A mean lady wrote a pretty terrible confessional in the Daily Mail this week. And when you have a habit of talking about women and body image as I do, then the phone starts to ring with people asking you to discuss things like that.
Except I don’t really like to. Because I was at one point a secret Fattist myself.
I was in a wheelchair from the age of 26. I was in it for a few years. I didn’t like it much so I tried lots of ways to get cured so I could get out of it. One of these treatments was abroad. It involved changing flights at Atlanta airport in Georgia, USA.
I hadn’t been out of the house for 18 months at this stage. So people in general were quite a shock to the system. I wasn’t used to them staring at me, because I’d been housebound since being disabled so I wasn’t around anyone except my mum. And people did stare. They stared at the chair. They stared at me because I weighed 6 stone and despite being 5’9″ could only wear children’s clothes.
When I got to Georgia I was told (in a slooooow LOUD voice because people in wheelchairs are seemingly always addressed in sloooow LOUD voices) that my wheelchair had been misplaced in transit, so I’d have to wait for an airport-issued one. And someone to push it.
It became clear pretty quickly that this wasn’t going to happen. Because all of the airport-issued wheelchairs were taken. By people who were too big to walk around such a large airport.
I was really confused by this. Because I was actually disabled rather than just unable to walk long distances due to my weight. I was carried, (I kid you not, luckily for them I weighed as much as a child) to an airport sofa. Where I proceeded to watch as some of the largest people I have ever seen in my life were wheeled away to their connecting flights.
Eventually a very old wheelchair was found and two members of airport staff were grabbed by an air stewardess and asked to push me through passport control. They were not best pleased by the request. They were also confusingly just as heavy-if not more so- than the ones being pushed around in chairs. These lasses truly did not want to push my rickety old wheelchair around such a vast airport. And fair play to them, because it looked like it was going to be very hard work. Which began a round of My Most Favourite Conversation Ever:
Staff Member 1: You push the cripple
Staff member 2: No man. YOU push the damn cripple.
After a few minutes No1 backed down so No2 did indeed push the damn cripple through passport control. where I enjoyed a round of My Most Favourite Conversation Ever: Part Two
Staff Member 2: Are you dying? Because you look like you dying.
Me: Hopefully not. But thanks terribly for asking.
Staff Member 2: Just so you know we ain’t going to the bathroom. I don’t get paid enough for that sh*t.
Me: Duly noted.
I’d never hated anyone before that day. And I’ve never hated anyone since. But I hated those women. I thought about them for so long afterwards. The things they had said. The way they looked at me. I hated people who I felt couldn’t be arsed to walk round a f*cking airport. I hated the staff who had deemed me less important than the fat people. And the fat airport staff members who had seen me as disgusting because I was too thin.
And I was incredibly wrong to do so.
And I only did it because I was very unhappy.
Nobody has the right to judge a person’s internal world on their external appearance. Not me, not the bigoted airport staff. Not a mean lady who happens to write for the Daily Mail. And any of us that do use someone’s outsides to appraise them is a very sad person with too much time on their hands.
I was a very sad person. I didn’t want to be in a wheelchair. I didn’t want my twenties to be like that. But they were. And I was so angry. I chose to direct that anger on the people standing right in front of me. On their appearance. Just like the mean lady in the Daily Mail.
Fattist folk are just unhappy people. That’s the truth of it. Happy people don’t have prejudices because they don’t spend their time fixated on the people that surround them. They just live their own happy lives. All prejudice comes from a deeply unhappy place inside ourselves. If we fix the sadness and hurt and anger by channeling it into more positive things?Then no one feels bad anymore.
Fat or thin. Disabled or Able-bodied. We can all be as one.