When I was about ten years old, I was watching Jeopardy! as three new contestants were introduced. One was a VERY large woman - even bigger than the women in my family. The announcer introduced her as “a surgeon from Albany, New York,” and I was dumbstruck for a moment. How could a big, fat woman be a surgeon? I knew women could be surgeons and astronauts and lawyers, but FAT women? Who would let a fat woman into medical school? Who would have a fat woman as a doctor? I would have accepted a one-armed thin woman more readily.
That moment stuck with me, as you can see, for the rest of my life. But it stuck with me as an anomaly, a curiosity. I continued to put limits on my potential just because of my weight. I didn’t try to go to law school, even when my test scores and my teachers indicated that I could, because fat girls don’t become lawyers.
When Gene Hackman’s character cried over big, fat Shelly Winters’ dead body in _The Poseidon Adventure_, I found it hard to get too sad over her death. She was just a fat woman. A nice woman, sure, but not exactly much of a loss to anyone. How could she be? And by extension, how could I be particularly important, even if I died? Who cares what happens to a fat chick, unless it’s for a cheap laugh?
Maybe if I’d seen more than one successful or positive fat-lady role model, things might have worked out differently in my head and in my life. Maybe if fat girls and fat women had ever been portrayed as anything but housekeepers, grandmothers, fishwives, witches, yo-yo dieters, food addicts, comic-relief best friends, etc., things might have been different for me.
Things might have been different for quite a few of us.