Fat Call by Asha Galindo

My body is measured from the outside. How much it weighs, How big a silhouette it cuts in the landscape. You can measure me in distances. How far from the tip of my big toe to the pinnacle of my heel? Which unit is best? Inch? Centimeter? Something bigger and my size 9 feet become mere fractions. My body,

A Fraction the size of the universe.

Inside it still feels like when I was 13 and thought my thighs were the perfect thickness. They were fat and flesh and wobbled when I jumped in the pool, but I liked them. I knew that I shouldn’t. That I wasn’t supposed to like the way they filled my shorts, the way the smooth skin tanned soft roasted. I thought they looked sturdy and relevant to the rest of me. They fit. When I looked into my lap, my stomach sat on top of my thighs, but they tapered at the knee and my calves rounded and then sank into my ankles and feet. The hip bone connected to the knee bone connected to the shin bone and so on. The way legs were supposed to do.

When Mom got out of the car and walked across the parking lot towards the bank, Grama would remark on the way her ass moved in her leggings.

Bah-boom, bah-boom. She mocked. Do you see how fat your mother is?

Uh huh. I nodded and watched her butt wiggle, cellulite and all.

I had seen my mother naked hundreds of times, but her skin didn’t ripple and pucker the way it did after Grama pointed it out to me. Instead, it was layers and layers of smooth skin. Baby oil, Mom claimed, was the secret to what my little sisters referred to as “soft mama skin.”

After the shower, when you’re still a little wet, Mom instructed. It has to absorb.

I can barely remember to lotion knees and elbows, let alone legs and thighs and tummies. I never buy baby oil. I rarely soften my skin.

I was walking down Clinton Street with my friend when he yelled at me. Not a cat call,

A Fat Call:

Look at this big bitch right here She don’t care She gon’ look cute Let that blubber fly out and proud Don’t care what no doctors say You’re gonna die Don’t Care Fat Bitch Don’t Care You’re gon’ have a heart attack Look at You Walkin’ ‘round here like nothings wrong

I don’t deserve soft skin, or any skin, I shouldn’t exist. I’m worthless. I’m a glutton. I am gross. I am uncontrollable. I am a monster. I am lack of self-control. I am sickness personified. I am fat. Obese. Overweight. A balloon. A whale. A yo’ momma joke about sitting around the table.

It has to absorb.

Cabbage soup, that’s the first diet I try. Mom puts me on it. She’s on it too. Mom had just started getting good at a variety of homemade foods like meatloaf, chicken pot pie, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but only her and I were sequestered to seven days of bizarre, disordered eating.

Day 1: Fruit, except banana, and several servings of cabbage soup

Day 2: Vegetables, no fruit, and several servings of cabbage soup

Day 3: Fruits AND vegetables, and several servings of cabbage soup

Day 4: Bananas and skim milk, and several servings of cabbage soup

Day 5: Beef (or chicken, baked and skinless) and tomatoes, and several servings of cabbage soup

Day 6: Beef and vegetables, and several servings of cabbage soup

Day 7: Brown rice, unsweetened fruit juices, and vegetables, and several servings of cabbage soup

I couldn’t be more than 12 years old.

On day 4 I ask Mom if I can eat something else. Anything. I’m hungry and cabbage is nasty.

Do you want to look like this forever? She yells.

Before this, Dad caught me at 8:30 in the morning eating vanilla ice cream straight out of the container, still in my jammies watching cartoons.

What’s in your mouth?


Written in the spiral notebook Mom used as a baby book, a book to measure my growth.: Asha is starting kindergarten a little chunky

What if I were measured in cups of cabbage soup? How many—enough for 7 days, 7 weeks, several months of cabbage spread across a counter, across the house, across the street. What would I look like measured in cups? Or in spiral bound notebooks? A large pile?

The manager catches me red-handed. He set me up even, leaving the aisle with enough time for me to untuck my baggy white polo, long enough to cover my lower half. I pocket the candy bars I’ve been hovering over and run for the door. He follows me.

Empty your pockets

I don’t have nothing!

If you come back to this store, I will call the police!

The candy sits in my plastic pink pencil case for nearly 2 hours before I eat them all, one after the other in under 10 minutes. Before I eat dinner, I put the trash in my backpack to throw away far from home. 

I won’t visit that store for the rest of my life.

Later, when I am 15, I am so sick I lose weight and everyone says this is good. I throw up all the time. I develop an affinity for blandness: Water bagels with plain cream cheese. Rice cakes, plain. Ramen noodles, uncooked and dry. Or if cooked, with little water, no broth.  

Because food is not for fat people. But food is all we care about. It is all I think about sometimes. What will feel good. What will taste good. What will push out my middle like that? What will fill up my neck? What will close the gap of my thighs? How will I marble my skin by growing it beyond its limits and then stretching it some more. When will I end and where can I extend.

Can I take something away?

If I eat only starch today and only bananas tomorrow will I releases the humors that have misaligned my body.

Look at You Walkin’ ‘round here like          

Do you want to look like this forever?

I am Watching my Weight. I can eat cake but I am losing weight. I’m shrinking at 25, the very brink of adult growth. My brain has supposedly developed fully. My body has stopped growing. I am shrinking. Ten percent of my body weight, subtracted. They gave me a keychain charm. And I don’t have to eat cabbage or plain bagels. I just have to weigh out portions and do math every time I think of food. I just have to learn how to read nutrition facts like an expert. I have to listen to Margie and Joanie, mother and daughter weight watchers who have keyrings full of charms for deleting whole hunks of themselves over the last ten years, masters at the game, cry over their pathetic number of points and how they ration out a 1-point snack bar over several hours in order to have a full dinner.

