Well, Now That You Mention It, I Am in the Market for a Bridge!

For all my cynicism, I can be such a freakin’ Pollyanna sometimes, you have no idea. For instance, when I read this line from Fat Fu

(For the record I find Huckabee’s assumption of moral superiority over his weight loss especially irritating, since I’m about 80% sure he’s had weight loss surgery.)

I was scandalized. For real. You mean… you mean… he might have had the surgery and LIED ABOUT IT? Or just NOT TOLD ANYONE? And then gone out there and started banging the anti-obesity drum and acting like he just lost all this weight by eating vegetables and exercising? SOMEONE WOULD DO THAT?

Totally never occurred to me. Because, of course, politicians are usually so honest and would never encourage people to live up to an impossible standard that they themselves fail to meet.

I know, I know. I comfort myself with the old adage Liss whipped out somewhere in the comments recently, that only a thief is constantly worried that people are trying to steal from him. I figure the reverse must also be true, right? Only an honest person constantly assumes people are basically honest, despite abundant evidence to the contrary?

Or, you know, only a complete idiot constantly assumes people are as clueless as she is. Whatever.

I got to thinking about this again a few days later, when the “news” about Star Jones’s upcoming Glamour article came out. Star Jones will finally address rumors that she had gastric by-pass surgery! (Oh, THANK GOD.)

But see, in that case, my cluelessness worked in the other direction; I had no idea that Star Jones had never publicly admitted to having weight loss surgery. I assumed that was a confirmed fact, and everybody knew it. Not because I’m clever enough to read between the lines, but just because… I totally thought I read that somewhere. Huh.

Then I started thinking about other people I’ve heard WLS rumors about. Sara Rue leaps to mind:

When I first heard that theory floated, I had the same basic reaction as to the Huckabee theory, only moreso. First, SOMEONE WOULD DO THAT? — and then second, Sara Rue wasn’t anywhere near big enough to qualify for surgery! She was, like, a size 8/10, max! If someone had just told her that drop-waist dresses are not her friend, she wouldn’t have even looked a little bit fat before! (Yeah, yeah, Hollywood standards. We’re getting to that in a minute.)

Now, I have absolutely no idea if Sara Rue had surgery or just went apeshit with dieting and exercise, but I do know this: a good friend of mine, who started out thinner than I am and therefore totally didn’t qualify for WLS in the States, ran off to Mexico without telling anyone and got herself a lap-band. They’re handing out bands to anyone with enough money and self-loathing down there, and people in L.A. don’t even need a plane ticket. So it’s utterly ridiculous of me to think that an actress who makes a living with her body, has publicly expressed frustration with losing roles for being “fat,” and has publicly gotten pissed off at people who called her “plus-sized” wouldn’t do the same. Yet my gut reaction to the Sara Rue-mor was still, “No! Couldn’t be!”

You see what I’m saying about the Pollyanna thing?

So when all these thought molecules started banging against each other in my tiny brain, it finally dawned on me: holy shit, this is dangerous.

When even I, a devoted student of fat, keep failing to grok that celebrities might be secretly having their guts renovated, what are the chances that, say, your average adolescent girl is going to catch on?

It’s bad enough that the standard is set by people who can afford personal trainers and chefs, and who get paid millions to be as thin as possible.

And it’s bad enough that magazines turn Faith Hill into Jessica Simpson, and the average reader has no idea a 39-year-old woman doesn’t actually look like that.

And it’s bad enough that some already skinny celebrities take sketchy, illegal pills (not to mention good old fashioned cocaine and meth) to, you know, make their collarbones really pop.

But for celebrities and public figures to have surgery to lose weight, and act like they just laid off the cheeseburgers for a couple months? That is beyond the fucking pale, y’all. That is some horrifying, eating disorder-inspiring shit. And given my high degree of cluelessness, I’m sure it happens much more than I realize.

Where does it fucking end?

(Cross-posted.)

29 Comments

Filed under 09_kate_harding

29 responses to “Well, Now That You Mention It, I Am in the Market for a Bridge!

  1. I can only add that, interestingly, the vicious pressure to be thin never invaded the black community in the United States.

    If I understand the situation correctly, that big big booty, triple-quiver on the walk shake, has always been preferred in that culture. It takes serious curves and calories to get there.

