by James Killough
There was a time when being fat was subversive. Back then, the fat bitch was the funniest, snarkiest girl in school, and made the best pre-out-of-the-closet fag hag a gay boy could have: she wasn’t portly and didn’t hang out with you because she wanted to be touched. She wanted good banter and someone who didn’t judge her, just what you wanted. The other kids might have teased you for being kinky for fat girls, but both of you secretly knew what the score was, just as she understood the dark quip better than anyone because she also came from a dark place. Together, you were developing your own brand of outsider performance art.
Now the fat bitch has become not only common and pedestrian, but worst of all something she despised becoming above all the things she despised becoming: pathetic, as in the true meaning of the word pathos: evoking sadness or pity. Now she has her own reality shows to encourage her to change, and celebrity versions of those shows, and tears are shed, threats are flung at her by the slender, eliminations are made, and the frickin’ First Lady is coming after her with a baseball bat in the form of a national childhood obesity program, “Let’s Move.”
If I were the classic fat bitch, I would be furious at being undermined by humorless food junkies with no will power, no ambitions, who are just sloth combined with gluttony. And don’t give me ‘disorder’ or ‘disease,’ please; that belittles people who are truly diseased and disordered. Every bona fide fat bitch or bastard I’ve ever been friends with has been nothing if not ambitious, a powerful force of nature, a terror of energy.
But, James, you ask, opening a bag of cheese doodles. What on earth has possessed you to go off on this insensitive rant?
This is what happened: Now that I’m in suburban Miami, I’m far away from the centers of slimness, expensive nutrition and designer exercise like New York and Los Angeles. There may not be an inch to pinch on the bodies of South Beach, but the fact is I’m in an area inland from Aventura and Sunny Island to the north of the city, areas which might be called tony if only someone paid Tony properly for the rights to use his name that way. But I am in, let’s be frank, the area where the people who service the tony communities along the shore live.
Pre-The Big Bust, this area of North Miami Beach was about to become one of the next neighborhoods to go from dowdy to hip. It has cute little well-priced falling-down Midcentury ranch houses only at most a mile from the homo trifecta of a Costco, a Whole Foods and a Target, houses that were just aching for a fairy queen to wave his wand over them. And then Florida in general and its real estate market in particular slid into the financial wetlands. No gentrification for Little Haiti in NMB. No Harlem renaissance here.
The problem with leading this gypsy life of mine and also being a red-blooded homo, who works out so much I smell like a gym locker room 24/7, is I end up paying for gym memberships in every city. That can get very expensive; back before the world economy slid into the Florida wetlands, I once realized I was paying close to $300 per month for memberships in LA, New York, London and India. That’s twice as much as the deluxe Equinox membership. (Note: For those with a similar problem, I recommend Golds. You are allowed a 14-day free pass to any of their gyms worldwide once a year, at each gym.)
If you’re in a city for just a short stay, then it’s easy to blag free weekly passes to gyms by pretending you’ve just moved to the neighborhood and are trying things out. I did that for the first couple of weeks I was here, but oddly the best gym in the neighborhood, Planet Fitness, turned out to be just $10 per month with no contract. I was deeply suspicious, but when I went I found a cavernous, super-clean, no-frills gym that had only recently opened. They had no free trial passes, a risky but maybe wise part of their business model, so I was forced to join on the spot.
The shtick of Planet Fitness is to take Crunch’s “no judgments” philosophy to such an extreme it becomes a judgment in itself, with all of the slogans that serve as the art on the walls. There are no scales, and if you drop the weights, the “lunk alarm” sounds. The lunk alarm is there to discourage the grunting steroid dude from joining. I kind of like that, even though I set the alarm off the other day by accidentally tipping over one of their largest dumbbells.
The gym is mainly black. I am perfectly used to being the Other: when I work out in India, or even just walk down the street I am usually the only white man, and everyone stares, openly, like it’s the polite thing to do. But in India everyone wants to talk to me. Not at Planet Fitness in North Miami Beach, for some reason.
Right form the start, these didn’t seem like normal American black people. It’s like I’m not there to them, or if I get to close, I’m a contagious creature that needs to be avoided. When I asked one of my producers in LA what she supposed was going on, because she’s black and knows about black things like I know about gay things, she replied via text, “Haitians don’t like whitey…. Whitey was not good to them.”
But what’s that got to do with me? I thought, but there is no room for a debate on “reverse” racism in a gym with an alarm that goes off if you even grunt too loudly, and most of the patrons are speaking some form of Creole in any case, and are probably petrified you’ll talk to them in English, like policemen in India.
Within the first couple of days, I realized why this gym was so gung-ho on the no-judgments ethos: their model is to go after the fat bitches and bastards on the run from the Great Obesity Witch Hunt. Just to be sure about my theory, I looked up the locations of their gyms, and sure enough they are located mainly in areas of high body mass, the Fat Lands of the American suburbs and flyover states.
So now I belong to a Haitian porker’s gym in suburban Florida. I even have a little card and a number that checks me in. Right on.
What never fails to put a smile on my face every time I walk in there is the Haitian fat bitches in cloth shower caps on the treadmills and stationary bikes. We are a long way from Golds Hollywood, baby. One of them even has a favorite t-shirt I’ve seen her wear three times now that says “CIA: Christ Is Alive.”
