Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pardon me if my party hat's not on.

When I think about achievements one could muster up in life, I can dream up many things: having a book published, passing a difficult test, getting a promotion at work. Losing weight through dieting will never be one of those things I will muster up praise for.

I can’t clap my hands and say “yay!!!!” for the kind of mental trauma people put themselves through, counting calories or points and berating themselves and kicking their own asses around the block and then some if they don’t do everything just so on any given day. I can’t say “bully for you” when you talk about how hideous you look and how terrible a person you are because your thighs don’t look like a supermodel’s. I won’t encourage self-hatred. I won’t congratulate self-abuse. I won’t lead a cheer for obsession.

If that makes me a bad person or if I'm overreacting or if I'm mean-spirited, so be it. My disinterest won’t stop you from beating yourself up for not being the “real you” you think is lurking somewhere underneath your skin since there are many, many more people in the world that are willing to fall over themselves to give you kudos for weight loss. You can mutter I’m jealous because I’ve obviously “failed” and “given up” and don’t have “control” (oh, that mystical “control”). You won’t be the first person to tag me with that, believe me. I’m jealous of assorted people for many reasons, but not of the mindset that is inevitable when it comes to dieting for the purposes of weight loss. I did my time angsting over the size of my ass and it’s not a place I ever care to go back to again. If I learned anything, it was that the ever-elusive happiness that I still seek isn’t going to appear if I whittle myself down to a socially acceptable size. Satisfaction with my life won’t come simply because I can shop at a straight store. The issues that I have creaking in my cranium aren’t going to go away if I boogie down to the local J. Craig and get my salt-laden crapfeast on.

There’s a scary percentage of people who would rather get hit by a truck than look anything like me. In a life where any number of things can go horribly, horribly, horribly wrong, where we can suffer so much loss and hurt and hate and misery...really? Being hit by a truck is preferable? But I’m the one with the problem. Hmm.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m an advice column reader. I’m fascinated by people’s issues and what sort of solutions are proposed to them by both the columnist and (if the website has comments enabled, a’la Salon) readers. For better or worse, I tend strongly toward trying to solve my own issues, which…has…worked out so well? *ahem* Anyhoo, I read Carolyn Hax in the Washington Post and this particular nugget caught my eye:

Part One and then the follow-up (thank Christ for posting it the same day as I’m stumbling through trying to express my thoughts): Part Two

Read it and then come back. I’ll wait.

I’m of two minds on this particular subject, which in and of itself is quite vexing at present. On the one hand, I’m super-annoyed in general by the “oh sweet lord God you don’t mean to TELL ME…THAT SHE GAINED WEIGHT?!?!?! *trumpets of doom*” tone from both Carolyn and the letter-writer (let’s just say the letter-writer would not be a winner-winner-chicken dinner in my book with his need to emphasize just how HOT his fiancée was and the lackluster tap dance of “well, it’s not the ONLY reason…HOT!”). Carolyn’s is, of course, playing the Concern Troll. But on the flip, I’m kind of feeling the “presenting a false front” angle. I understand the irritation—NOT the primary reason he wants to jettison his fiancée, but the irritation at being hornswaggled, PLEASE NOTE in glittery text and fiery exclamation points. I swear I will get to the fatness angle eventually (you know it takes me 18 hours to arrive at a point – pack a lunch). I feel it with women who intentionally present themselves as less intelligent so as to appeal to men—a friend of mine called it her “cute and stupid” persona. I much preferred it when she’d use her far more interesting and honest “smart and wicked sense of humor and still remarkably adorable” persona (thankfully, her honest self won out when she met her husband – they’ll be celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary on Halloween). I feel it with men who gamely trail behind their wives/girlfriends at various activities or events that they’d much rather not be involved in, but feel like they “have to”. I mean, maybe I’m pie-in-the-skying, unrealistic and dumb, but if my Imaginary Boyfriend didn’t like the Cure, I’m not going to demand (either right out front or passive-aggressively) he go see the Cure with me because I’m a damn grown woman and I can go to a goddamned concert by myself. Or I can go shopping by myself. Or I can go to the movies by myself. Or any number of activities that my Imaginary Boyfriend might not be interested in, and vice-versa. To me, that’s logical and fair. In my head, I would have enough in common with my Imaginary Boyfriend (I really should give him a name one of these days) that we could unite in doing the things we both like to do and not have snitters over doing things on our own or with friends that does not include our partner. However, my learnings from the internet, advice columnists, and hearing tales from my friends who have non-Imaginary spouses/partners would tell me that there seems to be no place for my logic. Personally, I would find it weird and wrong to pretend to be interested in my Imaginary Boyfriend’s hobbies/activities if they weren’t compelling to me. If I pretended to be super into spelunking simply to attract a mate, imagine how fucked I’d be when the time came to don my helmet with the shiny light on top and receive the request to belay somebody. It would be a sad day at the cave, my friends. A very sad, tragic day.

