that you share with me, and I lay claim to none of it. It is a gift. No amount of work I could ever invest or luck I could ever roll would approach anywhere near the value of a moment spent with you, a drop of your beach.
That work you did yourself. When you give it to me, that devalues it a little. But it is a devaluing that you are willing to suffer, to exchange for the jewel of a human connection. I understand that, and I appreciate that, and I don’t take it lightly or ever think that it’s something that is owed to me.
It’s not so much me sharing you as you sharing you.
So it’s not so much that I don’t mind sharing people as that people can’t share people.
People can only share themselves.