Thursday, December 27, 2007

Buying into "The Fantasy of Being Thin"

Over at Shapely Prose, the lovely Kate Harding has a fan-fucking-tastic post called “The Fantasy of Being Thin.” Some excerpts:

Overcoming The Fantasy of Being Thin might be the hardest part of making it all the way into fat acceptance-land. And that might just be why I’d pushed that part of the process out of my memory: it fucking sucked. Because I didn’t just have to accept the size of my thighs; I had to accept who I am, rather than continuing to wait until I magically became the person I’d always imagined being. Ouch.
. . .

But when I was invested in The Fantasy of Being Thin, I really believed that changing this one “simple” (ha!) thing would unlock a whole new identity — this totally fabulous, free-spirited, try-anything-once kind of chick who was effortlessly a magnet for interesting people and experiences. And of course, the dark side of that is that being fat then became an excuse not to do much of anything, because it wouldn’t be the real me doing it, so what was the point? If I wouldn’t find the right guy until I was thin, why bother dating? If I wouldn’t have a breakthrough on the novel until I was thin, why bother writing? If I wouldn’t be the life of the party until I was thin, why bother trying to make new friends? If I wouldn’t feel like climbing a mountain until I was thin, why bother traveling at all?

I was thinking about this and about the idea that our weight is directly tied to our emotions: fears, resentments, happy events, whatever. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that for me, there is another layer to the Fantasy: what happens if (when) I lose all that weight and discover that there is no Fantasy-Thin person in there? What if I’m still me?

Obviously I KNOW that intellectually. And yet, if I dig deep, I find myself with this crippling fear: if I lost 20 pounds or 30 pounds or even 5 or 10, and I still didn’t have what I thought I would have by default (because you know, I’m THIN now, right?), then I would have nothing left to blame. If I don’t book an acting job, I can’t say, “It’s because I’m too fat.” (Not the best example, maybe – in acting, you might not be cast because they don’t like your HAIR COLOR or because you’re an inch taller than the leading man, but those are not my preferred methods of deflecting blame – ha!) But if I feel unattractive to men, I can blame being fat. If I don’t get up and exercise, I can say it’s because I’m so fat, so why bother? There are a lot of “why bother”s: why bother eating well? Why bother exercising? Why bother examining my emotions or taking steps forward in my career or my relationships or anything else?

I joke sometimes that I’m afraid of both succeeding AND failing, and I’m not entirely kidding (although I’m trying to stop saying that, since I know my brain believes everything it hears). But as I look at the post above, I know that I’m not really afraid of both: I’m just afraid of failure. I hate feeling like a failure now, but what I’m REALLY afraid of, and why the Fantasy is so insidious is: what if I have everything I ever thought I need to be successful (which of course really means: what if I lost all this weight) – and I still fail? If I have nothing to blame for my failure, then (in my head) that means that I am INHERENTLY a failure. And THAT is a tough fear to face.

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