Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bow Down Before Me Or I Will Sit On You

Dear World:
You are fat. You are also thin. I’m somewhere in between, not a monstrous blob of couch potato, but neither svelte, lithe, lean or skinny. I walk the tightrope between the two. And I’m not sure where to go next. You keep confusing me, World.

We constantly hear about the perils of obesity. It leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, muumuus and lederhosen. The First Lady leads a task force to combat childhood obesity. I can’t watch TV or internet videos without seeing ads for cosmetic surgery to get rid of fat. I know many people who have had lap bands, gastric bypasses, roux-en-y and other operations to make them lose weight. In popular culture, “weight loss” has become synonymous with “healthy,” even though medically the two are really only in-laws by relationship. In some cities I’ve visited, when strangers become acquainted one of the first questions asked in the conversation is “Which gym do you work out at?” Whole lifestyles have evolved around weight-loss diets. In fact, most weight-loss programs promote themselves as a “lifestyle change.” People are even made to feel bad if they comment admiringly on a fat little baby’s chubby cheeks. We need to be thinner, obesity is the enemy.

With that being said, no, pounded into my head at every turn, it confuses me when I see articles like this one. Two fat women were prevented from boarding a flight. That goes with our current cultural psyche, right? They’re not thin and can’t fit between the 17-inch armrests, so they should be made to purchase an extra seat, right? I KNOW you’ve had this conversation before, especially those of you who have had a particularly rotund seatmate on a long flight. That’s all very straightforward and correct with the country’s view of obesity. But then an airline supervisor countermanded an entire nation’s efforts and opinions on obesity and let them fly. More than that, a Southwest Airlines executive groveled before the fat ladies and apologized and offered free travel vouchers so they could crowd up another plane. The ladies had an "embarrassing" 45 minute debate at the airport regarding their size. The details of the focus of the embarrassment weren't clear, because I doubt their weight was a big secret before the debate. One of the fat ladies says in the article that “The sensitivity level needs to change.”

I’m so confused! We rail against fat and obesity and inactivity, but then we bend over backward to accommodate the obese? Ambulances are constructed specifically to fit obese folks. Sofa-sized wheelchairs, “big boy” hospital beds, bariatric toilets are all constructed for the people who everyone else says shouldn’t be. I even found the “long reach comfort wipe” for folks whose arms can’t reach all the way to their butt.

So which is it, World? Is obesity to be accommodated or combatted? Are we supposed to encourage “health” and “weight loss” by forbidding the obese to travel by conventional means and pointing them in the direction of the nearest cosmetic surgery clinic or weight loss program? Or should we be cowering before their ponderous bulk by diverting energy and resources to make everything bigger for them because our “sensitivity” needs to change? Either way, I’m game. But pick a camp and stand in it, World.

I’m so confused.

No comments: