FA and real life friendships
I have had the privilege of meeting a few FA people recently. Yesterday I met meowser of Fat Fu, who was up in Seattle from Portland, for an excellent conversation during happy hour. A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to share lunch with Heidi and we had a great time finding out all the ways that we are each other’s alternate-universe-psychic-twins (in a non woo-woo way, of course).
Probably close to a year ago there was a meet up of Seattle “Shapelings” from Shapely Prose that my dear friend Jasie was at, and I got to meet some cool other folks, including some who’ve become Facebook and/or LJ friends.
But the first time I ever participated in a real-life FA thing was back in the spring of 2006 when I started going to Water Women Swim, a size-positive group of women that arranged for special hours three times a week at a local pool for fatties and our allies. The group has since disbanded—and that pool’s even been shut down—but if it weren’t for this group giving me a safe place to go swimming, I probably never would have gotten back into it and been able to go at the gym regularly like I do now.
There is something that I find so comforting, like a balm on my aching soul, to be around other FA people in real life. It’s like this gigantic barrier of worry and fear and anxiety is just… not there. Even with some of my closest friends in real life, the barrier is there. It’s not like my close friends say abusive things to me, but they do sometimes say abusive things about themselves. And they sometimes enjoy watching fat people be abused ala The Biggest Loser. And they sometimes berate themselves about the food they’re eating or the amount of time they’ve spent (not) exercising or any number of other things. And this doesn’t make me love—or even like—my friends any less, but it just means that I can’t completely let my guard down around them. I can’t be myself completely, because I’m not completely safe from PTSD triggers.
This is, in fact, how I’ve been able to come to the understand that I truly do have PTSD related to the body-shaming I’ve experienced over the years. I can be around people who disagree with me on any number of dearly-held beliefs, but when it comes to fatphobia, my PTSD is triggered. I consistently test as “introverted” in personality tests but I wonder if it’s because I’m just so exhausted from spending time with people always triggering my PTSD (rather than being exhausted from spending time with people because it’s an inherent part of my personality that would be there if I had not been consistently abused for decades).
So anyway, all that is to say, hanging out with FA folks in person is water to my parched lips. I love it. Even if we have NOTHING else in common, I can spend time with you and know that my body is not up for discussion, it won’t be critiqued (even silently in your mind), you won’t say anything (or be entertained by others saying things) that are abusive toward people whose bodies look like mine.
It is a gigantic, lovely sigh for my heart.
So Meowser and I were talking about possibly setting up a FA conference/retreat type thing in the Pacific Northwest. Wouldn’t that be awesome? To get away somewhere in the company of other like-minded people to think and talk and play and rest in a place that, if not completely safe of every trigger possible, would be a few days of respite from the fat hatred that saturates our culture and for many of us, even some of our closest relationships. I think we should do it!