Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay: Beautiful Honesty for an Ugly World

Beautiful honesty is a gift for an ugly world. And yet again, Roxane Gay offers us this gift with a well-crafted essay on her decision to have gastric sleeve surgery in January this year.

Mixed Emotions About a Harsh Reality

This was not an easy decision. Gay describes the final straw:

After more than 15 years of refusing it, I made the decision to get weight-loss surgery on an ordinary day. At home in Lafayette, Indiana, a young man yelled at me to move my fat black ass while I was crossing a grocery store parking lot to my car. It was the last straw.

I tried to hold my head high, shuffled as quickly as I could, put my groceries in my car, and sat behind the steering wheel. I sat there, shaking, wishing I could have been as quick in that moment to put him in his place as I would have been online.

It was a pragmatic decision, borne from her lifetime of enduring a hostile culture of insults and indignities. Regretfully, she figured she could change her body more quickly than she could change the ugliness of humanity.

Fullness Without Satisfaction

So now, just a few months after her sleeve, she knows fullness for the first time she can remember. And at the same time, she feels unsatisfied. She describes losing the comfort of food – “the best friend I never had the courage to acknowledge but who was my constant, loyal companion nonetheless.”

Truth be told, satisfaction is something everyone is hungering after and only rarely finding. Decisions about weight and health and body image are intensely personal, but fraught. Everyone seems to make an arrogant assumption that they get a vote. In an interview last year, Lindy West raised the subject of “barbaric” pressure on people to have “surgery that could kill them.” Gay pushed back a bit on condemning the choices of other women. While endorsing hard conversations, she said, “I have nothing but empathy for anyone who gets the surgery.”

Please. Read this essay by Roxane Gay. It’s complicated and yet very satisfying food for thought. A beautiful gift of honesty for an ugly world. For even more, check out her memoir here.

Roxane Gay, photograph © Marla Aufmuth / TED via flickr

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April 28, 2018

3 Responses to “Roxane Gay: Beautiful Honesty for an Ugly World”

  1. April 28, 2018 at 9:53 am, Allen Browne said:

    Great essay by Ms. Gay. It should be required reading for weight management physicians and probably all health care providers. They would learn a lot. Then Ms. Gay needs to go to a lay version of the Blackburn Course (nobody has created one yet as far as I know). Understanding her physiology would have helped her immensely and would still help as she struggles with herself now. Weight management should start with respect for the individual and the goal of improving their health – nothing more, nothing less.


  2. April 28, 2018 at 10:09 am, Charles Baker said:

    Ted, Thank you for this thoughtful synopsis. The insightful nugget is the observation of feeling full for the “first time she can remember.” What a foundation for a plethora of rigorous studies. Charlie

  3. April 29, 2018 at 9:55 pm, Donna said:

    I had the privilege of seeing Roxane Gay speak a few months ago at the University where I am employed. As someone who chose to have bariatric surgery, I have read (with great interest) her books and essays on the subject. It is a complicated, multi-factoral decision, just as obesity is a complicated, multi-factoral disease. It has been a good decision for me so far, but I definitely understand the resentment and the ambivalence.