About a decade ago, my friend Cathy deiced on one dark and stormy night to run naked threw a downtown Seattle Park. She has Bipolar Type 2 and had gone off her medications. This is pretty normal for Bipolar Type 2, and so she was taking it in stride and asked me to come and visit her in the mental hospital where they were rebalancing her brain chemistry. Soon after I arrived we went out into the smoking area and sat with some other patients. I couldn’t describe what the hospital looked like or how it smelled or what the other patients looked like, only that I couldn’t say a sentence without putting my foot in my mouth. I mean serious, kick in the teeth, buried to my knee, red faced and head shaking foot in the mouth.
I kept using expressions like “Traffic was just crazy!” and I suppose that alone wouldn’t have been so bad, even surrounded as I was by people that were officially crazy, but then I would blush, look at my feet and stammer for 30 seconds. That seemed to add the extra punctuation to holes I kept digging for myself. Then when she asked me about work, I was complaining about my boss and said something like he was a real mental case. Blush. Stammer. Look at feet. On politics – “That person should be put away!” Blush. Stammer. Look at feet. Even the weather wasn’t safe; “The amount of rain we’ve been getting is just insane!”
The reason why this painful memory has become relevant to my life again is because I gained a lot of weight over the last six months. I now think of myself as officially fat. I’ve never been officially thin, but I used to be able to think of myself as Rubenesque or Voluptuous. I knew I was actually in pretty good condition and I knew that I actually ate pretty well and I knew that about 10% of the population is fat because of metabolic reasons, and since I had been heavy my whole life, I knew that I had to be in that group.
But now I’m just fat and I hate it. I also hear insults everywhere. When I was in Miami, it seemed like people can’t have a dessert without a comment about how this is going to make them fat. And god forbid they use butter or even think of having some bread. They also have to comment about how this is going to cost them some extra time in the gym. I guess the idea of somebody thinking that they are sedentary is equal to being fat. The worst was when there were about six of us talking and the one of them was telling the story of the new leather pants that split the first time they sat in them. The group consensus was that a picture of the svelte sitter should be sent along with the return of the split pants to show the lack of a fat ass. I just sat there and thought “Hello!” “There is a fat ass present!”
At the time, I just wanted them to shut up about their tiny little weight problems. It hit me as so insensitive and definite proof of what the Fat Organizations say, that fat is last bastion of approved societal hatred. But the more I think about it and I think there are a lot of pockets of societal hatred. Any time somebody thinks “There but by the grace of god go I”, there is a pocket. And I don’t think it’s hatred as much as fear. Race and Religion based hate, I don’t understand, and is way beyond the scope of a little blog entry. But there are things where common language is brutal and where it is OK to say something 100% insensitive in polite society. Saying something like “After buying my $100,000 Lexus, I’m ready for the poor house” to your minimum wage earning maid.
So I have no answers here. I’m not sure if showing the sensitivity to know that I had just put my foot in my mouth is a good thing or not. It showed that I was aware of the people around me as part of the group to be feared where at least in Miami I wasn’t defined that way. I started this entry in a self righteous snit, but I believe I will end it will a heart felt apology to those long forgotton faces of the patients that I deeply feared.