Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Knock it off, all of you.

One ass-backwards benefit of fat hate is that it can allow you to see straight into the pulsing heart of human stupidity.

People simultaneously talk more about and are more dumb about body size than almost any other topic I can think of, which means that when they open their mouths you can get a look right into the core of people's most insecure, lazy, hateful, myopic, hurt, catchpenny thinking. Such stupidity is not helpful, and although it's all horribly discouraging, it does give you a 1/8 second head start on calling bullshit sometimes because it comes with glowing red signs.

I am aware that this is just a way of saying I Know Better--but still; there is really nothing quite like how dumb people are around body image, precisely because we are all--all of us--so persecuted by it. We're all victims and bullies, which pretty much guarantees the Duh.

On Rush Limbaugh's show yesterday he took Michelle Obama to task for not having the body to back up her policies (!):
The problem is--and dare I say this--it doesn't look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice. And then we hear that she's out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving, yeah it does--what do you mean, what do I mean?

What is it--no, I'm trying to say that our First Lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, or of a woman Alex Rodriguez might date every six months [whom A-Rod is dating right now: click here] or what have you. I mean, women are under constant pressure to look lithe, and Michelle My Belle is out there saying if you eat the roots and tree bark and the berries and all this cardboard stuff you will live longer, be healthier and you won't be obese. Okay, fine, show us.
It is appalling (and stupid) that he would criticize individual food choices without context like that--not to mention an extremely harsh (and stupid) way of viewing the world, where every single thing you eat is either Wrong or Right and somebody's keeping track--not to mention a very self-defeating (and stupid!) way to go after somebody politically, since we none of us would pass that test--not to mention extremely revealing of his own struggles with public criticism of his size, that he can whip out data about fat grams so easily there.

But it's terribly angering that he would criticize her for her size--whatever it was--and not only that, decide the the point of comparison for the First Lady should be the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover. The conflation of ideals and pressures and sexual thinking there is quite appalling, and at base seems to be extremely hateful, because, note, the woman is thin; the only reason he would seem to be able to--or want too--latch onto this as a thing is because you can actually see Obama's body. She doesn't hide it. He is criticizing the fact that she has one, and, perhaps, that it is a body type associated with African-American women. That's unforgiveable.

But you know what--I hated the title of Al Franken's book (Rush Limbaugh Is a Big, Fat Idiot) too. I did. I don't enjoy Limbaugh being body-shamed. He is a florid-faced fat man, and an easy object of sputtering derision. It would be extremely easy to say to him, and I'm sure people are, regarding Obama: who are you to talk? You are actually fat yourself, how dare you? But that would be wrong too, and dig the hole deeper. Nobody should do that. It benefits nobody. It bolsters more stereotypes. It foments more hatred towards self and others.

Which--it must be said--is what Limbaugh is about, consciously encouraging hate, which is spectacularly exhausting as well as mean. It would be lovely to not feed the troll here, to just let him, and people like Andrew Breitbart, sputter away in misguided, misogynous, pain-fueled hate without any traction.

Because they're being hateful, but they're also just being stupid. So is Sarah Palin, in her reactionary anti-Michelle Obama food-related stunts. So--unfortunately--is Michelle Obama at times in her efforts fighting childhood obesity. All of them are focusing in various ways on body size, not health. The focus is on fat people and what is assumed that fat people do to be fat as the cause of our problems, rather than a symptom of the world we live in.

Don't they know nobody wins here? Nobody is immune? A 400-pound woman has stuff thrown at her on the street, earns less money, won't fly for fear of ridicule. But a tall, thin woman in a position of power is also torn down for not looking like an SI model. Rush Limbaugh takes another turn on the spit of fat-hating and believes even more in the worth of his vitriol. A fat little kid who loves running around is told she's doing something wrong and starts to hate her body and get fatter. Nobody wins.

photo Tuesday

Rosie Mercado. The highest-profile more-than-plump plus-size model I know of. So exciting to see her in the public eye. Girl can work a blue dress.


Meet Jimbo Pellegrine, one big bad-ass surfer. It is extremely fun to see images and videos of him at work. Surfing being a sport where the physics of the endeavor are right up front, it's interesting to see the way bigger bodies work doing it and think about the equipment they might need (I really hope that's actually JP in the comments there, telling some punk to shove off.) It looks like this guy lives in Indonesia so he can surf big waves all the time. Just brill.

Thanks to Big Fat Blog for the link.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

first world problems, first world fun

I have a place to swim! I joined a gym so I could use their pool. It's all rather thrilling.

I-joined-a-gym I-joined-a-gym I-joined-a-gym...that's how the phrase flows out of your mouth whether you want it to or not. The beginning of a new year being high season for I-joined-a-gym, it is almost impossible not to say it that way. Although I did, note, join said gym in December, not January. Whatever.

