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You Don't Know What You're Doing (Or Why You're Still Fat)
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TITLE (EDIT)
You Don't Know What You're Doing (Or Why You're Still Fat)
DESCRIPTION
People with perpetual obesity issues are playing a game with themselves.
[804 words]
TITLE KEYWORD
Psychology
AUTHOR
Robert Levin
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
-
[December 2011]
AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (13)
3 Poems (Poetry) - [129 words] [Humor]
A Passel Of Plumeria (Short Stories) Can an act of violence be a gift? [5,935 words]
Arena (Short Stories) A man finds a way out of his midlife crisis. [1,495 words] [Action]
Donald Trump And The Fear Of Death (Essays) Propelled by a pronounced extinction anxiety, white America’s dread has led directly to a heightening of racism, and with it, the presidency of Donald Trump [581 words] [Psychology]
Everything's All Right In The Middle East (Essays) A mutual solution to the problem of being mortal. [686 words] [Psychology]
Free Jazz: The Jazz Revolution Of The '60s (Essays) "Man, In another ten years we won't even need traffic lights we're gonna be so spiritually tuned to one another." [2,615 words] [History]
No Stars For The Eclipse (Essays) I thought more interesting work was being done at the Electric Circus back in the '60s. [529 words] [Comedy]
On Turning Sixty (Essays) The rewards of turning sixty [544 words] [Humor]
Peggie (Short Stories) My chance to cross gross obesity from the list of body types I hadn't yet scored. [1,519 words] [Comedy]
Proving God By Consensus (Essays) My Problem with the Religious Right [977 words] [Psychology]
Recycle This (Essays) "I don't even sort and rinse the stuff I keep?" [885 words] [Humor]
Schindler's List: A Fecal Matter (Essays) - [1,047 words] [Psychology]
Stupidity: Its Uses & Abuses (Essays) Stupidity is rivaled in its genius only be schizophrenia. [1,337 words] [Humor]
You Don't Know What You're Doing (Or Why You're Still Fat)
Robert Levin

(NOTE: PEOPLE WITH INTRACTABLE WEIGHT PROBLEMS CAUSED BY REAL ILLNESSES OR GENUINE CONGENITAL ABNORMALITIES ARE EXEMPTED FROM THE FOLLOWING DISCUSSION.)

Awhile back I wrote a short humor piece in which I poked fun at a grossly overweight woman.

The piece was called “Peggie” and it elicited a fair share of irate mail from women who identified with the title character.

"I hate you," went one typical response. "How could you write such hurtful trash? Do you have any idea what it's like to struggle all your life with an obesity problem? Do you know what it is to be forced to endure incessant jokes and insults, to torture yourself with one failed diet after another—to think, sometimes, that you might actually have the problem solved only to lapse and have to begin again? Do you know what it is to live with a constant sense of guilt and shame? How could you be so cruel and insensitive?"

Okay. I'll admit to bad taste (and, as several other readers felt the need to point out, to committing less than deathless prose as well), but I have to say that I remain unmoved by the suffering I'm accused of inflicting.

Why? Because the "obesity problem" of which my correspondents speak is actually their solution to a deeper and more urgent problem. What's more, it's a solution that, to judge by their obvious absorption in it, is working very well for them.

Now in order to grasp what I'm driving at it is first necessary to acknowledge something about guilt and shame. To feel guilt and shame is built into our essence—it's a natural consequence of being mortal. Not only must we have done some serious shit to be in so much trouble but, unable to alter our circumstance, to change the given, we're incompetent where it matters most.

It's also necessary to remind ourselves that our natural feelings of guilt and shame, accompanied as they are by the sheer terror our mortal condition causes us, make for an intolerable burden that must be relieved if we are to function in the world with even a modest degree of equanimity.

And finally it's necessary to recognize the last thing we want to recognize, since to recognize it undermines what we're trying to achieve: virtually everything we do is, in one way or another, designed to mollify our existential dread and anxiety.

Bearing such truths in mind, I'm saying that people with perpetual obesity issues are playing a game with themselves.

Look. One of the myriad ways with which we accomplish the mitigation of our natural guilt and shame is by finding, and becoming obsessed with, OTHER things to feel guilty and ashamed about, things that (to assure them an authentic gravity) are culturally certified as real and legitimate faults or deficiencies and which, at the same time, are POTENTIALLY REDEEMABLE, that are within our capacity to overcome or transcend. What we do is make THEM what is essentially wrong with us—indeed, we make them, in our minds, the very reason for the death sentence we've been handed. Implicitly, these fabricated problems also embody a way to achieve our salvation. If they are what is fundamentally wrong with us, by defeating them we will be absolved of what is fundamentally wrong with us. If we still must die we will survive our death in heaven.

But here's the thing. If we succeed in beating the problem we've concocted for ourselves we're returned to where we began. Once the flush of victory wanes we discover that our underlying dilemma is still there, that we're left to nakedly confront the void once again.

So what do we do?

Well, if (and exploiting, of course, an innate predilection) we've made weight our problem, and if, with dieting and exercise, we've managed to overcome this problem, what we do is find an excuse to quit exercising, to go off our diet. Then what we do is renew our struggle and when the process has run its course again we repeat it.

Unless we find another game to play, we play this one into infinity.

Yes, each time we gain weight again the pain and humiliation we experience is devastating. But the magnitude of our anguish serves to validate the size and authenticity of our manufactured problem. In order to make the problem feel real and significant enough to work its purpose we need to experience real torment. At bottom, however, for all of the misery it causes us, our weight problem functions as the anodyne for a larger misery. The more we flagellate ourselves with it the more we succeed in suppressing our deeper horrors and the more we achieve a measure of peace where it matters most to us.

Say all that to say that for making their weight problem even more painful, I think fat people should regard "Peggie" as a gift.

 

READER'S REVIEWS (1)
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"Well written and candidly unveils predictable human behavior. One of the reasons so many people fail at this game is because when they (especially women) achieve 90% or even 100% of their goal, they expect to look magnificent to others. Truth is, many look sickly and "different" to the point that we are not all that impressed, even though we pretend to be. Let's face it, a fat, ugly woman who loses 60 pounds has now become just another ugly woman." -- Richard.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE
© 2006 Robert Levin
STORYMANIA PUBLICATION DATE
June 2007
NUMBER OF TIMES TITLE VIEWED
1447
 

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