Shadow on a Tightrope : Writings by Women on Fat Oppression a 30th Anniversary Celebration

186b0e0a-6db1-43ef-8f9b-148456613195When asked to read and blog my reflection of Shadow on a Tightrope: Writings by Women on Fat Oppression for its 30th anniversary celebration sponsored by Aunt Lute Press, I jumped at the chance to do so. Many of my friends and cohorts in the Fat Activism/Liberation movement speak of this book as their first experience or exposure to Fat Liberation.  I’ve spent years hearing it mentioned during discussions and casual conversations with long-timers and budding new activists…I often felt as if this book was as important to Fat Activism as the Bible is to christian religions.  And I knew I needed to read it, and yet years in to my work in Fat Activism and I’d yet to pick it up. Now that I have, I can’t imagine why I didn’t do it sooner.  I’ve read the bible, more than a few times, and it never left me weeping as Shadow did. I read the essays and other writings in Shadow over two sittings and both times within minutes of scanning the pages, tears were rolling down my cheeks.  I thought about why this is, what about the poems, essays, stories shared in this anthology made it so poignant to me? And beyond the obvious, “I can relate” response came swarms of thoughts and emotions that required sorting through.

I’ve often felt I was born to a wrong generation, jealous in a way of the women who’s hard work, struggle and tears have paved the way for all the liberties I enjoy today.  I don’t quite feel I belong in the “second-wave” feminist category and yet I’m much too young to be  “first-wave” and much too old to be “third-wave.” And really, these classifications are arbitrary and relevant maybe only to historians. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling like I belonged to a different time when activism was more…well, active. Because I sit in rooms with women who have long been a part of the fat liberation movement and listen to their stories from the past and musings on the present, I’m often hit with phrases like “today’s fat girls have it much easier with the internet, Facebook, and blogs.” And its true, in many ways, the internet generation does have a connection and a resource for activism that didn’t exist previously.  And yes, we often sit safely in our comfortable homes behind a screen with a blog written under an alias that protects us from the kind of political struggles that sent the original members of the feminist fat liberation movement literally fleeing from Los Angeles in 1976. But this tool that helps us to move activism forward more quickly and with perhaps fewer repercussions, also isolates us. I long to be in that room in 1972 where the Fat Underground was birthed.  Where the radical, untested concept that if a person would just “stop trying to lose weight, their ‘eating problems’ go away and weight eventually stabilizes” originated (Mayer xiii). This is the very tenement of my fat liberation faith and it happened just down the 101 in what I imagine was a small room with a handful of women speaking their truths and needing to see change in our world, bravely spoke those truths out loud to those who would listen and help move change forward. As I write now, tears are welling in the corners of my eyes…these women are the mothers, the sisters, the partners of my fatness; my ability and freedom to live so much more comfortably in my fatness than they were able to 30 years ago.

But the fight isn’t over, and I can not rest comfortably.  In the 1970′s the “sexist industry that has made the lives of fat women a living hell” aka the diet industry was an 11-billion dollar a year enterprise (Mayer 3). Today, its 65-billion dollars a year. Is that progress? This industry feeds off what they tell us are our failures as women, as human beings, as members of a society that promulgates the “thin ideal.” 30 years ago, this was a hard-to-publish, radical anthology. Women speaking out about their experiences on being fat? Who would want to read that? And wouldn’t that just encourage women to continue to be fat?  But the memories that are contained on these pages are just the beginning of the struggle for fat liberation and as Lynn Levy reminded me “the outrages are not all memories–they continue, even after I refuse to play the game.” Our liberation “does not prevent a man from harassing me on the bus, it does not prevent airline seats from being too narrow, it does not prevent my being unable to find clothes that will fit in the styles and materials I like.” And this is how she felt in 1980. 1980! This is MY story TOO! Today, in 2013. “Passing cars, passing strangers, I harden myself to words I have trained my ears not to hear, hurled at me on the streets.  It all continues, and I look forward to the day when I can no longer control my rage” (Levy 81).

As a woman, feminist, fat liberationist of the 21st century, the digital age, I’m frequently told that I’m much too open and honest about my life, my struggles, the things I want, need, expect. I have chosen to expose my life through blogging, Facebook, Instagram. I grew up a fat child in a family of other fat people and the only time we talked about it was when someone lost weight or someone was being shamed in to not eating something because they “needed” to lose weight.  As an adult, I will not live that way.  I will not be shamed in to stealing green apples from a neighbors tree and sneaking home after school to quickly make a tiny apple tart, eating it so immediately from the oven that it burned my mouth, and cleaning up before my mother got home from work just because I wanted it but knew it would not be ok to ask for. I will not live a life of denial for acceptance. And I will tell my stories as they happen, today and everyday. But only because these women, the women of the Fat Underground with their Fat Liberation Manifesto paved the way from me to do so. And I will continue to weep…but they will be tears of determination, born from the strength and hard work of those who came before me and the hope for those who will come after me.  I look forward to a future where the only writing being done about fat oppression is in our history books.

