About a year ago I made a bit of a silly mistake – I commented, on-line, in response to an article in a national newspaper – The Guardian. The article was something about shopping for clothes whilst fat and I think I was moved to comment because I had been searching for suitable clothing to pack for a trip to Iceland. I had become obsessed with the need to buy Appropriate trousers
I made the comment after reading the article and then forgot about it. Last week I was checking my settings for the Guardian app and noticed my activity log. Curiosity got the better of me and I went to have a look. How I wish I hadn’t. What I hadn’t reckoned with was that anyone would bother to read my comment and then feel the need to respond.
I only read the ones that responded directly to my original comment but that was enough to confirm that the space below the article is where the free-thinking, liberal, middle-classes go to indulge their prejudices – guilt and consequence-free.
When I uploaded my comment I wasn’t seeking advice; there was no question being asked. I was reflecting on my own experiences whilst clothes shopping for hiking and other outdoor activities. Nonetheless many of the replies chose to lecture me on how correct clothing is not necessary for exercise; if I just did it I would lose weight and be able to buy ‘normal’ size clothes (as a reward presumably?). They must be mates with those who thought the issue was that I was making excuses and I should just eat less and go out for walk. Finally there were the ‘helpful’ ones who pointed me in the direction of the outsize gents department.
I read the responses to my original comment and got angry, wanting to put them straight, explain and argue. Who are these people who equate fat with stupid? Didn’t they notice that I’d uploaded a comment to an online newspaper, demonstrating that my lardy brain knows how to use the internet and my fat fingers can navigate a computer keyboard. I wasn’t asking anyone for advice about where to shop, how to eat or what is the best exercise. I’ve got all that covered – because I’m an adult!
If I was being generous I would try to see the underpinning desire to help, to offer advice and support. But I’m not, so I won’t. Those people, typing those comments, were not being helpful – they were being nasty, vindictive, judgemental, rude, presumptuous. They were letting their prejudice about fat people run free in a way that would be unlikely to happen if the topic had been about shopping whilst short. ‘Oh you’re little – why not shop in the kids section? Don’t worry that all your clothes will have appliqué teddy bears and balloons on them…makes a change from black…’ or ‘Perhaps if you ate more protein and did regular stretching your legs would get longer…’
I haven’t commented in such a public forum since and it is unlikely I ever will again. Maybe I was a bit naïve not to realise that my innocuous comments would draw down such anger, irritation and judgement. Guardian readers have a reputation for being left of centre, liberal, independent. I thought I knew my audience but I clearly didn’t. Talk about being disappointed.