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If We’re All A Little Pudgier In 2025, So What?

5 minute read
Camryn Manheim

The end of the millennium is nigh, and the warning signs are clear: Be afraid. Be very afraid. Something wicked this way comes. Locusts? Plague? President Ventura? No, fat!

That’s right–as we move into the 21st century, we are steadily getting pudgier. Fat, some would have you believe, is the fifth horseman of the Apocalypse, riding right alongside War, Famine, Pestilence and Death. And it’s immensely lucrative. Do you think the shrewd folks at Jenny Craig, Slim-Fast and Weight Watchers could make billions scaring the bejesus out of you about pestilence? Make no mistake–fat phobia is a big moneymaker for those who have figured out how to promote and cash in on self-hatred.

But the question remains, What exactly are we supposed to be afraid of? What’s going to happen in 2025 if we gain, say, an average of 5 lbs. each?

Granted, the statistics–like the scales–don’t lie. And it doesn’t take an actuary to figure out that with Krispy Kreme going public next year and planning to open hundreds of new stores, America will continue gaining weight in the 21st century. Which means more and more people can expect to hear the antifat refrains that I’ve become so familiar with: “You won’t live as long,” “Your quality of life will be diminished,” “Society will reject you,” “You won’t be able to keep up in the protest marches.” (That was just in my family.) Let’s take these one at a time.

LONGEVITY. Despite the fact that life expectancy is increasing along with our national waistline, I’ll accept that it is not the obese who are driving up the average. But should long life be our ultimate goal? I don’t necessarily see the intrinsic value in long life. I would rather live 60 years of epicurean joy than 120 years of ascetic misery. You could grant me eternal life, but if it were in a world without chocolate, I’d pass.

I suppose if wisdom and serenity accompanied the extra years we’d gain by self-denial, it might be worthwhile. But old age does not always bring with it sagacity and peacefulness (see Strom Thurmond). To the contrary, the so-called golden years are just an opportunity for drugmakers, insurance companies and medical facilities to take turns mugging our elders, like so many bullies stealing lunch money.

So for now I’ll take quality over quantity. I would, however, like to reserve the right to change my mind at 59.

QUALITY OF LIFE. I can hear the Klaxon horns blaring when I mention quality of life. Because surely I can admit that my weight diminishes it–right? Sorry to disappoint, but the truth is, my life is quite good.

It’s funny: I can engage in all sorts of fun, perilous activities like riding my motorcycle in Manhattan, catching ultraviolet rays in California or playing racquetball without goggles, and no one admonishes me “for my own good.” But I order one slice of tiramisu and it triggers all kinds of unsolicited solicitousness. Thanks for the concern, gang, but for me that tiramisu and the freedom to enjoy it are–like music, the theater and friends–an essential part of what gives quality to my life.

Which isn’t to say there haven’t been times when being fat in America hasn’t seriously bummed me out.

REJECTION. I have been rejected by many more elements of society than I care to recount, and when family, friends and faculty told me this would happen with less metronomic regularity if I lost weight, they were right. But whose fault is that? Mine or society’s?

Our nation has a split personality when it comes to consumption and the results of that consumption. We are constantly bombarded by mixed messages. Scrawny, undernourished models peek out from billboards adjacent to giant signs announcing the return of Wendy’s Bacon Mushroom Melt. We are told to “Have it your way!” “Super size it!” and “Obey your thirst!” But mixed in with the chorus of “Consume, consume!” are the plaintive cries to “Stop the insanity!” Is it any surprise we wash down our Big Macs with Diet Cokes? The only people satisfying the insatiable needs of the capitalist machine and at the same time pleasing the thin-obsessed society are bulimics, the perfect citizens.

Though I have been oddly but warmly embraced in the past couple of years, I can’t say that society won’t reject you for being fat. It probably will. But I do dream of a time when we can all accept ourselves and one another. Maybe by 2025 we will have evolved into a supercool, supercaring superpower where all shapes and sizes can be regarded as sexy and beautiful. Where big women share space on billboards next to waifs and we embrace a progressive pansexuality. With advances in genetic engineering and antidepressants, maybe we’ll all look and feel exactly the same. Wouldn’t that be great? The Stepford Planet!

But my hope is that by the year 2025 I’ll no longer be getting letters every week from young girls who hate themselves because of the way they look.

Camryn Manheim, who won an Emmy for her work on ABC’s The Practice, is the author of Wake Up, I’m Fat!

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