Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Appearances are Distracting

A couple of nights ago, I saw New Jersey governor Chris Christie on David Letterman.  I've heard Dave make...oh, maybe a hundred jokes about Christie, usually about his weight.  Okay, always about his weight.  Governor Christie came on the show and made jokes about his weight as well.  He took it all with grace and good humor, like someone who's spent over forty years listening to fat jokes, which he probably has, and like someone who's spent over forty years making them in return, which I'm sure he has as well, because as any fat person knows, the best defense is a good offense.  Personally, I had hoped to hear about the ongoing response to Superstorm Sandy, which Christie managed to wrangle into the discussion for about two minutes, and his attempts at bipartisan political work, which wasn't mentioned at all.  Apparently it was more interesting to discuss his weight: was he trying to lose weight, had he gained weight, how did his family feel about his weight, how was his blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.

Because, you know, people don't actually know when we're fat, unless some thin person mentions it.

Fat people also don't realize on our own that being fat might affect our general health.

Mostly that's because fat people are completely unaware of our health.  We're probably fat because we don't monitor our blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.  If we did, we'd realize that we need to change, and we would, and then we'd turn thin, like the whole world is supposed to be.

As it is, all fat people have terribly high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, and all thin people are perfectly healthy.  Obviously.

Anyway, Christie reported on the state of his health, which is apparently pretty good, to clear disbelief on Letterman's part.  All the while I was thinking, "I just had this conversation, only not on national TV."  Someone took me aside to talk to me.  She was concerned.  I've put on weight.  Do I know that I've gained weight?  Do I maybe have a health problem?  Have I been to a doctor?  What does my doctor say about this?  Do I know that gaining weight can be hard on my heart, can put me at risk for diabetes?

Yes, I know that I've gained weight.  I have a scale.  And pants.  I suffer from a health problem called genetics and another called seizure medication, both of which make it really difficult for me to keep off weight.  I have another health problem called "the between-meeting diet," otherwise known as "complications related to being a workaholic." Yes, I see my doctor.  My doctor says I should remember to exercise, and that I should try to eat vegetables instead of french fries.  My doctor says that my blood pressure is great, my cholesterol is shockingly good, and my blood sugar is a-ok.  My doctor also says that none of this is any of your business.

The assumed acceptability of saying whatever you want about people's weight drives me fairly nuts.  In case you are one of those people, here's a news flash: we already know, we're already doing or not doing whatever it is that we feel the need to do or not do, we're facing the consequences of our own choices and genetics, and whatever you have to say about it is hurtful and unnecessary.  We already have a voice that tells us that we are unhealthy, undisciplined, ugly, that we are worth less than thin people, that we are less likely to be loved, more likely to be cheated on, that we don't fit (sometimes literally).  It's our own.  We don't need yours.  But thanks for your so-called concern.

In case you're a friend of mine and worried about that last paragraph, don't be.  That is not my predominant voice.  I'm just completely pissed off at the general sense that nothing I do, and perhaps nothing most people do, will matter as much as what they look like.  No matter how much work I do in mission and community engagement, no matter how great my sermon is or how wonderful our youth program is, I will always get more comments about my hair and what I'm wearing and, yes, my weight, than on any of the substance of my job.  No matter how ridiculously intelligent and effective Hillary Clinton is, we will never read an article about her that doesn't mention her pant suits or hairstyle.  No matter how elegant, smart, and compassionate Michelle Obama is, I still have to see articles about how big her butt is.  And lest we think it's only women who face this kind of scrutiny, just try Googling Christ Christie.  The second most searched term after his name alone is not "chris christie governor" or "chris christie sandy relief," but "chris christie weight."  Really?




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