‘One’ Episode 11: T.C. Martin reconciles wellness, belonging and body image in autobiographical essay
In episode #11 of the Yale Schwarzman Center web series, One, English major T.C. Martin YC’20 talks with Taiga Christie YSPH’19 about his senior essay, “The Body Thus Confesses: Coming of Age as a Fat Man” – a nonfiction short story that explores a year of Martin’s life in WW, formerly Weight Watchers. Martin discusses his journey of self-discovery, his views on the responsibility of nonfiction writing to inform readers, and valuable life lessons from his experience at Yale.
Martin’s original plan was to major in Modern Middle Eastern Studies at Yale. However, the first English course he took drew him into nonfiction writing. He said, “I really felt the liberty for the first time to explain myself—or to confess or confide things that before then I never really had the courage to say about myself, or to say to others.” For Martin, the page became a place of liberation.
In a time of physical distancing, Martin traveled—quite literally—back to his childhood bedroom where he reconnected with some of the key memories conveyed in “The Body Thus Confesses.” Being at home and, most importantly, being around family gave Martin a “newfound sense of purpose.”
Martin wrote “The Body Thus Confesses” to explore his struggles with weight, a part of his identity he had previously tried to ignore. In the essay, Martin recounted a moment at an amusement park with his father who had also been overweight but had been more successful in his own weight loss efforts. The younger, heavier Martin was unable to close the safety locking bar on a rollercoaster and had to exit the ride.
He wrote, “Their eyes have landed on me, my cheeks wet and scalding red, and my smaller father trailing after me down the exit ramp.”
Although some readers may describe Martin’s work as a memoir and thus incredibly personal, Martin is reticent to call it cathartic. Instead, he thinks that “part of the piece’s responsibility is to inform.” For example, the piece informs readers of Martin’s experience in WW. He delves into the history of Jean Nidetch, the founder of WW, and connects other cultural points with his experiences.
Their eyes have landed on me, my cheeks wet and scalding red, and my smaller father trailing after me down the exit ramp.
Christie, the host of episode #3, is a theater artist and health worker who completed her Master of Public Health degree at Yale School of Public Health in 2019. Christie holds a joint fellowship with YSPH and the Yale Schwarzman Center and studies links between the arts and public health as part of Humanities, Arts and Public Health Practice at Yale Initiative, also known as the HAPPY Initiative.
One, a web series produced by the Yale Schwarzman Center, highlights interdisciplinary approaches to the arts in relation to the Center’s values of collaboration, wellness and belonging. The inaugural season illuminates the creative and academic merits of student works impacted by social distance and explores perspectives on community-building among dispersed groups. The series title, One, is a nod to the Schwarzman Center’s aspiration to advance a sense of “One Yale” and create an interconnected community that builds new traditions of student engagement around the campus and into the world.