January in America. When we are assumed to be participating in some agreed-upon group penance for being our greedy, horrible selves. It is so tedious. And tyrannical. And, well, incorrect. And part of why we get fatter. Fuck our inescapable Puritan roots, or however this mass, commercialized mea-culpa is chosen to be understood: it's bullshit. Who decided that it's not okay to celebrate our celebrations? That is, in fact, how celebrations work. By celebrating them. Aligning the post-holiday downshift with virtue and an assumption of guilt is delusional. And playing into the I'm Good/I'm Horrible pendulum that keeps the diet industry in motion, which in turns pours the GNP into making sure we're sure we need to fix things we haven't been fixing. What a waste of time.

Whoa, okay. I'm back. Anyhow. Up until joining the pool I had been "working out"--also another term it's hard to avoid, but whatever--it flows--by using the treadmill in my building, until my Achilles tendon...how you say. Squawked. Splurgoyed. Swigguned. I want to say "snapped," which isn't accurate--if the whole thing really had I would be in a wheelchair--but something sproinged back there and all that became impossible.

Sample pool about to be used by a nice couple!

Although I adore swimming, and it is in fact medically advisable in my case, the hassle of it all had kept me avoiding it for a long time. The hassle is, in fact, the exact opposite of the ease of using a treadmill. When I used the treadmill, I could pop downstairs in whatever I was wearing and toddle away for a proscribed time, and then it was done. That's it. No prep, no clean-up particularly. 15 minutes, 30 minutes. Done. I loved that.

Going swimming means committing yourself to a two-hour to-do list of constant tasks involving packing things you'll need, getting to the gym, changing clothes, locking things up, swimming--oh yeah, swimming--then doing it all in reverse, only more, as you wish somebody designed a people-washing machine that got rid of the chlorine you can smell emitting from your pores and/or that somebody could hold you upside down by your feet and swish your hair in clean water like a little girl with her Barbie doll. Honestly, I find the hoo-ha surrounding swimming much more exhausting than swimming itself.

"Swimming" probably isn't quite the right word: it's probably more accurate to say I caper about. I do swim some laps, but I do lots of exercises, stretching and "weight-lifting" (styrofoam "weight"-pushing)--things like that. It has occurred to me more than a few times that what I do is basically hop in the water and start demonstrating the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Being in the water makes me so happy. It makes me so happy that it tells you something about how much of a hassle swimming is, as that kept me from going swimming for so long when I might have been able to. The pool I go to is not far away, and other than a few problems, it is pretty much all one would hope for in a pool. I am embracing the two hours of hassle and constant slight chlorine pong for the joy of being in the water.

The lovely ladies of the Padded Lilies

Someday I plan on having the pool of my dreams. It will have the sturdiest stairs and handrails to ease to the journey into and out of gravity, a big deep end, an infinity edge for happy water flow, be kept at the cool temperature I like, and I will be able to just walk out the door and hop in it. It is going to be beautiful! You're all invited.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

thanks, ladies!

I trekked to Wicker Park Sunday to participate in this clothing swap:

...and was very glad I did. I brought four Peapod bags' worth of clothing in sizes 26-34 (4x-6x) that I hope all found good homes, either with other nice fat ladies there or at Howard Brown Brown Elephant, which is where I understand anything leftover went.

It was, note, a scrum, an absolute, fabulous scrum. I had to wait a few minutes to go in when I first got there, as it was at capacity. The venue (Kathryn Kerrigan Shoes) was too small and needed much more seating, but I am disinclined to fault anybody for that, as it was the first such event. I saw so many smiling faces. The organizers of the event--and okay, honestly, even now I am a little confused about who exactly was organizing (partly thanks to my design-based aversion to Tumblr)--it seems like there were a lot of people behind it, not all of whom are local--were also great. I want to send special thanks to Rachel, who gave me a t-shirt from this Etsy store (and a hug) when I said I hadn't found anything in the clothing piles myself. I also got some free slippers from Junonia across the street at Vive la Femme. I hadn't been there for quite a while--since that store moved from their other location across the street--so it was fun to look in.

As I walked down Damen Ave. that night, which was, unsurprisingly for February in Chicago, dark, grey, sodden, marked on either side with piles of dirty melting snow, lined with subdued storefronts, the building where the swap was, by contrast, the proverbial ablaze with light. It was brilliantly bright inside, full to the gills with chattering, happy women. If I were an entrepreneurial type I would have stopped right there and said: Hey, what's that rush about. How can I harness some of that.

It continues to fascinate me--and please my sense of prediction, which I hope isn't too smug--that clothing is such a flashpoint for action and organization around issues of size. It is a huge point of financial and political power for fat women in this country. We need clothes, whether we hate our bodies or love them, especially as more and more people are fat, and at younger ages. A lot of the women at the swap seemed to be in their late 20s if I had to guess, sort of more of the third (fourth?) wave of fat activism, which has to a degree organized around the issue of what we put on our bodies. What we can fit on our bodies. What we can find to put on our bodies. How we dress, how and what we buy to dress ourselves. How we (don't) hide. How we show ourselves, how we ask for what we need and what we want. It was cool to see it in action.

