I hear the familiar hesitation in your voice when we speak. The sharp intake of breath and the disappointing sigh of an unposed question, like the hiss of an emptying balloon. With coaxing and reassuring, you come out with a familiar question.
But what about your health? Am I not even supposed to care?
And with that, you step into a long and living history. It stings and disappoints, as it always does. As a fat person, someone is always telling me about their concern for my health, and hearing it from such a dear friend smarts. I need you to know about your companions—the friends, family, colleagues, and strangers who have expressed those same concerns for as long as I have been fat.
I was 18 years old the first time someone told me I was going to die. I had just gotten the first job that I’d been truly passionate about, working with poets and novelists whose writing I so admired and had relied on in my adolescence. Luminaries whose work reached its warm hands into my ribcage, cradling everything vital and tender there, at a time that felt so isolating. A favorite poet was holding a reading, and I was in charge of it.
I’d spent months planning that first event, and I couldn’t have been prouder. Dozens of people showed up and everything was going according to plan. I stationed myself behind the food, dishing up plates for attendees, and welcoming them as they made their way through the line. An older man, well-dressed, smiled as he accept…