+

Years ago, a dear friend made a fat joke about me.

We were incredibly close then, as we are now, and had found ways to joke about our identities that brought us closer together. At that point, I had never described myself as fat: not to friends, family, myself. If the topic came up, my face would flush, I’d stammer out something about being "overweight" or "big" while a hot wave of blood rushed through my full cheeks, coloring my whole face. I would feel searing embarrassment for hours, sometimes days afterward. I’d come out as queer at 15 — a surprise to friends and family — but still couldn’t muster the language to describe the body that everyone could see.

We were at work on the day my friend made the joke. At the end of a long day, he and I lugged dozens of heavy boxes up and down the stairs. On our last trip, I got impatient and tired and opted instead for the elevator. "Elevator, huh?" He looked at me, his eyes lit up in the way they do when he’s ready to make a joke. "Is that why you’re — you know,” he said before stage-whispering, “large?”


There was a moment of silence, his face frozen in a grin before I broke into a huge, cathartic laugh.

It was such an absurd, stupid joke — that taking the elevator once was the difference between being fat and being thin — and it was exactly the kind of joke we’d make with each other about our other identities. In that moment, fat was a normal part of who I was — not the sole focus, not a secret to keep, not a fact to deny, not a cause for an intervention. It was just one of the many identities and characteristics that made me who I was.

It was the first time someone had talked to me about being fat in the way that they talked to me about anything else. It was normal; it could be joked about.

And really, my friend wasn’t joking about me; he was joking about the absurdity of judging tiny moments like this one as an explanation for why I was fat and the ridiculousness of others’ feeling of entitlement to know why I had the body I had.

Fat jokes don’t work for everyone, and they certainly don’t work in every context. But for me, in that moment, it was the most exquisite, divine, cathartic moment of freedom.

Because it was, and is, true: I’m fat. I’ve been fat my whole adult life. Sometimes I’m less fat, sometimes more fat, but always fat.

Saying that makes people around me uncomfortable. Sometimes, the discomfort comes from other fat people, who feel the shame that fat people feel in a world that tells us we ought to. Often, it comes from people who aren’t fat, who remember deeply ingrained scripts about what it means to be fat (unlovable, slovenly, ugly, unintelligent) and who think that naming such a harsh truth would be impolite. They substitute other words, either euphemistic (plus size, fluffy, big girl, more to love) or medical (overweight, obese).

I say fat.

I say fat to take back a heavily charged word.

It’s a word that can be used with the sole intent to cause pain and harm — in street harassment, in arguments with loved ones, on TV, everywhere. For many women, fat is among the most hurtful things they can be called. Thin women often say they "feel fat" as a shorthand for feeling unattractive, rejected, ashamed. Fat — that one short word — has become the site of so much pain. It comes with a long string of assumptions and insults, dragging noisily and clumsily along behind it like so many tin cans.

For many women, fat is among the most hurtful things they can be called.

At the center of that cacophony of hurt is my body. Not an insult, not a feeling, not rhetoric: the body I live with every day. When friends say they "feel fat" or strangers call other strangers "fat" as a cutting insult, I feel it. I understand that for many, my body is the worst-case scenario. Whether directed at me or not, the culture of talking about fat people derisively, dismissively, hurtfully — it all stays with me.

For me, though, fat is a statement of fact. It is a description of the body I have.

Fat is not a referendum on my morality, willpower, character, attractiveness, intellect, or worthiness. It is a descriptor. It captures an important aspect of the way I look, like saying I’m a woman, I’m white, or I’m tall.

Calling myself fat describes my body, but it means so much more than that. When I say I’m fat, it takes power back. It’s hard to be hurt by someone calling me what I am.

It's hard to be hurt by someone calling me what I am.

When those around me get uncomfortable or say, "Sweetie, no!" when I call myself fat, I don’t mind. As a fat person, there are little moments every day that wear away at you: the nurse that takes your blood pressure for the third time in a row, insisting that it can’t be right. The patronizing "Good for you!" at the gym you go to every day. The unsolicited advice at the grocery store. "Cantaloupe is so high in sugar. Have you tried grapefruit instead?" Over time, these moments mount up, rain droplets turning to torrential downpours, slowly but surely eroding the topsoil, then the clay, then the bedrock of our senses of self.

When I call myself fat and when I make jokes about my own fat body, I’ve got an umbrella, just for a few seconds.

It gives me a momentary respite from that steady stream of judgment and harsh advice. It gives those around me a brief taste of that discomfort, leaving them to sit with the bizarre awkwardness that comes with these little moments when we judge one another’s bodies.

Good, thoughtful people say harsh, judgmental things to fat friends and family every day. If you lost 30 pounds, you’d be a knockout.The dates would just start pouring in! It’s often unintentional, borne of a culture that expects fat people to feel shame about our bodies. Comments that deride, erase, judge, or punish fat people are predicated on the idea that we won’t object to cruel and thoughtless remarks about who we are. And many of us don’t. Neither do otherwise good-hearted, well-intentioned thin people. The more those conversations go unchallenged, the more charged that one little word becomes.

Fat holds so much power over so many people. When I use it to describe myself, I take back a simple, small, important thing: the ability to name and own my experience.

When I talk about being fat, I take control of what that means. Instead of being forced into reductive conversations about weight loss and shame, I get to talk about my actual life. I can talk about the partners who’ve loved my fat body. The friends who understand and support me. The clothing that fits me. The people who shun me for having the body I have. The doctors who treat my fat body and the ones who deny it. The way my body is seen as a reflection of my character, of public ills, of morality. And the disconnect between that and who I actually am.

Fat holds so much power over so many people.

Calling myself fat allows me to wrest my own experiences from the jaws of a powerful, pervasive narrative that says I ought to be ashamed of the body I have always had, the body I am learning to take care of, as we all are. It allows me to carve out a space to say that the treatment I receive isn’t deserved just for looking the way I look.

We all have things we wrestle with: parts of our identity that we can’t quite reconcile, that our families struggle to accept, that our friends and partners can’t quite respect. That struggle for acceptance — internal or external — keeps us cloistered, cold, and isolated from embracing ourselves or fully engaging in our relationships. Over time, the cold sets in, sinking into our bones, and the isolation becomes a way of life.

When I call myself fat, I step into the sun. I feel the warmth rush over me. Suddenly, I can see myself — and be seen — for who I actually am and the body I actually have. It is a moment of arrival to a sense of security and assurance in my body, and myself, that was out of reach for so long.

It is a homecoming. I am home. I am fat.

Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
Keep ReadingShow less