Well done, Gold & the Beautiful. Hope it happens again!

p.s. I donated a 5x shirt of this design (love this photo & the way it's cropped), by Substantia Jones of Adipositivity. Hope somebody's wearing it!

I saw this:

...and thought: Huh? Karma? What did they do? I forget sometimes, but note: beauty is a zero-sum contest and we are to hate the winners. Nicely done (not), Daily News. Here's the rest:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

photo Tuesday

the most expensive fat lady in the world getting settled

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Extender!

It's been a year since I spun off size-related writing from my regular blog and created The Extender and so--let Bacchus rule! Woo! I know I am a somewhat erratically-updating creature, but I am a sincere one, and hope to keep providing my own take--for what else do you or can you do in a blog--on all things related to size. In aeternum floreant! Sorry for cropping the Rembrandt.

p.s. Bacchus' extender is the kind that clips round the side where you can't see it. He asked for it nicely when he sat on the wine keg.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

diets and the damage done

My high school years parked two really bad songs in my brain for the rest of my life--at least two, but these are the worst.

One was from German class. I desperately wanted to take French when I started high school, but French was full, and thus were the next eight years of my life and two exchange programs decided. In eleventh grade my German teacher had us learn "Das Lied der Deutschen" as part of our curriculum. At that point the third stanza was the national anthem of West Germany, but for some reason we learned all the stanzas, including the first. Not a good stanza. Not only did we sing the song, I accompanied us on the piano, which guaranteed that the tenaciously catchy tune lives on in my babbling singing brain and surfaces occasionally at bad times. Any time is horrible to start singing "Deutschland, Deutschland, ├╝ber alles," really. I try not to let that happen, but wish I could just unlearn it.

The other song came from a diet center I belonged to. I don't remember the name of the center now, or that much about it at all in some ways. The experience feels like a dream, comes back to me in whole flashes of feeling for brief, thick moments. The place was a relic of the 1970s, maybe, or the 1960s, named after a woman, I think. I know that I was a member there sometime before my two tours of duty in Weight Watchers, which would put this in the early 1980s, when I was around 16.

The center was in a mall. I remember a pink and purple interior with no windows and low ceilings. It was flowery, maybe, or paisley. I vaguely remember vibrating belt exercisers--those things hurt--and other old-fashioned equipment. I thought the place was sort of old-fashioned, and felt shame that my fatness would bring me into contact--as did clothes-buying, for instance, in that era of double-knits--with the world of middle-aged women; not only that, that's the world I was eligible for. It was disorienting and shaming.

One of the only things I recall at all vividly about the place is the song we had to sing while doing a little calisthenics routine that involved toe-touching and other movements on the floor:
Who hit Sally in the belly with the meatball?
Oh dear! I fear! I've over-developed my rear!
We did our large, jerky gestures on the downbeats, so that the whole thing had a very singsong, drums-on-a-boat quality:
WHO hit SAL-ly in the BEL-ly with the MEAT-ball?
Oh DEAR! I FEAR! I've OV-er-de-VEL-oped-my-REAR!
To this day that song appears unbidden in my brain whenever it feels like it, or perhaps when a piece of prose with the right meter triggers the rhythm. I wish I could excise the song and let something else take its place in my brainpan, but I think it's stuck.

I wish I could excise the whole experience. I wish I could save me and all the housewives from that windowless place; blast in, push all of us through the door like a member of the SWAT team before all that bullshit explodes and takes us with it.

It's hard to know what to wish for in healing from diet experiences, because they are so far-reaching in every direction, so tenacious, so complicated, so woven into every aspect of your life. The wound it would leave if you yanked it out whole would not heal. It would be easier to just start over at the beginning and hope to crowd it out with acceptance. But you can't.

One day when my mom dropped me off at the diet center--she and I had argued about how much weight I had to lose; I said, wildly, "Thirty pounds!", hoping against hope she would say, "No, you don't really need to lose any," and was heartsick when she countered with, "No, fifteen"--I discovered when I went inside there was a potluck. I could hardly believe they dared bring explosive material such as food--lots of it, not all diet fare--in this place, but I was very excited. Stirred-up. I remember somebody urging me to eat. That's all I did for my hour, although I pretending to be doing other things, as if it wasn't important. I scarfed food I didn't normally get, like Oreos, at one point pushing them in my face while hiding in the dressing room. How could anybody just let cookies sit there? Have just a few? Have none? I lied to the people at the diet center about what I was doing, sure everyone was watching me pretending not to care while all the time I watched the food like prey. I lied to my mother in the car afterward about my hour "exercising," and felt dirty and ashamed.

And stirred up. I don't know that anything could have saved me from impetus of disordered eating at that point of my life. Experiences such as the diet center were just one push in the forces that set the pendulum swinging so hard I didn't know where the point of equilibrium was for years. The forces that keeps us off-balance about food are huge, period. When the pendulum isn't swinging the earth itself under our feet is. It is worth finding the position of repose, though, to come back to, over and over. It's possible to find it, to heal. You may have to let the whole world tilt without you, though.