Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Stopped Counting

While I'm on the subject of women and sex, there's something else I'd like to discuss.

Partner counting, or "The List."

Some time ago, I'm not sure exactly when, I just got out of the habit of counting my partners. Then the subject of our "numbers" came up with a friend, and I realized that I honestly didn't know what mine was. I panicked. I mean, only total trashbag whores don't know how many people they've fucked, right? (This was during my "blend in with the other girls" phase last year, when I was all concerned about what people thought of me.) A little while after that, I decided to sit down and try to write out my "list." Doing that raised some concerns that I pushed to the back of my mind at the time, but recently took out for closer examination.

As a bisexual woman, how do I accurately decide exactly who I've had sex with? Only counting penis-in-vagina, hetero intercourse discounts the value of the female partners I've had, not to mention supports the patriarchal heteronormative ideal that I dislike so much. Given that, what standard do I use to decide what women to include on my list? "Easy," said my patriarchy-managed brain; "fingering or oral, giving or receiving, constitutes fucking a woman."

But then what about the men I've engaged in manual or oral play with, but not intercourse? Do I put them on my list too? And if not, why? Why does it "count" if a girl fingers me, but not a guy? That's not equitable or logical.

Then there's the fact that I've been raped more than once. Do I count those, because from a purely medical/scientific standpoint they could potentially matter, or do I ignore them because it was rape, not sex?

"Your logic hurts me," replied patriarchy brain. "Shut up and look pretty."

And so I did, for a while. But now I think patriarchy brain is kind of...well, naive, at the very least. So, I abandoned the "list" idea and decided to just accept the fact that I've had lots of sex with a variety of partners, some good, some bad, some non consensual...and all of it is a part of my history. If I don't care about the numbers, and in fact went at least a couple of years without even thinking about that issue, why should anyone else care? Now my stock answers to the "what's your number" question run the gamut from "none of your fucking business" to "um....lots" to a straight-up "I honestly don't keep count."

That's why I stopped counting-what about the reasons I think other people- especially heterosexual people with "normal," non-controversial sexual histories-should give up their "lists?" The question is, really, why should you keep track? If it's for medical purposes, all I can say is that yes, it's a nice idea to try to remember who you've slept with since your last STD check. That way, if anything comes up, you can either contact people yourself or give their names to the nice folks at Public Health. But that's not always feasible-people have one-night stands, former partners move away or change their numbers, people forget names...shit happens. Even in the STD test example, why does the number matter? The tests should really be done without that question, then if anything comes back questions can be asked about who needs to be contacted.

Let's face it-partner counting exists as another slut shaming mechanism. Remember American Pie 2, with the "rule of 3?"

"If a guy tells you how many girls he's hooked up with, it's not even close to that. You take that number and divide it by three, then you get the real total."

"When a girl tells you how many guys she's slept with, multiply it by three and that's the real number. Didn't you fuckers learn anything in college?"

Seriously, who the fuck cares how many people you've slept with? What matters is how you feel about your sexuality and your history. Be safe, have fun, and be true to yourself-sex isn't about numbers.

"She's Not Like That"-Slut Shaming and Taking Credit for Your Sexual Choices

I was talking to an old friend and ex-lover (let's just call him S) on MSN last night, and in the interest of catching up on each other's lives, I teasingly asked him if he was still a "slut." (It should be noted here that I wasn't using the word in a negative context-I teasingly and lovingly call myself and my friends "slut" from time to time, but if anyone expresses discomfort with the word I don't use it to describe them anymore. It's a reclamation thing for me.) While I was humming "Otherside" in my head, he replied that no, he wasn't a slut anymore. He said that he's looking for a serious relationship and ready to settle down. We chatted a little about the whys and wherefores of his thoughts and moved on. Later in the conversation, something came up about this girl he's "sort of seeing." Now, when I say I'm "sort of seeing" someone, it's usually a euphemism. So, I (again, somewhat teasingly) asked, "So you're sleeping with her?" He replied, "No, she's not like that. That's why I like her so much. She doesn't sleep with guys she's not dating."

I was definitely bothered by that statement, but I couldn't quite put my finger on exactly why it was so wrong. I mean, it offended me personally, in the sense that this guy obviously knows that I'm "like that," or at least was before I got all monogamous and shit. But a voice at the back of my brain was telling me that it was wrong on a larger scale. I just wasn't listening closely enough to hear exactly why. So I settled for pointing out that I was annoyed, to which he replied, "Oh, that was years ago." I didn't feel like getting into it any deeper than that, so we changed the subject and moved on.

This morning, it hit me. S was putting all the responsibility for sexual morality on the woman.

Now, I'm not trying to convert people to promiscuity here-if you don't believe in sleeping with someone until the relationship has reached such and such a stage (exclusive dating, marriage, whatever) that's your business, and I applaud your conviction. If S has decided that he's not into casual sex anymore, that's totally rad for him. But saying "she's not like that" makes no mention of his decision to wait, instead dumping the burden of purity, virtue and self-control squarely on the shoulders of the woman.

Also, the very phrasing of the sentence implies defensiveness. What if he had said "I'm not like that"? Such a turn of phrase would imply that he was scandalized, or at the very least somehow offended, by my assumption that he would be open to the idea of casual sex-it implies that willingness to engage in sexual activity outside the confines of a specific relationship structure is somehow a negative trait. Therefore, using this wording on the behalf of the woman, coupled with "that's why I like her," implies that any woman who is "like that," any woman who has sex when she's not "supposed to," is somehow unworthy of his affection. It also implies that her relative "purity" (in the sense of any sex she has being "appropriate" and therefore somehow less "dirty") is the primary reason for his attraction to her. The suggestion is that her "virtue" is prized over any other positive personality traits.

Now, S isn't a bad guy. Quite the contrary, actually. I don't really believe that he would intentionally convey the messages that I outlined above. This is just an example of how the prevailing patriarchal value system has completely taken over speech patterns and thought processes.

"Oh, Rebecca," I hear you saying, "stop being such a paranoid feminist. You know the poor guy didn't mean anything by it. Don't be so sensitive."

The problem is that when such oppressive language is acceptable, women suffer. Maybe S wasn't trying to be a slut shamer, but his choice of words accomplished that regardless of his intention. As for being oversensitive, I believe that the cultural mandate to not take offense to anything, regardless of how it is phrased, contributes hugely to the culture of victim-blaming that I see so much today. It is not your responsibility to not be offended by me, it is my responsibility to not offend you. I don't have to be less sensitive to your hurtful speech, however inadvertent it may be-you have to be more aware of what you are saying and to whom you are saying it.

So, here's a little fantasy script detailing what I think (I hope) S actually meant, in language that more clearly expresses a healthy attitude towards women and sex, while taking personal responsibility.

Me: So are you sleeping with her?
S: No, I don't sleep with people I'm not dating anymore. She feels the same way. I like that about her.

See what I did there? I phrased it so that he takes personal responsibility for his sexual choice and acknowledges that she has the same value system and that he appreciates that, without making her sexual morality into the sole factor for his attraction to her.

I realize that this level of consciousness in everyday speech is difficult. I slip up sometimes too. And I'd like to reiterate that I'm not trying to frame S as some sort of horrible misogynistic douchenozzle. I'm using his statement as an example of how prevalent anti-woman language is in our everyday lives. Most people probably wouldn't think twice about saying exactly what he did, or about having it said to them. But the fact that such things pass so many lips and ears without comment is both a symptom of and a contributor to the shaming of women who dare to make personal decisions about their own bodies and sexuality, the idea that women must bear the burden of "purity," and that if they don't there's something wrong with them. These ideas and language patterns must be noted and corrected whenever possible if we ever hope to live in a truly equitable society.

Yes, the world in my head is a fantasy utopia of social awareness. Also, there are unicorns. It's quite nice, really.

Diva Cup FTW.

Once again, here is some vagina talk that is pretty much TMI even by my usual standards. I'll give you a minute to navigate away from the page if you don't want to read it.

Still here? Freaks. :P Don't say I didn't warn you.

So it turns out the Diva Cup is pretty much the greatest thing ever. I'm about 4 days into my period, and it's the most comfortable one I've ever had. When I was considering the switch and researching it, I couldn't actually find a lot of detailed user reviews-there was a lot of general "I like it" type stuff, but nothing actually addressing specific things I wanted to know. So, here is everything you never wanted to know about my bloody cunt and would therefore not ask.

