Response: Fat

Editor Carrie Ivy, Editor's Choice, October 27th, 2014

My fat is as much a part of me as my organs...

HORCICOVA response fat nailed magazine
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In our monthly Response Column, NAILED asks readers to respond to a particular word or phrase. We are seeking raw, honest personal responses that aim less to answer questions and more to raise them. November’s topic is GENDER, please email your responses to Kirsten@NailedMagazine.com by November 17th, for publication at the end of the month. (Word count limit: 1,000 words.)

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Response: Fat

 

Swimming With Stretch Marks, by Jeremy Radin

Used to tell people that my cat got mad, hid
invitations to pool parties from my mother,

swam with my shirt on, even alone. Used to undress
only after I dressed, a kind of fat kid magic, original

garment appearing with a flourish from beneath
the new. Used to sleep well into the afternoon,

dreaming soft & impossible fingers undoing
backward stitches, used to say I will keep 

my death company until it arrives. Said Death, 
yours are the only hands permitted to touch 

this ruined instrument, this gouged cello. & then
the black paint streaked across bathroom mirrors,

zipped-up summer sweatshirts. In the dark,
I reimagined my body so as to deserve my own

touch. These runes: a spell carved into flesh, protection
against unsolicited lips, unsolicited want, incantation

warding off those ghosts of rose & vanilla, their unabashed
haunting. I said I will remain here in this coat of I I I I I I I I

alone & glorying in it, amen, a misshaped story
wrapped in a language I will no longer speak.

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Ode to Your Stretch Marks, by Jeremey Radin

 

Praise now the blushing tally, the full measure
of your expanding grace. Whether by feasting,

childbirth, the years dragging their fingers down
your body, praise. Praise the proof of your delight,

praise these roads plunging into the tender folds of you-
satin swamp, wild with heaven. Praise now this inverted

braille that a lover will lick your history out of, that your children
will marvel at. The undone signature of what could not claim you.

Know that Hideous has no further business here– we only autograph
what is not longer ours. Praise these hieroglyphics meaning thank you,

meaning rise, meaning all that has entered has left a mark, I am immune 
to nothing, thank God, thank God! Praise these gloried lines like creases

in a parachute, zippers opening, reams of elastic, like this is how the body
makes room for what it loves.

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Jeremy Radin is a poet and actor living in Los Angeles. His poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in numerous journals including Pen Center’s The Rattling Wall, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Nightblock, Freezeray, and others. His first book, Slow Dance with Sasquatch, is available from Write Bloody Publishing. You may have seen him on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or in a restaurant aggressively eating pancakes by himself.

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Fat Love, by Charlotte B.

 

I’m here in the States for her, you know. I came back for her. After Dad died.

Because I love her. All of her. My mother who smells of moldy oranges and has thin black hair with white-gray streaks. My mother with her basin belly. My fat mother.

I love her. All of her. All her softness. She is a snuggle with breath.

She’s not old enough for this. Only sixty-five. My friends complain that their mothers do too much for them. These mothers, they worry about my friends driving home in the dark and stand out front of their cookie-cutter houses in their silk pajamas and fluffy slippers with gas money in hand to see my friends off.

I think about these mothers and wonder about them sometimes. How it must be at sixty-five and still be, you know, really, really alive. Still a mother who takes care, who worries about her babies. A mother with her whole brain inside her slim, old body.

My mother, she usually doesn’t get up until five at night. She’ll stay in her silk nightgown with her fluffy slippers I bought her for Hanukah and watch Judge Judy and Jeopardy. She will sit on the couch, her stomach out before her like a plate.

Mom often uses her stomach as a table. She won’t get up to use the tv tray and will rest her plate right on her belly and scoop fried chicken up with her fingers. When I come to see her she will blink at me. Oh! She will say when she sees me. I didn’t see you there.

She has that little girl voice. Soft and malleable. Naïve. Whispy.

I walk over and give her a hug and try very hard not to cry or get angry.

I am thirty. My mother was thirty-five when she had me.

I’ve seen the scar of me on my mother’s big fat belly. The angry red scar splitting her open in a red half-X. Like somebody was trying to X us out but got distracted halfway through.

I was early. C-section.

Mom’d been out in the barn chopping wood and crying the night her water broke. Because she’d found her father, my grandfather, touching a little girl just a day before.

She told me the whole story only after I demanded it. How her body was before I started to come out of her, three months early and bluebabyredblood. How she was: fat and tired, wrapped in sweat. It was night. She probably hadn’t showered or brushed her teeth since early that morning what with all the ruckus in the house. Her whole body ached with tiredness and anger and sadness.

She had an axe in her hand. She went at it.

And pop!

Before the stroke she blamed herself that I didn’t get air those first couple of minutes. She blamed herself that I have brain damage.

I never knew what to say when she’d say it was her fault.

I mean. I said the obvious, of course.

No, Mom. No. It’s not your fault.

I looked down at my hands whenever I’d comfort her about that. I didn’t know if my no was strong enough. The no felt so strong inside me, but the strong gets shaky when it’s really really sad, and Mom saying those things made me really really sad. So maybe she didn’t believe me when I said no, Mom. Not your fault. Maybe my no wasn’t strong enough.

When I go see her now I hold her hand and lean my head on her shoulder. She has the softest hands I’ve ever felt. Even though she’s fat she has very slender hands, beautiful. Her shoulder is soft too, not bony like most shoulders.

She’s so fat she’s a big pillow. I love to close my eyes and pretend I’m little again and that her brain is still like it was. She was such a sharp lady, let me tell you! Razor sharp, and a laugh that most times didn’t go to her eyes but when it did she’d be all love and laughter and just being around her was knowing you were in the presence of a tender, soft soul.

