Monday, January 30, 2012

Poverty: The Wolf At The Door Trying To Gobble The Fat Lady Up

link to cartoon

I am lucky to be online.  Who can afford an Internet hook up, when there is food to buy and rent to pay? The only reason I am online, is the Internet is a necessary work-based tool for one family member and a marketplace on occasion even for myself to sell things. One generous friend also helped with the computer some time ago. I have had the blessing of some education and a way around a computer, but it can feel lonely out there.

Nothing against you well-meaning people out there getting the 'treat the fat people fairly" message out there too, but sometimes when I read the blogs about the vacations, jobs, NAAFA conferences, fancy fashions, I know I am living in a different socio-economic universe. People like me who slide through the cracks usually are not blessed with Internet access. Most disabled fat people are living on very small fixed incomes, that preclude computer ownership and Internet access, in other words, people in my boat, on the web are probably rarer in number though I have met a few.

Trust me, I appreciate it, as I take nothing for granted, once living without a phone, a car, a working stove, and almost the apartment itself. Homeless has loomed over me a few times in life. Today I have good friends who would not let me hit the streets but those things stay with you. I'm one of those people who is thankful to God if there are groceries in the fridge and money to pay the rent.

I have thought more about how poverty has influenced me as a fat person.  I believe the poverty and severe weight problems have had an interesting relationship and are connected to one another. The other day, I was talking to a newer friend about my past, and realized to my horror, that I was telling her, how I was going HUNGRY in my early 20s, and how there was no money for groceries, and realized that too was part of the picture, that the feast and famine stuff, did no wonders for my metabolism either. It was quite strange remembering those days of actual hunger and having no food, and one time having nothing but a carton of eggs in my refrigerator, box of spaghetti and a loaf of bread for a week's worth of food. Spaghetti mixed with hardboiled eggs and mayonnaise probably was not a healthy dinner. That young and naive', it would take me years to figure out how to seek help if needed.

I have written about some of these things in previous articles:

"The Sesame Street's Puppet of Hunger"

Obesity Risk May Be Lowered By Moving Into A Better Neighborhood

"The Bus is No Fun"

Squeezed Out of the Job Market For Your Body

Poor People And Fat

The Conflation of Poor and Fat

Poverty and Fat: Food is So Expensive Now.

and a few others even.....

How does one even dare to talk about these things? I know even admitting these things is enough to get the rocks thrown, but I figure this long down life's road, what does it matter anymore what any of my detractors think? I am no one's victim and have survived things, that probably would have left many flattened. Even to survive being near 700lbs, I had to throw out what I was being told, and demand real answers. Trust me at this size, you either buck up and learn to stand up against your haters, or you end up totally flattened.

The Poor are left silent. Think about how the working class, and other poor people have been disenfranchised even in our own media, I laughed watching Laverne and Shirley on TV the other day thinking, wow they used to show REAL people or actors who were as real average people, you know 80% of the populace instead of just the ultra rich. Outside of the TV show "Roseanne", poorer people [well except ones they showed being arrested like on Cops] disappeared from our TVs and Roseanne the show was ruined when they all won the Lotto, and left the rest of us "poor saps" behind. Supposedly the star of Roseanne is bringing back a sitcom about poorer working class people living in a trailer park. 

That said, the same applies to FATDOM, frankly I see a navel gazing, upper class, academic world, on some of these fat websites and places. Where they tell me to care about things, I could care less about? Why are they so pretentious?  Do any of these types ever deal with what is real, or are the fancy terms meant to cover up lives they really know very little about. It didn't escape my attention that "class" was left off the "fat intersection" list. What is fat intersection? LOL  Hey most of these academics aren't dealing honestly at least publically with the college bubble or the failing American economy either. Maybe they will when it all finally hits home. 

I know the class divisions are even there in the size acceptance world, the people able to afford $500-$1,000 bucks for travel and hotel rooms for the latest NAAFA conference or other size acceptance social event live in a different universe then I do.  I sometimes wonder to myself how can people not see how the country is on economic life support or where things are going in a wide variety of areas? Sad to say I see some as living in delusional bubbles. Can one really "celebrate fat" in a country where 1 out of 7 people are now on food stamps? What does that mean when there are people struggling to feed their families? How many normal average Fat Joe Sixpacks and Janes even know about NAAFA? I find myself having to explain what they are to the majority out there STILL.

One thing I know this fat blog lacks the perkiness of many others out there. Most of the fat acceptance blogs, not ALL thankfully, are focused on trying to sell how great it is to be fat. I know I haven't done that. The things that are great in my life, are IN SPITE of the fat. Sorry there is no salesman of fat here. Forget accepting FAT, how about accepting and treating people right?

 I take refuge in my hobbies, spend time with my husband, do volunteer work, call up my friends and try to focus on happy things, but sometimes when sitting down to write, I want to give myself a break from my 'social face' and talk about what is REAL. In other words, I don't want to have to be fake on my own blog especially a blog that deals with being so hugely fat and the resulting ramifications. Americans as a whole are busy putting on their happy face, while this country crumbles down around them and our insane leaders even speak of more wars. Well I refuse. I know I ruffled a lot of feathers out there, talking about things, and often am ignored or outright banned in a lot of the fat venues, but going to use my freedom of speech as long as I can, before Obama manages to sign that right away like he did most of the Constitution with NDAA.