My first impression of the cup was "OMG it's huge and will be horribly uncomfortable." Turns out I was almost right. It is a little bigger than I expected, but I am also using the bigger of the two available sizes. Not because I have a gaping, cavernous vagina (I don't, in case you're curious) but because I have spawned. Size 1 is for women under 30 who have not had children, size 2 is for women over 30, or of any age who have had children either vaginally or by c-section. So I'm not sure if size 1 is less intimidatingly large. Anyway, back to my story.

Insertion is not an issue, because you fold it up to put it in. Once it's in properly, you really don't notice it's there. Removal, however...the first couple of times were awful. But, as with so many other things that involve vagina, it's all about relaxing and finding the right angle. Once you get that sorted out, it's easy.

Using the Diva Cup forces you to reach a whole new level of being comfortable fishing around in your vag. There's no handy little string to pull on. There is a stem on it, but you don't want to leave it outside while wearing the cup or it pokes you in the labia. Not so much fun. So, you have to actually stick your fingers in there to take the cup out. Insertion and removal do take a little practice to get the hang of, especially insertion. But you can actually practice while you're not bleeding if that will help you...get used to the action without all the bloody pressure. The last thing you want is to be in the bathroom on your heaviest day, all emotional with blood on your hands going OMG WHY CAN'T I GET IT IN? Trust me. o_O

On the subject of not bleeding all over the place...OMG SRSLY AWESOME. I slept in the other day and ended up having the cup in for about 12 hours. First, you don't risk TSS with the Diva Cup, unlike tampons. That part is awesome. Second...okay, so it was kind of overflowing when I got up. But after 12 hours, there was just a tiny bit of spotting on the toilet paper when I wiped the area before reaching down there to take out the cup. I'll take that over my usual crime-scene mattress any day.

I'll admit, there is a bit of an ick factor. I mean, it's menstrual fluid in a cup. I'm all for accepting my cycle as a natural part of womanhood and all that happy hippie stuff, but it's menstrual fluid in a cup. Luckily, I'm fairly quick to overcome ookiness where these things are concerned. And if you're really interested in the intimate workings of your girl parts, there are little measurement lines on the cup so you can see exactly how much you've bled. (Bear in mind that the fluid is not all blood, so don't get all OMG I NEED A TRANSFUSION if you decide to follow that information.)

So, that's the Diva Cup. It rules all. I think I covered everything...

Coming soon, a blog post that is not about my period.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Serious overshare alert.

Yeah, I'm not kidding. I'm about to talk about my vagina, and not in a fun, sexytime kind of way. So, stop reading if you don't want to hear it.

Okay, if you're still here, don't say I didn't warn you.

I have always had extremely heavy periods. Like, for serious. As an example, one month when I was about 13, I knew I was bleeding super heavily and was about to go hang out with this guy I was seeing (translation: our families were friends and we used to make out while the adults weren't looking) and I didn't want to be an icky, period-stained blob. Which was something that was, unfortunately, often unavoidable for mom did a lot of things wrong, but one of the few things she got right was usually calling me in sick on days 2 through 5 or so of my period, because there was just no way for those days to go well for me. Anyway, back to my gross story about the cute boy... right before I left for his house, approximately a five-minute drive, I put in a tampon AND stuck on an overnight pad. After my stepdad dropped me off and the boy and I went through the requisite pleasantries with his parents, we wandered off to "get slurpees and go to the park." (You know, walk through some back alleys to a park on the opposite side of the neighborhood and make out under the slide. Don't get all judgey, you all did it too.) Anyhoo, by the time we got to the park and settled in for some kissing, I had been wearing my tampon and pad for about an hour and a half. I ended up on his lap. We were there for...probably about 20 minutes? I'm not completely sure, but it couldn't have been long. Anyway, when we stood up, I had bled through a tampon and heavy flow pad, through my pants and onto his jeans. That's roughly two hours time, soaking through what should be a minimum four hours of protection. And this kind of flow was a monthly occurrence for me for a few years. Yay for my woman parts, seriously. *headdesk*

After I had Ronin, my periods actually got somewhat normal, in the sense that I usually didn't lose so much blood that I fainted every month. Still, though, I was a gusher in the most disgusting sense of the word. The only time I've had periods that didn't leave my crotch looking like something out of a horror movie is when I've been on hormonal birth control.

The problem is, right now I'm at this place where I'm not comfortable with the potential risks of HBC for myself, given the other health issues I'm dealing with, so I just stay away from it. It tends to change my natural responses to insulin in particular, and I've found that teh diabeetus is easier to control when I'm not otherwise screwing with my endocrine system, so...yeah. Yay, barrier methods. The downside of this, though, is that I'm back to my vagina (and my underwear, and my bedsheets, and sometimes my pants if I'm not RIDICULOUSLY vigilant) looking like a crime scene. No level of menstrual protection does me any damn good at all. Thankfully, I've gotten to the point where a super-flow tampon AND a backup pad will usually protect my clothes in the event that I have to go more than three hours without changing my protection, but it's still pretty damn ridiculous. (And no doctor has been able to make it stop. Apparently, I'm just one of those women who bleed a lot.)

So, I have decided to try the Diva Cup. From what I've heard, it's a much better way to protect during heavy flow than tampons, and you can still use pads as backup if you want to. I'm hoping it will work. For the first time in pretty much forever, I'm actually looking forward to my's gonna be like a science experiment! Watch this space for updates, since I like to talk about my cunt every chance I get. :P Also, let me know if you've tried the Diva Cup, and what kind of experiences you've had with it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

For the Saskatonians...

There's a kiosk in Midtown right now, called "[Can't remember the name]'s Natural Beauty" or something to that effect. It's on the second floor, outside that Capz store that's in the sort of middle area. Know the kind of region I'm talking about? (Sorry I can't be more specific, but I hope that's descriptive enough.)


I'm serious. I was walking around the mall today, trying to get ideas for the last couple of gifts I have to buy. I approached this kiosk, wondering what they were selling. Almost immediately, one of the staff members grabbed my hand, saying, "I want to show you something." I was kind of in shock and didn't immediately jerk away.

Now, it should be noted that my hands aren't "pretty." I do manual labour, for one thing, and even if I wanted to have my hands look a certain way, I just don't have time for that. When I do put on nail polish or something, it usually ends up chipping off fairly quickly. I have callouses and dry skin and cuts on my hands from newspapers, plastic, and occasional accidents with a utility knife. But you know what? I love my hands. They're functional and strong and accomplish amazing things, and while they may not be conventionally pretty, I think they're fucking beautiful.

Anyway, this guy proceeds to take the nail polish off one of my nails, saying he's going to show me how this product works. While he's putting this oil stuff on that nail, he gestures at the rest of my hand and says, "That's freakin' nasty."

Um, excuse me? First you touch me without my permission, then you call a part of my body NASTY? I still didn't just pull away, because I was so fucking stunned. I let him finish his little demonstration, then quietly thanked him like a fucking moron and wandered away in a fog, trying not to cry. Of course, halfway across the mall I sort of pulled my brain together and reported the incident at the Customer Care Centre. I thought about going back and giving him a talking-to, but decided against it.

The end result is that I'm (a) totally ashamed of myself for not reacting faster to that bullshit and (b) surprised at how much it hurt for some stranger to call my awesome and functional hands "nasty." Mostly a, though. I feel like a jackass.

Anyway, for real, don't shop there. Bad fucking news.

The F Word

As some of you may be aware, I have recently started calling myself a feminist. Really, I've always held feminist ideals and beliefs on a lot of subjects, but was reluctant to label myself with "the F word" for a few reasons-not the least of which being that many self-identified feminists I had encountered in my life were the "scary kind" of feminists. You know, the women who say that if you wear makeup, marry a man or spend any amount of time as a stay at home mom, you can't really call yourself a feminist, because you're actually setting the cause of equality back hundreds of years. Then there was the fact that I spent a little bit of time being actively "anti-feminist," which is something I'm not proud turns out that what I was basing that decision on was some horrible misinformation as well.