    [shrugs] I dunno where it ends, of course not. Orwell put it to the point where no one aged, one was processed out after a time, the cultural preference to be “pneumatic”, meaning big pumped-out breasts with that delicious Wonder bread bounce-back.

    I’m surprised I say anything, as a guy I really don’t know this turf at all, and should just listen.

  2. Oh, I’m sure it happens all the time, and it will become a story when someone dies on the table. Not that anyone ever dies from roux en y.

  3. Kate Harding

    Well, the good news is, the lap-band is becoming much more common and is much less dangerous than old school gastric bypass. (There are still tons of potential complications, but a much lower mortality rate.)

    But as you say, no one ever died from the surgery. They died on the table because they were too fat to operate on. They died from pulmonary embolisms because, you know, fat people have health problems. And hey, they would have died from being fat anyway!

    It’s unbelievable.

  4. NameChanged

    yuck. I didn’t even recognize Sarah Rue. And as for Star Jones, she looks seriously unhealthy lately. Her head is not porportional to her body, and that makes me think that she is not using “natural” means.

    On the plus side, I recieved an email from my 14-year-old cousin the other day denouncing the myth that you can never be too thin. She sent it to all her friends and told them they were beautiful. Powerful for a teen, I think.

  5. Jewel

    I friggin’ HATE this cultural obsession with thinness. My initial reaction to the ‘before’ pic of Sara Rue: what, she’s a size 8/10? I’M a size 8/10 – do I look that fat? Oh no I must be fat!!! And therefore ugly and disgusting!!! HORRIBLE. Fer goddess’ sake, why can’t my reason overcome this shitty, unhealty, cultural conditioning???

  6. Fer goddess’ sake, why can’t my reason overcome this shitty, unhealty, cultural conditioning???

    Because the entire weight of 99.9% of the cultural messages are: You can never be too rich or too thin.

    Even though the very medium is telling you that is replete with people who are.

    Since the dawn of the 20th century the PR machine has been about making you unhappy.

    In the beginning it was to get people to gain weight. Voluptuous was IN. Ladies like Harry Houdini’s wife were reviled for being too petite and slender.

    When large became too easy, the dieting obsession started. And if it changes, they will change it again.

    Because happy people don’t buy product.

  7. Here’s a question I have for fat-acceptance folk: What would you advise me to do if I think a friend is starving herself?

    I have a friend who dropped a couple of pounds during a colon cleanse recently (she was already very thin). I truly believe that she did the cleanse for health reasons, but she remarked how she liked that her little tummy-pooch (which you needed a microscope to see in the first place) had disappeared. Since she ended the cleanse, I’ve noticed that she barely eats anything, and I suspect she’s in one of those “desperate not to gain it back” phases.

    She is starting to look ill to me — gaunt, bad color, arms that are mostly bone.

    I don’t want to get all up in her face about it, but I’m concerned. I don’t like it when people talk to me about my weight as if they’re just “concerned about my health”, so I don’t want to be hypocritical and do the same to her.

    Any suggestions about how to approach this?

  8. Meowser

    Sara Rue was considerably larger around the time she made Gypsy 83 (2001) — which, if you haven’t seen it, is a classic fat-chick-makes-good film, and Sara is absolutely smashing in it. I’m guessing that when she made that film she was around a size 16 or 18. There is a nude scene in the film where she demonstrates absolutely eye-popping boobage, much larger than apparent from the photo above; you can see from the DVD box a vestige of her larger form, although I think it has some airbrushing (especially of the arms).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Gypsy_83.JPG

    Now, whether this is further ammunition for a WLS rumor I can’t say. But even when she started on Less than Perfect she was already beginning to shrink.

  9. Meowser

    Oh, and PortlyDyke: If you’re going to discuss this with your friend, I’d approach it from the angle that you’ve seen a change recently in her behavior, rather than her weight. I look at it this way: If someone noticed a change in me, noticed that I was unusually hungry for me, binge eating all the time, obsessed with getting more to eat, etc. — which is not my baseline — I’d expect a friend to mention it to me without being all “wow, you were fat before but now you’re a frigging Cessna!” I hope that helps.

