Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I know, I know, Seth Rogen doesn't need my help.

Many things irk me. As I’ve gotten older, I irk more easily. I probably over-irk. Things that wouldn’t have bothered me 10 years ago tend to frost my ass now. The weather lately, for example. The weather really has me in an almost constant state of irkdom. Never used to bother me all that much. I mean, come on, I live in the Midwest, and winters are generally harsh, and you suck it up and move on. Now? I’m staring at weather.com constantly and declaring them insane (as I have decided I fancy myself a meteorologist simply because I like watching shows about tornadoes). And then I’m staring out the window as yet another snow squall blows through. I find myself grumbling about the damn kids today. Back in The Day, I wrote a jolly little comedy song called "I Hope I Die Before I Hit 30". Now I'm staring down the barrel at 40. There are days it's all I can do not to curl up in a curmudgeonly ball and just...hiss angrily at the world.

But someone that makes me gleeful is Seth Rogen. My, he makes me chortle merrily. He's funny and adorable as all get out, and how delightful it is that the current movie he's working on, "Zack and Miri Make a Porno", is written and directed by someone else that makes me super-gleeful--Kevin Smith. When I like somebody and their work, whether it be Seth or Kevin or Trent Reznor or whomever, I have a tendency to get...irky when someone goes after what I like in a negative fashion. I will go from zero to ENRAGED in 2.3 seconds, whether it's a screed or a mere offhand comment online or IRL. I don't know these fellows personally or any of the other number of artists, actors, or musicians that I am enthusiastic about, but if you take a shot at something or someone I enjoy and have nothing to back your opinion except "ZOMG SUCK BECAUSE OF THE SUCK SUCKY SUCK AND UR DUM IF U LEIK IT", I'm afraid I'm going to get testy. I am growed up enough to accept people not liking the things I like, and I can easily get behind the statement "it's just not my taste/thing".

So you can imagine my...irkdom as I was flipping through the Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair over the weekend. It's one of my favorite issues, as I mentioned in an earlier post. Over the years, they've done some great photo shoots. I've always dug the ones where they've reunited the cast from iconic films like "Star Wars" (before the prequels started raging) or "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (there are moments where I still boggle that Sean Penn was Spicoli). This year's theme was re-enacting scenes from Hitchcock movies, featuring Jodie Foster in "The Birds", Jennifer Jason Leigh and Keira Knightley in "Rebecca", and so on. Well, you can imagine my fangirlish delight to find Seth Rogen re-enacting the classic plane chase scene from "North By Northwest", which starred Cary Grant. The picture looks great, he looks great, it's just a glossy page of motherfucking great. To go along with the portfolio is a behind-the-scenes article, talking to the photographers involved and whatnot. Of course, getting the "North by Northwest" homage together was a struggle. There was hoo-hah involving the plane and California laws about operating one close to, you know, PEOPLE, but apparently photographer Art Streiber felt that this was a terribly significant roadblock:

The next challenge was Rogen. "We probably did a dozen passes where Seth was actually running," Streiber says. "At each go he probably ran for about 20 yards at a full sprint, which is not something Seth Rogen does on a regular basis."

Ohhhhh, I get it! Because Seth's fat, IT WAS MOST TERRIBLY CHALLENGING TO GET HIM TO RUN. Never mind THE MOTHERFUCKING BI-PLANE THAT YOU'RE TRYING TO GET INTO THE SHOT. Getting the plane that's flying at, like, 200 miles per hour into a shot, now THAT'S EASY. But getting a fat guy to run? OH, THE HUMANITY. Did you have to bring someone in to tear Seth away from the snack table? After all, it's cold hard fact that when fat people aren't running around being fat at you, we're eating everything in sight. Watch your backs, skinnies. I'm just sayin'. If we run out of Hostess snack cakes, since all we ever eat is junk food, y'alls are next.

What in the high fuck does Seth's ability or inability to sprint 20 yards 90 times over have to do with anything? Seriously. How fucking hard would it be to say something like, oh, "It was very challenging to coordinate the airplane to match Seth's running speed" or "Seth was a real gamer and worked very hard to get this shot accomplished"? Heavens forfend! Seth's fat so therefore...IT IS IMPORTANT THAT A COMMENT BE MADE ON HIS BODY AND HIS ATHLETIC ABILITIES WITH SAID BODY SO THAT NO ONE FORGET THAT SETH ROGEN DOES NOT HAVE CHISELED ABS AND DOES NOT LOOK LIKE GEORGE CLOONEY*. You know what, I look at George Clooney and I say "hello, sailor"; and I look at Seth Rogen and I say "hello, sailor" as well because both of them are fetching. They look nothing alike, and that's OKAY. If you don't find George Clooney or Seth Rogen fetching, that's okay too. Part of the whole "We're All Special Snowflakes" deal is that not only do we not all look alike, we also don't find the same body types physically attractive. And that's okay.