I never did a whole bunch of work as far as researching social issues for myself in many cases, because honestly, I haven't had that luxury for most of my life. My goal has usually been survival, and any "free time" I have had has often been spent on purely recreational activities. Living constantly in survival mode, with every moment being a crisis, is very stressful, and using my personal time to do research or become an activist has had absolutely no appeal for me under those circumstances. I'm taking it as a sign of great progress that I have recently found myself with the time, resources and energy to focus on things other than the bare necessities or "blowing off steam." So, I've been able to look past the No True Scotswoman crap that I've seen from so many women who identify as feminists, as well as the other bullcrap I've been fed on the subject, to see that a great deal of what I've always believed and fought for in my personal life is based around feminist ideas. So with that in mind, why not call myself that?

One of the side effects of finding the time to care about social issues in a more general sense than "what is affecting me directly at this precise second" and giving myself a new "label" has been that I a) notice things in a whole new way and b) have a whole new set of language to apply to situations that I used to describe as bad or wrong but could never articulate why. The second of the two is definitely nice, because it's giving me a framework to understand problems that I've had personally most of my adult life. Looking at things through the lens of feminism and/or women's issues has helped me to see that there are very likely other people going through the same crap somewhere in the world, and that it's not my fault it's happening. And as always, I'm hoping that understanding and putting words to the issue will be the first step in solving it...though I realize that it's a teaspoon issue at this point. *headdesk*

On the subject of lifelong struggles, I have always had trouble dealing with the majority of women I encounter, and I've never been able to articulate what the problem was. I mean, I could see that they were treating me badly, but couldn't get any further than that with the concept. Part of the issue was that I had spent so much of my life being treated so badly by so many people that I had normalized and internalized abuse and mistreatment, and to this day am still not entirely sure of what is okay and what isn't, what I can expect from other people and when I might be overreacting. The other part was that the women I felt comfortable with and could actually interact with on any significant level were always in the minority in my life, leading me to believe that women, as a rule, were just stupid cunts and that my female friends and I were just "the good ones." (That was actually part of the reason I was so disdainful of feminism for a while there...why would I support women when most of them treat me like shit?)

This issue hit a high point at my last job. I was harassed by other women on staff to the point that I suffered a "minor" episode that some people would label a "nervous breakdown." I began struggling again with the suicidal impulses that I have kept fairly well under control for nearly ten years, I began self-harming again, my past disordered eating reared its ugly head and consumed most of my life again, and I became utterly incapable of basic social function. My home life suffered, because I was in such abysmal personal condition that I couldn't properly care for my son or manage my household. Hopefully there's been no permanent damage done to my son's psyche as a result of this, and he seems to be healing well at this point, but I was not a good mother for most of the last year or so.

The type of harassment that I suffered is probably immediately imaginable by any woman reading this. Constant gossip, both comments made to my face and behind my back, about my appearance, speculation about my sexuality and sexual history (neither of which I have ever attempted to hide from anyone on a personal level, but having that bantered about at work is not acceptable to me), direct interference with my ability to do my job properly, people going behind me and messing up something I had just done (unsetting a table, changing the numbers on my cash count, etc)...if you can think of a way to torture a person, these women did it. And at one point the behavior extended to management-the former department head spread rumors about my home life and revealed to anyone who would listen that I was on antidepressants. She told people that they shouldn't take me seriously because of my "mental issues." When I was physically assaulted by a coworker-during a shift and in front of customers, no less-and left work to get medical attention for my injuries, she wrote me up for not finishing the shift. When I had a diabetic seizure at work and was found on the bathroom floor by a customer, then left work to get medical attention...well, three guesses what she did. And that time around, she actually threatened to fire me, but "settled" for transferring me to another department, with a pay cut.

The thing is, that place was remarkable in the level of shit dished out. But the general type of treatment, like I said, is likely familiar to most women reading this. Since I had encountered something like that at most places I worked, I was getting to the point where I assumed it was my fault-that there must be something wrong with me as a person that made people want to treat me that way. Or maybe I was overreacting-maybe that's just how adults treat each other. It's normal and I should just "fucking shut up and quit whining," as I was directly told on the night that set off the chain of events that led to me leaving that job. However, the last couple of months have given me an opportunity to examine my history of dealing with other women. I started by thinking about what seemed to "set off" the abuse at my last job.
  • When I showed exceptional skill at a task, or learned a new one quickly, the abuse got worse.
  • When I showed up at work with makeup on and obviously time-consuming, fully styled hair, I was treated slightly better.
  • When I showed up to a staff function dressed somewhat "unconventionally" (read:not trendy or "sexy") I was treated worse and gossiped about more that day.
  • When I was seen being friendly with men, not only did I hear the expected battle cries of "slut" and the like, the abuse got worse for at least several days.
  • When the women in question found out (by him bragging, naturally) that I had, at one point, slept with a guy who worked in another department and decided not to date him, the attempts at sabotaging my work/getting me in trouble with management increased.
  • When I stood up for myself, the attempts to sabotage me got worse.
  • When I reported the woman who physically assaulted me to the police, the other women began to assault me in smaller ways-"accidentally" spilling things on me or bumping me with trays and carts whenever there was no one looking.
  • On one particular occasion when I was overheard discussing an academic issue with a customer, who then filled out an extremely positive comment card about me, the woman who heard the conversation filed a false report with the General Manager about me.

Before I looked at many of these from a feminist perspective, they seemed utterly ridiculous. But in retrospect, it seems that they fall under the same basic category as many anti-woman attacks. Any time I displayed independent intelligence, skill above what I was "allowed" to have, any kind of body autonomy, or an expectation of respectful treatment, the attacks got worse. When I conformed to a more acceptable standard of femininity, and anytime I "laid still and took it," so to speak, I was treated almost like half a person.

What frustrates me is that I have encountered this treatment in a much more insidious way, and more frequently, from other women than I have from men. I'm still a little reluctant to jump on the "blame the patriarchy" bandwagon, but I don't see another way to explain this issue. Women have been trained to keep each other "in line." If a woman dares to show individuality, to be different from the herd and not ashamed of it, she is singled out for torment.

I'm facing some stuff at my new job that, while not nearly what I dealt with at the old one, appears to be the same kind of problem. I get teased about anything "different" about me-and believe me, there's a lot different about me. It's been pointedly said in front of me that women in their late thirties or older have "earned the right to be themselves, even be a little weird if they want to be." (The implication being that I haven't "earned the right" to be myself?) The other women feel that they have a right to touch me, specifically my hair. Some of them will go so far as to pull my hat off my head (when I wear one specifically as an effort to not have people play with my hair) and tousle my hair, calling me "such a cute little girl." I'm not even fucking kidding. I get spoken to like a child, and have actually been referred to as such by women who know damn well that I'm a divorced woman with a child who is working to pay my mortgage, same as they are. There are a couple of them who, while they don't actually try to sabotage my work, will try to make it appear to the supervisors as though I'm doing badly. They'll stand by my station and "fix" things that I'm doing just fine, often going so far as to "rearrange" things into the exact positions I had them in. Just as long as it looks like I'm screwing up and need help, they're happy. A few of them constantly ask questions about my personal life, and when I say I don't want to talk about it, I get called "snobby" and "antisocial." And when I do answer, usually with half-assed responses meant to end the conversation, there's inevitably some unnecessary commentary on it. For example, someone was asking about my parents. I answered with simply, "I don't talk to my parents." No explanation, because I didn't think it was their business. I got, "Oh, everyone goes through that rebellious stage. When you grow up, you'll get over that." (So, not talking to the people who beat you and allowed their friends to rape you is rebellious? Shit, I'd better fix that. I guess good girls don't take steps to keep themselves and their families safe, huh? Then, coming from people who, to a lesser extent, clearly think parts of my body are public property, I shouldn't be surprised.) Rebellion. That's their favorite theme. Any display of individuality or independent thought is outright called "rebellion," and any attempt to stand up for myself-pointing out that I'm an adult, even if I'm the youngest adult in the room, asking someone to not touch me-is met with derision and comments about how I'm "rude." Granted, a lot of these women are a bit older than I am, and some of them have a real fixation on the "respect your elders" paradigm. But I was raised to believe that once a woman (or anyone, for that matter) had taken on adult responsibilities, such as marriage, parenthood, or a full-time job, you treated them as an adult. And living in the modern world, I was under the impression that it's just expected that you treat your coworkers like equals, not kindergarten students.

