June 22, 2011
Would I Want to Be Skinny if it Meant I Had to Be Dumb?
I met with Tamara Shayne Kagel yesterday. She is the young woman who wrote a series of blogs that essentially said fat girls need to lower their expectations in terms of who they can date, and parents do a disservice to their fat daughters by telling them they can do anything they want, and should instead teach them to aim low in terms of careers and men. I am not going to link her blogs to mine again so if you want to find them you’re on your own.
I arrived to our meeting 5 minutes late, and she arrived 15 minutes after that. Traffic was a nightmare and it was fine as she let me know she was crawling along the 405. Her being late was a good thing as it allowed me a few minutes to gather my thoughts. When she arrived she was clearly nervous. She is a lovely girl and looks younger than her 29 years. We got a table and settled in for our little chat.
I immediately noticed her hands. She had short nails with red, chipped nail polish. Her nails reminded me that I was dealing with a child that needed compassion, not a peer. She cares what people think of her and she wants to project the right image, so she puts on mascara and makes sure she looks good, but then has the hands of a cheap hooker so how can I take her seriously?
When I was 29 I was pregnant, and trying to save a marriage that was clearly falling apart. I was at a very different place than she is now. She is not only confused in her writing style, but confused about what image she is projecting. One could argue that she is young and will figure it all out, but she is 29 years old. I can’t imagine being that old and so unsure about who I am.
I could go on and on about the things that were wrong with Tamara’s blogs, but there is no need because Ms. Kagel is very clear that while I can appreciate what she was trying to say, she missed the mark and in the end was irresponsible with the words she put out into the world to represent her. As a woman and a mother, I think Tamara needs to apologize. She needs to be brave and bold, and write the things she talked about yesterday.
I agree that we need to be healthy and must teach our children the value of health. Obesity is an epidemic and I’m not pretending weight does not matter. I am simply saying that telling fat girls they don’t matter unless they get thin, is not the way to address the problem. Rather than try to change how weight is viewed, she needs to first worry about herself and her own issues. The real lesson she can teach require her to write about her own life experiences, not others.
To be clear, this was never about obesity. This was about Ms. Kagel saying women who are not a size 6 need to go to the bottom of the dating chain because they don’t deserve to date good men. I was never commenting on the issue of obesity and heath for women, but rather that it is ridiculous to suggest women who do not look like her cannot find love or get a good job. She wrote a blog about dating, not a medical study on obesity.
She has a very important and rarely talked about perspective that could really help women. If she finds the courage to write about herself, it could be powerful. As a writer, I want to her learn the power of her voice and help her to know that what she writes matters. She did not know me, yet felt it was okay to comment on my life, my body, my worldview, and my possibilities. She made it personal about me but was not willing to focus on herself.
Our Jewish upbringing teaches us that, “He who saves one soul it’s as if he saved the entire world.” I will be one soul for Ms. Kagel. I am a stranger who was offened by her words and so her saying sorry will be nice for me, and maybe help to heal her. Dramatic to be sure, but when you are talking about a woman and her self-worth, it’s all rather dramatic indeed. Tamara has an unhealthy view of her body and a broken spirit.
She is desperate to express herself and wants to be heard. She is a product of her environment, society, and her upbringing. Only she can alter her self image, and needs to work on that before she has her own children and passes her insecurities onto them. I hope she does the right thing. Not because I told her she should, but because she wants to, knows why it’s important, and understands that it matters, and more importantly, she matters.
Tamara has a lot of important things to say. She just needs to learn how to say them in a way that people will be open to listening to. I will leave it up to her to find out a way to do that and when she does, I hope to collaborate with her on a piece about women, self worth, and that accepting our bodies and loving our bodies, are not the same thing. Tamara has a beautiful body but does not appreciate it or really see it, which is sad.
If I could have my body and my sense of self-worth, or her body and her struggles with being good enough, I would pass on the dumb and take my curves. I tell my friends I wish for them all that they wish for themselves, but I wish other things for Tamara. She will figure it out because she is smart. I believe in her and thank her for being gracious. She reminded me the most important thing I can do for myself, is to keep the faith.
UPDATE: Ms. Kagel has decided to lie about our meeting and what we both said. It’s an interesting approach. I wish her luck with her choices and her career. I will no longer waste my time talking about her and her silly writing. Her readership has soared since I began writing about her and it’s not fair to my readers to bore them with her ramblings. She can go on with her life and give me no further thought. I wish her all the best. God Bless.