The poem below is by Sharon Lia Robinson and was published in Shadow on a Tightrope. It speaks to the deepest parts of me.

whoever i am i’m a fat woman

the space of a silhouette
entering the space of a silence

curvatures of silk
caverns flooding
welcome to a canyon:

she’s a horsewomon
a tennis match
a champion runner

she’s an artist womon
a desert womon
a dancer

she’s a fat womon

a fashion hall for dreams

she’s a seeker your lover your sister
a dreamer a bohemian a thinker
your doctor she’s a healer
a psychic her stories will set you free

herb lady
masseuse
mathematician
architect
sexologist
clothes designer
museum curator
sculptress
archaeologist

a farmer

2.

 

a laughter’s echo
she’s a fat womon
a fat womon
a womon
bound to cut
this earth of the shadows inside her

cliffhanger
ballroom dancer
go-getter
bartender

scene stealer wheeler dealer

a leaper a runner a roller

she’s a fat womon and she’s breathing

the unknown womon
the womon who flavours her own song

she’s a genius
she’s extraordinary
she’s an ordinary girl
she’s a fat womon

cab driver copper welder tea drinker
street walker prude

she’s a blues singer
a floutist a drummer

a pin up girl
an ice skater
an icecream lover
a hindu

3.

 

a hiker a kite flyer
your shadow on the tightrope
she’s a fat womon

your shadow
a brake mechanic
a concert cellist
a jazz saxaphonist
leaping on laughter’s echo the rhythms of her life.

poet playrite witch nun jew

surfer
bathing beauty
high heeled sexy tramp

scorpio rising
rubenesque pearl

priestess potter shoemaker
hairstylist jeweler
thankyou. a furniture design.

the womon procurred by money
the womon who is heard above laughter

the womon who walks beyond
the streets of desire
the womon who has always walked these streets
with passion
the womon who has taken over the space of her body
and the womon who has refused to conquer that space.

worker bohemian boss scholar aristocrat
roadrunner sailor weaver

a fat girl
she’s a wallflower
socializer leader recluse wanderer

4.

 

an advertisement for love:
in lillian russell days
you’d follow her
her bare ankles
down the rivers muddy edge by foot
making love to her on your knees

she’s a stallion a fleet of rivers.

feel the womon
whose river bathes in mammoth luxury
tracing the moons
that are inside her

she’s an aesthetic womon
she’s a plastic womon
she’s a junkie
a hobo
a housekeeper

candlemaker
chiropractor
stuck up bitch
fast smiler
on welfare
or could be
she’s a fat womon

the silent womon
worn
with a mask around herself

the womon who is challenged to a duel

the womon who is tortured

tied to the bed and raped

the womon who always sleeps in black
the womon who never says “excuse me”
or smiles when she’s supposed to

5.

 

the womon whose existence is in question

rough outrageous dull graceful ingenious

exciting to be alive as being a fat womon

she’s a deep sea diver
a windmill climber
a motorcycle mama
and a bicycle rider
she’s a fat womon

she’s a snow shoveler
a short stopper
a wind lover
a heart breaker

certain truths
will make your heart beat fast
when you hear them from a fat womon

you’ll grow pale
get chills
disbelieve
but she’s marching toward you
she’s here and she’s taking back her life.

a tough springer
a dead ringer
watch the stones
they throw
her will turn
to looks of beauty

the stones
they throw to works of art
will turn to looks of beauty.

Like Moths to a Flame: A Hard Lesson to Learn

moth_light_500I was always that child growing up. The one who even though was warned the flames would burn me and even though I could feel the heat as I approached and my brain registered that the heat would definitely burn me, would go right ahead and stick my hand in the flame just to make sure. And sometimes, I would go back for more. Again, just to know for sure that the first time hadn’t been a fluke.
It’s a pattern of behavior I’ve carried well into adulthood. And I want to say for the most part it’s served me well. I’ve taken chances where others have warned me (not out of mortal danger, but out of internalized fears and consistent messaging that people like me just don’t do those things) not to. I’ve colored outside of the lines my entire life knowing that it may get me a scolding from the teacher but feeling empowered by the freedom of non-conformity. And I’ve tested the painful flames of life and love without fear or trepidation and have retreated, singed or burned but stronger for having faced the flames. And, just as I have returned to the flame on the off-chance that it might have cooled even in the slightest bit, I’m a sucker for giving people second chances.  I’m not naïve; I know that the chance of me getting burned and individual people not having changed at all are almost always 100%. But the difference between a flame and a human is the potential to change and the hope I have for them to do so.
I’m also a bit of a hopeless romantic. Combine that with the will for taking chances and you’ve got a perfect scenario for going up in flames.

When frightened tongues speak timidly of love turn sharply into blades and strike the fatal wound.

