One of the main living-my-life endeavors that has occupied my time and energy during my “forgetting how to write” patch was doing a show. Yes, after all was said and done, I got a part in that Sondheim show I blogged about back in May, when I was convinced I hadn’t passed muster. Go figure.
The show was Sondheim’s Company, which, for the uninitiated, circles on a group of friends in 1970 NYC: one single guy/womanizer (Bobby), 3 of his girlfriends, and 5 married couples who use their get-togethers with Bobby as a way to ease/escape whatever tensions are going on within the marital bond.
Each couple has a featured scene in which their “issues” get aired out to some degree. I ended up playing Sarah–her husband is an alcoholic who’s sort-of-but-not-really on the wagon, while she is presented as a food addict who’s sort-of-but-not-really dieting.
Once I was at the callback, it was really clear to me that I was getting pigeonholed into that role. After all, as the largest woman in the audition pool, how could I possibly play anything BUT the self-hating dieter? (grrr.) And I tried the best I could during the callback to present some other “looks,” acting-wise, in hopes that I could escape the typecasting. All to no avail.
Once I saw that I had been cast in that part, I had a long moment of soul-searching about whether or not to take it. As someone who aspires towards being a fat acceptance advocate, to what degree was it a betrayal of my own personal ethics to recreate and reify this way-too-prominent cultural narrative of the “overweight” woman in a cycle of dieting, “cheating,” and self-hatred?
Obviously, I decided to take the part anyhow. If for no other reason, for the opportunity to do this sort of physical comedy:
If it’s good enough for Martha Plimpton, it’s good enough for me. (I could think of worse guiding mottos for my acting “career”…)
Nevertheless, I still wonder how much of a betrayal of my fat acceptance/HAES ethics that decision was. (Not to beat up on myself for the choice. I have zero regrets for being in the show, because there was so much that was precious and worthwhile about the experience. But I do still wonder if the trade-off for the treasures the experience brought me was the way I sacrificed my HAES ethics.)
Though perhaps those “HAES ethics” weren’t ever that strong to begin with. Because one thing that playing this particular part has illuminated for me is the continued depth of my own internalized fatphobia. Being angry with myself for having the kind of body that would pigeonhole me in this way, watching myself in rehearsal footage, seeing my girth and the rolls of fat around my waist in publicity photos….
Whatever I may intellectually know about the lies of the diet industry, whatever I may know about how weight doesn’t indicate health and the near-impossibility of going against one’s genetic/metabolic set point. However strongly I believe (in the abstract) that every individual is deserving of love and respect, regardless of their weight and regardless of whether or not they have made exercise/healthy food choices a top priority in their life.
When push comes to shove and I’m looking in the mirror at my own body, a good majority of that compassion and acceptance fly right out the fucking window. Self-hatred, self-disgust. Feeling ugly. Feeling–in essence–every bit the self-hating (non)-dieting cliche that I was so scornful of Sarah for being, when I was in rebellion at the thought of being cast as her.
I’m not quite sure how I’m going to deprogram this nasty bit of brainwashing, but I really gotta find a way to do so. ‘Cos this role and the experience of this show have helped me see how deep the self-hatred programming goes, and all the ways it is infecting my self-confidence and creeping into my relationships with others.
(Okay, maybe part of my “forgetting how to write” is rooted in avoidance. It’s one thing to be studying aspects of the Self my life is reflecting for me, and quite another to actually go the next step of articulating those things. Makes ’em realer, somehow.)
Image credit: “love your fat body” by flickr user green kozi. Unaltered. Used via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.