You know those paintings where you see it one way, and then suddenly it’s different and you can’t see it the first way again? First you see the duck and then you can’t unsee the rabbit?
Well, recently I had an I-can’t-unsee-this moment. I see it everywhere and it’s haunting me:
TV shows make jokes about fat people being undesirable and unattractive all the time.
All. The. Time.
I don’t know how I didn’t notice this until a few months ago, but it is constant and it is demoralizing.
At first I thought it was just older shows. I started re-watching How I Met Your Mother a while ago. It feels as if half of what Barney says is a jab at a fat woman.
But Barney is not the only character that does it. Even the women make jokes about fat girls being unattractive, unloveable, and undesirable. But it’s not just older shows…
I watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when it came out a few months ago. I LOVED it, but one of the first jokes that Maisel makes is about her “fat roommate” from college:
“And she was friendly and fat, which was perfect because then I’d have someone to eat with who wouldn’t steal my boyfriend.”
The “fat roommate” in question is the girl on the right. Not fat. Also–how dare you?! I don’t want to steal anyone’s boyfriend, but why does it have to seem so ludicrously out of the question for a fat girl to be that desirable? … That one sincerely struck to the core of me. It felt true that no one would want to be with me for anything other than an eating companion (unless I lost those 80lbs).
I see these jokes and snide remarks everywhere now. I have long studied the effects of modern beauty standards on the human psyche, yet I had not fully processed this aspect of it. I understood that there was pressure to be thin. I did not comprehend the levels to which we were cut down for not being so.
For YEARS people have told me that I simply have bad body image–it’s all in my head– and I have a warped perspective of my own body. Well is it any wonder WHY? I weigh over 200lbs. I am categorically obese by modern and medical standards. Ergo, according every character on How I Met Your Mother, I do not deserve love, sex, or partnership. The people who look like me on TV are the brunt of the joke or the unsexed best friend that holds the purses at the club.
How am I supposed to counter-balance the notion that I am unworthy of being found attractive with actual truth and reality?
# 1– We have to give curvy girls sex appeal on TV.
Recently it has become more of a possibility to see a curvy girl with sex appeal on screen thanks to…
Hannah from Girls
Kate from This is Us
Paula from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
And actually… Rebecca from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is pretty curvy, and I especially appreciated this song:
But we need more!
# 2… We have to go back to square one: embrace you for you… all of you–every pound, inch, and curve.
I know this does not feel remotely possible.
Sometimes it feels impossible to think that someone will find me desirable, but I have moments of truth/hope.
One such moment occurred around Christmas. My friend Chris posted a video from The Greatest Showman on Facebook.
The video is of a New York rehearsal and it remains one of the most beautiful performances I have ever seen. In it, Keala Settle has what I call an Olé moment — a glimpse of God through human creation. The first time I watched it I wept uncontrollably for about a half an hour. I had never seen the movie, but her rehearsal performance rocked me. Her truth, pain, release, and hope overflowed from the screen and went through me too. I began to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could confidently dance with abandon and sing, “When the sharpest words want to cut me down, I’m gunna send the flood, gunna drown them out, I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be — this is me.”