my single story

A few years ago, I was asked to help run the Presidential election in my hometown. Because we were short-staffed, we were all going to have to be there to open the polls (around 5:00 am) and close the polls (around midnight). Since it was going to be a long day, Sally (the election manager) decided to order in subs for us to eat at lunch. She called my house to ask me what sub I wanted but, since I worked late that night and early the next morning, I didn’t return her call until the next evening.

When I called to tell her what type of sub I wanted she said that, “Well, since you’re so skinny, we decided you probably don’t eat much and wouldn’t want one. So we didn’t order you one.”

Cool, Sally. Real cool.

On the day of the election, everyone took a lunch break. Of all the workers (there were 5), I had only known Sally and one other worker previously. Since I didn’t have a sandwich, but was still hungry, I started eating all the other snack foods they brought, including stuff from the veggie tray and the Meijer knock-off Cheetos. As I was eating, people kept making comments about how skinny I was and why I didn’t eat more.

"Well, that’s why you’re so skinny, you only eat vegetables!" (Ignoring the fact that I was also consuming a serious amount of Cheetos and donut holes.)

"Is that how you lose weight? You just snack all day instead of eating meals?" (Assuming that I had lost weight and wasn’t just naturally thin.)

"Told you she wasn’t going to eat a sandwich." (Did you really give me any other choice?)

"What do you wanna be, a model or something?" (Because that’s the only occupation thin people can have/should aspire to?)

Thin people, like myself, can often be looped under the single story of eating disorders, diet obsessions, health conscious, model wannabes. The true story is that my build is 100% genetic: most of my family, although in the upper five foot to lower six foot range, graduated high school weighing less that 120 pounds. And, although I’m thin, I’m not terribly healthy. I eat foods that are ridiculously high in fat/sugar/carbs and my exercise routine consists almost solely of walking to and from buildings on campus.

The danger in seeing thin people as a single story is that it, again, makes someone’s appearance the primary factor in their identity. And it also reduces the complexity of factors that go in to someone’s weight, which includes lifestyle among many other factors such as genetics, metabolism, physical conditions, and availability of food options.

Yes, I’m thin. No, I’m not anorexic.

Yes, I’m hungry. No, I don’t want water and celery sticks.

Yes, I wear smaller clothing. No, I don’t want your twelve-year-old’s hand-me-downs.

Yes, I want to hang out with you. No, I don’t want to just go to gym. 

Yes, I’m thin. No, I’m not a single story.