As I made my way to the bathroom this morning, I caught my reflection in the hallway mirror. Two chins stared back at me at eye level. A couple of feet below them, a soft, overhanging belly lay nestled underneath light pajama cotton. I briefly wondered if I had FUPA. Or is it a FUPA? I've never really been sure.
As is customary on most mornings (and afternoons, and nights), I felt fat. I know some folks may feel the urge to chime in here. "You're not fat, you're beautiful," suggesting for the umpteenth time in my life that fatness and beauty cannot coexist. "What are you talking about? You look great," others will tell me — operating under the assumption that calling myself fat is the same as calling myself garbage.
In truth, I do not mean to say that I felt particularly ugly, lazy, lethargic, unfashionable, or otherwise less than good about myself this morning. I felt fat, as I do 24 hours a day, seven days a week, simply because I am fat. My weight hovers somewhere between 250 and 300 pounds, depending on the day. I am about 99 percent certain that there hasn't been a gap between my thighs since age seven. I definitely cannot shop straight size stores, or even half of the supposedly inclusive fashion lines that cap out at a size 22. My neck roll cheekily pokes out when my ponytail is up, and I cannot remember a time when my ass fit comfortably in an airplane seat. These are just some irrefutable facts about my body, all of which make me feel, well, fat.
There was a time when I would have contemplated the above list of attributes and cringed at the thought of my myriad "flaws." I would've chastised myself for failing so miserably at this whole life thing while hiding my shame beneath the darkest, baggiest garments in my wardrobe (which, if I'm being honest, made up most of my wardrobe anyway). I knew that one should never feel fat because one should never be fat.
In fact, feeling fat used to mean feeling like I was some kind of non-human. My worth was entirely dependent on my body's proximity to thinness, which ultimately meant that, most of the time, my worth was pretty nonexistent.
This wasn't especially fun, but I guess it wasn't supposed to be. Most people (and my very large gut tells me that most women and femmes, especially) are taught to believe that fatness is grotesque. "Downright deplorable," a Twitter troll once called it.
There are admittedly times when feeling fat is still less than great. When I think about the fact that my fatness could result in perfectly legal weight discrimination at work, for example, I get anxious. When doctors prescribe weight loss for my every ailment (like ingrown toenails, my alleged infertility, and even an eye twitch), I feel pretty run down. When my fellow fat friends and colleagues tell me that they've been rejected, once again, for healthcare based on their BMIs alone, being fat starts to feel legitimately dangerous. When I just want to buy a damn leopard print bodysuit but have to check the e-shelves of 30 retailers before finding anything that will fit and that is also my style, I'm admittedly a little pissed off.
In those moments, I feel my fatness intensely. I feel every inch of my body as though there were tiny X's marking all the spots that make me a target: A target for hate, a target for online doxing, a target for ridicule, a target for being Photoshopped into the "before" corner of a "before and after" weight loss composite made by fatphobes on the web. I imagine tiny X's marking the bodies of all the wonderful people I know, and those I don't, who are larger than me. They have even more X's.
I guess this is why it feels less that great when non-fat people use "feeling fat" as code for feeling unattractive or bloated or less than cute in an outfit they're trying on at the mall. Language matters, you know? Words mean things.
I wish it didn't, but it stings a little when folks who have never lived in a body like yours co-opt your fatness on their bad days. It stings when they overlook and dehumanize actual fat people because they feel like a pair of jeans doesn't fit them properly or like they look a little haggard one morning. It stings when you're reminded, yet again, that being fat — not just feeling fat — is still considered one of the worst things a person can actually be. It stings when "feeling fat" becomes people's default vessel for the expression of self-loathing or self-doubt.
It all comes down to this: Fat is not a feeling, unless you are fat. I feel fat every day because I can feel my butt bumping into all the nearby furniture around me. I feel myself trying to navigate small spaces that were not built for me. I feel the repercussions of being a vocal fat person on the internet: One regularly told to kill herself; one whose private address, bank account information, and phone number have been leaked online by those who want nothing more than to ruin my life, cyber and otherwise. I feel fat when I am simultaneously desexualized and over-sexualized by mainstream media and potential dates alike.
Feeling fat is not a fleeting emotion for me. It's not a temporary plane of existence that I enter only when I'm feeling low and seeking some kind of reassurance about my personality or the look of my face or the appeal of my body.
And if you want to know the truth, I feel the fattest when I think about the fact that, despite all the BS people and institutions alike try to throw at fat people, I actually love my body. I enjoy the way my back boobs look in my bikini. I don't want my love handles to be any smaller. I couldn't care less about whether that group of bros on the sidewalk thinks I should be wearing a crop top. I delight in my enormous cheeks. Both types of cheeks, if you catch my drift.
I feel fat because I am fat. And I wouldn't have it any other goddamn way.