When you have about 8 minutes, watch this video. It’s just audio really, but it’s brilliant. George Carlin on euphemisms.
There are some words that people just don’t want to hear out loud. And I am not talking about the word for which the FCC will levy a fine. I mean words like DEAD and FAT.
Read the obituary column any random day. Among those listed, very rarely will you find a person who died. I sit in funeral planning all the time, so I hear it constantly. Let’s say something else. Something sweet and comforting, something euphemistic. The one that makes me cringe the most is the most common: passed away.Where’s Dylan Thomas when we need him? Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
My friends and family are on notice: when the time comes to write my obituary, use the word DIED. Andrew Weaver died at the age of 107 today, when he was attacked by a rabid penguin, immediately following his 20th running of the Antarctica Ice Ultra-Marathon. (I know this is somewhat unrealistic, since birds don’t get rabies, but a guy can dream.)
So let’s talk about another word that we’re not supposed to say out loud. That word is FAT.
For years, I have said this word out loud in reference to myself and it really messes with people. No one knows quite how to respond, even when used in a humorous context. Even a reference to my size, without the word itself, is greeted with “oh no no no, don’t say that!”As I was finishing WinterFest at RB Winter, I said “OK you can send home the paramedics, the fat guy made it!” A couple of younger, hipper people I passed chuckled a bit, kind of with an approving “good for you” nod. But there was a woman at the finish line who chewed me out. I was not supposed to say such things. You know what lady, go find someone sitting on their couch with a bag of chips and a case of Mountain Dew watching the Daytona 500 right now and get on their case. You never heard of irony? I just finished freaking Snowfest carrying over 270 pounds! I’m proud of that. I’m celebrating that. Strap 125 pound packs on the winners and see how they do the run.
But here’s the thing: a descriptive word does not have to mean more than it is. I am fat. I have been fat for a long time. I am fat right now. I am, in fact, still very fat. But using that word does not equal “and I am therefore sub-human.” It is a fact, not an opinion. People can throw around all the junk science they want about metabolic set points, and make excuses, but when you are around 40% bodyfat, your organs are wrapped in it, yes, you are freaking fat.There is no natural metabolic set point for 270 pounds, unless perhaps you are Shaquille O’Neil, over 7 feet tall and packed with dense muscle.
Why is it that people who are addicts are expected to say the thing out loud to get started on the road to recovery, but fat people aren’t supposed to utter the word? (BTW, I also think alcoholic is often misapplied. Some people are just drunks. Alcoholics go to meetings. Making the transition is the important part.)
So, while I haven’t read the books entirely, in my health library there are a couple titles by the Slow Fat Triathlete.
Good on you for using the word Jayne.
Beginner runners should all know the name of John Bingham, who, for many years, wrote a column in Runners World Magazine. He has also published a couple of books. John goes by the name “The Penguin.” No, he is not a comic book nerd with a thing for Batman villains. He came to this identity while observing the running world in his early days. Most people wanted to be identified with animals like cheetahs, or gazelles. He said that he could honestly say he moved like a penguin. And he embraced it. He is the patron saint of slow runners, the champion of the back of the pack. I can safely say that his published words have probably helped more people begin to run than superstar trainer Jillian Michaels. (whom I love btw) The Penguin was fat and soft and a smoker. He overcame it all with running, but still identifies as a slow runner. And he rocks.
So in the spirit of the Penguin, I was watching my video of my final lap of my first mile swim. The form is awful, the technique is lacking, and I cannot believe I am actually wearing lycra. But I did it. And today I will do it again. But I am not Michael Phelps. And I never will be, but that is OK. (I ate like him for years without the training, amazing how I didn’t turn into an olympic athlete!)
This idea started about a month ago when I was swimming laps at the Y. The regular lifeguard at that time slot always plays music, and usually it’s the Beatles. As I was turning, I noticed the song. “I Am the Walrus.” At the time, it was hysterical to me.I stopped, laughed, and told her I was taking that one personally.
So you know what? Right now I am the walrus. I look like a walrus in the swimming pool. But that does not keep me from swimming, nor does it discourage me. I have failed so many times at fitness when the visible results were not as fast as I liked. Now that I am focusing on how I feel, and what I am achieving as goals are reached, I know the sleekness will come. So I have no problem identifying with the walrus, and no one should give me any crap for it. You ever meet a walrus? They aren’t exactly pussycats. I wouldn’t mess with one, would you? Walruses (not walri, I checked) are bad-ass. I’m swimming this distance with this weight. I am running 4.5 miles, with this weight. I’m no cupcake. I’m a freaking wild animal.
I am the Walrus. Goo goo g’joob.