But to get back to the OMG FAT BRIDE thing for a mo’’s a tough friggin’ sell in my book to screech “I didn’t get what I bargained for (i.e. my fiancée didn’t stay what I consider to be HOT)” and put on a show for sympathy, no matter how hard Carolyn's on board with his boo-hooing. When I think about whom I might marry one day and all the things that might change about him physically or personality-wise, I think finding out he bricked his pet cat into the basement wall or he had a shoebox full of heads of women that he was acquainted with and had meticulously carved out of photographs that he would then paste onto centerfolds from porn magazines and masturbated to every day* would be a much bigger dealbreaker than him putting on 40 pounds after engagement-ringing me. But the brawl between those who think it’s acceptable to lose their shit over their significant other putting on pounds and those who think that attitude makes them superficial jerks will rage for all eternity. The only thing any of us can hope is that we stay as far away from those men and women and let them impose their regulations on each other.

But then it makes me think about other shit, about men and women tiptoeing around what they look like, particularly in the online dating universe. It’s fucking nerve-wracking as hell winging up photographs of oneself on a dating profile, let alone pictures that are in focus, not taken in shadows, and not cutting oneself off at the chest line so as to minimize what one imagines being one’s worst “flaws”. I spent quite a while deciding what pictures I was going to put on my various profiles floating around the ether. The most important thing to me was being up front about my appearance, and I realized I’ve always been like that. Way way way back when, when I first got internetting, I was a weekend fixture in the X-Files chatroom on AOL (I’d say...1995-ish, perhaps). I didn’t have internet access or a PC at home, so I’d truck out to my parents’ house every weekend to “visit the parents” but mostly to bullshit with online friends about "The X-Files". A fellow took something of a shine to me and I was quite frank that I was a fat girl. The one thing I remember the most about the entire silly situation was his insisting that I was lying in order to “test” him or that I was exaggerating when I said I was built like a linebacker. It pissed me off that he was insinuating that I was trying to garner sympathy by being the sad clown fat girl or fishing for compliments somehow because I was simply being my special brand of honest. I don’t like surprises, and I don’t like surprising others (except with, say, a Hallmark card or a Tower of Treats from Harry and David). So my pictures at my dating profiles feature how my face double-chins when I smile, my semi-slouchy posture, my belly, my smallish rack. I’ve only one picture where I’m wearing make-up because I rarely wear it. I don’t want to come away with a story where I wind up meeting a guy for tea and the first thing I see is his face falling at the sight of me. I want to screen out fellows that aren’t down with my appearance. And I don’t want to bullshit someone into thinking I look like someone I’m not. I understand the fear men and women have. Christ, do I ever. We all want to appear like the most fabulous cats to ever walk the earth. But if you’re going to kick off a potential relationship with fear-based fudging, what good is that? Where’s the honesty in it? And it makes me think: what else aren’t you telling me? What else am I in for?

Look, I’m absolutely a huge proponent of the inner being more important in the long run than the outer. I would hope whatever man that might dig me would be hot for my brain and my carcass. But I’m not willing to hide myself or disguise myself because that is what we are told to do every single fucking day. All of us, not just the fats. The message is clear every single day that our basic selves, with the zits and the rolls and the receding hairlines, will not do and that we must change, change, change in order to meet that ever-elusive standard of “good”. Instead of aspiring for that mysterious good, I’d love for everyone to show themselves, and show themselves without the self-deprecating commentary (“uggh, I look terrible in that picture/it’s 50 pounds ago/I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep the night before/I’m so old”) that we’re conditioned to throw down.

Show yourselves.

(in comments, even!)

*true story...(didn't happen to me, but to someone I know)

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Loving one's body when it feels like no one else will.

It's an unsavory thing, being reminded that the body type one inhabits seems so universally loathed. Especially on a day like today, Love Your Body day. On a good day, I embrace every inch and every pound of myself, and on a bad day...well, like today, for example. On a bad day, every single shitty, stupid comment ever made about the way I look is in the forefront of my brain. Every single, shitty, stupid comment that can be made on the internet about how awful fat people are seems to be in my view. Everything that I feel I'm not -- beautiful, attractive, worthy of being loved back -- crashes on top of me. And it just gets harder to surface from beneath the ignorance, the hatred--the societal as well as the self-inflicted.

