Now it’s Thorny’s turn to cry…

Thorny’s turn to cry, Thorny’s turn to cry-eye…..

Y’all, I finally went and had a physical done yesterday.

I know. Go ahead and sit back and really appreciate that irony – I’m the one who made such a big ol’ fuss about fat people getting the health care they need, and yet it’s taken me, what, six months since my mom died to finally get in to see the doc myself?

Just goes to show how hard that can be.

Granted, I had a few roadblocks along the way – first an appointment that got canceled at the last minute, then some problems with my family’s health insurance during the last few months of 2007. But still. There was a whole whack of time in there where I could have gotten it done, and I didn’t.

I was scared.

I was going to see a new doctor in a new clinic system, and I weigh more now than I ever have in my life, and while my mom’s death emphasized to me how important it is to not let some lab-coated fat-hater convince me my health is unimportant, my mom’s death also had knocked some wind out of my sails, and the idea of going in only to have to fight for my right to decent health care made me want to crawl in a hole and weep.

The stories that people came forward with, as important as they are, also fed my anxiety-ridden mind with new ways in which I could have been discriminated against, and there were times when I was convinced that there just weren’t any fat-friendly doctors out there. Intellectually I know that’s not the truth, but sometimes Intellect takes a back seat to Fear, y’know?

So I finally went in yesterday. I was nervous as hell, for reasons even beyond the fear of coming up against a fat-hater, and then, because I am never punctual despite my best efforts, I was running late.

So I got to the clinic and charged up the stairs to my doctor’s office, and then sat down and tried to regain some semblance of calm. Instead, I got called in almost immediately, and got weighed (and here’s where I shame-facedly admit that I was totally cheered to see the number was not as high as I had feared it would be, though um… thinking about it I may have convinced myself I had gained 40 pounds in four months, because my pants have gotten a little tight lately. Body dysmorphia much? Yeah. Anyway!), and then instead of waiting to do my blood pressure in the exam room, the nurse had me sit down and did my blood pressure right there.

Now, my heart was still kinda thud-ly from having dashed across the parking lot and hauled ass up those stairs, so when the nurse took my blood pressure? Looking back it was kind of funny, because she looked at me like she thought I was going to burst on the spot.

After making sure she’d used the right size cuff (she had), I asked if we couldn’t take it again at the end, because I was a) super-nervous and b) had been running late and rushing, so what she had taken was not exactly a “resting” blood pressure reading.

Then we went into the exam room and she took some history, and that’s when I added “Be able to go to the doctor’s office and not immediately go into my Knock ‘Em Dead Standup Comedy Routine in order to try to distract them from noticing I’m fat,” to my list of Things I Want To Be Able To Do When I Grow Up.

After taking my history and chuckling at my jokes, she said, “Go ahead and take off your clothes and put this gown on, and you can use this sheet to cover your lap if you need.” And I tell you, my heart just shriveled in my chest a bit. Seriously, y’all, all I could think was, “Oh great. I get to try to squeeze into some dinky gown here. This is going to go as badly as I’ve been fearing.”

So once the nurse left I took a deep breath, tried to stay calm and started to change. I got my clothes off and picked up the gown and decided to just try to put it on and see how it would go. And so I slid my arms into it and… holy shit. Not only did it fit, it was big! There was plenty of room there!

For the first time in probably ten years, I sat down on the exam table and the gown completely covered my back, and I was sitting on gown, not paper, and I looked at the paper sheet she’d given me to “cover my lap” and didn’t know where to put it, because the truth was, I didn’t need it.

So I sat there on the table, well covered, and took deep breaths and tried to calm down. The doctor came in and the first thing she did, despite meeting me while I was undressed, was introduce herself and shake my hand. Then we talked about my few concerns, she did all the necessary exam stuff, talked a bit more, she ordered a bunch of blood tests, and we were all set.

Not once did she say a word about my weight. Not once did she say anything negative about my body or about anything else.

Granted, I had pulled out the big guns of my Don’t Look At The Fat! Comedy Routine, but still. I can be funny, but I don’t think I’m that funny – if she’d wanted to say something hateful to me, she certainly had opportunity.

