You Never Know: An Infinifat Podcaster on the Importance of AllGo
Are you that friend who pipes up in every conversation with, “I heard about that on a podcast the other...”? Well, so am I and now, I’ve added The Fat Lip, a funny, intelligent, informative podcast for fat people, by fat people to my audio listening queue.
The Fat Lip is a monthly-podcast started by fat woman extraordinaire, Ash Nischuk. On her podcast, Ash, who describes herself as “500+ pounds of skepticism and CocaCola,” covers a range of topics we fat people are constantly thinking about as we navigate our way through this ill-designed world. Some episodes are full of practical tips for living as a fat person: “A Better Sports Bra for Plus Sizes,” and “TSA Pat Downs, She Wees, and The Wonders of Pre-boarding: Air Travel for Superfats.” Other episodes are perfect listening for a day when you need a little fatspiration. And for a good cry, try “Seeing Herself–How One Listener’s Social Media Presence is A Tool In Her Recovery.”
The Fat Lip covers topics that bring a fresh, ‘infinifat’ (a term Ash uses to talk about herself and others like her) perspective to what sometimes feels like a broken record of issues that run through this fat person's mind (e.g., bras, airplane seats, and finding the perfect wide-calf boots). Her interview with Maura Penn, who shares her story of growing up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in the episode, “What It’s Like to be a Fat White Kid in the Middle East” is a great example.
Although podcasts are now an everyday feature of American life, there’s little representation of fat folks available for download. For Ash, this was the impetus and inspiration behind The Fat Lip: to create a voice for the fat community. “Some mainstream shows had done episodes on being fat, but I never felt like they got it right because they didn't allow fat people to tell their own stories,” she said. “ So I'm sitting there in my kitchen thinking about the kind of fat podcast I wished existed, and I actually said out loud, ‘Someone should make this.’ “
So she did.
Despite knowing next to nothing about podcast production, she threw herself into the production and publication of her first episode in May 2016. She’s been churning out at least one episode per month ever since.
The stories Ash tells aren’t about being ‘a little fat’--she specifically features stories and experiences from superfat and ‘infinifat’ people. Although she appreciates what the fat positivity movement has done for plus-size folks, but Ash believes that the movement isn’t inclusive enough. Ash explains, “I've spoken to so many people who know all about the [fat positivity] movement, but feel like they are too fat for it. People my size often feel like we have to hide ourselves because we don't fit neatly into the perfectly polished movement that we see on social media. We feel like the things we struggle with every day are our own fault because we're too fat even for fat advocacy. That's a huge, heartbreaking problem,” she said.
As an infinifat person, the stress of literally “not fitting in” somewhere is never far from Ash’s mind: “If I'm not absolutely certain of the seating situation and the parking situation and the distance between them, I don't go.” She uses the same time-consuming tactics that I employ (and hope AllGo will make unnecessary), sharing, “I do a lot of online research and a lot of cruising by and peering into windows to see if I can get the lay of the land.”
Despite the great and elaborate lengths we fat folks go through to protect ourselves against moments of vulnerability and humiliation, most of us have a story about not fitting somewhere or breaking a chair. Ash is no exception. But I want to acknowledge that as an infinifat person Ash’s experience is different than mine.
For Ash, the experience of arriving somewhere that is inaccessible can be unsafe. She fears falling or breaking poorly-designed furniture and seriously injuring herself. This fear of physical injury moves beyond the anxiety that I feel personally and is an experience I keep front and center as I build AllGo. Ash was kind to share one story in particular with me. It’s both relatable and an excellent illustration of how the fat community needs to make more space for the experiences of infinifat people. I’m going to share it in full:
“When my husband and I were first dating, I made dinner for him and two of his friends (one of which I met for the first time that night). I was sitting in a chair and I was mid-sentence when one of the chair's legs broke clean off. I immediately went crashing to the floor and everyone jumped up. It was a huge scene. My husband ran over to see if I was okay and to offer to help me up, but I am a very fat person--he's strong, but he can't lift me to my feet. So at this point, I just started laughing because I was embarrassed and the situation was ridiculous and OF COURSE this would happen in front of three mid-20s, able-bodied thin men. Of course.
“I told them that I was just going to stay on the floor for a minute (at this point my focus shifted to figuring out how I was going to get up) and my husband's best friend somehow had the grace and presence of mind to ask the other guy to come outside on the balcony with him. To this day I think about how kind that was. He just quietly decided to give me some space and privacy which was exactly what I needed. So once it was just my husband and me, I realized that there was nothing for me to pull myself up on. I was in socks, the kitchen floor was waxed laminate that was slippery on any day, and the counters were too high for me to pull up on. I ended up having to crawl to the couch to push myself up. If I had been in public or if my husband's friends hadn't given me some space, the whole experience would have been that much more traumatizing. I think about the whole disaster every time I make plans to go anywhere.”
“I think a lot of people don't realize all of the planning and research fat people do before they go places is a protective measure,” Ash continued. “We don't want to put ourselves in a vulnerable position where we might fall or where we might break something.”
Reading Ash’s story again, I can’t help but imagine how amazing and freeing it would be to live in a world where I didn’t have to worry about breaking a chair and humiliating myself when I’m just trying to do simple things like drink a cup of coffee or visit a friend’s house for dinner. I can’t wait for AllGo to be real. And until then, I have The Fat Lip for inspiration and consolation.