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    • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      Columnist, Editor-in-Chief
    • May 9, 2013 in Columnists

    Who will I be when I’m not a fat woman?

    So instead of beating myself up for being fat, I think it’s a miracle that I laugh every day and walk through my life with pride, because our culture is unrelenting when it comes to large people.
    Camryn Manheim


    Oy.  Transitions.  Yes, I realize that life is change, but in some ways, I’m in the Zone.  I am highly skilled at being who and what I am, with all its pitfalls and difficulties.

    On May 28, I will have gastric bypass surgery.  Now there’s a transition.  Not only will I be permanently internally mutated, I will be eating about 300 very cautious calories a day.  If I’m not careful, I’ll experience dumping syndrome, which is where you think you are going to die right up until you resolve it on the toilet (ew).  In about a year, I won’t be fat anymore.

    To be really fat in this country is to have an intimate acquaintance with being “other.”  I may be one of the few white women I know who “gets” bigotry, to the understanding nods of some people also deemed “other” in this society and the annoyance of at least one.  I was probably clumsy in my description; no, I don’t know what it feels like to be black.  Nor Asian.  Nor gay.  Nor disabled.  But other?  Oh yes.  Very much so.

    Weighing about 335; my heaviest was 420 in my 20s.

    Weighing about 335; my heaviest was 420 in my 20s.

    As far as I can tell, generally, there are two groups who are blamed for their state of “otherness”: gay people and fat people.  Even the most appalling bigots regarding other situations that engender “otherness” seem to get that these were not choices.  People were either born that way or were transformed via mostly likely unhappy circumstance (catastrophic accidents).  These folks may be ghastly, but they’re not blaming people for being who and what they are, as long as they don’t fail the fat-or-gay test.

    The part of society that believes gay is a choice blames gay people, but that attitude is finally beginning to fade as gays refuse to be immured in the closet another minute.  But boy do they blame fat people.  With emphasis.  Virulently.  Endlessly.

    If you’re gay, you can pretty much choose to reveal yourself – or not.  This isn’t true for everybody, but you should have seen my brother play “straight.”  What a chameleon!  He could put on his closet like an overcoat and walk invisibly in the world, defined only as himself – a stunningly gorgeous young man, chivalrous and debonair.  As for me, I am sincerely, truly and honestly fat.  Sadly, there is no pocket dimension into which I can pop my excess mass.

    But now, I’m taking the step that will take this fat away from me.  Unlike being gay, the condition of fatness can be treated surgically.  Maya North in 2014 will no longer be fat.  No longer be “other.”  Mind you, I’ll have the skin of a bloodhound.  Jowels will probably be my new nickname (if the person trying to call me that forgets I have a red belt in martial arts).  Although I’ll look much older, and that carries its own sense of being set apart,  it does not engender the shameless hatred and cruelty as has my fat.  I will suddenly become more and less visible.   I’ll no longer be rejected based on body size, but then, am I relinquishing something that makes me somewhat special?  Have I created a self with a uniqueness the depends on this condition?  Good question.  How will I handle looking more or less like a bodysize-typical woman?  And what if the dislike I have experienced turns out not to be based on my being fat?

    About what I look like right now.  From my highest I am 130 lbs less.

    About what I look like right now. From my highest I am 130 lbs less.

    This I know with my whole heart.  I’ll always understand what it feels like to be “other.”  I’ll always remember the eyes that slide away, the sneering comments, the looks of disgust.  I’ll never forget how the same opinions of mine that annoyed people became more charming with every 10 pounds I lost.  I’ll never lose sight of how it felt to have people try to hit me with their cars while I was walking, lean out of car windows and bark at me, refuse to hire me, refuse to rent housing to me, slam the door in my face after duly noting that I had one arm full of newborn baby and the other carrying laundry.  I’ll also remember the people who were always my friends, who saw me for who I am and valued that person from the very beginning.  And I guarantee I’ll know the difference between those true friends and the ones who come fluttering out of the woodwork all full of approval because people who lose huge amounts of weight are objects of great fascination and admiration in our culture.