Finally, everything was done and my blood pressure had been re-taken and while it was still a little higher than is normal for me, it was well within the normal range, so the doctor wished me a good day and left, and I was free to get dressed again. But first I had to sit on the table and take a few more deep breaths and flap my hands in the air for a while to disperse the tears I could feel trying to accumulate and the lump trying to rise in my throat.

I sat there thinking about all the people who replied to that initial post about my mom, talking about having cried the first time they encountered a doctor who was kind to them. Even though I’ve never been subjected to blatant fat hatred by a doctor, I was still on the verge of tears just from the relief of having gotten through my physical without incident.

So there we go. Yesterday I saw the doctor for the first time since well before my mom died. It scared the crap out of me, but I kept reminding myself that I don’t have to be thin to merit a body that’s as healthy as it can be. I went in loaded for bear, psyching myself up to say, “You know what? Fat is not a disease. If you can’t focus on anything but my size, then this exam is over.” But I didn’t have to. Instead, yesterday was my turn to get choked up with relief because a doctor focused on my health and not the size of my ass.

Who’s next? Because I’ve got my pom-poms ready- okay, they’re invisible internet pom-poms. But I’m still ready to shake ’em like WHOA! for anyone else out there who needs a little encouragement in getting out there and helping make sure their body is as healthy as their body can be.

Something I said the other day

To me, I guess, it’s always seemed that if you put yourself down, then you are signaling to others that this is how you believe you deserve to be treated, and don’t expect any better.

I could have said better. Most people will treat me how I treat myself. If I treat my own body as if my health is more important than my weight, then I think that in hundreds of tiny ways, that comes across, and anyone who is receptive to it will realize that they, too, should treat me as if my health is more important than my weight.

Don’t get me wrong – my stomach was in knots the whole time I was at the doctor’s office. But I kept in mind something a very good shrink once told me, which was that sometimes, you gotta fake it ’til you make it.

If we ACT as if our health is important regardless of our body size, then not only will others react in line with that, but it becomes easier to believe it ourselves, so eventually we aren’t acting like we believe our health is important however much we weigh, we really do believe our health is important. And then if some hater comes along, we are SO in a position to serve them up a righteous whuppin’.

January 5, 2008 at 4:45 pm 11 comments

Common Courtesy, Starting With Numero Uno

I was reading Deniselle’s recent post about dealing with her mom, and I started to reply. Around the time when I started my fifth paragraph, I realized perhaps I ought to just turn this into a post on my own, poorly tended blog. So here goes:

Elsewhere on Teh Intarwubs, I recently was part of a conversation which was, literally, “Should we (fat women) make fun of ourselves?” I shit you not. That’s practically a direct quote.

Now, most women said that it was something they did largely in self-defense. That at least if they were the ones putting themselves down, they would know when and where and how bad it was going to be, and that it helped them, to feel that they were in control of it. Which I get, for all that I’m not sure that there’s really any sort of prophylactic effect in putting oneself down.

To me, I guess, it’s always seemed that if you put yourself down, then you are signaling to others that this is how you believe you deserve to be treated, and don’t expect any better.

And no, I’m not saying we shouldn’t admit our mistakes, or admit to our own personality quirks and foibles. But there’s a big difference between, “Sorry your present is so late, I’m really bad about getting things in the mail sometimes,” and telling everyone how worthless you are.

Personally, I prefer to take a more self-loving (and belligerent) stance, which is that if anyone wants to say something disparaging about me, then they’re gonna have to do the work. I’m sure as shit not going to do it for them. Let them figure out what to say, and how to say it, and use their own goddamn breath to do it.

But honestly, what really got to me in this discussion was the number of women who thought putting themselves down was, bafflingly, the “polite” thing to do. Like if we bash on ourselves, then we’ve spared our friends trouble, just like when we make sure to leave a spare roll of toilet paper in an easily accessible place when we have guests over. Apparently, to a lot of fat women, broadcasting self-hatred is simply common courtesy.

And while I can’t be absolutely sure, I did get a sense that this was in part a generational thing. Like somehow beating yourself up for being fat was only being nice.

I imagine it’s part of a cultural expectation that women be modest and demure. When someone compliments us, we’re supposed to tell our complimenter that no, really, we’re not worthy of such high praise.