Seeing this situation from my new perspective helps a little, but doesn't make it completely stop hurting. The worst thing is, I know how to stop it. There are other women about my age who work there and don't get the same shit every day. If I were to dye my hair back to a more natural-looking colour, start dressing "like a girl" (though why the hell I would want to wear the kind of uncomfortable-looking clothes I see lots of these women wearing to do dirty, physical work every day is beyond me), stop being so damn good at my job, giggle more and stop asking for respect, I'd be fine. And at least one of the other girls my age has said as much to me. "It's because you're different. If you fit in better, they'd leave you alone."

Or, there's the option that no one will mention. The environment would be better... if I had a penis. There's a man at work who is a lot like me-about the same age, quiet, keeps to himself, does really well at the job, and doesn't take shit from anyone. I would think he's "rude" too, wouldn't you?

Actually, he's a "self-starter" who "doesn't waste time talking when he doesn't need to," and people are "impressed with his independence."

*sticks head in the paper-feeder*

Please note, I'm not saying my current job is horrible, or that it's torturing me the same way the old one did. The incidences of being picked on are relatively minor, in the big picture, but the fact is that if each person in the group that's doing it does one rude or hurtful thing every day, it adds up. And I'm not prepared to sweep this under the rug, because the reality is that it's just not fucking right. It may be "no big deal," and I could very well be overreacting to one unpleasant feature of an otherwise awesome job. But to my eyes, it's sexist, ageist, and generally unfair, and I shouldn't have to "earn the right" to do what I please with my body and have my own personality.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Have you seen me?

I've been kind of nostalgic for "the old me" lately. Not for the eating disordered, drug-addled, promiscuous old me, but for the super confident, fun-loving, passionate me. Of course, they were the same person-being thin made me "confident," pot made me fun, and I was passionate about sex. But I've been wishing I could have the good parts without the bad. That's a hard thing to do. Stability and good health have made me feel kind of settled and boring.

I'm sure I could have all the good parts back if I tried. It's just that I've associated so many of my old personality traits and behaviors-even harmless ones-with all the bad stuff for so long that I've forgotten the healthy ways to express them. Besides that, I'm still getting used to actually having a good life. Most of my life was crap for a long time, exciting as it may have been. Sure, there were good times mixed in there. But overall I was really living in hell. So "exciting and fun" in my mind is pretty thoroughly entangled with "scary and dramatic." I'm still trying to figure out how to do "exciting and fun" in a safe and positive way.

I hate being so scared of new things. I used to be so fearless and adventurous because I really didn't have much to lose. It was easy to take risks because there wasn't too much that could go more wrong than it already was. Now that I'm in a better place personally, I don't want to take any major leaps because I know where the bottom is, I spent a lot of time there, and if I take a wrong step I could fall right back there. It's terrifying.

What's brought all this to the surface is that I've been talking lately with a few old friends who were part of the GOOD stuff in my life during the darkest days. I've missed them terribly. They stayed with me during most of my ups and downs- they dragged me out of the scariest holes I found, and they kept me tethered when I was about to fly right out of my mind for one reason or another. They knew how to make me smile. Granted, a couple of them in particular also knew how to make me cry, but at the time I was so much more appreciative of negative feelings. That's another thing I miss-the knowledge that if I was crying, at least it meant I was alive. Now crying scares the shit out of me, because it might mean that I'm "slipping."

These friends are in my soul. Certain sounds, smells and sights immediately bring them to mind. I was honestly scared that they may not like this new, somewhat more sane me, but it seems that they do. The problem is that I don't. I mean, I love not wanting to kill myself half the time. I love feeling safe in my home-hell, HAVING a home. I love feeling in control of my own decisions. But I don't love this feeling that if I put one toe outside the lines of the box I've put myself in, I'll collapse into the same hell that I ripped all my fingernails off trying to crawl out of. I don't love feeling so sterile and dry that I can barely remember what it felt like to just DANCE, inside and out.

I don't know what to do or how to fix this. I need to find a happy medium-I need to come back to myself without losing my sanity. I always swore that I'd never be afraid to live, and in the last few weeks I've realized that I am. It's a shitty feeling, and I'm kind of angry at myself now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So many things to say...

I honestly have so much sitting in my head lately. All the noise in there is making it hard to sleep again. :(

One sort of weird thing is this feeling I have that I'm on the verge of something. I get like this once in a while...I just start to feel kind of spiritually/emotionally pregnant. Depending on what time of year it is, I usually brush it off as cabin/spring fever. Of course, ignoring that internal command to do something usually results in me becoming horrendously dissatisfied with the state of my life and making huge and impulsive decisions. I felt like this before I moved back to Saskatoon, before I went back to school, before I got you can see, the decisions based on this itch are sometimes good, sometimes spectacularly bad. So I'm trying to figure out what it is I should be doing to fix this. Or if maybe this time just sitting back and letting something gestate would be the best choice. After all, I do seem to finally have a stable life and be in a better position to actually chill out and let nature take its course with whatever is poking me in the back of the brain. It's just so damn frustrating sometimes.

I can't even think straight for long enough to put anything else down coherently, so I'm just going to go drink some tea and try to sleep. Hugs and kisses, internet people.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bad Mom Day

Hey, moms...ever have those days when you just feel like you're not doing enough for your kids? I've felt like that for the last week or so. I couldn't tell you exactly what I could be doing better, or why I feel like I'm walking around with a big FAIL stamp on my forehead, but I just feel like I'm being a crappy mom.

Maybe some of it comes from the fact that the Boy is having all kinds of trouble at school, and has been put in both a special "social development" program (meetings a couple of times a week with other students and some staff to talk about behavioral stuff) and counseling sessions. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but if my kid is a "problem child" to that extent, there must be something. Have I not spent enough quality time with him? Have I somehow inadvertently taught him terrible behavior? Have I fed him the wrong stuff, or not enough, or too much, or something? I can't even begin to describe the terrible feeling that happened when I got a letter from his teacher last week telling me that I need to "make sure he has enough food in the future" because he was apparently "still hungry after lunch." I had sent him a sandwich, some carrot sticks, an apple, some yogurt, a cheesestring, a couple of cookies and a juice box-I thought that was a big enough lunch. But the school says it's not. You want to talk about "triggering?" Hoo, boy. I've been a wreck since then.

I know that no parent is perfect, and in some ways I've probably screwed up more than most. Of course, in some ways I've also done better than most, so I was kind of hoping it would balance out. But now I'm dealing with all this shit hitting the fan, and being told by the nice people at the school that since he's out of his "formative years," the problems he's having are serious and not just developmentally normal childhood brattiness.

Oh, good. Whatever is wrong with him, it's something I caused in his "formative years" which is now going to take years of therapy to fix, if it even can be fixed at all. Having gotten to the point where I've finally realized how messed up my mom was and how messed up I am because of what she did, I'm more terrified than ever of the same thing happening with my son. I mean, I had finally pretty much forgiven myself for not being perfect for the first six or so years-I was doing the best I could with what I had, and doing a hell of a lot better than most women in the same situation would have. I figured that even if our lives were a little wacky and unstable at times, he knew that I loved him, he was always fed and clothed, and I did my damndest to shelter him from the shit that was constantly going on in my life. All the rest can be dealt with, right? Well, maybe not. According to the form his teacher filled out, even the fact that his dad and I aren't together is a "family problem" that needs to be addressed by the counselor. His dad and I broke up when he was an infant. He has never lived with the two of us together-this is normal for him. If that's a "problem," what would they say if they found out that we've been homeless? That I'm so heavily medicated? What's going to happen when he gets older and remembers that my ex beat the crap out of me and I was too scared to leave for months? How much is he going to hate me? How much have I damaged him?

I just don't know how to fix this.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Episode IV

I guess the point of all my ramblings here is that I haven't always been the healthiest person, or had the best habits. And with things like disordered eating, it's hard to tell sometimes where "personal quirks" end and the really bad stuff starts-even I'm not sure how many of my bad habits (excluding the obviously bad stuff like purging) were disordered and how many were just weird. I just needed to get that stuff off my chest and admit that I've been full of crap most of my life.

