Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How Fat People Think: Part II

Situation: Giant potluck at work. Everybody brought a dish or two in, there is a veritable feast of food from all nationalities, the smell is divine. There is an air of festivities, everyone is talking to each other, people are laughing and having fun, our team leaders are handing out luaus because their announcing the winners of a trip to Hawaii at the same time. Everyone is having a good time and eating, plates on their desks, making multiple trips to the laden table. Everyone that is, except for me.
But as I subtly look around, I notice I’m not the only one. Three other people along with me are staying at their desks. No plates visible. We smile and laugh along with everyone, and we don’t look at each other except for a passing glance. But in that glance, there’s a world of veiled truth. The one thing we have in common? We’re all overweight. And the fat kids do not hang out at the buffet table.

I noticed this in myself as well as them, when we pass the tables, we do not look down. We didn’t comment on how good it smells, we don’t look with curiosity as the new plates are brought in, and we especially don’t sneak up for an early taste. Or a late taste for that matter. The other people don’t notice, except for one who very awkwardly asked if the man sitting next to me was hungry. Her voice died away as she said that, as if to say, I know how stupid that sounds, I mean look at you, when aren’t you hungry right? The man answered with an embarrassed laugh that he had eaten a big breakfast and wasn’t hungry. Ya, right. You and me both know, that little container of carrot sticks on your desk, the only thing you ate today,  isn’t making you happy.
We watch the other people flit back and forth to the table, opening bags and bottles, uncovering new dishes, things we just don’t do. Luckily for me, I work very early when there is no one, and my ‘lunch’ was at 9, when there was almost no one on the floor yet. So I went up quietly and quickly, threw a couple things on my plate, and walked downstairs to the cafeteria. I had picked up grapes and two crackers, and during the 30 seconds it took for me to do this, I imagined I could feel everyone’s disapproving glances on my back. But, knowing how things like this work, I had brought my own separate lunch and who do I see heating up his own lunch? The man who wasn’t hungry. We smiled at each other in understanding and sat far away from each other. Sounds made up? Sounds excessive? Sounds like morbid self restraint? In truth, its all just a reflex. Its not like there’s this secret meeting of fat people that teaches us how to act around things like this. Years of experience taught us how to act.
Years of looks and smirks. Years of passing comments that we weren’t supposed to overhear, or were depending on the cruelty of the person. Years of harmful jokes like ‘Quick, get what you want before (insert name) gets to the table’ and ‘HAHA WOW This is the second time you take some of (insert dish name) you must really be hungry’ or ‘I know you have a lot of room in there, have some more!’ or my personal favorite ‘Damn, you trying to feed an army?’. That last stayed with me for a long time, because it was meant to hurt, since I had a quarter of a sandwich and fruit salad on my plate. It elicited a lot of laughs from the surrounded crowd and made my 17 year old self dump the plate in the garbage and walk out of that conference room as fast as I could without actually running. Those events and others taught me never to willingly put myself in those situations. Same as those other people sitting at their desks without plates, a part but apart from the gathering. It’s something we get used to. We never put ourselves in the spotlight, we never open bags and dishes, we never get or ask for seconds, and we never volunteer to get food for someone else, unless directly asked.
I know this may sound unbelievable, but every word I wrote is true. Of course, as always, I don’t talk for all fat people out there, but this defense mechanism is something I’ve noticed in others as well as myself over the years. And sadly, there’s not much anyone can do about this. Except maybe compassion. Always compassion because we have none for ourselves.