It’s the “This old thing?” phenomenon. Except it’s not. Because as fat women we’re made to feel that we have nothing worth complimenting, and so putting the shield of self-hatred up… I dunno. Maybe for some women it feels almost like saying, “Look, don’t strain yourself. I know there’s nothing for you to compliment about me, so I’m going to call myself a Fatty McFatterson so you don’t have to fish around for some lame or backhanded compliment to make in order to abide by some social more that wasn’t really designed for this situation.”

Maybe it’s less generational and more to do with being part of social groups that rely on a more “chivalrous” set of social cues and codes…. hmm.

Anyway, in the course of this conversation, one of the things I pointed out was that, after adopting my belligerently self-loving stance of not putting myself down for the sake of others, I noticed that really, nobody else did it either. And there weren’t even weird silences from time to time, like someone wanted to pick on my weight but wasn’t sure how.

And that’s about when I realized that I hadn’t just been putting myself down, in all that Best Defense Is A Good Offense Self-Bashing. I’d been putting my friends down as well. Not only had I been saying, “I’m a loser and you shouldn’t like me,” I’d been telling my friends, “I think you’re so shallow and callous that you can’t possibly think of me as anything but a big blob of lard, so to take a little of the pain out of being my friend, I will spare you the trouble of putting me down and just do it myself.”

My friends like me as I am. The whole package. They don’t sit there thinking, “Geez, it’s too bad Barb won’t lose weight. I’d totally be better friends with her if she didn’t have such a giant ass.”

The good thing was that not only did that latter argument seem to make an impression on several of the women in the discussion, but this conversation also sort of spawned a secondary thread about how to build one’s self-esteem, which was awesome and really cool to read. I know I got some cool ideas from it, I hope others did too.

But all this has put me in the mind of New Year’s Resolutions. Because really, we need to do something to combat all the insane “It’s the New Year so YOU MUST DIET!” crap that’s flooding the airwaves.

So here, for anyone who doesn’t already do these things, are my two suggestions for resolutions to make a happier you in the New Year. (They co-opt our language, I co-opt theirs. Nyah!)

1. Make The Haters Do The Work – If someone wants to put you down, make them do the work. Stop doing it for them. Show the world you deserve kind, loving treatment by treating yourself in kind, loving ways.

2. Just Say Thank You – When someone compliments you, don’t deny it. Don’t tell them they’re wrong. Don’t give them a list of reasons why you don’t deserve their admiration. Just say “Thank you,” and then shut up.

When I first started all this Loving Myself junk, I gotta admit, #2 there was by far the hardest. Just saying, “Thank you,” and not tacking on some reason why I was still a loser suckbag? Omigod. The first few times I thought I was going to have to chew the inside of my mouth off from the strain of keeping it shut. But I learned. I got better at it. Now, after much practice, I can even use some of the more advanced techniques. Like when a friend complimented my (completely awesome) purple T-shirt a few weeks ago, I said “Thank you,” and then followed up with, “I can’t take full credit, though. Caz bought it for me.” And when she said, “Really? Wow. Because it looks great on you!” I replied, “Thanks! Yeah, I really like it.”

It’s not easy, but unlike dieting, it works. And you’re worth it. (Ha! More co-opting! Nyah!)

December 29, 2007 at 1:19 pm 2 comments

Quick update

I know I haven’t been doing much to keep this blog o’ mine updated lately. Sorry y’all.

For all that I haven’t been making progress on this here blog, I have been making small steps in my life toward, y’know, greater acceptance of myself as a fat person.

And before I even tell you, I just want to say that this is all happening despite my ongoing battle with the insidious Depression Voltron – the combination of grief, SAD and mild PPD which I’d been kind of “handling” myself, up until Mom died.  So, y’know, I think that should net me an extra gold star. Just sayin’.

So, a friend of mine and I were talking about how we’d both been thinking about trying yoga in the new year. So she emailed me the other day saying, “I’m thinking about taking this beginner class, want to join me?”

And I, in a SHOCKING display of maturity and body acceptance, looked it up and emailed the instructor and explained that I am a plus-size woman, and asked if he had experience modifying poses for larger people, and if he for any reason didn’t think his class would be a good fit for me, if he could suggest any other classes or instructors I could try.

