Spheres of Influence

As I have posted before, my fiancee and I are beginning to plan our wedding. The process — since we are now verging on creating our guest list — has me pondering my past patterns of making and losing close friends.

This was initially a function of how often we moved when I was a kid. I’d settle into the new environs, make some good friends, and then we’d move again and I would be building a brand new social network somewhere else.  At the risk of making excuses for myself, I kind of think those experiences left me without the habits and skills most useful to sustain long-term and long-distance friendships. And that patterning continued with my college friends and then with the close friendships I developed during graduate school — though now I’m the one staying geographically put while my friends moved to new homes and new lives.

So I look back on my life’s path and it seems to be littered with memories of close friends from whom I’ve drifted away. Some of use have reconnected so far as to Facebook-friend one another, but that’s about as far as it’s gone. And I’ve begun thinking about making more of an effort to reconnect with these friends at a deeper level. I’m not sure if it makes actual sense to invite them to the wedding after these years of separation, but I can’t deny that it’s a wonderful fantasy to imagine these men and women sharing my wedding day.

I even started thinking most especially about a friend of mine who’s now an ordained minister. Wouldn’t it be kinda cool, I wondered, if she were to be the officiant at our ceremony?

Until the day I saw a random Facebook status message from her. It began with a witty observation on one of the banalities of life — how jump ropes are no longer in the “toys” aisle of the store but have moved to the “exercise equipment” section. And then she added the observation:

No wonder so many of today’s kids are overweight.

And there it was, staring me right in the face: the kind of statement that completely buys into the myth of the obesity epidemic BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA.

Took the winds right out of my little fantasy-having sails.  The (terrific!) Fat Bride Survival Guide recently posted over on Axis of Fat talked about the importance of having everyone around you (bridal party, vendors, etc.) lay off diet talk, because you should not have to bear up under regular pressure to lose weight. I’d assume choosing an officiant who will stay away from diet talk would also be important. So even if the bridges of time and distance were crossable at this moment — and I have no way of knowing if those bridges are crossable at this moment — the ideological chasm between talk of “the obesity epidemic” and my choice of self-acceptance and fat acceptance is one that I cannot see crossing. Because it’s important to me to have a wedding that is based in celebrating Matt and I exactly as we are today, and that does not imply in the slightest that our commitment to one another is conditional and carries demands that either of us “change” or “improve” — including through weight loss.

And yet I feel tremendously awkward telling this story. I don’t want to paint this woman, this woman who was such a good friend to me during some very important years of my maturation, as a villain. And I don’t want to become such a vigilant FA activist that I react confrontationally to every instance that fat myths come into my sphere of awareness.

But I also don’t want to let too much of that talk into my sphere of influence. As much as I know the truth and the logic of my fat acceptance stance, it can sometimes be hard to stand in that truth against all the other messages society carries about thinness and health, and all the stereotypes about fat woman and lazy, undisciplined, ugly, etc.

So I’m not sure how best to comport myself. Either in choosing the individuals to play important roles in our wedding, or in rekindling friendships with men and women who knew me during the years I was lost in body hatred and weight cycling. How am I going to talk about these new insights into genetics and society’s messages? How will I choose to set a respectful boundary around my own choices and perspectives around body size, intuitive eating, self-acceptance and the like — all while maintaining respect for friends who see these matters differently than I do?

This last question is, of course, relevant to matters far beyond fat acceptance. It’s kind of at the heart of maintaining friendships — standing in full self-respect for one’s own perspective, and also standing to honor, love and respect your friends and their perspectives. Even when — especially when? — those perspectives don’t align.

4 thoughts on “Spheres of Influence

  1. I think if this person just made one fat comment on facebook, does that neccessarily mean they will continue diet talk throughout your wedding preparation? I’d give her a chance.


  2. …how jump ropes are no longer in the “toys” aisle of the store but have moved to the “exercise equipment” section. And then she added the observation: No wonder so many of today’s kids are overweight.

    Actually, I think the fact that we view any kind of physical movement as a form of grueling exercise and not as the fun activity it used to be is problematic and may be a factor in why some kids are overweight. While I absolutely believe there to be a genetic propensity to weight gain, I also recognize that some people are fat because they are sedentary. We’re teaching kids now that the only reason to exercise is so that they don’t become fat all the while instilling in them a hatred of fat and their own bodies. During my eating disorder, I viewed exercise to be a form of punishment. After I entered into recovery, I had a fear of it for the longest time because it brought back feelings of self-castigation. It took quite a mental effort to reclaim movement as something I find pleasurable and that offers me a host of health benefits outside of weight management.

    I would give your friend the benefit of the doubt and reconsider her message, because I don’t think it’s as fatphobic as you have presented it.


  3. Patsy Nevins

    Congratulations on your forthcoming marriage & best wishes to you all. I also send good thoughts for surviving all the minefields surrounding the planning, guest list, etc.

    However, Rachel, I would like to add that NO ONE is fat BECAUSE of being sedentary. Plenty of thin people are sedentary, plenty of fat people are active. The most difference one is likely to make by exercise alone is a range of maybe 15-20 pounds, which is not enough to make the difference between fat & thin, & one only gets fat if one has the genetic makeup to be fat, just as one only is thin (or STAYS thin without making it a life’s work & total obsession) because of genes. I personally have had a difference of perhaps 15-18 pounds in my weight between exercising 30-40 minutes per day or exercising more than 4 hours per day.

    I personally DO think that the remark was as fatphobic, & certainly as unthinking & mindlessly accepting of all the misinformation out there about health/eating/activity the variation in body sizes & shapes as it was presented, but if the person was a close friend, I guess she deserves the chance to prove herself or at least to allow herself to be educated somewhat. Of course, I will be 60 in less than 3 weeks, & I am now totally fed up with making excuses/allowances for those who do not think for themselves & who accept popular wisdom about ‘obesity’ because it is easier than trying to learn the truth or trying to show respect for anyone different from oneself.

    I hope that you & your fiance will make the right decisions for yourselves & have a wonderful day.


  4. However, Rachel, I would like to add that NO ONE is fat BECAUSE of being sedentary. Plenty of thin people are sedentary, plenty of fat people are active.

    Sorry, I disagree. Sure, there are plenty of active fat people just as there are inactive thin people, but there are also inactive fat people just as there are active thin people. Blanket statements simply don’t work when it comes to the sheer diversity of humans and human physiology.


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