To the Walmart People-Watchers Who Gawk at My Weight

“You know what I love about you,” I heard the middle-aged woman say.

My 21-year-old was putting my mobility scooter and his groceries in our vehicle, as the complete stranger continued, ”You are so brave, so courageous!”

She followed up with, “Most women wouldn’t wear anything sleeveless when their arms are that fat, but there you are, just doing your thing.”

Just minutes before I was in Walmart on my scooter wearing my sleeveless light knit blue dress, with a red white and blue eternity scarf. My hair was carefully done and I was wearing nice shoes.

Having just recovered from extensive surgery on the removal of Dercum’s disease tumors below my ribs, I was very puffed up, and in pain, but proud to feel put together and out “getting something done.”


There was a woman who gave me the “Walmart people” treatment, and I was the side show attraction.

I should have sold tickets because she really enjoyed herself, pointing to me to her friends and giving me that sly smile. I heard her say, “God shoot me if I ever get that big, look at her arms!”

My arms are sizable and lumpy due to Dercum’s disease and the other fat disorders I have. The three combined put fluid and disease-related fat and benign tumors by the hundreds in my body. I have Dercum’s disease, lipedema and lymphedema. My chin starts in a normal position at the beginning of the day but is touching my chest by the end of the day. It’s not from too much salt intake, not from overeating. Not from my mouth hanging open from amazement of just how shallow people continue to be. It’s from one of my fat disorders, diagnosed at two university medical clinics in two different states.

While I was not put on this planet for the amusement of those at big box stores, I’m starting to seriously consider charging  those who consider me part of their Walmart experience. There are people who go to Walmart partly because they love the sights, including people like myself. At times I feel as though I am providing a type of performance art. (Next time I could do my homage to Joan Rivers and her movie “Rabbit Test” and wear a T-shirt that says “Save The Whales.” Actually, I would love a picture of that myself.)

But seriously, gawkers are clueless that I’m college-educated, was president of my sorority, and have in my earlier days done some dynamic things in my life that contributed to our world, as both a social worker and journalist. I am caring, kind, supportive of others, empathetic, and have always taken life by the horns and dealt with it. I always stand tall. My daughter’s murder, advocating for my son diagnosed with autism, being an American citizen in troubling times. I’m good with who I am as a woman and a human. I am married to a man who makes me feel hot all over. Our love affair is eight years and going strong. I am also someone’s sister, daughter, niece, and best friend. I have a voice and I have strong thoughts and opinions.

I use a mobility scooter at times because one of the disorders, Dercum’s disease, requires it. It puts benign tumors in really bad places and it all swells up the more I move. I can be in bed for days and weeks from it. So if people just think I’m lazy, I don’t give it any thought. I owe them no explanation and none of my time or energy. I’m not their mother or moral guidance counselor. It’s not my burden to educate them, and really likely they would not listen if I tried.

Those “Walmart people watchers” who make a hobby out of gawking and cutting up at the sight of those like myself are not my worry or concern. The dynamics of it all, though, is a microcosm of what bigotry is. How uncomfortable someone’s large size makes others is really worthy of more sociological study.

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