imagesToday I’m nursing some pretty serious burns; burns that could have been avoided had I heeded not only the warnings of my inner circle of friends, but also my own internal instinct. But be it love or lust or hope; I could not for the life of me turn away from the flame. I saw the signs, I’d felt the heat more than once, I knew the potential…but I failed to see the firestorm coming and I put myself in its direct path.  The worst thing and what I find myself futilely dressing my wounds with, is how much I wrapped my sense of self up in this persons perceptions and treatment of me.  The signs that his own tragic past and “brokenness” would make him a challenging match as well as his potential for emotional manipulation showed up in the early stages of us getting to know each other over a year ago.
Again, friends warned me after I would share my frustrations with them over certain interactions with him.  And yet, even though I was seemingly determined at the time to let him go I became pavlovian in my response to his texts and calls. I could not tell him no…and when he would reject me or turn me away anyway, I always blamed myself and made excuses for him.  “He’s a good father.” “He has a successful job that he loves.” “He treats me so well when we are together.” “We have great conversations and enjoy the same things.” “I shouldn’t have said that in that way.” “I shouldn’t have asked him.” “He works so hard, he’s just tired.” “My expectations are too high.”
When he showed up places where he knew I’d be, with other women, I shook it off…”we aren’t exclusive.” “I see other people, too.”
Sound familiar? Worse yet, when he both actively and passively rejected me, I blamed myself.  Questioning what it was about me…”he’s not attracted to me,” “he’s not ready for a relationship,” “I’m too [fill in the blank],” “I need to back off, expect less,” “what could I change about me that would change his mind, change the way he was treating me?”
When he’d call or text, I was happy.  When he asked, I would go. When we spent time together, I was excited and looked forward to it…even though he’d often cancel at that last-minute or cause a fight that would lead me to not go.
Friends told me to stop with him.  He didn’t deserve me. I was too good for him. I was a stronger woman than I was letting myself be with him…the list of reasons to not be with him grew and yet.  It was a train wreck I couldn’t stop. I mean I could have, I should have…but I didn’t. And oh how I wish I would have.  Because the pain not only from his actual manipulation and emotional abuse, but now from my self-doubt and bruised ego are nearly unbearable.
Last night was the final blow: shortly after he whispered words of love, I was essentially dismissed like, well…a common whore. That’s how I felt, belittled and insecure, and shattered. He told me to go…and I did. I didn’t stand my ground or defend myself. I could have, might have had it been anyone else…I don’t let people use me or talk to me like he did. Not usually. I was upset, but not because I was leaving, because he wasn’t coming after me…I felt humiliated.
I want to be angry. I do. And tomorrow I might be. I hope to be. Others are angry for me and I wish I could feel it too. I wish I could hate him. Instead of feeling heartbroken. But this is what emotional abuse and manipulation does to a person. I’m working on getting angry. I’ve blocked and deleted him from my phone. Because it may be a week or two or a month, but he will call or text. And if I saw his name, I’d pick up.  I know how that sounds. But I’m being honest with you and myself.
I’m being honest with you, because I’m hoping to find some strength in the truth. By letting you know that although I consider myself a strong independent woman, I let someone get to me and use me in ways I would fight tooth and nail against for strangers even. I’m being honest, because you might know someone else who’s going through something similar and not understand why…and maybe this helps or maybe it doesn’t. I’m being honest, because I need to get it out of my head and I’m hoping to walk away and leave it here where it will either be read or not, but it is no longer inside tormenting me, continuing the abuse and manipulation.  I’m being honest, because it’s helping to uncover the anger. And I’m counting on that anger to drive me far away from the flame. To help me learn this lesson and learn it well.  To trust my instinct that the flame which is hot will indeed burn.

flames background

It’s On (like Donkey Kong?)

2484631_f248

It felt kinda like this!!

It’s not like I wasn’t expecting the call, but once it came in, everything began to feel like it was happening too fast and it took a moment to get my bearings.  I’ve been tolerating the pain in my body and the frustration with medical professionals for so long, it hardly seems real that I now have an actual date for surgery to remove the hostile uterus in my body.  I answered the phone while driving to work because when I saw that the caller ID said “Kaiser,” I knew it wasn’t a call I wanted to miss.  The nurse said they had an open date of June 21st and I was like “ok, I’ll take it.”  Hanging up the phone, I felt like a heavy boulder had settled in the pit of my stomach, I was nauseous and my mind was spinning with all that this date meant and with everything that now had to be done before this date.

Its taken a couple days, but I’m relieved and settled.  I’m ready to get on with life.  I’ve had some encouraging phone calls from dear friends.  More offers of support and lots of time to think, process, and accept that this is REALLY happening.  I’ve also spent the last couple of days at Kaiser doing some pre-op lab work.  It seems that the needle pokes might never end.  I’m nervous and excited.  Putting together a list of things to get done before June 21st, both personally and professionally.  I’ve made my arrangements for sick leave from work and have informed the most important/necessary people in my life about the timing and details.  The list of things to do is growing…at some point I’ll just have to say “enough is enough.” Its not like I don’t have time after the surgery.  But isn’t it funny how suddenly everything becomes so important to accomplish, when some of this has been on the “to do” list for months.  I think it’s probably linked to the whole mortality complex…not that I have concerns about that, but there’s some instinct I think, much like how “nesting” works with pregnant women, that creates this need to get it done now.

WVMC_robotic_surgery_1

Davinci Surgical Robot – my new best friend.  Wish those were my doctors.  It looks so futuristic and reminds me of some of my favorite scifi shows.

The thing I feel the best about in my preparations for going under the robotic knife, is my plan for a quick recovery.  Part of this is about the preparation, right (mind and body).  I’m a pretty active person, but I’ve been increasing my activity lately as well.  I participated in the Color Run last weekend (oh so much fun) and am continuing to increase my walking time each day.  I plan to be up on my feet, moving as soon as the Dr says its ok.  I’ve set a goal to be able to participate in the AIDS Walk SF, 10K on July 21st!  I’m joining the FFE Community Team to help raise $2013.  I’ve set a personal goal of $300.

sf_logo_2013-pms-finalIf you’d like to donate as a way of encouraging my quick recovery and supporting a great cause, please visit my personal fund raising page or for amounts less than $25, you can donate through Paypal.

