Hi Blog! A rambly return

Three months since I last posted!  There have been many times I’ve wanted to write something, but I’ve been so busy finishing up grad school (and all the things that come with that–important final projects, applying for jobs, considering moving, etc.) that I just couldn’t justify spending time here writing about stuff.  I have no particular “goals” for this blog–it is primarily here as therapy for me, so my only goal is to use it as I need it at any particular time, but I would like to be spending more time here in the future (secondarily–it would make me happy if anything I write strikes a chord with someone else and makes them feel like they’re not alone or not broken).  Anyway, this might get a little rambly and be a little incoherent today, but I’ve got some thoughts.

I just read this after Linda Bacon linked to it on twitter, and since the comments on it are closed, I thought I’d share my thoughts here.  I don’t know this blogger, but to summarize the link, she talks about how she accepts her own body, but struggles to be ok with her daughters being chubby or fat.  She thinks it means that she doesn’t truly accept herself.  I actually have a different take on it (though of course it’s possible that she doesn’t truly accept herself).  I think it’s possible to fully accept your own body, but to still not want a (young and vulnerable) person you love to have to go through all the difficulties of living in a world that actively hates fat bodies.  I also recently read Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is , in which the author tries to explain privilege without using the word “privilege” because he suggests that it can quickly confuse the issue for the people who need to learn about it (and I agree–it’s a brilliant article).  Anyway, I want to be on the lowest difficulty setting, and I’m sure if I had kids, I’d want them to be on the lowest difficulty setting too.  But hey, now that I’m here, on a slightly higher difficulty setting, I’m cool with it, and having tried to change it, I know that I’ve really been on this difficulty setting all along; if you appear to be naturally thin but are actually working extremely hard at it, your life is not as easy as someone who IS naturally thin, and it’s not necessarily easier than if you were fat and facing prejudice.  I’ve done both, and both are difficult in different ways.  When I was thin, I always felt different from other thin people, and not just because of body dysmorphia–but because I literally couldn’t live the same lifestyles as them and still be thin.  This is just my roundabout way of saying that the blogger who doesn’t want her kids to be fat is totally normal, and not lacking in fat acceptance because of it.

What graduation ceremony would be complete without the mention of OBESITY?  And no, I didn’t graduate from med school or anything like that.  Design School.  The speaker was talking about how good design can affect health, and what can good design help to counteract?  That’s right, “problems like obesity and getting people back up on their feet”.  That’s all.  I was so annoyed.  I believe that good design can affect people’s health, in many varying ways, but if I were going to speak about it, even if I believed obesity to be a problem, I would at least do a little research so I could talk more specifically instead of in general, prejudicial terms.  But I’m sure he just didn’t think twice about it (living life on a lower difficulty setting as he does), because WHO WOULD in this culture, unless you are in-the-know like people in the fat acceptance community are.  We hear things and think “bigoted hatred”, when most others would hear them and think “abbreviated facts”.  It’s exhausting, and proof that I’m not on the lowest difficulty setting of life…

I’ve been getting cranky about bathing suits.  As in, cranky that there aren’t any plus size bikinis in physical stores, and cranky that there aren’t even that many online.  Cranky that I can’t have the normal dressing-room experience of trying on loads of suits until I find one that fits.  I’m also cranky about the fact that people don’t want to see me in a bikini.  Don’t want to see fat rolls.  Relegated to a one-piece, if they have to see me.  Cranky that these perceptions invade my space and affect my comfort wearing a bikini–it’s not that I’m physically or emotionally uncomfortable in a bikini, but that other people’s perceptions are too much to bear.  Too much cranky?

I have secret hopes that now that I’m done with school and planning to move to a very outdoorsy place (specifically because of its outdoorsiness), I’ll lose a little weight.  I literally am never going to diet ever ever again, but the thought of losing a little weight pleases me, and I thought I’d throw it out there in a very confessional and vulnerable spirit.  There are things I don’t like about being fat, apart from cultural meanings, and for those reasons (which I won’t get into now) I would prefer to be less fat.  But just because I would prefer it doesn’t change the fact that there’s no definite, permanent, and safe way to make it happen.  Also, my desire to demonstrate that fat is morally neutral would override any “fix” that appeared that would make me less fat.  I guess what I’m saying is that while this culture hates fat people, I would not actively choose to be less fat even if that were an option.  It’s important to me to fight the prejudice, to not leave it behind for others to take on.

