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This Is Us - Relationships and Being Fat

When I noticed that This Is Us is on Hulu, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. And the only reason I’m not still binge-watching it is because I’m pausing my Hulu subscription while the Olympics are on.

For those who don’t know, one of the central characters of the show is Kate, an obese woman. In one of her first scenes, you see stripping down to weigh herself – even to the point of taking off her earrings.

That’s when my heart broke for her. Well, the first time. It’s happened again, most recently in one of the flashback scenes when, as a pudgy 8-year-old, she had the gall to wear a cute Care Bears bikini to the pool. And her “friends” gave her a note, dumping her because they said she embarrassed them.

As an adult, watching from the outside, I can say, “Good riddance.” But the little girl in me, who remembers being a chubby 8-year-old, wants to give her a huge and play with My Little Ponies together.

I could write so much about this, and I’ll likely come back to it later. But for now, especially with Valentine’s Day around the corner, I want to write about how Kate’s weight impacts her relationships.

I don’t only mean her dating Toby, the fat funny man she meets at the weight loss group, although that’s the one the show focuses on.

And of course, the weight comes up there, in all the ways you’d expect. Kate’s insecurity, feeling like dating (let alone sex!) isn’t a possibility, that’s she too unattractive and needs to lose weight. Toby’s constant reassurances that he cares about her and does find her attractive and thinks she’s great. Kate not wanting to dance with him at a party because of what people might think to see a fat lady dancing. And more.

But it’s the other relationships that really got to me. Maybe because they’re the ones that aren’t focused on as much, but they’re so significant.

Her mother’s focus on her weight, for one. At one point, the mom says she just wants young Kate to be happy and healthy. Except if you presuppose someone must be thin to be healthy, and you drive that in, how can they be happy as long as they’re fat – even if they are healthy? At least, that was my takeaway when my mom worried about my weight.

Or consider those friends who ditched her. It seems Kate learned her lesson well, because I don’t think I’ve seen adult Kate with any friends. She may have decided it was too painful to try again, to make herself vulnerable to such nastiness a second time. And I so get that.

Then there’s her twin brother Kevin, older by all of two minutes. He relies on her for so much. I think he likes Kate fat because then he can keep her to himself. (He says he wants her to have her own life, but so far, he doesn’t seem to be letting go so well. Admittedly, I’ve only watched a few episodes of season 1, so maybe this changes.)

Having her nearby gives him a built-in cheerleader, someone who will always put him first, above himself. Considering how insecure he is, this is a deep need for him – and I can see already how the relationship with Toby threatens Kevin’s expectations and reliance on Kate.

I also wonder about the off-hand comment Kevin made about having gone through a phase where he liked fat women. I have to wonder if Kate felt like Toby would have the same reaction, of “recovering” from his attraction to her.

As for their adopted brother, Randall, I’m not sure how he fits in yet. I’ll have to keep watching to find out.

And the dad – well, Kate was his princess. I haven’t seen much of this, but at least up to age 8, he didn’t think anything was wrong with her. But I suspect she wondered about it, maybe felt like he didn’t see her clearly because he wasn’t her dad.

All this reminds of how for many overweight people, especially if you grew up that way, the weight is a component of almost every interaction. Even if the other person doesn’t do anything to make you feel judged, you’re always wondering if it’s there, just waiting to come out.

And so far, the only way I found to get out of that personally was to stop judging myself by my body – and to recognize that if other people did, that was their problem, not mine. (I will also add that fat people aren’t the only ones to feel this way. Sadly, it seems endemic for many women.)

Easier said than done, I know, but this Valentine’s Day, I hope you can find time to direct a little love to yourself, regardless of whatever flaws you think your body has. And I hope Kate gets there, too.

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