That depends largely on who you ask.
I am overweight, I carry the excess largely around my belly. Whereas most of my family members have issues with alcohol, mine is with food. (That’s me. I choose the one substance you cannot quit cold turkey) It has caught up to me, but we’ll get into that a little bit further on.
Yesterday, I went to a doctor for the first time since 2004/2005. All those tut-tutting over the gap can keep it to themselves. In that amount of time, I have lived an unsettled life that did not include health insurance for stretches at a time, or the means to pay out of pocket. And when you have a pre-existing condition, insurance is either unavailable or ridiculously expensive. The insurance companies are risk averse, wanting only young, healthy, and wealthy.
But I digress.
I got a diagnosis of diabetes. Not completely unexpected (see second paragraph), but I’m experiencing a bunch of strong, negative emotions and “Hell fuckity no” response.
Already, it’s reached an unacceptable level of disrupting my life with having to stop and periodically stick fingers, draw blood, and write down blood sugar levels. I’m supposed to take a class on care, but they’re 2 hours long, it’s a set of four, and they’re offered midday during the workweek. No. “But shouldn’t your health be a priority?” Fuck that if I lose my job and can’t pay for it. I feel like I’ve been caught, shackled to a chain with millions of others, and we’re expected to just obediently march forward in lockstep and jump through all the hoops presented without question.
Part of this is my view of the diabetic industrial complex. We see ads all the time for various drugs with a host of side effects like yeast infections, bladder infections, diarrhea, keeling over, voting for Ted Cruz, none of them desirable. And monitors, and services to save money on your supplies. And special foods and shakes and diets. There are billions of dollars to be made in treating diabetes. And it’s so widespread, it seems, that someone should be asking why. Is it high fructose corn syrup in everything? Is it from years of exposure to Round Up? Did American pancreases take a secret vote and decide to go on strike? Is it a side effect of other widely prescribed drugs that we haven’t been told about? There was no history of diabetes in my family until my parents. And one sibling, so I’m not down with “Oh, well it’s in your family history, so it’s not surprising you’d develop it.” No, uh uh. We’re talking one generation back, so I’m skeptical about “it’s genetic.” These things don’t spontaneously happen. Heart disease? Yes, and it’s been over a few generations. Cancer? Yes. Are we all sitting around on our asses and scarfing Doritos? Consistently overeating and just crap? Not moving (even before the lockdown)? A lot of people are, but still, something’s amiss.
I am having a severe emotional reaction, perhaps out of proportion to the situation. And it’s largely anger. (Not denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance) Like channeling it into trashing a room level of anger.
Since I was a child, like 10 years old, pressure has been applied to me regarding my weight. We are talking specially packed lunches with low calorie bread, skim milk for me (as opposed to what my siblings got). And I was not a fat kid. Solid, yes, but not obese. I never heard, “Well, the doctor says you need to lose weight.” No. I had a mother with a bad self-image and a superhuman ability to project. (She had weight issues herself. As did Dad) My older sister caught it, too, but not to the same degree. While my family prized humor and being able to zing with one-liners at the speed of light, there was a depth of cruelty behind it. Teasing a child to the point of tears for amusement. And the adult women in the family piled on, with ones in my generation graduating into offering unsolicited comment, “helpful tips,” and criticism. As a result, for my adult life (and some time before that), I have been drowning in a variety of self: consciousness, criticism, loathing.