Sorry for a possibly less-than-cheerful blogging return, but I just had to get some things off my chest (I actually feel much more cheerful having done that).

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Diet Culture. Also: Thin Friends

A grandmotherly figure in my life (not an actual grandmother) once said that people tend to make friends with people of the same height.  I was a teenager at the time, and super idealistic (I’m still idealistic, but perhaps more subtly so), and this seemed just WRONG, so LIMITING, and I had at least one friend who was significantly shorter than me.  I’m not friends with that short girl anymore, and somehow my not-a-grandmother’s words have stuck with me.  While I don’t have any scientific studies to back it up, I think she had a point; while people have the potential to be friends with anyone, there probably is a tendency of people to group themselves by physical similarities.  Obviously, these physical similarities can be related to cultural factors as well (or actually, are they ever NOT related to cultural factors?).  Anyway, I was thinking about this recently when I realized that I am a fat person who has very few fat friends, despite having a pretty diverse set of friends in other ways.  I haven’t always been fat, though of course my mental perception of my body might have been that I was fat, or that I “had extra fat”, but given that I literally didn’t know where you shopped once you didn’t fit in clothing sizes (I’m a US size 18-20 now, by the way), you can safely assume I was never in-your-face fat unless surrounded by straight-sized models (which only happened once).  So I’m wondering if I never made fat friends because I never was fat, and perhaps was naturally drawn towards bodies similar to mine.  I guess what I’m trying to describe is the subconscious playing out of cultural messages; did I internalize the “people who are fat are bad” message and did it subtly lead me to ignore fat people as potential friends?  Or was some evolutionary instinct to “be with your own kind” guiding my choices?  Or both, or more?  I actually find myself talking to more fat people these days, so maybe this will change.  And it’s not totally unconsciously done–I kind of want more fat people in my life, people who can relate to some of my experiences in a way that thin (or straight-sized, at the very least) friends can’t.  I had a conversation with another fat girl last week and I have no idea what her views on fat acceptance are, but we were both lamenting the poor clothing choices for plus-sizes; we had bonded over something that most of my friends probably never even think about (given that I hadn’t when I was closer to their sizes!).  I’m not saying thin friends are horrible people, but they have a level of privilege that allows them to never have to think about fat people’s problems.  I was there, I know.

I spent last weekend with two thin friends, who are both very much immersed in dieting culture.  And I don’t mean that they are actively dieting (if they are they haven’t said so), but just that they participate in all of the typical things that occur in a culture with a clear thin ideal:

Hyper-commentary around food.  Before a meal “I’m SOOOO hungry!”, and then, 5 minutes into the meal “I’m SOOOO stuffed!  I can’t eat another thing!”  (Alternatively: Before a meal “I’m not that hungry, do you just want to share something?”, and then 5 minutes into the meal same as above).  I’m not saying that people don’t get really hungry, or really full, or sometimes aren’t that hungry, just that part of dieting culture is having this hyper-awareness about it all, and a privileging of feelings that supposedly make you thinner (denying yourself food until you feel like you’re starving, translating any eating quickly into a feeling of being full, and deciding to eat only a little to begin with).  My silence during all this talk is a symptom of my current happy relationship with food, but does my silence signify shame to my friends?

Food bartering, with yourself.  After one of the meals when one of my friends become “so full”, she said she was only going to eat vegetables for dinner.  Which, whatever, if she wants to eat only vegetables for dinner, that’s her business, but it was decided and stated in the context of guilt and compensation.

Guilt for not exercising.  Of needing to get in shape for upcoming events.  Also bartering exercise: “Well, I don’t work out, so the least I can do is walk up this hill every day”.

Food existing on a spectrum of healthiness.  We made popcorn, and I mentioned that I hadn’t had popped popcorn in years, only the pre-popped popcorn, and my friend said “yeah, that stuff tastes good, but I guess this is healthier”.  Now that I’m typing this, I’m realizing that this was also a jab at my own choices, though I’m sure that wasn’t my friend’s intent–she was just talking the way our culture teaches you to talk about food.

