So Amanda Platell has finally come out of the closet and admitted that she's fattist. Mein Gott! I haven't been so amazed since Herr Hitler admitted that he wasn't terribly keen on gefilte fish.
Still, you have to hand it to La Platell, she's consistent. A dedicated gym bunny she's probably the sort of woman who would block the aisles in Waitrose for hours, reading the contents on every item before deeming them sufficiently healthy to grace her shopping basket. Her steadfastness on the subject of physical fitness does her credit, unlike dear Sue Carroll who regularly lambastes the obese in her Daily Mirror column before ranting about the draconian anti-smoking laws that make it difficult for her to enjoy a fag.
And we all have our little irrational prejudices, don't we? In the course of my life I have met people who have admitted their hatred of poodles, Irish accents, Geordies (they sound thick and common, allegedly), bald men, men with beards, hairy chests (the same woman, for whom matters of hair distribution are obviously key), kilts, outie navels, teetotallers and pineapples.
It's differences of opinion like this that make the world go round. How wonderful to think that, for every person who cringes every time Jayne Middlemiss opens her mouth, there is another who swoons at every cry of, “Away the lads!”
And all of these people at least confess that there is no rational explanation for their dislikes.
Admittedly, most of these personal Room 101-isms are eccentric rather than harmful. These days many groups are thankfully protected from more Hitlerian censure. Should I harbour a hatred of – for instance – Hispanic people or homosexuals they would be shielded by law from any attack by me. I certainly wouldn't be paid by a national tabloid newspaper for an article in which I explained why I disliked gay men, offering a series of spurious rationalisations (they prey on straight, married men, they all lurk around Hampstead Heath looking for casual sex, their strict regime of personal grooming has led to the general feminisation of men) concocted to legitimise my prejudice.
This is exactly what Platell has done.
Those who know me will suspect that I have a very personal interest in her recent article (“My Visit to Fat Central”, Saturday, August 8th 2009) in The Daily Mail. I am a woman who is not big-boned, not Rubenesque, not cuddly, but definitely (and, these days, defiantly) FAT. In fact, this blog should be called A View From a Broad Broad – or even A View From a Broad Broad Abroad. I have always been fat and, given the fact that my main hobbies involve sitting on my lardy Welsh arse reading, writing or watching movies while drinking copious cups of tea (semi-skimmed milk but no sugar, thanks for asking), I probably always will be. I admit that this is hardly the most mature or responsible response to life but it's my choice and I really don't need the Social Tourette's brigade crossing the road to ask me whether it's my glands (no, it bloody isn't!) or reminding me every whipstitch that I currently enjoy the least fashionable body shape in the history of Western civilisation. If I fancy a biscuit, I´ll have a sodding biscuit but, as far as so-called junk food goes, I'd sooner eat the container in which it's served than tackle a greaseburger and fries.
Get this Platell, I don't spend my days sitting in a darkened room eating clotted cream and butter in order to maintain my fighting weight. I have no idea who ate all the pies, but it wasn't me. Lack of exercise is my downfall. As Vanessa Feltz once memorably said, the reason that I am what I am is that most of my hobbies involve reclining on a chaise longue reading poetry rather than hitting the gym. I'm not blaming the government, a difficult childhood, my pet cat or anyone else.
That said, I don't drink alcohol (the recommended weekly units for a female would last me at least 18 months), I have never smoked and the idea of taking drugs makes me feel quite queasy. I have friends that happily indulge in a combination of all three. That is their choice and I certainly don't think any the less of them for doing so; it just doesn't appeal to me. It's a matter of personal choice, no more and no less.
The main problem that we fatties have to contend with is that our shape immediately gives us away. I'm sure that we all know several normally proportioned people who present a relentlessly professional front during the week but, come the weekend, like nothing better to down so many pints and/or shots that they spend most of Saturday night lying on the street in a puddle of their own wee and vomit. So long as they maintain their sobriety at work, their weekend revelries can remain a secret.
When living in South Africa I met a Human Resources Manager who refused to employ anyone remotely obese on the grounds that “they have no control over their lives”. At the same time – and in the same place - an acquaintance of mine maintained her size 8 figure on a combination of cocaine and bulimia. No question of her life being thought out of control, obviously.
Platell confesses that her main objection to lardies is that she doesn't much like the look of them.
I think that we can all admit to finding some people more attractive than others; even the less than physically perfect are entitled to a say in the matter. For instance, I tend to find people who are smallish, stocky and dark (i.e. the classic Celtic or Mediterranean type) far more attractive than tall blondies. That's not to say that I feel that Scandinavian stringbeans have any less right to exist on the planet, which is what Ms. Platell is implying in her toxic article. Wander too far along the path that privileges the rights of one physical type of person over another and ultimately one enters the gas ovens of Auschwitz and Dachau.
