“What do you regard as most humane? To spare someone shame.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Lots of stuff happened at Gen Con this year. I taught and played a bunch of games. I met a few other designers that I hold in high esteem. I experienced a weird outpouring of love from strangers. Somehow, I managed not to buy any new games. And I experienced a strange moment of shame in shaming. Well, not exactly.
Working Gen Con is quite a different experience than attending. It’s a good thing for me, really. I get to experience Gen Con without it breaking my bank account. Yes, I can buy things, but I’m pretty busy most of the time, and when I’m not busy, I’m trying to find something to do, as doing things is more fun than buying things. And sometimes you have to eat. Historically speaking, Gen Con is not my healthiest event when it comes to eating. More often than not, I’m only eating one meal, partly due to costs (I’m thrifty! How else can you buy ALL THE GAMES if you’re spending money on restaurants?) and partly due to time. If I managed to catch a meal outside of breakfast, it was in all likelihood a social outing more than an “I am considering auto-cannibalism” moment.
The hotel has a complimentary breakfast. As far as hotel breakfasts go, it’s not bad. I mean, they have an omelet bar, so that’s pretty snazzy. Anyway, when my turn in line comes up, I order a veggie omelet, and move down a space to wait for it. The next guy in line behind me is a larger gent. He orders an omelet with bacon, ham, sausage and cheese, and chocolate chip pancakes. From the buffet table (for those weirdos who don’t like customized eggs) he gets a lot of bacon. like, a lot a lot. And a lot of sausage, but not as obscene amount as the bacon. And some mini-donuts.
At first I thought that maybe he was low-carbing or something (before he ordered the pancakes) and I even found a table near his, specifically so I could see if maybe he was getting food for someone else too. He wasn’t. I honestly felt a little horrified by it all; and that’s when it hit me that I was completely (if silently) fat shaming the guy.
Pot? Kettle’s got some bad news for you, sunshine. I’m no lithe thing. For as much progress as I’ve made, I am still a pretty big dude. This reaction lead me to start wondering about a bunch of things as they relate to me.
How much from my own experiences in trying to lose weight? Why did I take an interest in this guy’s breakfast? I was in Indy for 5 days, and I could not tell you what anyone else ate at any point, including people I was specifically out with as opposed to complete strangers.
One thing was for damn sure though, and that is that those thoughts were definitely NOT okay. The silver lining here is that this created a good opportunity to more closely examine what lead me to think such things.
A lot of things went through my head. Bits of “Did/do I look like that?” Pieces of “how could he do all of this in public?” I know that I couldn’t do that. I have made a few exceptions from time to time, but I could never eat much in public, and the stuff I did eat was mainly salads and steamed and/or grilled things. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed them, but my decisions on what to eat were certainly influenced by my circumstances and company. I simply could not wrap my brain around the idea of how he did what he was doing. I cannot relate to a lack of shame. And there’s so much I didn’t know. Why was he doing this?Does he normally eat like this? I was unsettled by the spectacle, which I will remind you, is NONE OF MY GODDAMN BUSINESS.
It’s uncomfortable because I don’t think that we can help but to project ourselves onto them or see a reflection of ourselves in that. I worried that I was perceived the same way I was perceiving that guy. I’m nowhere near where I want to be yet, but somewhere I found the gall to judge this stranger.
Would I have had this reaction had I not lost the weight I have? While my body changes, I struggle with identity. How much of me is in the past? How much of me is in the future? The answer of course is that it is always me throughout the entire process, but it doesn’t really feel that way.
In the end, this came down to an ugly truth (that happens with alarming frequency) that this has roots in self-hate.
Some of the world’s worst fat-haters are themselves heavy people and/or former heavy people. Obesity comes with a huge social stigma; it’s heavy, and this weight is significantly more difficult to lose than the physical kind. The general public assumption is that heavy people are by default unhappy. That assumption has repeatedly clobbered us until it was made true. There are people who have escaped that, and I applaud them. Unfortunately, I am among the majority that this does apply to. This assumption leads people to say things like “You must have lost the weight because you decided to be happy and positive about your life.”
Well…no, that’s not actually the reason. Or at least not at first. The real answer is that my self-loathing reached critical mass and I lost the ability to eat for the better part of a month. After a series of ups and downs, I took more control of my situation and worked on weight loss being something I was doing rather than something that was happening to me, and even taking a proactive (positive?) approach, I have lost way more weight from hate than from happiness. I still don’t quite know how to fix that.
Being heavy is such a curse that people always assume that changing this must be a good thing. “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!” they say. Well, “whatever I’m doing” is “looking at myself and always being disappointed.” So, yeah, thanks for your golden advice.
It’s a long, hard road where progress forward is measured in inches and backslides measured in yards. It’s easy to get bitter about it, even while your progress has improved your life.
It’s really hard for me to grasp the concept that I am loveable through this body I’m in. Despite the love people show me, I find ways to make myself think that people are really just finding ways to hide their disgust with me as a matter of politeness. But in truth, the disgust is all mine, projected onto them. It’s not easy to see that clearly.
I don’t harbor any such feelings for people I know regardless of shape, so why can’t it cut both ways? All of the evidence says that it does. I just have a hard time accepting that. I know, not very scientific of me.
Which is why I have convinced myself that the answer has to be to make myself into something i find acceptable. Because as hard as that is, it may be easier than coming up with the self-love necessary to believe it. People close to me find me acceptable now, but this doesn’t register. The best I am typically capable is “I appreciate your patience while I fix this mess.”
How did seeing a stranger’s highly questionable breakfast choices bring me here?
A core principle of life is this. We do to others what we do to ourselves. I projected my discontent with myself onto this stranger, even if he never knew it. No, that’s not okay.
So where does this go from here?
A dear friend of mine (whom this post is dedicated to and whose words frequently find their way into my mouth) advised me to try to think about how the people who love me see me.
Time will tell if this is something I can learn to do.