When Dominik and I decided to start Writers for Dinner, I was afraid it was a terrible idea. Not because so many folks who set out to blog do so without thinking about how much work it is. I knew that it would be work, but it’s work we both love. Not because I thought we couldn’t get great writer-guests. I’m a PhD student in Creative Writing at Ohio University… I know lots of great writers, and many of them are also broke graduate students, so I imagined it would not be that hard to get them to agree to let us feed them dinner. Not even because I was afraid nobody would read our blog. I knew that the great writing of our guests would bring an audience and it has. (Thank you, readers!)
No, I was scared because I’m a fat woman and, in spite of having worked pretty much my whole life to overcome my internalized fat prejudice, I still have a tiny voice inside me that says fat women shouldn’t eat in public… and food blogging seemed like eating in public taken to a new level.
A photograph from the early twentieth century of the head and shoulders of an older woman in a black dress. The photograph makes it obvious the woman is a person of size.
My great-great grandmother, Sheva Baila Polan ran a nobleman’s dairy on an estate in Lithuania.
First, let me say that, like our Summer Tour guest Laura Bogart, I acknowledge that I choose to be fat. Unlike Laura, my fat is not armor or tied in any way to unhappiness… my fat is half genetic predisposition and half a love of the voluptuary pleasures of great food. My fat is perhaps the most transgressive kind… it’s the joyful fat of taking pleasuring in, rather than disciplining, the body. It’s the fat of saying yes to second helpings and no to spending more hours than my body needs me to spend in order to be healthy trying to negate the calories of those second helpings at the gym. It’s the fat of my great-great grandmother Sheva Baila, of my great-grandmother Bertha, of soft-bodied women everywhere who spend their time and energies on things other than being thin.
I am most comfortable with my body at just about exactly 200 lbs. When I get above that weight (as I am right now… I’ve gained 15 lbs during this joyous first year of marriage, which I understand it actually a thing), I work to bring myself back to it, but when I get there, I stop. I know that I can get to 200 lbs by getting about 50 minutes worth of brisk exercise five times a week and eating sensibly. If I want to get below 200 lbs, I have to make losing weight one of my jobs. It takes a couple hours at the gym every day and the kind of obsessive food-tracking that, frankly, takes too much time away from my other work for me to be willing to do it. I want to be a good writer, a good professor, and a better-than-good partner. That takes a lot of time and effort and I’m not willing to cut back on the work I do in any of those areas in order to also be thin. It just doesn’t matter that much to me.
Dominik and Sarah sharing a piece of wedding cake. In the photo it is obvious that Sarah is a person of size and Dominik is not.
The groom and the (fat and happy) bride share a piece of wedding cake.
But although I am comfortable at 200 lbs., the world is not comfortable with me at that weight. Last year, a colleague took a sweater-capey thing I keep in my office for chilly days and used it to costume her “Fat Sarah” performance in the hallway outside the main office of our department. I happened to catch her in the act, and she was so comfortable with the idea that fat-shaming is okay, she never even apologized. She just said, “I took this (the cape) because I was cold,” and then went right back to the conversation she had been having. During our recent trip to Austria, my husband’s aunt–after feeding us a lovely dinner–gave me a diet book written in German (which I don’t read) because she assumed I was unhappy about being fat and wanted to be helpful. I love Aunt Elizabeth very much, but I was heart-broken that she would feed me and then suggest I shouldn’t eat the very food she’d just served. These sorts of casual reminders that the world thinks I should care more about my size than I do are omni-present. Facebook constantly bombards me with diet ads. Friends often compliment me by telling me an outfit is “slimming,” which isn’t actually a compliment because it means that I look good because I’ve managed to find clothes which hide the reality of my body. It gets tiresome.
And so, when Dominik and I decided to launch a food blog, it took me a while to get comfortable with the idea that I was going to be public–as a fat woman–about my love of food. I’m lucky to have a partner who is supportive when I need to put in the effort to get back to the weight I want to be, but who isn’t invested in my being anyone or anything other than who I am. Who is okay with the fact that I am a person of size. It helps me to remember that I am also okay with it, and that it’s the result of choices I make and of which I am not ashamed.
So, won’t you come over and join us for dinner? Because I love food even more when it’s shared with good friends.