I’m not even sure where that came from, I just sort of sent out the email before I could think about it (which is probably a key to the success of it right there, considering my capacity to overthink myself into paralysis).

Well, he wrote back this HUGE thing, talking about his experience, and suggesting I try one of his drop-in classes, and then also other classes and instructors who might be helpful to me as well. It was so incredible, I could only skim it at first, and then left it in my inbox a few days just to process the reality of it. I mean, he acted no differently than I expect he would have if I’d written him saying, “I am interested in your class, but my body works differently from most people’s because I have a bad knee” or something. It was really… like I say, I had to just process the reality of his kind, thoughtful, totally non-judgmental response.

Finally, I almost backed out but my friend was all, “Sign up sign up sign up!” So, again, before I could think about it too much, I did

I figure once I get through the holidays I will start trolling around asking for ideas on how other people modify poses, because I decided to just give it a try last night and uh… yeah. Child’s pose is a no-go for me. My belly gets in the way.

But that’s fine. I figure I will talk to a few people and keep in touch with this instructor guy and we’ll figure out how to make this work for me.

Also, I’m seeing someone in a couple weeks so I should be able to get some help in defeating Depression Voltron, and won’t THAT be a kick in the ass! (In a good way, I mean.)

December 21, 2007 at 2:03 pm 1 comment

Grocery Store Revelations

I’d been planning to write this soon anyway, but then I saw Kate’s latest post, which fits quite nicely with what I have to say, so now I have to write it.

I was at the grocery store the other night. It was the first time in, well, ages that I was at the store alone, and not under some kind of time constraint, such as “Hubby and the kids are waiting in the car,” or “Buy the one thing Hubby needs to finish dinner and be home in 15 minutes, otherwise dinner will be ruined without it.”

I had a list, but not a big one. Just a little over a handful of items we needed, along with a few basics like “more fruit for the kids.” (My kids, despite their father and I being omnivores with extremely varied palates, basically live on a United Nations of bread products, dairy products, and fruit – we’ve been offering all kinds of foods for over 2 years now, and still, that’s pretty much all they’ll eat.)

So I didn’t have to think too much, and the kids were in bed already so I could take as long as I wanted, and I was even at a 24-hour grocery store, so I didn’t even have to worry about when they were going to close.

So I got to take my time, and really just sort of enjoy going grocery shopping, which has always been one of my favorite household chores. I suppose it’s my Italian heritage – that whole “food is love” thing means that a full grocery cart is a whole lotta love, y’know?

It was wonderful. I took forever in the produce department, wandering around, choosing the best fruits and vegetables I could find. I’ve been on a mad chef’s salad jag, I don’t know what it’s about, but I have been /all/ about it. So I got all kinds of great salad fixings. And I got, of course, fruit for the kids but for a change I made sure to grab enough fruit for me as well, and I even bought some kinds of fruit that I know they can’t eat, like three gorgeous grapefruits.

Once I finally had gotten everything I wanted out of the produce department, I moved on through the rest of the store. It was nice, having time for a change. And I had more mental capacity as well. So even though it wasn’t on the list, I remembered using the last of the Dijon mustard recently, so I bought some more. Actually being present while doing the shopping was pretty damn cool. Surprisingly cool, to be honest.

I actually thought about what I felt like buying, I actually thought about what kinds of foods I might like to eat. And when I caught myself thinking, “I really want to get a fancy chocolate bar, but do I really want to be the fat chick loitering in the candy aisle at midnight?” I squashed that, and reminded myself that I had a cart full of fruits and vegetables, for crying out loud, and anyone who thinks that my being fat means I’m not allowed a bar of fancy chocolate can go fuck themselves.

Then, while in the dairy section, I realized I had the oddest craving: I really wanted to get some soymilk. About 18 months ago I’d gone through a several-month bout of lactose intolerance, during which I’d tried a bunch of soymilks and eventually found a brand I preferred.

So, at this point almost chanting to myself, “Listen to your body, listen to your body, listen to your body,” I bought a half-gallon.

