Set them free
by Glen Sommers

Glen Sommers

Being the high-tech wizard that I am, I occasionally bribe my wife into bringing up Dimensions web boards so I can see what kind of tomfoolery is goin' on. While perusin' the Weight Board, you'll always see several gentlemen lookin' for a lady to put a little more meat on their bones. "Feedees," I think they are called. They bring out the knee pads beggin' for their dream gal, which can be a morphed picture of a celebrity, like Anna Nicole Smith (Texas girl) with two hundred extra pounds. At this point I just shake my head. They don't have a clue. All they have to do is slide down to Dixie and our southern gals will do them right. There is no greater shame to a hostess down there than to run out of food at dinner. It's pretty standard fare to cook up twice the amount of vittles one needs at a sittin'. This reminds me of a gift my dear old pappy gave momma on their first weddin' anniversary: a plaque that hangs in momma's kitchen to this day. It says all that needs to be said: "kissin' don't last, cookin' do." And now, on to the main course.

As we flow through this experience known as life, one of the essential ingredients for success in any endeavor is self confidence. "Empowerment" seems to be the current catch-word. Unfortunately, one of the byproducts of prejudice and bias is the decapitation of one's confidence. Having the acceptance of one's peers is crucial to our sense of well-being. During the years I shopped the meat market, I met many young and beautiful BBWs who pretty much had their self-esteem jackhammered. This is the cruel side of prejudice that doesn't get enough notice. When the soul is lacking something this fundamental, it will seek it outside of itself, ultimately finding someone or something that acts as a source of power. Whether it is a group or an individual, needy people will gyrate to this epicenter like it's a Blue Light Special at Kmart; this is a way they can feel empowered over their environment. However, when this kind of responsibility of power is handed to humans, invariably the odds are that abuse will occur. The fact is, the transfer of personal empowerment carries a price tag. The wise ones who seek to truly help one another know that an organization is only as strong as its base members. The good Samaritans know that true empowerment comes from the person's heart and no other source. True friends know that soul damage can only heal when they set them free.

Not too long ago, the eminent fat-acceptance organization (NAAFA) held a shindig in LA. As expected, the participants came out of there all revved up. Mutual praise flowed like wine. Here's a tidbit that popped up on someone's web page: "There is nothing that compares to being surrounded by hundreds of fat people and fat admirers...its like I am normal!! And that is a treat...truly. To be in an environment where the standard of beauty is more gorgeous by the pound is positively intoxicating. And empowering." It is one thing to create a pseudo environment for five days where people can let it all hang out (and do), but what kind of an encore do you do for the other 360 days before the next five days of sugar-laden buffets?

NAAFA bills itself as a place where any Child of Size can receive support and encouragement in dealing with the prejudices of our society--but aye, there's the rub. I guess seminars on "How to Flirt" and "Successful Dressing for the BBW" have their place, but where are the reality-based skill development classes? There are some classes that hold promise, but year after year participants tell me: "same old, same old. The message we hear is, you need NAAFA to make it." How about some classes that help us to understand why some people choose to spew their anger on people larger than they? Why not a seminar about the fact that life has given all of us a cross to bear and what you do with it goes a long way to determine what you get out of life? You could've knocked me over with a feather if someone had said: "I learned so much from the convention that I can use in my everyday life; living is not so intimidating anymore." Instead of "you need us to be happy," it should be, "let us help you to cope after you leave here."

Right after the convention, one of those grocery store rags ran a picture of three convention-participating BBWs. There was a blurb beneath the photo, a snide comment: the local donut shops got fleeced of their stock in record time. One of these three ladies has been pretty adamant about her belief that this was a sign of success--it showed three fat gals empowered enough to walk down the street side-by-side. At first take, this seems safe enough; there is absolutely nothing wrong with like-minded individuals getting together and creating their own environment. To that end, I believe it is wrong for people to sue their way into organizations that wish to be exclusive. But sorry, I need a damn site more than that to feel "empowered." Besides insulting every person of size, an article such as this actually demeans our empowerment in society's eyes by making us a laughingstock. I would be a heck of a lot more impressed if some BBWs were able to knock down some sundaes at Spago's without a soul giving them a second glance.

If people want size acceptance to be successful, a change in our standards and aspirations are in order. We have to raise the bar with regard to what we will and will not accept from others and ourselves. If we want real empowerment, we need to understand where it comes from, how to get it and the will to achieve it. Attaining goals begets confidence and confidence begets personal power. If an organization truly wants to help its members achieve their dreams, it must first set them free.

The most important element in this equation is the person holding this magazine. If you have all the confidence you need and your cup truly runneth over, may it be for the right reasons because mere abrasive bravado rooted in questionable ethics and guarded intentions will yield another Pandora's Box of dilemmas. We will end up with people of selfish motives and bankrupt morals and ethics steering our social conscience and agendas. If you have had your value as a person, to yourself and society, skewered to the bone, then this is for you: they have taken nothing from you. You gave them this power to destroy the inherently beautiful elements of your life. You can just as quickly remove it from their clutches providing you have the strength of conviction and purpose to take back what the Universal Power gave you. Some of us were born with the ability to perpetuate life; others were born with the physical strength to protect the renewal of life. We were all born with the ability to share love, to empathize with each other's pain and the tools to realize our dreams within our reality. The simple interaction of good people should never be trivialized and the impact of a kind heart on others in need is reason enough to stand on the highest mountain and proudly, enthusiastically proclaim your self-worth; your empowerment. Let no man, woman or organization, whether social, activist or religious, define your own self-worth.

This is one of the special bonds between yourself and your God. If anyone ever again attempts to enslave your spirit in their gilded cage, then damn them to their hell. They are not worth your time--especially if they use the waistline as a measuring stick of a person. A woman does not need a man to define her life and neither does a man to need a woman to define his. But when we have achieved a sense of self worth balanced with common sense, we are infinitely more attracted to each other and our lives together stand a better chance of being harmonious.

If you are one of those people who put yourself in the cage, the key lies right beside you. The world awaits the beauty you have to share. Please set yourself free.