However, Platell is far too intelligent not to offer some justification for her prejudices.
Fat people have no self-discipline, apparently. Well, it depends on what you mean by self-discipline. I might have a backside the size of Greater Manchester but, as a features writer, I know how much self control is needed to meet a deadline.
We also have no self-respect. This is a dubious claim, but were it true, it's good to know that we're receiving so much help in rectifying this matter by the tabloid Monstrous Regiment of Glenda Slaggs who simply can't resist reminding us how loathsome we are in body, mind and spirit.
We're a menace on public transport, taking up too much room. Now, that I cannot deny. Obviously someone who shops at Evans is going to take up more millimetres than someone who can fit into the latest basque from Agent Provocateur. However, most fatties that I know would sooner squeeze themselves into an unfeasibly tiny space in order to avoid being accused of bagging too much room. Unlike the curious breed of über-macho man who likes to sit with his legs wide apart, presumably in the desperate hope that the birds on the bus will imagine that he's packing the biggest tackle since King Dong. Or the businessman who takes up two seats on the train with his laptop, briefcase, Blackberry and assorted bits of technology. Or the woman with the enormous pushchair and assorted screaming toddlers. Or the troop of hoodies that clear the bus or train with a single collective glare. Need I continue?
Then, we are the products of uncaring parents who shovel junk food into our gaping maws and are far too unintelligent to see the damage that they're doing. My parents were very careful about my diet. I was brought up in a rural area where most of the food I ate was local and most of the vegetables I consumed travelled from my Grandad's veggie patch at the bottom of our garden direct to my plate. I was taken to see a specialist in obesity at Cardiff Infirmary when I was eight and, when I went to boarding school at the age of 11, the headmistress offered to oversee my weight loss. I played sport sometimes three times a day, a plate of stewed tomatoes on toast was considered an adequate meal at the end of a winter day when I'd just spent almost an hour outside playing hockey or lacrosse and, as a special treat, I was summoned before the school doctor once a term who told me how fat and disgusting I was and how I would never find a university place, job, love etc. if I failed to mend my ways. And – guess what? When I left school I was still fat.
Finally, Platell delivers her coup de grâce; fat people are a burden on the National Health Service. This is where fattists normally adopt that infuriatingly smug expression that says, “There! You can't argue with that, can you?” Admittedly I don't have access to any figures, but I would have thought it unlikely that the obese were any more of strain on the poor old NHS than Saturday night binge drinkers or the growing ranks of the elderly. In Platell World death and decomposition can be delayed by frequent vigorous exercise. If this is true then we can possibly look forward to an era when the post-Fonda Workout brigade all reach 90 and gum up the NHS or its successor with their old age complaints, while we fatties (if the same theory is to be believed) have had the good grace to drop dead in our comparative youth.
Perhaps the argument that posits that the obese have no right to health treatment is the most troubling of all. When medicine loses its sense of compassion we're all in for a rocky ride. Consider the growing list of illnesses and diseases that are considered self-inflicted. Lung disease? You shouldn't have smoked, it's all your fault. Been a drinker? No liver transplant for you then. Overweight? Well, the world's your oyster when it comes to illnesses that you could have prevented.
Self-inflicted? How about attempted suicides? No point in treating those selfish bastards, is there? Had a car accident after driving too fast? Sorry, we're only treating injuries that we can prove were inexplicable acts of God today.
If this sounds stupid to you then speak up, because this is the way we're heading.
I'd like to reclaim the word “fat”. I have no problem with it being used to describe me in its pure form. Obviously I'm fat. I'm not medium sized and I'm sure as hell not thin. It's the associations that I dislike: fat and stupid, fat and slow. Slow physically, perhaps. I narrowly avoided lamping an acquaintance once who suggested that, “You probably drive your boss mad because you're slow”. Since I wasn't at the time employed as a postie, I can only assume that she thought that my shape means that I'm mentally slow. Come closer to me and say that again, bitch. You'll soon find out how slow I am. Me and my M.A.
So this is the fat woman's burden. Having people ask you what your “excuse” is (I don't have one, still less one I'd care to offer you – what's your excuse for being crass and rude?) or whether any man has ever found you attractive (yes, and oddly enough not all of them had white sticks and guide dogs).
Still, it has its compensations. It opens your mind up to a new world where sometimes being human is more important than being right.
Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Platell.