When I think back to some of the happiest moments in my life (the birth of my daughter, for example) the photographic evidence disturbs me. Because the picture doesn't match the wonder and empowerment and great surging love I felt -- for daughter, self, husband, universe. It doesn't match it, because I'm not thin in the photo. I'm not thin at all. I'm bloated and double-chinned and bezitted. So it's confusing. I mean, I was sooooooo happy. Shouldn't I look thinner?
It's easy to look at photos of other humans and infer that if someone has long, skinny legs and a ripping bod, they are probably happy. I mean, look how thin they are. It's easy to, conversely, glance at people and assume that anyone overweight is miserable. You might do this on Facebook. You might sort people you used to know 20 years ago into categories of "doing great" or "not doing so great - got fat."
It's a very pervasive attitude. The weight-loss industry pretty much thrives on the basic assumption that thin=happy, fat≠happy.
I've been thinking about these assumptions lately.
I have a thinner sister and a fatter sister. The thin one battles depression. The fat one does not. She laughs a lot.
I have a new friend who has an outrageously great bod. I've sort of know her for more than a decade now and always assumed she was a happy person for two reasons:
1) she is always smiling
2) she has long, skinny legs, exactly like I asked Jesus for when I was a tweenager
Now that I know her well, I've learned she cries a lot. And for good reason. She's had a miserable life. She's suffered a lot of violence and abuse. When she cries she still smiles. But you can tell she's crying, it's obvious because of the tears and the sobbing. The anti-depressants she's on keep her from wanting to kill herself (that's good!) but they've ruined her appetite. She misses food. She misses wanting it at all, ever. She just eats enough to function. She is not a happy person. Her long, thin legs and six-pack abs have not brought her the unmitigated joy that I'd imagined they should.
I know a handful of thin people who have all related a similar anecdote to me, which is, "At one point in my life I was 20 pounds (or 30) overweight and I was totally miserable. Then I lost the weight and I'm happy again." This is a moral lesson of sorts that I'm supposed to understand. That we're all supposed to understand. But I dunno. Is it a fairytale that we just keep telling?
Wow! Look how happy that person on the right is!
There have been times in my life when I've been thinner, and times in my life when I've been thicker. When I am honest about these times, they don't correspond with the thin=happy, fat does not equal happy equation at all.
I try to avoid fashion magazines and shopping malls and mainstream media culture in general. But I love media counter-culture. So I've been on Pinterest. Which means I`ve been getting a daily does of anorexic thinspiration.
There are a lot of "thinspiration" images on Pinterest.
Have you heard this quote?
"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."
I dunno, it kind of got to me. It`s really meemy. I`d never heard it before, maybe you have though, because I spent the better part of an evening following it around on the internets and it's really quite famous and controversial as an anorexic rallying cry.
It`s a Kate Moss quote. It`s here and there.
It's been banned by the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority for sale on t-shirts for little girls at zazzle.com, but you can still get it on a novelty fridge magnet.
I decided to learn a little bit about Kate Moss. I mean, she's really skinny. She must be deliriously happy. Right? I mean, right? Um... not?
Kate Moss, if skinny feels so good, why did you check yourself into a clinic for depression? Weren't you skinny then? Didn't you feel good? Hasn't that cocaine addiction been treating you well?
And oh lordy pants, there's things called thinspiration blogs. They post pictures like this:
I guess they are there to spread happiness and cheer among their numerous followers, but it's confusing because the bloggers who maintain them sound curiously unhappy. Like Lily of lilywantstobepretty.tumblr.com whose images:
are interspersed with textual posts like this: Now I just feel like cutting my wrists open. Motherfucking fuck shit.
She describes herself as both battling depression and having an eating disorder. Well gosh. My heart aches for her. She's very thin. She likes the Kate Moss quote. But I don't think it's doing her a service. I don't think Kate has been a good role model for her.
Then I recovered.
When I got back to the small town I was from and went back to school I was noticeably thinner. I wasn't thin. But I was thinner.
"Wow, you look great!" "I wish I could get mono!" That kind of thing.
The unforgettable moment I am referring to was when I was back in school, finally, and going from one class to another. I had to push open a heavy glass door that I'd never noticed was heavy before. I was utterly used to giving it a casual shove and it would swing wide open for me. But after my illness it required a shocking amount of effort. Because I was weakened. My muscles had lost so much strength and tone just lying there.
Because... thin does not equal healthy! Thin does not equal strong. Thin does not equal happy. Thin = thin.
Healthy = healthy.
Maybe you're all like, Bets, are you just figuring all this out now?
Maybe you're all like, Bets! Don't just let yourself go or anything! Fat people are the least happy people of all. Maybe skinny does not equal happy, but fat certainly definitely always must equal miserable!
I don't know. Not so sure. Starting to think otherwise...