So, I think I got this.  I’m focusing on the after and not the during.  I feel like I’ve moved past shaking my fist at the sky in anger and frustration. shaking-fist-at-God

I’m not excited about the surgery itself.  I’m excited about the possibilities after. I’m not fooling myself in to believing it will all be busy, but focusing on it all just being better.  There’s still a long way to go between today and that 10K walk.  I’m riding the wave of hopefulness.  Of course, you can check back here for updates on how the process, procedure and recovery unfolds.  I really appreciate all the positive feedback and kind words I’ve received from friends and blog readers about sharing this journey.  I’m hoping you continue to find something of value in my sharing as it all moves forward.  I wait now with a deadline on this anticipation…with a great deal of hope.

Medical Mayhem and the Hostile Uterus (not a bedtime story)

I read this quote recently that reinforced what I’ve long believed about our bodies not being our enemies. sonya quote for blog

As often happens, it came across my path at a time when I desperately needed it.  Just last week I sent this text to a very dear friend “My body has betrayed me!” And it will be no secret to my FB friends and family that I have spent nearly as much time at Kaiser Permanente over the last few months than I have anywhere else. I’ve put off writing about what’s been going on in part because I’m still fighting for some internal peace and also because I’m not sure how much or little to share. And I’m the first to admit I have a tendency to over share. I also am hesitant to sound like I’m whining or looking for sympathy. Then a friend asked if I thought writing about it could help someone else (besides providing a way for me to further process). And I acknowledged that perhaps it had the potential and so here I am, writing.

To make a very long story short, I have a hostile uterus.

From the pages of my art journal.

From the pages of my art journal.

After several years of heightened issues, I’m well versed in all sorts of medical terminology, but to boil it down, my uterus creates chronic swollen villi (clusters of grape sized “tumors”, not fibroids) which hang out and wreak all kinds of havoc internally.  Over the past 3+ years, doctors have treated this non-cancerous condition with a combination of surgical (d&c) and chemical removal of uterine lining. As well as a combination of high dose hormone injections/pills and pain meds.  The biggest issue for me is that it causes persistent painful cramping and unpredictable, prolonged heavy bleeding. The past year has been perhaps the worst, as symptoms have increased and the nonsurgical treatments simply aren’t working any more.  In November, I allowed a new Dr. (whom I really like and trust) to convince me that an IUD would help alleviate many of the symptoms.  I was willing to try almost anything at that point.  By early February I was insisting on a permanent resolution.  Though not quite at the point where I was willing to part with an internal organ, I sought from my doctor a more viable option.

As we all know, I’m fat.  To the majority in the medical profession that equals high risk and/or causation.  I’ve spent several years piecing together a medical team that does not treat me based on my weight.  My primary care physician is an “obesity” specialist who has never once mentioned to me weight loss surgery, diets, or any other topic related to weight in regards to my health.  In fact, this issue being the exception, I am a healthy fat person (most of us actually are).  My gynecologist matter o’ factly addressed my weight only as a potential risk factor for surgical options, primarily anesthesia.  This I knew and was not bothered by.  She suggested a uterine ablation, an outpatient procedure where they burn back the lining to the base of the uterus; sounds painful, apparently not so much.  This raised the question of ongoing birth control as an IUD would no longer be an option with a thinned uterus and I’ve pretty much ran the bases of hormones and their usefulness.  She suggested a nonsurgical sterilization process (since my hostile uterus makes full-term pregnancy a nonviable option anyway).  I said ok and was referred to one of the two doctors who perform this procedure at the clinic.  The FIRST thing this doctor said to me was, “have you considered weight loss surgery?”  The SECOND thing, “ALL your problems would go away if you would just lose all that weight.”  Note the use of “that” as if it weren’t even in the room with us, but some abstract evil thing hovering outside the door.  I was so unprepared for THIS conversation, I was dumbfounded, paralyzed. I can’t even imagine what story the expression on my face was telling. I was prepared to discuss sterilization procedures. I had questions to ask. I had things to confirm. But none of that mattered because A) she was going to refuse to do the procedure because of my weight and 2) I would not have let that woman touch my beautiful fat body with a ten foot surgical instrument.

I left that doctor appointment in shock and complete hopelessness.  What I knew is that I couldn’t sanely tolerate what was going on inside my body much longer and every plan that had been put in motion to resolve the issue had just been bulldozed by this weight bigot in a doctor frock. I got to my car and cried.  Not just for me, but for all the stories I’d read and been told about of other wonderfully rad fatties who had received similar treatment from medical professionals. I never had; I thought I had been able to imagine how it might feel. I couldn’t. It was much much worse, dehumanizing, degrading, shaming…. When I spoke with my gynecologist two days later, she was livid.  Even the medical notes had read like a bad fat shaming story.  She was ready to go to the mats for me, to find a doctor who would perform the procedure. But I was done. That had been my breaking point.

