An Open Letter: To the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA)
I tried being one of you.
I really did.
I believe in your cause: that all fat people should be accepted and respected.
But I’m also a hypocrite because I despise my fat self.
I don’t hate you, though.
In fact, I think you’re incredibly brave to take up such an unpopular cause; I wish it were popular and sexy like civil and LGBTQA rights.
Almost everyone can get on board with advancing the rights of minorities and gays, right?
But I have to tell you: most people laugh at and late-night comedians poke fun at your organization.
I’m sure you already knew that.
I suppose most people, even other fat people, assume that fat people can do something about their weight, while other minorities can’t change the color of their skin.
Never mind that that it’s more complicated than that.
Never mind that NAAFA should be wildly popular, given that two-thirds of Americans are fat or obese, that, in the end, 95% of all diets fail.
God knows I have tried and tried.
I have trolled your website and scrolled through your photos.
You seem to have a lot of fun at your conferences, how unabashed you seem at poolside, in your loud flowered bathing suits and bikinis – wide smiles and unapologetic rolls of fat.
You go, guys and gals!
I can’t be you, though.
I can’t attend your conferences and eat at the same table because I would drag your fun and happiness down to my gloomy level.
Part of me would love to be at your conference and be cocooned by your safety, that lucky person squooshed in the middle of a group photograph, but it wouldn’t be genuine.
I’d be a ringer, a self-hater.
I admit: my initial curiosity about you bordered on voyeurism, a desire to say, “See? I’m not that fat!”
Always that comparison thingy.
Then I did a little research about you and got the sense that you guys are for real and that you truly do advocate for fat rights and acceptance.
Our culture needs that. Badly.
I have some concerns, though: when you are away from the safety of your organization, how do you handle the catcalls by strangers and unwanted concern and nagging by family?
Overall body shaming, well-intentioned and otherwise?
Assumptions about what and how much you eat?
The food police scrutinizing every bite you take?
Covert and outright job discrimination?
Snarky remarks about your attire, such as, “Should you really be wearing that bathing suit”?
Snickers and bullying by teenagers and even adults?
Intrusive questions and comments by children?
The absolute knowledge that people talk about your body behind your back?
The surly vibes or even outright hostility exhibited by your airplane seatmate?
Going to a play, movie, concert, doctor’s office, classroom, only to discover no accommodations for your body size?
How do you handle these slights?
Do you confront them like you would if you could wear a NAAFA superpower cape, or do you, like me, slink off and pretend you don’t experience any of these slights?
For me, to navigate this world, I must pretend that none of these slights and even outright hostilities exist, and, therefore, they can’t hurt me.
That politicizing my fat will likely not end well for me: my fighting back on a micro level will simply make me even unhappier and more depressed – and a bigger target for the haters and bullies.
So my fat self assumes its invisibility cloak by trying to minimize its size in ridiculously awkward poses: the scrunched together arms, the hanging down of the head, the curling up of legs, a fetal version of an outsized human body.
So, no, I can’t join you.
But I wish you well.