Friday, October 5, 2012

From One Big Mouth to Another

Here's the thing: the guy was right.

Jennifer Livingston, the Wisconsin TV anchor who was famously sent an accusatory email about her personal responsibility as a public figure to be a healthier weight, is fat. And, because she is on TV for a living, people do get to look at her far more than they look at you and I. Does her very presence on television and professional success validate an unhealthy lifestyle? That is probably taking things too far. Perhaps this Kenneth Krause is bigoted against the overweight. Or he has a personal vendeta because one time a heavy person did him wrong, or maybe he used to be big himself. Anyway - he's  right. Jennifer is obese. Maybe she should be a better example to her viewers, family and friends. Maybe she should care more about her health or get help for disordered eating. But, the problem is - no one asked Ken Krause. It doesn't matter if his opinion is objectively right, what matters is that it ain't his dang business. So, Ken, this is for you:

Dear Mr. Krause,
I am a big mouth. I have spent damn near most of my life speaking to people like the ubiquitous stumbling sot, with exclamations of , "Let me tell ya what yer problem is...". I spent years on a personal mission to make others believe, think and behave the way I thought they should, while I carried on my own merry way with a host of issues, insecurities and baggage. I am fighter. I have always been a fighter. I have picked on people and picked fights with people. And sometimes, my position has been objectively "right". Hell, I even did what you did a couple years ago - I famously wrote a blog post addressed to an extremely obese woman who I saw motoring around Wal-mart on a little cart. I told her that I was disgusted that she was taking a cart away from a "real" handicapped person, a person who was disabled through no fault of their own. I begged her to get in shape and begin living. And I hurt a lot of people who read the piece and saw my insensitivity towards her and towards those like her. And she is not the only one - my mouth has driven away family, friends, acquaintances. Turned off employers, embarrassed my husband and parents. I have caused deep rifts, immense pain, and brought great shame on myself. All in the name of being right.

A dear friend recently made me see the gift of being a forceful oppinionated person who can express herself. Considering how many people in this world are bullied, abused and have no voice - it truly is a gift to be able and willing to speak. And that drive in you is God given, it is inbuilt in your DNA. So, while I am not asking you to be silent, which would squelch your very essence, I am imploring you to choose your battles differently. You want to speak? Challenge those with prejudices who harm others. Challenge corrupt government authority, crooked religious leaders, oppressors. You want to fight - fight for human rights and dignity. You have an aching need to be heard - use your voice to speak for good. If your personal crusade is to blot out obesity - why not try volunteering your time to an after school intramural program for kids. Or donate your athletic prowess as a triathlete to teach free classes at the town rec center. Do something good with that big stinking mouth of yours. And you can start by apologizing to Mrs. Livingston.

As a person who was formerly more than 100 pounds overweight, I can tell you that she didn't need you to point out her weight problem. Trust me, she knows. Every morning when she wakes up and slides on a skirt that has a double digit size, she faces it. Stepping out of the shower and looking down, putting on her makeup, hugging her husband, and seeing a thin woman walk into the room all remind her of how big she is. Nearly every moment of every single day her weight hangs like a black cloud over her, even when she is not consciously thinking of it, it is always there like a shadow. And you didn't help. Telling her just hurts her more than she already does. Your comments, while probably true, were not in the least bit helpful. A scenario I have faced again and again. The battle to either share everything I think, or share only what is valuable is a war I wage everyday. These days the voice for good does more than the voice for harm, but it will always be a fight. I am asking you, from one big mouth to another to shut up, and listen for once. Allow yourself to learn this lesson before you trample someone else. And apologize to that woman.

                                                                                                     Kind regards,
                                                                                                                  Shel







1 comment:

Ewa said...

As a person who was almost 100lb bigger and who is still fighting food addictions, I LOVE what you wrote.