I don’t remember the exact words I used to introduce myself at my BlogHer panel last weekend, but I do remember how everyone reacted. I said something like, “Hi, I’m Jennette Fulda. I blog at pastaqueen.com. Three and a half years ago I weighed almost 400 pounds.”
That’s when everyone gasped so hard I was nearly sucked off the stage.
I just flicked my eyes back and forth, furrowed my brow and thought, “What? Didn’t you read my bio?” I don’t know why I spent so much time deliberating over what to say in that silly little paragraph about myself if no one was going to read it. Now I wish I’d claimed to be the last Amazon warrior from Themyscira or that I’d been raised by alien goat people instead of whatever I ended up writing.
I’ve told my story so many times now that I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I used to weigh 372 pounds, I lost a lot of weight, my flight leaving for Indy was delayed, I had some oatmeal for breakfast, yadda, yadda, yadda. I’m so over it already. I forget that my weight-loss story is SUPRISING! And SHOCKING! to people who’ve never heard it before. I think I would have gotten the same reaction if I’d said, “I ate a kitten for breakfast.” Slurp, slurp.
In the last two weeks I’ve met two new people who didn’t know me when I was fat say, “I can’t imagine you being heavy.” I’m not sure what to do with this statement, other than say, “Try harder.” Anyone can be fat if they eat too much. I briefly considered carrying around a “before” picture in my wallet, but immediately dismissed that as
being lame overkill. I may as well hop around the city in one leg of my fat pants in some desperate plea for attention. I suppose the statement is meant as a compliment, but instead I see it as proof of the human tendency to categorize and oversimplify things. You’re a fat person or you’re a thin person. You’re tall or you’re short. You’re smart or your dumb. You’re not both.
But even the dumbest people sometimes say something absolutely brilliant, a tall person can look tiny next to an NBA all-star, and ever the skinniest person could be fat if they ate enough or were put on the right kind of mind-altering drugs. Bodies are flexible, and so are minds. People really can change. They can be more than one thing in their lives. You can be born poor and become a self-made millionaire. You can be so fat that you injure yourself walking up the stairs and five years later run a half-marathon.
It would be nice if that wasn’t so shocking. It’d be nice if it didn’t make people suddenly inhale all the oxygen in the room.