Or, it's supposed to be okay. The more people are willing to be loud and proud about what they find fetching in others, even if it doesn't fit the societal demand for magazine-cover-perfection, the more okay it will get. It's important that it gets more okay because there's nothing foxy about self-loathing. And there's nothing foxy about engendering it in others.

*According to the BMI, George Clooney is obese. Welcome to Club Chubby, Clooney!
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Baby talk, baby talk, it's a wonder you can walk.

When I was a youth, I had a speech impediment -- I had the Cindy Brady lisp, apparently. I say "apparently" because I don't really remember lisping, but I have very vague recollections of going to the speech therapist and working on words involving the letter "s". As of late, I've noticed that when I'm tired and in a hurry to say things, I will occasionally lisp.

It's a strange thing, suddenly finding myself lisping after years of, well, not. It's one of those things that I never would have expected would pop up, especially considering I not only went through speech therapy, but I also spent a good amount of time in theatrical voice training during college. I still try very hard to drop my voice so I cut down on the delightful Chicago nasal "a" that creeps up on me and it drives me a little crazy when I hear someone pronounce "the" incorrectly. Seriously, there's a rule: if "the" precedes a word that begins with a vowel, you should pronounce it "thee"; if the word begins with a consonant, you should pronounce it "thuh". And it's ILL-inois, not EL-inois. Anyway.

This tangential trip down Memory Lane is an unwieldy gateway into the topic of insults. That is, the power of words and do they have power, should they have power, etc. etc. etc. I often find that people who haven't often been on the receiving end of words designed to absolutely crush someone's spirit are the first ones to pipe up "Words only have power if YOU GIVE THEM POWER!!!!". They sometimes are the same people who crow that losing weight is easy and if you can't do it, you're a fucking loser scumbag fat asshole.

My own experience with having insults hurled my way has been (by miracle or otherwise) fairly minimal. I've read stories from others, primarily women, who undergo an almost constant verbal assault every day of their lives due to their size. Now, I don't know if it's because I live in a major city or I've perfected the art of being utterly nondescript (although I struggle with that idea simply because I'm 5'9", 280 lbs, with decidedly unnatural red hair and tattoos on both forearms), but I can't remember the last time someone tossed off a fat-related insult at me. The last time I remember catching any shit for the way I looked was when I was riding on the el a few years ago. I have a winter hat that I adore, a black and white Dr. Seuss-esque knit hat that's very long and tube-like. When you're living in Chicago, winter is hell. Therefore, it makes sense to dress as warmly as possible, and goddammit, my Dr. Seuss hat's fucking warm so I'm going to wear it (in fact, I've worn it a couple times just this week). So I was sporting my festive chapeau and about to step off the train, and some guy snarked, "Nice hat". And if you're fairly used to having someone blow shit at you, you know immediately when someone's being complimentary or not. Instead of having my day ruined, it just...baffled me. For Christ's sake, it was probably 10 degrees out...and you're going to rip on my warm hat??

It's kind of like that scene in "Roxanne" where Steve Martin goes on a riff of insults about his big nose to refute the truly lame insult thrown at him by someone in the bar. The best you can muster is "nice hat"? If you really want to stop me in my tracks, show some style, some flair. How about...oh, I don't know, "looks like a dead zebra on your head" or asking if the Cat in the Hat shit on my skull. Come on. That's why I find it so difficult to be insulted when people roll out the wide (HA) variety of fat-based insults mostly because they're so fucking dopey. You've got the people who will exclaim, "You're fat!" Well...yeah. The rest of the class has that figured out. Then the litany of "fat pig", "tub of lard", and any number of other invectives prefaced by "fat": bitch, cunt, whore, slut, ass, asshole, to name a few. And if you think about it, it's not the bitch/cunt/whore that's necessarily designed to be the thing meant to destroy our souls, it's the word "fat".

I see it used as the most horrible word ever all the time, even in casual, non-confrontational conversation. It's so loaded with hatred and horror; the very very VERY worst thing anyone could ever be or be considered is fat. Which blows my mind. Even before I started to dig on the concept of fat acceptance, I rarely called myself "fat" in the wrong sense. I felt I was an asshole for a wide variety of reasons, the least of which was my fat. And now, my wide variety of reasons don't have anything to do in the least with my bountiful girthitude. Sometimes I think my lack of horror at "fat" is because I've never been anything but fat. I've never experienced the momentary wonder and glory of being thin or even within the thin ballpark and all the alleged bliss that comes with it. I don't remember wearing a size under 20. The lowest weight I can recall being is 225 lbs, when I was in my senior year of high school. I've never been not big.

