Love at All Sizes

I started writing this in June 2018 and got sidetracked. Recent conversations brought this back to the front of my mind, so I’m publishing it now, even though what inspired this initially is no longer fresh in people’s minds. I highly recommend clicking through to Self Magazine to read what lit this spark in me at the start. And maybe spend some time re-examining your own biases on the topic…

Yeah, I’m fat.

So what?

As news of The Weight Issue rolled out from Self Magazine in June 2018, I spent some time reflecting upon hurts of the past. How I’m not that person anymore. How it has taken a lifetime to get where I am now. And why loving yourself is more important than anything else. Something I hope my children are paying attention to.

Diet culture permeates life. People who are supposed to love you can say the cruelest things, brushing it off because they mean well and are only concerned about your health. Family members who, if I ate “too much,” compared me to familiar fat people who served as cautionary tales of what was apparently the worst that could happen to me. Popular girls at the tender age of 10, offering fashion advice that required losing 10 more pounds. Middle school boys telling me I should just kill myself because I was such a fat whale. High school boys saying I would be pretty if I wasn’t fat. The terror of having to shower in front of my classmates in high school, so many of them svelte and conventionally attractive. Beautiful bodies everywhere. Mine not fitting in any beautiful clothes. A pharmacist who touched my belly and congratulated me on my pregnancy, when I had just lost 35 lbs post-delivery of my first child. The warnings from my mother that people would think I was pregnant.

Sometime in the last 5 years, I stopped caring about what all of them thought.

Sometime in the last 5 years, I started falling in love with myself.

I’ve dieted. I’ve starved myself. I know the game well. In eight grade, at the urging of a friend, I subsisted on popcorn only for a week to try to lose 4 pounds. As an adult, I’ve done such contorted things as limiting myself to 35 grams of fat a day for months at a time to make myself more attractive. It worked: I lost over 30 pounds. But was it worth it? Even with “healthier” programs, like SparkPeople, I would obsess over macros. Insist on remaining below 1200 calories and, at one point, I only ate packaged food, because I could easily add up those values to determine my self worth. There were too many variables in anything I prepared myself. It was too messy, too hard to control perfectly. Is that a large or a medium apple? Where’s my trusty food scale while I’m at a friend’s house? Again, it worked: I lost 35 pounds. I also lost some of myself. The most successful diet I had was during a period of emotional trauma when I lost 25 pounds in 5 weeks (8 of them in a matter of days) because I wasn’t eating. And then I started running for the first time in my life. And the crowd cheered–my consolation prize during that bit of Hell.

I believe it was Lindy West who said, essentially, only in dieting do you try to find a greater value in yourself by diminishing yourself. Wasting away is applauded. Decreasing numbers are supposed to increase self esteem. Less is supposed to be more. That’s some shitty mathematics.

I don’t know about you, but there are so many things that taste better than skinny feels.

What kind of a life is it to constantly live in fear of what your meal will do to your body? What kind of life is it to punish yourself because you “cheated” at your diet? There will never be enough hours spent on the treadmill to erase the damage done to your soul.

I am worth more than this.

So, for the most part, I don’t care anymore. Some days are harder than others, but I try to remind myself that there is no prize for deprivation. All you do is miss out. Morality police would like to claim there’s a virtue in saying no to the cake because it’s bad food and you should eat an apple instead because it’s good food, but they’re wrong. Food doesn’t have a moral value–unless you’re an asshole withholding it from someone who needs it, in which case, you’re very bad. Your health, your body, your business.

Nowhere else in life do you see people butting into other people’s business with such an attitude that they are your savior. Yet, it’s somehow okay for people to proclaim how wonderful it is that I’m eating a “healthy” lunch if I have a salad. To pat me on my back, like I need to be treated as a child, encouraged for abstaining from a far more satiating and satisfying macaroni and cheese because, HEALTHY!!! Should they also be standing outside the stall, singing praise over my ability to wipe my own ass in the restroom? Do I get a ribbon because I dressed myself, all by myself? Where are my trophies for putting up with this shit?