When I was little I’d sit on her lap and just burrow into her. All her softness.

She’d wrap her arms around me. She’d tell me she loved me. I never felt so safe, ever.

I loved her. All of her. The pads of flesh on her, the stretched red skin on the backs of her legs. The wrinkled flesh of a fat woman. How she felt when I curled in her arms, pressed my face into her soft neck and breathed right in. That smell of her, the smell of Dove and hairspray and skin.

I remember when I was little, how she’d take a five-pound block of Tillamook cheddar and eat the whole thing in one sit. She’d cry most the time she ate. She might not have known I was there, that I saw her eat and cry. The cheese in her cheeks, her fat, rosy cheeks. I saw it all. We never talked about it.

The doctor said that it was the diabetes caused the stroke and the fat that caused the diabetes. She’ll die, the doctor said, and probably soon.

Sometimes when I come to visit, she’s shit herself. It happens maybe half the time. The smell of it, I’ll tell you. I’ve taken care of babies before and baby poop doesn’t smell bad next to old diabetic woman poop.

It goes all over, the shit. Mom doesn’t see or she just flat out ignores it and the shit gets ground into the carpet. My sister and I, when we see it we kneel down with our rags and we scrub. We run and get her fresh undies, diaper, pants. Sometimes a new shirt if the shit really smears. We spray freshener. We try to make it okay.

After all that I feel like crying but most the time I don’t. My sister goes out and has a smoke. You’ve got to give it to my sister, she lives with my mother, she has to deal with this all the time. So I’m the one to sit on the couch beside my mother whenever I’m there.

I snuggle in. I hold her soft hand tight, close my eyes, listen to the loud sound of the television and let it drown out the sound of my mother’s brain-gone silence.

I concentrate on her softness. All of her. My fat mother. A snuggle with breath.

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Charlotte B. is a writer.

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Lisa in Tub With Chocolate Cake, painting by Lee Price

lee price painting nailed magazine

Editor’s Note: Lee Price’s portrayal of women indulging themselves in solitude is a body of work illustrating abundance and self-pleasure. It explores a love affair with privacy and a celebration of the self.

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Lee Price was born in Elmira, New York and studied at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. Since she started painting, she has been focused on the often fraught relationship between women and food. Exploring food’s role as a liberator, crutch, drug and nourishment. Shen currently lives in Beacon, NY and is represented by Evoke Contemporary in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

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The First Time I Ever Saw Myself As FAT, by Sondra Blair

 

“F-A-T, fat. That’s all fat, right there,” she said, pointing to my 12-year-old thighs as they peeked out of a pair of acid washed cutoffs. “That’s just where the muscle divides from the tendons and bones and other stuff. Everybody has it,” I explained. “No, it’s not. Your legs are fat. It’s gross,” she retorted, an air of certainty and condemnation in her voice. I was shocked and devastated. How could it be that I had somehow managed to bump around this earth for 12 whole years without realizing just how disgustingly fat I was?

In that moment, I lost all love for my body. Being “strong,” “intelligent,” “capable,” “funny,” and “kind,” didn’t matter. When I looked in the mirror all I saw was “FAT.” Fat, in the ALL CAPS way my classmate had announced it to me. I wish I could say that I had fought back, that I had brushed off my classmate’s comments for the complete crap they were, I really do. The truth is I let them destroy me. They festered, eating away at my confidence, my self-love, myself. I resolved to get thin, to acquire the acceptance of those who labeled me fat. I made it my mission to be the skinniest, the most beloved. I became so, so sick I couldn’t see anything except my fatness.

It seemed that no matter how little I ate, I couldn’t lose the “FAT.” So, I binged like I had never eaten before, and purged like I could turn myself inside out to escape the horrid fat all over me. Nothing worked. I hated myself more and more. Unable to escape myself, I considered suicide. Who the hell loves a fat girl? No one, my 17-year-old mind reasoned.

I honestly don’t know why I didn’t kill myself. I wanted nothing more than to be dead. I know so many people, so many gifted people whom I consider stronger and such a gift to this world, that did. So many, in fact, that it seemed like the world wasn’t cut out for awesome people. Every time I would seriously consider suicide, I would hear The Murmurs singing, I wish I was dead…temporarily. It’s so stupid, but that damn song gave me something to hope for. It accomplished more than four years of counseling – it gave me hope. Hope I could be free from the crippling battle of just breathing every day and trying not to hate myself for every second I was awake.

That year I was elected class president, I took AP classes, played sports, had a job, volunteered, taught vacation bible school, did anything I could to keep me away from home and away from my thoughts. I somehow made it through, stayed alive. I went to college and found another world where I had more control. I met amazing people who made their own definitions. I became a punker, piercing, coloring, slashing, spiking, and otherwise completely playing with and altering my persona. I finally felt like I had control over my body and my feelings about it. Those years were simultaneously reckless and the most healing. I finally began to love and forgive myself. I didn’t care if people considered me fat, thin, ugly, pretty, bitchy, nice, or anything.

I look at my body now, nearly 25 years later. The pudge on my stomach belies an undying love of craft brew and home cooking. My arms don’t fit in my delicate blouses because my youngest is a bruiser who insists on being toted about. Is there fat? Yes, there most certainly is. There is fat in all of us. It’s not the Big Bad it’s made out to be. My fat is as much a part of me as my organs and tissues are. Fat makes up the breasts that nourished my three children, and the softness of my embraces with my love. It’s not the Big Bad gross. It’s life.

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Sondra Blair: Aspiring ventriloquist. Narwhal enthusiast. Vintage coat hoarder.

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Header image courtesy of Monika Horčicová. To view a gallery of her sculpture, go here.

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Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.