An Actual Apology

When you write something as dumb as this...


So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room -- just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair. 

Now, don't go getting the wrong impression: I have a few friends who could be called plump. I'm not some size-ist jerk. And I also know how tough it can be for truly heavy people to psych themselves up for the long process of slimming down. (For instance, the overweight maintenance guy at my gym has talked to me a little bit about how it seems worthless for him to even try working out, because he's been heavy for as long as he can remember.) 

But ... I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It's something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.

...expect to feel the wrath. As well you should, by the way.

That said, here's pretty stand-up way to respond:

I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I've said in this post. Believe it or not, I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much. A lot of what I said was unnecessary. It wasn't productive, either. 

 

I know a lot of people truly struggle to lose weight -- for medical and psychological reasons -- and that many people have an incredibly difficult time getting to a healthy size. I feel for those people and I'm truly sorry I added to the unhappiness and pain they feel with my post.

I would like to reiterate that I think it's great to have people of all shapes and healthy sizes represented in magazines (as, it bears mentioning here, they are in Marie Claire) and on TV shows -- and that in my post, I was talking about a TV show that features people who are not simply a little overweight, but appear to be morbidly obese. (Morbid obesity is defined as 100 percent more than their ideal weight.) And for whatever it's worth, I feel just as uncomfortable when I see an anorexic person as I do when I see someone who is morbidly obese, because I assume people suffering from eating disorders on either end of the spectrum are doing damage to their bodies, and that they are unhappy. But perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to judge based on superficial observations. 
 

To that point (and on a more personal level), a few commenters and one of my friends mentioned that my extreme reaction might have grown out of my own body issues, my history as an anorexic, and my life-long obsession with being thin. As I mentioned in the ongoing dialogue we've been carrying on in the comments section, I think that's an accurate insight.

I've taken to cataloging the worst of the non-apology apology genre. It's worth highlighting actual apologies, ones that acknowledge wrongs, personal bias, and doesn't hinge on "ifs," or your incredibly thin skin. Perhaps the bar has been set too low by curb-stompers who demand apologies from their victims, still it's nice to see an alleged apology that doesn't use the words "misspeak" or end in "But that's it."

As always with this topic, this could get hot. Please try to keep your heads on.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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