I don’t know why I continue to read advice columnists like Ask Amy or Dear Abby, I really don’t. It could be the voyeur in me or maybe reading the problems of others reassures me that my life can be much worse. All I can offer in defense is that they’re good for distraction when my ADD-addled brain needs a break from work.
I wonder if there is some sort of mandatory fat-washing program advice columnists undergo once they’re handed free reign to dispense non-professional advice liberally: Thou shall promote acceptance of everyone but fat people… Fat people don’t know they’re fat so you should tell them… Encourage your fat friend to lose weight so she, too, can land a husband… If your spouse becomes fat, leave them… Fat is ugly… Fat kills… and ad nauseam.
Most recently saw the Dan Savage debacle, which garnered more than 200 approved and scores of deleted comments before I turned commenting off altogether. Not to be beat, Ask Margo chimed in that same week with her own brand of fat patronization.
Before that, Fillyjonk from Shapely Prose and I both ridiculed and lamented via email Ask Amy’s condescending and fat-bashing advice to another “good guy and a great husband” of a fat spouse who is withholding sex from his wife of more than 25 years until she loses weight.
Dear Abby scored big points with me last year when she came out in support of gay marriage, but I guess promoting acceptance of fat people is too vast a humanitarian gap for her to bridge. For more on her past fat-bashing record, see Big Fat Blog.
So, it was with little surprise that I read Abby’s inaugural New Year’s post, “Start Year with Positive Steps,” an often-requested list Abby says was adapted by her mother, Pauline Phillips, from the original credo of Al-Anon.
Overall, the list is positive, if a little Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul’ish for my taste. The list encourages readers to think positively, have courage and work to improve one’s mind and actions towards others. Readers are admonished to “accept what is” and to try and “correct those things I can correct and accept those I cannot.”
But of course, what list of New Year’s resolutions would be complete without a dose of guised self-loathing. The list advises:
Just for today: I will do something positive to improve my health… If I am overweight, I will eat healthfully — if only just for today. And not only that, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it’s only around the block.
You have to admire how Abby deftly succeeds in patronizing and offending multitudes of people with much-trumpeted, but scientifically unproven stereotypes rooted in discriminatory attitudes.
It’s not Abby’s recommendations I oppose, it’s the myopic demographic – fat people – to whom she has directed her comments. Not only does the resolution falsely assume that all fat people eat unhealthy foods and are sedentary sloths, it overlooks the fact that many thin people eat unhealthily and are inactive and could benefit from the same sage advice.
If promoting good health and physical fitness were truly the intention, a more constructive and less-offensive resolution could read:
I will do something positive to improve my health… If I eat unhealthily, I will eat healthfully — if only just for today. And not only that, if I am inactive, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it’s only around the block.
For many fat people, eating healthy and exercising regularly are already facts of life and their body weight and shape is something that no amount of dieting and working out can permanently reduce or change.
Perhaps Abby should amend her mother’s second resolution –the one advising readers to “correct those things I can correct and accept those I cannot” – to read: We should all work to correct only those things that need correcting and accept those that need no correcting at all.