Publication1

A card given to me by my boss at the university.

I told her it was time to just take it out.  I wanted her to find the least invasive means to have my hostile uterus removed. I was asserting ownership of my body and was ready to evict!  She took a deep breath and said ok.  Next thing I know, I was scheduled to meet with the Chief of the women’s health department.  He conducts robotic assisted laparoscopic surgical procedures on high risk patients.  And she assured me that if anyone could make this happen it would be him.  I went to that appointment prepared to defend my weight and its non-connection to what was going on in my body.  But I didn’t have to.  He discussed the procedure with me, answered my questions, and asked a few of his own then told me that it was time for a definitive response to the issue.  He inferred that it was likely only a matter of time before the cells in the uterus would become cancerous so it was best to act now.  He said it was not without risk and that although the intention would be to do the procedure laparoscopically, there is a very real chance that they may still have to do an open cavity procedure once they have me on the table.  I am resolved.  And so in late June or early July, I will be having a Robotically Assisted Laparoscopic Hysterectomy with Bilateral Salpingectomy, Possible Bilateral Oophorectomy, Possible Laparotomy, Cystoscopy.  In layman terms, a laparoscopic hysterectomy, leaving my ovaries intact, with the possibility that they may need to cut me open.  The doctor mentioned above, should take note: THIS, THIS is going to make ALL my problems go away!! (ok, not all of them.)

Here are the things I wish I would have done differently during this journey of medical mayhem (and perhaps where others might learn):

  • I would have had more compassion for my body and accepted early on that this was my body’s way of trying to work its way back to wellness. Instead of feeling betrayed by the very body I claim to love and respect every day.
  • I would have liked to come to an earlier realization that this one organ, which is a part of me, does not truly define me as female.  It would have made it much easier to insist earlier on that they remove it.  I would have spent far less time in pain, discomfort, and worry.
  • I would have taken someone else with me to doctor appointments.  Either to just help “hold on” to all the relevant information, to act as a sounding board for the many thoughts and emotions swirling around in my head and/or to act as an advocate when I was struck dumb with disbelief.  And yes, I have a whole host of friends who would have willingly agreed to sit by my side during the many hours of appointments.
  • I would not have agreed to the IUD.  In the midst of all this other stuff, the IUD has “gone missing” (insert Scott’s joke about the UN looking for WMDs here). In women who have not had children, the IUD has a tendency to migrate (good to know).  Mine has…and the hunt is on, with ultrasounds, x-rays, CT scans, etc.
  • I wish I would have said to the weight biased doctor something along the lines of “oh really, ALL my problems? Will my student loan payments go away? Will my dog’s chronic diarrhea suddenly disappear? And, so on…” It wouldn’t have helped, but it might have made me feel more emotionally satisfied.
  • I wish I would have been more open to asking for the support of my friends, being more honest about the amount of pain I have been in and confided more openly about it all.  I fancy myself to be so independent that sometimes I don’t let others in in ways that would be helpful.  And I have the most awesome friends and support network, so why would I shut them out on any level?

This journey is not over. The procedure is not on the doctor’s schedule yet. There were some reasonable hoops he asked me to jump through and I’ve done so. Now just patiently awaiting his return to the office (he’s been out for a week) and word that it will be scheduled. I’m eager, but scared. I think that’s healthy. There will be recovery time I’m not looking forward to. A need to rely on the kindness and good hearts of my friends to assist during this time, which is hard for my independent spirit to accept.  And the need to allow time and space for emotional healing as well.  Sounds like a fun summer though, right?

It’s not my idea of a good time, but I’m so looking forward to having the medical mayhem and hostile uterus out of my life.

Size Activism: In My Beginning

do somethingI’ve approached this four-day holiday weekend with a deep desire to get some serious writing done and move forward on the novel-in-progress.  In preparation, I’ve been digging through a box of notebooks, journals, napkins and random slips of paper containing thoughts, ideas and partially completed pieces.  Amongst them, I found this free writing/poem from the early days of my exploration in Fat/Size Activism.  As I was reading it, emotions rose to the surface.  I could have written it yesterday.  This thing we call self-acceptance (wrapped up in size activism) is not a straight road from here to there and then we’ve won.  The road twists and turns back on itself and some days leaves you questioning yourself as much as others.  Just as I grow stronger and more confident in myself, a moment of weakness creeps in.  These words are proof.  They are unfinished…with a hope to complete them at some point.  Reading them, reminded me of how hard living this struggle (like anything worth fighting for) can be at times; how easy it is to just give up and return to the status quo.  But it also reminded me of how worth it the struggle is, because I never want myself, let alone those I love and care about, to feel this way ever again.

