Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 11, 2009 12:16PM

On Being an Eyesore: Precious and Public Fatness

Rate: 87 Flag

I haven’t been around lately. I could say I’ve been recovering from the big race, but that’s not really it. There’s more to it. A sort of malaise has set in. I’m not sure where to go from here in a lot of ways. With my running. With my writing. With everything. So that's the place I'm writing from: malaise. 

I recently read the dust-up over a review of Precious and was thinking about my marathon photos. (They connect, really, you’ll see) Latoya Peterson of Racialicious and Jezebel wrote a post critiquing David Edelstein’s review of the movie. I was disappointed in Edelstein because I’ve heard some of his reviews and found him to be a smart thoughtful writer. The quotes Peterson pulled, however, smacked severely of unthinking white male privilege. He responded to Peterson and the Jezebel commenters in another post that felt more thoughtful. (It was also pretty exciting to see a NY Magazine reviewer respond to blog commenters) The whole discussion of the movie is fascinating to me because there is just so much to unpack; the role of race in both the world of the movie and the world of the movie-making alone could be a thesis paper, but I’m going to leave the discussion of race to those that are more qualified. What I want to talk about is size.

Edelstein says: “…(the director) has such a striking actress in Gabourey Sidibe, who plays Precious, that he doesn’t need to force her alienation—or ours. I’m not judging girls who look like Sidibe in life, but her image onscreen is jarring to the point of being transgressive, its only equivalent to be seen in John Waters’s pointedly outrageous carnivals. Her head is a balloon on the body of a zeppelin, her cheeks so inflated they squash her eyes into slits. Her expression is either surly or unreadable. Even with her voice-over narration, you’re meant to stare at her ebony face and see nothing.”

I think he is right about Precious being unreadable, the character has been horribly abused and abused people are often guarded to the point of being alienating. This, however, is what we call “acting,” Mr Edelstein. We don’t achieve this kind of shut-down existence merely by being fat. I think that’s insulting to Ms. Sidibe on several levels not the least of which is giving her no credit for her talent. (I'm not even getting into the fact that Edelstein calls her a zeppelin. Or the very problematic "not judging girls who look like Sidibe in life." What does Sidibe look like in life?) If you look at Sidibe being interviewed she is a gregarious, funny, and beautiful (yes I DO think so) young woman. She is nothing like Precious. 

It is interesting to me that he thinks the mere on-screen presence of a large actor is “jarring” and “trangressive.” I think he has a point, though. Good or bad, this is not at all what Hollywood usually puts up for us to watch. Apparently fat people are unwatchable, grotesque carnival freaks. But Edelstein is not judging. Maybe I’m being unfair, maybe I’m shooting the messenger. Edelstein is merely reporting what is happening in the world and this is true. Fat people are judged all the time.

I have been unable to get myself to purchase any pictures of my marathon. Throughout the course, the official race photography company stations photographers to snap candids of your great moment. I would imagine most people order a ton of photos from them. There are even options to mount the photos to plaques with your name and time engraved alongside the Chicago Marathon logo. They look lovely. I don’t think I could drop the cash, but more than that, I can’t find a photo I like. What is wrong with me? I’m proud of myself, proud of this accomplishment, but I hate all these pictures because I am undeniably fat in them. You can see the curve of my belly. You can see the flab on my upper arms.

Every time I think I’ve found a measure of peace with myself, the world worms its way back into my head. “Fattie,” it hisses, “What were you thinking wearing that outfit? You don't look anything like a runner. Aren't you embarrassed to be seen like this?" But there were runners the same size as me on the course. There were bigger runners too. Was I judging them this way?

Am I transgressive? This is interesting to me because I’m not sure how I look has anything to do with people around me, but it does somehow. Somehow it affects people. I remember meeting an acquaintance from college who hadn’t seen me in awhile, this was while I was at my highest weight. He didn’t say anything, but he visibly recoiled as though I had been horribly burned in a fire or lost a limb. It took him a second to gain his bearings and smile at me. My appearance was that startling to him. Even though I’ve lost some weight since then, I could feel that reaction in some of the cheerleaders at the race. The puzzlement, “what is she doing here?” and “how can a marathoner be fat?”

Don't get me wrong, the experience was incredible and many people genuinely don’t care and are generous and supportive, but there is so much of the cold shoulder when you’re fat. No one says anything directly (at least not in my experience), but it hangs there in the air. And what hangs there often has an angry accusatory feeling to it. “How could you let yourself GET like this?!” “Why should I have to LOOK at you?” As though looking at me somehow causes other people pain or discomfort or even inconvenience. What about looking at me bothers you so damn much? (What about it bothers me?)

It is this feeling that we are offending people simply by existing in an unacceptable body that makes fat people want to hide. Or segregate ourselves into fat-only exercise classes and dance clubs and the like. I’d love to organize a fat-only 5K. I remember running my first 5K. It was a little neighborhood race. I imagined it would be fun and friendly and, for the most part, it was. I followed all the newbie rules. I left my ipod at home. I positioned myself solidly at the back of the pack (it was about twenty runners- does that count as a pack?) as a measure of respect. I was running my first real race. I had worked hard to be there, trained, lost a good bit of weight. I was slow and I knew it, but I didn’t care, I was laughing and having a good time. I was running a race!

