Posted by Vandana Likhmania
“You all are the best”
Once upon a time, in early March of 2020, I experienced an eventful morning which completely transformed how I viewed my body and my abilities. Winter was on the verge of fading out. Every day the mist would lift higher, transforming into sweat beads on my back at midday. The leaves, no longer weighed down by dewdrops, opened wider to catch the light.
“Nine women had come forward and had unexplained slashes on their butts”
I woke up that morning at about 6 am, washed up, and left the house in carefully tied shoes, my earphones tuned to a murder podcast. I only intended to take a short walk around the neighbourhood and had not planned for what was to happen next. But there was something about the vacant streets that are so often inundated with people and vehicles that it is impossible to move; the metal shutters covering the shops, birds still cuddling in nests, the streets shrouded in a veil of the pure spouse of silence, and the cool air filling my lungs. Everything that morning contributed to my determination.
“A strange man accidentally dropped some clothes nearby”
My legs wobbled as I walked to a curb that led onto an empty downhill street. I felt apprehensive but also excited. Would I even be able to do it for 5 seconds? Or would I fall on my face? At least there is no one around to laugh at me if I indeed do, I reassured myself. My mind was made up. It was now or perhaps never. So I took a deep breath and began to walk gently, as if to keep my body from breaking apart, until I finally broke into a run, softly at first but gradually gaining momentum. My nose and ears were frozen. Cold sweat was trickling down my hot temple and cheeks. My hair, tied into a pony, was oscillating, brushing past the back of my neck. As I went faster, time seemed to slow down. My arms swinging, my knees rising, my feet hitting the ground; everything was moving in sync and it’s the cage of consciousness that kept me from seeing myself whizz down that road but it felt so exhilarating that I didn’t care. I saw reality pass me by and in that moment nothing seemed to exist. Not the line of colourful bungalows undulating along the street or the gray-haired man in sunglasses walking his dog. There was just me and my wildly throbbing heart, on a cool winter morning, running as though no one was watching and I had grown a perfect pair of wings.
“Started suggesting women to basically keep track of their asses when they were at shopping malls”
Once at the bottom of the road, I took a turn and ran a short distance further, uphill this time before walking back home. I had expected the experience to feel alien or uncomfortable. I had not run in years and not like I had no care in the world in much longer. But the entire sensation felt completely natural. And why wouldn’t it? Every able-bodied toddler learns to run once they begin to walk. It comes to them as easily as M, N, O, P comes for us after L. They don’t care what their bodies look like or who notices when they fall. But we lose that nonchalance somewhere along the run to becoming a grown-up. In a world that teaches us hate and profits from it, we internalise the inhibitions. My insecurities surfaced the day I became self-conscious of my body and how there was so much of me that I soon became too much for the world.
“Those lazy butt women”
Fat people are denied public spaces. We are shamed for our size, told to do everything in our power to stop being fat, and then ridiculed in gyms, on side-walks as we jog, or in swimming pools as we float hoping to escape the hate. The irony of humiliating someone, ostensibly out of concern, pushing them to exercise, and mortifying them some more while they do just that is not lost on any of us. An already unattainable goal of conforming to the beauty standards is made further unsustainable by inaccessibility. Plus-size and comfortable work-out clothing is a fantasy that might take years to materialise.
“Who was cutting women’s ponytails off on the bus”
Fat people are denied movement also in the sense that we are told we are unworthy of taking up space. That fat people are lazy and impervious to exercise and they don’t run because they physically couldn’t. We would combust from the heat and disappear if we did. Moreover the jiggling fat and the ton of sweat, god forbid that’s a sight anyone has to see. Just ignoring everyone around, tricking our brain to think that they are too busy to even notice us doesn’t work when getting fat-called, pointed, and sneered at are very real experiences of existing in a fat body.
“Put it up in a tight bun, hold that, and then just sit on your arm and cover your butt.”
And of course, the widely accepted assumption that every fat person who has ever existed in this world obsessed with thinness must certainly hate their body, want to lose weight, and if we see them moving, it must be with the goal to become thin. The years of discrimination and shaming is traumatising. So when we choose to stay at home instead of interacting with another person who explicitly hates us is an act of self-preservation and not laziness. It is much less emotionally draining to watch tv at home than to explain to people why it’s okay to be fat, why I don’t want to lose weight, why I don’t owe anyone thinness or health, or why I don’t want to join their weight loss programme (genuinely happened a couple of days later on another run).
“What a world!”
This is not a case for persuading all my fellow fat people to go out and run, despite their very valid reservations. I repeated the morning routine for a whole week only to conclude what I have always known. I don’t like running down empty streets early in the morning while listening to murder podcasts. I would much rather dance alone in my room or even go to the pool once that becomes a thing we do again. My inhibitions about running was a result of a lie we are told so often that we begin to believe it and it made me wonder, what else have they been lying about? That morning was a trigger that led me to researching the fat liberation movement and the glorious ideas of burning diet books and eating fried chicken, no-guilt-attached.
How we get our endorphins is our choice. So if a fat exclusive yoga or dance lesson is your thing, tell me how I can sign up too. And if maybe, by some strange once in a millennia occurrence you happen to enjoy running at 6 am, with your arms flailing, and hair glamorously flowing in the wind: you can do that too.
All quotes from My Favorite Murder podcast minisode 28
Featured Image Source: Chronicle Herald