Jessica Judd is a contributing author to the fat positive anthology Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion. This piece is part of the one year anniversary of Hot & Heavy's release.
Nearly two years ago I shut myself in my office the night before the deadline for submissions for Hot & Heavy and wrote my piece.
I’d planned to do it sooner but then our house purchase went through and there were renovations and moving with two small children. Then my mother-in-law died in an accident and my aunt, the aunt who was like a second mother to me and a grandmother to my children, become suddenly and unexpectedly very ill and spent the next few months dying in a hospital while we watched, stunned and grief-stricken. I almost gave myself permission to not write my piece, to put it aside because I had too much going on, but I decided to do it.
I wrote it, my aunt died, then within weeks of her memorial service my closest friend from high school died suddenly. Then two more people whom I knew but was lesser connected to also died suddenly. It was a little like swimming in death. I was shaken and full of grief.
Then the book came out and I revisited “Blue Pants” for the first time since I had written it and it made even more sense to me than it had when I first wrote it.
There was a new message I saw in it...don’t wait.
Don’t wait to do things until you are thinner/smaller/less fat. Don’t wait to do the things you want to do until you meet some arbitrary standard. There may not be a tomorrow.
I have been fortunate to have two years’ worth of tomorrows since I wrote “Blue Pants." Two years of pain, joy, heartbreak, successes, failures, love, and adventure, all done in my fat body. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to read “Blue Pants” in public six times now. When I first read it to an audience I was struck by how difficult and painful it was for me to read, by how quickly and painfully the tears came. Each time I read it, it gets easier, the pain a little less. It didn’t feel painful to write. When I wrote it I actually thought it was funny...way funnier than it sounds when I read it out loud. I think when writing out my experiences as a fat dancer it was easy to distance myself from how painful it has been at times for me, how painful and hard it can be to step into a studio of dancers half my size and age and feel and act like I belong, how painful and hard it can be despite doing it for fifteen years now.
My oasis of fat positivity and body love remains Big Moves. We are still going, possibly stronger than ever, coming up on our thirteenth anniversary. Not long after I wrote “Blue Pants” we changed the name of our resident dance company from the Phat Fly Girls to emFATic DANCE in order to have a name that, given our historic demographics, was not culturally appropriative, was gender inclusive, and better reflected what we do. As emFATic DANCE we have grown from a company that had hovered around 6-8 dancers for the past many years to one with sixteen to eighteen dancers. Consider my mind blown. With so many dancers we have been able to stretch further in both our concepts and our choreography which has been very exciting and fulfilling. I remain overwhelmingly grateful that every Saturday I get to share space with such an amazing room-full of fat dancers, that they keep keep showing up, and that they keep believing in what we are doing even when it is not without its struggles.
This past year has been difficult for me in terms of my body. I incurred multiple foot injuries that had me first in sneakers full time then a cam boot for two months. I didn’t really dance, save for our annual show which I had a don’t ask don’t tell agreement about with my podiatrist, for nearly four months. Not only was I not dancing, I couldn’t go on walks or hike. Without hiking or doing outings that required much walking I wasn’t able to do much photography. It really sucked. Being very visibly injured and not very mobile also made me feel hyper-visible as a fat person. It led me to evaluate more deeply how much privilege I am typically afforded by being a “good fatty”--the fat person who exercises, who is “healthy”, etc.
Despite thinking about this extensively for many months I don’t have super-coherent thoughts around how to combat this assignation of privilege, though I am working on doing so in small ways. Feeling hyper-visible led to me feeling more vulnerable about my size than I had felt in a long time. I work hard to incorporate body love and fat liberation into my interactions with myself but it has been a hard year for me in terms of relating to my body, a body that really felt broken a lot of the time.
Broken or not, my life, and time, has marched on. My children got older and more delightful. My husband and I happily marked our eighth wedding anniversary. Our family traveled and had adventures. We saw the amazing geothermal activity in Lassen Volcanic National Park, sat in front of Burney Falls, roamed a beach in Carmel on New Year’s Eve at sunset, went inside a wind turbine in Vancouver, swam in our clothes in the waters of English Bay at Stanley Park...and so much more. I got more serious about my photography and my work is being shown in local juried art shows and I have sold a number of my prints. Big Moves/emFATic DANCE has had two big shows, and many smaller gigs, since I wrote “Blue Pants”. I acquired a bike for the first time in nearly twenty years and am loving riding it. I have found time to swim again.
I continue to work on loving my body not just because it really is beautiful and fabulous, but also because despite how I feel about it on any given day, my fat body is what gets me through the world and makes all of what I do possible.
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Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.