Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Fat and Skinny of It

"You can either be fat and jolly or a skinny bitch: pick one." On the first episode of "The Big C," Cathy (played by Laura Linney) dispenses this tidbit of wisdom to her high school student played by Gabourey Sidibe.

At first, this line might seem unnaturally cruel. But, it had me cracking up and got me hooked to the show. What's so funny about it is how true it is, at least in our culture.

Have you ever noticed how many comedians and comediennes are overweight? Or used to be, growing up? Why do you think that is? I attribute this to childhood insecurities. Fact is, when you're not traditionally attractive (or perceive yourself not to be, according to the mainstream), you feel like your personally has to compensate for your looks. As Cathy puts it, "Nobody likes a fat bitch." Ouch. Harsh. But that's how it feels, at least to the fat kid. So, you craft a funny persona. Hide your feels of inadequacy behind a mask of humor. And try to make witty comments whenever you can; that way, people will like you.

Maybe because I was once a chubby kid (I was pretty well traumatized by another kid calling me "thunder thighs")that I divide the women of the world into two categories. I'll admit sometimes I see a particularly skinny young woman and I will say (in my head or aloud to a friend) "Look at that skinny bitch." And when I say skinny bitch, it comes out like this: "skinnybitch." One word. Can't separate the two.

She might be a totally cool chick, but my preconceived notion is that a tall, skinny woman is somehow bitchy. This is obviously a projection of my own insecurity. This distinction also carries a morsel of respect. I have NO willpower. So if you are able to maintain a tiny frame, that earns my respect and somehow entails you to be bitchy.

The pressure to be funny or to be aloof can be suffocating. While it's hard to overcome our body image insecurities, it's possible to change the way people are portrayed in the mainstream. Maybe one day, we'll (our I'll) be able to change these constructs.

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