I Get Mocked for Being Fat, But It’s What Guys Do

Edwin Lyngar wonders why is it OK for men to poke fun of each other’s physical flaws?

 

I take off my pants, belt still attached, and throw them hard to the ground like I’m spiking a football.

“Don’t you oppress me pants!” I yell at the discarded Wrangler’s jeans. I scold the leg sleeves as they lay haphazard, like deflated tentacles of a giant, blue squid. Men are supposed to have a sense of humor about body size, so I work all the angles to make light of it.

Ray-Ray, my 5-year-old and Ellie, 3, laugh uproariously at what has become a near-daily ritual. I have five kids, ages 3, 5, 12, 16, and 18, but the older three find no mirth in my pants shenanigans.

My pants bigotry is not a new thing. It stems from the simple, neutral observation that I am an ample gentleman, and pants are the fat guy’s constant oppressor. But, pants are only the first indignity in a long line of mockery, derision, and scorn with which most ample Americans can identify. I can only speak from my own experience as a beefy guy, and I am certain that men and women experience this issue in vastly different ways.

In my day job, I work at a state wildlife department. It’s a manly, bearded, and flannel-clad kind of place. Although I’m a public relations person, interacting with people and writing press releases, I work with game wardens, biologists, and other outdoorsy types. In such an environment, it is not unusual to hear someone called a “fat fuck” or a “goddamn prick.”

It’s not meant to be personal when men insult one another. If you have red hair, they might call you red or if you’re bald, they might call you baldy (in a fit of originality). For me, I sometimes hear fat ass, fat fuck, or chubby. Among men, these kinds of insults are normal, even expected. If someone isn’t cruel to you regularly, it probably means you are not well liked. Ironically, the more other men like you, the more often they might hurl a “fat bastard” your way.

I’ve worked for a very short time in a place where people don’t call each other names. It was a refreshing, but short lived experience for me. I gravitate to masculine workplaces for some reason, and I’m a product of my environment. I’m not above calling another guy a piece of shit or a dickhead. I doubt I could get a job in polite society anymore.

The deepest secret about this manly back and forth is that I think no one really likes to be mocked. I don’t, but being a manly man means never admitting it bothers you (I am breaking so many unspoken rules by writing this). If you were to take a stand against such talk or perhaps try to tell someone that it “hurts your feelings,” you would only look like a pussy and/or loser. I don’t make these sometimes difficult rules, but I live with them. There are worse indignities in the world.

One day not too long ago, I came home and peeled off my britches. Ellie, my youngest, then dropped her pants, underwear and all, and started yelling at them, while mispronouncing the word “oppressing.” Then she yelled at other things that were oppressing her, a toy and a shoe. It was a funny but sad kind of moment. No matter how she grows up in the world, body issues will remain huge factors in her life and our society. My wife and I raise our children to understand the perils of sugar and the benefits of exercise. Right now, all five are close to or well inside the “normal” weight range, but they will always have a genetic disadvantage. I would hate for them to have to put up with the same bullshit I do.

 

Edwin Lyngar is a writer and author living in Reno, Nevada. He graduated from Antioch University in 2010 with his MFA in creative writing and also holds an MA in Writing from the University of Nevada, Reno. His essays have appeared or are forthcoming in the Bellingham Review and Ontoligica. He blogs about parenting, family life, and writing at www.edwinlyngar.com and is in the process of finding a home for his first book, a memoir titled Guy Parts.

 

Photo courtesy of Flickr/YoLaGringo

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Role/Reboot

Role/Reboot is a nonprofit created to navigate a world built on outdated assumptions about men and women's roles and to advocate ways to understand and embrace the changing reality of our day-to-day lives. Follow them @RoleReboot.

Comments

  1. Like most groups of people there is a sort of in group seal of approval. Guys ragging on each other’s bodies isn’t much different from groups of black people that toss around the word nigga and it’s derivatives, women that call each other b’s, and so forth.

    I think what happens is people use those insults as some around about way of telling each other “we’re in this together, bound by pain”.