Fat stereotyping.  My friends are much too PC to be outright assholes, but we were talking about how hot it gets in the south, and one of my friends mentioned that when you go indoors in the south, it’s freezing due over-air-conditioning.  Then she decided to bring up that perhaps it’s related to the fact that there are many “larger” people in the south.  This was the only “diet culture” related thing I commented on all weekend.  I don’t remember what exactly what I said, and I don’t think it was very effective (I thought of better things I could have said later), but I was proud that I’d at least attempted to stand up against stereotyping.  The problem was that she made it so hard!  She skirted around the issue without even saying outright what she was thinking, which was “fat people get hotter than thin people, and there are lots of fat people in the south so that’s probably one of the reasons why they over-air-condition so much.”.

I’m starting to actually feel bad that I haven’t “come out” as fat and into fat acceptance with friends, because I feel like if they knew they might do some of these things less around me, which would probably be better for our friendships.  I guess I just feel like I’m not even giving them a chance to not offend me–I don’t fault them individually for participating in this culture–they just haven’t been forced to confront it in the same way that I have.  But the problem is that I’m not sure how I’d bring it up when I don’t see these people very often.  They’re people I was very close to at some point in my life (as close as a very private person can get to others), but now we don’t live near each other.  And when asked “how are you?”, “I’m having a great inner life partially helped along by an online community called fat acceptance” seems like it would be a weird answer.  I guess I’m just in a very different place from when I was close to these people, and I’m scared that if I show them who I really am now, it’ll be too different and we might drift even farther apart.  And I know that that happens, but I guess I just feel like if we lived in the same place they might acclimate to my “new self”, but since we don’t, they might never get a chance to understand me.

Sometimes I’m a little bit jealous of people who can casually participate in dieting culture, people who haven’t been traumatized by family and eating disorders (as in my case) or bullying and stigma.  “It must be nice to be able to relate to your society’s culture”, I think, but then I quickly snap out of it and realize that, while it might be casual, no one’s participation in dieting culture is pleasant.  And that I’m really grateful that I’m free of it.

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Yay for Lesley Kinzel, taking fat acceptance mainstream

I totally have a project due tomorrow (oh grad school, I love you, but I’m exhausted and can’t wait for May when you’ll be over), and shouldn’t be writing this post, but whatever–this is important stuff!

Lesley Kinzel’s blog was one of the first fat acceptance blogs I got really excited about a year and a half ago when I found fat acceptance.  I love a lot of what she’s written, but particularly her ventures into satire.  Oh satire, I love it.  Anyway, I was (selfishly) disappointed when she (unofficially, possibly temporarily, no word from her on the subject) stopped blogging at her blog as she took a new job at xojane.  I followed her there, though, and at first I pretty much only read her articles, but I got hooked on a lot of the other writers there, and now it’s one of my go-to sites.  When she writes about fat acceptance there, it’s not in the same way as she wrote (writes? will write?) about it on her blog.

The audience of her blog is people in the movement or discovering the movement, and that’s why the satire works in that context; it allows those of us already on board to picture a world in which worries about an “obesity epidemic” are ridiculous.  On her own blog, Lesley writes really…powerfully, transformatively…about life almost as if it already is how we wish it to be (if that makes any sense).  Her view is forward-looking, allowing you to see what it might be like to look back on this time when people were not respected because of their bodies.  I love it.

The audience at xojane is not strictly a fat acceptance audience (although there are quite a few of us!), so when Lesley writes there about fat acceptance (which is not the only subject she writes about there, by the way), she writes in a way that acknowledges that these might be new ideas to a lot of people.  She’s a little more careful, which, for me, diminishes the power a little bit, but I think it’s absolutely the right approach for a more general audience; she has to meet them where they (on average) are, or she might lose them entirely.  I think it’s really smart, and I LOVE that she’s infiltrating the mainstream (if xojane can really be considered mainstream–but at least it’s more mainstream than the fat acceptance community).  Marianne Kirby is doing it too, and again, I love it.  So while I miss the “the alternate world is here” tone, I fully support getting fat acceptance out there.  As an insular community, it’s supportive of its own, but by gaining a platform, Lesley and Marianne (and others, of course) can potentially change the tide of culture so that there is less of a need for such insular support.