The funny thing is, as a fat youth, it rarely bothered me. I've kept a journal of sorts from the age of 16 to present and as a teen...wow, I thought I was Queen Shit of Fuck Mountain. I liked the fellas and I went after them. If they didn't reciprocate, there wasn't one sentence that contained the phrase "because I'm fat". The tone was definitely "they're losers for not wanting me". For a long time I couldn't figure out where it went south for me and just sitting here now, kind of nattering on the keys and letting my brain take me where it may, it's struck me that my own special brand of self-loathing didn't start kicking in until I started to lose weight my senior year. I'd lost maybe 30 pounds and was going through a situation that would sadly set a particular tone for my future dealings with the opposite sex, and all the magazines and whatnot told us that when you lose weight, magical things happen and the life you dream of having suddenly starts happening and you're practically followed by fucking unicorns, things are so great. I realized then that the one magical thing I wanted (that is, for this particular fellow to love me back) wasn't going to happen and it didn't make any fucking sense. I DID WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO. I lost 30 pounds, for Christ's sake! I wasn't thin by any stretch of the imagination, but I was thinner! I was being GOOD. So why couldn't I have him? Why wouldn't he love me back?

Of course, in retrospect, it was a most fucked-up relationship that no young woman should ever have to experience. But after it was all over and I learned that I was good enough for a one-off fuck (that thankfully, never wound up happening) but not good enough to date, my self-confidence went straight into the shitter. And it stayed there for...years. It's still in the shitter in certain areas of my life and I'm still puzzling out how to fix it. What I did start piecing together was that the "fuck you" attitude I had as a teen was just the kind of weapon I needed in order to start wading through my grown-up life. The distrust I'd always had for mainstream media and all the self-help gurus telling us that we'd sprout fucking wings and fart pixie dust if we could just behave and lose weight started to re-emerge. It was only a matter of time before my brainswitch tripped and started to embrace the wacky-ass concept that I wasn't a weak slob who wasn't trying hard enough to lose weight. We all are special snowflakes (at least, DNA-wise) and we've all got unique carcasses that do different things and look different ways and none of it's bad, weak, or wrong.

The word "fat" doesn't mean anything but, well, fat. Fat. FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT. Just say it, roll it around in your mouth. Say it without that tight voice, without gritted teeth, without hissing. Just say FAT. Say it in a high-pitched voice. Say it with an accent. Start treating it like the adjective it is and stop using it as a moral judgment.
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Thursday, February 7, 2008

One of those wacky "glimmer of hope" things.

I'm not much of a TV watcher anymore, I must admit.

Yeah, I know, that admission doesn't quite warm your loins considering I'm claiming to know a whole bunch about pop culture. But you see, with the enormous amount of entertainment-related media floating around, even if you've never seen an episode of "America's Top Model", you almost can't help but know who's who and what's what. I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly and Vanity Fair (looooove the Hollywood Issue--well, except that Tom Ford one. UGH, so crap), and I snarf around the Yahoo Entertainment News feed several times a day. If there's something people are really buzzing about (a particular episode of "Lost", for example), I'll wander over to Television Without Pity and read some recaps. I'll even read recaps of shows I've never seen. Hell, seems to me that the recaps are more entertaining than the shows themselves half the time.

In general, the shit in the Bachelorette Lair (that is, my bedroom in my parents' house--YES, I LIVE WITH MY PARENTS AND I'M 36) stops for two shows: "Mythbusters" and "Dirty Jobs". I whooped it up something fierce with the Eukanuba Dog Show on Animal Planet last weekend. And purely by accident, I wandered across "How To Look Good Naked" with former "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" host Carson Kressley.

(Now, let's note for future reference - I'm the kind of person who tends to wander onto things looooong after others have gotten hip to them. I'm someone who, five years down the road, will say something like, "Gosh! Have you heard about that 'Heroes' show playing on the Tee and Vee?? Ain't it something??" So, I'm well aware that "HTLGN" has been on for, like, 18 years already.)

As a rule, Lifetime TV and I do not mix. I'm easily irked by things like "Television for Women", "Radio For Men", that sort of nonsense labeling. My interests are varied and not locked into my having a vadge, and I would hope men would have the same experience. Initially, when I first heard about the show, I immediately figured it would be yet another makeover show featuring diet tips and hiding "flaws" until by gum, dieting and exercise magically removed those "flaws" (like, you know, having parts that jiggle), especially considering the network it's on. After the first episode aired, I saw talk of it across the Fatosphere and how it wasn't the nightmare everyone was expecting. Then, of course, it flew right out of my mind because I get distracty like that.

