Topics Chosen by Others: Overweight Women

from Sara. [I write and edit this while eating a giant piece of gluten free chocolate cake]

Dialysis Lady

Seriously? When I asked for topic suggestions Sara was the third person who offered a topic suggestion.

And here is how our exchange went:

Me: Give me a topic and I will write about it.

Sara: Overweight Women.

Me: What would you want me to say?

Sara: I want you to say what you think without worrying about stepping on toes.

Me (Thinking to myself): That will be impossible, absolutely impossible! It’s a trap!

And then I started thinking about the time I took my father-in-law to dialysis at the University of Utah. When my in-laws came to town a few years ago we knew that for Darryl to travel we had to line up a place where every other day he could go and get his kidneys cleaned out. He was so fragile and weak. It had been snowing and if anyone has ever driven up or down Parley’s Canyon during bad weather, you know it is not the most forgiving stretch of highway. I offered to drive. We wound are way down the canyon and into the Valley. We headed North-ish towards the University and to get to the actual dialysis place we had to travel through some back-parking-lot-through-connecting-parking-lot labyrinth. I could tell he was anxious to get there and to get the blood cleaning over with. We found the building. I pulled up to the door as close as I could, I put the car in park and through the corner of my eye, we both saw her. Standing to the left was the only overweight woman I have ever truly judged and my judgement, wether right or wrong, was extremely harsh. (Ok, truth be told, have a hard time not being critical of the overweight folks I see using the scooters at Disneyland. Shame one me.)

Context. It was about context. Sitting next to me in the passenger seat was a man who was half the size he used to be. A long-term illness had destroyed his body. He was so weak we could not let him drive down the canyon himself. He did not want to be there. His kidney failure had been a byproduct of treatment for heart disease. He did not want to be living this life that was utterly dependent on dialysis, but here is where he sat.

We both could not help ourselves as we watched her step out of the car and stand there. “Did you see her?” I said. “Yes.” He responded as he lowered his head and shook.

Yes. I judged. Not only did I judge, in that second, I hated her. She was huge, I mean, she looked like an enormous pissed off peacock! In what seemed a sort of a Fuck-You-World stance, there she stood in her flip-flops, with her short, greasy hair, wearing some sort of thin nightgown while holding her urine-filled catheter bag in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It was disgusting. She spit. She swore. She tossed her half smoked cigarette on the ground and walked into the building.

Darryl got out of the car. He was so thin and frail. It was difficult for him to move and then he slowly walked into the building behind her.

I have been overweight more than once. And when I was twenty-three (after breaking up with my boyfriend) I believe I was underweight. I have seen peoples’ lives taken over by food or their need to control food. It is horrible. It makes me sad. And the more time I spend on this earth the more I know that there is more than meets the eye. We are not what we eat. And what I mean by that is I should not judge because I do not walk in your shoes.

Hostess Ho Ho's

And then, there I was, taking my father-in-law to dialysis. As I looked, I was completely blind-sided by her girth and apparent lack of care. It was that moment when my dying father-in-law sat next me. Her crappy attitude was just the in I needed and without hesitation it was the in I took. My father-in-law needed that dialysis so he could see his grandchildren. He needed the dialysis so e could live one more day. She, on the other hand, did not seem to care if she was here or trapped in carton of Ho-Ho’s. In that one moment, I hated her. I was angry, angry that this gigantic woman was taking up space on this planet and so I judged.

Tagged : / /

13 thoughts on “Topics Chosen by Others: Overweight Women

  1. I have been overweight most of my adult life. I have been as big as 370 lbs at my highest weight. I am still about 80lbs overweight but am probably at my lowest since my teen years. And I wanted you to know you are not alone. I too judge the morbidly obese.

  2. Thank you, Amy! Thank you for your honesty. I make no excuses and really have learned that I do not know peoples’ stories or their background. On that day, it was very hard to keep my opinion to myself. My father-in-law was dying and this woman had so completely given up. It was very very sad.