Think about the things you say and what your subtext is communicating to your loved ones, especially since you’ll likely be gathering more at this time of year for the holidays. Concern trolling serves no one but the troll. And in the process, you alienate the ones you claim you’re aiding.

And, as for the rest of you: be fabulous you. Don’t let anyone cut you down to make themselves seem greater. You’re better than that!

LGBTQ · Life · Trans

Fear and Intolerance in New England Places

Disclosure: This post is published with permission from my child.

Some of you may already know that my eldest child is trans male and gay. He came out as gay last spring; he came out as trans in October; I already knew for years. It was no surprise.

As much as I love my kids for who they are–and am proud of them for standing confident in the knowledge of themselves–others are not so awesomely accepting. In fact, my eldest hit the jackpot in becoming the target of bullying in our community.

I reached out to the school’s guidance counselor and social worker. I wasn’t sure how transitioning worked in middle school and I knew that my kid would need a good support system. He had already been the brunt of abuse from his peers for being gay and trans male and no one was doing anything about it. While the social worker seemed to be understanding and on the same page during my phone conversation with both, there was no follow-through or follow-up. When I spoke with the guidance counselor a couple of months later, she misgendered my son during the entire conversation. I was fuming.

It was bad enough that one of his teachers announced to the class (when we were away on vacation) “C’mon, we all know that M is a girl–who does she think she’s kidding?” Or that another teacher marked him absent for 4 days and when I questioned her about it, she insisted she had never met my child. (I’m so proud of my kiddo’s friend who confronted her on that, since she was apparently refusing to acknowledge my kid.) You kind of expect children to be awful to each other. I know my 7th grade experience was not full of puppy dogs and rainbows. More like shit and more shit. And then some shit thrown at you, for good measure. But the adults? They should be someone the kids can turn to for support and protection. And that is not the case, even in 2018. Even in good old blue Connecticut. Intolerance knows no boundaries.

It’s a different world than the one I grew up in–for better and for worse. In 7th grade, I don’t think I knew anyone who was openly gay. My senior year of high school, things seemed to be moving in a better direction, but maybe that was only at the coffee house where I hung out with other like-minded, artistic peeps. We had an insulated bubble; the outside world rarely intruded inside those walls. Yet, it still existed, and I didn’t experience it like my friends did. I wish I knew then what I know now.

My eldest is very lucky, despite the bullshit. What he lacks in adult acceptance, he makes up for in spades with his friends circle. Far larger than my group of friends, and so true true true to themselves. So knowledgeable. So supportive. They’re lesbian and gay and bi and pansexual. They’re trans and non-binary and queer. They’re informed and strong and solid in their knowledge of themselves. Their parents don’t all know their truths (or accept them), but they are there for each other, a surrogate family when biological family is lacking. And I LOVE them for this!

But at the back of mind, it nags. That CAUTION sign. That concern. That worry that grave harm will come to my child just for being who he is.

It’s 2018. It’s surprising, and yet not at all. Hate has, after all, been given the nod by those in power.

I didn’t want to rain on my kid’s pride parade, but I also needed him to understand the gravity of the situation. The potential for danger. So we sat down and watched The Laramie Project together.

My take-aways?

  • The way the townsfolk spoke in Laramie is so much the same that we hear today about racial intolerance. These people who think they’re accepting, but are really only okay if they don’t have to know about it or see it. Live and let live. As long as they keep to themselves, I don’t have a problem. Which isn’t tolerance at all, but systemic hatred. And it’s sickening. And it’s still happening today.
  • If you haven’t watched it before, pay close attention to when they talk with Reverend Fred Phelps. I was angry sobbing after the talk with the “good reverend.” The hypocrisy of it all was revolting. But not unexpected.
  • I also sobbed through the scene when the angels–led by Romaine Patterson–blocked out the protesting Westboro Baptist Church members during the trials of the murderers of Matthew Shepard. I can’t even remember a time before their hate-filled harassment of grieving families. I really want to.
  • Matthew Shepard’s kidnapping, brutal beating, and subsequent horrible death came just days after I turned 21. I was the same age as Matthew Shepard. It was October 1998 and this was not something you typically heard about back then. In fact, it seemed to be the first in my memory. And sadly, not the last horrific hate crime.
  • The concept of hate crimes came out of this. Think about that. That’s not to say that brutal beatings and deaths weren’t happening before. They most certainly were. But this was THE tipping point, as far as legislation goes.
  • Even though attempts at hate crimes legislation began in 1997, before Matthew Shepard’s murder, it wasn’t until 2009 that they finally gained enough traction. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009 and became law. 11 FUCKING YEARS after Matthew Shepard’s murder. My eldest was already 4 years old, at the time.