    The deepest secret about this manly back and forth is that I think no one really likes to be mocked. I don’t, but being a manly man means never admitting it bothers you (I am breaking so many unspoken rules by writing this). If you were to take a stand against such talk or perhaps try to tell someone that it “hurts your feelings,” you would only look like a pussy and/or loser. I don’t make these sometimes difficult rules, but I live with them. There are worse indignities in the world.
    What makes being a man interesting (in a way that almost no other group of people with their own insults deals with) in this regard is that actually speaking up about being harmed in this way is an actual antithesis of being a man. To speak up about being harmed as a man can actually incite others to attempt to take your manhood away.

    (Think about it women speaking up about being called b’s will get them attacked but do those attacks include attempts to have their very womanhood taken from them? Same with black people, racists can silence them all they want but do those racists actually say that speaking about about being offended by racism is a sign that they are no longer black? Gays can call out homophobia and be attacked for it, but they are still acknowledged as gay. Non-Christians can call out anti-religious sentiments and be attacked for it, but their attackers still acknowledge their religion.)

  2. Oh, this breaks my heart because I know it’s true. I spent my career in a male-dominated profession and I heard this all too often. I’m so sorry, Edwin.

  3. “If you were to take a stand against such talk or perhaps try to tell someone that it “hurts your feelings,” you would only look like a pussy and/or loser. I don’t make these sometimes difficult rules, but I live with them. There are worse indignities in the world.”

    Rather than confrontation I tend to respond with humor, but in a pointed way. Occasionally I’ll give someone a grin and “good effort, if you did a little more reading/thinking perhaps you could make an actually funny joke.” That seems to get the point across that their joke is hurtful and stupid, without raising the stakes too much.

    But yeah. Awesome dudes that I know, they don’t make jokes about someone’s physical appearance. It’s boring and dumb. Also, there are much smarter, funnier things to make fun of anyway.

  4. I’m with you, Joe; pointed humor does it best. I’ve worked in male-dominated and female-dominated workplaces and I’ll take male-dominated any day; I was respected and paid well. That said, I’m glad you wrote this, Edwin, it’s so good to hear men talking about their experiences.

  5. When women insult each other they do it differently – childish namecalling would just make the speaker look stupid – but “are you sure you need all that dressing on your salad?” means exactly the same as “fat fuck”, still hurts, and could still not really be answered with “you hurt my feeeelings!”, without risking more mockery.

  6. I often work in a male-dominated setting and it’s weird when they forget that you’re not “one of the guys” (oh yeah, this is a woman typing) and they talk to you in the same they speak to other men. It’s a totally different style of communication! It’s very jarring (both the myself and the men around) when they start ragging on me and I come back with “Yeeeeaaah, please don’t talk to me that way.”

    But its good to know that all those comments I find rude are also considered rude or hurtful by men too.

  7. Todd Mauldin says:

    Edwin, I’m really glad I stumbled across this article and am really excited to find another Reno contributor here on GMP. I could swear we’ve met somewhere before around town. I hopped over to your blog and found lots of other great essays there too.

    Todd

  8. Bob Broili says:

    Hey Ed:
    Good article it is nice that Reno writers like you and Todd get published once in a while.
    I too have worked in environments where men calling each other un-flattering names has been the norm.
    It seems to me that knowing when NOT to use one of those terms, like when the person has just had a death in the family, is where a spirit of fun and support of fellow male workers can show through.

  9. People razz me for being short because I am…
    & now the old jokes are starting….
    At this stage of life I could care less….
    I tease kids about being kids- dumb kids…
    Basically I put the barbs of my buds in context by the age of 16.
    I never, ever tease women at work, you MIT as well pat her ass & pack your personal belongings.

  10. Edwin I am sorry to read this. I am sorry because I have been the ass that has made those jokes and if we are all honest they aren’t, at their core, simply one person razzing the other but they really are an attempt to best someone else. I think that is where we have to take a look inside ourselves and ask why we make those jokes. What would happen if as a coworker, friend, bother, son, etc I took the time to encourage someone else? They would not be better than me because I pointed out something that was true already. They would simply be. In the same the negative “ribbing” simply points out, in Edwin’s case, what is already true and it doesn’t change the reality even if the joke was never made.

    Speak up for the human in all of us.

  11. Listen guy dont worry about it. Thats what makes men much less complicated and happier then woman. I love mens mind, sense of humor , lack of hang ups and I seriously think they are nicer human beings then us women. Sure you have your ass_ _ _ _ s but overall men are so simple they are great.

Speak Your Mind