Posted by Pattie on 3/01/2003 09:37:00 AM


This exercise I've put myself through this week has been worthwhile for a couple of reasons.

First, I was feeling quit low when this week started. One of the problem with living with the stigma of fat is that when I am sick, I find myself revisiting fat acceptance issues even if NO ONE suggests that whatever illness I have is related to being fat. Of course, it is rare that there isn't one medical professional around who won't make the suggestion and this time pneumonia and asthma got connected to fatness by one doctor at the hospital. But I was revisiting the question since my hospital stay. Somewhere in the back of my brain I was beginning to convince myself that the diet process would be worth it one more time. Writing about my past this week and remember all the shit I've put myself through in the name of losing weight reminded me that such a strategy would not work for me.

Second, I realized dialogue can help at times, but at some point it is just an existential moment that you either experience or you don't. Tish summed it up for me best the other day:

"It really is about identity. A shift of identity. I'm fat. There are people who think that means that I gorge and sleep. What ever. I'm sick of explaining myself."

I have reached that existential moment and frankly I am tired of explaining it to other people. I took the challenge this week to explain some things not because I wanted Angel (or anyone else) to understand me but because I needed to revisit these questions again -- especially the one where I cared about other people's efforts. I did this exercise in public because I thought my own struggle might help other people in their struggles, but I am more concerned that my struggle becomes part of the record. Identities do not appear fully sprung out of no where and attach themselves to individuals. They come from interactions with the world around them. They are informed by the reactions the world gives to our existential moments of realization. They are a combination of who we are inside and who we are in other's eyes. This is the question that I've come to call the culture question.

I have struggled with the culture question this week, but in the end what I've done is reaffirmed my own existential moment. I affirm that I am fat. It is part of my identity. I don't see it as a bad part, but a very core part of who I have become. It turns out that for the most part, I like who I have become. It is true that what I want now is for my identity to be acceptable in my culture. But I don't plan to change my identity in order to be acceptable. It is tough living with stigma. But knowing how to live with a stigma makes me a better sociologist, a better artist, and a better friend.