  10. PortlyDyke,

    Without sounding too “Dear Abby” maybe you could invite her around for several meals. If she is hiding her starvation, she will at least eat with you. You might also mention that her face or coloring is different. Try to keep the focus off of weight, but on other appearances. This might shift her focus as well.

    She might also be doing repeated cleansings, which can be dangerous, so ask her about that.

    Hope this helps.

  11. Ula

    Not directly on topic, but did you guys see this jezebel post?

    http://jezebel.com/gossip/wicked-witch-of-the-east/martha-stewart-hates-fat-girls-280961.php

    Where Martha Stewart told Abigail Breslin (that adorable little miss sunshine) that she looked ‘pleasantly plump’ and asked if she ate too many cheesburgers on the road? She’s fuckin 11 years old. That makes me want to cry. I’ve never been a Martha-hater, but this makes me re-think it.

  12. Thanks Meowser and NameChanged, for your input (and no, it doesn’t sound too Dear Abby ;) ) — That was the tack I was thinking of heading down, so it’s nice to have it confirmed.

    She already joins my community at least once a week for meal-sharing, and hangs out here a good bit — that’s why I noticed the changes over time. I’ll invite her more often.

    My partner also suggested that some of what I am seeing could be stress — she’s been tearing her hair out at work.

    Curiosity rather than conclusions — I think that’s the ticket.

  13. Meowser

    If Abigail becomes anorexic, her family should sue the living crap out of Martha. That’s all I’m gonna say.

  14. Kate Harding

    If Abigail becomes anorexic, her family should sue the living crap out of Martha. That’s all I’m gonna say.

    Before or after they sue the people who put her in a fat suit for a movie about letting your freak flag fly, then paraded her all over the media to talk about how NOT FAT she really was, because god forbid anyone think she was FAT like her character in that movie about how people are lovable exactly as they are?

    ‘Cause that’s a whole lot of people to sue, including, uh, themselves.

    And I guess Martha missed all those interviews.

    Um, yeah. You don’t want to get me started on Abigail Breslin. I adore her, and I worry a lot about what puberty will bring, considering there are obviously fat genes in her family, and people are already so obsessed with her weight.

    PortlyDyke, the advice you’ve already gotten sounds pretty good to me, but I’d also maybe look into what people with eating disorders say about how to approach someone like your friend. I’m not saying she has an eating disorder, but if she’s displaying those behaviors, you’d probably get the best advice from people who know what that’s like.

  15. I can only add that, interestingly, the vicious pressure to be thin never invaded the black community in the United States.

    I have one word for you: Oprah.

  16. Not directly on topic, but did you guys see this jezebel post?

    Further not on topic, but am I the only person annoyed by the note in that post that the video isn’t up because the “hard-working Gawker video boys are basking in the sun this weekend or some such”?

    All I can hear is “We silly girls over here at Jezebel can’t work technology, hee hee hee!” and it’s making my bloody teeth grind.

    “The video techs don’t work weekends” would have sufficed.

  17. Doctor Jay

    One of my tools for self management is the idea of keeping your focus on the things you want, and that you have control of.

    This leads me to suggest that one tool for folks that have body issues is to focus on the things that your body does for you, what it is capable of, and what that body type did for your forebears.

    I’m not exceptionally fat, but no one would call me thin.

    My body kept my ancestors alive in famine. It helped them survive the plague, and all manner of diseases. It kept them going despite severe physical hardship and labor. It grows muscle just as easily as fat.

    I do martial arts. I have discovered that am far harder to injure than the skinny people. Here’s something very odd. Old friends who see me always ask me if I’ve lost weight. I haven’t. I have better posture and fitness though. Better skin color. More energy. All these things show, and are appealing.

    If you tend to be fat, maybe this is true for you, as well. Women aren’t supposed to be physically strong, but that idea has eased somewhat. But it doesn’t have to be martial arts. Maybe it’s walking, or hiking, or swimming or dancing or weightlifting. Figure out what your body is meant to deal with, and then put yourself in a position which lets it show its stuff.

  18. Kate Harding

    I have one word for you: Oprah.

    Oh, hell yes. I didn’t see Paradox’s comment before (must have been in moderation), or I would have responded similarly.

    Two more words: Debra Dickerson.