Friday night, I was heading off to sleep and decided to put on the tube to hopefully induce some snoozage and I happened upon the show. Let me tell you, I was riveted for the full hour (two episodes). I was astounded to see a reality show that didn't specialize in brutalizing its subjects. I was jaw-droppingly stunned to see women with rolls and bulges and boobs trotting around on for-real TV. I'm generally a tough cry, but by the end of the hour, I'd squeezed out some fairly serious tears. Before digging into this post, I sampled some more episodes and overall, I felt that my initial reaction of being pretty pleased with what "HTLGN" was throwing down was a valid one. Of course, I have quibbles here and there--for example, that the only valid beauty is a stereotypically feminine one, i.e. getting all made up and etcetera. I'm not hip to the "this is what real women look like!!!" thing, either. Thin women are still women and they're just as real as me. I'm also curious as to whether a woman of my size and build would ever be allowed on the show. However, I think the positives outweigh the negatives. It made me really, really happy watching women looking at themselves in the mirror and BEAMING at what they saw. Carson clearly loves what he's doing. He's a one-man fiesta of joymaking, and it's infectious.

It's such a relief to watch a reality show that is focused not on massive makeovers involving thousands of dollars of plastic surgery or encouraging crash dieting and obsessive working out (hi "Biggest Loser", I'm looking at you, you festival of horror) but instead on simply helping women dig on themselves. The show isn't demanding you buy someone's book or ruling that you can only dig yourself after you've hit certain benchmarks (*cough*OPRAH*cough), it's simply saying "be in crazy, nutty love with yourself and you will be amazed at the results". In my way of thinking, in this day and age, it's damn close to revolutionary.

Body acceptance and self-love isn't something that's limited only to fat people, which I think is sometimes missed by those outside of fat acceptance. Self-Hate-Fests aren't strictly for the fat--otherwise, statistics like "four out of five women hate their bodies" wouldn't exist. It's beyond important that we love ourselves in all our glories, be we fat, thin, in between, short, tall, whatever; and that we then pass that love onto the kids we know or parent as well as the people we love who aren't ready to get down with themselves for any number of reasons. I'm not saying you should run around and shriek "LOVE YOURSEEEEEEELF!!!!!!!" every 20 seconds into the faces of those who haven't started down the Righteous Road of Digging Oneself, because that'd be annoying as shit. Instead, I say sneak-attack them with compliments (be mindful not to go crazy-ass with that, either--also falls into the "annoying as shit" category if done without precision and care) and challenge them when they insist they're worthless for any number of reasons. You might find that on a day when your own affection for yourself is in the crapper, going nutty with the love for someone else is just the thing you need to keep you rocking on...clothed or otherwise.

*sassy wink*
*fade to credits*
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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Throw your hands in the air - and flip 'em off like you just don't care.

I've been hemming and hawing for a while over what I could possibly add to the brilliant blogging...um...bloggerpeople that populate the Fatosphere. And then, it struck me that there are two things I know extremely well: pop culture and being fat. If I spent as much time concentrating on college studies as I do on various pop culture items, I mighta even graduated.

One might think that it would be a challenge to combine pop culture chat with fat talkin', but when one is presented a delightful moment such as this fine, fine video taken over Super Bowl weekend at a Wyclef Jean concert where he makes it clear that no woman over 200 pounds should come up on stage to dance lest they "break the stage", it's quite clear just how easy it is to combine pop culture chat with fat talkin'. Mo over at Big Fat Deal covers it quite well (and kudos to her for braving the comments section at TMZ, because Lord knows I can only take so much).

When I saw that video, I immediately put myself in the shoes of every woman that clambered up on that stage only to slink off when Wyclef made his declaration. It's pretty much any music fan's dream to be able to share a stage with a band or an artist they love. Back when I was a fat teen, I wanted nothing more than to be a backup singer for Duran Duran. When I saw the Smashing Pumpkins in 1996, Billy invited people from the crowd to come up and dance onstage during "1979" with only one admonition: "Don't touch us, and don't touch our shit". I was too far back on the main floor to boogie on up and shake my moneymaker (though "1979" isn't exactly a moneymaker-shaking kind of song), but had I been close enough, you bet your ass I would have smoked on up there quick as a wink. Even at a "mature" 36, the thought of hiking myself up onstage to be anywhere NEAR Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails...why, it gives me a bit of a case of the vapors, frankly. I want, like any fan of any musician or actor or whatever, to believe that our favorite people, people that we've all spent serious bank on, aren't fucking assholes.

