Fat Women Don’t Look at Art


Ms Mirabile: “Fat women do look at art.”

“She’s massive,” a man says behind me at the British Museum.

Thank you, Britain.

He is talking to his kid. Talking about me. Setting a good example to his kid.

I am not particularly pissed off. I have high self-esteem.  He doesn’t know who I am. He doesn’t know anything about me.

My husband thinks I should go on The Biggest Loser.

Shut up!

But I would lose more weight than anyone on a reality show–I’d be the Katniss (love the name!) of the literal Hunger Games–because I’m very competitive.  (You’re looking at the winner of the Lowden Prize for Latin.)  And then the weight would come right back on.  Yes, that’s how it works.  Talk to anyone on a diet.  You lose, you gain.

I’ve got the dieter’s wardrobe: the size 8 schoolmarm/wedding dress (it doubled for both things) up to…you don’t want to know!

There are so many fat Americans in the Midwest that you don’t hear a lot of chat about fat.  Walk through the mall and you’ll see a lot of fat people.  Walk through a museum and the fat people vanish.  Do they feel good enough to eat a pretzel but not good enough to look at Rubens?

According to the CDC, more than one-third of Americans are obese, and 28.4% of people are obese in my state. Certainly no one in the U.S. is rude to me because of my weight.  People are very polite in the Midwest. It’s beautiful, it’s rugged, it’s windy, it’s cold, and we all give one another a lot of space.  There are eating disorder groups, but, alas, my doctor thinks it would be a bad idea to attend one, because most of the members have borderline personality: “They’re very self-centered and annoying.”  I guess it’s a compliment that I don’t have borderline personality.  I do remember when I taught composition the thin, sad students who suffered from anorexia and even struggled to eat yogurt for lunch.  They wrote their term papers on anorexia. As for obesity, the fat girls ignored it.  Not one of them ever wrote about it.  Is anorexia more acceptable than obesity?

And, as my doctor tells me, I am in better shape than most thin people. I used to be a runner. Well, I stopped 10 years ago, but I still bicycle.  My blood pressure is so low I’m almost not there. My pulse is low. My cholesterol is low.  I do have hypothyroidism, but in a general sense, I’m very healthy.  Being fat does not mean you’re unhealthy.  Much depends on diet (yes, I do eat healthy food) and exercise.

Fat can ruin your life, but only if you let it.

It doesn’t necessarily preclude your flirting, having relationships, or being married.

I did sense in London that a few people judged me because of my fat (most were very polite), but then I didn’t see any fat people anywhere.  Either there are no fat people, or they’re all too neurotic to go out of the house.

I loved London. A beautiful city, gorgeous museums, and it is possible to take a very cheap trip there.  Even with my book-buying and shipping of books, I spent very little.  I am stunned at how little I spent (aside from the hotel and flight).

But it was time to come home, because after being up for more than 24 hours on Saturday, I have been sleeping on every piece of furniture in the house.   But I will go back!  I will see the Tate Modern!  And do so much more…

8 thoughts on “Fat Women Don’t Look at Art

  1. I am a larger lady, and I *definitely* like art!! And I’m surprised if you didn’t see big people in London because there are plenty about! But do come back and visit Tate Modern – the South Bank is just lovely….


  2. Remember Elizabeth Bennet overhearing what Darcy said of her to Bingley. She didn’t let it bother her either — though it did grate. I used to think most English people came in two types: more sallow skin, darker or brown hair and the “true hazel” eye that Austen speaks of (Jim was like that) or the very fair skin that burns easily, blue eye, fair hair. Their body types also have a limited range — after all as a nation they’ve been intermarrying for centuries. So someone outside their types gets remarked upon. I couldn’t recognize myself in 1967 when I heard myself described as the small dark girl living in the attic flat — in the Southeast Bronx I was described as fair and medium-sized (it was a Spanish neighborhood).

    Yes you’ve only begun to explore what’s in London and its environs. Since everyone does speak English, it is so easy to get about.


  3. Ellen, you’re right: differences are always noted. It didn’t bother me at all, but I was surprised. And I really will go back to London one day. I have to recover from the plane ride first.


  4. Ah, Kat, I too fell in love with London! My other two favorite cities are Toronto and Seattle but London somehow manages to outshine them just a little. What I found to be fun walking around London was to pretend to be lost and stop and ask people for directions just to listen to them talk. There were times when I would encounter some unintelligible dialect of English that I had no idea what in hell they were saying! “Oh, thank you so much!,” I liked to say, “you’ve been very helpful!”


  5. Joel, most of the people I talked to had what I call “international” accents. But the English people were very helpful. Good directions: obviously used to giving them!


  6. Oh, I forgot to ask you! Did you by any chance get to walk around St. James Park? I realize your mission was to scour bookstores but this park, right in the middle of London, is such a beautiful place. Puts New York’s Central Park to shame! It also sounds like you had decent weather the whole time you were there.


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