by Elizabeth Spannuth
“You have the cutest little fat rolls!” proclaimed one of my yoga friends. I do Bikram yoga, which involves a room heated to 105 degrees. Naturally, this practice involves wearing as little clothing as possible, no matter how thin you are. It’s true I have a few extra pounds and that I wear the equivalent of a 2-piece bathing suit for this class. However I would never have expected anyone to come up behind me, grab a “love handle” and give a shout to my “fat rolls.”
I was stunned into laughter. My mind raced looking for a place to settle. Was this some sort of backhanded compliment? Was this woman’s bitch factor highly elevated that day? Was this an insult and should I deliver an equal insult back? No, that didn’t make sense: this woman is my friend and she’s not even skinny. Part of me I felt like I should be offended or outraged even, but something kept me from going there. “Wow, I can’t believe you just said that to me,” I told her lamely. She replied, “Well I don’t have those. On me they look dumpy, but on you they look sexy. You exude sexuality.” Could I believe this explanation?!
Two of my other friends that overheard this exchange were also shocked into laugher as well. They couldn’t believe that the “f-word” had been uttered, especially in the safety zone of the yoga studio. In American culture, you don’t say the word “fat” to a woman unless you are talking about a low-fat latte. You don’t call attention to someone’s shortcoming in casual conversation unless you’re trying to torture them or “bust their balls,” as some people say.
Through her tears of laughter, one of my friends suggested that she meant it more in the hip hop way of “phat”. Entirely possible since I credit my extra pounds with making me so popular with the beautiful brown men I so love. (Yes, baby got back could be my theme song…) I am no small package; even when I have no fat on my body I am a size 12. I actually embraced this during my last round of dating and highlighted it in my profile. I even went so far as to change my headline to “Skinny girls Aint’ got Nothin’ on Me.” It is amazing how much interest I got from addressing my “target market,” as the marketers say.
I flashed back to a time when I lived in Southern California and was working as a waitress. The restaurant that I worked in lived up to the stereotype of having most of the cook staff consist of Mexican men. I speak Spanish and I am very chatty, which they would often take as a romantic invitation. These guys would often ask you out by saying something sexy like “You’re fat. Want to go out?” Not exactly the words that will get your engine revved up. Again, Americans just don’t say things like that to each other when they are on friendly terms, but it’s totally acceptable in Mexican culture. Then I realized that the friend who had praised my plumpness is Mexican and that she was just being Mexican with me. I was able to let go of the feeling that she was saying something hurtful and fully embrace that she was admiring me. Glorious!
Looking in the mirror and liking what you see is not an easy thing, especially for women. We are constantly hit with a barrage of images that tell us we must be perpetually thin, young and well-toned. Self love is about more than just masturbation. It is about truly loving yourself, both mind and body, for who and what you are. Embracing asymmetrical features and whatever else we deem as imperfect is a gift. This is something that I have long known and have worked hard to internalize, but it is good to have a reminder every once in a while. I love you fat rolls!
Elizabeth Spannuth believes in love as a driving force in our lives. She is continually amazed by the humor at work in the universe and approaches things with a wry witticism. She firmly believes that love takes many forms as she herself has had many different kinds of meaningful, relationships. She has said “I do” and signed “I don’t” and thanks the powers that be for giving her the grace learn from every experience. She has a varied professional background that includes performing arts training, event planning, sales and marketing planning and execution and serving as a whipping girl in corporate America. She is currently the Love Evangelist at Good Clean Love.