It was an emotionally draining experience. (We had to follow up with The Greatest Showman to cleanse our palates.) And I’m not really sure what I was trying to accomplish, or if I accomplished anything at all. Maybe I want my kiddo to exercise a little more caution? But at what expense? Why should he have to deny who he is to make people less uncomfortable? Why should I have to worry that he may become a statistic someday? Why is this the fucking world we live in?

In the meantime, I try to be there whenever I can. We attend rallies. We talk openly about what he’s going through. We’ve researched his options for when he gets older (hormones, top surgery, etc.). I help him dress whatever way makes him comfortable. And I try to find role models, wherever I can. It’s always important for kids to find people in the limelight who are like them. It will be an exhausting uphill climb. There will always be shitty people to deal with. But he has his tribe and the love of his family. He will find his way.

Entertainment · Life

A new beginning…

One of my favorite pastimes, when I have a problem to solve, is to begin a brand new project instead in which I will pour all of my energy, creating a kind of order in the chaos of my life, and only when I am completely satisfied that I have put sufficient energy into this new project will I return to the real problem at hand and solve it. It’s sort of my way of clearing my head so the solution will present itself, and it hasn’t failed me yet.

So, here I am.

I attempted to re-enter my food blog world (which I had mostly paused during the last year while I worked out some shit in my head), discovered a few new tech hurdles I’m ill-equipped to immediately handle, and, instead, started a new blog. The puzzle pieces will fall into place eventually, I’m sure. But not tonight.

Truth: I missed my old journalistic blog from when my life was both more and less complicated. 2004-2009, I wrote a very personal chronicle of the time spent trying to conceive our first child (TTC), the subsequent miscarriage, the following successful pregnancies, raising kids, adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom, etc., etc., etc. From before Facebook, when I relied heavily upon a group of sistas I serendipitously stumbled upon in an online forum who had my heart and back through it all. Blogging was cathartic. It was also a connection to others slogging around in the same shoes. And it was all very small scale. That was perfectly okay.

My food blog, on the other hand, took on a completely different life. One of reach, and pageviews, and advertising. Analytics, and sponsors, and social media accounts. A full-time job, despite having two additional full-time jobs. And I loved it so very much in a completely different manner. My masterpiece brought me opportunities I never dreamed. I just depleted my supplies for support last year. I needed a break.

It took a year to figure out that I missed blogging. But in that year, I also learned much about myself. A new person emerged from the turmoil–reshaped by anxiety, existential dilemmas, #MeToo, Women’s Marches, LGBTQIA support rallies, stands against violence in our communities, and recognition of the horrific racism in America. In short, I made up for a lot of lost time. And I still have so very far to go.

So where does old me fit in with new? Where does my past mesh with all of this learning that can’t be ignored? Well… it’s turned up in funny places. Like my criticism of Beauty & The Beast. As Molly Ringwald explained in her New Yorker piece, I’m finding that when I revisit my past, it’s not always easy to navigate the murky depths that have flooded those memories and damaged them. How do I not cringe and apologize to my children when, insistent upon them seeing a film from my youth that I much loved, I find instead disparaging treatment of transgender folks, who exist only as the butt of the joke; or the three-lettered f-word frequently appearing in ’80s movies and shows, because that was apparently the worst thing you could be. (And no, it isn’t fat, but it’s only 1 letter off…) Not every example is as obvious, but each time it’s recognized, it makes it so much easier to see how these microaggressions become systemic in a society. And it makes me try harder to do better with my kids.

So yeah, I’m ruining it all. But I have good intentions for them. And I don’t intend to pave the road to hell with them.