Looking back at my life, I often have wondered why money seems to elude, even pre-disabled days, working so hard at so many jobs, I wondered why my pay was so little. I do not think I wasted money and tried to be frugal but all best efforts end up in a heap of dust. Even when I lived in one huge metro city, I thought back and realized I was paying nearly $500 a month on rent alone, more then 40% of my residential counselor take-home pay. But one thing, being educated, this happened to many others, while our voices have been marginalized by the mainstream media out there, this has been reality for millions.

Many fat people are poor too, there are more fat poor people and our numbers are huge. So whose speaking for the poor people struggling with obesity and trying to maintain a semblance of health in a world that seems intent on marginalizing them into voicelessness? Ever notice most of the ANSWERS out there, take COLD HARD CASH?

At least this person seems to get it: "Obesity is about poverty and cheap food, not a lack of moral fibre"

One thing many fat people not only face is the shame of a fat body that others try to foist upon them, but also the stigma and shame of poverty and we know that fat people especially those dealing with the upper ends of severe obesity face health issues [whether they be the cause or the result] and if still able to work serious job discrimination. Even on size acceptance websites, they talk about weight costing real dollars. Some out there see the correlations, and it goes both ways, if you are fatter, more job discrimination, and also the fact that poverty and obesity go together:
Your income and social status are written all over your body, Adam Drewnowski says.
Drewnowski is an epidemiologist. He directs the Center for Obesity Research at the University of Washington in Seattle, and he lectures frequently. "I can pretty much guess the income of an audience by the number of obese women in the room," he says.
"If one-third of my audience is obese, I don't think, 'Oh, my God, these are people with weak willpower or who made bad choices.' I say, 'These are women who do not make more than $40,000 a year.'"

  Being raised by a upper middle class family with some relatives that just told me what a failure I was in many different ways despite a college degree and nearly another was very painful. While some remained helpful, the unwritten message of condemnation was there. For the ones, who never lived it, you just couldn't bring them to understand. For you see, my being fat was not the only crime against what some of them expected me to be, but also falling down the economic ladder.

 One thing I faced, considering money, even during my art teaching/social work days, and the rest, the jaded eyes looked down at me clucking their tongues, because I was not able to replicate the suburban home with giant flat screen-TVs and new carpeting and cars in the drive-way. Honestly, that type of life is not one I ever wanted. Recently, even one uncle basically called me a "deadbeat" on a social networking website. But dealing with an extreme narcissists, this is not someone you can go to and discuss "hurt feelings", they will cut you off at the pass and tell you to "Relax", and "you are making mountains out of molehills!". They just do not get it, never will get and refuse to get it. Their hyper-Republican politics tell them anyone without a dime, is poor and deserves their poverty, illness or no illness. They have been indoctrinated by Fox news, to believe the "lazy" poor are the reason for the country's problems and not all our jobs sent overseas or the trillions spent on war.

Health problems, job lay-offs, the collapse of the economy are mere window-dressing to listing a person's multiple faults. Horatio Alger, couldn't light a candle to these folks. And to me this is the same thing with the obesity stuff I write about. Obviously bigger trends are making us fatter then the individual's personal choices, and the same goes economically. The powers that be do NOT want you to look at the bigger picture and how many individuals are basically riding waves, not of their own creation. Just like poor people who work hard, live frugally and find themselves left hanging despite doing everything "right", obviously it's happening to the fat too isn't it?

Speaking of the wolf at the door, who has been there too often, acouple weeks ago, my husband told me, his freelance work is being cut by his main freelance employer, and already we were down to the bone. Five years of unemployment or rather underemployment have made things hard for him too. If he was not exceptionally skilled in one area, the streets already would have awaited. It is hard to explain to people how this feels, and while we had some years of working class stability in our earlier married life, how you just want the roller coaster to end. Never take security for granted.

Sometimes I wish I could go to my husband's second to last boss, the one who uprooted my life for "economic reasons" and tell them how that impacted my life, taking me away from a loved community, putting us under so much strain and how because of my husband's age, that left him in the almost 50 age discrimination limbo land, where his years of experience became more of a deficient then a help in the job world. That said, I know others who are worse off, where homelessness and permanently interrupted lives, have demanded 45 year old men living with their mothers, and people who live in RV campers.

When people constantly bend down to rip the carpet out from underneath you, it does something to people who never feel they have anything to depend on, and like the entire social contract is nothing but a joke. This has been my entire life. Even during my periods of stable employment, only one job paid what could be called a living wage.  Knocking on doors for opportunity sometimes things just felt tough. One good job, that is all that is needed. One that lasts. One where they do not have the entire household move and then kick you out three months later. We would already have been homeless or living in a state disability apartment or moving in with others, if we did not keep fighting. But sometimes people running a marathon with the wolf nipping at their heels grow tired.

