It’s so normal to add a photo to your Facebook page, your blog, even your business card. We have cameras in our phones, and use them, sometimes more often than phoning. We change our profile shots, we Skype so we can talk face to face. It’s the new normal. There are big, bloviated reasons for loving photos of ourselves. “We are visual people, so we want to know the person we are talking to,” says a well-known blog marketer. “We have an affinity for faces, and we like to look at others,” says a coaching company, who won’t let you have a listing without a photo.
But the real reason we want to see photos is one we talk less about. We like people like ourselves. So we look for people just like our ideal self. We eliminate by age, by gender, by race, by clothing, by glasses, by teeth color. We judge. We eliminate not by experience or content of soul, but by looks. Photos are handy for that. It wasn’t too long ago that a college admission form had to include a photo. Guess who didn’t get in? The ones that “just wouldn’t fit in” at that school. At the same time, of course, we espouse equality.
Here’s my experience of equality: Since last October 3rd, I have lost about 50 pounds. That’s the weight of the average seven-year-old. I am the same person I was 50 pounds ago. But my life is different now. I get help in stores more quickly. People in clothing stores are polite to me. Grocery store checkers don’t comments on the contents of my grocery cart anymore. I’d used to hear, “Is this all for you?” Or, “How long will this last you?”
While I still need to lose weight, it’s been a record-setting three weeks since a complete stranger came up to me and suggested a diet. This used to happen three to four times a week–a woman (it was always a woman) would step up to me at the library or grocery store and suggest a diet that had “done wonders” for her.
When I mentioned diabetes, I was often told that I had brought it on myself, by eating sugar (or gluten, or not enough kale, or whatever people felt like saying. A well-known crafter once said that fat people took up too much space in the world. Thirty of her friends agreed with the statement on Facebook. Some of them belonged to minority-factions themselves, but did not feel compelled to consider their piling-on as defamatory or hurtful.
So, no, I didn’t want to post a photo on my site. Because we absolutely, positively judge the overweight as undesirable. Fat people may the the one group that we still make fun of, tease, taunt and feel self-righteous and justified in dishing out the mean-girl words.
When we want to describe a problem as difficult to overcome, it’s a “big, fat” problem. If a business “trims the fat” it becomes “lean and mean” which is a good thing.
The changes in my life are profound. I have chosen to control my blood sugar by diet. No “just give yourself a little insulin and have this cake.” No pill to cover a guilty pleasure of a glass of wine. It’s an incredibly hard choice to make, but it makes me be aware of how I live and how I choose to nourish myself. There are no more treats in the way I defined them–no more cookies, no chocolate covered ginger, no fresh cornbread. There cannot be, ever again. It is not a choice I recommend, because it reminds me of loss. In my case, it also fills me with gratitude, and the desire to make the same choices again. I get sick if I make mistakes, so I make fewer mistakes.
And yes, I had a head shot taken. Not because I lost 50 pounds, but because too many workshops, training and speaking opportunities won’t come your way unless you have a head shot to show. And because, for me, this is who I am. If you don’t like the photo, you absolutely won’t like the personality that comes with it.
–-Quinn McDonald still has weight to lose. But she’s moving ahead step by rocky step. She will always wish she could eat ice cream, but she will never have to give up Inktense watercolor pencils.