There was a man on the sidelines who made a snide comment at me as I passed on the second or third lap and I, thinking he was making a friendly joke at first, responded with something about the meat wagon being right behind me. I try to have a sense of humor about myself and my slowness. (I don't vouch for the quality of my jokes.) Well, he wasn’t kidding. He was disgusted with me. I was bringing down the quality of the 5K by being there. This little neighborhood race. If I wasn’t so flabbergasted he might have succeeded in shaming me, but I laughed instead. Whatever, dude. You aren’t even running. I am. And you have no idea what it took to get me here.

Ok. Time to buy some fat marathon photos.

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It's the last socially acceptable prejudice. Give the people the chance to hate.
Funny - the guy on the sidelines cracking jokes about the person who was actually out running. Fuck him.

Great post.
I love this, Juli. You seem very thoughtful and kind.
I'll never understand it, Juli. My mother has that particular prejudice; it's part of the reason she doesn't like my husband. All we can do is fight it in our own way.
As always, you give me a lot to think about. I hope that your feelings of malaise will soon give way.
What Gordon said.

Juli, I've completed (notice I did not say "I've run") three 5Ks in the last 3 weeks and just signed up for a 10K on Thanksgiving, and I am in UTTER AWE of you. And ANYBODY who would set out to complete a marathon.

Don't let the malaise steal your awesomeness. Get out there and run yourself silly.

This is a really thoughtful, reflective, and provocative piece. Thanks. It's got me thinking all sorts of interesting thoughts. THIS is why I come to OS. To read things like this.
Outstanding, Juli, just outstanding. It's inspiring and beautiful that you ran the marathon - and the idiots? Fuck them.
The Edelstein quotes are fascinating and so revealing. I could get lost in the links and links within the links, but alas... work.

After the marathon I walked last year, I didn't walk again for two months. Couldn't stand the thought of it. I was so so so so over the whole idea. The desire came back though, unforced, just in its own time. I have no desire to do another marathon though. I definitely didn't catch that bug.

I'm sorry about the jackass at the 5K. People can be so mean.
Edelstein should watch the wonderful interview with Ms. Sidibe that aired a week or two ago on CBS Sunday Morning, a show of which he is often a conributor. She is not only gregarious, funny, and beautiful, but she absolutely loves herself - and that IS beauty.
I wish I had a more thoughtful reply to this introspection, but I'm not finding the adequate words. So, I'll just say - great piece, juli.
Juli, Juli, Juli - I know you are beautiful inside and out...and you finished a marathon - WOW!! You must have a very gorgeous cardiovascular system too!! Plus endurance, determination, persistence and discipline...all that is true strength and beauty!!
Excellent post. Here you are running marathons and obviously in great cardio shape, and you have to put up with this crap. I love the meat wagon retort... !

Fat hatred runs rampant in this country, and we're just getting started since any health care reform will undoubtedly give more credence to shaming the fatties.
Buy those photos, Juli. You should be damned proud. Brilliant and athletic? Who could ask for more?
Wow this is an interesting post - interesting on so many levels. The most jarring thing to me is that I don't think of you as "fat". Maybe a full-length picture would surprise me. Probably it wouldn't make any difference, especially if your self-image is harsher than others' image of you. I don't know what "fat" means. I have an idea as to what I think is obese, a condition that seems to change the walk, the activities, etc. of those people, makes them short of breath and makes it a challenge to lean in or reach up. But if you're running a marathon, you're nothing but a go-getter in my opinion. Because regardless of size, a marathon is something I never could and never would be able to complete. As for how you look in running clothes, "tant pis," as they say in French - "phhttt!"
Good on you for doing the race and screw anyone who doesn't get that.
Buy the marathon photo you like best and display it proudly. You've earned it. No need to acknowledge the jackasses like that fool at the 5K. Just keep on being yourself.
You ran the damn Chicago Marathon.

Fuck the haters.

Rated.
“'How could you let yourself GET like this?!' 'Why should I have to LOOK at you?' As though looking at me somehow causes other people pain or discomfort or even inconvenience. What about looking at me bothers you so damn much? (What about it bothers me?)"
I have felt people look at me this way, and I am in NOOOOO shape to run a marathon. I am trying to lose weight...we will see. You should be proud of yourself. I hope you do buy the pictures. You summed up how I feel so well, when I could never have put it into words.
Hey, congrats on making the cover!
Juli,

If only the prick on the sidelines was just a prick on the sidelines.

Not only do people judge based only on appearance, but even worse it appears they value appearance over substance.