It wasn’t until this morning, though, that I decided to crack it open. And while I was very happily drinking some I realized that, without getting into TMI, for almost a week now I’ve been having digestive issues which I could not figure out the cause of. This morning, while drinking my soymilk and thinking, “God, I didn’t even remember this stuff tasting quite like this, but damn it’s hitting the spot,” it occurred to me: my recent digestive issues are awfully similar to the lactose intolerance I’d experienced last year.

Already I’m feeling a bit better, and am planning to go back to the lactose-free life again for a bit, and see if that deals with the problem. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s not the lactose intolerance again. But if it is?

Well DONE, body. Well done.

November 9, 2007 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

Anxiety = Control

Originally written back at the end of July:

The damn family picnic is coming up. A little more than a week away, and I’m completely on edge.

Part of it, mind you, is because I know I’m going to be teetering on an emotional precipice as it is. It will be the first time I’ve seen my mom’s family since the interment. And, just to really stack the deck against me, the last time I saw Mom alive was at last year’s family picnic.

But the other part of it is that I’m worried about someone saying… something. Supposedly Aunt Brenda talked to Uncle John, so ideally no one will say anything. That’s the plan. But then, who would have thought anyone would say anything the last two times either?

Seriously, though – I think that’s Rule No. 1 of Fat-Bashing: it always appears when you least expect it. You’re cruising along, you’re doing all right, and next thing you know someone makes an assumption or treats you crappily because of your weight, and the rug’s been pulled out from under you. And then you’re shaky and self-conscious and unsure of yourself and feeling freaked out, and it just sucks all around. There you were, living your life, doing your thing, and suddenly you’ve been singled out for abuse simply for having the temerity to exist.

Of course, this is where the sheer, diabolical genius of fat-bashing comes into play: A little goes a long, LONG way.

You don’t have to get bashed often or necessarily very hard to feel self-conscious and vulnerable. And those feelings don’t disappear overnight. They linger. As Rose and I found after Joan’s little tirade before we could even get on with planning our mother’s funeral, words like that hang around, no matter how much you want to scrub them away.

And this is the genius part – for a long time after getting bashed, you worry about it happening again. You practice your rejoinders, your witty repartee. You take deep breaths and remind yourself that you are completely within your rights to say “Fuck off” to a mannerless stranger who thinks your body is their business. You steel your nerves and go in ready to swing, and nothing happens. People just kind of look past you like normal, and no one says anything crummy, and you leave feeling both relieved and slightly foolish.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t go through the whole exercise again the next time you go out, and the time after that, and the time after that.

And the part we don’t like to talk about, the part we hate to admit, even to ourselves, (or at least the part I hate admitting even to myself) is that sometimes? There are things I want to do, but I can’t do them without first psyching myself up in case of a confrontation. Which would be fine (well, not fine at all, but the closest to fine I usually manage in these instances), except sometimes I wind up deciding that whatever it is I want to do? Is not going to be cool enough to merit the exhaustive psyching-up preparation I have to do. And so I wind up staying home. Or I choose some less-scary alternative plan.

But either way, I let the fuckers WIN, because they’ve shamed me out of living my life the way I choose to. One little bit of fat-shaming, and they don’t have to look at me for weeks.

And that’s me – an adult woman, an opinionated, somewhat educated mother of two children, who used to hang out in an online community that was occasionally described as akin to “debating in a shark tank.” I’m not a weak little spineless nothing, you know?

But still – that fear, that anxiety about getting shamed? Continues long after the shaming is done, and does what an outright “No fatties allowed” sign would not: it keeps me from participating in the public sphere, it keeps me from living my life. It lets them control me, and all out of the fear of what someone might say.

Which brings me back to the family picnic, and the mounting wave of anxiety that’s threatening to engulf me. There’s a pool where the picnic is held – which swimming suit should I bring? Do I really still dare to swim with these people? Yes dammit, I do. Fuck Joan and the horse she rode in on. Besides – swimming is healthy! Heeeaallllllttthhhhyyyyyyyy!

But more importantly, I like swimming and most importantly of all, my kids love swimming and the idea of going someplace where there’s a pool that I won’t let them go play in? Sh-yah, right. I may as well just hand out spikes for everyone to jam in their ears – it’d be less painful than listening to the screaming.

