According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus (1988, p. 302), fat, as an adjective, has four groups of definitions/synonyms/related words and, as a noun, two, including:
1. “FATTY, 1″ ” adipose”
2. (The biggest, or, should I say, fattest, group) “having excess adipose tissue” The example given: “a fat woman overflowing her chair” (italics in text, underline mine). Synonyms and related words include: corpulent, fleshy, gross, heavy, obese, overblown, . . . bulky, chunky, dumpy, . . . squat, . . . paunchy, potbellied, . . .” And an idiom: “fat as a pig.”
3. “. . . oversize . . .”
4. “RESONANT, consonant, . . . resounding, . . . rotund , . . . sonorous, vibrant.”
(Coincidentally, while I was reading these synonyms, I was listening to Luciano Pavarotti singing “Nessum Dorma.” Portly, resounding, sonorous, vibrant– the positive embodiment of, at least, some of these synonyms. The companion dictionary includes “full in tone or quality: RICH < a gorgeous . . . bass voice” (2005, p. 456). Quite appropriate and, at least in my world, redeems some of the denotative treatments of the word.)
As a noun, the list of synonyms for fat includes:
1. “Best. choice, cream, elite,. . .pride, prize, top”
2. “EXCESS, overabundance,” four more over-something words, “. . . surplus.”
Synonyms and related words for fatty (p. 303) include blubbery, greasy, oily, blimp, butterball, fatso.”
The Thesaurus certainly sets the tone for the word fat, then social construction and usage creates connotations that seem to be increasingly negative as time passes. The article by Kent seemed to beat me over the head with the popular offensive implications of fat. Really? Do people despise me? Are my friends talking about how disgusting I am behind my back? Will I never be taken seriously? Am I ugly? Should I be ashamed of me? Am I doomed? Should I hate myself for not fitting in with societal norms? Are people treating me in a condescending manner? Is it really a lost battle? “Hell no!” to all of these questions!! I almost caved in for a bit. These things, by in large, have not occurred as things to apply to myself or others. Excess fat meant that I had gone through a few years of extremely stressful circumstances. I do not remember excessive eating, but do remember that the idea and ingestion of “comfort food” was a bit of relief when things were pretty touchy. Did having a messy house (I really do not like messy) mean I was fat and lazy? No — It meant that I was raising three children alone and working and driving their friends to activities because their two parent families did not have time, and participating in life, and being involved in their lives.
BUT, if our society picks up the more negative denotations of fat and society runs with it by creating increasingly negative and judgmental connotations, what is a person who is not skinny (the implication, as pointed out in one of the readings being that not skinny is fat with nothing inbetween) to do? My grandson says it all. He loves my tummy. He loves to cuddle up to me. I love him cuddling up to me.
I am cuddly — I am loving, I am gentle, intelligent, caring, thoughtful — I am independent — I have a great body. I love to dance and to do tai chi. Who cares if my body fits a societal norm? Who cares if my calendar age is over the hill? I don’t. I celebrated my 60th birthday with tremendous joy. I see it as a great achievement to be my chronological age and still feel ageless, alive, and invincible, with a great future ahead. My body is healthier now than it has ever been. I was skinny until after all of my children were born. Unfortunately, I was not necessarily healthy, especially as a child. At my last medical exam, my doctor said I did not have to return for a year, to “just keep doing what I am doing”!! I never heard that before! Yes, there are some concerns, but treating my body/me well is what is important and works.
I agree wholeheartedly with the folks who wrote the articles about fat that we read for class when they say dieting is not the answer. It is a mean thing to do to oneself. It is important to be kind and respectful to oneself and others. We all have lives, bodies, friends, adventures, positive and negative experiences. How horrible to be forced to live in a body that one abhors! Social constructions that enforce that kind of self loathing are cruel and unreasonable punishment. Isn’t that concept contrary to ideals of freedom and human rights? What right does anyone or any entity have to separate a person from her body, to sever the physical from the embodiment of the person?
FAT is a three letter word. The dictionary and thesaurus in cooperation with the development of meaning based on usage in society has done the word in. It is more vulgar and debilitating that the four letter word of the same initial letter. I prefer to use that four letter word. If society, a person, a group, an attitude, an implication, or a look suggests that, because of my age and body size, I am past my prime, am not desirable, am stupid, lazy, self indulgent, will not be successful, am at the end of my useful time, should sit back because it is mostly over, should pass the baton to the next generation, am ugly, should improve myself because I am obviously self negligent, or any other debilitating or insulting thing, I say “Fuck you!” I am alive! I am engaged in this adventure called life — me and my body, we are one and together.