Another post by guest-blogger, Linda Doty.
Imagine overhearing someone say this about you:
She’s fat, pale, and lazy.
Ouch, right? Holy cow. That hurts.
Now imagine it’s the 16th century and it was Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish Baroque painter, who said that. You’d be all “Did you hear what that dude said about me, girlfriend? He’s hot for me. I think he wants to paint me without any clothes on. I still got it!”
What I’m saying is that context matters. It always matters, of course, but with adjectives like fat, it matters a lot.
In recent years, we seem to get all butt-hurt over some words. Yeah, yeah, I know – sticks and stones can break my bones and all that is wrong because, yes, words can hurt. We’ve all been on both sides of hurting words, probably. But context does matter.
When we strike a word from the lexicon because people get hurt over it, then a bunch of stupid substitute words come up in its place. Next thing you know, you’re shopping in the Rubenesque Women’s Department at Macy’s or the Fluffy Chick Department at Old Navy or you get ushered back to a section called Curvy Cove. AND WHY IS ALL THE CLOTHING IN THESE SECTIONS SO BEDAZZLED? Which designer decided that if you carry extra weight, you should always dress in animal print tops with bling all over them? Is this what happens when people can’t use the word fat anymore? It’s madness, I tell ya!
I used to be fat but then I was upgraded to plus-sized. Well, until that became taboo. Now I’m curvy. Hey, round is the ultimate curve – back off! I can’t wait to see what comes next. My main motivation for losing the weight is so I won’t have to struggle with these silly descriptive adjectives. “Hi, I’m Linda. Yeah, I’m just a medium. So boring. I used to be Rubenesque!”
All of these word changes make it very difficult to shop online. I never know which search terms to use anymore. Can we please all agree on one so I can find my leopard print sequined tops and get on with my life? Please??
The word fat is just a word.
I say we reclaim it – we use it as it was intended – a descriptive word that it is no longer a horrible, awful insult.
Maybe we should study how tall people have managed not to have their physically descriptive adjective turned into an insult.
“Oh yeah? Well, I may have a Rubenesque nose and buck teeth but at least I’m not TALL!”
There. That’ll show them.
So you’re fat. Work on that if you want to change it, but don’t fall into the pit of despair if someone uses the f-word, especially if they are using it just as a simple adjective. Consider intent – if they intend to insult you, go kick their butts (you might need to work on your fitness routine first so you’re ready for that action) but if the intent is just to convey an accurate physical description, hell, just smile and nod. It’s just a word.
Here’s the thing: I don’t want my doctor or my nutritionist or my personal trainer to have to bury their messages in layer upon layer of cushion. I want them to be forthright with me. Simple language. Yes, I want them to be caring and compassionate – believe me, I’ve had doctors along the way who were not – but I don’t want the truth to get so padded in evasive language that the patient doesn’t hear the message in all its stark reality. I don’t want those who are trying to help us solve this problem to be forced to use vague and non-offensive words. I’d rather we all start using accurate words regularly so we take the sting out of them.
It’s not the word that’s the problem. Changing the word doesn’t change the reality.
Let’s keep the word and change the reality.
Linda Doty claims to be a writer, mostly because she’s already quit her other job and ‘writer’ sounds way more impressive than bum. You can see her work in several places besides her mother’s refrigerator. She’s contributed to a couple hilarious books available on Amazon. She occasionally blogs at JustLinda.com. You can follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @LindaInDisguise.