I had a really odd realization today, that I have entered a new social category that I was not a part of before. Today at work our staff was doing the 6 month evaluation for our secretary, who I will call J. So we were all discussing things to put on the feedback sheet. Our secretary,is a wonderful young lady who happens to be morbidly obese. If I had to guess her weight I would say she is easily 350 or 400 pounds. I can only say that because I know what I looked like at 300 pounds. Anyway, one of my co-workers made the comment, that she was surprised that J really managed to do quite a bit, because you "sort of expect that someone who is that big wouldn't be able to." She stopped just short of saying the word lazy. I was so taken aback by this comment. It was one of the first blatantly weight prejudice statements I had heard from someone. It was really quite disturbing. I should have said something, but I just sat there quietly, not knowing how to react.
Then later, I thought of something...I never heard those comments when I was fat, because I was never in the room when someone said them...because the comments were likely said about me. So for the first time, I was considered...normal. Or at least normal enough to be included in a conversation about someone else's weight. If I had still been 300 pounds, would that comment have been uttered while I was there? Or would they hold their tongue, knowing that the weight comment would have just as easily been applied to me.
This is the second time this person has mentioned weight in reference to ability to do a job. The first time was during J's interview. My co-worker, myself and another co-worker were doing interviews. One co-worker was joining us via teleconference and therefore did not see the candidates face to face. After the interviews, we were discussing each of the candidates pros and cons and my coworker thought it was necessary to mention that J was a "big gal". As if to make sure the other co-worker joining us via distance would need to know that since she couldn't see her appearance. The comment bothered me then, but once again I stayed quiet.
The fact that these each of these comments are now made with me present makes me feel like, since I am not "fat" anymore then I fit into a new class of society--but not one I am particularly proud of being a part of. It's just the realization that I am on the other side of the conversation, one that I was not part of before. It is an uncomfortable place to be. I wonder what judgments people made about my ability in the past based on my weight or appearance. It sort of makes me sad. I knew that my appearance certainly had an impact on dating and self esteem, but I guess I was oblivious to the fact that it may also have had an impact on people's perception of my work ability, intelligence or other personality factors. It feels odd to be on the other side and makes me compassionate to those who struggle with their weight. I just want to tell them that there is a better life out there for them.