I'm going to tell you a story: I once had a friend named Mimi Orner who was a fat activist, woman of size, brilliant teacher, and all-around wonderful person. Here in Madison, Wis., where I live, she started a group that was anti-anorexia, anti-bulimia, and anti-dieting. This was about 15 years ago, mind, somewhat ahead of her time.
Mimi died seven years ago from ovarian cancer. Her appetite for food, like her appetite for life, lasted until pretty close to the very end. Her memorial service was attended by hundreds of people, many of whom got up to speak. All of these tributes were very moving, but the one I remember was a young woman who stood up, tears pouring down her face, and confessed that she and Mimi had once been close but of late had been a little bit estranged. "I found her so inspiring," she said through tears, "and I want to believe what she ways [about fat acceptance]. I'm not as smart or as good as Mimi. I just can't accept myself as a fat person, at least not yet. So we grew apart. And I've missed her so much. And now I'll never have the chance to make it right."
This young woman's words have stayed with me because they capture so vividly the dilemma of the individual and the political. Sometimes, you know, the emotions take a while to catch up with the intellect. Sometimes they never do. That's part of being human. We can't legislate our feelings.
Much as we might like to sometimes.
I miss Mimi too. I wished she was there two years ago when my daughter got sick. I wished she was there when I gained 50 pounds from a medication and struggled with that. I wish she were here now, so we could debate and argue and disagree and learn from each other.