It’s what they don’t tell you

They tell you to love yourself
Live in the body you have now
Be bold and confident
Wear stripes and sequins
And tiaras to the grocery store
Don’t listen to the ne sayers
The weight loss goalies
Surgeons with their scalpels
Stand up against the Hatred
Discrimination
Bullying
Laughter
Take chances
Do something new
Reach out to others
Share your new knowledge and power with others
Because what they don’t tell you
Is that no matter what you do…
You’ll always be lonely
You’ll always wonder if it’s the size of your stomach that turned them off or the size of their ego
You’ll never know if they truly want you or are you a fetish
You’ll eat dinner at home in front of the tv because they’re too ashamed to take you out
They’ll chose someone smaller, even if they love you
What they don’t tell you
Is that the clerk at Macy’s will still treat you as if you don’t belong there even when you’ve only come
in for expensive moisturizer
The children in your building will still point and stare
Your family and friends won’t understand why you aren’t interested in talking about their latest diet or exercise routine at the next holiday gathering
Your neighbor will still say you look like you’ve lost weight even when you haven’t
Why don’t they tell you???
Because what they also don’t tell you is that all of that won’t matter in the long run what they don’t tell you is that when you love your self, others will follow
just not today
and probably not tomorrow

where have all the big body hotties gone?

strong weakok, here’s my first confession…i’m completely human.  no super powers, no invisible plane, no impenetrable fortress.

surprised?  probably not.

we’re all human.

here’s my second confession…i’m a fat activist/body liberationist with body issues!  no, really!  much to my own chagrin, i’m frequently unable to leap over societal standards without a single care.  there are days i wake up and wish there were things about my body that were different.  i’ve learned to live, really live, in this body, not just survive.  i do appreciate it and can see the beauty in its curves and dips.  but damn…if my boobs were just that much smaller or my arms or my…you know.

i’ve been helping a friend with a project for the last couple months that’s involved the search for pictures of women my size and larger that show the beauty of the human body but aren’t gratuitously pornographic.  and sadly, they are few and far between.  there are lots and lots of pictures of women in what seems to be the “acceptable” range of plus size or “thick” with alluring poses and perfect lighting.  they are “pinned” all over pinterest(c) with barely a nod at their defiance of “normalcy.”  don’t get me wrong, this makes me happy.  it means that the efforts of so many women and men to live in and love their bodies, not bending to societal standards and being vocal about how those standards are unacceptable is beginning to work. and its taken a really long time to see even just this much progress.  but i want more. i need more. and i kinda need it now.

i need to see women my size without their tits hanging out and their legs spread.  i need to see them with subtle lighting, in outdoor and indoor spaces, enjoying life. not spread eagle on a couch with a cupcake in their mouth. i need to know that the beauty of my body and other bodies like mine are not just being fetishized.

you might ask, why?

why do I need to see this and know this if i have learned to appreciate and also love (for the most part) the body i live in?  because it helps others i love and care about see their bodies as beautiful too. because i’ve recently seen first hand how it empowers others to see their own body type in pictures that feel sexy and sensual, without being pornographic. because it helps keep me centered and focused on my activism. because it helps me believe that the person in my life/bed isn’t there just because of my body.  because it sustains my soul and fuels my passion for a better, more accepting life for all of us.

just because, you know.  and why the fuck not? we are all beautiful. every single one of us, in our similarities and in our differences.  and we all deserve to see positive images of others who look like us, because it makes us feel like we belong. it comforts us. strengthens us. and emboldens us to live a more complete fulfilling life.

so, i’m calling you to action. i and so many others need you to do this. get out there…take pictures of yourself. share them. be bold. be beautiful. be strong.

 

2012: The Year of the Revolution

rev·o·lu·tion  /ˌrevəˈlo͞oSHən/  a sudden, complete or marked change in something

The prelude to 2012 started much in the same way it will end, on the red carpet at a Plush Productions NYE Party. As my friend and I approached the camera filming party-goers sharing their new year’s resolutions, I turned to my friend and said, “we do not resolute, WE REVOLOOSH!” And we did. Those who knew me prior to 2012, may find this amusing, but I feel as if 2012 brought me out of my shell.  I know, right??  Yes, believe it or not, I was still holding back in many ways. As for all of us, becoming the person I want to be is a journey. And this journey for many years has been about becoming my most authentic self, without pretense.

It’s been an amazing—if not complicated—journey, this year especially.

A large part of my 2012 revolution was to open myself up, freely—without previous fears and judgments, to new opportunities and experiences both personally and professionally. And to more thoroughly engage in the activism and social justice movements I feel so passionate about. When I gave myself over to all the possibilities that lay before me, the world seemed like this wonderful new thing to me.  It changed me.

Vermont, Boston, Oregon, Puerto Rico

Vermont, Boston, Oregon, Puerto Rico

I traveled, without fear: Puerto Rico, Oregon, Vermont, Boston.

I attended conferences and activism events that fed both my mind and soul: Fatty Affair, IDEC, NAAFA Convention, NOLOSE: the revolution just got bigger, National Women’s Studies Association Conference.

eShakti (dress)/Size Queen shrug, Curvy Girl Lingerie, Size Queen (liquid blue sex kitten dress), SWAK top

eShakti (dress)/Size Queen shrug, Curvy Girl Lingerie, Size Queen (liquid blue sex kitten dress), SWAK top

I bought new clothes and wore outfits I wouldn’t have a year ago: dresses and more dresses from eShakti, Size Queen, and SWAK and silky sexy things from Curvy Girl Lingerie.

Friends 1

Friends: Courtney, Fabulanza, Patti, Lonnie, Shawn, Jenn

I strengthened existing friendships, made new friends and reconnected with friends I thought it unlikely I ever would.

I attended concerts, events, and parties.

