My heart is heavy today. Very late last night, I got a message to tell me that a lovely friend of mine in the US had passed away unexpectedly. Jackie was only in her early 30’s, and such a sweet, sweet soul. I was only chatting with her via Facebook a couple of days ago, mere hours before she died. Her best friend and roommate came home in the evening to find that she had passed away in her bed. At this point we don’t know what has happened, but I know she wasn’t feeling well when I last talked to her, but she’d chalked it up to the consequences of a good night out the night before.
I think a lot about her right now, in context to the fat activism I do. Jackie and I often disagreed on a lot of things around body politics. Or not even that, it’s like she agreed with me in principle, but was unable to believe them of herself. I used to feel that way too, I would think that Fat Acceptance was a great thing, and all these fat women (and a few men) were doing amazing things, and were fabulous people, but I couldn’t be like that, it didn’t apply to me. That did change with time. Jackie and I used to talk about it from time to time, and I was always hoping that she could see the beautiful woman I saw when I looked at her, but I know she always struggled with that.
Jackie and I had so much in common. We were both Cysters (women with PCOS) and met online many years ago on a PCOS forum. I was so lucky to meet her in person when I went to the US, and spend time with her and her friends (one of whom I now consider my friend) and get to know her even more. She was such a generous soul, she made me feel so welcome, and even though we could only spend a few days hanging out together, we talked so much. She made me laugh, and she made me think, and she made me cry. She had the cutest Louisiana accent (though lived in San Francisco) and was one of the most stylish women I ever met. That girl could rock a frock and a red lipstick like no other.
We have both had difficult times in our past, and both dealt with the issues of our weight, self loathing and food issues. Our paths diverged somewhat when I found Fat Acceptance, but we still had so much in common.
Jackie did everything that a woman is “supposed” to do about her weight. She dieted, she exercised, she struggled. She couldn’t see that she was so beautiful, both inside and out, and she struggled with her self esteem. I wanted so much for her to see just how wonderful a person she was. I understand it though, I struggle with my own even now, and I’m well immersed in the soothing balm of the Fatosphere. Eventually Jackie had weight loss surgery and lost a lot of weight. She was still beautiful, with or without the weight, she was still intelligent and funny and kind and just a lovely person through and through. She was one of the most glamorous women I have ever met, always immaculate and fabulous.
And she still struggled with her self esteem. Which has always broken my heart.
As I sit here remembering her, and all of the effort and yes, hell she went through to conform to society’s ideal of femininity and beauty and “health”, it hits me all over again that she’s gone. That even after doing what our culture tells us women need to do to be “desirable” and “healthy”, we have lost her at such a young age. I totally understand why so many women choose this path, because it is sold to us as the only way that we’ll be of any value, and that by getting rid of fat we’re taking preventative measures for our health. I understand that wholly, that pressure is phenomenally strong, and those of us who fight it have to fight day and night, as hard as we can to resist getting caught up in it. We are wading against a tide that takes every bit of our strength to resist.
But I can’t help but feel cheated for losing such a beautiful friend despite her trying so hard to do what society tells us is the right thing to do. I am angry that not even when you do what mainstream culture tells you to do, there’s no fucking guarantee that it’s going to give you a long life or even make you happy. All I wish right now, knowing that we can never have Jackie back, is that she knows how loved she is. That she knows how terribly she will be missed. And that she knows right now that she has been beautiful and valuable and precious all along.