One place my fatness and disability intersect is in other people’s perceptions and assumptions. People sometimes want me to rank the two categories, to choose between them, or to explain the dynamic between them. People yearn, especially, for causality.
Am I disabled because I am fat? Nope. We don’t know what causes CFIDS/ME, but it sure isn’t fatness.
Am I fat because I’m disabled? Oh, who knows. It’s possible, but, not being a character on Star Trek: The Next Generation, I’ll never know what other paths my life might have taken if x, if y. Most importantly, deeply and critically, I do not care.
Also, I’m unwilling to place “blame” for my fatness on CFIDS because my fatness is just fine. To blame it on something, on anything at all, frames fatness as not only cause-traceable but a problem. Society thinks it is, but they’re prejudiced. The medical establishment thinks it is, but they’re soaking in centuries-old scientific bias. As we say in fatpol communities, the only thing you can tell by looking at a fat person is your level of bias against fat people.
(ETA: If I did know, via timing or some other life detail, that CFIDS had caused my fatness, I wouldn't mind saying so if a situation required it. But I would call it a neutral result, not a negative one, and I would take care not to use it to distance myself from other fatties nor to strengthen the destructive good fatty / bad fatty binary that pops up in fatpol communities sometimes.)
Another way my fatness and disability intersect is in my presentation to the world on days I’m well enough to leave the house. I’m awfully sick. Daily actions that healthy folks take for granted are struggles. I need to rest between tooth brushing and face washing. That’s my reality. My hair is short because it requires less water to reach presentability. If I don’t shave my legs this summer, I might be having a butch (or butch/femme pastiche) mood, but more likely I can’t afford the spoons. Clothing hurts. I happen to possess an inborn shlumpiness, it’s in my soul or somewhere, meaning that for any degree to which I do not look shlumpy, active effort has been spent. But this is the belly of the beast of the fatness/disability intersection. On the Fat Studies list, a very smart person named Kristen Dunn said:
While thin folks can look cute or casual in old ratty clothes and mussed hair, fat folks of all gender expressions face a constant barrage of messages that our clothes, hair, makeup has to all be maintained all the time lest we meet the "slob" trope that is always ready to be slapped on us. And women of all sizes have more pressure and expectation about appearance.Yes! And being sick makes it even harder, both because of the spoons required and because my body and face sometimes look sick anyway. When my face looks sick, and because makeup is not an option for me for physical reasons, I feel more pressure for my hair to be vaguely coiffed. (Even writing that, I fear people who know me reading it and laughing at me, laughing at the notion that I have ever coiffed anything.) Because I have to wear big stompy boots for my crippy feet, femme moods be damned, I feel more pressure to wear a good bra and a fitted top. Bras of all kinds hurt me, but leaving the house without one – even were I to wear a vest thick enough for modesty – wanders too close to compete shlump territory. My illness plays into how I look and what I (literally) can wear; my fatness, as Kristen observes, leaves me extra open to a slob label. Much of my chosen presentation (which is more femme than butch but some of each) is out of my hands. Fatphobia and disablism judge.
There’s a lesson somewhere in here about how butch fat women are considered less butch and more shlumpy than butch thin women, but that’s beyond me. Someone point me to a good critical post about that?
CFIDS is officially an invisible disability. In some ways that’s true. But sometimes it shows in my face and body; and sometimes it shows in my shlumpiness; and because CFIDS is invisible, when it shows, it looks like slobbery.
Imagine that your whole life takes place while you have the flu, and that this has been true for years, and that you fall all-the-way-asleep only twice per week. I live at the slob precipice. Fatties are pressured to look put together, yet we’re permitted far less clothing choice than thin folks. Fatphobic cultural asthetics judge us harshly even when we are supremely neat. A fat body can be labeled sloppy even when neat as a pin. Being sick on top of that? Well, if you see someone shuffling down the street to the mailbox in pajama bottoms, that might be me. I’m doing the best I can. To assume anything about me because of how I look is pure disablism and fatphobia.