This is an acceptable eating disorder

Logging my food intake. Planning my meals. Memorizing the formula to calculate a handful of almonds. How much can I have How much can I eat When can I eat again When people watch me eat do they know I am doing my Very Best, that I have saved up cheat points specifically to have this pasta at this birthday dinner? 

Food is not for fat people. Fat people should be not seen and not heard and not considered.

Fat people should be afraid, of themselves mostly. Uncontrollable monster. Unrepentant glutton. A sin. An absence in character but for all the abundance of their bodies taking up more space than necessary. Violet Beauregard ballooning into a blueberry. A round thing in a straight world. A very round body testing the limits of mass. Growing! Getting bigger.

Don’t Care Fat Bitch Don’t Care

Don’t Care Fat Bitch Don’t Care

Don’t Care Fat Bitch Don’t Care

My friend and I walking down Clinton Street, I can hear him before we get there. There’s a whole block between him and us. If this were anywhere else the sounds of the city would swallow up his monologue along with the trains, the traffic, the freeway pulsing, the shouts of children and their mothers and their grandmothers, the industrial sound of work, But in a tiny college town nothing goes unheard. I hear him and have to pretend I don’t. But he’s speaking to me. Yelling at me.

Look at this big bitch right here

I don’t realize right away that it’s for me. He is talking about me. I both never forget the space I occupy and never know how fat I really am. I look in the mirror, shifting my weight from toe to toe. I position the camera at the angle just so, so that my body fits in the mirror frame, so that I can take a picture of my outfit so that I might know what I look like to someone else. I take a picture from a lower angle to properly prepare myself for reality. For someone like him.

She don’t care She gon’ look cute Let that blubber fly out and proud

I am with a new friend, and I don’t want her to know I am fat. I am dressed so cute today: floral romper, hair bright, eyebrows tamed and ordered. I am fat, but if she doesn’t hear him, if she sees that I don’t care Fat Bitch Don’t Care then maybe I am strong and cool and confident, and not fat. The very things he’s trying to take from me.

Don’t care what no doctors say

I am trying very hard to continue to talk about whatever we were talking about. Keep walking forward. Keep pace. I swear, I am not listening to him.

You’re gonna die You’re gon’ have a heart attack

Is that a threat? He says it like one. He says it like a Ring Wraith screeching into only Frodo’s ear, my ear. My body tenses, but moves forward, doesn’t look him in the face. If I break stride, I don’t know what will happen.

Fat Bitch Will Not Care. Fat Bitch will tear into him, not only with my claws, but my teeth, grown razor-sharp. I will kick off my shoes and become the harpy, pecking out eyes, gouging throats. I will tear out voice box to silence his threats, pulling cords one by one with my talons. My toenail become scalpel I will cleave his chest cavity and wrench open his ribs to pull out his heart only to eat it, teeth gnashing, blood cranberry red and shining. Black wings sprouted from my back I will lift my carrion and dump it in the middle of traffic on Clinton St. I will land on top of him, She don’t care She gon’ look cute Let that blubber fly out and proud, Let my fat body cover his, crush his. I will devour you.

FAT BITCH DOESN’T CARE, I screech in between rips of his flesh, blood-spraying over Hondas stuck in traffic, DON’T CARE FAT BITCH DON’T CARE!

We don’t look at him though; I say nothing. We keep walking, we keep talking.

Look at You Walkin’ ‘round here like nothings wrong

I don’t know that I have been holding my breath until after we’ve passed him. I have been balling my fists. I have a ringing in my ears. And my mind is blank. Like I blacked out.

Neither of us talk about it, like it didn’t just happen. I’m afraid my friend will look at me woefully and I don’t want that look any more than I want to be yelled at. So, I don’t bring it up. I should be proud, I think. I didn’t give him the satisfaction of my tears, or anger, or stress. Instead, I gave him nothing and that I call strength.

I didn’t even listen to him, I tell myself.

It has to absorb.

That which measures my body cannot measure myself. My body is not myself, myself lives here in this body. Pounds and ounces, just units. Calories, weight watcher points, pints, gallons, fathoms. How many fathoms am I?

Would you measure me from floor to ceiling, a ratio of that height. From hip to hip, horizontally or circumferenced. Would you measure me like time? How many hours have you spent under my observant eye? How long What quality, Was I a Fat Bitch Don’t Care. Did I eat with you? Did I eat you? The whole table and chairs and all of the bread.

Don’t Care Fat Bitch Don’t Care

I am so brave to wear this. Stripes horizontal. Bright colors. Big prints. Mixed prints. Bare arms. Crop top. No bra.

She don’t care She gon’ look cute Let that blubber fly

I am self-conscious in the seconds before I walk in the room.

Bah-Boom, Bah-Boom.

When the Coke bottle hisses and I know all thoughts are: Fat Bitch Don’t Care You gon’ die. Obsessed with food pushing my body to the limit. A slightly larger fraction of one fathom. My body,

A Fraction the size of the universe.

Asha Galindo is a storyteller and writer currently working on her MFA at the University of Iowa-Nonfiction Writing Program. Before that she worked as a seagull at SeaWorld San Diego, overseeing waste management. Her work can be found in Toyon Lit Mag. Follow her on twitter @ashiepants