I’ve been thinking about this meme. It’s fatphobic, yes. It’s also insensitive to the very real alcoholism that so many people are living with during this time. Ultimately, it’s attempting to make a joke – and I like humor so I can chuckle a little and move on without getting too deep in it. BUT… what this meme points to is that EVERYONE is trying to cope in their own ways.
Humans COPE with stress and emotional difficulty, fear and uncertainty in their own ways according to the way they were raised, the experiences they have had in their lives to date and even according to their own genetic make-up. No one should be shamed for coping. We all have to do it.
If you come out of lockdown, a “chunk” (which is the fatphobic part, just in case you didn’t realize), you tend to cope with food – as MOST humans do since food is a major source of comfort, bringing us back even to the fundamental caretakers of our lives (our parents and family). It is absolutely normal and acceptable and understandable that humans cope with their stress by using food.
If you come out a “drunk,” surprise! You’re doing what our culture has been telling you to do your entire life – coping with alcohol. Use and abuse of alcohol to soothe every possible emotion in our culture is second only to food – and importantly, it’s a very CLOSE second. For people dealing with alcoholism – and other addiction -- this is a very real constant struggle. For those of us who are not “alcoholics” but allow ourselves to imbibe more than we normally would, this is yes, another way of coping with something (like a global pandemic) that is very traumatic.
Much more importantly, I want to talk about the “hunk” and the “monk.” These are also coping mechanisms.
Working out everyday, maybe multiple times each day, is just another way of distracting oneself or numbing oneself to what is happening around them. People who are obsessively exercising right now are NO DIFFERENT from those people who are soothing themselves with food or with alcohol – they are coping. Of course, Diet Culture tells you THIS “choice,” above all the others, is best/ most superior but I promise you it simply is not. It comes with its own dysfunction and its own set of unfavorable consequences.
This is also true for deep spiritual discovery – the “monk.” Meditation is a coping mechanism. I would, personally, argue that meditation is probably the healthiest of ALL of these coping mechanism and YET, it is still a way to deal, a way to cope, a way to retreat from the pain and difficulty of what we are all facing. And, while the person who is meditating may come out of their coping mechanism with less PHYSICAL repercussions and consequences from their coping mechanism than the others, they are still not SUPERIOR to or somehow more enlightened than these other folks. They are coping. They are doing their best. Just like everyone is.
Which brings me to this: this meme is the opposite of the grace, compassion, and acceptance we all need right now. This meme takes this very difficult act of coping, of surviving during this time and boils down human beings into objectified jokes. And, it’s not helping anyone.
Of course, we DO have “choice.” We do not HAVE to be the victim of our life’s circumstances or continue to use coping mechanisms that were developed to deal with trauma or simply handed down to us from our families. But in the midst of this community trauma, this global pandemic, it might be very difficult to recognize our coping mechanisms let alone force ourselves to stop engaging in them. These coping mechanisms are what keep us feeling safe. It’s fair for everyone to want to feel safe right now.
The reality is, most of us are going to be some mashed-up amalgamation of the four “choices” presented in this meme. During this quarantine, most of us are going to occasionally eat comforting foods and maybe too much of them. Most of us are going to occasionally drink a little more wine than we needed to with dinner, or a little too much scotch too early in the day. Most of us are going to occasionally get up and move in huge bursts of energy from time to time. Most of us are going to pray and sometimes we are going to pray long and hard. We are going to do all four of these things because these are human coping mechanisms – and the ones that are most prevalent in our culture. These are human responses to anxiety and stress and trauma.
We must have compassion for and extend grace to humans who are coping the best way they know how. Why? Because we are ALSO those humans. And if we can’t extend grace to others, if we can’t have compassion for others – we can’t do the same for ourselves. And loving, respecting, and taking good care of ourselves isn’t possible when we are beating ourselves up.
What’s behind this silly (and hurtful) joke of a meme is fear. And what’s behind the CHOICE to share a smarmy, snarky meme instead of openly admitting one’s fear is the refusal to be vulnerable to other human beings and to radically accept one’s self; the refusal to vulnerably admit that what is happening is terrifying and strange and no one knows exactly what to do with themselves. But THAT admission is so much more healing and courageous, compassionate and full of grace than simply telling a cruel joke.
Your real choice, at this moment, is whether or not you’re going to have compassion and grace for your fellow humans, and therefore yourself, or not. So, yes, please choose wisely.
is an NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer; an ACE-Certified Group Fitness Instructor; a certified Yoga Teacher; a Certified Intuitive Eating Professional; and a degree-holding Health, Fitness Specialist. She lives in Frankfort, Michigan and owns Every. Body. Fitness and Yoga Studio.