    I don’t think I will miss my fat, but I’m not entirely sure.  If I am not a fat woman, then what am I?  Who am I?  Has there been a secret lurking self at the core of me all along, separate from my definition by body size?  Or did I invent this person – literate, charming, intelligent, interesting – in order to attract other humans despite my body size?  After all, we’re a gregarious species.  We like company and while I love solitude, I dislike loneliness.  I don’t know, but whatever I’ve become, it’s who I am now.  I have some faith that I’ll get to keep the good stuff even as the fat falls away from me.  As to the rest, I guess I’ll do what I’ve been doing all this time.  I’ll make it up as I go along.  It’s kept me afloat so far.

    I’ll keep you posted.

      • Kelvin

      • May 9, 2013 at 8:23 am
      • Reply

      I loved this. You will be Maya unchained! You’ll be you+. My brother went through a brief period of depression after his surgery because one of his favorite coping skills was suddenly gone. But it definitely changed his life for the better. I expect you to continue to be a strong voice for the voiceless. You rock now so you’re going to be Superwoman a year from now.

        • Maya North

        • May 9, 2013 at 8:48 am
        • Reply

        It’s sure going to be an adventure. It also just occurred to me that I’ll be able to buy clothes anywhere. Hmmmm… Big hugs and nose smoochies 😀

    • I wish you nothing but goodness and good health as you make this transition to what you feel will be the new you with the old you tucked in.

    • I loved this as well! The “secret lurking self” or the “inventive” self attracting others to itself is the question to ask all right. I loved the eyes that “slide away.” It is so sad that we just can’t get over the outside package. Great read!

      • Maya North

      • May 9, 2013 at 10:45 am
      • Reply

      Thank you, dearheart <3

      • Maya North

      • May 9, 2013 at 10:46 am
      • Reply

      Thank you so much. 😀

      • Lucy

      • May 10, 2013 at 11:50 am
      • Reply

      Your talents, intelligence, kindness, and powerful inner strength will always be within you, no matter what your size.

        • Maya North

        • May 10, 2013 at 10:04 pm
        • Reply

        Oh, Lucy, thank you. Thank you so much. XXXOOO

      • Susan

      • May 17, 2013 at 10:13 pm
      • Reply

      Maya, you express yourself so eloquently. Definitely touched me… I wish you the best in this next exploration! Hugs to you —

        • Maya North

        • May 17, 2013 at 10:28 pm
        • Reply

        Oh hello, my beloved angel cousin 🙂 It’s been really intense, and particularly because I visited my folks in October and their size bigotry was really painful. They could hardly stand to look at me. I think part of my mixed feelings is that so many people will be so much nicer and it will be more than a little bit like watching an ex with a new love: why couldn’t you have been like that with me? Only it will still be me. Does that make sense? Big hugs and nose smoochies, love…

      • Robin Pratt

      • May 18, 2013 at 7:18 am
      • Reply

      I have experienced some of the same “fat bigotry” After my daughter was born, I gained weight, lost some,then gained it back and more to boot. At my highest, I weighed about 280 I have lost some, but I am still a big girl.I appreciate your resolution, and I know that your health will be improved and that will be the greatest gift of all. Fat or thin, I appreciate you, love you and am so glad we have “found” each other again after those few intervening years between high school and now! Stay strong.

        • Maya North

        • May 18, 2013 at 7:37 am
        • Reply

        Oh, Robin, that must have been so difficult. I was always at least ‘chunky’ or ‘sturdy’ but I remember you as being very slim in high school and to go from that to nearly where I am now must have been tough and still must be. I feel precisely the same way about you which doesn’t at all surprise me because I remember thinking you were wonderful way back then and you’ve only become more so since. Finding you again has been such a huge blessing and I love you right back. I’ll be okay. I am nothing if not determined. But your support helps more than I can properly say… XXXOOO

    • Wonderful ~ you strike at the heart of so much here! From my vantage, your feminism has always reflected – and railed against – the “otherism” we girls face in patriarchal society. You’ve long been my hero on that score. Bigness just reflected your over-endowment of intelligence and libertine sass, and as well as keeping you spiritually poised in your calling to expose the folly of otherness itself. But the utter cruelty of social scrutiny and arrogant superiority you describe – along with the unbridled yet unexamined visceral responses to culturally hijacked emotional disgust – are horrific, so I hope you experience full liberation, empowerment, and equal dignity of human being. But of course the good – indeed great – stuff will remain, and can more easily pour forth without such resistance from those who could likely benefit from it the most. Speak it sister, in any size or shape you emanate the infinite Goddess essence that you are.

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