Since thin has been in, the burden has largely been on women to comply with the 36” 24” 36” stereotypical standard of size. I’ve mentioned the diabetic industrial complex, but that was preceded for a couple of generations by the diet industrial complex, who now has a “daughter,” if you will, in all these people now dealing with blood sugar. Phrases like “net carbs” and “glycemic index” are part of the advertising, and it’s mostly aimed at women. Now we have diabetes drugs that say “And you might lose a little weight” as part of the pitch. Despite fifty years (half a century) of the Women’s Movement and feminism, we are still urged to make ourselves attractive for others, usually men. And where the advertising, articles, and that shithead Dr. Oz leave off, there’s the off-camera pressure we apply to each other: “Does this make me look fat?” “You know, I wasn’t going to say anything, but…,” “Have you seen ___ lately? Have you seen her ass?” While I have never heard, “Well, you can’t catch a man if you’re overweight,” I have heard men who qualify as morbidly obese (nice guys, and I’m not saying that sarcastically) rejecting a potential date because “One of us in this relationship has to be thin.” (Maybe not so nice). Good old dead fat Rush Limbaugh claiming feminism was invented so unattractive would have opportunities. Rot in hell, Rush, but humans are biased toward favoring more attractive people for advancement, etc.
And I didn’t conform. I didn’t not eat. I didn’t obsess over what or how much I was eating. Up until I was 30, I was a size 10. And this really bothered various women I knew. They did spend a lot of time and thought on what they should, should not, or actually did eat. And they were (and are) truly unhappy people. There’s a deep vein of resentment because they are bending themselves to please others. And it is not pleasing them. They are not feeling secure in themselves, and thus, we get the Mean Girls: “I don’t feel good about myself or at ease in my body, so I’m going to make comments and passive aggressively chip away at your self-esteem until you’re as miserable as I pretend not to be.”
Back to the diabetes.
I walk around with a Greek chorus in my head of people, real people both living and dead, who have commentary on everything I do. These are all things that have been said to me over the years that hurt and made an impression. Not one of them is part of my day to day life anymore, but the wounds they inflicted with their words linger like an oil spot on a silk blouse. I hear the comments, I can see the scenes when they said the things, complete with the eye rolls and sighs. They will sit across from me in a restaurant as I dine alone, they stick their faces in into meals I’m preparing, they stand at the foot of my bed as I sit on it. I know that they are not there, but the presence is palpable, constant, and negative. It’s like an artificial intelligence like Siri or Alexa programmed to respond to everything I do, mostly focused on my weight and eating habits. At least two of these phantom women wanted to control me and my life, not out of benign motivation. And the common theme was, “If you don’t lose weight, you’re going to get diabetes.” “If you don’t eat better, you’re going to get diabetes.” “If you don’t exercise, you’re going to get diabetes.”
This, Gang, is fat shaming couched in threatening medical terms.
Diabetes has been held over my head for YEARS as a punishment. It’s evidence of a moral failure – gluttony and sloth (which one of these assholes, code name Crapsack, hurled at me when I didn’t offer to share something with her. I was committing a sin. I kid you not), and if I didn’t change my ways, I would be struck down.
This is why I’m angry above all else at the diagnosis. These miserable, vicious, two-faced assholes can not be right. Even though none of them are part of my life anymore, I will not be able to stand “Told you so.” Once started, it will not stop. “You’re just as miserable as we are. Our work is done here.” “Well, you know, if you’d listened to me, this could have been avoided.”
So here I am, fat, angry, somewhat scared but mostly angry, and trying to cope with this new stage.
“Oh, you should write about it.” I don’t think so. The diabetic industrial complex has enough inspirational and helpful hint little chirpers out there already. I have zero interest in reading or writing the following: “I limited my lunch to a piece of chicken the size of a Bicycle deck of cards and I carefully measured out 2 cups of yummy zucchini with a squeeze of lemon juice. I was so full afterwards and felt so good about sticking to my meal plan.” First of all, fuck zucchini. “Yummy” is a dumb, childish word and the sensation it describes doesn’t come within ten miles of zucchini. Second of all, this is more of seeking validation from outside the self. “I want to inspire others.” Bitch, please. You want a pat on the head, praise for conforming, a big following, and maybe a lucrative sponsorship for your blog from a diet shake maker (“Now with lower glycemic index!”). I’d rather write, and you’d rather read more entertaining and informative stuff. So, I’ll spare you.
I’m going to find my way through this. Find my way out of the rage. And find a way to shut out that Greek chorus.