Oh, the parties, the dancing, and the men…and women.  I danced; teased; flirted; dated; and yes even fucked a few of them (keeping it real people).

And I fell in love…with Hip Hop/Rap and Dancing.

Friends 2

Friends: Kate and Drea, Shar, Marilyn and Orion, Christine, Dana, Chris

There was soooo much Dancing. From weekend Belly Dancing classes with Raks Africa, to Big Moves Bay Area Free Day of Dance Hip Hop class and more.  The occasional Friday night in Oakland at Full Figure Fridays! And every, yes EVERY Saturday night at Thick and Sexy Saturdays, unless I was traveling or sick, I was there!!

Music, Parties, and Dancing

Music, Parties, and Dancing

And the Hip Hop? Yes, seriously—white chic, driving down El Camino with her Lt. Blue Honda Fit loud and bumpin’ (oh the stop light stares). A friend recently asked me why and my answer made him laugh. I can’t explain it in a way that anyone will truly understand. So I won’t try. Just take a few minutes to listen to a couple of my favorites, Big E “Stay Dry” and “Leave this Club” …perhaps you’ll understand.

As revolutions go, mine has not been without casualties. A very dear friendship came to an abrupt, painful and really unexplainable end. I frequently neglected my writing, even when inspiration hit, I’d opt for social interaction over shutting down and spending time with my words. In the past month this has changed. Expect a book release (and party) in 2013. I made some unintentional, yet glaring missteps in the work environment that challenged me to the core and led me to make a public apology and begin a process of exploring the impact of my personal privilege on others. And with my barriers down, I’ve given people access to my life who don’t deserve it, allowed them to mistreat me, and have lost some of my safe space. But over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a shift. Those people I gave access to, have fallen silent.  At first, a bit jarring I can see that this is part of the revolution, the cycle of change. The upshot of these casualties, in hindsight, is that they’ve contributed in so many ways to bringing me to a more authentic place within myself.

The many faces of 2012.

The many faces of 2012.

And so I prepare to begin 2013 with a clearer vision of who I am, what I’m passionate about, what I want, and how all of that combined impacts others in the world around me.  I have no idea what the next year holds in store for me, but I know that I am more open to it, more patient for it and more willing to do what it asks of me than I have ever been before.  I’m all in!  Bring it on!

 

Wishing You and Yours a Happy and Joyous New Year!

In The Groove

I went to this “Get Your Groove Back” workshop in the city on Saturday.  I wasn’t really feeling like I had lost my groove, in fact pretty much the opposite, but my awesome friend Sarah asked me to go and I also feel like it doesn’t hurt to spend time with other women in a supportive environment, learning solid life skills.  You know, for those moments when the groove is feeling a bit shallow.  It was a small group of women and the leaders of the workshop were kind of the corporate life coach type of people who work primarily with women.  Which has both its ups and downs, particularly if you aren’t the corporate kind of person.  What I did appreciate, was that one of the leaders is starting Project Enough, which focuses on how to help women be enough in every aspect of their womanhood and life.  Something I am completely passionate about as I have struggled with the concept of being “enough” pretty much my entire life…with the exception (for the most part) of the last couple of years.   It was a short workshop, just over a couple of hours, and so there wasn’t a lot of real deep digging but I think that we all walked away with some ideas of useful tools to help us be comfortable and confident with ourselves in this crazy world.

One of the activities we did was to create a vision board.  I think that this project is often a go to for busy work in workshops, but I personally really enjoyed it.  I’ve done vision boards, vision journals, vision lists, etc before and so I was no stranger to the process.  I was slightly disappointed by the variety of magazines we were given to create from.  In an environment that should have been celebrating inclusivity, the magazines were US/People, Architecture Digest, 7×7 SF….basically print mags that cover some of the most elite and exclusive lifestyles in existence.  But I found a way to move beyond that.  Instead of pictures, I pulled out words.  I found my self giggling a lot.  I saw this advertisement with a small chihuahua and the tag line “the whole enchihuahua” and it tickled my fancy.  I still have no idea what the ad was for, but the tag line had me laughing out loud every time I looked at it.  (Have I mentioned how obsessed I am about my own small little chi?)

Anyway, here is the vision board I created:

Workshop Vision Board

It pretty much speaks for itself.  My mission is to love and live life out loud, give people more chances, live creatively, without reservations and escape the ordinary.  Strive to be my personal best, not living up to someone else’ expectations.  I also will fill my life with fashion, food, drink, style, love and sex.  Lots and lots of sex.  (side note: when we shared our vision boards, I said “and sex, who doesn’t enjoy sex?”…you could hear vaginas closing up around the world.  Why can’t we talk about sex, especially in a room full of women.  It’s the one place we should feel the most comfortable talking about it, or at the very least saying the word.  What’s the deal women?  Love yourself enough to be open and honest about sex, would ya!!!)  Anyways, perhaps a subject for a future blog.

I think vision boards/projects of any variety can be very useful.  They can remind us what we value and the direction we want our lives to be moving in.  I do think that the process of creating such a board or list can help us find where we may have gotten derailed and also help us find a way to refocus on what’s important.  It’s also why it can always be useful to attend a workshop geared towards getting your groove back, even if, like me you feel like life is totally groovy!!!

