The New Bullying

There’s been a lot of emphasis in our society about trying to put an end to bullying. We’ve made it socially unacceptable, we’ve imposed embarrassing punishments on people who bully in an attempt to have a kinder and more decent society.  I am in favor of this.  A large part of my ethics are based on the kind treatment of other people.

The definition of bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual.

Everyone seems to have gotten on board with the anti-bullying campaigns. I don’t like to see anybody bullied and I am just the type person to speak out against it when I see someone doing it. The down side of the issue is that we only speak against socially unacceptable bullying.  I have the feeling that all the anti-bullying campaigns are little more then an opportunity to say that we don’t bully.  In my opinion it’s a lot of crap.
We kid ourselves if we don’t think bullying is going on every day and we are not active participants in it.  If someone smokes, its open season on bullying them, because our society has decided they don’t like smoking.  There is almost no where a person is allowed to smoke anymore, indoors or out.  Smokers rights seem to have been put aside, and they are treated like lepers if they smoke.
It is also socially acceptable to make fun of fat people and make disparaging remarks about them being gluttons or lazy because they are overweight.  Some airlines will charge overweight people for two seats and publicly embarrass them in the process.  We convince ourselves we are doing it for their own good, but all it does is hurt them.  Its open season on them, and its a hateful thing to do.

Apparently we only call it bullying if someone’s attacking one of our protected causes. If I don’t support transgender bathrooms, I’ve been told that holding a different view somehow makes me a bigot and I hate monger. No way.  I am not filled with hate for anybody just because I disagree about something. I am not a bigot because I don’t I think it’s right for men to be using the ladies room.

 

When it is not possible for someone to hold  a viewpoint other than yours without being called a bigot or a hate monger, or someone with a phobia, then you are bullying them to accept your views. Sorry folks but I believe the genitalia determines which restroom you use. Its common sense and society has functioned well with that view for countless generations.  That doesn’t make me a homophobe, it doesn’t make me a bigot, and it doesn’t make me uncaring. Sensitivity to the transgendered results in insensitivity to the many women who would be uncomfortable with their presence in ladies rooms. Holding that view does not make me a bigot, It means I don’t agree with you, a right I choose to exercise, and I’m not going to be bullied into acquiescing to someone else’s BS’ing.

 

It’s not just the transgender issue. The boycott Israel movement has been trying to paint Israel as an apartheid state. The facts show otherwise, but Arab students on college campuses have been bullying Jewish students and anybody who is pro-Israel. It is the new anti-semitism, and its somehow acceptable to be so.  Holding this view doesn’t make me anti Muslim.  It means I don’t agree with you.  I don’t eat bacon, but I don’t go around trying to make pork eaters feel bad.  Its called mutual respect.
If I don’t support “abortion rights,” I’m labeled as anti women.  Why can’t I hold a view different from yours and honestly disagree without being labeled as something terrible?

It’s time to realize that bullying goes two ways. I’m tired of people trying to bully me because I don’t agree with them. I don’t want to be hit with a barrage of accusations and labeled being a “hater” because I disagree.  If you can’t deal with the fact that people have an opinion other than yours and that it’s legitimate to do so, then you’re the one with the problem. You need to learn to respect people who disagree with you.  Get yourself some counseling, learn to cope, or do what people have been doing for time immemorial. Get over it. It is maturity to show respect for people in the midst of strongly held differing opinions.  If you can’t do that, then emotionally, you are still in the seventh grade.

Acceptable Bullying?

Our culture has been rightly speaking out against bullying, but I would suggest there is still an area in our society where bullying is alive and well: against overweight people.

People who would never say anything about any other problem someone had, think nothing of going up to someone with a weight problem and tell them they are “fat” and that they need to lose weight, and that its unhealthy.  They then proceed to tell them to not be such a fat pig and assume the person is a glutton who needs to eat normal portions.

As a formerly fat person, I find this behavior to be unacceptable at best, and reprehensible at worst.  Do people really think an overweight person chooses to be overweight?  Nobody chooses it.  Most of the people who are overweight struggle greatly, and its beyond their control.  It is not a matter of finding the right diet, or simply controlling themselves.  Sometimes your body tends to put weight on no matter how you eat.  A person in this situation already feels trapped.  You are not helping them by pointing out the obvious and making them feel worse.

Its bad enough to be overweight without the horrible things people say to you.  You have to shop for clothing at the big and tall store, which is humiliating in and of itself, as you are faced with the reality that you can not buy clothes off the rack at a normal store.  If you go to a restaurant with friends, you have to ask to sit at a table because you can’t fit in a booth comfortably, and if you sit on a plane, you have to ask for a seat belt extension.  All these things take away from your sense of self-worth.  It makes you feel awkward, but you have no choice.  Then to have so-called well-meaning people “help” you with their suggestions, only adds to the humiliation you feel.