But here's where the title of this blog comes in, for those of you who caught it. I honestly am trying to adjust my way of thinking about food. What I eat isn't a moral issue, and I have no special virtue if I eat or don't eat certain things. I don't have to be "good enough" with my eating habits, or prove anything to anyone by controlling what I put in my mouth. I've always loved good food (and by good I mean tasty) and thought of myself as a bit of a "foodie," but for a long time I felt like I had to apologize for that. I'm trying to change that.

On a much more cheerful note, I have a new favourite song. Check it out, because evil genii need love too.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Full Disclosure, Part 3

I guess I'll make it a trilogy. And then I'll go back and digitally add Jabba the Hutt to the first entry. Because I'm evil like that.

Dealing with the whole pregnancy and breastfeeding thing forced me to take a good look at a lot of my eating habits. I became much more aware of excessive thinness as a problem rather than something that was just fine. Unfortunately, this led to me hitting the opposite end of the spectrum at times. I'd cycle through a month or two of restrictive eating, followed by a panicked month of overeating because I was afraid of becoming too thin. Then I'd be okay for the better part of a year before the cycle randomly started again. I didn't really see this as a problem at the time. It's only looking back now and actually putting it in writing that makes me think "hmm, I was messed up."

Then, about a month before my 21st birthday, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I spent a lot of time wondering "why me?" I wasn't overweight-I had been a fairly "normal" weight by medical standards before my pancreas quit, and then lost even more weight when that happened. I had an active, healthy lifestyle, and I couldn't understand why this would happen. Of course, looking back now I would suspect that my lifetime of messed-up eating and the like probably contributed to my "latent adult-onset pancreatic failure," as the doctors called it when I pressed them for details. I'll never know for sure what really triggered it. Was my pancreas just a ticking time bomb my whole life? Did going on Depo-Provera a few months prior to my diagnosis have anything to do with it? Would I be okay now if I had eaten normally as a child? In any case, this gives me a whole new set of challenges.

For a while after my diagnosis, I was as okay as can be expected. I did well with the eating thing, at least. For a few years, I ate more normally and healthfully than I had most of my life. Then, not too long ago, I became a complete mess again. I had been through hell with an abusive relationship before getting my shit together and ending up with Chris. Work had fallen completely apart. My whole life seemed out of control, and I was gaining weight like mad. So what did I do? Jeopardized my health and my relationship by setting all kinds of absurd food restrictions, using my diabetes as an excuse. Sure, I need to eat healthfully, and I shouldn't put a whole lot of crap in my body. But does that mean I should refuse to allow white bread or pasta in my house? That I should put my partner down when he doesn't follow the same stringent rules I do? Honestly, obsessing about food was taking up ridiculous amounts of my time a few months ago. And I was eating about 1100 calories a day because nothing was "good enough" to put in my body. Lots of fresh fruit and veggies, paired with whole grains and lean meats-that's great. But when I couldn't get my hands on "good" food, I just wouldn't eat at all. And if I had a "hypo" and had to have some quick sugar? That would be quickly chased with a Lorazepam to stop the panic attacks that were caused by eating something "bad." And really, there's only so much fiber-rich, tasteless junk you can cram into your belly. That's why it makes such a good weight loss diet-you eat a lot less. 1100 calories. I figured it out a few times, and that ended up being pretty much my daily average. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but typically I was eating about 1100 calories a day. That kind of restriction, and panic attacks from eating life-saving glucose? That's a very slippery slope. Thank Deity I had that nervous breakdown-it forced me to take a good look at my life, and to not allow those habits to continue for more than a couple of months. The other day I asked Chris why he hadn't said anything when I got obsessive and scary like that. He said that he had believed me when I said it was "a diabetes thing." He wanted me to be healthy, and I had convinced him that starving myself was what that would take.

I'm sorry I've lied to everyone my whole life. I feel like a terrible person.

Full Disclosure, Part 2

So, I've poured myself a cocktail and decided to get this all out. Yay, it's the second part in my series about eating disorders! If that isn't just a pile of fun, I don't know what is.

I'm not sure whether it's funny or sad that I developed my very own set of disordered eating habits after I had "recovered" from what basically amounted to forced anorexia. Part of me now wishes I had paid more attention in therapy instead of smiling and nodding and wondering when I would get to eat again. Maybe I would have learned some coping skills or something that could have saved me from what happened to me later in life. Then again, maybe not. Who knows?

The last couple years of elementary school were interesting in their own right, but nothing stands out as far as food, fat and all that fun stuff goes. I learned to smile and nod and ignore Karen when she started going on about how fat she was, how fat David was, and how fat I was going to get if I didn't watch myself. I ate pretty much like a normal kid, I think.

Then...high school. Take an outspoken, nerdy, highly-intelligent thirteen year old with a messed up family history and no social skills to speak of, and throw them into grade nine. Yeah, there's a recipe for something good.

Long story short, within a week I started "secretly" (meaning everyone knew but if Karen had found out she would have literally hospitalized me) dating an equally nerdy and messed-up grade 12 student. (Who some of you now know. I'll leave you to guess at who, lol.) We had a torrid two-week romance which ended with him threatening suicide when I dumped him at the welcome dance. There's a good low-key start to a high school career. It may seem like a small thing, but when your home life consists of daily beatings and "time outs" in the linen closet, a bizzaro high school drama like that is a big deal. I started looking for things in my life I could control, and the first thing I found was-you guessed it-food. Before too long I was splitting my breaks between groups of friends to make it easier for myself to pull the classic "I ate with the other guys already" line. I usually had breakfast, and something small for dinner, so I didn't feel like skipping lunch was a problem. It's not really a disorder if you're eating two meals a day, right? But now I think that was setting the stage for bigger problems down the line.

Grade 10 was my "athletic" year. I played football, at least until I was taken out for the season by this TOTAL dickweed...but that's another story. Anyway, I ate really well during the football season, and for once I was really healthy. But once football wasn't an option I cut down on my meals (you don't need that many calories if you're not burning them) and took up biking and running-anything to keep me burning calories. I regularly walked to and from school, which doesn't seem like a big deal until you consider that I was attending Bedford and living on the corner of 20th St. and Avenue T (for you non-Saskatoon folks, that's a long damn walk) and usually only ate supper. (By this time I was just having coffee for breakfast, and kept up the lunch routines of the previous year.)

To compound matters, grade 10 was the year I suddenly became aware of my sexuality. Where previously I had enjoyed kissing boys and got vague tingly feelings in my girly bits sometimes, I was suddenly caught in a flood of hormones and desire, as well as all sorts of confusing feelings about girls. (I'd like to have a nice long chat with anyone who thinks that sexual orientation is a choice.) I mentioned in my last post that Karen didn't like girls...well, that's because she figures that young women are all filthy whores looking for something, anything, to stick in their cunts. (Apparently she was quite the little tramp as a teenager and decided that all girls are naturally like that.) So when I tried to talk to her about all this confusing teenager stuff, all I got was a lot of "you'd better fucking not come home knocked up, you little skank," and "what are you, some kind of fucking dyke?" (Both of those sentences now amuse me to no end, but at the time it just scared me more.) So, in the throes of my first "serious" relationship (five whole months with someone way more popular than I was) and the subsequent painful breakup (he did it over the phone), the only thing I could really understand and control was my food intake. I had started to worry about myself by the time I got serious with my boyfriend. I didn't want to become truly anorexic. So I started eating more, but I was rigorous with my portioning, as well as with what I allowed myself to eat. Some of my girlfriends admired my discipline and healthy eating habits, and I was more or less following the food guide, so I figured it was okay. What I want to tell young women everywhere is that obsessing about only eating "healthy" food is not okay. It's called orthorexia, and while it's sometimes hard to draw the line between healthy eating and unhealthy obsession, it's pretty safe to say that if you spend more than an hour or two a day thinking about and planning your meals because you want to be sure you're putting the "right" things in your body, then you should look at your priorities.

