Monday, August 22, 2016

The Shame of the Body-Shamer

 When I declined to denounce the wonderful statues of a naked, castrated Donald Trump that the guerilla art collective Indecline displayed last week in New York, San Francisco, Cleveland, Seattle, a few politically hypercorrect Facebookians hurled themselves reflexively at the I Am Offended, and You Must Be Too button and pronounced me a bigot and fascist.

I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Trump naked, but infer, based on photographs of him clothed, that the depiction of him as a misshapen fat cat wasn’t wildly inaccurate. They say that, at 50, one has the face he or she deserves. Well, I think Donald J. Trump, at 70, has the body he deserves. But I was to understand that by accurately depicting the physique of one who apparently disdains exercise more strenuous than tossing raw meat to the cretins who intend to vote for him, Indecline was body-shaming Trump, tacitly encouraging the persecution of the obese. 

Poppycock, said I, though in rather earthier words.

But to the idea that fat people are all alike, and that none are fat out of sheer laziness and lack of self-discipline, I say poppycock anew., more emphatically.

I am very well aware that, for genetic or psychological reasons, some fat people can’t help themselves. (How could I not be, when every week UK television broadcastss around 35 programmes called, for instance, People Who Weight More Than Their Cars?) Some people who chronically overeat are no more able to stop than I am to cease being prone to depression. I really do get that the eating disorders are real, and can kill.

The kind of obesity born of self-indulgence and laziness — the Trump kind —  is popular with those who imagine they can eat too much in proportion to how little they exercise and nonetheless remain slim. Their mantra: I really must get over to the gym more often. It’s a lifestyle based on self-deception, with a generous dollop of refusal to accept personal responsibility stirred in.

For the vast majority of obese people, I would guess, obesity is indeed a matter of choice. Every day that they eat too much and exercise too little, they make the choice to be potbellied, spare-tired, love-handled, and tubby, though, very commonly, such persons will profess to be baffled by their tubbiness. “I just don’t understand it,” they’ll say, shaking their heads in perplexity, “I do exercise. I play golf five times a week.” Which is to say that they waddle down to their ballroom-sized Cadillac Escadlades, drive to the golf course, hand their cars over to parking attendants, waddle onto the first hole, hit the ball, and then ride in a golf cart to wherever it landed, where they’ll hit it again. Repeat this process nine times and you’ve had a hell of a workout!

For the record, I was fat myself once, as a 9-year-old. My mother detested cooking, and we could taste it. The only part of the meal she or I actually enjoyed (my dad enjoyed everything) was dessert — store-bought cookies, of which we ate far too many. I knew the pain of my classmates’ ridicule — oh, did I, but had forgotten it by early adulthood, when I smoked and drank, encouraged my girlfriend, who had an expense account, to take me to rich dinners at my favourite French restaurant (Au Petit Café, in Hollywood) and, in a good month, played basketball maybe three times. But I had a torrid young rock dreamboat’s metabolism, and never got much above 182 pounds. (I’m 6-1.) On Memorial Day in my 30th year, I discovered myself unable to run all the way across Will Rogers’ polo field with my de facto stepdaughter, thought, “Fuck this shit,” and resolved to change course. I found that jogging helped keep my mind off how much I longed for nicotine, and began doing it nightly. I’ve worked out in one way or another pretty much every day since. I consciously choose not to be tubby, and have very little patience for those who pretend not to have made the opposite choice, even passively.


To me all that saggy fat-cat flab looks like untrammeled capitalism, arrogance and avarice made flesh. In the vast majority of cases, it is indeed something to be no less ashamed of than bad hygiene.

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