I could tell you that reading this surprised me, but it didn’t. Having lived and worked in Las Vegas for many years, I know how the city works. I know Las Vegas is built on the culture of fantasy. That it exists to create an illusion people pay heavily to be immersed in. For the most part, I love the city. It pulls no punches and lays human nature on the line. Every vice of character can be out in the open. Lust. Gluttony. The city doesn’t apologize, and for that I love it. But with the colorful and exciting also comes blatant As*holery. Yes, I made up that word. As*holery.. This promoter is a perfect
example of As*holery., which, by the way, is something that doesn’t surprise me in general as a plus-size woman.
I know, I know. You’re thinking this will be some rant from an “angry fat chick” who feels the world has wronged her. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, I believe that obesity is a health problem. But at the same time, I think that our society needs to do some SERIOUS shifting of our beliefs when it comes to perceptions of persons of size. I think it’s ludicrous that, in the eyes of some, being overweight is one of the most offensive things that a person can be. And certainly, I KNOW our culture has a long, long way to go in accepting persons of size into daily life without acceptations, guile or prejudice. But I do not walk through the world blaming anyone for anything. I am my own woman. I know that people, and their subsequent actions, are the result of the greater whole around them. And that progress takes time. And that people often dislike what they fear the most.
Instead, this is going to be my story about what it has meant to be an interloper living among a World of Pretty. I am not a woman who believes that being Fat is better than being Thin. I am a woman who believes in being your damn self, exactly as you want to be. WHO that might be may change throughout your life, and probably will. I also believe that all bodies are legitimate. And that all women are entitled to feel like valid individuals in the world. But the fact is simple—in the eyes of greater society, some people are pretty and some are not. We are divided into social classes because of this. And overweight people aren’t counted among the Pretty.
And it has made me wonder—what is better? To be included in the World of The Pretty but never LIVING in it? Or to be outside, having never touched it, but with the chance of living an easier, deeper, more fulfilled life? I simply do not know.
For observant individuals, it doesn’t take long to realize that Beauty is an Entry Card to the game of life. Those who are deemed acceptable by others forge a path of least resistance. Doors open for them, roads bend in their path. The magical elixir of Luck + Opportunity + Circumstance seemingly comes together more frequently and without effort.
It starts as children on the playground. By the time we are teenagers we are partitioned off into social groups and labeled into Hot Chicks or Funny Girls or Brainiacs or some other descriptive. In some ways, we find comfort in these grouped definitions. There is social safety in keeping to your own group. You never feel like an outsider if you’re surrounded by people you relate to. Like in the movie Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion: Romy and Michelle (played by Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow, respectively) reflect on their social status in school. Romy complains that they were “jokes” in school and they still are as adults. Michelle corrects her and says that she never knew that they weren’t that great in high school because they had so much fun together. That, until Romy said their lives weren’t good enough, she always thought their lives were great.
Before heading off to the first fraternity party of my college years, my boyfriend, under the guise of protecting and caring for me, warned me that I needed to be careful. He said, “Guys always know the ugly girls have the hottest friends” and that I should guard myself against any man who approached me at a party.
Stop your vomit reflex. I can hear you gagging. The audacity and pure manipulation of such a comment is palpable. Yet, at the age of 17, I accepted the comment and took it under advisement. Don’t you just want to SMACK me? Thinking back, I should have smacked myself and dumped him on the spot. But I didn’t. It took me two more years before I let him go.
I had a wonderful collegiate experience. Full of typically clichéd good kids, smart theater and music students who created worlds of artistic amazingness. I laughed and cried and went to parties just like everyone else. But I never had a boyfriend. I never went on a single date. I settled into a group of TRULY amazing friends—we’re a threesome who are still close to this day. Those friends just happened to be really beautiful. I saw them as silly, vibrant, caring women who had no problem farting and laughing. But I will never forget the day that someone told me I lived in “the Hot House.” It was a comment made in jest by one of my male friends, but I read between the lines. My roomies were hot and everyone knew it. They were desired, and I was the funny one without a boyfriend.
I became aware that I had gained entry into a world that, according to social rules and regulations, I didn’t belong in. My good looking friends appeared to be my entry. They legitimized my size and erased my stigma. One hot friend wasn’t enough, but to be surrounded by a Sea of Hotness made me acceptable.
The thing was . . . I didn’t care. I felt great about who I was. I was having fun. I felt strong and powerful.
I knew I was pre-judged by people, but that never stopped me. I never stood in the corner and waited for permission, or for someone to decide I was worthy. I simply showed them who I was and never gave them the chance to tell me I didn’t belong. I fought harder. I worked smarter. I owned my space without any hesitation. In those few years I gained tremendous self-awareness and learned a great deal about my strength as a woman and as a professional.
