“‘Fat’ is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her. I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’?”
I always felt like if I didn’t mention it that maybe people wouldn’t notice. Or it could just be this sort of polite secret, like, open secret that we didn’t address, because it felt so shameful. It just felt impolite to talk about, like me not wanting to burden you with my failure. […] Yeah, and just give me a little more time. Let’s not talk about [my weight], and I promise I’ll fix it. […]
The way that we are taught to think about fatness is that fat is not a permanent state. You’re just a thin person who’s failing consistently for your whole life.
—Lindy West on This American Life “Tell Me I’m Fat” with Ira Glass
A couple months ago, I stopped by a local gym to get membership prices. I had heard it wasn’t too expensive. Plus, the gym had an indoor pool, which was a big selling point for me since I didn’t want a repeat of last year’s crazy tan lines. (They were pretty bad, like random-people-stopping-and-staring bad.)
I tell the lady at the front desk that I’m thinking about joining and would like to get a brochure. She tells me that all interested patrons must fill out a form and then have a mandatory talk with the manager. She didn’t want to give me a rough estimate on prices and instead, insisted the talk would take 15 minutes max. I really didn’t want to talk to her manager, but whatever. Their gym; their policies. I went ahead and filled out the form.
When I finished, she took me down a hallway to the back of the gym. The manager greeted me in his small, dingy office. He had thin, graying brown hair and a slight beer belly. He wore an old white t-shirt with the gym logo faded across the front.
Almost immediately, he starts his “why-you-should-join-this-gym-and-not-the-24hr-fitness-down-the-street” speech. I could tell that he did this a lot, but not in a good way. Judging by his bored, monotonous voice, it’s like he wanted you to know that he was as tired of hearing this speech as you were, and now thanks to you, he had to go through the whole thing again. “How dare you,” he seemed to imply.
A little condescending twang started to sneak into the end of his sentences. I began to feel uncomfortable. I was suddenly self-conscious of my messy pony tail, my make-up-less face, and my jeans and t-shirt. I couldn’t figure out why though.
“You won’t lose all that weight if you don’t fix your eating habits,” his eyes looked me up and down.
My stomach dropped.
Then, he started a nutrition tirade I didn’t sign up for: “You need to cut out all potatoes, all white bread—heck all bread— You gotta stop with the tortillas, with all the tamales.” His voice lingered on the Mexican foods.
Wow. Okay then. You totally didn’t emphasize those just because I’m hispanic.
(My inner dialogue tends to be sarcastic, sorry.)
Eager to change the topic, I asked about spinning and zumba classes.
“Yeah, we have those, but again,” he shook his head, expelling profound wisdom upon me, “that’s not gonna get you to your weight loss goals. What you need is a lot of strength training with a personal trainer.”
First of all, what “weight loss goals”? You haven’t bothered to ask me about any of my fitness goals or why I want to join. I didn’t come in here for a demeaning discussion about my weight. I didn’t even bring it up until you literally “sized me up” and started a highly personal conversation I clearly don’t want to have with you.
(My inner dialogue tends to be much more direct then what I actually say, sorry.)
The personal trainer was an extra with additional costs. The manager showed me many before-and-after pictures of people who went from flabby to buff. He focused on one specific success story about a woman who dropped 100lbs. through becoming a body-builder and now works as one of the trainers.
I knew I couldn’t afford paying for the trainer, so our conversation fell into an awkward silence when I didn’t have any follow-up questions. Then I remembered what I really wanted to ask about: “How big is your pool?”
“Yes, we have a pool in the basement. It’s 25 yards long, but people your size pretty much just float. You’re not doing that much, you know. You might be moving and stuff, but it’s mostly floating. I know you see really good looking swimmers on T.V, but you will never get there only by swimming. What you need is a good personal trainer with a focus on strength training.”
My question was simple, so why all the extra? Who was this man who could make me feel so big, yet so small?
(My inner dialogue tends to be more honest and open than I ever allow myself to be, sorry.)
He kept going on and on about the gym, about me, about being fat, about being a travesty to youth, blah, blah, blah. Okay, so not quite that last one, but it was all there subliminally.
Man, no wonder your all-women’s gym is empty; you have a misogynist for a manager. No, no I can’t call him that. That’s too strong a word. I’m exaggerating. This isn’t that bad. This is normal. Perfectly normal. What was I expecting? I’m a fat person coming to a gym.
(My inner dialogue tends to debate and find excuses, sorry.)
The 15 minutes were almost over.
“So, do you have a flyer that says all the different prices?” I was back to square one.
“No?” How could they NOT have a flyer or a website that lists their prices?
“No,” he reaffirmed, “but you can take a picture of this.” He hands me a laminated price chart.
I say the monthly prices to see if I’m reading this chart right.
He interrupts me, “Oh and remember, that price is only for today because it’s the manager’s special.”
Well, this was news to me. “Only today?”
“Yes, because it’s the last of the month.”
I respond, “Um, I need more time to think about this. What time do you close? Would it be possible to come back today or call you over the phone?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said dejectedly. “We close at 11pm, and our phone number is on the website.”
I never called back.