I don't think Edelstein was just the messenger in this case. His language gives him away. He is however part of a very large (no pun intended) chorus.

p.s. I run pretty regularly, 4-6 times a week, between 4-6 kms and even still I can't imagine running a marathon. The race itself is an amazing accomplishment, but the training it takes to get there is the true testimony of your character. Congrats!
You are beautiful! From your head to your tippy toes beautiful! You seem like the kind of friend I could have forever. Heartfelt piece you wrote here. Thank you!! (Fuck that guy on the sidelines! When I hear that kind of crap, I always feel sorry for the women in those men's lives)
It's a sickness in our society: people have no tolerance for those who are overweight. And the ones who are not overweight work like addicts to exercise and diet so that they don't get fat.

When I encounter people, their demeanor is so much more important to me than their physical appearance. If they are friendly, warm, intelligent, funny and just have a good energy about them, I am so much more drawn to them than if they are beautiful, skinny and perfectly toned but have no light coming from their eyes.

You seem like a wonderful person and you should walk with your head held high. Finishing a marathon is a stellar achievement--buy those photos and display them all over! And I wish you could have said to that stupid man to get his skinny ass into the race so you could trip him!

I am anxious to see Precious--it sounds like Sidibe is a talented actress.
No matter how the issues of overweight and obesity, not to mention the health problems created and lives shortened (don't see too many 300 pound eighty year olds, do we?), the undeniable fact remains that, yes, overweight and obese people are viewed as lacking self-discipline and self-esteem.

Each of us alone is responsible for our own health, and no matter how it's justified or rationalized, "fat" is unhealthy, leading to high blood pressure, joint problems and arthritis, heart and circulatory problems, diabetes, etc. When a person is aware that overweight creates serious health issues, as most of us are by now, yet continues to put on weight or do nothing about the weight already on....well, such people don't seem to value themselves as human beings. This isn't cruelty or persecution, just a logical conclusion.
Fabulous post. Kudos for running that marathon. Don't let the turkeys get you down. :)
Such a well written post!!

So you didn't meet the aesthetic requirements of some know nothing fuckwad. Imagine the joy he must bring to the people who live with him on a daily basis? Take pride in your accomplishment and who you are. Get that picture, frame it, and hang it on the wall!
I am fat, 59 and no longer the beauty I was when I was young. I notice how differently people treat me now, even though I am so much wiser and well informed than when I was young. Hopefully the stealth shield I have installed around me reflects back their meanness and burns some sense into them.

You ran a marathon! You are, by definition, awesome and beautiful!
Fabulous post, and so good to have you back here. I know about malaise, being in one myself at the moment, but the proof is in the pudding and you've still got it going on in so many ways. Don't let some loser on the sidelines rob you of your achievement and enjoyment. It's his stuff, and as a friend of mine likes to say: "It must be very hard to be him."
You are amazing and talented. Thanks for this post.
I really enjoyed this. It was honest and open. I'm a shallow and vain person but I can tell you, I find beauty in those whom I can trust. When that happens, you don't even see their body anymore.
What Sheldon said... only in the voice of a fat girl munching Fritos while she reads ;)
Congratulations on setting a goal and attaining it. Screw the guy on the sideline (figuratively). It's interesting that every single review I've seen about Precious goes out of its way to describe the main character as obese, as though the viewer might not figure it out from watching the movie. The fact it's a key feature of the girls' socio-economic strata and not just incidental shows how much emphasis is placed on body image. I dream about the day when I don't think about it, and I know I'm not alone.
People who can do; people who can't make fun of those who can.
Rated
You RAN a marathon! How can you be an eyesore? Very well written, and good for you!
Rated for courage on so many levels. And, screw the guy on the sidelines. Not literally, of course. O'Really well written.
Juli,
This caught me on so many levels. First, no matter how much I weigh or don't weigh, I always see myself as fat. As a committed feminist, I then hate myself for caring that I think I'm fat, but then I hate myself for not taking better care of myself, at which point I hate myself for hating myself for caring what people think of me. I think you know the cycle. A therapist used to ask me what I thought I could do with my life if so much of my brain wasn't caught up in measuring each part of my body all the time. It's exhausting.
So, the first thing I think is, "If I ran a marathon, the first thing I'd look at is the size of my thighs." I so get this. And I shake my head for both of us, and send you thoughts of love and acceptance. They're intended for you, but maybe they'll boomerang off you and hit me, too.
And I'm tired of it being considered "brave" for actors or actresses to put on 20 pounds to play a role on the screen. They look like normal people, and that's brave. I remember meeting a celebrity once, and she was so tiny. Not tiny in a petite, cute kind of way. But tiny in a hunched, highly-strung, unhappy sort of way, and I thought "God, I'm so glad I'm not her."
I don't know what the answer is.
The size issue is so bothersome. The fact that the actress is obese and that's considered the sum total of her acting is offensive. Let's not even go there with the race and class issues.
So complicated.
And you covered it so beautifully.
Buy the damn photos.
And yeah. Tell asshole on the sidelines to get a new hobby.
I'm going to disagree w/ Gordon's comment, on the basis of your own line: "He didn’t say anything, but he visibly recoiled as though I had been horribly burned in a fire or lost a limb."