 

 

June is for Fathers…and Memories

I’m an avid online shopper and so most of this month, I’ve opened my early morning email to find subject lines like these:

“Treat Dads and Grads!, Celebrate with Dad, Travel Cheaper with Dad, Top Picks for Dads and Grads, Save on Dad’s Day Breakfast, Kindle Fire for Father’s Day, Top 10 Gifts for Dads, 75 Spectacular Summer Finds for Fathers.”

Don’t even get me started on the Facebook Ads, which I have repeatedly told FB are offensive to me and yet they keep popping up. And ok, “offensive” may be a bit stronger language than how I really feel.  Because what I’m really experiencing is an absence and a bit of pain from remembering.

At first, after my father’s death in 1999, June was one of the hardest months for me.  Not only is it the month where around every corner one is reminded that dad needs this thing or that thing, June was also his birthday month.  And what I found as a child to be completely unfair because of the double gifting he would receive, as an adult too soon without her father, I found it heart wrenching.  For a few years, instead of experiencing the joys of June, I felt tortured by his absence.  And then I started writing and remembering and each passing year became easier.  Until this one.

I think there are a number of reasons for this: I turned 40 this year; had my own brief health scare which led to genetic testing for heart disease precursors (of which I have none); and to be honest, I’d stopped remembering.

And now that I am remembering again, I’m amused by the fact that my father would have hated every last one of the gifts suggested in these emails.  Some of them he may have smiled appreciatively about; others, he would have been “what the hell am I supposed to do with this?”  Because these suggestions are based on some algorithm that tracks my shopping preferences and while in many ways I am definitely my father’s daughter, there are so many ways in which I am not.  I’d label myself the “black sheep” of the family, but I prefer the “wild sheep,” the one who keeps breaking out of even the tiniest hole in the fence for just the briefest chance to run free.  And while I truly believe my father admired that quality in me, I dare say he was puzzled by it just as equally.  And yet, in his own way he encouraged it — silently, his own quiet rebellion perhaps.

Dad had a big heart, a mischievous smile (of which I gladly claim inheritance), and an uproarious laugh.  I remember him being mostly quiet, except in a room full of family around the card table.  I like to think of him as contemplative: a thoughtful, deep thinker (though probably mostly about the turn of a crop or the price on a head of cattle).   Like all humans, he wasn’t perfect.  But he liked simple things:  like a solid down vest to keep him warm in the Nebraska blizzards (yes, a vest – sans sleeves); a can of Skoal in his shirt pocket (and a case in the freezer); a warm summer day out in the pasture checking the herd; John Wayne movies; trucker music; and steak so rare you wouldn’t have thought it even touched the heat. He disliked (among many things), breakfast for dinner — one of my all time favorite things.

And he, along with my mother, raised a precocious, free-thinking, wildly independent daughter in one the most uptight, conservative, right-minded areas of our country.  How much of that was happenstance, can never be known?  But when I remember the stories my father would tell of “riding the rails” and other grand adventures that turned out to be tall tales, I like to think that given the chance, in a different time and place, he would have grabbed on to the opportunities life has offered me, held on with both hands and rode them hard into the sunset.

Thanks Dad (and Mom) for instilling that same free-spirit in me!

Happy Father’s Day!

 

 

The Truth About Lies

The other day, I was flipping through the photo stream on my phone looking at all these word/quote images I’ve collected through Pinterest recently.  I was preparing to post this one to my Facebook wall. I was as close as only having to touch the post button when I was like “fuck that, this is so messed up.” I had saved this image because at the time I came across it, it struck a chord in me and I felt in agreement with it. But not now and hopefully not ever again. And I hope you won’t be either.

I recently was faced with the very real possibility that a relationship I cared very much about and had invested a significant amount of time and energy into was based primarily on lies.  And for a not-so split second I thought I might fall apart.  And truth be told (ha!), I kinda did (little bit).  But then I was like “fuck this!”   The way the relationship made me feel at the best of times, the good things that came into my life because of it, shouldn’t be diminished because some asshole doesn’t have the balls to be honest and truthful with himself, me, or anyone probably.  Unlike him, I was all-in.  For  reasons I won’t disclose, I felt safe–completely safe to be totally me: authentic, emotional, crazy, raw, sexy, giving, trusting … all-in!  And I learned so much about myself.  And I won’t let someone else’s lies take that away from me.

When someone lies to you, it has very little to do with you as an individual and has absolutely nothing to do with your worth.  Lies are about the other persons concept of self and worth.  Either they don’t believe they deserve to be authentic and honest themselves or they have an inflated sense of self that allows them to use lies to take what they want and move on.  I think this is true in all relationships — friendships, business, etc.

Here’s what, I know we all tell a little “white” lie from time to time to get out of sticky situations or whatever.  I’m not talking about those kinds of lies.  Although I do believe that these kinds of lies have their own impact on our lives and we all have the ability to rise above them.  I’m mostly referring to the lies that have the greatest impact on someone’s life.  Those that change the way a person may react, that impact the decisions of an individual, that manipulate and twist the truth into something unrecognizable.  I encourage you to not be that kind of person.  And most of all, I want you to believe that when someone else tells you this kind of lie, it is not about you!

Here’s how I’d rewrite this quote: