No, you are not a queen just because your pantyhose say so. What, do you think the “HRH” in front of Queen Elizabeth’s name stands for “Huge Round Hiney?” Or that the “XXL” in your clothing refers to what number you are in line to the throne? Let me assure you, it does not. But I do truly believe, now more than ever, that marketing, political correctness and our society’s new found tendency to “understand” everyone and to thusly pander to their problems or even exploit them for commercial gain is largely to blame for the now epidemic obesity figures in the US. So if you are one of those people who went to see Wall-E and laughed throughout thinking that it was cute cartoon about a mostly silent robot rather than being a predictive social commentary on where we as a country are headed, you might want to stop reading now.
I do not spend as much time traveling inside the US as I do outside of the US, but when I do, I very often seem to end up in the Atlanta airport. And whereas I do hate most everything about it, there is one thing about it that I do love: there is no place else on this earth where I, at a very healthy size 8, can be made to feel petite. Bug like. As though I could be overlooked whilst sitting in a chair at a gate, sat upon and squished lifeless all the in the bat of an eye and without any realization whatsoever from the creature whose sitting caused said squishing.
Very often I am either en route to or returning from France, and given that “fat” is a swear word there, the positive reinforcement of my normality provided by ATL either being my last impression of the US, or my first reminder upon return is priceless. Yesterday, in the space of 80 minutes of sitting perfectly still and observing, I saw enough jiggling lard lumber past me to knock the earth from its axis. Seriously – how are we still here and not just floating remnants of a former planet? Or at the very least how does the earth continue to balance and rotate at all without the US tilting it to one side and eventually turning it into oval? How do some of these people not eventually become planets themselves and create their own gravitational pull and force field? Do they know for certain that their neighbor’s dog isn’t missing, or has it in fact been magnetically sucked in and suffocated in one of the layers of their atmosphere?
But what scares me more is that you cannot simply sit and look at these fine examples of America’s abundance and think innocently to yourself “ Gosh, bless their heart. Their enlarged, struggling for space, grease-decayed heart - I’m glad that’s not me. Why doesn’t someone tell them? Do they know? Oh, whatever…” and then move on. Because very often when you do move on – to the plane – you find that they are right next to you. Behind you, in front of you, all around you. And that you are on a 50 seat CRJ. You quickly calculate your own weight, the weight of the bags you have just checked, the weight of those around you, their luggage, and the fuel and you quickly become religious. Because suddenly their problem has become your problem.
Am I being “fattest,” that newly coined word which suggests that obesity is an unavoidable, pre-determined illness that defines a certain sector of society as protected and against whom their should be no prejudice? Yes, I am. Because by definition when another person’s issue begins to encroach upon your personal safety, rights, space or liberty, it is a public issue – not a private one.
In 2003 a small commuter plane crashed in North Carolina killing everyone on board. One month later the FAA ruled that the plane was over weight for its load capacity because the average weight of the passengers far exceeded the standard weight assumption used by the airplane industry to construct and execute seat plans on planes.
Last year, comedian Ricky Gervais was severely scolded in the press for remarks he made about himself – HIMSELF – with regards to his weight issues, his lack of discipline and getting fit. He essentially said that he, too, thinks society is to blame and that he wishes that when people see him in public rather than shouting out “hey, love you on The Office, man” they would say “hey, fat ass, get back in the gym,” because then, he might stop living in his delusions and realize that he needed to do something about his health. But he was crucified over his remarks. What does that say about us? That we have taken tolerance to a whole new level that now far more closely resembles ignorance.
So perhaps he’s right. Perhaps we should call it what it is. Maybe airlines should change their online booking function so that in addition to asking if you want coach class or first class, it will also say “and how many seats do you require for your great big bottom on this trip?” Maybe it should even go so far as to make you enter your weight so that they can properly balance planes. And maybe instead of having every sort of greasy spoon on earth available at the terminal intersections in the Atlanta airport, they should have the salad bar and café from Whole Foods as well as educational books on how not disintegrate your own flesh or the flesh of those around you with the friction caused by the rubbing together of your thighs. Maybe sizing charts for clothing should be changed to “too small,” “small,” “average,” “above average,” “freaking huge” and “are you sure this is for just one person?” Why aren’t children taught at school how to eat properly? A chef in the UK is championing such a cause to feed children better and to educate them about what is good for you, what your body needs and that other activities do exist that do not require just your thumbs. And that it’s safe to go outdoors. Where those strange tree-like creatures live. The ones that are called trees.
Wall-E is coming true. We are fat, under-educated, TV obsessed and lazy. And I’m not saying this because I hate my country. I’m saying this because no one else will. We read articles (the 93% of us that can read as reported in new statistics) about how we’re falling behind in the world marketplace. How we are less innovative, less important, less competitive. And soon? Obsolete. Yet we allow people to reinforce or imply that this is okay. But have you ever met one of the people in the big ad agencies on Madison Avenue who helps to construct the ad campaigns and packaging that tell you in every way that it’s okay and that “Big is Beautiful?” No, because when he or she turns sideways, they disappear. And even if you went looking for them you wouldn’t be able to find them because if they aren’t at work, they’re at the gym, out for a run, or in the bathroom doing a few lines. You’re being sold to by people who do not buy the product themselves.
Yesterday I was on a flight next to man who took two bags of pretzels from the snack basket, proceeded to inhale them in three seconds, then took his finger, licked it, and ran it across the inside of both of the bags to gather as much salt as he possibly could. He also, during the course of our 1 hour and 8 minute flight, consumed 4 gin and tonics. Was he large? Oh yeah. And red-faced and wheezing. And he kept staring at me with this horrendously bitchy look on his face. Maybe it was my clear skin, white teeth and youthful appearance. Or maybe it was because he was trying to figure out what I was writing. This, Mr. Arterial Clog, this. But I don’t have to worry about every seeing you again, because the way you looked to me, you died three paragraphs ago.