But still – I’m frustrated. I feel like I should shop for a nice new outfit – something super-cute (the folks at Fatshionista are being super-inspiring lately, I swear) and that doesn’t hide my body or anything. But we don’t have the money, and even if we had the money, I don’t have any time to go shopping without dragging the Terrible Twosome around, and well… yeah. Not that this keeps me from clicking around online every night after the kids go to bed, pondering this cute top or that cute dress, on and on and on.

But see? It’s a fucking picnic. There will be watermelon and people hanging out and chattering and junk, and iced tea and Aunt Tina’s Candy Apple Salad, and really – it’s not supposed to elicit this level of anxiety and panic. It’s just not.

And yet it does.

Epilogue: The picnic was, of course, fine. Nobody said anything weight-related to me, though if Joan had tried one more time to cajole me into taking a cookie I was going to decide to take offense (I was on the fence as to how to interpret that – in my mom’s family the offering of food is often an expression of love, after all; she may well have been trying to be nice, or even overcompensating for her previous poor behavior, “See? I don’t think you’re too fat. If I thought you were too fat, I wouldn’t offer you cookies!”). We went to the pool, the kids had a blast, it was all pretty much fine.

Oh, and for the Fatshionistas: I wound up wearing my standard uniform: a green T-shirt and a pair of jeans, which was for the best because everyone else was totally casual – I would have looked like I, too, was overcompensating.

October 31, 2007 at 10:21 pm Leave a comment

Flashback Posts

So, as I mentioned the other day, I’ve spent the past several months writing up posts for this thing, or half-posts, or whatever, and never actually putting them up. Well, I figure it’s time I start, y’know? So, starting today, I will occasionally fill my quieter times (i.e. times when the kids keep me too busy to blog much) with some of these older posts, finally finished and polished up all nice.

I will try to remember to mention, at the top of those posts, when the post was originally written – especially if it’s germane to understanding the post better. But if I don’t, it’s probably because it doesn’t much matter.

October 31, 2007 at 10:20 pm Leave a comment

Hate the surgery, love the patient

Apparently there’s some drama in the Fat Acceptance community right now. I hate to go all name-drop-y about it because really, there are people involved whose blogs I never commented on, for all that I read them, and so I feel weird about linking to them and using their names as if I know them, or more to the point, as if they know me.

For a fair synopsis, though, you can go here and read Fashionable Nerd at Photophobic’s post about it. In fact, even if you aren’t interested in the synopsis, go read the post, because it’s kind of important for what I’m about to discuss.

No really, go on, I’ll wait. 🙂

This bit right here:

Because, you see, supporting the PERSON has absolutely shit to do with supporting the PROCEDURE. Apparently, this is a distinction that has been missed–or not adequately shown.

That really made me perk up my ears. It carried a certain echo for me, of the whole, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” thing, that often gets talked about by people who say their religion tells them to condemn homosexuality. I agree with some of the arguments that people have against using the gay rights movement as directly analogous to the fat acceptance movement – at the very least, it is incomplete. However, in this case I think it’s valid.

Too often, the folks who claim to “hate the sin, love the sinner,” are in no way loving toward the people they call “sinners.” Sadly, there are people out there who use that phrase as an excuse to, in fact, hate homosexuals and treat them in cruel and appalling ways.

That doesn’t make the phrase invalid, though, as I see it. It means it has been co-opted by people who don’t care and/or understand its true meaning, but it doesn’t negate the phrase.

The world, despite our fervent wishes, is a complicated and confusing place sometimes. Often the decisions we need to make are not easy. Often there is no clear “right” or “wrong” answer, and we’re left to muddle along, figuring it out as best we can. Sometimes we all wind up making decisions we don’t like. Sometimes it’s because we don’t have sufficient knowledge and don’t even know what questions to ask. Sometimes it’s because we lack the resources to actually choose what we believe is the best choice. And sometimes it’s because we have reached a point where we are so beleaguered, so demoralized, so desperate that we will take whatever choices are offered to us, even if we know as we are making those choices that we may well come to regret them later.

It’s a sad truth, but that’s life sometimes. It’s part of being a grown-up, of being responsible for ourselves and the people who depend upon us. Sometimes we just have to accept that we do not live in an ideal world.