Lesley’s article today in xojane was probably the boldest (in terms of fat acceptance) I’ve seen her write there, and I just wanted to re-post some of the comments I left there, because the things people wrote really inspired me to put into words some of the nuances of fat acceptance (for me).  I post as DFacade there, in case you want to look for them in context, but here they are:

1. (in response to someone who complained about people discouraging her for her own dieting efforts, and who said that the fight against fat shaming made her feel bad about wanting to be less fat)

“Hi Dusty–you absolutely deserve to make choices for your own body, free of comment from others.  And some people who are anti-diet are not always respectful of that (just as some people who are pro-diet are not respectful of non-dieters’ decisions), so I understand why you’re uncomfortable about it.

I think, however, that it’s essential to get the stigmatized group’s perspective out there.  We don’t want to stay shamed and misunderstood just because people who are dieting would rather not hear about us and our reasons for not dieting.  When we hear someone talking about their diet, it is ANOTHER person expressing the culturally defaulted point of view, because the majority of people currently assume that dieting is a thing that everyone does or would do if they were fat.  And many of us non-dieters are recovering from eating disorders, so hearing about dieting can be especially traumatic.  That said, I don’t tell people that they aren’t allowed to talk about (their own) dieting around me, but if it’s just the two of us, talking about dieting with me is not going to result in a very stimulating conversation, because I’m not going to tell them they shouldn’t be dieting, but I’m also not going to get all excited about it.  I’ll probably just say “Oh, ok” until the subject changes.  And on the flip-side, if I sensed someone doing that to me when I talked about not-dieting, I’d probably change the subject as well.

I think you’re struggling with that fine line that many people cross back-and-forth over–stating one’s own stance vs. judging.  Our culture tends towards more of the “this is what I do and you can/should do it too!”, but I know that Lesley, and many others in the fat acceptance movement are pushing for “this is my stance; please accept it for me, but feel free to have a different personal experience”.    A big part of the movement (for me) is the fight for individual autonomy, something I haven’t really found anywhere else in life.  And sometimes that means accepting a whole lot more diversity of choice than you might, at first experience, be comfortable with.  It might mean that you question your own decisions because you see people making a whole range of decisions, instead of just the default one, but isn’t it better to have a culture where a whole range of choices are available and respected?  I think we need to create an environment where individual choices are not seen (by either the individual or others) as a judgment on others’ individual choices.”

2. (in response to a small part of a larger comment, where the person said: “When you acknowledge body-shaming and fat-shaming in particular, you are acknowledging that there is no relationship between weight and health”)

“Hi, I’m a supporter of and participant in the fat acceptance movement, and I agree with a lot of what you wrote, but I just wanted to point out that acknowledging fat-shaming and body-shaming does not require you to believe that there is no relationship between weight and health.  You can believe that people might have certain weight-related health problems, but still not think that they should get shamed.  You can even believe that some people might be able to lose weight and keep it off, and that that would improve some of their health problems, but STILL believe that they shouldn’t be shamed if they don’t.

It definitely helps the movement when health is on our side, but we shouldn’t need it to be to get respect.”

I hope it doesn’t sound like I was speaking down to these commentors–their comments just helped me pinpoint some of my own thoughts about judgment, individual autonomy, and the importance of keeping health as a separate (but related) issue.  I actually think that the autonomy issue is really tricky, and I may not have done it justice, because I believe that people with or recovering from eating disorders have a right to not hear other people talk about diets, but I’m not sure what the best method of implementation is.  I distanced myself from mainstream media for a long time when I first found fat acceptance (and I’d given up ladymags a long time before that, even), and I’ve only returned to some mainstream media with caution.  I am capable of hearing about diets more now than I used to be, but should self-inflicted isolation have been my only option (apart from the creation of a world where dieting is not a majority behavior)?  And is it even a good thing that I’m more comfortable hearing about diets now?  Does it mean I’ve just re-socialized myself in some weird way?  I’m not really sure.

Anyway, I’m happy Lesley is continuing to get her voice out there, and I’m happy for the resulting stimulating conversation.  And now, back to the real world fake world of grad school.

