Last night, I came out in public as a fat person.
This affected me far more deeply than I thought it would.
So, I woke up early to type up my presentation on Thursday morning since my computer had swallowed my unsaved first rendition. I was nervous, and felt unprepared. At work I did some free photocopying of relevant visual aids (hehe) and before class I went to a copy shop and had overheads made.
I was last on the roster of people to give their presentations. I sat through the vaguely interesting but not exactly provocative speeches on heart disease, thyroid cancer, STDs, the importance of drinking water, etc. I started to calm down, thinking, ah, no big deal. I’ll get up, give my little speech about obesity, get stared at by the glassy-eyed audience, receive my share of polite applause and sit down again. No one will even remember what I’ve said. That gave me some relief.
But then this guy stood up and gave the presentation before mine, completely on the topic of how to lose fat through anaerobic training (weight lifting.) He is a personal trainer, and made sure to get that point across. He got up, smooth as melted butter, and got hooted at by the girls in class. Ah, big man on campus. Very well-spoken. Personable. Convincing. Lots of big words and concepts that weren’t clear but which he sounded like he was the resident expert on. My nemesis, in other words. His speech ran quite a long time over the limit and I was getting pissed. It was 9pm, and I still had mine to give. A class discussion ensued on how to lose weight and avoid getting ‘all gross and fat as you get old.’
Oh dear god. I just about wet myself.
I was literally moments away from just walking out of class. I couldn’t take it. I was sure that they would ask obnoxious questions of me, or be generally resentful and silent. Now I was fucking scared. I was sure the big man on campus would rip into me with his personal-trainer pseudo-science expertise.
I stood up, I walked to the podium, I looked out at the class and gave a big silly grin and said HI a little too loudly. Some people hooted back at me, much to my relief. I said, “I’m Michelle.”
They said, “Hi Michelle!!”
I laughed. Then I said, “Today I’m going to talk about obesity.” And I just stared at the audience for a few silent seconds. I noticed some uncomfortable shifting of butts in seats.
I said, “Am I the only fat person here today? I think so.” A few girls laughed and protested that they too were fat.
“I know, I know. Everyone thinks they’re fat. And no one wants to be.”
And then I gave my presentation, covering the basics and some research implying that being fat is not as big a risk as it is played up to be. I talked about discrimination. I talked about failed treatments, and the psychological effects of dieting. I talked about health at any size. Then I said, “I think thin people are lovely. But I also think fat people are pretty cool.”
And they loved it.
I asked for questions and hands shot up. But instead of sarcasm or challenges, people began sharing their stories. “My mom is 300 pounds and had liposuction, but gained it all back…” A discussion ensued between Mr. Personal Trainer (I think I will hereafter refer to him as Tony Little, since he will undoubtedly come up again) and this lady about the Dr. Bernstein diet.
But then class was over, there was applause (two rounds, I might add, and quite loud) and about five people came up to me to say how much they’d liked my speech. One lady walked with me to her car. A guy in class told me he was gay and that it was kind of the same as being fat.
Shock and amazement. They didn’t kill me. And now I’ve had my coming-out party as a fat woman. Rock!