I Don’t Even Play a Doctor on TV

Juicy beef burger and onion rings on the wooden background“Don’t worry. With exercise and eating right, you can be any size you want!” says the skinny teenager with a metabolism like I’ve never had.

This came up because we were shopping together, and I found a sweater I really loved, but it was only left in sizes small and extra small.

I laughed out loud at her comment, and she (who tends to wear a size XS to a size 6, depending on the store), looked legitimately confused.

“That’s so not true,” I told her.

“But…but I’ve heard a lot of people say it. Even doctors. And on TV.”

And I laughed harder.

“Just because someone – even a doctor – says it doesn’t make it true.”

She was flabbergasted. A real-life example of someone whose mouth was open enough to catch flies level of flabbergasted.

“Look,” I said, “at my very skinniest, when I was in high school and under 100 pounds, I was still a size 5. I’ve never been an Extra Small, and I never will be. My body just isn’t built that way. I’m short and stocky no matter what I weigh, and I will never be a size 0.”

She pondered the injustice of it all – a doctor!! – said I could be any size I wanted to be, after all, so how could that not be true?

We kept shopping, and finally we headed out from the outlet mall to grab dinner.

As we drove, she told me about what I’ll just call “the incident.”

She was eating alone in a restaurant, on a break from classes. She had a huge brownie she was chowing down on, and a guy – some random guy – who was leaving stopped at her table and asked, “Is that good?”

Thinking it was a friendly question from a total stranger, something that’s not uncommon here in the South, she said yes, it was good.

The guy nodded, then leaned down and said, “Don’t be getting fat now.”

Then he straightened up and left before she realized what happened.

Yes, the woman who had bought a size 2 dress and fit into an Extra Small shirt while we were shopping got fat-shamed by an unknown man simply because she was eating a brownie in public.

Don’t get me wrong: fat shaming is always wrong. But somehow it seemed even wrong-er when it was done to someone who most people would look at and tell to get eat a cheeseburger. (And you don’t have to tell her that. Her two favorite meals are sushi and double cheeseburgers…but I digress.)

I know I can’t “fix” people out there who say and believe things like that, who harshly judge others based on personal prejudices. But maybe we can try. Maybe we can focus on the fact that we’re all different. Maybe we can focus on the fact that not everyone can be over 6 feet tall and play basketball or that not everyone can be totally muscled and engage in ultimate fighting. Maybe we can focus on the fact that not everyone can be a size 0 or a size 16.

And maybe who the fuck cares about it, as long as we’re happy?


About Katherine Sanger

Katherine Sanger was a Jersey Girl before getting smart and moving to Texas. She's been published in various e-zines and print, including Baen's Universe, Black Petals, Star*Line, Anotherealm, Lost in the Dark, Bewildering Stories, Aphelion, and RevolutionSF, and edited From the Asylum, an e-zine of fiction and poetry. Her poetry has won numerous awards, including First Place in Byline's "Autumn Poem" contest, First Place in "Lucky Thirteen" contest sponsored by Sol Magazine, and Honorable Mention in: The Houston Chapter Award, The Hap Fulgham Prize, and The "Varoom-Varoom" Award.
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