My wife and I are going out to dinner tonight. I am waiting for her to get ready. She is in the bathroom, standing before a mirror, pinching her tummy. She asks if I think she is fat.
“No,” I say.
She frowns. “You sure?”
“Well, I feel fat.” She pinches a new region. “This doesn’t look fat to you?”
She readjusts. “What about from this angle?”
“How about when I turn around?”
“Are you kidding?”
“How about when I stand like this and hold my neck like this?”
“You look extremely uncomfortable.”
I can feel her getting ready to say it. And she most certainly does. “But… I feel so fat.”
My whole life has been spent in the company of women. When my father died, he left me in a house of estrogen. I was raised by a village of females. And in my life I have learned one basic thing about the opposite gender.
Many women think they are fat.
And they are always wrong about this, no matter what their size. Because the word “fat” is a disgraceful term, unless it’s being used to describe a ribeye. When applied to humans, this word is a synonym for “disgusting.” And I refuse to believe any human is disgusting.
Although it is almost impossible not to feel fat in today’s world of airbrushed spokes-models. Every printed advertisement and beer commercial tells us we are fat.
But it wasn’t always like this. Things were different 75 years ago. You never heard anyone saying Marilyn Monroe needed to try keto.
No. People weren’t obsessed with being skinny. Consequently, American families ate more bacon. And according to the wise old timers who came before us: The family that eats bacon together, stays together.
But things have changed. By today’s impossible standards Marilyn Monroe would be considered a Clydesdale. Barbara Eden, a Holstein. Ginger and Mary Ann would be kicked off the island.
Last week, I got a letter from Myra, who is 19. Myra confided in me that she feels overweight, and has felt this way since middle school. She has been on a diet for six months but it’s not working.
So she went to the doctor. He did what all doctors do. He ran tests and did blood work. This led to more tests, more blood work, then, just for the heck of it, an MRI.
Then came an obligatory consult with a high-priced specialist, a visit to a dermatologist, an herbologist, a zoologist, an ornithologist, and a qualified priest. And do you know what the doc concluded? Myra was in perfect health.
In the doc’s own words: “You’re a little on the skinny side, Myra.”
How can a girl who is skinny by medical standards still believe she is fat? How, I ask?
But then it’s not your fault, Myra. We’re all in the same boat here. And it’s not just women, it’s us guys too.
We live in a culture that tells us we’re ugly, fat, boring, and we need better insurance. We live in a civilization where people drive to the gym to walk on a treadmill.
Ours is a world where underwear models are selling everything from iced tea to retirement plans. It’s a world where regular-looking people aren’t considered regular anymore.
Yesterday, for example, I was watching a commercial that showed four or five young people frolicking on the beach without their clothes on.
The young men were shirtless and looked like Sylvester Stalone on diuretics. The females were clad in swimwear so skimpy it wouldn’t have fit on a pasta fork.
After 30 seconds of this, I still had no idea what the commercial was advertising—although I did feel like a North Atlantic whale.
Not that anyone asked me, but I don’t believe in these kinds of TV people. I believe in real-life people. And when it comes to the gentler sex, I believe in the brand of woman who raised me; regular women who were brave enough to be just that.
My people didn’t go in for fad diets. They believed in eating regular food like fresh okra, summer tomatoes, and biscuits cut with an upside-down coffee cup.
Certainly, I believe in health and nutrition, but I also believe in living a rich, full life that occasionally includes Almond Joys.
Also, I believe in loving what is in the mirror. I believe in keeping the television off more than it’s on. And I don’t believe true love has anything to do with tight abs, nice thighs, or bronze butts.
I believe in authentic love. The kind of love found among old married couples who are so comfortable with each other they take a six-day cruise to the Bahamas and go all week without saying anything more than, “Shut up, Herb, you’re snoring again.”
I don’t believe in TV-Commercial Guy, or Magazine-Advertisement Gal. And when it comes to women, I may be old fashioned, but I believe a woman’s magnificence has nothing to do with her body mass index calculation.
And here’s the thing: there are a lot of guys out there who feel this way about the opposite gender. We just don’t get much airtime.
So I choose to believe in the internal beauty of Womankind instead of her dress size. I believe in her quiet power, her bravery, her kindness, and self-assuredness. I believe in Myra. I believe in my wife.
And whoever you are, reading this, male or female, I believe in you, too. So in case someone hasn’t told you today…
You are not fat.