It’s almost Memorial Day in New England, USA, the time when us sun-starved mavens of snow crawl out of our log cabins and head to the beaches. There are lots of beaches in New England: great big lakes, rivers, and of course the Atlantic Ocean on which all but two of the six NE states have beaches.
For lots of fat people, or anyone who doesn’t have a so-called bikini body, this can be a stressful time. What kind of swimsuit should I buy? Why in the hell don’t they make swimsuits with longer skirts, is it some kind of rule of swimming that you have a vagina you’re required to show hella thigh? Should I just not bother (again) this year, since I really don’t want to be parading my lumpy, pale self in some skirted, ill-fitting black, navy-blue, or brown swimsuit in front of the hard-bodies and cruel teenagers?
This is doubly ridic for me because I live all of two minutes from Cape Cod. In fact, I live under two miles from the ocean (I only know this because it jacks up the insurance on my house). I love the beach, sitting on it, reading, soaking up sun, then fighting with the subzero surf to get out again, teeth chattering, for more sun-and-book time. My favorite vaca spot when I was ‘thin’ was Hampton Beach.
But since I’ve gained – so for about four years – the number of times I’ve gone to the beach?
Once. Once. I live under two miles from the ocean. The beach-towns of Cape Cod are just a hop-skip down the highway. So what’s the dealio? I’m a big bad fat-fatty acceptance acceptor, aren’t I? I constantly root on other fatties who go to the beach, or pose for pics in swimsuits. I think they look awesome, I think they are awesome. So what the big frickin-frick?
But this season, something changed. I don’t know what, I’m really not sure. But I think I might be going through Stage 1 of fat-beach-goer-acceptance, at long last. Why? Because I found myself wanting to go to the beach — in order to horrify the fatphobics. Yep, to deliver a big pudgy Fuck You to every pair of roving, judgmental eyes.
I know very well this isn’t where I want to be with this, ultimately. Ultimately going to the beach can’t be about the other people at the beach. When I was ‘thin’ I didn’t care about them so much, but I knew I was hot shit, so it was kind of about them as much as it was about my own enjoyment (in that the two impulses often interacted, their perception of my hotness reinforcing my enjoyment or at least putting my mind at ease. Thin privilege, folks!). It shouldn’t be about the other people now, either, but the writer in me sees a golden opportunity to really tap into that hate often elicited by the Public Fat. I think it would be better if I had a friend to go with, but I don’t know any other self-accepting fatties in the area, so I’d have to go it alone. It might be better that way, I think people might be more willing to catcall the lone fatty than fatties in groups.
Right, so this all sounds horrifying and masochistic. But I’ve noticed something else happening over the years I’ve been in fat acceptance: the old insults just don’t really hurt anymore. Some old chestnuts (like cal-in-cal-out) have even reached ‘curiosity’ status — in that, when people utter them, it’s like a fascinating live demonstration of the efficacy of socialization. I think that’s what I’d be going for, here.
Still, it’s kind of scary. Both the going and likely being catcalled, and this power, this anger pushing me to do it.
So, right. This summer, at some point, I’m going to the beach. I’m going to go by myself; and I will record the response to my Public Fatness.