Heidi, in particular, does not live in an ideal world. Of all the people who I wish did live in an ideal world, she is high on my list. Do I think surgery will provide a lasting solution for her? Sadly, I do not. In my completely uneducated, utterly removed from the situation opinion, I believe she has both medical and psychological concerns which need to be addressed, or in time she will wind up right back where she was up until a few days ago.

I wish her a speedy recovery, and I wish her all possible success in her life post-surgery, but I don’t believe that surgery will fix everything for her.

However, this does not prevent me from realizing that in all likelihood, surgery was the best of all the options being offered to her. Doctors can be just as petty and spiteful as anyone else, and if this surgery is what Heidi had to do so that her doctors will at last pay her some real goddamn attention and figure out what’s really going on with her, then I cannot in any real conscience condemn her for that.

This schism over the decision Heidi and other fat people have felt compelled to make reminds me of a series of debates/discussions which occurred on various feminist blogs… maybe a year or more ago? I’m afraid I can’t remember exactly when.

The thrust of them, though, was this: some people felt that women who wore makeup and high heels and otherwise dressed in patriarchy-approved ways could not also be considered feminists; others (correctly, to my mind) recognized that while it’s unlikely women would choose to wear makeup and high heels without patriarchy’s influence, until such time as our culture abandons patriarchy for good, sometimes we all must make small concessions in order to survive.

Does lipstick and a pair of stilettos negate a woman’s work with NARAL and her local rape-crisis center? Absolutely not. Does wearing a skirt on a cold day erase a woman’s volunteer work at the women’s shelter, or her letters to her local representatives, or even her donations to NOW? Absolutely not.

As Sandy Szwarc discussed this very day, we who are fat, especially we who are fat women, live in a culture which does not value us. Which, in fact, is sometimes (oftentimes, it seems) openly hostile toward us, and seeks to do us harm.

The choices we make, in such a situation, are choices made under duress. These are the choices we make when the choices available to us are limited to a) bad, b) bad, c) really bad, and d) worse.

It’s easy sometimes, to play the Monday Morning Quarterback and tell people all about how their decisions were wrong. But we’re all living under siege in this fat-hating culture, and friendly fire isn’t going to do anyone a lick of good.

Do I hate WLS? Yeah, I do. I think it’s dreadful and, in my more dramatic moments, I’m inclined to declare it a culturally approved mandate of extinction upon fat people. However, my hatred of WLS does not prevent me from caring about those who, given a short list of crummy options, choose to have WLS.

I may be pretty new to the fat acceptance movement, and I may be younger than a lot of the people who worked so hard for many years to even get the movement where it is today. But I’m plenty mature enough to separate how I feel about a procedure, and the institutions which perpetuate that procedure’s use, and how I feel about a 28-year-old woman whose quality of life I can scarcely imagine.

Would that others could do the same.

October 26, 2007 at 2:55 pm 3 comments

Critical Mass, or… Why Now?

It’s been several months now, since the posts about my mom‘s death ran over at Shapely Prose. When they first came out, there were a few people who suggested I ought to start up a blog of my own. I said, “Y’know, I think I will!” And so I did.

And then I didn’t post a damn thing until yesterday.

Which is not to say I haven’t been writing – I have. I’ve got an even dozen half-finished posts hanging around here, because I keep writing things thinking, “Dammit, that’s it, I’m just going to do this thing.”

And then I don’t.

To be fair, sometimes it’s not just fear that stops me. Sometimes it’s that I’m partway through and one of my kids needs me, and then it’s hours before I can even look at it again, and by the time I return the train of thought is utterly derailed.

But most of the time? It’s fear.

I’m not even sure, honestly, what exactly I’m afraid of. Being called fat? Entirely possible. It’s not like I’m in some kind of denial about being fat. It’s more that I’m in denial of having a body at all, no matter what it may look like.

And dealing with that kinda freaks me out. It means admitting a lot of things, and facing a lot of things I’ve mostly managed to avoid, and maybe even looking in the mirror and admitting I’m not just a brain in a jar.

So why now?

