I made a little promise to myself back before I started losing weight that if I did get thin I wouldn’t make fun of my old plus-sized self. I made this promise after watching the TV show Friends which would frequently make jokes about how fat Monica used to be. My philosophy was that if it wasn’t okay to make fun of a fat person then, why should it be okay to make fun of that version of them now? The TV show also bugged me because we all know Courtney Cox, the actress who played Monica, never really used to be fat, so it removed any of the uncomfortable feelings that would exist if you were joking about a real reduced obese person.
But it’s been over a year and a half now and I wonder how well I am keeping that promise. Several entries ago I compared my old morbidly obese self to the human-sized blueberry girl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. That wasn’t very nice of me, was it? If I were still that fat I think I’d have to sit on someone who said that about me. Then I’d get the Oompa Loompas to roll me around on them a bit. See, there I go again! What’s going on with me?
Time fades memories and I’ve been into this health and nutrition lifestyle for so long now that I wonder if I’ve somewhat forgotten how hard it is to transition into it in the first place. I have a friend who’s completed her first year of medical school who has been very devoted to keeping a journal about her experiences because she fears losing her empathy to the dehumanizing aspects of the medical education system. She needs a certain level of detachment to be able to cut up cadavers without getting an instant replay of lunch, but she doesn’t want to become a doctor who is so jaded that she can’t relate to her patients’ experiences.
I don’t think I’ve become jaded or lost my empathy for the obese. When I saw the fat lady driving her motorized grocery cart out of the Kroger yesterday, I definitely felt a pang of sadness (and dare I say pity) since I remember how hard it was to walk just half a mile at that size. Thankfully, I was always able to push my own grocery cart. But I do think the farther I go away from being fat, the harder it will be to “feel” the feelings I experienced when I was fat, like the harder it was to see that fat lady as she drove off into the parking lot and toward the horizon. This is usually a good thing. Who wants to revel in painful things that happened years ago? But like my med school friend, I don’t want my detachment to make me an asshole either.
However, maybe this was a dumb promise for me to make in the first place. I make fun of stuff constantly! It’s my default mode. So it makes sense that I would make fun of my old fat self or myself now or even the geeky self from 2nd grade. (Okay, I’m still geeky, but at least I dress better. There’s video of me in elementary school in green koolats that I won’t be showing anyone.) If you make fun of something, you’re bringing it down a level. If you make fun of it, it can’t hurt you.
You could also say that if you’re making fun of yourself then you’re depreciating yourself, tearing yourself down. I’m torn on that argument because there are certainly times when making fun of yourself can be done in a mean way, but it can also be done in a humble, I-don’t-take-myself-that-seriously manner. You’re not necessarily dissing yourself if you make a joke at your own expense. It depends on the situation.
There’s also a big difference between whether I’m the one doing the cajoling or whether it’s someone else who’s making fun of how fat I used to be (which luckily no one has done – yet). It’s like how it’s okay if I make fun of my brothers, but if someone else does it there’s going to be a smack down. Maybe I’m just trying to beat people to the punch and retain control over the situation. This is probably the reason Friends bothered me so much. It wasn’t Monica making fun of her old fat self, it was other people.
I’m reminded of an entry over at Big Fat Deal a couple months ago that in turn was inspired by a post at The Fat Girl (having fun with links yet?) that said we sometimes have a concept that weight loss will be retroactive. That the new thin person will override the old fat person, who will have never existed. They will effectively be dead. Is making fun of that old fat person part of that death and dismemberment? One last slice of the guillotine? A way of saying “You can’t hurt me anymore. I laugh in your face! I fart in your general direction!” Because the fat girl no longer physically exists, can we make fun of her without fear of hurting her feelings? She might no longer be tangible, but I doubt the emotional residue of being a fat person ever really goes away even if it fades.
I also wonder if distance from a situation gives us the perspective to acknowledge how bad things were in a way we were unable to do when in that situation. Frequently it’s only when you are out of a screwed up relationship that you can realize how messed up it was. Maybe joking around about how fat I used to be is way of recognizing how bad my situation was in a way I was never able to admit while I was in it.
Of course, all of this introspection starts to sound completely ridiculous when you consider that fact that I am still obese. I would insert a joke here about how silly that makes me sound, but then we’d have to analyze why I was making fun of myself again.