In a world where regular people can be such awful, vicious jerkoffs, our nerdy celebrity fantasies can sometimes be the only respite we have from the shitbags of the world. Why, my beloved (insert name of celebrity here) would never tell me my thighs are the size of Madagascar and that I didn't deserve respect. If (insert name of celebrity here) were to meet me, why, he would be dazzled by my wit and charm and certainly he wouldn't mutter anything about what a disgusting load I was. But then something like Wyclef's heartwarming declaration takes place and you've got people in the crowd CHEERING...hell, one can't help but want to crawl into a pit and just disappear.

And what makes it worse is when someone you wouldn't expect to be a fat-hating asshole goes on a roll. Case in point, Alton Brown of the Food Network. He was answering questions here and when he was asked what he was passionate about, he responded:

"I’m passionate about this country getting off its fat butt and getting into shape. I see a lot of very heavy people at my demos and book signings and I don’t like that. They come up and they’re so nice and they say 'gosh we love food and love your show' and I want to say 'I think you might lay off both and go for a walk'. I’ve never actually said this because it would be mean but it really worries me."

At the time, I wrote on my Livejournal, "Good news, Alton--you can be sure my fat ass will never be anywhere near any of your demos, book signings, or your TV show. Just LOOK at that. He describes the people as being "so nice" and yet, that being "nice" doesn't matter because oh my stars and garters, they're fat. I guess I'm supposed to be grateful that Alton's only thinking of my "health" when he proclaims himself "worried", but I'd be more grateful if Alton would educate himself on the kind of statistical psychotic horseshit (oop, there we go again with my inability to say anything but "psychotic horseshit!" over and over again) and sloppy reporting that accompanies each and every "THE COUNTRY IS BEING OVERWHELMED BY OBEEEESITY" story that hits the airwaves, newspapers, and internet. I'd be more grateful if he'd come out against companies that profit off engendering people's self-loathing. Instead of sitting up nights, alternating being "worried" with coming up with lame-ass ways to present his lame-ass show, I'd be more grateful if he simply thought about how lovely it is that he has a job and makes a really nice buck doing something he enjoys. Such a shame that some of that money is tainted--TAINTED, I SAY--by fat hands.

And I love how he's never said "AUGH! AWAY, FATTY!" because he doesn't want to be "mean", but it's cool to type...it...on...the...Internet? But it's NOT mean because he "worries", kids. He just wants the best for you. He's not being a hickory-smoked asshole, no no. He WORRIES. So the best way to encourage people to eat healthy is to let everyone know that he doesn't like the fat fans that compliment him...?"

Had I actually been an Alton Brown fan and not where I'm at in my own personal self-acceptance, I would have army-crawled into the nearest liquor cabinet and not emerged for days. He's a genial enough fellow on his show, I suppose (though his kind of science-nerd geniality grates on me personally), and certainly wouldn't give one any clue that when he meets fat fans, first thing that seems to strike him isn't "oh, isn't it nice people appreciate my work" but "ugh...more fat people". I would wager that if someone asked him directly about it, he'd stammer and yammer and try to cloak his assholatry in patented Concern Troll language, but ultimately, unless proven differently to me, he's yet another person in the world that thinks the world would be better off if the fatties would just do everyone a favor and stay indoors so we don't offend the masses with our mass. After all, we can buy Alton's merch off the internet, which would then be delivered straight to our door, and we'd never have to sully his view or anyone else's with our chub.

And if we had any sense of decorum, we certainly wouldn't think we were good enough or pretty enough to hop onstage with Wyclef Jean. How dare we foul his sightline with our fat? My head keeps putting me at that show, standing in that crowd. Would I have tried to get up onstage before he issued his edict? Or would I have been paralyzed by fear that I'd get on up and immediately be greeted by waves of shit being blown at me by the crowd? And I'm someone who spent years doing theater and has rarely shied away from being the center of attention, for Christ's sake. How fucked is it that I'd second-guess something as fucking silly as DANCING TO MUSIC because I've been trained to second-guess it? And that my initial instinct would tell me to steel myself because I expect people to be douches? And that there'd be part of me that would tell me I deserved it because I'd been stupid enough to think I might be up to Wyclef's fan standards?

I guess it's just hard for me to puzzle out where the disconnect comes, where someone believes he or she is completely justified in making others feel shitty for no other reason than the others in question are fat. They might hide their shitty-making in "concerns for your health" or might be so bold as to simply hate out loud. Taking pleasure in making other people feel bad isn't the sport of kings. And having money, status, and a microphone doesn't give you a free pass.
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