I'm sure this was unconscious on your part. I suppose I'm troubled because I otherwise enjoyed this post and do know what it's like to be on the receiving end of body-based prejudice. But too often, we critique other prejudices by distancing their victims from the "real" things that (it is implied) would justify such a prejudicial response.
A body that can run a marathon is a beautiful body. I wish I could have seen you! Drinking a virtual toast to strong, swift, beautiful Juli!
Well said. The whole body image thing is so subjective; I know I judge myself more harshly than anyone. I have to force myself to forget that I'm the biggest person in my exercise class and just do it - I enjoy it after all. Such a huge accomplishment to complete the training that would allow you to make it through a marathon. I am impressed! Sideline guy is an idiot!
Thank you for a lovely article. My own mother (and sister) have this particular prejudice and as I've always been an up and down girl, I have found that in regard to them I have value based on my current size. At a 4, I have voice and am visible, at an 18, or really, anything over a 6, I am ignored and invisible. I think I've been below a 6 about 2 years total out of my 30 years as an adult.
what you write is true. thank you
Being prejudiced against fat people is not the last acceptable social prejudice. It is also perfectly acceptable to hate white men on general principle.
Oh ((Juli)) :( damn stupid people
I'm so glad you're buying the photos...I hope you smile every time you look at them.
Great piece, Juli. And glad to see you back here. I echo the comment about the fitness vs the fatness. Fat schmat. Besides, nobody is looking at those photos with the kind of scrutiny you are. Are you smiling in the photos? That's what people are seeing. R.
Please by the photos. And thanks for this post, which I think is one of the best and most important posts I've ever read on OS (I wrote, awkwardly, about this topic long ago ["Fat" was the title]- and was stunned, though shouldn't have been, at the attention and passions it garnered).

Fat is a feminist issue - that's a good book with one of the most accurate titles I've ever read. It is undeniable that we as a culture hate to see fat, though as a culture we indubitably are. And yet we get more, not less, compassionate/understanding about this problem that isn't going away - and by problem I don't mean, oh how can we make fat people thin, I mean, what the hell is wrong with us, all of us, that fat is so laden with negative symbology that so many of us we seem to lose our humanity when confronted with it?

Let me respond as a runner, if I may. I hear it all the time: Wow! You run marathons! So tell me, how come there are so many fat people running?

My response is usually: for the same reason there are so many redheads running, and old people, and slow people. Because people like to run - it's a democratic sport, running is.

"But you know what I mean!" they persuade me. "They're running a marathon and they're still fat!"

to which I respond: "Well, you're a smoker and you're still not dead, that's surprising to *me*. "

"But I"m not a smoker!"

"My point exactly!"

"You're not making any sense!"

"Neither are you. Who told you running is some sort of magic bullet that makes everyone look like Joan Samuelson? All kinds of people run at all kinds of speeds for all kinds of reasons. Losing weight isn't the only, or even the main, reason for running. And running has benefits beyond losing weight. So I am glad to see runners. Thin, fat, old, young, tall, short. All are welcome - except mean people. We get together before they sing the Star Spangled Banner at the race and vote them off the island. Also, they get no water at the water stops."

Buy the pictures.
um that should say "And yet we get less, not more"
Thanks all! It's nice to come back to such a welcome.

Thanks Gordon, Sheldon, Lainey, Ash, Jeanette
VR- I loved your running post too- you will kick 10K butt!

Thanks Owl- most of the time I blow stuff off (or am I oblivious? ;-)- once in awhile I get all thinky.

WalkAway- -aw- thanks! -it's true- fat is a subjective term in many ways, but on the BMI scale I am "obese" and, therefore, part of the dread epidemic. I am not as big as I have been and I agree about not letting other people define me and finding self-acceptance. It is a long process, though. I like Gaby a lot too.

Thanks waking! (why do I always want to write "walking"? Maybe because you're a marathon walker!) We'll see, but I think I may actually have another marathon in me.

Wandering- I agree- and I love Sunday Morning

Thanks, Julie- just reading is enough for me. I often don't feel like a very bright commenter and just skip it ;-)

Thanks Cindy- you are right that things are relative. I've felt fat for a long time and when I was in high school I most definitely was not. It makes me mad that I wasted time thinking that. I've been all over the scale since then and...well...life's funny ain't it? I do think I need a photo or two to remember at least.

LOL Leonde- I love that- how do I get a photo of my sexy cardiovascular system? Thanks for another laugh of the day. :-D

Thanks Karin- unfortunately I think you're right- I've seen a lot of it already. There are some great people out there fighting it though.

Thanks John! (blush)

Thanks Nikki- yes- that whole "don't look fat" thing is another set of matched luggage. It is true- there are photos I could show you where you would think I was not fat at all. And there are others. According to the BMI scale I am "obese" not just "overweight" I feel like I just look overweight though. But I like Kate Harding's idea of taking the word "fat" back as an objective descriptor and not a pejorative.

