Somehow, I missed the memo that fat women are not allowed to be treated with dignity and respect when they are paying customers at a nail salon. Atlanta resident, Michelle Fonville, 40, didn’t get the memo, either.
Fonville, who is a plus-sized woman, had three services performed at a local salon last week. When she was looking over her bill, she noticed an extra five dollars had been tacked onto her total. Thinking it was an honest mistake, she showed it to the manager of the salon hoping for a quick resolution. That’s when she learned that the salon manager had charged her more because she was afraid that Fonville weighed more than the salon’s pedicure chair could handle.
Instead of discussing the matter with her customer privately, manager Kim Tan of Natural Nails, allegedly announced loudly that she did not want Fonville to return to the salon. She reportedly refunded the woman the additional money she had taken from the customer. Fonville, who was simply primping before a family reunion, was humiliated and left the salon in tears. She told ABC News, “I couldn’t believe a human being was talking to another human being in that manner.”
According to NailsMag.com, a website dedicated to the nail salon business, the average pedicure chair holds can comfortably support clients up to 250 to 350 pounds. Many of the manufacturers I researched claim their chairs are sturdy enough to support as much as 700 pounds. Tan, the manager of the salon in question, claimed her chairs could only accommodate up to 200 pounds. If that were truly the case, why not post this in the salon so that heavy clients can decide whether or not they want to risk their safety or pay more for services? Did she really have to wait until after serving Fonville to tell her she was being charged more because of her weight? The answer is no.
Tell us how you really feel about fat people, I’m dying to know
I’d heard about this story a few days ago and was fairly shocked. As a woman of size, discrimination because of my body is something I’ve lived with much of my life. I sent a “mental hug” to Michelle Fonville. I can imagine how she must have felt. Women go to hair and nail salons to feel pretty and pampered. We don’t go there for dieting advice or to be told we’re too big to enjoy feeling like girlie girls. I almost let this story slide until a friend posted something on a social network and added his own commentary. Then I became incensed.
“If this is the kind of treatment you tend to face, perhaps you may want to reconsider the wreckless [sic] snacking, especially when you want to get your nails/hair ‘did’,” he wrote. I took him to task over it, but was probably a little too nice. He went onto say that she should be more concerned with “managing a potential health issue” than getting her nails done to feel pretty. In other words, fat women have no right to do things that make them feel good because they overeat. Oh, the assumptions of the self-righteous!
Thankfully, he’s not a close friend. That hasn’t stopped close friends from sometimes saying hurtful things about fat people right in front of me. Sometimes, I know they’re not aware of how they sound when they say certain things. Other times, it’s just annoying.
Some of my best friends are fat!
In most of my social circles, I am the largest person in the group. It’s not a distinction I enjoy, but I’ve come to accept that I’m fat. While I’ve done many things to try and change that, it remains the truth about who I am. Rather than spend a lifetime beating myself up about it, I’ve learned to work around my body or with it to enjoy the life I live. It hasn’t always been easy.
I’ve had a few girlfriends over the years who’ve said some pretty hurtful things about other fat girls right in front of me. Often, they’ll throw in the qualifier, “Oh, but you’re different, Kat.” I guess it’s a little like hearing a racist joke about your race told by someone who isn’t the same race. Sometimes I laugh nervously but a few times I’ve being confrontational. At times I wish I could switch bodies with them for a day. Not so I could see how fabulous it would be to be thin. I would like them to spend a day shuffling along in body that doesn’t always cooperate, is the subject of ridicule and scorn but sometimes feels pretty awesome, too. Yes, even though I’ve tried a million different things to get into a smaller size of clothing, there are days my body and my weight make me feel powerful. And I absolutely love my fat ass! I really do.
I’ve got an equal number of guy friends, too, who feel no compunction in telling me what they think of bigger girls. One friend calls girls who are cute but fat “Chubettes.” I’m not as offended by that, but it also usually means he had no interest in dating them. I’m often surprised at the very attractive and not-all-that-fat women he throws into this category. I’m reminded of the fact that men are visual creatures and what women think is just a little overweight can be seen by men as grossly overweight. It’s a little disconcerting.
Another guy friend is the type of man I loathe the most. He’s the kind of man who will happily make out with or screw a heavier gal, but there’s no way in hell he’d ever date one publicly. Again, what passes for “fat” to him is very subjective. Some of the girls he’s called “bigger” are merely average-sized women. I was excited when he told me he was dating a curvy girl last year. I was excited to meet this woman he declared to be “larger than my usual type.” She turned out to be around a size six (for men who don’t understand women’s sizes, that’s pretty skinny). Yep, he went way out on a limb there.