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On Anonymity

For me, this blog is therapeutic, primarily.  I also like the idea that these thoughts are out there for someone to find who can relate, since finding the fat-o-sphere blogs has been amazing for me.  I have mixed feelings about keeping the blog anonymous.  It really serves the therapy purpose, because it means I don’t need to restrict what I feel that I need to say, and I do quite a bit of restricting in the rest of my life, so it’s nice to have a place without it.  On the other hand, it means that some of the THINGS I BELIEVE stay in this little world, and that an entire side of me is only expressed here.  Sometimes I want all of these things to be out there, and linked to me, but sometimes I don’t.

There’s also the issue of activism.  I’d like to participate more in fat and body acceptance activism, and I feel like if all of this were out there, accessible to anyone who knows me, it would be easy, in some ways.  Also, I like the idea of posting photos of myself as a way of getting more fat bodies visible.  But do I want to come out as fat?  And even then, do I want all of these personal issues (eating disorders, family, etc.) to be accessible for everyone I know?  I’m a very private person, and I don’t know if that’s how I want to keep it or not.  Nearly-29 is becoming a very mentally-tumultuous time for me.

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How about “Tell Loved Ones You Respect Their Right to Take Care of Themselves”?

I read this terrifying article yesterday after some one linked to it on Twitter (via LinkedIn–I don’t follow this person on Twitter, and if LinkedIn weren’t more about professional connections than people-I-like-or-find-interesting, I wouldn’t be linked to him there either anymore).  The article is called “Tell Loved Ones They Are Overweight This Christmas”.  The title pretty much sums up the article, which takes the tone of “it’s a hard but loving thing to do–yay for you if you tell people they’re fat!  you’ll be the hero who saves a life!”.  One of the most chilling sentences for me was this one:

“But with families and friends getting together up and down the country over the festive period, the experts believe there is an opportunity that should not be missed.”

Ah!! Yikes!!! I can’t even really analyze that because it’s just so scary to me.  This is exactly the sort of thing that I live in fear of, that I unconsciously make up comebacks for, that I have to overcome when I decide to visit with family, and that essentially keeps me from being close to my family.  And yet it’s apparently the type of attitude that an acquaintance of mine supported enough to link to.  By definition, I don’t know this acquaintance that well, but I do know that he is a thin man, and I also know that he is not a villain, and that’s just what makes this so scary; he’s just an average guy who apparently thinks it would be loving, supportive, and informative to tell people they are too fat.  The article smacks of thin privilege to me.  The only way it could have been written is that every single person involved has never actually been fat or never actually lost a ton of weight.  Either that or there are fat or previously-fat people involved who are deluding themselves to fit in with the thin privilege.  I’ve been there, to some extent–I know that when you’re thin, it’s only cool if it was the easiest thing in the world.

I know it’s been said before (but apparently not enough!), but FAT PEOPLE KNOW THEY’RE FAT.  That’s not even my biggest problem with the article, but it’s the problem that most obviously gives away the fact that the writer and “experts” don’t really know their subject matter.  My biggest problems with the article are that:

1. it is NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS if a person is fat (even if this were driving up health costs overall, which it isn’t, but even if it WERE), and

2. breaching their autonomy is a potential relationship-killer, not to mention oppressive and a potential trigger for eating disorders, amongst other things.

And if that’s not enough of a reason to let your poor loved ones be, telling them they’re fat won’t make them figure out how to get thin, even if they wanted to.  Since anyone who would follow this advice obviously knows nothing about being fat or getting thin, it’s not like they would be any help.  So basically, no one stands to gain by this interaction, and there’s a lot of potential for harm.

Pretty much my entire childhood and early teenagerhood was one big “You’re overweight!”, which is fucking insane since I wasn’t even a fat kid.  And let me tell you, I have either difficult or distant relationships with all the people involved, mostly distant.  Also, I’m fat.  I know it, and it’s no one else’s business.  Which is what they will get told if they bring it up.  They also might get evicted from my life.

Now I feel like this post was just kind of rant-y and haphazard and didn’t do a good job of breaking down why that article was so terrible, but I guess that’s ok, because the point is that this topic can be extremely emotional and nuanced, and the article just floated around, cheery-as-can-be, instructing people to (potentially) inflict harm on an already much-harmed group of people, but framing it as ‘doing good’.  Normally I feel better about getting my feelings out, but this one just struck a chord, and I can’t release it.