WSFTC- thanks lady- your comments make my day.
Thanks Cap'n, bikepsycho, and Leandra! Fuck da haterzzzz. They just want a piece of this luscious ass. :-*

Thanks Umbrella- I'm sure you're still a hottie

Thanks Delia- it's good to see you. We shouldn't let others define us, but that's damn hard work. As Sirenita said (and I love) "I work on not caring what other people think. One day I'll be really good at it"

Ok- I'll comment some more later- computer issues. Urgh.
You are great. But don't defend Edelstein's second piece, responding to the discussion. It is shocking. He uses the phrase "the so-called 'underclass.'" SO-CALLED? I happen to be from that class, and it is not a fantasy or a turn of phrase. It is a reality.

Then he writes:

"(Outside of Oprah, who has spent millions to lose and keep her weight off, it’s hard to think of another overweight African-American cover girl — until now, anyway.)"

What? So, let's ignore the fact that he continues to label with the tern "overweight." And let's ignore the careers of Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, and Glee star Amber Riley. Because Edelstein doesn't SEE them. They are invisible to him.

This is the age-old BS that shuts women down. All women. Because even Oprah Winfrey, as successful and loved and admired as she is, has said she feels "embarrassed" about failing to stay fit. WHY? And fit for what? And who has the right to put this pressure on us?

Women should be fit for themselves, and as slender or voluptuous as they want to be. I accept no other standard. I applaud your honesty about this issue.

Rated.
What gets me is that at least 95% of women think they are "fat" no matter what shape they are in.

Your having the confidence to get out there and run speaks volumes. Do what you want with your body because YOU want to do it, and not because of what guys say or do.

Wish you could have told that guy on the sidelines at the marathon something like "I can out eat you AND out run you, and I'm proud of it!".
Funny- the loser on the sideline had to gall to make fun of somebody who's actually running the race.
Juli: You know you are one of my favorites and I love your writing. But I think you mixed up a bunch of stuff here that doesn't necessarily go together. When you have written about body image and running before it's been powerful....but still one can sense that you find yourself slightly uncomfortable with yourself, for all your accomplishments. That is a universal plight and great to read about in your voice.

The whole Precious thing, though..... I read the book a LONG time ago when it first came out. It blew meaway. It is BY a black woman ABOUT a black woman who is obese, hugely and horribly obese, partly because of what has happened in her life. How she comes to get herself out of that mess makes an amazing piece of literature. So I get what Edelstein is saying. In the previews I, too, can't keep my eyes of the same things that capture him. No matter what the actress is like in "real" life, on screen her image is very very disturbing. And the author of the book WANTED it that way. In an interview with her she specifically said that she needed the audience to confront the reality of the horrors that had been done to Precious and that the black community needed to confront these issues as real.

I haven't read the comebacks to Edelstein but even as a radical feminist myself I kind of think women can go overboard with things at times. This film seems to have, according to the book's author, done what she intended it to do. It took years and years to make after all and perhaps now we might be ready for it.

What movie actresses look like or models in magazines weigh is an old old story. Each of us has to be comfortable with who we are at what size we are. If we truly are then fat or not won't make a difference. If we struggle to become something else because we think the world needs us to then we are doomed.

Me,I like being thin. I hate having even 5 pounds on me. Never have. I eat normally and exercise a lot and thank God for decent genetics. I don't much like my wrinkles that are more and more prominent either, but that's something I won't deal with....

Anyway, enough. Read the book, y'all: PUSH by Sapphire, before you head to the cinema.


And Juli, hell, girl, you run. Fuck the skinny couach potatoes who dis you. But be nice to the girls who also move in the world, fat or thin.
Juli, you will probably never know how totally inspiring I find you. Like Sheldon said about the guy on the sidelines -- consider his comments from where he stood; it says a lot about him.
Until our society recognizes that health is not solely defined by clothing size, this unfortunate prejudice toward anyone over their ideal BMI will persist. Just because it's there, though, doesn't mean that we have to accept it. You've run marathons, which makes you a total rock star and no doubt fitter than Obnoxious Sideline Guy.

No one else's opinion of you needs to become your own. As someone who has fought her own body since age 9, I know this is easier said than done. Maybe if all us pull together and insist on valuing character rather than appearance, we can create some change.

I'm SO glad you're back. Keep running, you beautiful soul.
Well written, insightful and so true. I've had two experiences being seen as overweight: one was the time when I gained a lot of weight in college for one year. The two years before that, I was a hot commodity. My junior year, no one ever even looked at me. And I had only gained about 20 pounds! I remember one night, some drunk ass looked at me at a bar at 2am and, with his beer breath in my face and squinting, said "You're sort of pretty aren't you?" It was the first attention I had gotten in a year and as much as I wanted to punch him, I also felt pathetically grateful. I cried while walking home by myself (all my friends had hooked up!). I was the same girl everyone had been after except for the weight. That was when I learned that society does not care who you are inside, it only matters to people what you look like. It is so sad. Now I have gained weight again due to medical reasons. But this time is different. I have my husband who does not care. As long as you can find that one person who loves you no matter what, everyone else can fuck themselves! :-)
Hey, I'm a guy. Been told I'm good looking a time or two. And, I would be in to any woman who was out running the marathon AND knew she was worth it, no matter what her size. I'm not just saying it either.