In true mood-swingy, teen girl fashion, once the tears stopped flowing over the breakup, I dropped the obsessive eating habits and started trying to be "normal." But when you have no frame of reference as to what constitutes proper behavior, normal is a dangerous word. I filled the void in my life with alcohol and pot, and intentionally lost my virginity to a guy I hadn't even been on one real date with just because I knew my ex didn't like him. How's that for wholesome-my first time was a spite fuck. Then within a couple of weeks after that, I started dating a guy who would end up raping me. Not too long after that, I started dating the guy who ended up fathering my child. As you can see, "stability" wasn't really key for me at this point.

Once I got pregnant, I essentially moved out of Karen's house. I mean, all my stuff was still there and my mail still went there, but I bounced around between friends' places a lot for the whole pregnancy. I just couldn't deal with being around her. When I did stay at home, I had either Ray (Ronin's dad) or a friend stay with me.

Because I had actually been pregnant before Ronin and miscarried just into my second trimester, resulting in wacky periods and all sorts of other fun, I didn't actually know I was pregnant until the first trimester was almost up. When I found out and told Karen, the first thing she said was "I had noticed you getting kind of fat." For some reason, that really hurt me. And I'm sure you can guess what kind of behavior that triggered.

I didn't starve myself. I ate something every day, and I took my vitamins. But for most of the second trimester of my pregnancy, I claimed to be too nauseated to eat much at a time. I was scared to gain weight. Thankfully, after a few months of this I smartened up and started eating for two...okay, really for about seven. After the sixth month of my pregnancy, I suddenly ballooned all at once.

The thing is, Ronin was so small when he was born. Granted, he was premature. And I was in an accident a few weeks before his birth that affected the last bit of his growth. So some of that couldn't be helped. But I've spent the past eight years wondering how much bigger he would have been if I had eaten better during my pregnancy. He was born weighing three and a half pounds. If I had eaten, would that have been four? Five? Would his lungs have been just that little bit stronger? Could he have avoided at least some of that time in the hospital? Would he have been able to fight off the infection (RSV) that led to him being re-hospitalized at 3 months of age? And since it's those weak preemie lungs and early infections that make him so prone to pneumonia now, what have I really done to my child? Once he was born, I did everything I could from the first moment to help him grow. But what did I do before that?

Full Disclosure, Part 1

All that stuff about how my thinness was something I could never control? I might have been lying a little. Don't get me wrong-I have always leaned naturally toward thinness, more so than many women I know, and I don't think I'd ever have gotten "fat" per se before I had Ronin. I've never intentionally starved myself long-term, or regularly purged, but that doesn't mean that my habits have been healthy. In fact, I'm starting to suspect that I did hold off a bit longer than I naturally should have in putting on this most recent and endlessly thought-provoking fifty pounds. And I think that I need to get some of this off my chest, because I won't fully heal from it until I do.

My recent explorations of "intuitive eating" have been way more difficult than I let on. Through most of my life, I have actually struggled with disordered eating. Not an eating disorder-I was never "consistent" enough to be diagnosable. But my relationship with food has never been healthy.

When my mother, a woman who prided herself on her 23 inch waist in early adulthood, got "fat" (translation: roughly a size 8) after I was born, it was a huge problem for her. I know this partly because of what I've been told by friends and relatives, and partly because anytime her clothes didn't fit when I was a child, she would beat me. After all, me being her first child, it was naturally my fault she was "fat." If she had just done the sensible thing and aborted me, she would still be thin. (Never mind that she went on to have six more kids after me. At that point it didn't matter anymore, I suppose-I did all the damage, no point in stopping now!)

After me was David. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and had to be revived at birth. He was also born with several disorders that have affected his hearing, made him blind, and caused his growth to be out of control for most of his life. As a child he had to have steroid injections as part of his treatment, and his sight and mobility issues have always interfered with his physical activity. Add to that the fact that he's always been just a big kid (he's two years younger than I am, and to look at photos of us from around his first birthday you'd actually think I was the younger sibling) and you have a recipe for a very fat boy. You can't imagine the kind of abuse that was heaped on him. Being such a protector by nature, I tried to take care of him. And usually, I was the first target for mommy dearest anyway, being the firstborn and a girl. (She didn't like girls.) But sometimes kicking me around just wasn't a good enough substitute for beating up the little bastard that brought all this FAT into her house.

Through most of my childhood, mom was constantly "on a diet." Looking back, she was really just cycling through anorexic and bulimic behaviors. After a week of eating almost nothing, she'd down an extra large pizza and lock herself in the bathroom for hours. My stepfather, while seemingly more normal, didn't honestly help matters. He loved healthy food and exercise, and he taught me so much. I learned from him how to read food labels and ration my calories, how many grams of fiber I needed to help me "fill up" so I wouldn't eat as much, and why drinking LOTS of water is good for you-it helps that icky "hungry" feeling go away. And if you want more flavour, just squeeze a bit of lemon into it. All this by the time I was eight.

I don't remember exactly when mom started starving us. It was pretty gradual. First she stopped insisting that we clean our plates. Then she stopped cooking enough for second helpings. Then she started measuring and rationing, making sure that we each had only a certain amount. By that time, I was nine years old or so and already hitting puberty. I needed a training bra and I was getting little pockets of fat on my thighs and butt.

Sometime after I got my first period (which happened the same month I turned 10) mom decided that she couldn't stand to look at David's fat ass anymore. To make matters worse, I was getting fat too! Goddamn it, how dare I develop secondary sex characteristics? No self-control, I tell you. So both of us were put on a diet. We split packets of instant oatmeal for breakfast, lunches were limited to one tuna sandwich and an apple, and dinner, while usually slightly tastier, was strictly portioned out. We drank skim milk in very limited amounts and even took a "supplement" that was supposed to speed up fat loss. To this day I don't know what we were taking. But given that I'm talking about the mid-90s, before phen-fen was banned, I count myself and my brother fucking lucky to be alive. As far as exercise goes, I got off lucky. Running stairs was mom's regime of choice. Since I wasn't quite so fat, I only had to go up and down the twenty-ish stairs in our gorgeous character home about ten times a day. David, however, ran until he literally dropped in his tracks, till he couldn't even catch his breath to sob, till he was coughing up blood and begging for water.

Sometime during that year, the school health nurse noticed that I wasn't exactly healthy. I had constant headaches, I wore sweaters even while sitting right next to the heater, I couldn't concentrate on anything, and I was having unbelievable dizzy spells. From what I've seen in pictures, I looked like crap, too. Skin that had gone from naturally pale to white to almost gray, dark circles under sunken eyes (though those were hidden by the prescription sunglasses I wore inside and out to counteract my headaches and photosensitivity) and not nearly enough flesh on my expanding skeleton. (I had also missed a few periods, but whether that was because I had just started them and was still irregular or due to starvation-induced amenorrhea I never did figure out.) The fantastic nurse (her name was Jill Scott, and I'd love to find her and thank her for setting in motion the events that got me re-fed) asked me if I was alright. I said that I was unhappy with the diet David and I were on. I honestly didn't think anything of it-I certainly didn't mean to imply that I was being abused at home. (I was a very intelligent child, as my AcTal teachers would have confirmed. But not so much with the common sense.) I'm not sure whether I was the victim of something like Stockholm Syndrome, or if I just believed firmly in my mother's insistence that I was worthless and didn't deserve good treatment, but I loved her intensely and would have killed to keep our family together. Hell, by that time I'd already lied to the police about bruises once or twice. So I innocently mentioned the conversation to Mom when I got home.

I have seen a lot of emotional explosions in my time, but few have inspired the same kind of fear that I felt that day in the kitchen. Karen (because calling her Mom really feels unnatural) turned from the meat she was cutting and held the point of the knife at my throat. She screamed-I don't even remember exactly what she said. I'm not ashamed to say that, at nearly eleven years old, I pissed myself. (What feels slightly more shameful is the fact that I sat in those wet pants for the rest of the day, because Karen wouldn't let me change.) All I remember about the rest of that night is a flurry of phone calls, a lot of whispering, and a suddenly very different Karen at the end of it all. When she finally allowed me to get out of my dirty clothes, she ran me a bubble bath and made me a special snack. (Cinnamon toast made with raisin bread, and a cup of hot chocolate. I'll never forget that, because those were some of my favourite "bad" foods and I couldn't figure out why she was letting me have them.) Once I was in my pyjamas and fed, she hugged me and said "we're going to get through this."