  3. This is a personally sensitive topic for me, and yet I struggle with judging (or, trying to to judge). What I have come to conclude, and Beth, I think this is what you were getting at, is that it is not just about weight but about wasting resources that could be used for something else (though extreme obesity is sometimes visible evidence of what I’m calling wastefulness), and even more basically, wasting life. When I worked at a hospital, you would of course see the patients with facial burns because they smoked while on oxygen, had an amputation because they never took their diabetes drugs, or couldn’t have a necessary surgery that others were waiting for because they tested positive for illegal drugs pre-operatively. And it was so hard not to laugh in disbelief and throw up your hands about someone “who just doesn’t want help” especially when you are in an environment where the resource (healthcare) is constrained and there are people who are desperately trying NOT to give up who could use the resource. But ultimately, what I try to keep in the front of my brain (while I try to shove the judgy thoughts to the back) is “Be fair.” It’s a pretty reasonable life mantra. You never know anyone’s story entirely–and because anyone’s story is much more nuanced than it ever appears at first, your consideration of others has to be nuanced as well. At least, that’s me on a good day. Recognizing the unfairness of our perceptions is at least a start.

  4. Kathi, That was so well put. Seriously! I really could not say it better than you. It is not about the weight. It is about the perceived lack of care. Yet the bottom line truly is, “Be fair!” You do not know peoples’ stories. Thank you so much for taking the time to articulate your thoughts. I really appreciate it!

  5. As an ER doctor, I see individuals who live awful, awful lives. I’ve seen enough though, that I know people can make lemonade if they want to, and can play well a bad hand, if they want to. I agree and give respect to previous comments about not being hasty to judge and being fair, but we should also feel honest enough to call a spade a spade. My job is a constant reminder that life isn’t fair, that bad things happen to good people, and bad people reap the benefits of a benevolent society. Be thoughtful, then call it for what it is. Human nature involves making judgements.

  6. Kevin, Thank you! And seriously thank you for taking time to post. You know I love to pester you.

    I like what you said and I agree what you said. Compassion and then add the honesty. It is what it is. We chose our path. Sure, bad things happen along the way, however, as humans we can chose what to do with the bad things. Thank you again! I love what you said!

  7. It’s difficult not to judge. It’s also difficult for those of us whose personal demons are so obvious to the rest of the world not to want to justify ourselves in the eyes of those who we don’t think struggle with the same issues. Sometimes, it’s even more difficult to hear “I was that way too”–WAS being the operative word–when someone is trying to be compassionate because then those of us who still ARE sometimes feel like there might be a hint of “you need to work harder at not being ARE” in our own heads.

    I’m not beating myself up here, by the way; most of the time I’m ok with my body. The biggest (no pun intended, but I’m allowing it to stand because I think it’s funny) problem I have with my size is I can’t find trendy clothes in my size. Most clothing stores that I frequent seem to think old-lady huge floral prints and crinkly capri pants are what we larger ladies want to wear. And high-end fashion designers refuse to make clothes for plus sizes. Makes me want to dip Karl Lagerfeld into melted Swiss chocolate and bite his head off.

  8. Sara, and it is difficult to respond. I have a friend who called me this morning. She told me that she read this post. She kept trying to comment and then kept erasing her comment. Wether it is weight or anything that makes you fee less than, remember that it does not matter what anyone else thinks. Well, it does matter, but really it shouldn’t. I know. It is hard to get those voices out of your head. My same friend keeps reminding me that when I feel doubt to take a deep breath and point my feet forward.

    I can’t adress weight fairly here because I know you and I know your struggles. That being said, I did not hold back whatsoever on my judgement of Dialysis-Center Lady. With you, I won’t be that person who tells you that you are less than because you feel less than. I do not want you to feel judged. That is the last thing you need. I know you, Sara and I love who you are.

    As far as high-end designers go, most of us do not have bodies to fit in their crazy size “0 Tall” clothes. He he he. Many brands now have plus sizes online too. 🙂

  9. I need to check in more. I judge. I’m 80# overweight. She is the reason I’m trying to get back in shape. Everybody judges. If they say they don’t they’re lying.

  10. Society is just unfair to women over weight a lot of research i did online proved so. I’m not over weight but that is my true opinion. We see it all the time and im happy to see that they are giving those who are the chances to express with clothes 🙂 It doesnt matter what size you are what matter is who you are!! :p

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