 Sometimes I feel like my life is a version of ground-hog day where the bad stuff always gets revisited. Right now we busily working to meet another demand/hoop laid on by more economic oppressors, and it's like life has just become a series of making sure to please endless unreachable demands that others set up for us.

Add to that guilt in that I am in no shape to return to work and been disabled so long.  Even writing on this blog, I lay down in between articles and while writing many, the body is unforgiving. The other day when it was 40 degrees but a bit too damp, when I decided to venture out, I walked into the front part of the store, a store I usually can traverse and realized my lungs were not cooperating whatsoever, and stood there in the front, having my husband go to the other part of the stores to get some cheap toilet paper and paper towels. It was actually kind of frightening. Sometimes this can feel like a scary world.

The worse however hasn't been the going without, the frugal life, the planning, the endless emergencies that come from not having funds to back up life, thankfully blessed with generous helpful friends and others, but the stigma and condemnation. That doesn't seem to be getting better even as more people fall into poverty. That part I do not understand. Anyone want to step up and admit they agree with me here?


  1. *waves* I totally agree. Especially since I've had to cut out a lot of carbohydrates in my diet, I notice how rice and potatoes and pasta are really the low-cost filler. When you have to buy vegetables and meat and can't save money by making that sauce cover a bit more pasta, food costs skyrocket. But what options do poor people have? A poor person who gets diabetes may not be able to afford to eat right, let alone the medications.

  2. It gets very difficult. Even eating out and getting healthy food can be totally cost prohibitive too. I have realized when we have less money, there is always more carbs because they are FAR cheaper. Vegetables are sky-high as well. Sometimes going to the grocery store lately has been a scary venture, as the costs at least here in America are skyrocketing. I find most diet and health books an absolute joke frankly as to what I find accessible, and I do buy things like organic apples, vegetables galore and the MSG allergy necessitates cutting out 80% of everything processed. You think as they tell fat people to go suddenly become THIN, [which is failing on many other levels too] the economic factors would play in. Thanks for your response.

  3. $40,000 a year sounds like a fortune to me! I make $25,000 a year and I work full time. After the taxes and insurance come out of my paycheck, I barely make $1500 a month. I'm in an upside down mortgage in a mobile home where the godforsaken plumbing doesn't even work except for the cold water int the bathroom sink. I use a camping toilet and shower when I'm at work. It is far from glamorous. I also have no working appliances so I have to eat food that doesn't need refrigeration unless I go to my son's place.
    I love how these humps keep accusing us Fatty McFattersons of "having no will power." Sometimes I go all day without eating so I know very well the feast or famine thing. And I do not qualify for food stamps--I make too much money BEFORE taxes.
    Being marginalized sucks the wad. And I don't foresee it changing any time soon.
    I've never been a very popular blogger because I'm neither a "good fatty" nor a "good crazy." I blog about my bad low points and my suicide ideation and that scares people.

  4. $40,000 to me sounds like a lot too. My household income is far lower then that, we are in pretty similar straits, too though our income is from disability and his freelance. To me, someone at 40,000 is near the higher edges of the working class and lower middle. I know wages have gotten so low. I had jobs where I made around 18-20,000 a year [late 90s] and husband too [to 2006/7], and after taxes and the bills, there is barely anything to live on, even if you live a very frugal life, keep an old car running and more. Of course I once was so poor, I was living on 500 a month and different times basically NOTHING, so that was scary. Sorry your plumping is in bad shape. Yeah with no appliances, life can get hard. I lived without a working stove for some years in the ghetto, so that didn't do favors for the weight either. That's got to be tough. I am glad your son helps you. We used to have days with no eating, or limited to 1 or 2 meals. Course by then you are so hungry, the feast and famine thing kicks in and you can easily overeat at that meal. I have a decent apt now, but can barely afford it, but have lived in a series of dumps and hovels most of my life. At least this place is safe and quiet. Today I do have my three meals, but so much of budget is committed to cooking and meal planning but diabetes kind of forced that issue.

    I know I get sick of being told "I have no will power" or all these health problems are my fault. The attitudes out there almost led to me losing my life. I still ponder the possibilites of something severe and systemic that still remains undiagnosed, maybe something related to the severe hearing loss and skin problems. I am tired of the disenfranchisment.

    I am not perky enough either. I have struggled with some depression [who wouldn't facing poverty problems and others?] God has helped me but I agree with you definitely about the "good fatty" thing.

    Hey I am one of the least popular bloggers out there too, the numbers are good here, believe it or not but trust me most of fatdom has already censored me. Because this blog deals with heavier issues then vacations to the Caribbean or the alternative universe of the "healthy, wealthy fat" [which by the way is the majority of the fatdom bloggers], I know it is on the fringes. Guess I am ok with that, at least this is a place I can be honest. Keep up your work. Remember the rulers make the rules. LOL I laughed when a friend of mine told me that saying. Maybe we are better off, in that we can still think for ourselves.