What is not attractive, is skinny women into themselves and fat women stuck on couches not running marathons. Really, you ladies feed into these stereotypes more than you think.

Hope that wasn't too much to say, just wanted to be honest.
Thanks again, Jeanette! Hey- mark- I love to hear from other runners, thanks. Thanks, MAWB, you make me smile. Thanks, Karin- it does seem like an amazing movie.

Thanks for your thoughts, SoapBox, but I have to disagree. First of all weight is far from the only health indicator. Fat people can be perfectly healthy. Second, even if weight is affecting someone's health the way to get them to change is to make them hate themselves enough? I don't get this concept. Also, losing weight and keeping it off is a lot more complicated than you make it out to be.

Thanks sweetfeet, thanks cave_canem. Dr. Susanne- I enjoy your writing very much- you are wiser now- and still lovely I am sure.
Thanks Emma! Good to be back, especially to such a reception. Thank you for reading it, aim.
Thanks Harry's Ghost (when did you become a specter?)
Love it, surly. Red wine and chocolate are my poison.
Thanks undertow- yeah- there's a whole bag to unpack there with class and size too.
Always a pleasure, Trudge.
Thanks Marcela. Thanks, O'really- I don't think I could have screwed him literally if I wanted to although it might have been fun to try to smother him with my ample boobage.
So good to see you fingerlakes, it's true that self-acceptance is a long time coming. And it's sad that we waste so much time hating ourselves. And others.
Diotima- I did not mean to imply that prejuidice against someone who was burned or maimed was justified. It was meant to give a picture of the kind of recoil he made. No one deserves to be gawked at, we're all human beings.
Thank you Eva.
Thanks, Blue- it is a very subjective thing and I've been all over the map. I know that some of what I feel is my own projection, but it's not all in my head. Good for you on going to your class anyway!
Thank you for reading, Renee- I know about that invisibility too- it's rough.
Thank you, Marc and Ramon- thanks for the laugh. Love it.
Hey Julie! Hugs back at ya. And thank you dolores- they will be good memories I think.
Thanks CK- I am pretty happy in them which is surprising given the circumstances- running for almost six hours and all.

Hooray! Sandra! I love your response. Truly- when I'm actually running- the people around me are amazing- I feel such warmth for them. I feel like we're in it together and we all pull for each other. Some of these other people? I'm not so sure about them ;-) And I agree that compassion for yourself and others is the only way to affect real change.

Miss Misk- you're probably right that I'm giving him too much credit. I guess I was just impressed he deigned to respond at all. Thanks.

totalcreep- it is rather sad how many women think of themselves as fat. icemilk- it was funny when you got right down to it which is why I think I laughed.

Hey Lisa! Thanks for reading and such a thought-provoking comment- there's a lot to unpack there too. I do agree that the point of Push is to shock. It is an angry book and I understand that. I'm not sure that Precious' fatness in and of itself is supposed to be a horror. What the world does to her, is. And I don't hate skinny women at all. I don't want size to divide us like that. We get divided too much. Mommy vs child-free, single vs married, fat vs thin- I hate that.

Thanks Maria- your writing inspires me.

Lisa! Hi! Thanks for reading- you're right - we need to define ourselves. Why's that so tricky?
Re "Precious": I remember similar criticisms about Leo DiCaprio's performance as a mentally ill teen in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," until DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar. I think there's a line of reasoning that says that because of the size of the screen in theaters, some characteristics must be downplayed. I think good acting is when you can't tell someone is acting. You can always spot a bad actor. He's the crude guy on the sidelines.
I feel your confusion and frustration. I wrote a sincere post about having been fat and losing weight to literally save my life. I got reamed and creamed and royally flamed.

Buy a photo, hang it with total pride. and the next time a sideliner makes a nasty comment respond with, "I'm running in this marathon, you're standing around watching. Talk to me when you're running too, asshat."
I am going to share something because you mentioned a let down, or malaise, after the marathon. First a warning though. Don't let the seasonal thing bite you in the ass. I feel entitled to say this, since I live on the third coast also. Pay attention to yourself and don't preclude this. Thats all. And I have been bitten in the ass.

The main thing I wanted to say is that I consider a marathon to be a "transitional" thing. Especially a first marathon. It can change your life without becoming your life.

You are a writer. So just think about the language. Running free. Running to mommy. Running away. In the rat race. On the treadmill.

It is just my opinion, but the marathon can be liberating. But to be liberating, it has to "let you free" in some sense.

I don't like the default, American way of thinking that more is always better. You want to "supersize" that run?

If running were a job, OSHA would ban marathons. No shit. Think repetitive motion injury. Think workers comp claims. &c.

In some respects, a marathon is about more -- that is the main thing about it. More than you ever believed you could. Every day a little more. Break it down into small pieces and learn to handle more and more and then you are running 26 fucking miles.

So then you are done, and no wonder you are confused. Or perhaps, it is a wonder that everyone isn't confused. Because more squared doesn't make sense.