    Statistically, compared to white girls and women, African-American girls and women are somewhat less likely to have eating disorders or consider themselves too fat — even if they are “overweight” on a BMI chart. But that certainly doesn’t mean they’re impervious to the cultural messages we ALL get. African-American culture doesn’t exist outside of American culture in general.

    Also, it does not take “serious calories” to get there. It mostly takes a genetic predisposition for a fat body and a particular shape.

    Also, women’s body image does not derive solely from what men prefer.

  19. Kate Harding

    All I can hear is “We silly girls over here at Jezebel can’t work technology, hee hee hee!” and it’s making my bloody teeth grind.

    You’re not the only one.

  20. You’re not the only one.

    I suspected not. ;)

  21. Angelos

    Here’s one of those places where kinda veer off and say “really?”

    Anyway, making fun of Gawker Media is a big pastime within Gawker Media. Especially making fun of Nick Denton and his big giant head and his tight wallet.

    Over at Deadspin, we always bitch about the hamsters that power the servers (I’ve been part of 600 comment threads that just KILLED the site). All the sites got redesigned to the same new template on a rolling basis, and everyone bitched, one site at a time.

    So for that Jezebel jib, my first interpretation was “those lazy fuckers in tech haven’t generated the Flash yet” or something.

    Whatever, no real argument here, just a different view.

    But we all agree that Martha f-ed up here.

  22. katecontinued

    The really stupid part of the Martha comment was that it was practically one of the pivotal scenes in the fucking movie. Asshole comment from dad about the ice cream absolutely solidified protection around the little girl and her self-image. The ice cream line was used again when she met the queen. Damn it Martha.

  23. Getting back to the business of having surgery and then pretending the celeb lost weight by sucking on a carrot stick –

    That’s in kind of the same territory as the post about the altered Faith Hill and the billboard model. These aren’t drawings. They’re supposed to look real. But they’re not, so they’re unattainable, and very good at making unhappy people who buy product, as WereBear pointed out. Isn’t that exactly the same case as cigarette ads? They were also advertising disease-making crap and using young, healthy people to do it. They were finally stopped by truth in advertising laws.

    Is it time to lobby for truth in visuals? Every altered image must have a box no smaller than a fifth of the ad and in the same range of colors that show the unadorned, unmake-upped, unprocessed original person.

    I bet the economy would tank overnight as consumer spending fell by 50%.

  24. (I got interrupted, and forgot to explicitly make the point I started out meandering toward. That is, it’s a lie to pretend the looks have nothing to do with the surgery. We need a truth-in-presentation standard. Or maybe classes on digital processing and critical thinking at school? …. Nah. That’s totally ridiculous.)

  25. So for that Jezebel jib, my first interpretation was “those lazy fuckers in tech haven’t generated the Flash yet” or something.

    Yeah, I get that. But the point I was trying to make is that when a women-orientated publication makes a comment about how the “boys” haven’t gotten the tech stuff sorted for them, it references and reinforces a stereotype with which lots of professional women have had to contend–that women aren’t tech savvy. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve had to deal with some version of that stereotype in my professional life, or even when I try to, for example, buy a computer. I get talked to like I’m functionally retarded instead of a sophisticated computer user who’s been doing graphics for 18 years, even if I’ve made my user level clear.

    It’s understandable you wouldn’t feel that sentiment, because you’ve probably not experienced the same thing for most of your life since the stereotype isn’t operative for men.

  26. Neneh

    Because women of color have body image issues too: podcast on body image and race from Racialicious: http://www.racialicious.com/2007/06/20/addicted-to-race-72-body-image-and-race/

  27. Kate Harding

    Thanks, Neneh. I also just reread my comment and realized it wasn’t clear that my real point was, “Statistics aside, women of color have body image issues, too.”

    That was, in fact, my real point.

  28. Of course, we all know where the “You can never be too rich or too thin” meme ends up

  29. I have a friend whose aunt just died from ongoing complications from an early (many years ago) gastric bypass surgery. She has apparently been very ill for many years, ever since the original surgery, and what happened to her is common for people who initially had it done.

    I’ve also read some horror stories of people who had the surgery successfully, but had complications leading to death later because they just couldn’t handle the change in eating that it forced on them.

    Deeply disturbing, all around.

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