This Sunday will mark the 54th anniversary of my mother’s birth. It will also be the first of her birthdays we will spend without her.
I’ve spent most of the past ten months trapped between a desire to organize and revolutionize and galvanize against the fat hatred which told her that her health was not worth tending, that her life was not worth saving, and the terrible knowledge in my heart that if she knew what I had done – that I’d written about her life and experiences as a fat woman, that I’d even said publicly that she’d been a fat woman, she would be mortified, furious, appalled.
We almost never talked about weight or body size at my house. Once my sister and I reached puberty, we were all fat, and we just didn’t talk much about it unless we absolutely had to, like during the annual clothes shopping trip before the new school year and that sort of thing.
My mom, like I think a lot of us fat folks, was always torn between wanting to be noticed, and wanting to disappear. She wanted to be noticed for being interested in fashion, for knowing how to dress (and for all that her tastes and mine were nothing alike, my mom really did know how to put herself together when she wanted to), for being funny and generous and enthusiastic. But she also feared being noticed, because if someone noticed her, they would also notice she was fat, and she’d been in the world plenty long enough to know that you couldn’t trust most people to look at a fat person and see anything but a ‘big, disgusting fatty’.
So for me to be here, talking about my mom being fat, and talking about how she’d been hurt and humiliated by that doctor, and telling the whole freakin’ world about what she went through?
She would hate that.
She would slap my disrespectful mouth, and rightfully so. Who the hell am I to go on the internet, of all places, and talk about things she never even talked about with me? How dare I sit here and say I loved my mom, and I wish like crazy we could have gotten over all our difficulties so we could have been closer than we were, and say that I miss her and can hardly listen to oldies on the radio anymore because half the songs I hear remind me of her, when at the same time, I’m doing the one thing that would have hurt and humiliated her more than anything else?
And then I read things like this comment from fatgirlonadate.
Or I read posts at First, Do No Harm, a project inspired by my posts about Mom, but which I’ve done jack to help out on in months, so caught up am I in fears of what my mom would think of all this now.
I read all this stuff, and I see that these things are continuing. That people’s lives are at stake here.
And I think, “Mom wouldn’t have wanted that.” If Mom had known about all this, if she’d known what other people had suffered as a result of the same cruelty from (certain) health care professionals as she had, she would have joined up. She would have bought a To Hell With Tiny Pants T-shirt and worn it loud and proud (while bumming around the house on a Saturday afternoon – that whole ambivalence about being noticed thing, you see), and she would have taken part in the discussions, she would have encouraged None Given to get her necessary checkups and not take “no” for an answer from some lab-coated jerkwad too prissy to touch a fat woman’s vagina.
She would have sent an email to fatgirlonadate expressing her sincere condolences about fatgirl’s aunt, and probably would have included a link to a book that she thought might help fatgirl and her mom cope with their grief.
And it’s only now, that I’m sitting here writing this, and thinking seriously about what Mom would have done if she had been around for all this, that I’m finally feeling like perhaps, just maybe, I’ve done the right thing. That she’s not stomping around the afterlife hating me and cursing the day she gave birth to me. That if she’s out there, somewhere, maybe she’s even a little bit proud of me?
So Sunday, in honor of Mom’s birthday, I’ll be going to my yoga class in MY To Hell With Tiny Pants T-shirt, even if I’m concerned it’s a little short on me and I’ll be showing the whole class my stretch-marky belly. And if anyone asks, I’ll explain what it means and why I’m wearing it.
And I’ll listen to “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver and I’ll cry a whole bunch.
And I’ll probably do something else, too. But mostly, I’m going to try to keep in mind what Mom would have done, if she’d known about all this. I’m going to stay focused on how Mom would have responded to the Fatosphere, and try to ignore the voices that tell me she would never have wanted me to say a word about her.
Because she never thought about herself. So long as it had just been her, she wouldn’t have worried about it. But there’s no way she would have stood for someone else being treated the same way she had been. There’s no way she would have sat back and done nothing, knowing that other people were living in pain, were sick, and some were even dying, because of health care professionals who think they’re too good to treat fat people.
Maybe she wouldn’t have been on the front lines, but she’d have been here. She’d be reading and commenting and supporting other people as much as she could.
Granted, I doubt she’d be thrilled to know I talked about her so publicly, but I think she’d have understood, and I think she’d have forgiven me. Well, eventually.