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Back to Basics

by Andre Perez

“I was surprised by how fat she was.”

The muscles in my back clung to one another like women who are scared their children will flee in crowded airports. I snapped a leash on my tongue as my fingers curled into my palms. “What?’

“You made her sound healthy, like you admired her…”

“Veganess? Not all vegans are healthy, but yes, she’s one of the healthiest people I know. She bikes 10 miles a day and she has no cholesterol.“
Conversations with my mother always go this way. I imagine a cartoon-like thermometer rising as the tension builds. Warm red liquid propels itself up, hoisting off of the thin black strokes that measure my hostility, fear, disbelief. Each line demarcates the progression towards my breaking point.

“Maybe she’d be better off if she spent some of that time doing exercise that showed...”

When I say, “I’m not having this conversation,” planting my feet, square-jawed,
I mean, why is her body any of your business? I mean, what do you know about how she lives her life? I mean, she’s taught me more about compassion than you’ve ever learned.

It happens at least twice a day for the rest of the week we spend together. I watch the scorn on her face take shape as her lips spit the syllables in "slutty" about the Panera greeter. "Hag" falls jagged onto the table when our waitress forgets to bring water. After the meal, my mother rushes to the door in anticipation of breaking her nicotine fast. Along the way she laments how lawmakers give society license to look down on her habits. I pull the a toothpick apart strand by strand as I listen to her detail how government policy has transformed a public health issue into a moral one. I dwell on the comments she’s made all weekend: why do their bodies matter to you? Why is it your job to let them know how much they fail to meet your expectations? Why aren’t they allowed to love themselves? What would it make me if I did?

I've finally reach the point where it’s not about the Focault I’m reading. Over the last three years, I’ve spent dozens of pages in veritable throw downs about regimes of regulation and bodies as a battleground of cultural values. My education was all about discovering more complicated understandings of the world around me, but today it feels so much more simple than all of that.

Today it’s about the fact that I grew up believing that I’m entitled to treat people like shit, and sometimes I’m scared that I still believe it. Today it’s about wanting to be a fat ally because I’m done hating my own body and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be complicit in making other people hate theirs.
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