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Clothing, Attractiveness, and Comfort

I recently looked over photos that others had taken of me on a trip we took two months ago, and I guess I hadn’t been to many other photo-worthy events recently, because it was the first look I’ve had at my body in clothing in photos in a long time.  I’m happy to say that although I looked fatter than I generally think of myself as looking, it didn’t bother me–it was just a little visually surprising.  I was able to view the photos much more criticism-free than in the past, and even to appreciate some photos that were perhaps not the most “flattering”, but were interesting.  But the main thing I wanted to talk about was clothing.

So there’s one outfit that I wore one day, and in looking at the photos from that day I though “Wow, I look great!  That’s such a great outfit!  I should wear it everyday!”.  And then I realized that what I loved about the outfit was that I don’t look so noticeably fat in it, and I look very traditionally hour-glassly proportioned (I’m pretty hour-glassy anyway, but obviously some outfits play it up and others distort it).  And…this makes me uncomfortable.  Despite really appreciating a much wider range of body types these days, and exposing myself to images of fat people to the extent that when I look at “normal” fashion sites everybody looks unnaturally thin (no offense to thin people!), I still hold thinner and traditionally proportioned as a standard of beauty for myself, apparently.  I really feel that this is a hurdle I’m going to have to get beyond in order to really feel comfortable in my skin out in the world.  I’m pretty comfortable in my skin in the solitude of my own apartment–which is actually a huge accomplishment–but I want to take it to the next level, and I’m not sure how to do it.

How do you completely subvert your own standard of beauty?  I feel like I’ve gotten away from the obsessiveness of mainstream culture’s beauty standards, but my preferences still trend towards standard (if slightly larger than standard).  I think I might try doing a daily photo of myself, in whatever I’m wearing, just to get used to me in all types of “costumes”.  Maybe costumes is the way to go–to think of clothing less as something there to enforce standards than as something which allows you to be different roles as you see fit.  Hmmm…I’m going to think on this, and perhaps report back at some point.


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Holidays and Family

So I survived Thanksgiving with my family, and am actually feeling quite good about the time spent and experience I had, although I was admittedly only with family for just under 24 hours, when usually I stay at least two days.  Nobody said anything directly terrible to or about me, and I was able to ignore or deflect comments with which I fundamentally disagree without being too bothered by the comments or by my ignoring them.  I don’t think anything significant has changed about the Thanksgiving experience, but a year and a third of fat acceptance has built up my resilience.  But–I don’t know that that’s a good thing.

Being able to withstand fat hate so that I can be in the company of people who perpetuate it is not my goal as I pursue the path of fat acceptance; nor is it my goal that my family gets to spend more time with me because I’ve overcome the hate they’ve sent my way and am willing to ignore it.  I have many feelings about my relationship with my family, and I’d like to just sort them out here a little bit:

1.  I am grateful for the stability and reliability of my family as I was growing up.  Financial stability made many things possible for me and allowed my life to be unaffected by all the problems that can come up when money is lacking.  I am grateful for the stability of my parents’ marriage; although I don’t know that they were the best example of a happy marriage, they certainly were an example of a loyal one, and this again allowed my life to be free of certain problems.  My parents are both extremely conscientious and reliable, and many aspects of my childhood were well-managed.

2.  Because I was oppressed by my family’s fat prejudice, they will always be oppressors to me.  Even though many of them have not directed their prejudice towards me specifically in years and I may wish to forgive them, the victim/oppressor relationship will always be there.  I’m putting this in what is possibly harsh language because I think it is actually accurate and want to convince myself that it’s OK that I can’t just get over this.  Despite nothing terrible actually happening at THIS Thanksgiving, I’ve had some bad experiences in the past, and I spent the train ride to this one thinking up things I could say if people said certain things to me.  This was completely involuntary; I never put “think up responses to possible attacks” on my to-do list, but my brain obviously feels that attacks are always a possibility with family, and it decided to prepare.  Even if some of my family members are different people now who would not attack me, nothing could convince me that I can rely on that, and nothing can make them NOT the people who oppressed me in the past.  There’s too much bad history.  It’s kind of unfortunate, but I can’t make it untrue.  This leads to the next feeling…