All these things that I have done
To look at me, you’d think the word “diet” was a foreign concept. I can assure you, however, that if a woman has any heft to her (as I certainly do), she hasn’t gotten to this point and size from “reckless snacking” alone. I have dieted, exercised and—gasp!—even had surgery to “correct” my fatness.
Twelve years ago, less than a year after my mother passed away, I heard about gastric bypass surgery. I was 364 pounds at the time and as I ate my way through the grief of losing her, I feared I’d be 400 pounds if I didn’t find a way to stop myself. I saw people my size and larger drop unfathomable amounts of weight in a relatively short period of time thanks to this remarkable surgery. The CBS show, “48 Hours” profiled several people on one of their shows who had gone through dramatic transformations thanks to this new weight loss surgery. I watched the show twice, mesmerized by the seemingly simple nature of it. I ignored the fact that one of the women who’d had this surgery died and another was starving due to malnutrition. I was young and didn’t think anything bad could possibly happen to me.
My own internal medicine doctor warned me of the complications. She told me I’d have to re-learn to eat. She was concerned about the psychological impact, too. “It will be like cutting off your arm,” she told me. She had no idea how desperate I was to break free from the prison my body had become. When you are that fat, every step hurts, you don’t enjoy a good night’s rest and you are sick of being judged solely on your size. I wanted out of my own skin.
There were many red flags I ignored before having my surgery. The biggest was the fact I had a surgeon who never once looked me in the eyes while speaking to me. When I asked about the number of weight loss surgeries he’d performed, he brushed me off with a vague, “oh, many.” He assured me over and over that this would be my “miracle.”
At the hospital, I was told to expect to stay at least three days but probably no more than five. I ended up spending 11 days there. I went in with pink cheeks and the ability to walk on my own. I left the hospital in a wheelchair gray-faced and as weak as a newborn kitten. I soon learned they’d “over-done” my surgery and within weeks, had to return for a painful procedure to fix it. It didn’t end there.
I spent nearly 10 months in and out of the emergency room. I needed bags of IV fluids due to several electrolyte imbalances and micro-nutrient deficiencies. In the end, I’d stopped absorbing many important things like Vitamin D. My bones became so brittle; I had three breaks in three years. After seriously dislocating and breaking my left ankle, the total extent of the damage finally came to light: my “miracle surgery” was slowing laying my body to waste. I recently learned that my surgeon was sued many times after my surgery for malpractice. He no longer practices medicine at all.
What YOU think of ME is none of MY business
I lost a lot of weight, but nothing near the amount I’d been promised I’d lose. I was given so much misinformation by my surgeon, including the advice NOT to exercise. I regained a good bit of the weight I’d lost right back. It did not cure the long-standing thyroid problem I’d had since my late teens. It did cure me of the ability to ever eat like a normal person ever again. There are so many things I can’t eat at all. If I eat an extra morsel of food, I’ll be hovering over the toilet later. Certain things make me almost instantly sick. I am still a fat woman.
For many years, I was embarrassed to admit to people who didn’t know about my surgery that I’d had it. A few people suggested I try having surgery. It was usually then, and only then, that I’d admit to them I how I was a bariatric surgery failure. They either seem stunned or don’t believe me. I’ve had some people accuse me of self-sabotage. I want to scream at them. I want to show them the large scar on my stomach from three surgeries I’ve been forced to have to fix the first one. I really want to make them understand. If I had it to do all over again, I would never have chosen that route to weight loss. A lifetime of misery all centered on my desire to be “normal” isn’t worth the price I continue to pay.
One of the suggestions for self-reward I was told when I was on Weight Watchers was a manicure and pedicure. My workshop leader suggested it was a far better treat than food. Never being one to fuss over myself, I had once had a manicure when I lost five pounds. Most places charge between $12 and $15 for a manicure; pedicures generally run more than $20 per visit. For some women, it makes them feel better about themselves to have their nails done regularly. I think its wonderful if you can afford it. Small luxuries are sometimes the best treats.
I wonder if Michelle Fonville wasn’t treating herself for faithfully sticking to her diet or rewarding herself for losing five pounds. Or maybe she had recently recovered from cancer and her body had expanded, not due to stuffing her face with food, but instead from stuffing her veins with chemo treatments. Perhaps she is just a woman accustomed to looking a certain a way. Whatever her reasons for walking into that salon that day, nobody had any right to judge her based on her size. They certainly didn’t need to broadcast their prejudice to the rest of the world, either.
She may have left the salon crying that day, but Fonville is my newest hero. She didn’t accept anyone putting her in a corner or on the back of the bus. She is a human being with feelings. All the fat in the world can’t cushion the pain that size discrimination causes.
Michelle Fonville shares her story with a news reporter.