I had a good ride today. It's been almost a week since I've been out, but it was hot enough that I left the saddle in the barn and rode a long bareback ramble through the lanes of the deserted christmas tree farm behind the stable property.
Riding bareback is a matter of balance. You ride with an awareness of the center of your body, and balance your center over that of the horse as it moves. It's a form of meditation in motion. As I rode along, belting out The Hedgehog Song to the miles of open air, I thought about the myth of the clumsy fat person.
Occasionally there is a thin person who wonders how it is to be fat. They don a heavy padded suit (usually for the benefit of cameras) and try to move through the world under the honest mis-assumption that they are somehow gaining the perspective of what it feels like to be fat. It feels horrible and unnatural, this thick envelope of sensory-dead stuffing isolating them from the world. Their skin no longer gives them cues of space, motion, heat or cold. The thousands of small motions of balance and posture their bodies perform without their awareness are useless against the unfamiliar weight in unfamiliar places. They feel monstrous, clumsy, humiliated, and alien. They then take off the suit with great relief and continue through the world with a renewed sense of how terrible it must be to live like that every day. The problem is that they haven't actually learned anything.
I grew up fat; I haven't been thin since my black-irish genes kicked in around third grade and turned me from a thin blond to a fat brunette. What the person in the fat suit doesn't realize is that if they wore the suit every day of their adult life, it wouldn't be awkward or alien (unless they wash it, of course, it will begin to smell...opening up an entirely different discussion of fat stereotype). I grew into my fat body and learned it's strengths, movements, reach and ability just as any other teenager would. I don't wear my fat as a suit, but as part of me. I don't have to think about the extra effort to move, because it isn't extra effort to me. My body knows how to move and balance because it has developed all the unconscious and necessary thousands of tiny motions it requires. It has done so exactly as a thin body would.
My point is that those who try to simulate, or even imagine what it's like to be fat may simply be unable to do so. A naturally thin person would be awkward and uncomfortable if they were fat because their body has developed into a shape they are accustomed to and has no idea how to accomodate the change. Likewise for the naturally fat person who found herself suddenly thin. The body would have to re-learn how to move and react and balance, just as it did in puberty. That's why, for all the fantasy potential, I don't think I could even imagine myself as a thin adult. My body only knows what it has learned.
A girl once raised my eyebrows and ire with the question "don't you feel handicapped with all that fat?" Putting aside the more complicated response to her rather awkward vocabulary, I'll respond to her real question. Do I feel like I have some dead, awkward envelope of fake padding restricting my movements and throwing me off balance? The answer is no. I have my body, which I've known all my life. It is living, sensing, reacting flesh all the way to the skin. I know how it balances. I know how it moves. I know where my center is.