Free To Be Fat

What the fuck is it with the fat people complaining about love handles and low-rise jeans? Sure, fatties, wear whatever you want. Revel in your obesity. Go nuts. We're all happy for you. But damn, let's not pretend that seeing rolls of fat squeezing up from your too-low pants is attractive, for God's sake. Even many thin people look bad in these pants. They are just not attractive--if you've got hips, and many women do, these pants are a bad idea. End of story. Nothing wrong with having hips. Plenty wrong with squeezing those hips somewhere they just don't fit.

As for all that angry fat-hating mail, I don't question anyone's right to stuff themselves constantly until they weigh 50 or 100 pounds beyond what would be healthy, but please, standing around yelling about how we others absolutely must find that attractive is just silly. You're free to be fat. I, in turn, am free to find that not attractive. Especially when you wear something that showcases all that extra fat you're dragging around. It's perfectly possible for a fat person to look attractive. It in no way involves squeezing yourself into ill-fitting clothes. That goes for fat girls, fat boys, hairy-backed men, anorexic women, and all others out there.

Tired of All That Whining

AS A WELL-TRAVELLED physical educator, I am astonished at the type of fat-justification that goes on in the United States. Our society, as a whole, is obese. More than 50 percent of deaths in this country are due to CVD--coronary vascular diseases--which include heart attack and stroke, just to name a few. There is mounting evidence that breast and prostate cancers are related to excessive consumption of fat. Recent articles in the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance show that our poor eating habits start in childhood, and that the U.S. has more obese and out-of-shape children than any other industrialized nation. Those who are in denial might take a look at John Robbins's Diet for a New America if they have a strong stomach, or, if they'd rather just see the growing body of evidence without any analysis, they should watch the recently released Super Size Me.

As you are coming to understand from the many letters you are receiving, obesity in America is almost more of a social problem than a physical one. The effects of overeating are physical, but the causes are myriad and often difficult to overcome. These range from the unprecedented availability of unhealthy food in our society to a culture of "blame the other guy" to the pace of life. Genetics has not been shown to be a major component in obesity in the majority of people. As with alcoholism, many obese people are in denial, and as such, approaches that emphasize compassion and understanding, but also common sense (eat less fat and sugar and exercise more), are needed. Counselling is needed just as much as exercise.

As a parting shot, my wife, who has to buy small or petite sizes here in the States, has to buy large sizes when we travel in Europe--this is how skewed America's sense of health is. Europeans are not undernourished, as we'd like to believe; Americans are over-fat and being politically correct about it won't change the fact that obesity is unhealthy.

Dr. Feel Bad

I'M A BIG fan of your column and your book, so I was disappointed to read that you've been sucked in by all the current hysteria about so-called "obesity". I was especially taken aback by your reference to Greg Critser's ignorant and bigoted screed Fat Land as a "brilliant" critique of our supposed obesity epidemic.

Actually, if you look beyond the alarmist junk science cranked out by diet doctors pushing their useless, expensive, and dangerous cures for an imaginary disease, you'll find a situation quite similar to the medical community's attitude toward sexual orientation a generation ago. A fat person is no more diseased because he or she is larger than average than a gay person is diseased because he or she doesn't share the most common sexual orientation. The claim that fat people choose to be fat is quite similar to the claim that gay people choose to be gay. In other words, it's not completely false--it's only about 97 percent false. And attempts to make fat people thin have been about as constructive as attempts to make gay people straight.

As for the claim that fat is a major health hazard, it's wildly exaggerated, as is the claim that losing a significant amount of weight and keeping it off improves health--even if this were possible, which it isn't for the vast majority of people.

Anyway, I've just published a book about all this, which you can read about here:

Paul Campos

I REALIZE YOU'VE gotten tons of response about this, but I'll add one more anyway: A few years ago, it was possible to buy jeans and other pants with a somewhat lower rise than the high-waisted pants associated with those that Mom wears. These were actually pretty attractive on most people, sat just a couple of inches or so below the natural waist, did not squeeze at sides, et cetera.

The problem is--and trust me as someone who just spent several weeks trying to buy a new pair of jeans--styles are totally different now. It's pretty much impossible to find jeans cut like they were a few years ago, and instead everything is ultra-low-rise, super-low-rise, et cetera. These jeans begin about a half-inch below where pubic hair starts. Even without the problem of side meat, or GLH, or whatever you want to call it, this is not at all attractive. The mom pants are still an option, but they have their own problems.