Actually, I was going to do this about a week ago, in response to these posts, but I never did get any farther than throwing the links into a draft post along with an opener, “Well,” that was it. Seriously. One freakin’ word. Whatever I was going to say about them, though, is lost. At least for now.

I do know the other thing that had me realizing I really ought to get my thumb out of my ass and start blogging finally, was discovering that people are still reading those posts about my mom on Shapely Prose.

I sounded good back then, didn’t I? All full of vim and vinegar, all fired up about the way fat people are being killed by prejudice from the very people who are supposed to be saving us.

But there was a part of me, to be honest, that just wanted to fade away. That wanted to put all that up and then meander off into the blogospheric sunset, like Shane in size 22 chaps. There was a responsibility there, a pressure which I just didn’t feel like I could face.

I’m still not sure I can face it, honestly. But I think I need to try.

October 25, 2007 at 7:36 am Leave a comment

The Gift of Permission

The Rotund commented on this LJ entry about a father, one night, letting this three young daughters choose to eat anything and everything they wanted for dessert. She said it made her cry, and I gotta admit, I got all misty-eyed as well.

As she says, the idea of being given utter permission like that is simultaneously exciting and scary.

The interesting thing was, I read it less with an eye to how the daughters felt at the time, and more with an eye to how it effected them. What did they learn from it? I saw it, I suppose, more as a fellow parent to that father, than from the author’s point of view.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time, honestly. I’ve been struggling with that very thing the past few days, in fact. There was a trick-or-treat event at the zoo this past weekend, and I took my kids, and we also did some MAJOR grocery shopping over the weekend, so our place is STOCKED. Seriously, there’s food everywhere – both “good” and “bad.”

I gotta admit, it’s a little heady sometimes even for me. We’ve been living a weird barebones sort of existence for a while, and so now to go, “Gosh, I’m hungry,” and open the refrigerator to find choices and options practically spilling out of the thing is, well… both exciting and scary. And I’m a grownup, y’know?

My kids, on the other hand, are 3 years old, so of course they want nothing but their Halloween candy and ice cream and maybe the occasional Goldfish cracker to round things out. Obviously, as a responsible parent, not to mention a renter who has not QUITE given up hope that we may yet receive some small portion of our security deposit back whenever we move out of this place, I can’t let them do that.

But at the same time, I don’t want to teach them to moralize about food the way I do. I certainly don’t want them to associate “bad” foods with love or affection. I certainly don’t want them to come to associate all foods they enjoy, regardless of nutritional content, as “bad” like I do.

So I wind up walking this weird little tightrope between trying to help them appreciate all kinds of foods and not stigmatize the “bad” foods. And it’s not easy. Some days I feel like I do a lot better than others. Some days I get a Magna-Doodle chucked at my head for not letting them breakfast on Dots and Tootsie Rolls (that would be yesterday – fun times…).

Sometimes I worry that I’m too much of a soft touch – do I let them eat too much crap? Should I be tougher about setting limits? Should I be more diligent about keeping snacks to a minimum, and preventing grazing but instead encourage them to eat only at proscribed meal and snack times?

But when I throw open the refrigerator and they crowd in front of it and one reaches for a plum and the other reaches for a stick of cheddar cheese, I’m reminded to have a little faith. That they ARE only 3 years old, and there’s a lot more to stigmatizing food than just having a mom who won’t let you eat gummi fruits until you vomit.

Truthfully, sometimes it is through them that I’m reminded to give myself permission to eat whatever I want as well, and reminded to give myself credit for choosing a variety of foods, and not just an endless well of crap, as my Inner Fat-Hater would have me believe.

So this afternoon, when I decided, “Y’know what? Normally I would say we had to wait until after dinner to have some ice cream, but if you want some now, that’s okay too,” well, I like to think I was being like that dad. That I was giving permission at a time when it’s good for permission to be given. And when I threw a scoop of spumoni in the dish for me, along with their scoop of strawberry? That’s okay too.

Because once we ate our ice cream? They asked for fruit, and yogurt, and foods which I am only too glad to give them.

The reality is, sometimes the harder part is not in helping them make good choices, but in silencing my own hateful inner voices, to trust in the choices they make for themselves.

October 24, 2007 at 5:32 pm 5 comments

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