All I want to do today is completely retreat from the world. The world doesn't care for me, and I don't particularly care for it. Like the Beach Boys sing, "I just wasn't made for these times". Even the anger I have (I have plenty and that's why I'm single, according to an anonymous commenter) isn't sustaining me. All I've got is resignation with a heaping helping of apathy at present. So I'm open to suggestions: what helps you get up in the morning? What keeps you going? What do you hang onto to make anything worth it?

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Just call me 'Squatch.

So I'm reading about this Australian teen* who has decided to compete as a sumo wrestler, which is awesome. Pictures of her can be found here, and as always, if you treasure your brain, don't read the comments. I discovered the story at another website, and the thing that kept causing synapses in my head to continually misfire were the vehement assertions that there's no WAY in shrieking hell that this girl could be healthy, and that if she's 280 lbs. at 14, her legs are going to crumble and she's yet another ticking time bomb.

Thing is, though, when I was 14? I was 260 lbs., and 'Lantic Ocean, I'm still here. Which is, apparently, a miraculous, borderline fictitious thing.

I topped out at 5'9" when I was probably 12 or 13 years old. I was always taller than most of my classmates, and certainly larger than most of them. Being built like a brawler was a distinct advantage when I went through my "Kissing Monster" phase. No, I wasn't 31 at the time--for whatever reason, when I was five or six, I decided the best game in the world would be to run around the playground and try to kiss as many boys (and girls, I was an equal-opportunity Kissing Monster) as I possibly could. A teacher, Mr. Rossi, would eventually put a stop to my kissing by telling me (not unkindly) "the boys don't like it when you do that!"

Oh, irony.

But I was a bruiser from birth. There isn't a photograph of me in existence where I'm not fat, either as a child, adolescent, or adult. I never had a glorious, storied "skinny" time in my life. And what struck me most about Samantha-Jane Stacey when I looked at photographs of her was Jesus H., she looks like me. She's got more boob than I do and bless her hamstrings and flexibility, she can crouch so beautifully. But yeah, Samantha-Jane's got some Nolan in her for sure. The other thing that I dig is that she isn't sitting back and being the sad fat kid in the corner like society would prefer her to be. She is out and rocking all 280 lbs of herself in a male-dominated sport and she is aiming to win.

I've seen commenters getting tight about her competing in an "adult" sport. If that's so troubling, then I'd like to see some hand-wringing over kids playing ANY sport whatsoever. Sports injuries among kids are an ever-increasing problem as kids are being pushed to compete harder and harder long before they're physically (or mentally) ready to handle it. I can't help but feel a vibe that there's far less hang-wringing about the notion of kids being involved in such sports as baseball, football, gymnastics, or track because those are sports where 98 percent of the participants "look right". Sumo is a sport dominated by men (and perhaps one day, women) who aren't going to be on the cover of GQ wearing an Armani suit while fashion models are draped over them. Sumo wrestlers are seen as walking punchlines, not muscular warriors of sport.

And, since everyone on the internet has a medical degree, over and over again the following is declared as True Facts:

*It is simply IMPOSSIBLE that she's healthy
*It is simply IMPOSSIBLE that she's going to be able to walk by the time she's an adult because there's NO WAY her leg bones could POSSIBLY carry 280 lbs
*It is simply IMPOSSIBLE that she can't lose weight

As I mentioned before, I was probably clocking in at 260 lbs. at 14, and I'm obviously a mythical creature like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster because I can ambulate just fine. I can jump, I can skip, I can dance the hootchie-koo. Even when I was 320 lbs, I could walk, jump, do stairs, all the benchmarks set by the Internet Doctors as being signs of health. It seems like a DUH at this point, but just to remind the planet: you cannot determine what someone's health status is by simply looking at them. Unless you have superpowers that include being able to analyze a person's innards and outnards with a mere glance, when you open your yap and declare in dramatic, operatic tones that so-and-so CANNOT POSSIBLY BE HEALTHY, you sound silly (and not fun silly). The unfortunate thing is that there are so many people thinking they are in possession of those superpowers, opening their yaps and asserting they are able to determine on sight who is healthy and "good", the ones who do it don't realize how silly they sound. It's hard to when you're surrounded by similarly silly people.

So, rock on with your very bad ass self, Samantha-Jane. This Jane is cheering you on (I won't say "rooting" since, in Australia, it definitely does not mean "cheering you on").

*Hey, UPI, thanks for categorizing this story under Odd News, you fucking doucheweasels.

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