This isn't even really about obesity/body image/et cetera; sometimes (most of the time, really) it's just not appropriate to walk around with your ass and pubic hair poking out of your jeans, no matter what size you are.

I capitulated and bought a pair of jeans that are way lower than I wanted, and I do my best not to expose more of myself then I want to, but I ask you not to judge us of the low-waisted jeans--we do the best we can--and, although I realize this is not a shopping column, I would welcome suggestions for other styles, et cetera.

Low Riser

I HAVE A small addition to make to the "girl love handles" debate. Most of the girls I see with low-rise induced GLH are slim girls who think there is something prestigious about shoehorning themselves into a pair of size 2 jeans when they really ought to be wearing size 4. As a size 16, it's a relief to see that even slim girls can make ridiculous fashion mistakes that make them look like whales. It just goes to show that "skinny" does not equal "looks good in everything". All women should check the rear view before they leave the house. (And what's up with capri pants? It's not enough to look fat; they want to look dumpy, too? I don't get it.)

Yours sincerely,

Curvy Girl With Fashion Sense

JUST WANT TO say thank you for being a voice of reason in this otherwise easily inflamed, non-reading-Dan's-actual-words, crazy, fucked-up society. As a woman who occasionally wears low-rise pants (but not with cropped shirts, good lord) and is among the large percentage of woman who don't really look all that great in them, I was not in the least bit offended. You are 100 percent right. And I just finished reading Fat Land and I agree: we can't even talk about our huge obesity problem (one that will cost us taxpayers millions of dollars in medical care) without someone taking offence or saying that it will cause women to become anorexic. That, in my mind, is the bigger problem. We live in a crazy, fucked-up world, Dan. Thanks for speaking up.

Low-Rise-Wearing Fan

OH PLEASE! "I eat right, exercise, and enjoy excellent health as a happy fat chick." Please tell Marilyn that if she ate right and exercised she would not be a FAT CHICK! I was a fat guy of 300 pounds until I started eating right and exercising. A funny thing happens when you eat right and exercise: You lose weight!

Now a Former Fat Ass (NAFFA!)

SORRY, DAN, BUT you're wrong on this one.

While you certainly have the "it's a free country" argument on your side, you set the parameters of your column as Savage Love: love, sex, dating, relationships, et cetera. This is what your readers have come to expect, and you do those topics well, and with a sense of irreverence that is refreshing.

But fashion opinions? Please, no. While I agree with you on the low-rise/inappropriateness epidemic, I just don't think your column is the place to debate the topic. Leave that to the "Fashion Police".

And the "fat is unhealthy" angle? Um, pot, meet kettle. I scarcely need remind you of the disease that is nearly synonymous with the minority population you occupy. Asking fat people not to be overweight because it's unhealthy is like asking gay men not to cruise because it's risky. We all have our little vices, and we all reap the hazards. Stay with what you do best, Dan. Please.

Loyal but Dissenting

THERE ARE FEW things on this earth that irritate me more than people harping about how all people are equally attractive and deserving to be thought of as so regardless of weight. It is only a symptom of our culture's need to veil harsh truths in order to avoid confronting them. Speaking as a fat, hairy-backed man myself, I would like to play devil's advocate and suggest that (while there are exceptions) there is a standard for attractiveness among all humans, and if you do not care to have the sharp end of this standard pointed at you, lose the goddamn weight and shave the goddamn back. Everyone is not equally beautiful, and everyone knows this--even those who would cry fascism to the people who admit this out loud. As for me, if I ever do care to be seen ranked among the attractive, I know what I'll have to do... Until that day, I'll keep working hard to become rich, a quality that swiftly negates physical repugnance to all potential female prospects.

Contented Fat Load

I'M A FORMERLY skinny guy who has put on quite a bit of weight after my girlfriend nagged me constantly to do so. I've put on enough that I'm starting to be able to pull some love handle on my sides. I used to look like a cute, skinny little fag boy (you might have liked me in my tighty-whities back then), but now I just look like another well-fed American. I don't like my body as much, but she loves it and says so all the time. In response to all the talk about who should wear what, I think it's important to note that it's strictly a matter of personal preference, and it can be fuck-all confusing if you try to pander to too many people's tastes. Just make sure the one you love is happy and everyone else can turn their heads if they don't want to see you.

