Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Mr. Bates Made Me Cry or Why Downton Abbey is Awesome

I was at a small get together at a friend’s house on Sunday and overheard a conversation between two women. One woman, explaining what she did for work, said, “I deal with research on different diseases. You know, cancer, obesity... things like that.” I responded to this by saying very loudly, “OBESITY IS NOT A DISEASE,” which was, of course, followed by an awkward silence.

My grandmother died of cancer in 2004. She was first diagnosed with Breast Cancer years before. She went through Chemo, and her cancer went into remission. Then it moved down into her intestines, and it never stopped spreading. My grandmother was a lifetime member of Overeaters Anonymous, and I remember, when she was still lucid, she would joke that it took chemotherapy to get her to her goal weight (it makes me sad to think that my grandmother was struggling her entire life to attain a weight that she could only get to by dying). 

As far as I know (and to be honest I could be totally wrong as I know not a thing about science) it is unknown what causes cancer. Yes, there are correlations, but it is very unclear why some people get cancer and others do not. 

Fatness is similar. Some bodies are fat and some are not. It is not known why some bodies are fat and some are not because, contrary to what most people would believe to be true, not all fat people eat more and exercise less than thin people. There are so many different components of fatness: genetics, environment, stress, lifestyle. 

This is the only way in which fatness is similar to cancer. 

To call Obesity a disease is, if you ask me, kind of insulting to other diseases. My fatness is not the same as my grandmother’s cancer. Or a brain tumor. Or this child’s disease. And though I have more body fat, my fat is not slowly killing me (whatever the media would want you to believe). I do not feel weak. I do not feel sick. My body is able to digest food, to move, to function properly in every way. My body is not, in anyway in fact, diseased and to call it such is insulting.

I am going to let you in on a secret: everybody dies. From the minute our bodies are fully formed they are deteriorating, some faster than others. We want to think that if we can make our bodies a certain way that somehow we will have some control over our own demise, and though that is true to a certain extent, whether I or anyone else wants to extend or shorten their life is just none of your goddamn business. Maybe I will die from a heart attack in the next 10 years. Maybe I will get hit by a bus on my bicycle. Maybe I will live to be a fat 82-year-old just like my dad. Or maybe I will get an actual disease. I just don’t know. No one does. 

I’ve been watching Downton Abbey with my glorious roommate. There is a character named Mr. Bates who has a pronounced limp from a war injury and walks with a cane. Mr. Bates is handsome and kind, but many of the staff look down on him for his limp. They assume he can’t do certain things even though he can. He decides he will attempt to fix it. He goes to a store where he purchases a terrible metal contraption that, if tightened a certain amount everyday, claims to correct limps. Mr. Bates wears it. Throughout the episode we see him in terrible pain. Finally he shows his leg to the housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes. His leg is bloodied and raw. We then see Mrs. Hughes marching Mr. Bates out to the lake carrying his limp corrector. She hands it to him to throw into the water and as he goes to throw it, stops him, saying, “No. Say your speech.”

Mr. Bates says, “I promise I will never again try to cure myself.”

You say obesity is a disease?

My response is: what Mr. Bates said.

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