Yet, at the same time, I was always aware that others were experiencing things at a level I was not. I was surrounded by people who dated and loved, yet I did not date and love myself. I was invited to and included in parties and gatherings but engaged very little once I was there. Sometimes I noticed people looking past me during conversations, blindly nodding and smiling. Giving me their half-attention. Bringing me along for the ride but not sitting next to me on the roller coaster. I was respected and adopted. People asked my opinion and took my counsel. At the same time I was a Lone Wolf within the pack.
How did I slip in? How did I pull off a big switcheroo? It was clear I was getting away with something other larger women simply weren’t, but I didn’t know why. Was it just that I had enough confidence to make others not CARE about my physical presence?
Or was I living obliviously? Like the Emperor walking around naked in his suit of imaginary clothes. Did my sense of self cause me not to see others’ reactions and treatment of me? Or did I see those reactions and just not care because of my strong self-awareness?
I look back on those years with nothing but fondness. At the same time, I know I experienced professional successes while others lived personal ones. In a sea of friends getting married, I celebrated milestones in my work.
I am in my mid-thirties now. I’ve seen and been a part of SO much cool stuff in life. Yet, I’ve never experienced some of it as deeply as others. I am unmarried, for example, and haven’t been presented with the chance to start my own family. I am not even sure this is something I want, but regardless it still hasn’t been an option for me. Is part of this because of my choice to be the Only Fat Girl in a room full of Pretty People? If I had traveled in the circle that society had told me I belonged in, would my life have been easier? Would my life have been fuller?
I’ll tell you the 100% honest truth. I really don’t know.
Taking a more predictable path, a safer one, a less daring one, is never a less VALID one. You are not guaranteed any sense of peace and happiness if you “fit in,” though you may certainly find peace and happiness more easily. For me, I can tell you “predictable” has never been the answer. I like the brave. I like the journey. I like challenging myself. And I really like making the world say YES to me when its gut reaction is a resounding NO. I derive a personal sense of satisfaction from shattering perception and punching through the myriad of glass ceilings that life has placed above me. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve made things harder on myself in the process. Maybe in needing the wide open possibility, the access that comes without limits, I’ve limited my chances of finding the things I ultimately seek.
So back to this whole Hippo and Whale thing. Back to the As*holery.. I am not mad at you, Mr. Promoter Man. I feel bad for you. By spewing such hyper-defined Us vs. Them labels, you make it pretty clear to me that you base YOUR sense of self so clearly on your association with the nightclub you feel is the EPITOME of all things Pretty. That peddling Pretty People and determining who is worthy and who is not makes your worth in itself. You sell association to people, when it is really what you are selling to yourself. What are you without it? Would the pretty people pay attention to you if you didn’t have the access? What would happen to you if you were forced to interact with a room full of Hippos and Whales?
So I guess I am a hippo. Or a whale. I’m not sure which one that makes me. I prefer to think of myself as a dolphin. Or maybe a goat. Goats seem kinda awesome. Stinky, but awesome. Regardless, I see the label you want to place on me, Mr. Promoter. But not because it’s how I feel about myself—more so because it’s how you clearly need to feel about me in order to feel BETTER about yourself. I also think its… Bul*sh*t. Yes, another technical word. Bul*sh*t.
To my fellow hippos and whales: It sucks that we live in a culture that, for the most part, really doesn’t dig us. It isn’t easy showing up to the party when you know you may not get asked to dance. The decks are stacked against women of size in many ways. And then to have to deal with As*holery.? I get it. I ask you, however, to ignore it. Go on about your life like you deserve the same Access to Cool that every Pretty Person in life has. Is that a little naive? Some might say so. I say it’s the only way things will ever change. Brave the club. Wear the clothes. Do what you can to blur the lines. Yes, it’s totally ok to get mad at how people, like Mr Promoter, want to label and marginalize this. But not any single one of us can change the game. We cannot reshape society by ourselves.
The only way people will start looking us in the eye is if we keep PUTTING ourselves in front of them to begin with. The only way As*holery. Promoters will ever stop d*cking us out is if we believe we are just the same as EVERY other person in that club.
As for me, I am going to keep focusing my energy on living life the way I want to, and what feels authentic to me. Taking the risks, being open to change, looking people in the eye and saying YES I CAN when they throw me a sideways glance. I’ve decided to devote energy to making positive change within the plus-size community and to do what I can to inspire and help other women to become fully self-empowered and aware women. I can only have faith that, while journeying every day a step closer to my true self, that my personal life will catch up with me where I need it to be. And when it does… You can bet I’ll be taking a group of 20 women to Vegas for a bachelorette party and NOBODY will stop us from having the time of our life that we deserve.