Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Pillsbury Doughgirl Speaks

     I am a big fatty. Let’s just get that out there right now. And this isn’t typical oh-I-have-ten-extra-pounds female insecurity, either. We’re talking Pillsbury Doughgirl here. As an American, this sucks a little. As a girl, it sucks slightly more. But as a person who used to be immersed in patriarchy, it’s the worst.

     Physical fitness is a big deal in that culture, which is odd for people who make a point of dressing specifically to hide the body. Being overweight was a sin. That’s not figurative speech or hyperbole, either. Carrying extra pounds literally meant you were living in sin and you had to repent.

     I only remember it because the author of a blog I was recently perusing placed it on his list of necessary qualities in a potential wife. The way he put it, physical fitness is a “requirement” for all/most “godly women” because it is an indication of self-discipline, which is a fruit of the Spirit. So, you know, he must be right.

     Let’s get one thing clear right now. Nobody faults this man for preferring an attractive girl (and as you know, being fat in only considered attractive in impoverished nations and the Renaissance), least of all me. Heck, I’ll rewatch entire episodes of Law and Order: Criminal Intent for the sole purpose of seeing Vincent D’Onofrio in short sleeves because his biceps are that awesome.

I couldn't find a picture of the biceps, but seriously, look at this man.
     No, he can wish for someone pretty. But please don’t spiritualize something that really does not need it.

     I’ll be the first to confess that my weight problems probably stem from character flaws (though, to be fair, it does run in the family). I’m an emotional eater; meaning that whenever I feel anything, I eat. Physical activity really is not my thing. Mostly, I just could never be bothered to care. These things may not be very good for me, but that is solely between me and God. They’re flaws, yes, but not flaws that make me a terrible person to live with. It all comes down to whether or not I care about myself enough to make an effort, and thus far I never really have. It has nothing to do with, nor any effect on, anybody else, and is therefore none of their business.

     So you can understand how annoying/ hurtful it can be when the pastor gives sermons on the sins of fat people. Which actually happened. More than once. The most influential (read: sociopathic) family in Repentance’s signature insult was Fat (and yes, they truly did have a signature insult). Being overweight was more than bad for you; it was a sin, darn it!

      Let’s widen (no jokes) the scope here a little. This isn’t the first time people in power have tried to force everyone to measure up to their personal standards. I imagine the original conversation went something like this:

     “Look, I think we can all agree that, as men of God, we shouldn’t have to be looking at fat people all the time. So why don’t we just force them all to get into shape through the healing power of guilt!”

     Sure, that sounds fabulous. Because fat people don’t face nearly enough stigma from American society already. A healthy dose of anorexia never hurt anybody, am I right?
It’s no coincidence that girls trapped in a patriarchal environment often develop eating disorders. If you’re already unhappy with your body, what better way to fix that than convince yourself that not only are you ugly but also a terrible person?

   You’ll be lonely forever because of your slow metabolism— also, God hates you.

     Guilt on top of guilt on top of insecurity. Isn’t that nice.

     They do it to everybody.

     We like our women sweet and obedient— and so does God.

     We like our men to be leaders and entrepreneurs— because the Bible says they have to be.

     We like classical music and hymns—  which is good because God said we had to. Somewhere.

     They’ll take some personality preferences, pull a few Bible verses (which are usually out of context), and voila! Suddenly you’re in sin because you’re the kind of person who likes to wear black nail polish. They have the power to surround themselves with people they like, and if they can’t find some, they’ll just reshape the people they already have until they fit the mold.

     I’ll be honest, life would probably be a lot more fun for me if the world’s male population all resembled Robert Goren, Jack Bauer, or Batman. But just because I prefer Batman doesn’t mean it’s wrong to be Spiderman. Or, whatever, Captain America. One man’s— or, indeed, one organization’s — personal preferences are not the law of God, and don’t let them tell you it is.

     How did I start this? Oh, yes, I was saying that being overweight, while it may be detrimental in many areas of life, is not wrong. And I still say that. Maybe no patriarchal guy will want to marry me, but that’s okay because I wasn’t really planning on it anyway. Marriage to a guy who slaps you with a Bible every time you gain five pounds would kind of be hell.

     Robert Goren doesn’t have rules like that.


  1. Andrea,

    Thanks for speaking from the heart. I remember taking you on that hike along time ago. I distinctly remember thinking that "Andrea is just not the outdoorsy type of person" (at least the way I imagine outdoorsy people). But you made it. You conquered. That was a very good lesson for me.

    Here is a little secret. You can't judge a book by it's cover. God gave you certain genetics. You understand that and you understand your connection to that reality. That is a great place to be. That is where growth starts.

    For a long time I never bothered improving certain areas of my life because the results of my lack of effort never showed up on the outside. I can eat whatever, whenever I want and I probably will never be over 155 lbs. Those are my genes. However, it was when I realized that I can't judge my inner discipline by the outside appearance that I truly understood maturity. Now, I do watch what I eat for a variety of reasons, but nothing has changed on the outside though.

    This push to focus on the outside of the cup is very dangerous. Hopefully your words will reach through the authoritarian legalism, and become a lifeline to others trapped in a prison by grasping at the outside of the cup for something to hold onto.


    1. I'll tell you a secret in return: at the time, I hated that hike, as I am sure you guessed! But it ended up motivating me to start taking nightly walks for the first time ever. And I really, really enjoyed them. So thank you, Micah. :) Also, your comment made my day.
      P.S. Your new blog is awesome.

  2. Andrea, I'm so sorry you had to felt that way at the cult or would even feel that way now. I can only say that you know God doesn't think you are fat. He created you just the way He wants. Every time I think of what an idot I was to take all of us there for so long, it makes me feel so ashamed. If ever I think back to the time we wasted there (which is seldom to hardly ever) and think of any of them looking at you or I as sinners because we were too 'fat' in their eyes, it just makes me want to blurt out and sing that song: I'M TOO SEXY FOR MY BODY. And you know what sweetie? We really really are.
    Your Dad

    1. Daddy, you are the best. Thank you for everything, especially for removing us from Repentance. You are the best person ever, and I am glad to have inherited the Sexy Gene from you. ;)

  3. As an anorexic... Amen sistah!

    1. BK, if these words blessed you in any way, then I am happy. :)

  4. Andrea,
    I have battled my weight all my life.
    It's no fun.
    Those who haven't been there have no clue.

  5. Hi Andrea,
    Thanks for sharing this. I'm sorry you ever felt this way. I think what you shared can be applied to all sorts of areas, not just weight issues - like music. Years ago the organ was viewed as the devils' instrument because it was played in pubs, but now it's THE instrument in traditional Churches. Thank you for sharing the grace and freedom in Christ.



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