3.  I feel guilty that I can’t forgive the family and be the daughter/granddaughter/niece that they want me to be.  Every time I see my family, almost every person gives me a guilt trip about how long it’s been since they saw me and how short a time I’m staying.  Then they thank me profusely for coming, as if I’m some huge martyr.  I have no idea how to respond to any of this, but if I could be honest, this is what I would say:  To me, four months is not such a long time between seeing family.  A 24 hour visit is the exactly right amount of time for this trip because (a) I’m an introvert who lives alone, so even if family events didn’t stress me out I might only want a day of socializing, (b) I’m a busy grad student who needs to work over this weekend, and still being with family would be distracting and (c) in order to take care of myself I need some time to rest, and rest for me is being at home, alone.  So I managed to plan this weekend to have quality family time, rest time, and work time, and I consider that a success, not something to be questioned.  And as for the thanks–I’m not a martyr; I wouldn’t be visiting with family if I was only driven by guilt.  Despite all the complications, I have varying degrees of affection for all of the people involved, they’re part of my life’s story that I don’t entirely reject, and seeing them every now and then is something that I want.  I just feel that I should get to determine the terms of my visits and then have my decisions respected.

4.  I do have real love for some members of my family, and good memories.

5.  Self-doubt.  I have two brothers, and the one who is 10 years younger than me appears to have very different feelings towards the family.  I recognize that this is likely because 10 years of everyone’s time makes a big difference, and because he has a much more extroverted, naturally resilient personality than I have.  Yet it still makes me question my memories of my childhood.  Another thing that made me question my memories was when I related a painful memory to my mother (one in which she’d been verbally abusive to me), and she didn’t remember the incident.  I know that this is probably because it wasn’t a big deal to her and it was a HUGE deal to me, but still, it makes me doubt myself.  I wonder “were things really as bad as I remember?”.  But they were–other people within the family just have a different perspective.

So I juggle all of these feelings (plus more), and no single one wins out–they’re always all there.  I wonder why it seems so simple for some other people to either accept and love and participate in their families, or reject them.

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What I need yoga for right now

Yesterday I needed to starting working on a BIG PROJECT–my thesis project for grad school, in which I am attempting to relate body politics to architecture and eventually create a design.  It’s quite overwhelming, because I’m linking things that haven’t been linked before, and finding words for big ideas and their links is not my strong point.  Anyway, I planned to start working after my shower, but immediately after my shower I spontaneously decided I wanted to do some restorative yoga (I have a “Yoga for stress relief” dvd, where you can kind of mix-and-match different smaller segments), and I ended up doing yoga for 1 1/2 hours.  This is of-note because I don’t think I’ve ever spontaneously decided to to yoga or any other “exercise” before-.  When it wasn’t linked to weight loss attempts, it was “you should do it, you’ll feel good afterwards”.  I do enjoy yoga, and I do almost always feel great after it, but I guess I’m just not a person who really feels like they NEED to move around that much to be happy with their day.  So I was pleased yesterday because it felt like I was starting to disentangle exercise, weight loss, health and cultural imperatives.  I was aware of what my body wanted in that moment in order to prepare to work on something so important and anxiety-inducing.  When I used to go to yoga twice a week (a few years ago), I wanted it to be intense.  But I realized yesterday that right now I want yoga to be soothing and relaxing.  I have so much stress and competition in my life right now that I don’t want yoga to be another thing like that.  I feel like this is a realization that will help get me back into yoga–not yoga for the sake of doing exercise or accomplishing complicated poses, which could be something I will pursue again at another time–but yoga for what I need it to be right now.  Which is what it’s supposed to be about anyway.

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Bathing suits!

Wow, it’s been almost 2 months since my last post!  I wouldn’t have thought summer could possibly be busier than the rest of the year, but it turns out that it is.  Anyway, I’ve been mulling over some conflicting thoughts about bathing suits all summer, and I thought I’d take a moment to write them out.

Basically, I’ve been facing a one-piece vs. two-piece head battle.  Here’s how the sides stack up:

One-pieces:  At this point in my life and in my fat acceptance, I feel quite comfortable in my particular one-piece suit in most swimming situations I can imagine myself in.  The suit is an expensive one that I bought a few years ago and that sits beautifully on my body, and although I’ve gained weight since I bought it, this magical suit still fits me quite well.  The only nagging thought when I wear a one-piece is that people are thinking I must be ashamed of my body and that that’s why I’m “covering it up”.  And I don’t want to be thought of as someone ashamed of my body, because I am not!  And I want to be an example of a confident fat person.  Because vocalizing my opinions regarding fat acceptance are difficult for me, living as a confident fat person IS something I can do.

