Definition of THE ACCEPTANCE GAP
When personal and familial duties coexist with a lack of understanding and acceptance of who someone is as a person. This results in someone putting up with being judged, derided, or demeaned in the name of keeping the peace and maintaining the relationship.
We have compiled vignettes submitted by readers. These are all genuine; nothing has been added except formatting.
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
— Abraham Lincoln
There is a saying something along the lines of “you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends”, and to a large extent it rings true. However, we as people are not static beings. We are dynamic. We change and evolve. We don’t stay in the same place, think the same things, and hold the same values for the entirety of our lives. We make friends, and unless we co-evolve in the same general direction, our friendships dry up, weaken, or dissolve altogether. Naturally, we don’t want to lose our allies and friends because they mean something to us. They validate us and our existence via their own existence. It’s natural to want to preserve and nurture friendships for that reason. How do we know when, how, and for how long we should try to sustain? What happens when we realize a friend who has been so devoted, so true, has views diametrically opposed to our own? When it comes to fat acceptance, there is no clear answer.
The breaking of ties:
My best friend, who was actually involved in the body acceptance movement decided to get cosmetic surgery… by which I mean weight loss surgery. I guess she didn’t understand or support fat acceptance or body positivity like I thought she did. In the end I decided that, for my own mental well being, I had to get away from that person.
Blindsided by personal truth:
One of my closest friends (a fat lady like me) seemed interested in all of my talk about fat acceptance and body positivity. We used to hang out a lot. The more I would talk about it, the less we hung out. We became distant. One day, she came to me and told me that all of my fat acceptance talk was making her feel worse about her body. She didn’t like to think of herself as fat. She wanted to diet and lose weight for “health reasons”. I decided to just remove fat acceptance talk from our interactions. I feel terrible thinking about not having her in my life.
Staying strong with a toxic roommate:
When I was in ED Treatment, I met several people who were to become very close friends of mine. One of them, is now my roommate. We had the same diagnosis and we went to all the same group sessions as well as the educational sessions together. I tried to encourage him to read some of the stuff I was reading…he didn’t want to, as he put it “I don’t want to spend any more of my time thinking about this “stuff”. I have seen first hand the kind of progress he has made…he’s gone from a sedentary, sleep deprived 27 year old man, to a 28 year old who is doing challenging (for anyone) hikes, splitting cords of wood and is now truly LIVING his life.
The other night he was upset and in a crappy mood. So I asked what was wrong. He had gotten on his scale and found out that he hasn’t lost any weight in 4 months. I told him that while I didn’t know what the scale said, I could see that his body HAS changed and that he is much more fit and active than he was 6 months ago. While telling him this he claimed he didn’t want to go into diet mode, but he was going to cut back on his snacking…I’ve already seen him reduce his food intake a few months back. He said he couldn’t stand his lack of progress and I explained all the progress I have seen him make. Then “I can’t be healthy at 400 pounds. I’m going to die an early death. My feet hurt, my knees hurt, my back hurts. I’m headed to an early grave.”
Here is a guy that has completely changed his life and just because the fucking scale hasn’t moved he’s going to die an early death? UGH I’m hoping that with age he will maybe gain more perspective…I know I wasn’t ready to accept myself or embrace HAES at 28…hell, I don’t even know if there WAS such a thing then…I’m 40 now. I’ve had people ask me if it’s triggering to live with him and it’s not…because the kinds of conversations like we had above strengthen my resolve and make me reflect on how much better live is now, than it was before I found HAES and FA.
When you can’t tell the differences between allies and enemies:
I can’t talk/vent about my spousal fights because people are incredibly judging of someone who says mean things to fat people (even if they believe personally that fatness is bad). They also are very judging of me for staying with him. My friends regularly encourage me to leave my husband, and a few times, to cheat on him. This is so hurtful to me and even though I express this gently to my friends I generally feel I can’t. It’s very isolating to not have anyone to talk to about our fights when I want to process and feel validated in my opinions without him being judged as a horrible person and me as stupid, weak, or something else negative for wanting to stay with him.
One of the key characteristics seen again and again regarding friends and fat acceptance is a propensity for judgmental thoughts. People feel judged by their friends for supporting fat acceptance. People feel judged by their friends for not understanding fat acceptance. People feel judged by their friends for not agreeing with the fat acceptance movement. People are judgmental of their own bodies. People judge themselves for judging others. There are a lot of shoulds, musts, and oughts when talking about civil rights and body autonomy. How much judgment should we take? How much is reasonable to give? Perhaps it’s variable. Perhaps there is a correlation between how much we want to preserve a relationship (fucks given) and the amount of judgmental sentiment polluting the relationship (toxic waste).
When you see the end coming, you feel it in the pit of your stomach. You think that maybe, if you hold on tight, you can ride it out. Once you hit the bottom of Shit-Splash Mountain, however, you’ll never get the stink out. It’ll always be there, lingering. The question is, can you learn to live with it?
Stay tuned for the final installment, The Acceptance Gap: Partners.