Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
My mom always said that one day I’d wake up fat. I don’t know why she said that, but she was right. What she didn’t say was that the forces of history would be responsible for my enfattening. I’m writing this on Fat Tuesday, known in Acadian French as “Mardi Gras.” This year my birthday came one day before Mardi Gras. I’ve been told I can celebrate my birthday all month, which would make this month, unofficially, Fat History Month.
At the dawn of Fat History stands the Venus of Willendorf. At the end lies Rush Limbaugh, dead of lung cancer. If we saw Fat History as a straight-line journey from Venus to Rush, things would look pretty bleak. Luckily we have many branchings of the paths, tangents and co- tangents, wendings and wigglings, complexities and convolutions, as we’ve come to the fractal array of fatnesses today.
In the past we had the proud obesity of prosperity. Today we have the shameful obesity of poverty. Such a contrast of fatness and what it signifies belies the rich buttery goodness of the truth. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Lizzo is a hot, shiny, body-positive rapping flutist, not flautist, while the comparatively slim, clownish Tracy Morgan suffers from diabetes. Fat and slim evoke reactions based on the mores of the moment. It’s amazing how short-term such judgments are, and how little time it takes for the advertising wing of the food establishment to steer collective values toward what they need us to desire.
We are a fickle hivemind, a hivemind easily led by the nose.
The slender young woman has been a sexy, lighthearted flapper or a waifish hippie chick, both of them out for good time; an anorexic or bulimic victim of her own neuroses; a drug addict, a slave with no will to resist; a poised, dangerously seductive model who’s also a spy, or a gullible, soft- hearted film star sucked in by seditious rhetoric and finally caught in a secret policeman’s trap.
But buried deep under layers of adipose tissue is where the golden woman resides – the matriarch. Mama Cass was everyone’s mother, nobody’s lover. Rotundity stabilizes a woman. It gives her a center of gravity. It makes her practical. While the wind might blow away the willowy waif, the large woman will anchor her house firmly to the ground during the hundred- mile-an-hour winds of a hurricane.
But her obesity is also a sign of weakness, as it is with men. The fat man, though, has no stabilizing virtue. His lot is the pratfall, gullibility, the career ruined by orgies indulging the desires he ought not dared acknowledge. Fat men transgress if they aim too high. The fat woman never finds herself ruined because she never achieves success in the first place. She’s too practical to nurture ambition, and too unseductive to sleep her way to the top.
Fat men can be sultans, but never emperors. Was Nero fat? Seems like he was. But, generally, emperors rule with strength; sultans enjoy women, silks, figs, jewelry, and rule by merely displaying their wealth. Fat rulers are ostentatious and foolish, slender rulers are conquerors.
Queen Victoria was fat. If it weren’t for her reputation for priggishness and eschewing of pleasure, she might’ve been a figure of ridicule. Maybe she was anyway. Maybe she looked down on frivolity because she was never invited to partake in it.
Meanwhile, First Peoples of the Tundra are always happy, delighted by their children, in harmony with their inner worlds as with the outer.
In Hawaii, I’m told, big fat people let it all hang out. They’re all over the beaches, looking cheerful and unashamed.
How would history have been different if a chaste, dour, elephantine queen of England and a generously proportioned queen of the Islands had been lovers? Western women with wealth who are fat are pitiable, if proud. Island women who are fat are giving, smiling, bearers of mangoes.
Tarzan is lord of the jungle. He’s what they call a well-proportioned man. But who is his lady? Not Jane, she’s married to the lord of Greystoke Manor. The lady of the jungle must be the fat lady, laden with flowers, gathering fruits, friend to the exotic birds: the hornbill, the toucan, the lorikeet, the lyrebird. She grinds the flour, prepares the psychedelic roots for the shamanic ceremony. Where her physical body is burdened with too much girth to pass, she can travel with ease as formless energy.
The guru cannot be fat, though many are. Sai Baba was a bony, austere man in a drab dhoti, a white scarf wrapped around his head, living in a stone cell, eating nothing but air. He opened his mouth once and produced a glowing green, jeweled egg bigger than his head. He was a real man of the higher realm.
By contrast, the fat, grinning, afro-headed, colorfully-robed-and-beaded Satya Sai Baba, – ironically named, as Satya means “true,” and he was clearly the false one of the two – lived richly on the gross plane of existence. Eggs went into his mouth but never came out.
One gives alms to the emaciated beggar. A fat beggar will have to wait till he drops the poundage.
One of Donald Dump’s signature features is his obesity. The fatter he looked, the more disgusted we were, even though what was truly disgusting were his mind and soul, his words and commands, his lawsuits, excuses, denials, accusations, bullying, grifting, embezzling, bragging, insecurity, empty bluster. He was the opposite of a fat woman. A fat woman would never have been elected president. Nor a thin woman or a middlin’ woman, apparently. Fat presidents get stuck in their bathtubs. Or they clearly wear diapers while golfing.
Trump didn’t need to be fat. We could’ve hated him just as much if he hadn’t been. It’s just another line he crossed, just for the hell of it. Bill Clinton was fat for a while, I’ll remind you. But we chalked that up to his appetite for everything: sex, liquor, food, power. Somehow this joie de vivre never applied to Trump. He never seemed to enjoy anything. So it was really our disgust for him that made his obesity objectionable, not the other way around. He couldn’t pull off fatness, he made it look moribund, the way he couldn’t wear a suit to save his life, nor any other clothes, nor none. He was in no wise materially centered, and we never allowed him to be. And, yet, still, he lives. Maybe he isn’t done disgusting us yet, but neither are we finished tormenting his flesh.
Hugo Chavez was no slim-jim. But he was raised on manioc and other starches. He earned his fat during in his oppressed upbringing. Maybe Idi Amin did, too, but his girth was intimidating. His joie de vivre had driven him syphilitically mad.
Fat bikers are the most serious of fat men. They ride hogs.
There’s mad fat, and there’s sane fat; there’s earned fat, and there’s lazily-accumulated fat. There’s happy fat, there’s sad fat; there’s practical fat, there’s frivolous fat. There’s responsible fat and irresponsible fat. There’s tough, bitter fat, and sweet, ticklish fat.
Try to remember, during Fat History Month, that we each contain the entire spectrum of fat. If you are human, you are part fat, even if you think you’re 100% muscle. Remember that a woman must be fat before she’s a mother. We all descend from the Venus of Willendorf, that globe of origin. You can fear fat. You can shun fat. But I’d advise you to embrace fat. Fat is in you. When will Fat History Month be over? Maybe never. It bursts its limits. It ain’t over till the Venus sings.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!