It was 4:26 a.m. when my little sister woke me to say that my grandfather had just died in his bedroom, which was directly across from my own. I pounced out of my bed and quickly ran to his bedside. My mother was sitting next to him on her knees, crying and begging her God not to take her father from her.
It was 4:26 in the morning when my grandfather lost his battle to head and neck cancer; 4:26 in the morning was the time I woke up every morning after a restless night.
Eight hours later, dieners arrived to collect my grandfather’s body from his room. They greeted my mother, sent their condolences, and followed her to my grandfather’s bedroom. She watched as they placed his body inside of a shiny black bag, warning me and my sister to look away as they placed his bagged corpse on a stretcher.
It was too late for me, and what I saw inscribed a vivid image in my mindone that I saw every time I closed my eyes. As soon as I saw my grandfather’s body being wheeled out in that shiny black bag, the truth of what happened was like a stab to my chest that hurt more after the first few minutes of shock wore off. I was forced to accept that my grandfather was not sleeping peacefully in his bedroom; my grandfather was deadgone forever.
Something about seeing my grandfather in a black body bag changed me in ways I would have never imagined. This change began with long, sleepless nights and pangs of an insatiable hunger.
Every morning after my grandfather’s death, I woke up at 4:26 in morning. The sky was still full of a deep-blue darkness, and my stomach growled ferociously. I stared around my dark room as I rubbed my hands on my stomach to soothe the pangs that persisted from what appeared to be from hunger. The moment these pangs became too intense to rub away, I ran to the kitchen and ransacked my fridge.
I ate a sandwich, but that wasn’t enough. I ate another sandwich, and that still wasn’t enough. I continued preparing and eating sandwiches until my stomach felt like it would pop if I took another bite. I had about seven sandwiches in one sitting and fell back to sleep the moment I climbed back in my bed. Soon, this became the way I ate every time I woke up at 4:26 in the morning.
In just one year, I became 30 pounds heavier. My friends and family noticed my weight gain before I did, and they wanted to make sure that I noticed it, too. It seemed like no one was capable of engaging with me without commenting on my weight gain first. Some people gave me those long, unasked-for spiels about monitoring my health. Some people gave me their unasked-for workout plans and diets. And more often than not, some people would compliment me on my weight gain, then follow their compliment up with a subtle warning,
“Just don’t get too big,” they would say. “You don’t want a heart attack.”
In two years, I gained 50 more pounds, and that’s when I began to notice my own weight gain. I started to see stretch marks forming on my arms and hips. At first, I didn’t like it. I went out and purchased a gym membership, went to see a nutritionist, and began dieting as recommended. But it seemed like the universe or Godif there is a Godwanted me to gain more weight. My busy work schedule interfered with my gym time, and I could no longer afford my favorite dietary foods and meal supplements. The moment people started showing interest in my huskiness, though, I didn’t worry about the gain so much; thus, I no longer saw the need monitor my weight. Why fix something that wasn’t broken?
At 235 pounds, my doctors started calling me “morbidly obese.” I didn’t mind that so much now that I was satisfying the fat fetishes of potential partners who claimed to love men that are “a little thicker.” However, as my slight thickness developed into chubbiness, many of those people wanted nothing to do with me anymore. The more weight I gained, the more my love life became like a game of darts and the only target was my emotional sanity.
When my waist size went from a 30 to a 43, people completely stopped giving me compliments about my weight gain and replaced them with extreme warnings. All of a sudden, people that smoke three packs of cigarettes a day were giving me tips on how to live a healthy life. People that would cringe at the sight of broccoli were now telling me that I should incorporate fruits and vegetables into my diet.
I think that these people truly believed that their warnings were helpful, but they only contributed to the emotional abuse that I already face for being Black and queer. Imagine having someone constantly in your face reminding you that your entire existence is all wrong. Imagine taking emotional abuse from three different directions and having to take it like a champion.
Whenever I turn on my computer and hear that another unarmed Black person was shot, I remember that my Black identity isn’t standard.
Whenever I turn on the news and see that another LGBTQ person is a victim of a hate crime, I remember that my Queer identity isn’t standard.
And whenever I leave my house, someone is always there to remind me that my overweight body isn’t standard.
On top of all of that, when I became “unpleasantly overweight,” people started believing that their gauntness gave them leverage over me. Some believed that their compliments, unsolicited touches, and distasteful sexual innuendos were a privilege they were bestowing upon me. Some believed that their fit bodies made them entitled to my out of shape body. Some believed that their fit bodies made them entitled to my emotions. And most hilariouslysome people believed that their fit bodies made them entitled to my time.
Once during a very brief fling, someone who will remain nameless flat out told me that they could find someone “better” than me. I didn’t think about this too deeply, not until this nameless individual told me that they I will never find someone like them“someone who’s physically fit that will tolerate your disgusting, fat body,” according to that nameless person.
This “I’m-doing-your-fat-ass-a-favor” mindset is one that seemed present in nearly all of my flingseven with other overweight people who are slightly smaller than mewhich is why I elected to lead a dateless life. These people view relationships between a physically fit person and an overweight person as taboo, but is any of this really a surprise?
We saw this mindset when Quantasia Sharpton accused the “Confessions” singer, Usher Raymond, of exposing her to herpes. Though her allegations were proven to be false, people instantly took to Twitter to call her a liar, not because they had proof that she was lying, but because she’s an overweight woman. People took one look at Quantasia’s body and decided that the likelihood of Usher engaging sexually with her was highly unlikely.
I'll believe Usher gay before I believe he fucked that girl 🤷♂️
— lil duval (@lilduval) August 7, 2017
When everybody saw the woman who is suing Usher for supposedly giving her herpes. pic.twitter.com/ZAz6zu63kJ
— KOSHER (@JRAN_76) August 7, 2017
We saw this mindset when beach photos of 1995’s James Bond actor, Pierce Brosnan and his plus-sized wife Keely Shaye Smithwho is also a journalist, former model, and authoremerged.
We saw this when people insulted Monica Lewinsky and doubted the likelihood of an affair between her and Bill Clinton because of her weight.
Six-years and 70 pounds later, I regained enough control over my sleep. I gained control over the beast that lived in my stomach, ferociously gnawing at me until I ransacked my fridge. But still, I sometimes find myself sometimes waking up with anxiety, but I no longer find comfort in an overindulgence of food. I find comfort knowing that I survived the darkest, most depressing nights with just a few stretch marks and clothes that can no longer fit.
As I said before, the universe or Godif there is oneneeded me to become fat, if only to teach me valuable lessons about myself and the superficiality of other people.
I learned that as a queer Black male, my entire existence is something I will always have to fight for. My weight gain may have produced a new fight for me, but it’s a battle worth fighting. Strangely, I love myself even more now that I’m fat. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with truly accepting myself.
But most importantly, I learned that no one is doing me a favor by complimenting me, touching me, or being romantically involved with me. The sooner other fat people can learn this, the sooner we can begin seeing the beauty of our weight. The sooner thinner people can learn this, the sooner they can finally stop contributing to the emotional abuse of fat people.