The next day, I didn't go to school. Instead I went to a special "emergency" appointment with our family therapist. (After the previous abuse allegations, Karen was ordered into therapy. In addition to her solo sessions, there were a certain number of family sessions we had to go to. By this time, however, those were supposed to be over.) Having not seen this guy for months, it seemed strange to me that it should suddenly be so urgent for me to have a solo appointment with him. But even with my common sense deficit, it all clicked when he asked, "Rebecca, why don't you want to eat?"

"I do want to. I love food," I replied, "and I just wish Mom would stop making me be on a diet."

"She said you might say something like that. Rebecca, what we want to help you understand is that your mom wants you to eat healthfully. She's trying to help you make good choices. Your refusing to eat and then blaming it on her is getting you nowhere. What we need is to get to the root of your eating disorder."

Holy Munchausen by Proxy, Batman. I couldn't put that label on it at the time, of course. But it seemed that, once someone became suspicious of my condition, Karen made some phone calls to tell everyone how "desperate" she was to "get me some help." Needless to say, her quick thinking ensured that by the time social services got the report of a young girl looking malnourished and complaining about her mother, there was already a report from a family counselling service describing the same girl as "showing signs of anorexic tendencies." The woman is evil, but not stupid. Of course, part of the blame falls on the counsellor for taking her at face value rather than actually working with me for any length of time, but still...this shit will fuck up a ten year old.

From there, it was medical evaluations and constant therapy for two years. My "quick recovery" (when they put food in front of me, I was fully willing to eat it) was attributed to my "condition" having been a "cry for attention" in the face of "the stress of being the eldest in a large family and feeling lost as attention fell on the younger children." That's right, kids-anorexia is just attention whoring! The internet trolls are right! *headdesk*

Of course, I still went through the physical pain of re-feeding, though not nearly the way "real" anorexics do. But I did learn that suddenly having a normal food intake after months of starvation is a whole new level of suffering. I desperately wanted to eat, and the vomiting, bloating and pain were still almost enough to make me give up on myself and food forever. I can't imagine what that process would be like for someone who was legitimately anorexic. But I came out of the process "fully recovered," if somewhat underweight and prone to illness. I still wonder what effect that period of my life had on my later developing diabetes and the other health problems that plague me.

Check back for the next installment, in which I discuss disordered eating in pregnancy, or "why I was a terrible mother before I even started."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

If you don't insist on absolute moral victory, the terrorists win!

So, all that stuff I said about not taking shit from anyone and never backing down? I'm about to (possibly) make myself a filthy liar.

On the subject of backing down, walking away, quitting and the like, where does one draw the line? See, I'm in this terribly uncomfortable situation (I can't give too many details, but trust me when I say it sucks) where I desperately want to Stay the Course! and Be the Bigger Person! while, naturally, Proving Them All Wrong! The problem is that it's going to be unfuckingbelievably stressful to do so. It would probably be smart to just walk away.

But if I back down, there are a couple of problems. First, I'd be walking away from an otherwise enjoyable situation/place because of these very unpleasant people. Second, if I leave, then the bullies win. Intellectually, I know it's silly to place so much value on a "moral victory" over people that I don't even like. But my tendency to stand my ground didn't come naturally-it's been an uphill battle most of my life. I spent my childhood and adolescence being trampled on constantly, so my adulthood has been spent overcompensating for that. If I walk away from a painful situation, I feel like I've failed, like I just couldn't hack it. I have to stick it out to prove to myself, more than anyone else, that I'm Strong Enough, Smart Enough, and generally Good Enough. Besides, like I said, I don't want the big stupid meanies to ruin an otherwise good situation for me.

I just don't know how long I can really keep Standing Firm! before I get worn down. Then after that point, how much shit do I take before I just call it a day?


Fun Facts!

And by "fun" I mean "ranty," and by "facts" I mean "crap that's on my mind right now."

I've been thinking a lot lately about "adult bullying." To me, that seems like an oxymoron. I would think that if one is an adult, i.e. "fully developed and mature," one would not engage in bullying, correct? Then I remember that physical adulthood has no necessary relationship to mental or emotional maturity. At that point, I usually find it necessary to bang my head against something until the stabby feeling goes away, but I digress....

According to, when we talk about a bully, this is what we mean:



noun, plural -lies, verb, -lied, -ly·ing, adjective, interjection

1.a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
2.Archaic. a man hired to do violence.
3.Obsolete. a pimp; procurer.
4.Obsolete. good friend; good fellow.
5.Obsolete. sweetheart; darling.

–verb (used with object) act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer.

–verb (used without object) be loudly arrogant and overbearing.

8.Informal. fine; excellent; very good.
9.dashing; jovial; high-spirited.

10.Informal. good! well done!

This particular definition leaves out the meat-and-cattle related meanings of the word. Clearly, "bully" can mean a lot of things. Let's narrow it down a bit.

1.a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

–verb (used with object) act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer.

–verb (used without object) be loudly arrogant and overbearing.

In 1, what I feel to be the key is the use of the word "habitually," as well as the phrase "smaller or weaker people." You can be mean to someone once, and it's not necessarily bullying-just being kind of an asshole that particular day. What makes it bullying is when it becomes "business as usual." The "smaller or weaker" part is what I feel needs some clarification. Some cases of bullying are clearly a stronger person picking on a weaker one. The classic television portrayal of a bully, like Nelson on The Simpsons, fits this category. Sometimes the "strength" is that found in numbers-several people can gang up on one, thereby intimidating the single person. Social status can also be a powerful source for the bully's "strength," as anyone who attended high school can tell you. In any case, bullying is not so much about actual strength or weakness as it is about making the victim believe that they are weak and the bully/ies is/are strong.

I'm pretty sure that most people have been the victim of bullying at least once in their lives. Whether it was twenty years ago on the playground, or yesterday at the office, someone has likely tried to impose their will upon you in a hurtful and terrifying way. That's a hard situation to face, regardless of your age. It's easier for some than for others, but it's a rare person who can face down a bully without even the slightest bit of apprehension.

At this point, the subject matter starts to tie into my recent fascination with the fat acceptance movement. On one site, I found some references to the experience of fat hatred (which is just bullying by a different name, in my opinion) both past and present, and how the discussion participants would love to be able to talk to both their younger selves and their bullies. Many of them posted what they would put in a letter to their younger selves. I think that's a fantastic idea. Whether your bullying experience is current or years in the past, what would have helped you (or is helping you) deal with it? Did you merely survive the bullying, or did you thrive in the face of it? If you were bullied for being "different," did you assimilate to try to make it stop, or did you continue to flaunt your uniqueness? What would you say to your past bullies? To a hypothetical bully now that you're older and (theoretically) wiser? Also, can you make a list of things about yourself that you love or just refuse to change, but for which you have been bullied or criticized? (In a rare display of love for feel-good lingo, I'm calling it an "empowerment list.")

I actually plan to post my responses to a lot of the questions I've asked here. First, my empowerment list. I'm going to write it in big pink letters, because that makes me happy.

I am not "girlie," I am womanly. I value my femininity, but I don't feel the need to behave a certain way to validate said femininity. I don't have a specific standard of beauty to which I believe the whole world must adhere. I don't giggle.

I will not participate in "fat talk" or general cattiness. Women are too cruel to one another, and I will not contribute to that. I would love to have more female friends, but many of my personal rules have thus far interfered with that. Unfortunately, many women just don't seem to "get" the things that I value or believe in.

I identify as bisexual, but am currently in a hetero relationship. That doesn't mean that I want to sleep with anything that moves, or that I make out with girls when I'm drunk to impress boys. It does mean that I love and desire whoever I happen to love and desire, and I don't worry so much about what gender they are.

I may be in a committed relationship now, but I haven't always been. Before this relationship, I sometimes liked to have sex with someone without feeling the need to immediately start calling them my boyfriend/girlfriend. I am a sexual being, and my sexuality does not conform to many people's standards of acceptability. This is not to say that I inappropriately boasted about my sex life at any time. However, information has a way of getting out sometimes. When it did, I didn't bother to lie or rush to "legitimize" my experiences. To some people, that makes me a "slut." To me, it just means that I value honesty and integrity.

I am loud. I do not have a small voice or a small personality. I can modulate my volume when it is situationally appropriate. However, I will not stop laughing heartily or turn my everyday speaking voice into a whisper just because "nice girls should be more quiet."