I am not trying to tell you what to do or how to think. As long as running makes you feel joyful, then run. If it starts seeming like a burden, then there are lots of ways to enjoy physical exercise, to get outside, to be with people, to burn some energy, and to just exist as a freer, more active, more alive person.

It is so damn easy to get stuck in mental ruts. Speaking from experience. Best of luck. Totally.
Juli, first of all, congratulations on finishing that marathon! Having the determination and drive to train and compete in a marathon AND complete it is a really impressive goal to have met. Good on you!

As someone who has struggled with weight all my life, I hear you. And I sympathize. A lot of the same attitudes make me mad. I think things are better than they used to be, but there are always the A**holes out there. I also get a lot of mixed messages of "We love you no matter what your size but it would be much better /'you'll feel better about yourself' /if you lost some weight! The "You'll feel better about yourself" line was my mom's weapon of choice, which always seemed to mean "I'LL feel better about you/love you MORE if you do this." Shopping trips with her in my teens were hell. "It's very becoming" was her standard line about ugly 'old lady clothes' that made me feel like a 70 year old freak.

I shop alone, now.
Juli, good points, well made. The critic's comments are horrible and undercut the woman and the movie. I had to take medication that changed my appearance, I became invisible, its amazing how much outer appearances effect people's judgement. Even those closest. Keep runnin' ! Don't let them win, that's my motto. r
Hollywood runs on tiny beautiful happy people. So that's probably why the reviewer felt that the actress was strikingly different.

As someone who is slightly underweight, I have a hard time feeling your pain. I was mercilessly picked on in school for being small, including being called "tapeworm" for two entire years of elementary school. Teachers responded to my parents' complaints by saying that I should live with it and be grateful to not have weight issues.

A co-worker told me several years ago, in front of a supervisor, that I was not dating at the time because "no man wants to f*ck a bag of bones". The supervisor laughed. My subsequent complaint was answered thus, since the co-worker is significantly overweight, "it would not be sensitive for anyone to reprimand her regarding comments about weight".

My very petite mother and I were in an upscale clothing store one day and a sales clerk very quietly informed us that sizes below 6 were kept in the back "because seeing them makes a lot of customers uncomfortable". Yes. Our clothing is inherently offensive.

My mother had to have a dress made for my wedding because stores in our area do not carry women's dresses below size 4 (and in come cases below 6) and most attempted to direct her to prom dresses in the junior department, highly inappropriate for a woman over 60. Meanwhile, my plus size mother-in-law had so many options that she had difficulty choosing.

After a severe illness, parents and students started a rumor that I had an eating disorder that caused me professional problems and led to my doctor having to send a letter to my administrator verifying my illness as a reason for (temporary) weight loss.

And, finally, I highly doubt that people just openly say to any overweight person (who are part of 60%--the majority!--of the adult population in this country), "how much do you weigh anyway?" Or, more often, and my personal favorite, "what do you eat?" These insensitive questions are a typical part of my life.
Thanks to jimmy, Sally, Nick, Shiral, Tom, rita, and jane for the thoughtful comments.

Amy Rose- thank you for reading and sharing your story too. Here's the thing - you say: "I have a hard time feeling your pain" but then you tell me all about how you've been slammed with body prejudice too. I don't think any kind of body-snarking is ok. I don't talk about "skinny bitches" any more. I used to when I felt envious of those who were smaller than me, more acceptable, more conventionally attractive. I think that's what was going on with your co-worker, but let me say this: it is NOT ok that your supervisor laughed at such an inappropriate statement or refused to deal with it. We are more than the sum of our parts. We are more than our size- no matter what size it is. I think you do feel my pain. I just want us to be seen for more than size.

And PS- people totally comment to fat people all the time about what they eat. "Should you really be eating that?" is a fave.
A marathon - holy crap! Please buy the picture of yourself. You should be proud of such a major accomplishment, and just accept the fact that you ARE beautiful. Really. It's sad to me that you would ever doubt that. (Not that I know you - but with your open and honest writing, I sort of feel like I do.)

Great post!
Great post, JJuli. I haven't seen Precious yet, but it's on the Must see list, for so many reasons.

I read an interview or saw it, I don't know, with Tyler Perry and Oprah, and Oprah said that TP had shown her the film and she broke down at the end and said to herself, "I see that girl Every Day, and she's been invisible to me."

Well, I don't know about Oprah, but she's not invisible to me. Being anywhere from 30 - 50 pounds overweight the past several years has taught me a few things about other people. And I don't like most of them.

But you are terrific, and talented, and motivated. Keep going; keep writing. I hear your voice.
Juli--Okay, you make a valid point. I do feel your pain. I just have a hard time seeing it when no one on the other end of this body issue is even allowed to express that mocking and humiliation happens to us. We get told that we're lucky to be thin and should live with it or that people are jealous and therefore whatever they have said to us is okay.

I think you and I ultimately feel the same way, actually. That people should never be judged by the size/shape of their body.

