Fat Girl Friendships
Beyond shallow and rhetorical body positivity, Laura Marie Marciano reflects on the magic that comes with being present with other fat women.
I am sitting at her vanity, applying her mascara. There is makeup piled onto the small table. The mirror in front of me is framed in black plastic that looks like Gothic wrought iron. The Brooklyn room is decorated for Halloween, but it is July. Annie is on the bed, in her black bra and leggings, also putting on makeup.
“Isn’t it great to get ready with other fat girls?” she says to me, and laughs her deeply comforting laugh.
I just smile nervously at Annie and feel the lens of shame zoom in on my body. I have gained nearly 30 lbs after a traumatic romantic failure and I am far from ready to embrace the word fat. How could she be happy about being fat?
“And I bet when you were in middle school you were like best friends with the hottest, skinniest girls, right? They all do that – they need a fat friend to make them feel better about themselves!”
Her candid remarks sting me in places I forget still hurt. How much fat-phobia do I possess in my own body? How might it be measured out? I recall how my fondness for Virginia Woolf gravely diminished when I found out her disdain for fatness – calling fat women “chew-ers,” lethargic, and in terms of family reproduction and femininity, the heterosexual unthinking. The idea that fatness was equated with a lack of sophistication, nuance, queerness, or most commonly, work ethic, had been taught to me by both friend and enemy. And here was Annie, defying this in her confidence, that fat was nothing one should be ashamed of, or even more radical, something that ought to be changed!
Was I overweight in middle school? As a young adolescent I was occupied with preparing a face more than I am now – and I had a lot of conventionally attractive, ‘hot’ female friends. If I had been fat, and they needed me to feel better about themselves, didn’t I also need them to feel better too? How weak was I to have to surround myself with the shiniest people in order to raise my self worth. Much of this has shed through the years, yet it still feels exciting to be friends with a hot person – it is just my definition of what this means has matured and softened and been politically altered.
I think back to my cheerleading skirt and how it fit my body, to the boy who said I looked better with my clothes off and spread that opinion around the lunchroom in eighth grade. I know I had not been overweight at the time – but I had matured early and had visible curves. This made me a commodity to the boys and girls, and I felt protected by their thinness, their curiosity about my body. Now I might see this as them fetishizing what they didn’t have, and wanting it for their own. But then it just felt like a tug of war for what we could get from one another to feel ok.