By now, I would normally have met some guy I can shoot the shit with in between exercises, but that is unlikely to happen with my status as Invisible Whitey. Race aside, I’m not in an area of the world where I’m likely to find a gym-goer who can follow what I talk about for very long, even if I remember to complete my sentences and not mutter extemporized free-form impressionistic prose poetry, which takes a lot of focus on my part.
When I asked about the shower caps, the Pretty Vapid Thing (PVT) at the front desk, whom they seem to procure from some global gym supply store because PVTs are at every gym, everywhere, shrugged her shoulders, giggled in that uniquely PVT way and said, “I dunno. Maybe they’re Rastas?”
“These are Haitians, I believe.”
“Rastas are Jamaican.”
“I know that. Tee hee.”
“I think their caps would also be more colorful. Is it some religious thing, do you suppose?”
“Um, I don’t know,” she replied with another shrug that implied Dude, just because I’m black, too, doesn’t mean I know what the fuck is going on in this neighborhood. I just work here. It’s Florida. I’m lucky to have the job, now piss off and enjoy your work out. Whitey. “Tee hee.”
When you get the second tee hee and the dazed blink from a front desk PVT, it’s time start your work out. I decided the shower caps have to be related to some local Haitian religious sect; the woman with the Christ Is Alive t-shirt is the indicator. Perhaps the cult leader has taken Michelle Obama to heart and degreed that fat is a sin and that’s why they’re all here, pedaling their little Christian hearts out, puffing atop the treadmill in fabric shower caps.
But specifically this rant was started because it is at Planet Fitness where I saw an episode of MTV’s I Used To Be Fat, which took on a surreal, post-modern quality because I was watching it while on an elliptical machine surrounded by moderately obese people trying not to be what they’ve turned themselves into, just like on screen. All joking aside, this is actually a pretty inspiring show, and if it’s in season two, then it must be doing reasonably well for MTV.
It’s about fat teens, but not the aforementioned subversive ones I was friends with in high school; rather, they are the pathos-inducing food junkies set from the same Jell-O mold as their parents, who are entirely to blame for their children’s condition. Like crack babies, these poor creatures were born screaming for a double-whopper half-pounder topped with melted all-American “cheese” and pork byproduct slathered in special chunky-fucker sauce on a toasted triple turbo-carbo bun with a side of curly crispy larded deep-fried fries and a vanilla chocolate strawberry caramel shake of reconstituted dairy corn syrup. And they want more.
However, unlike junkies and alcoholics, the fat bitch is no harm to anyone but herself, and maybe those seated on either side of her in economy with weak bladders. But with so many copycats out there, people who are just plain porkers without a true fat bitch’s snarky, operatic soul, without her outrage and her passion, what is she meant to do? It’s either lose weight herself, or pray that Michelle Obama wins the fight against common obesity so that she can return to be special and notable.
As for which of the eating disorders, anorexia or obesity, is the worst, I think it might be a draw. Obviously, the truly obese, the ones who can’t move, are an anomaly, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the difference between a runway model and a super plus-size girl. The only difference is a hundred or so pounds and a few dozen dress sizes, really.
But the only thing that makes the super-slim appealing is the way they look in clothes. Otherwise, jutting ribs and pelvic bones are as appetizing as a roast chicken carcass. If I have to make the choice between Jack Sprat and his wife, I would rather get jiggly with the blubber.
James, you say, exasperated, peeling the wrapper off a Snickers bar, you are relentlessly cruel with this f*t b*tch thing.
True, it’s become such a touchy subject, and I have no idea why. In Latin culture, if you’re fat, they call you “gordo” or “gordito,” and that’s it, no offence taken because there’s none given. It’s the adjective you are. However, my sister, the Lady Mayor of Tribeca, despite speaking flawless Spanish and nearly a decade in Venezuela, will not allow the word ‘fat’ said around her daughters, for fear they develop an eating disorder.
I’m the son of a fat bastard, and I’m a chip off the old genetic double helix, for sure. We’re like peas in a pod, except he is many pods heavier. For instance, no matter how many tomatoes I eat, how often I ejaculate, I am likely to get prostate cancer in my late 60s because he did. Boom. That’s it.
I fight the ferocious inner fat bastard Dad passed on to me with gusto, despite the fact that, as I age, he becomes harder to battle the more my metabolism slows down, no matter the on-going restrictions over my diet, the increases in cardio, the aforementioned hours spent giggling at Haitian dumplings in shower caps at the gym, six days a week.
So, no. While I love a genuinely unrepentant fat bitch, especially the ones who like to glam it up like Beth Ditto, most don’t have what it takes. I shed not a tear of sympathy for the common fat ugly American, or those in Britain rapidly following suit. Still, I’ll give them all the encouragement in the world… to get lap-band surgery courtesy their health plans, and to put the money they spend for extra food aside for a great personal trainer and a gym membership.
God, this steamed broccoli tastes fucking awful. Ho hum.
This post is dedicated to John Wood the plumber, who went from two tons of fun to muscle god sometime personal trainer without losing his fat bastard sense of humor. And to all the others out there who have kept company with my inner fat bastard over the years, across the continents: cheers and bon appetit!