Having Fat Friends Is Such Hard Work

Thursday night saw me absolutely fuming.  It takes quite a lot for me to lose my temper, but this really did it for me.  The article is by a journalist named Angela Epstein, who you may be familiar with from her unusual take on feminism.  Some time ago she wrote an article about how she dresses up to attract other men and so make her husband jealous, thus resulting in a happy marriage.  Um, what?  So that gives you an idea of the kind of views she puts forward.

This particular article, written for Best Daily – the website for Best magazine, is all about the pitfalls of having overweight friends.  The main thing that got my back up was not what Epstein was saying so much as her general tone.  It certainly came across as though she believes that she is somehow better than her “fat” friends because she happens to weigh less.  Now I’ve seen photos of Angela Epstein, and she seems to have a certain amount of weight fluctuation herself, so I’m going to assume that she is human and to some extent has to pay attention to her diet to avoid gaining weight.  I’m not going to comment any more on her physical appearance because I don’t think it has any real bearing on her article.

The first thing I took issue with was her descriptions of going out to eat with her friends who are losing weight.  Now, she claims that her friend said “wistfully” that she’d have the house salad whilst Angela was merrily ordering Welsh rarebit.  I may be in the minority here, but if I was the one ordering the salad, I’d feel pretty bloody virtuous and sounding quite smug in the face of an ordering decision like that.  I probably wouldn’t make it unless I really fancied salad though (particularly given that we are in the depths of British winter), I would have looked down the menu and found something else healthy that I really fancied.  And to take it a step further, I have never ever ordered a “cottage cheese monstrosity” in a cafe or restaurant, despite the fact that, as I said in a post last week, I happen to like cottage cheese.  Why?  I am yet to find a restaurant that serves it except the jacket potato van in town.  I have thought and thought about this, and the conclusion I have reached is that Angela Epstein is lying.  Sorry, I mean that Angela Epstein is using artistic license, and using clichés to make her point.  If her larger friends really do behave like this when she goes out to eat with them, then the potential conclusions I can reach are:

  1. Epstein’s attitude towards their size and their menu choices makes them feel that they should order the house salad, making them wistful and her (rightfully) guilty
  2. Epstein is projecting her guilt about her own menu choice onto them, perhaps realising that she is seeking to numb her own pain with food and risk becoming one of the fat people she so obviously despises, or
  3. Epstein’s overweight friends are all completely obsessive about their diets, forcing themselves to order meals that they don’t want to keep up to it and probably should seek professional help.

Next up, Epstein complains to her “porky pal” about having put weight on and her jeans feeling tight after a holiday blow out.  From the fat girl side of things, this sounds very much like Epstein trying to make herself feel better by snidely bringing weight up.  There are again three options here; the possible responses her friend could have given are:

  1. Lie.  As in “oh no, darling Angela, you can’t possibly have gained an ounce.”  Nice to hear, but still a lie from a friend.
  2. Tell the honest truth.  Maybe “yeah, you do look pretty fat today now you come to mention it” would do?
  3. Commiserate.  Like, oh I don’t know, “well you’re lucky, I can’t even remember the last time I got into my jean.”

I know which I would prefer from a friend, but maybe Angela wanted a different response.  (By the way, you can buy jeans in sizes up to a UK 28, so overweight people can wear denim too.  I don’t know where Angela’s friends shop, but they should look harder if they want to wear denim so badly.)

Finally, Epstein goes shopping with her overweight friends.  She dawdles over “little twinkly numbers” while her friends look in in envy because they can’t “shoehorn their spare tyres” into the same outfit but two sizes larger.  I think that’s what she was trying to say, but unfortunately she must have been working to deadline as the last few paragraphs are nonsensical so I had to make my best guess.  This, I think, is the worst part of the article for me.  I can’t entirely fathom the situation here, but I think they are supposed to be looking at clothes together for both of them to buy.  Why then, have they gone to a clothing shop where the sizes are only suitable for one of them?  Again, this screams of Angela purposely putting her so-called friends into a situation where their weight becomes an issue, simply to highlight the fact that she is thinner than them.  Incidentally, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to her that in this country it is actually very difficult for plus size women not to be able to find nice clothes nowadays.  There are numerous high street stores which do plus size ranges (so fatties and skinnies can shop together if they happen to be friends) as well as specific plus size stores.

There are a few points about the article that stood out for me.  Firstly, that the descriptions of her friends don’t ring true.  They may be caricatures of her actual friends, they might be her subjective view of them which seems to make their weight a focal point.  Or of course, perhaps she is making them up for the purposes of the article, based on generalisations which are not true.  In which case, I have to assume that the point of the article is to spark controversy and make her better-known in the field of “journalism” (see also her views on feminism.)  Secondly, if these are real people who all happen to behave this way around Epstein, there is a very good chance that it is her smug, self-satisfied attitude that is sparking defensive behaviour in them.  Frankly, I don’t think that Epstein deserves to have these “warm, loving, loyal” friends if she can’t accept them for who they are, and if she is uncomfortable expressing who she is around them.  I would be absolutely mortified if a so-called friend of mine wrote an article about how terrible I made them feel with my fatness.  Thirdly, I find it offensive that Epstein is bundling all us fat people together for the sake of her article.  She wouldn’t do that with other groups who had only one physical feature in common, so why does she find it acceptable to do it with overweight people?  And finally, I noticed that Angela Epstein mentioned a couple of times that she uses food to comfort herself – with the Welsh rarebit ordering and chocolate demolishing.  I put it to you then, that Angela Epstein has the potential for weight gain owing to psychological issues, and her nasty attitude towards fat people stems from her fear of becoming one of us.

Sorry for the long rant, and thanks for reading!