When Del. Raymond Dypski (D-Baltimore) went carshopping a few years ago, his stomach would bulge over the steering wheel and he could hardly breathe.

"Do you come with the car?" Dypski, then weighing in at 340 pounds, recalled asking the perplexed salesman. "Well," Dypski explained, "who's gonna shove me in and out when you're not here?"

Dypski, who now weighs 240 pounds, recounted the story today for his colleagues of the House Environmental Matters Committee to show that life can be a constant "Battle of the Bulge" for fat people trying to find a job, buy insurance, clothes -- or even a car.

And that is why Dypski wants the Maryland legislature to direct the state Commission on Human Rights to study ways in which society can eliminate both the subtle and blatant discrimination against fat people.

Waving his income tax and property tax forms before the committee, Dypski said that fat people receive no tax breaks, like handicapped persons. And yet, according to Lisbeth Fisher, executive secretary of the National Association to Aid Fat People, stout persons are often charged more -- like when they take up a seat and a half on a plane, they are sometimes charged two fares.

Fisher was joined at the hearing today by about 50 representatives of the 1,500-member fat people's organization who sported buttons saying "Fat Can Be Beautiful" and "How Dare You Presume I'd Rather Be Thin."

Fat can not only be beautiful, but also healthy, Dr. Maria Simonson of the Johns Hopkins University health and weight program, testified before the amused committee members.

78If your heart, lungs, blood, kidneys, and other important body organs are not affected by the weight, and you function more effectively at that weight, why all the hassle? Does everybody have to be Twiggy?" Simonson said.

Natalie Allon, a sociologist and thin woman who said she's been studying the "stigma of obesity" since the 1960s, asserted that the Dypski proposal will help change the prevailing view in American society that fatness is not only ugly and unhealthy, but against the Puritan ethic, which stresses self-denial and self-control.

None of the committee members objected to the proposal today, but Del. Thomas W. Chamberlan Sr. (R-Baltimore County) suggested it might be amended to include tall and short people as well.