the story behind the story

Back in February, my friend and former Automattic colleague, Michelle, approached me about writing a piece on fatphobia from a parent’s perspective for her magazine, Pipe Wrench.

As an aside: I first met Michelle during the 2012 Automattic Grand Meetup in San Diego. She started on the editorial team a few months after I was hired, and I have this vivid memory of seeing her across the conference room and thinking, “I want her to be my friend.” When we spoke, that thought immediately evolved into, “I definitely want her to be my friend, and I want to be like her when I grow up.” Michelle is a genius, a wit, a word wizard, and a fantastic human being.

Fast forward ten years (what even is time) and she’s created this online magazine that explores one core topic for each issue, with a feature story and multiple shorter essays responding to that feature story. This issue’s topic: Fatness.

Well, I’ve lived in a fat body since puberty, so I have some experience in that area. But fat liberation? I didn’t really know that was a thing until Michelle brought it up. My immediate response was to follow all the fat lib activists I could find on social media, particularly folks of color. I’d started following fat fashionistas and influencers a few years ago, trying to fill my Instagram feed with fat bodies as a means of normalizing fatness for myself. I took this a step further and spent the next few weeks reading about fat activism, listening to podcasts, and amping myself up.

When I received the feature essay, I read it in the parking lot on my phone while waiting to pick up the kids from school. I read it again when I got home. And again that night. Any fears I might have had about not knowing how to respond flew out the window.

I can’t think about medical fatphobia without thinking about my pregnancies, especially my first. Then I think about having daughters, daughters who share half of my genetic code, the same genetic code that says, “Here be fat!” And I think about how they will need to navigate the same unforgiving medical systems, the same societal expectations of body shape and size, and…I was off.

“I think about the time I used the f-word in front of your pediatrician and she looked at me, horrified as if I’d said ‘fuck‘ instead of ‘fat.‘”

I fought off impostor syndrome and put all those years of online journalling and that brief foray into fanfic writing to good use and wrote an actual, publishable essay. I tried to write from the heart to keep things authentic and real, and hooboy, have I mentioned vulnerability is not one of my strong suits? Coupled with a tendency to dial up the drama when I write, I did a lot of thinking and overthinking of every sentence. Thankfully Michelle is an amazing editor and it came together beautifully.

I spent most of Pipe Wrench’s launch day reading and re-reading the other essays (and Marquisele’s piece for, like, the fifth time). I had to take regular breaks to just breathe because it was overwhelming, seeing myself in many of these pieces and knowing that all of us deserve so much better.

The response to the issue has been amazing, and the response to my essay has been humbling. I think I have what Brené Brown calls a “vulnerability hangover”. I am not used to being an active participant in social media beyond a small circle of friends, and it was a little scary to see the notifications roll in. Rewarding, but yeah, a little scary. I have zero regrets, but in the process of writing, I did find stuff I need to work on. It turns out I have more to say on the subject. I’ll save it for another blog.

For now, you should really read Pipe Wrench.


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