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THE RESTAURANT
INTRUDER

From Radiance Summer 1998

By Brenda K. Reasner  I have had many fat-bashing experiences in my life, but the one I am about to describe took the prize. It was a painful thing to go through, but, with time, I came to realize that I was the one who came out the winner.

One summer evening, a friend and I planned to meet at a local restaurant. As I sat waiting for my friend, a woman of about sixty stopped at my table. “May I ask you a question?” she queried. I said, “Yes." The woman then asked, “How much do you weigh?" My jaw dropped to the floor, which, in my case (I am six foot two), is a long way. On its way to the floor, all that came out was, “What!?” The woman asked again, “How much do you weigh? My friend and I have a bet going. She says that you weigh at least five hundred pounds, and I say you weigh four hundred pounds." I was now appalled and (almost) speechless that a stranger would walk up to me in a restaurant and ask me how much I weighed. I was so livid and so shocked that the only thing I was finally able to say was; “It is none of your business." But this woman continued to pursue her question for at least another couple of minutes—an eternity to me. All I kept saying was, “It is none of your business." She finally left, in a huff.

When my friend got to the table, I told her what had happened. She couldn’t believe it either. I told her that I had to leave. All I wanted to do was to get out of there. I became paranoid, thinking, What are other people thinking and saying about me? So I left.

When I got home, I called the man I was dating. I told him that I needed to talk. He came and picked me up, and we went for a ride. I felt intense rage as I explained to him what had happened. He must have felt angry, too, because as I was talking, I noticed the truck speeding up. Thank God for this man that night. He let me be angry and let me express that anger. He wasn’t scared by my anger, which was good, because sometimes I scare myself when I get angry.

When he dropped me off at my house, he gave me a hug, and I felt comforted. But when I got into my house, a sense of sadness overcame me. I thought back to other such incidents throughout my life. Why were people so cruel, so clueless? Why would anyone do what that woman had done? Then the self-blaming started. If I’m fat, then I must be a bad person. I’m too big. Then came the shame. I felt as though I didn’t want to step outside of my house again, for fear that other people had bets on how much I weighed. It was my fault and, I thought, it was God’s fault, too.

After a couple of days had passed, the anger was still inside me. I was angry for what had happened, and I was angry at myself for not speaking up more forcefully. That anger motivated me to start a weight-loss group, and in one and a half years, I lost 192 pounds. (That’s a whole different story.) It didn’t take long, however, for me to regain the weight, and I went back into counseling to get a grasp on what was really going on with me.

I found out a lot about myself. I had been in the victim role all my life, letting others walk all over me, letting them say whatever they wanted to about me. I also would take their negative views about fat people and make them my own: I don’t do that anymore. I had to look inside myself and gain respect for myself as a person, a person who is large and is creative, loves to share, and has a great sense of humor. I used to divide myself into two parts: emotional and physical. Emotionally, I saw myself as a good person. Physically, I saw myself as a fat, ugly person. And the physical aspect always overshadowed the emotional aspect. My thinking was that I couldn’t be fat and still be creative, be loving, and exhibit a great sense of humor. Was I wrong!

As far as the anger, I had to get rid of it somehow. I didn’t need it; I didn’t want it. So one evening, I lit some candles and went into the bathroom. On a roll of toilet paper, I wrote down every stinking situation I could remember that had occurred in my life. I listed situations involving people who behaved like the woman at the restaurant. I wrote and wrote until I could not write anymore. I shut off the lights and left the candles burning. I tore off each piece of toilet paper, and I flushed. I flushed until there was no more to flush. When I was done, I felt such a relief, just knowing each and every one of those situations was where it belonged.

And my anger at God has gone. I realize that God made us each in his likeness, with many different sizes, shapes, colors, and personalities. Our bodies house our hearts, and it is what is in our hearts that is truly important.

Life is a process of growth for us, and the self-knowledge that I gain from every one of my experiences is, I am convinced, a great gift. In my mind, I have won the prize of self-understanding.

BRENDA K. REASNER currently resides in Big Rapids, Michigan, with her four-legged dog child named Ted. She has a degree in social work and is a family independence specialist for the state of Michigan. She has been fat nearly all her life, and has come to realize that whether a person has a little or a lot of weight hanging on her bones, it doesn’t define her as a person.

 

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