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A while back I saw this comic strip. Can’t remember the name. The setting was white suburbia, a family, which as my friend Sara points out “really narrows it down.”
The female lead of the comic strip (let’s call her Wilma) has a black friend of, shall we say, “a certain size.” Wilma spends three panels hinting around about an exercise class to her black friend (let’s call her Joyce). Telling Joyce the time, the location, the cost, how much fun Wilma’s having taking it. “How very nice for you,” Joyce responds, walking away with wobble lines emanating from her large rear-end.
In case you missed it, that’s the punchline. The joke is, see, Joyce is fat, but she doesn’t realize that about herself. Poor Wilma is trying to help Joyce help herself, but Joyce is so deep in denial, so far up that river in Egypt, that she simply can’t be helped.
And as I read this I’m thinking, okay, what’s wrong with wobble lines? This woman looks good to me. Maybe she looks good to herself. Maybe she already has an exercise program that she likes just fine. I do.
I look a lot like Joyce. Larger breasts, though. I weigh more than 200 pounds. I’m pretty sure. I haven’t weighed myself in three weeks, but that sounds about how I feel. I’m maybe 5 feet, 8 inches tall.
At the Y in April, I was on the treadmill, doing my 40 minutes, all of it uphill. The man next to me asked how much I weighed, and seemed deeply shocked at my answer. “But you are fat!” he exclaimed. “And you are always here, working out so hard!” Well, yes. I am. I do. And I would say I’m in shape. Round is a shape.
I’ve subscribed for a few years to an online dating service. I read the ads for entertainment, even when I’m not interested in meeting the men that posted them. In the singular they’re funny; “Satisfaction guaranteed EVERY TIME,” says Marv’s headline. There’s a man with the user name “Tumbleweed Heart,” and another whose user name is “Asslicker.” En masse, the profiles I read are pathetic and provoking. There are canned phrases one can use to describe both one’s physical type and the physical type one desires: “Slender, Average, Athletic, A Little Extra Padding, Rubenesque.” I have chosen to describe myself using the ALEP option. By far the most widely sought qualities, though, are “Slender” and “Athletic.”
Very few subscribers advertise for a specific ethnicity, but there are some of those, too.
Then there’s the men who are asking for skinny black women to email them. I raise my voice and wave my arms at the computer screen in exasperation. Skinny! Black! They exist, of course, but statistically speaking? So do microscopically small black holes.
I think black women in the US are far more likely to be fat than women of other races. Women are more likely to be fat than men; we’re built to store it up, cause we might need it to support a pregnancy. And in the US blacks are often the descendants of survivors of slavery, which tilts the genetic pinball machine in favor of holding on to that fat for dear life. Dear, dear, sweet, sweet life.
There are some who want me, right now, the way I am, so round, so firm, so fully packed. So brimming with dear life.