Former Mayor Ed Koch and his sister Pat have just had a children’s book published. And I almost want to buy it and read it. Almost but not quite. The book, Eddie Shapes Up, was discussed in the New York Times today by Sam Roberts, who describes the book as, “a more or less autobiographical account of a youngster who faces down dietary demons and body-image problems to emerge healthy and self-accepting.”
So far so good!
Then as I read further Koch is quoted,
“I wanted to write this book with my sister — also a chubby child — to help children understand the importance of a healthy diet and exercise throughout their lives”
Okay, can’t argue with that!
And even this excerpt gave me cause to celebrate!
“ But a friend advises Eddie: “Everybody has a different kind of body. What’s important is being healthy and in good shape.”
But sadly, as Mayor Koch discusses the book he becomes one more example of someone identifying with the aggressor and can not resist making the fat the enemy.
“What I hope they walk away with is that it’s possible to avoid being the subject of derision or being an outcast simply by leading a healthy life with a healthy diet. It will cause you enormous pain if you let yourself get obese,” added Mr. Koch, whose childhood photos show him as a bit stocky, if not flat-out fat by today’s standards. “You’re not going to worry about it when you’re young, but if it continues, it can shorten your life. You want to have a family, you don’t want to leave them prematurely, and while it’s very unfair, many people in deciding who they’re going to hire will make a decision which includes weight.”
Okay, I admit, I’ve never been elected Mayor. (Not even in virtual mayor games). And I’ve never had a children’s book published. So who am I to find fault in his endeavors and points of view? But it just didn’t sit right with me that he is saying that the way to discourage bullies is to lose the weight. And then when he talks about how the bullying may have shaped his persona…
“When I look back, it’s no joke,” Mr. Koch recalled the other day. “I think, ‘How did I get through that?’ It was tougher than settling a contract with the unions. And who knows what effect it has on your persona? It made me want to strive to be better than the other kids were. The other part of it was the tears. It makes your life miserable.”
Well if I was a bully and read this, I would think, “See, it did you good to be bullied! You became the frikkin’ Mayor of New York City for Goodness Sakes! You should thank me for that! The tears? Well man up Mayor! Maybe I should get a percentage of the royalties from your book as well! After all, I inspired you! You’d be NOTHING without me you fat slob!
So I wrote a letter in response to the article and you can too if you’d like. Here’s mine:
I applaud Mayor Koch and his sister Pat for underscoring the importance of Health and Self Acceptance in this book. However, I am disappointed that Mayor Koch didn’t use his political sway to address the issue of why bullying fat kids is allowed? It seems to me that an underlying message in this book is bullying fat kids can be awesome, look, I became mayor and I even transformed my traumatic youth into becoming a published author!
Let’s take the fat stigmatization away and just talk about being healthy. And let’s write books and pass legislature that send a clear message that bullying and discriminating against our fat citizens is just WRONG. http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/SafeS