Two-pieces:  A few years ago I also bought a beautiful and expensive bikini.  At the time, it fit nicely, but it does not anymore, and I have donated it away.  I have tried to find a replacement bikini, but this has proved to be difficult and impractical (and thus far not successful).  Physical stores are out, because even if they have bikini tops that can physically fit my breasts (not a common occuence), these tops are just not designed to support them.  And as for online stores–I haven’t had much luck there either because of the limited selection of plus-size bikinis in general.  I’ve started to think that maybe I would just be more comfortable sticking to one-pieces, but I can’t tell if that’s because I haven’t found a good bikini that fits me properly, if it’s just that I don’t like feeling like I’m in my underwear in front of everyone, or if it’s because it would make me uncomfortable to know that other people were uncomfortable being with my fat in a much more obvious way.  Or it might be a combination of these issues.  I know that even a few years ago when I was in the “normal” weight range, I felt uncomfortable being in a bikini around my family.  This is probably both because I’m not the kind of person who walks around in my underwear with my family, but also because of my issues with weight and food that relate to my family.  Anyway, at the time, I decided I just wouldn’t wear a bikini in front of my family again, and I still think I want to stick with that, but as for wearing a bikini in other circumstances…I feel mixed.  I just wish I could more easily find a bikini that fit me so that I could make a decision about bikinis knowing that I’ve felt as comfortable wearing one as I possibly could.

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A Letter

The following is a draft of a theoretical “coming out as fat” letter I might send to people who know me.

“Hi Family and Friends!

I’m fat!  In case you haven’t seen me in a while and are still picturing me in a thinner state of being, here’s a recent photo of me: [insert current photo of me laughing happily] .  Why am I telling and showing you this?  A few reasons:

1.  Sometimes people say negative things about fat or fat people, and sometimes these things are said near me or directly to me as if I will agree and as if I were not fat.  I am not interested in censoring your speech, but I would like you to be aware that I am fat, and that saying these things affects me negatively, even if that wasn’t your intention.  Likewise, when I don’t nod my head in agreement, I would like you to know that it is because I do not agree.  I do not think negative things about “fat” and “fat people”.  I also don’t think positive things about “thinness”.  I feel mostly neutral about someone’s body size, but probably more sympathetic towards fatter people.

2.  I am not dieting, will not ever be dieting, and am completely uninterested in hearing about anyone else’s efforts to lose weight (this includes any talk of the amount of calories anything has).   More than uninterested, I actually feel really uncomfortable when thinner people than me (as they often are) discuss their efforts to reduce the size of their bodies.  The implication is that bodies their size and larger are unacceptable, and while I know the majority of them would say “it’s not about anyone else’s body”, it cannot be denied that the message is there.  I am not less than anyone else because of the size of my body, and I despise being placed against my will on a spectrum of acceptability by multiple small comments that add up to a culture of hierarchy and negativity.  I don’t expect that other people will give up dieting (although that would be nice, and if you’re interested, please feel free to ask me for more information) or talking about dieting, but I would like you to know that it makes me uncomfortable.  Please don’t assume that I will be receptive to weight-loss talk (I won’t be).

3.  Exercise has a life outside of weight-loss.  So if I’m exercising, don’t assume that it is because I want to lose weight (it isn’t).  Related to diet-talk, I am not interested in hearing about any way in which exercise may or may not be related to losing weight.

I understand that a lot of the things that make me feel uncomfortable and isolated are things that most people don’t even think twice about–they are things that are part of our everyday culture.  But this is why I am writing to you all.  I would like to be able to participate in daily life without feeling like the people around me are contributing to the general negativity I receive for being fat.  I just thought it might be worth mentioning to those of you who know me, so that you at least have the knowledge.  You can do what you like with it.  Feel free to ask me questions if you’d like to know more.  : )”

What do you think?  Have any of you done similar things?  Have you confronted the people around you with your fat acceptance?  Have you tried to define boundaries  or at least desired boundaries?

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