Well guys, I’ve finally done it. I’ve taken the plunge. In my defence, I’ve always had a slightly polarised relationship with commitment. Contrary to what many ex-girlfriends would say, I actually wouldn’t describe myself as a commitment-phobe. I’m just a fan of “extensive research” before signing my life away. For this reason, I tend to take my time with decision making. However, once I’m “in”, I’m “in”. And after both subtle and not-so-subtle persuasion and coercion from my friends, family, and even partner, I’ve done what a 39 year old man should have done some time ago.

I’ve gone and joined a gym.

After a year of drinking too much during lockdown, a very indulgent two weeks in the South Island, and an equally indulgent honeymoon, I am what is commonly called “a bit of a fat bastard”. This has coincided with a dodgy shoulder and a dodgy knee preventing my usual activities of pounding the pavement and pounding a punch bag, resulting in a motorbike mechanic last week estimating my weight at “about 115kgs??”. In my mind, I’m 85kg.

Last night I was sharing a few bevvies with some recruiters I know, musing on what to blog about today. Yes, believe it or not, this stunning prose and verbal gymnastics aren’t written by a team of copywriters in advance. Rather, I’m sitting on the 7.51am from New Lynn, furiously tapping my phone. One recruiter suggested I blog about “fat people”. His view, and what was meant to be the crux of the blog, was that he wouldn’t hire a fat recruiter. They tended to be “lazy” and lacked “self-respect”. Unfortunately, history has taught me that prejudiced pub chat does not make great blog fodder. Thankfully, another recruiter put out a counterpoint. In many cultures, being on the plump side is a mark of success and wealth. Who wouldn’t want to work with a successful recruiter? And perhaps it doesn’t even matter. It’s filling roles, not filling rolls (sorry – and they’re not going to get any funnier). Now we were getting somewhere. So let’s explore…

Anyone following the US presidential race will notice our not-so-unconscious bias linking health and vitality and strong leadership. From Trump describing himself as the “healthiest president ever” and a miracle of modern science, to Biden’s super cute, super rehearsed besuited little jog onto the stage this week, we’ve seen two men in their 70s trying to “out-fit” each other. Like a race to win the Rest Home beep test, we’ve been asked which Grandad can live another 3 years. Biden, who actually looks physically fit, against a younger, plumper Trump who instead opts to paint his face like Florence Griffith Joyner. Thankfully they went with Biden, even if no one’s told Trump yet.

Unlike other prejudices, “fatism” (for want of a better term) is spoken about freely, especially amongst males*. I am guilty myself of ribbing friends when they put on a bit of timber. Somehow, because we have a view that getting tubby is a choice, and a reversible one at that, it doesn’t seem nearly as bad as other forms of prejudice. Would I be nearly so flippant about any other “ism” or associated slurs? I very much doubt it. It’s also one of the few “isms” that I’ve had clients openly discuss with me. I actually have an (ex) client who once rejected a candidate based on their size. This candidate was “big” by any metric, but had also been described by more than one person as the best recruiter in their discipline that they’d ever worked with. Yet, their size prevented them picking up a 6 month fixed-term contract. To the client, this prejudice was somehow “OK”. And although I’ve no doubt had candidates declined based on ethnicity, the client has never been so crude as to tell me this. Being a bit on a chonk is clearly a different kettle of fish. Likewise, you only need to walk into any office to get a general view on their hiring policy. In the most part, you’ll see people of all sizes in an office. However, there are certainly recruitment firms that don’t look much different from the 5.30am attendees of a Cross Fit class. Clearly they hire a “type” and that type has washboard abs.

*Interestingly, it’s much easier to call a male fat than a woman. Don’t believe me? Men, go home tonight and give your female partner a new cutesy nickname. You can pick from “Tubbs”, “Pork Chop”, or “FattyBoomBoom”. Let me know how you get on, but be warned, a pair of GHD Straighteners on the bell-end often offends.

So has my drinking buddy got a point? We’re told that our health is our most important asset. If someone can’t look after their own assets, how the hell are they going to look after yours? And if staying in shape takes a mix of discipline and hard work, would you hire someone who doesn’t physically display these vital traits? Put this way, and as unpleasant as such a prejudice view sounds, maybe he has a point.

On the other, more liberal hand, perhaps we are all just complex beasts with unique priorities. I have a very clean house and a very dirty car. My mate Big Dave is a homophobe who loves gay porn. Just because someone has no appetite for the treadmill doesn’t mean they don’t have a desire to smash out business development calls. Maybe they love the finer things in life, and it’s the need to afford them that makes them such a weapon when it comes to billing money? Life would be much simpler if we could understand someone’s desires, motivations, and fears from a single look. Unfortunately, it don’t work that way, and to think it does is the definition of prejudice itself. Personally, I’m leaning towards this way of thinking, although if I’m honest, I probably didn’t always.

Because we assume we can all get fat and all lose weight, sizeism will probably be the last “ism” to fall. Like Trump, it’ll keep hanging in there to the very end. However, as Auckland teeters on the precipice of lockdown once again, maybe the above is null and void. With the right lighting and contouring, we can all look pretty trim on a Zoom call.

Have a good weekend folks.

^SW

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