I'm standing outside some shitty dive bar in the East Village with my friends Paul and Dale. The Sex Pistols blare through the open windows, in front of which stands a row of young, drunk people gathered around cocktail tables. Cigarette and weed smoke hang low in the air.
While I'm sober, Paul and Dale are borderline drunk, and Caitlin, Paul's girlfriend who is currently downstairs in the bar's basement attempting to play foosball with one eye open, is completely hammered. I tell the guys I want to head out soon.
"We kind of wanted to stay out," Paul says. "Would you mind taking Caitlin with you?"
This wouldn't be the first time I've escorted drunk Caitlin home. We lived together for years and were always each other's wasted babysitters. However, I see an opportunity to get something out of it.
I have the unique pleasure of living behind a Burger King in Bed-Stuy. It's slightly less disgusting than it sounds.
"If you get me Burger King, I'd be happy to," I say, smiling and starving.
"Somebody's getting chubby in the face," Dale says to me. Then he laughs. He laughs like he just told a good one.
Exfuckingcuse me? I think before my brain completely shuts down. Did he just call me fat?
My gut reaction when I'm uncomfortable is to laugh. If something is extremely awkward or sad, I usually start to laugh. I'm instantly mad at myself for laughing, because now Dale thinks what he said was actually funny.
Suddenly, I feel like a 9-year-old, back in ballet class, too insecure to take off my swishy pants for fear of being seen in a leotard. That's when Paul chimes in: "No, she just wants Burger King because she saw me eating it earlier," he says.
What? Now I'm lost.
Paul gives me a look like, "I've explained it to him, he understands now," and I want to punch them both in the face.
That's when I realize, men are really uncomfortable when it comes to women and food. Maybe even more uncomfortable than women when it comes to women and food, and I thought that was impossible.
It's not news that women are held to impossibly high standards, yet no one seems to be adjusting their expectations. If women are not thin and beautiful, they are expected to be working toward being thin and beautiful. If you embrace yourself the way you are, you are an outlier in the female community. Other women will have trouble understanding where you're coming from. You don't try to watch your carb intake? they will think, flabbergasted. Why don't you wish you had a thigh gap?! Women have actually become more comfortable being uncomfortable.
People often make offhand comments about my body. Sure, it'd be great to have washboard abs, forearms for thighs and calves that look like they've just swallowed two tennis balls, but I'm also really, really okay with not having all of that.
But losing weight isn't something a woman does when she's overweight or unhealthy, it's something all women are doing always.
I'm not trying to discredit people who work hard to look a certain way, but it doesn't mean it's the only good way to look. It doesn't mean people who are bigger or less "conventionally attractive" don't deserve respect. You shouldn't have to want to fuck me to respect me.
If we keep dieting and trying to fit into the stereotypes, or if we keep apologizing for not fitting into the stereotypes, we're doomed. No matter who you are, it's almost impossible to be "pretty" and "thin" to everyone. You will always be "fat" or "ugly" to someone.
Outside that dive bar, I could have said "I haven't eaten anything since last Thursday, I really just need some sustenance," or "Literally, I never eat fast food, this is a one-time thing," but I was tired of all the bullshit caveats women are required to say when it comes to food. I don't think I've ever taken a walk with a woman after a meal without her mentioning how it's "burning off all those calories."
We revere so many fat and ugly men, why do we lose all respect for a "fat" and/or "ugly" woman? It's like Louis C.K. points out in a recent episode of Louie, that people think "fat" is the worst thing a woman can be. It's really not. Being an asshole is way worse. And how does one become an asshole? By hating themselves.
When Paul tells me he and Dale are going inside the bar to get Caitlin, my mind is still in a foggy rage. I nod. "I'll be out here!" I say cheerily. As they go back into the bar, I hail a cab and get the fuck out of there. Amir, my cab driver, is soft-spoken and very polite when I ask him if he minds if I cry quietly in the backseat. "No problem," he says, unfazed.
Twenty minutes later, Amir pulls up to my apartment. Burger King is on my left. Paul's not paying now, and Dale made me feel like a cow, so the option is less appealing. I decide to go anyway. Not because I'm making some bold feminist statement. Not because I skipped a meal earlier. Not because my Weight Watchers app told me I still had points to spare. I went because I wanted some motherfucking onion rings.
And they were good. They were really, really good.