My big fat brain

It has suddenly occurred to me, sitting here, on my bed, at home, that I have no idea how to write this blog post.

Usually I have something to start off with. A funny thing that happened, an embarrassing moment that I figure I might as well tell you, or an annoyance that can fill a few hundred words. And the fact is, that yes - I have all of those. But it feels inappropriate to go down that route. Because this show is the first one that I actually booked for me, and not for the marathon. I went to see it because I thought it was important for me to do so. Not to fill some self-imposed quota. And not to check off a venue. This was the show that I organised all my Vault Festival bookings around. Because I thought it was the one I had to go to, above all the others.

So, while I could spend a blog post detailing everything that irritates me about the Vaults, I’m not going to do that. Not with this one.

That’s a big statement from something who is just sat here floundering about with words.

So, let’s try and impose some order on this colloquy chaos shall we?

Why did I go? Why this show?

Okay, great start. Good, strong start.

I went to see Fatty Fat Fat because I used to be a Fatty Fat Fat.

And no this isn’t going to be a preachy blog post about how I lost the weight or any such bollocks, because fuck that shit. I lost weight through a combination of anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Which put me in the strange position of gaining thin privilege and yet not having done anything to deserve it. Result: I have a fuck tonne of unresolved issues on the matter.

I was fat. And now I’m not. And it’s weird. And it’s impossible to talk about properly.

I spent so much of my life as a fat person that I can’t ever imagine myself as anything else. No matter what I look like in the mirror, I will forever think fat. I have a fat mentality. A fat brain. Fat emotions. A fat soul, even.

And yes, I say fat because I was fat. Not chubby. Not fluffy. Not over-whatever-weight. I was fat. Properly fat. Very fat.

How fat was I? I believe it's considered harmful, by those people who understand these things, to post actual numbers, but I also know how annoying it is to not know - so let's say: a fashion designer would have called me plus size, to a teenage boy I’d have been an ugly fat cow, and a doctor would have termed me class three morbidly obese.

Whatever, I was fat.

And I never saw myself on stage.

No, wait. That’s not true.

I can remember seeing one significant fat character on stage. A girl. Who flirted with a boy. And he flirted back. And it was adorable. They were adorable. And I was so frickin’ happy.

That was, until the playwright turned her into the joke.

And it killed me.

No prizes for guessing it was a Martin McDonagh.

God, I hate him. And love him. And hate him more.

This blog post is not about Martin McDonagh.

Other than to explain why I wanted to see a play written by a fat woman, and one who claimed that fatness. A play where if there was a joke, that the fat people would be in on it.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a one-woman show. Sorry Katie Greenall, I was asking a lot of you as I headed into the Studio at the Vaults and took my seat.

But that’s the thing with underrepresented classes. When a show does come around, it has to cater to every single need and taste, because there’s nothing else out there offering it as a choice on the menu.

So, I can forgive Katie for making the audience clap along to the Cha-Cha Slide. You already know that I can’t clap in time with music, so I sat that one out.

I can also kind of forgive her picking someone to come onstage through the medium of hiding a crisp packet under their seat, but only because I’ve told myself that was a set-up, and both the crisp packet and the audience member were planted - because the alternative is too abhorrent to contemplate.  

And I can forgive her making us play Never Have I Ever, a game I hate because I find the grammar confusing, because she gave us all crisps to eat along with her and I ended up eating a lot of crisps.


What I can’t forgive is the raw words that she threw down once all the silly games had ended. With truth flying all over that small space there was nowhere to hide.

Story followed story, dripped out - sometimes as simple throw-away tales, others more poetic in structure - and each one burning out a hole in me as they found a similar tale in my own memories, burrowing in deep to pull them out.

It was brave. It was painful. And I really, really, needed it.

I needed to hear those stories. Perhaps as much as Katie seemed to need to tell them.

And perhaps as much as I need to tell a few of my own.

Like the time that the piano teacher in my childhood ballet lessons pulled me aside to ask if I ate crisps (what is it with crisps?).

Or the time when I was playing Charlie’s mother in my school’s version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory my English teacher stopped the rehearsal to change Charlie’s line from “my mother looks so pale and thin” to “pale and tired” in front of my whole class.

Or the time I was given a digital scale as a birthday present.

Or the time my mother offered to pay for weight loss surgery.

Or the time I had to explain to my landlord exactly how I had managed to break my bed.

Or the time when my nephew asked me why I was so big. Well, not exactly that time. I would have forgotten it entirely if I hadn’t mentioned it to my sister-in-law - laughing as I shared the joke. “He means impressive,” she quickly explained. Too quickly. That was not what he had meant at all, but her desperation to cover his gaff hurt more than his words ever could.

Or the times, so many times, that my old flatmate, Leanne, the prettiest girl I had ever seen in my life, used me as a human shield when we went out dancing together, to protect her from the predatory eyes of boys who could see only her.

Wow. Too many times. Too much hurt.

But here’s the thing they don’t tell you about being fat: it gives you superpowers.

The fat brain is very perceptive. It can see the world differently to those who have never carried the weight.

Because it knows the world’s dark secret.

It knows that every time someone stops their car to let me cross the road, that five minutes later they'll be speeding up to make a fat person run.

It knows that when a waiter gives an admiring smile in response to my request for a massive slice of cake, that they’ll be fighting back a wave of disgust at the next fat person who does the same thing.

And I have to live with that.

And let me tell you, it makes it super hard to trust new people.

Every comment about a fat person, every joke I hear, will be analysed and turned over a thousand times.

Would they have liked me if they knew me when I was fat? Would they have even seen me?

Would you? No seriously. I’m asking. Would you be reading this blog if I was still fat? I know I certainly wouldn’t have written it.

I had the idea for this marathon five years ago. And this is the year I chose the go through with it. The year I wasn’t fat anymore.

It hadn’t occurred to me before this moment, this exact moment, that these two things might be connected.

But of course they are.

I just didn’t want to admit it to myself.

The world has grown the smaller I got.

And just thank god that all of my closest friends now knew me when I was fat. Knew what I looked like and still treated me as a human being, and a friend, and not something other.

Because fat people are other. They are set-apart. Their stories untold and unheard.

And that is why I went to see Fatty Fat Fat, and you should too.

Right, that’s enough of that. I’m going to quickly post this before I wimp out.