And I will spare everyone my rant on the whole "real women have curves" thing. Or the fact that in clothing "women's sizes" are all plus-sized and I have to shop in the "misses" department (which is at least not "missy" as it once was in some stores). Those things are both rather insulting for those of us who are over 18 and under a size 14.
P.S. I couldn't even walk a marathon on my two bad knees. You ROCK!!
This is such an imporant conversation: "It is this feeling that we are offending people simply by existing in an unacceptable body that makes fat people want to hide.." Our culture just plain sucks when discussing and thinking about self-image. Some of the most beautiful women I know---slim and voluptuous---agonize about the look of their bodes. What a waste of energy, and so far from the truth!! I think they are all HOT, really, really hot. I wish they could see themselves through my eyes.
Excellent post as usual. I just finished sorting through my horrible Spirit of Pittsburgh half-marathon shots before I read your latest post...
In my race there was a cop standing on the corner at about mile 2. As we sloggers passed, he said "some of these people have no business running." I'll steer clear of the anti-cop comments and just say I just about spit on him. We don't have the right to date, have sex, act in films, buy attractive clothes, dance...nor run it seems.

F-you Mr. Pittsburgh's Finest! Me and my big old ass finished 13.1 miles in 2:45 minutes while you stood around in all your priveleged glory. F-You!
Buy a big girl's Speedo, Justjuli, go to the indoor gym pool, and swim. You would be surprised at how liberating that is.

Next month, I'm getting my big girl's Speedo, because my Wal Mart suit is a disaster, and my Target suit is worn out.

You are a hero and you deserve your marathon photos. They're yours and no one else gets to interfere in your joy, either.
This is absolutely wonderful! When her show first aired, I was in awe of Oprah but really got weary of the sad, fat folk she had on her show. So I called her up and told her not all of us fat folk are unhappy.

She said, "If I believed there were any fat people who are happy, I'd do a show about it!" My comic strip MS. HIPPS was being published in 10 newsletters at the time, including one for MENSA's "Overweight Special Interest Group," and I told my fans to right the big 'O' and let her know we exist.

So she did the show and I was on the panel. She wouldn't even let me mention MS. HIPPS, which was used as an empowering tool for fat women with quips like "At least blimps fly, bones just lie in the ground and rot."

However, the Columbus, Ohio, edition of "PM Magazine" did feature me drawing MS. H and did their own little animation of the strip, which got me on Sally Jessy Raphael to talk about size discrimination.

I agree with your assessment of Ms. Sidibe. Only, I'm afraid as she continues her film career, the pressure will be on her to conform to Hollywood's size preferences. Too bad. She is such a positive role model for all of the young, fat women in this country.

But maybe she'll withstand the pressure and, even she loses some weight for her own personal reasons, hopefully, she'll follow the examples of Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique and not try to get down to size zero. She weighs 355 lbs. so that would be a futile mission.

At 325, I posed for pin-up photos, one of which was featured in a magazine for men who love fat women (my OS photo is a sepia toned, cropped version of that photo). Sexy, like beauty, is all in the eyes of the beholder.

Btw, MS. HIPPS would have told that guy on the sidelines of your 5K run who mentioned that a meat truck must be nearby, "Hey, I'll race you to it! And whoever loses has a fathead and if you keep talking you may end up with a fat lip bigger than my fat ass!"

(Twenty-two years ago, a couple of young guys who saw me in a full-length, fake fox fur and snickered, saying I looked like a polar bear; I gave them a scathing look and said, "Polar bears kill!" They bolted, ashen faced and mute.)
I have no interest at all in seeing this movie. Does that make me anti-fat?
People seem to need to hate something for some reason - oh yeah - it's the superiority complex that we all need to create because we have no genuine self-esteem. What a sad state.

In any case, kudos to you and your accomplishments. Keep running!
Amyrose, the last time anyone asked me what I weighed, it was a co-worker with some boundary problems.

I just smiled at said "Larry, that's classified information and your clearance will NEVER be high enough." I figure I have business knowing that and so does my doctor. For everybody else, it's on a 'need to know' basis. I've never been in a situation where they "needed" that info.
JustJuli, I know I'm weighing in a little late on this post (no pun intended... seriously) and I just have to say keep going after these SOBs who insist on promoting body image issues across our society. I've ranted once before on one of your previous entries on a similar subject. I'm seriously about as combative as milk toast most days but these ignoramuses who encourage this notion of objectifying women (or men but let's face it, women bear the brunt) this way make me want to duct tape their mouths shut after I've crammed my underwear and sweat socks down their hatch... after I've just taken a long run in them. Keep on runnin', girl and keep on calling it how you see it.
P.S. Being a total running freakazoid I've got a soft spot for your blog.
Congratulations to you on both this wonderful essay - and the marathon. Your talents cut quite a swath.

Beauty is a cruel mistress. She is never satisfied, and even the most beautiful among us suffer when tuned in to her vicious whispers and pitiless eye.

But it helps to recognize that Beauty is also fickle. All one need do is look at images of the beautiful from different historical periods. I suggest keeping a few around the house. You may find a rapprochement with Beauty yet.
Julie, I wrote a poem last week and I'm posting it for you. You're brilliant and sexy and should be proud of yourself.
Sheldon The Wonderhorse put it best, I think.