Being a car-less, fat woman in a small-ish city is an interesting proposition. While I don’t go out of my way to advertise that I’m anything in particular, I frequently have the feeling that others are making judgements about me as I’m going about my daily business. I am a fat woman on a bright yellow bicycle, after all, I’m sort of hard to miss. While this is something that I try very hard to avoid doing, attributing judgements to people who have not made their opinions known, it’s a little difficult to do sometimes.
Take this evening for example. I had gotten caught up in a project at home and looked up to find that it was already 6pm, and I was starting to feel the effects of the lack of food I’d eaten for the day. A light “brunch” of turkey slices, cheese, almond crackers, and grapes at noon simply wasn’t enough fuel for my body for the day, even if I wasn’t doing much of anything. So I made myself presentable to go out in public (while my pajama bottoms known as my ‘crafty pants’ are comfortable enough at home, I do not feel comfortable going out in public in them…unless I’m very, very sick), I hopped on my bicycle and went to the small shopping center about 1/4 mile away. I stopped off first at my favorite burger place and had both a regular bun (my stomach is already yelling at me over that one, less than an hour later) and a cup of good old national brand cola. That’s only the second cola I’ve had in the 3 weeks since I made the decision to cut cola out of my habits completely. Dietary choices aside, I wanted something quick and yummy, and it fit the bill.
After being mildly dismayed to find there was no bicycle rack anywhere near this store, and choosing a seat where I could see my bicycle in case of trouble, I placed my order and started to settle at my table. No sooner had I began rearranging things in my bag than two young men (late teens I would guess, early 20’s would be generous) stopped directly in front of me, one holding his phone up and presumably typing, the other looking over his shoulder giggling hysterically. The phone being held up was pointed directly at me, which to be honest made me really nervous. Paranoid, you might say. They stood directly in front of me with this smart phone pointed in my direction for what had to be the longest 2 minutes of my day.
Why the fuss, you might ask? While these two weren’t openly heckling me, they could very well have been. Not too long ago in my city, a young woman was followed, harassed, hit, and had trash thrown at her because she was fat. And Latina. And breathing in their general vicinity. She didn’t provoke them. She didn’t make eye contact. Hell, she was just carrying her groceries home from the store. But in one of the most progressive cities in the nation, one that prides it’s self on staying “weird” and embracing all sorts of different-ness in people, this young woman was still attacked.
Still not sure why it was upsetting, even though I wasn’t being overtly attacked? Because these things can turn ugly in an instant. From having insults, animal noises, and even trash thrown at me by passing cars while taking a walk, to having men on dating websites pretend to be interested, act polite and respectful, then suddenly become insulting, rude, and harassing at a moment’s notice, I’ve been on the receiving end of my share of ‘sneaker attacks’ of fat hate. I had to stop and think about that last sentence after I wrote it. “My share” of fat hate? Why should anyone have to deal with that sort of public attack? For any reason? Back to the point, I’ve also seen a number of instances where people take pictures of others in public settings, without the other person’s knowledge or consent, then use those images to ridicule the subject of the photo without their knowledge, often online. Think about it. Think about the “people of Wal-Mart photos” that we’ve all seen and laughed at before. Do you really think that those “Wal-Mart people” gave consent for their photo to be taken, posted online, and publicly ridiculed?
I sincerely hope that the young men at the burger joint were simply sending stupid text messages and not covertly filming me for future ridicule. I hope that the chubby lady in the dress and leggings didn’t even register on their radar. I hope that one day I won’t have to be paranoid about phones with cameras pointed in my general direction.