It makes you wonder why people go out of their way to bully the overweight.  One of the reasons is that they feel they can get away with it.  When they say they are only doing it for the overweight person’s own good, I have a hard time believing it.  The reality is, they don’t like people being overweight, probably because they don’t like looking at them, so they feel they are making America beautiful.  If someone who has been thin all their life tries to give advice to an overweight person, I want to tell them to shut up.  They never struggled with it.    Sometimes people have found a diet that worked for them and they try to push it on everyone else.  The problem is, diets don’t work for everyone.  That’s why dieting is a multi-billion dollar industry.  There is no magic pill, and no magic diet.  As soon as you stop the diet, or stop the pills, the weight comes right back, and the poor diet victim is branded as someone who didn’t have enough self-control, making them feel even worse.

Exercise is not necessarily the answer either.  People watch the Biggest Loser on TV, and think all you have to do is put fat people in boot camp, and they will lose the weight.  I’ve seen countless stories of former biggest loser contestants gain it all back. Excercise can be dangerous if your health has been compromised by excessive weight.

The best thing someone can do for an overweight person, if they really care about them, is to love them as they are, and keep their mouths shut.  Realize you don’t have the wisdom you think you have, because if you did, you’d be making millions from people who are struggling and in pain.

I can tell people I have lost weight, but that won’t help them if they can’t have the surgery I had.  If you care about someone struggling with excess weight, instead of telling them to close their mouth’s, close yours, and just let them know you love them.  Period.

Toward a Healthy Self-Image

I have been overweight most of my life.  I remember my dad remarking that I was overweight when I was 8 years old. I weighed eighty pounds.  I was a chubby

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kid growing up, which meant I was the last one picked in gym to be on any team, which made me feel “less valuable” than everyone else.  Most of my friends were either thin or normal weight, but that made me feel even heavier.  My grandmother would remark that if I stayed at her house for one month, I’d be thin, and then proceeded to feed me more of what she just made.

I had to endure the humiliation of shopping in the “husky” department when shopping for clothes.  I endured the jeers and taunts of classmates who never stopped pointing out that I was a “fat pig.”  I really didn’t eat more than other people, I just didn’t burn it off as fast.  My weight problem was mostly hereditary; I got it from my dad, his mother, her father, etc.

I never looked good in the clothes I wore, and as a result, I was less active, and less involved with other people around me.  I became an introvert.

When I went to college, I put on weight, and later, with the help of the health service, I went on weight loss drugs and  lost weight.  As long as I was on the drugs, I was thin.  When I went off the drugs the weight came back on.  I tried every diet that came along and they worked more or less until I went off them.  There was no permanent solution to the problem.

What made the situation worse, was not simply the social implications of being an overweight person, but the emotional effect it had on me.  When I would look at myself in the mirror, I saw a fat person.  A bit less than everyone else.

As I got older, I accepted the fact that I was fat and just decided to live with it.  I got used to having to ask for a seat belt extension on a plane, and not being able to put the tray table down because my stomach got in the way.  I got used to the fact that sitting in coach class on a plane meant it was going to be a tight squeeze and would pray the middle seat was empty so I wouldn’t be pressed against someone else. If I went to a restaurant with friends or family, I had to insist on a table, because I couldn’t fit in a booth.

I reached the point where it was difficult for me to get health insurance because of my weight, and the high blood pressure and diabetes I was dealing with as a consequence of the extra weight I was carrying.  My doctor advised me that if I didn’t do something to lose the weight, I would be dead in five years. After looking over my life of failed diets and diet pills, I realized that weight loss surgery was my only chance.   When I applied for weight loss surgery to the insurance company, they turned me down and said even if it was life threatening, they would not cover the surgery.  I figured I was going to die.

I shared my situation with my friend Elliot, and he said he would raise the money for my surgery.  He contacted my friends and colleagues and they raised all the money for my surgery.  I was deeply moved that so many people donated so much money to help me, and save my life.  I felt redeemed.I had a Vertical Gastric Sleeve surgery on December 9, 2010.  In this surgery, they laproscopically removed 80% of my stomach.  It drastically limits the amount of food a person can eat.

 The good side of this surgery is that after eating 4-6 ounces of food, I feel completely full and satisfied.  I have to eat mainly protein so as not to lose muscle mass.  I take vitamin supplements as well.  Over the next 14 months, I lost 135 pounds and reached my goal weight.  

Little by little, through small things, I felt my sense of dignity as a person return.  Being able to sit in a seat on a plane and fit comfortably, not need a seat belt extension, and being able to put the tray table down, almost made me cry.  When I could fit in a booth at a restaurant comfortably, made me feel like a regular person.

Three weeks ago, I had abdominal surgery and they removed over ten pounds of extra skin.  For the first time in my life, I have a flat abdomen and feel like I’m not fat.  Its a wonderful feeling.

I have no tolerance for skinny people trying to give advice to fat people on how they should eat and live.  They haven’t lived in our skin.  I have even less patience for insensitive morons who think nothing of going up to fat people and saying insensitive, horrible things under the guise of trying to “help.”  In our society, you can’t say anything bad about a minority or a gay, but if you’re fat, you are fair game.  People say horribly unkind hurtful things that just make overweight people feel worse.  Now that I’m not in that position anymore, I won’t tolerate others bad behavior even if its not directed at me.  If you want to encourage someone who is overweight, don’t lecture them, don’t tell them they are fat or unhealthy.  Just let them know you love them.  Its the only thing that will help.