Overweight people are the only group left in the world that is offered no protection of their dignity. If you speak ill of other races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, or any other physical or mental characteristic or anomaly, the thought police threaten you with banishment from society if you don’t immediately apologize. But don’t worry. You can still taunt the fat kid. That’s what he gets for being a big fat lazy slob.
Overweight people are the only group left in the world that is offered no protection of their dignity.
If you speak ill of other races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, or any other physical or mental characteristic or anomaly, the thought police threaten you with banishment from society if you don’t immediately apologize.
But don’t worry. You can still taunt the fat kid. That’s what he gets for being a big fat lazy slob.
Most of those taunts come from people who have a genetic predisposal to maintaining a healthy weight. Their metabolic clocks run a little faster. They don’t know the fear of getting on a scale in the morning and seeing the results of two weeks of dieting swallowed up in one night at a pizza buffet. Or even worse, getting on the scale after having eaten very little the day before only to have lost no weight at all.
I have been overweight from the age of 5.
I don’t think I was lazy or undisciplined. I ate more than most kids. I bet there were reasons. But my 5-foot-10-inch, 170-pound brother has never dieted a day in his life. When I was 5 and he was 9, I weighed as much as he did. Something tells me genetics and other factors played a part.
But his celebrating his genetic predisposition to a normal weight would be like me bragging about my ability to grow 5 inches taller than him.
Being famous is anything but a shield from these childish attacks. Director Kevin Smith was recently booted from a Southwest Airlines flight for being too fat to fly – at least in only one seat.
Smith had purchased two seats on a flight home. He didn’t have to. But he has the means to allow himself a more comfortable ride. Overweight people never want to be noticed for their size, and he was giving himself a break.
When a chance came up to make an earlier flight, he took it. There was only one seat but he was able to buckle his seatbelt and lower the arm rests as SWA’s policy prescribes. Despite fitting in one seat, he was called off the airplane in front of the other passengers – some of who had no doubt recognized him.
Smith didn’t go away quietly. He used Twitter, blogs and interviews to vent his displeasure with SWA for not following their own policy.
So the public outcry caused SWA to reconsider, right?
Almost 60 percent of people in a CNN poll said Smith was wrong.
Wall Street Journal Travel Editor Scott McCartney wrote in his “Memo to Kevin Smith”: “Perhaps Mr. Smith simply wanted the worldwide instant publicity he generated – millions of dollars worth of mentions for your new movie. That’s a sweet deal. But it’s worth remembering that there are options for large passengers, as Mr. Smith knew.”
Trust me, Smith is already wealthy. He did not perpetrate a PR stunt to get himself ridiculed in order to add to his pile of money.
Trust me when I tell you that the fat kid inside you never dies. I have experience with this. I accompanied my girlfriend and her mother to Maui about 20 years ago. They wanted to take a horse trail ride that included a ride along a beach.
Doesn’t that sound great?
It was, until we got there and we were informed in front of the other customers that there was a 250-pound weight limit. No problem for my skinny girlfriend or her mother. But I knew it wasn’t going to be a good day for me. They took me behind the counter to the scale and with a polite “I’m sorry” left another emotional scar.
I refused to let my weight ruin everyone’s day and sent the other two out onto the trail while I sat in the gift shop staring at the shirts and postcards for a couple of hours.
I know how Smith felt.
No matter what you do in life or how many days a week you work out or how much weight you lose, the fat kid remains alive and well between your ears.
When you stand up to speak to a group, you know what they are thinking about you. You make a point of not eating in public: Skinny people who eat a lot are hungry, overweight people who eat a lot are gluttonous.
Even in my limited exposure to fame as a columnist, I deal with comments that seem to say I would have a good point, if I weren’t fat.
One example from a newspaper in Connecticut came from a comment on a satirical column I wrote about Santa being a bad influence because of his weight. The commenter said, “Mr. Bush, You will be okay for perhaps the next ten years. Hearts and knees can only take so much stress. Good luck until the bad luck shows up.”
This was from a man who has never seen me in person.
His only image comes from a mug shot of me taken on my first day of work at the Augusta Daily Gazette in an outfit that, in hindsight, portrayed me either as a funeral director or as the new alien fighting partner for Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.
That didn’t stop him from supposing what my health status must be.
He was wrong. But the point is if I were black, homosexual or had a mentally challenged child, he would never use those factors in personally derogatory comments.
Kevin Smith tried to point out in a blog that he was mostly upset because he was removed from the plane even though he had passed the test for SWA’s policy.
“Pathetic, right? Grasping at any dignity straws. But that’s what you do when you’re kinda stripped of your dignity,” he wrote.
That’s the same feeling millions of people have every day.
Obesity is a problem and sometimes a lifestyle change and extra self-discipline help. Sometimes, the solution will require far more extreme measures.
No matter, being overweight is no reason to strip a person of their dignity or single them out for ridicule.
Society needs an overhaul.
Maybe then, magazine editors wouldn’t feel the need to airbrush the hips off of a size zero model.
Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta Gazette in Augusta, Kan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.