Fat and Happy

[Content Note: Fat bias.]

"Fat and happy" is an interesting phrase. It's interesting because it's an idiom that means, in its common usage, lazy and content with indecency, or incompetency, or some other sort of insufficiency. It's interesting because it's an idiom deployed with sarcasm, indicating that fat and happy isn't ever a good state in which to find oneself.

If you're "fat and happy," something's wrong with you.

And if you're literally fat and happy, well, you must be lying. So goes the common narrative that any fat person, especially a fat woman, who claims to be happy is projecting a false contentment.

There's no way, assert the people who routinely challenge fat people's claims of happiness in our lives, that any fat person can really be happy.

And, truth be told, it's hard. It's really hard.

Sometimes it's impossible. And no fat person owes anyone else their happiness, any more than they owe anyone else their thinness. This is certainly not a piece suggesting that fat people have to be happy; it's a piece arguing that it's foolish and cruel to suggest that we can't be.

Happiness is hard for many people. Maybe everyone. It's not a fixed state. There are very few people, if any, who can say they are happy all the time.

But what fat people are told, loudly and often, is that it's inconceivable that we can be happy—or achieve any semblance of whatever variation thereof is under debate: contentment, satisfaction, joy, self-esteem—because no one can truly be fat and happy.


The thing is, it's virtually impossible to persuade someone who insists that a fat person can't be happy. People who try to convince others of their own happiness rarely come off sounding happy in the end, anyway—even if they are.

So I won't insist that I'm happy. I will, however, note that I'm lucky. A very, very fortunate girl—blessed by chance, touched warmly by the fingertips of providence. The fates shine on me.

You see, when people tell me that no one who's fat can be happy, luckily, I don't give a shit.

Luckily, I don't give a shit whether anyone believes I'm happy or not. I don't give a shit whether anyone believes I am happy, I don't give a shit whether anyone thinks I should be happy, and I really don't give a shit whether anyone thinks I would be happier if I looked different than I do.

Luckily, I'm all smiling, contented apathy in response to their furrowed brows, their firm insistence that I couldn't possibly be happy, given my big fat arse and my double chin and my stretch marks and my wobbly upper arms.

Luckily, I'm nothing but a chuckle personified at their sad desperation to prove that I'm secretly unhappy.

Funny thing, though—one of the main reasons I am happy is because I don't give a shit about what they think. That freedom from the oppressive shame they want to impose on people who look like me is itself a happiness.

And—spoiler alert!—it wasn't really just luck at all that I ended up with that freedom, although I am indeed lucky to have found supportive fat community; it was hard work and the will, the undiscouragable determination, to love myself and my body—my big, imperfect, transgressive body—for exactly what it is, whatever that may be.

It shouldn't require hard work and will, but it does—because everything around us is designed to subvert the profoundly rewarding and nourishing act of self-satisfaction. Of happiness.

The psychological freedom of caring about oneself, instead of caring about the happiness auditing of exhausting old shame-mavens, is pure joy.

The arbiters of my emotional life can believe whatever they need to believe to make them happy. Me—I'll be over here, blissfully indifferent and happy-go-lucky. Because that's what I've chosen to be, and I won't be denied the splendor of this freedom by anyone.

Especially not people who seek who dehumanize me by insisting that I do not have access to the full spectrum of human emotions, because of my deviant body.

As I've said many times before: It remains a radical act to be fat and happy. If you're fat, you're not only meant to be unhappy, but deeply ashamed of yourself, projecting at all times an apologetic nature, indicative of your everlasting remorse for having wrought your monstrous self upon the world. You are certainly not meant to be bold, or assertive, or confident—and should you manage to overcome the constant drumbeat of messages that you are ugly and unsexy and have earned equally society's disdain and your own self-hatred, should you forget your place and walk into the world one day with your head held high, you are to be reminded by the cow-calls and contemptuous looks of perfect strangers that you are not supposed to have self-esteem; you don't deserve it. Being publicly fat and happy is hard; being publicly, shamelessly, unshakably fat and happy is an act of both will and bravery.

I choose to be brave. That makes me happy.

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