Can't Please Everyone

HAS THE WHOLE world gone completely off into the deep end of the hypersensitivity pool?

I am a size-12 woman living (quite happily) in a size-2 world. If women could be honest with themselves they would recognize that 90 percent of the fashions for "women" on the racks these days are designed for women who have no boobs, waist, hips, or bust (two percent of the female population--MAYBE) and look like hell on the rest of us. I cannot criticize BWYR, because he is right. I myself flinch every time I see another woman who has deluded herself into thinking she looks good in clothes that THE FASHION INDUSTRY dictates are currently "in". I flinch not because these women look bad enough to shame the rest of us, but because they don't seem to know any better.

With a little careful shopping, and an understanding and acceptance of her individual shape, any woman can easily create a wardrobe that is both stylish and flattering. Personally, I refuse to allow the hive mentality of a multibillion-dollar industry to dictate what I can and can't wear.


A REAL Woman

MARILYN WANN IS an embarrassment to this fat feminist.

Writing a letter full of "fuck you", boring clichés, and exclamation points is not going to get any point about "fat liberation" across to anyone. I have always been a big fat girl. I also exercise 30 minutes a day, have an on-my-feet job, and have been vegan for years. I love myself and my body. I think I look pretty ridiculous in low-rise jeans, and think many of my fat peers do, too. I'll also never look good in yellow. Boo hoo. "A true fat rebel would ignore the low-rise dictates of the fashionistas and wear pants that flattered her larger body, leaving the low-rise pants for cigarette-smoking, Chardonnay-swilling, solid-food-avoiding fashion victims out there." Bravo, Dan. Thanks for being the voice of reason in this world of walking on eggshells about people's feelings.

Fat Girl in Upstate New York

WHERE THE HOLY fuck do you get off saying what hairy-backed men are or are not allowed to wear? Here's some news, Dan, for you and all your hair-hating, Schick-worshipping buddies: Men's bodies belong to men. Fuck you and your fascist beauty standards. Contrary to popular belief, not every man wants to bow down and worship at the temple of your shiny, glabrous shafts.

FUR-IES say fuck you! It saddens me to know that you continue to cling to your hair-hating prejudice. The same attempts were made to stuff queers back in the closet, just as you are now attempting to stuff proud bush rebels (and our proudly fur-lined ass cracks) back in our closet. Fuck you! You're not required to like us or look at us or fuck us, but you are required to stay the hell out of the way of our pubes!

Take a letter about "men's hairy backs", mix in not one but two mentions of shirtlessness, and publish. The result? Thousands of men all over the country developing razor burn, hair-wax pimples, and laser-treatment debt, all because they don't fit some arbitrary standard of beauty.

The Fuzz Liberation Front

I am a theatre costumer and designer. And while it is true that the populace by and large does not have body types suited to most of the major fashion trends, the real issue is that most people are morons when buying clothes. Take low-rise jeans. I happen to be very short-waisted with a curvy figure. Jeans are always cut too high on my torso. For me, low-rise jeans are a godsend because they help lengthen my waistline and give the illusion of more balanced proportions. This information is boring, I know. But here's the deal. I am not a ridiculously thin person. I've got a little padding around the waist, yet I manage to avoid the Girl Love Handles. Want to know my secret? I buy pants that are my size!

See, the issue with the current fashion trend isn't that fat people or pleasantly plump people or even skinny people can't wear low-rise jeans. The issue is that women are so worried about fitting into the smallest size possible that they buy clothes that don't fit them. If it's snug, go a size bigger and the GLH go away. It's like magic.

I've had to costume many different body types in my day, and the problem with styles is that you have to figure out which ones work with what you've got and which ones are unflattering. Unfortunately, most people are so worried about the numbers in the pants that they don't pay attention to what actually makes them look good. They believe that if they can squeeze into that smaller size, they're a better person. Well, it's bullshit. The epidemic isn't the low-rise jeans; it's the belief that the smaller size is always more desirable. Come on, ladies. I can't see the label, but I can see the body trying to escape from clothing that's too small. If the fabric can move a little, your body will thank you.

Tight Is Not a Good Fit


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