He’s Given Up
I know a fellow, a friend, who will say upon seeing a fat person, “He’s given up.” My friend is not fat. I suspect his version of struggling with weight is to decide about two weeks out he ought to lose five pounds so he’ll fit into his black suit a little better at his niece’s wedding. He skips desserts and all five pounds fall off.
I carry extra weight and have for most of my adult life. I have excuses—thyroid disease, Lyme disease, stress (my fave)—but I could be doing more to achieve a healthier weight. I could be obsessing, which strikes me as about as unhealthy as toddling around in my well padded, mostly happy, form.
But I have by no means given up, damn it. Every meal, I struggle not to eat more, not to eat the things that will trowel on the lard, to stick to the stuff my naturopath insists will give me “good energy.” I struggle to make myself take walks, to get the heck out of bed every morning and do my barn chores. I struggle when I grocery shop to make good choices, or at least not very bad ones. (Love that little bitty single serve Dove ice cream. Love it.)
As I sit the live long day at my computer, I struggle moment by moment not to get up, hit the fridge, and grab not a carrot stick, but rather, a shortbread cookie. Or a bag of shortbread cookies. Every moment of every day. I have not given up, and I have yet to meet the overweight person who has. We still hope, we still try, we still pray, we struggle and struggle and struggle. But somebody has given up.
The person who looks at me and sees only my overweight has given up on my humanity. To them, I am my weight, and they can walk on by, dismissing me with a single word, or a number. They don’t know I have worlds of creativity and humor and heart inside me. They’ve given up—on me. This happens to blondes, to children, to people who talk funny, people who are short, people who wear pocket protectors, people with babies screaming at them in the produce section, and people with white hair or no hair. They are given up on regularly.
And this is why the company of writers is so cheering. Writers don’t give up. You see a geezer, the writer will see a World War II romance. You see a screaming baby and an overwrought mother, the writer sees a Meet about to happen. You see a tall guy get out of a vintage Volkswagon, and I see an alpha hero about to be mistaken for a beta because he tuned up his little sister’s bug.
I have every book on tape Malcolm Gladwell has made, not because I agree with all his conclusions and like all his methods, but because he has the knack of asking the elegant question, and seeing the answers that appear, not just the ones convenient for him or his readers. This is being a writer. It is also being a human being, not just a homo sapiens. You never get to give up if you’re a writer. Not on the people you see, not on your world, and most assuredly not on yourself.