I care what people think of me. That doesn't mean that I will change myself to please someone else, simply that it hurts when someone has a very negative opinion of me. It is human nature to desire acceptance and affection. I happen to feel that part of human nature very strongly. This is why bullying has always affected me so deeply.

I do my best to not take shit from anyone. This is probably why, when I've been bullied, it typically gets worse before it gets better. Someone pushes me around, I push back (or at the very least stand firm and refuse to let them push me over), they push harder, rinse and repeat. Most of the people who have tried to push me around in my adult life have either given up or found themselves on the receiving end of legal action. I have been the one to back down once or twice, but I usually try to tough it out.

I am highly emotional. Of course, this has its drawbacks at times-my emotions can sometimes interfere with my logic, I've been known to overreact to some situations, et cetera. However, by and large I think my capacity to feel contributes hugely to my fantastic personality.

I think I'm beautiful just the way I am. Sure, I've had some conflicts with my body. I think most women have. But when you get right down to it, I've always been blessed with an unusually high level of body confidence. I am 5' 3" and weigh close to 170 lbs. I'm about five pounds away from being medically classified as "obese." My c-section scar means that, unless I starve myself and/or work out obsessively, I will never have a flat stomach even if I were to lose weight. My breasts sag a little from having breastfed for nearly a year. I have insanely crooked teeth-one of them sits nearly sideways. My hands are calloused from a combination of hard work and playing string instruments most of my life. My fingernails are extremely short, and I usually don't polish them. When I wear makeup at all, it's because I think it's fun, not because I think I need to.

I eat what I'm hungry for, when I'm hungry. I use full-fat dressings because I think they taste better, and 1% milk because I don't like the way fattier milk feels going down my throat. I eat in public. I sometimes go to a restaurant alone and don't bring a book or a project to make myself look busy. I just enjoy my meal.

Above all, I am real. This is, I think, what scares people the most about me. I don't bullshit about anything, really. I don't lie to spare people's feelings, though I may try to be tactful in how I say things. I don't play "fake nicey-nice" with people I don't like, though I will make every effort to be civilized and interact with them in an adult manner when necessary. I may tone down certain aspects of my personality or refrain from talking about certain subjects when "polite society" or "appropriate behavior" requires, but I will never change who and what I am to please anyone but myself. If you don't like me, it might actually make me sad for a while, but in the end it's really not my problem. To pretend to be what I'm not would be to lie to myself, and I don't deserve to be lied to.

There are a thousand more things I could probably put here, but these are the ones that are most significant to me at this very moment. These are the things that have "invited" the most pain into my life recently, the things that have offended the sensibilities of the most people, and I think it's about time I took a real stand and claimed them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yay, me!

I'm trying NaNoWriMo for the first time. They say telling everyone you know that you're doing it helps keep you committed to it when it gets tough, so...I'm telling everyone. :D

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"But Rebecca, you can't be part of the FA movement. You are TEH EBIL THIN GIRL."

I love Fat Acceptance. I really do. Yes, I have railed against it in the past, but it turns out I was mistaken about the actual purpose of the movement. Recently, in my quest for more general self-acceptance, I have come to understand what it's REALLY about. (Also, I'm fat now.) If you're currently saying to yourself "that's why she's suddenly so pro-fattie. Easy to support something that works for your own agenda" or anything of the like, kindly FUCK OFF. I'm not that fickle. It just happens that in my search for information on general mental health issues, I came across legit FA information and chose to dig more deeply into it, since it now potentially applies to me. I was never "anti-fat," I just misunderstood certain agendas, as will become clear later. Alternatively, if you're thinking "serves her right, skinny bitch finally sees it from OUR SIDE," you can fuck off too. This has never been about "sides," as will also become clear later.

First, some background. Some of you may remember one or more of these points, but I'll review all of them.

Until recently, I was always naturally on the thin side. As a child I was even thinner than I should have been because my mother deprived me of food. When she was investigated by child services because the school nurse suspected that was happening, she lied to all the doctors and psychologists we were sent to and had them "extensively monitor" me because I "seemed to be developing an eating disorder." The woman is crazy, but not stupid-she knew that if she went in there all weepy, claiming that I wouldn't eat no matter what she tried, saying that I was being rebellious and blaming her and I wouldn't tell the truth to anyone, the blame would shift to me. Nice how her ass was so well covered. So my false anorexia diagnosis messed me up for a long damn time. I had trouble accepting my natural tendency toward thinness for a very, very long time.

Something that didn't help that difficulty in any way was when I had a serious "falling out" with more than one friend over the subject of weight. Now, it was never explicitly stated that weight and body image was the reason for these breakups, but it was. One case in particular was when I happened to be the thinnest girl in a certain social group. This was not planned. I don't buy into the "fat friend" system-the idea that if you're friends with girls who are bigger than you, you'll look better by comparison. I'm friends with who I like. The other girls in this group didn't believe that for a second. It seemed to be automatically assumed that I was only friends with them because it made me feel good about myself. As a result, most of our outings deteriorated quickly into skinny bashing. Shopping trips were hell because these girls would grab something off a rack, start talking about how "only anorexic bitches would look good in this," and then suggest that I try it on. Then they'd all laugh. Mealtime was worse. If I ate something low in sugar, low in fat, or otherwise "healthy" (which I do to take care of my diabetes, NOT to look a certain way) I was bombarded with cracks like "no wonder you look like that, you're just like all those other scrawny skanks that don't eat."

I'm sorry, are you suggesting that I jeopardize my health to pander to your insecurities?

I tried to point out to these girls that if I were to speak to them the way they spoke to me, but using "fat" in place of "skinny," it would be Not Okay. And by extension, it should be Not Okay for them to speak to me that way. So far, I've lost numerous friendships because other women can't see the logic in that.

And then there was "The Fat Blog." Remember, the one I had to make private on MySpaz because I was getting hate mail? (If you didn't see it, you're not missing much. I was venting on the subject of skinny bashing. I had recently been through some hell at the hands of "friends" like the ones discussed above, and the whole "skinny model" issue was all over the news, so it seemed like an opportunity to rant.) Okay, so I went a little far. The "heifer" comment in particular was probably uncalled for, though I did attempt to clarify it. My vitriol was aimed at the self-hating fat people whose thought process operates as follows:

"I'm fat and I hate myself. I don't actually want to try to lose weight, but I don't like being fat either. Accepting myself or changing my circumstances would both involve effort that I don't want to expend, and I've already alienated most of my social circle with my whining. Oh, look, a skinny person. YOU ARE TEH ENEMY AND MUST DIIIIIIIEEEEE WHARBLEGARBL."

The problem was that I thought these crazy women represented the Fat Acceptance movement. "Their kind" talks big, but the truth is that a huge part of FA is self-acceptance. If you haven't taken steps to accept your own fat and you're still angry at the world because you don't like yourself, you're not doing any good for FA. The message of FA is, at its core, about not judging people based on size. Got that? DON'T JUDGE PEOPLE BASED ON THEIR SIZE. Not "don't judge people who look like you," not "the only good shape is your shape," but ALL SHAPES AND SIZES ARE GOOD. Size, food, and other such "weighty issues" (lawlz) are not moral issues.

Turns out, the people at the heart of the FA movement are really about self-acceptance. They have accepted their fat selves, and they want others to do the same no matter what their size. I was so scared of the whole concept because my only exposure to people claiming to want fat acceptance was through fringe crazies who wanted fat people to be allowed to torment "average" people. All I had seen was women who wanted the rest of the world to accept that they were just naturally fat, but couldn't accept other women being naturally thin. Women who didn't really like themselves that much, but were looking for outside validation in the form of persecution of anyone who weighed less than they did.

What really helped drive it home for me was when I saw the things this fantastic woman had to say. She's used sentences like "thin people are not our enemy." She emphasizes that FA is not about superiority, it's about accepting oneself and refusing to be discriminated against. She also says "no one is too thin for FA."

So, I was wrong. Go ahead, link to this page in case you never get another chance to hear that from me. :P I do want to make it really clear that I was never "anti-fat" or "a fat-hater" (which are some of the more polite things I was called). I just want women to stop torturing each other over their weight- in either direction. Let's all do our own thing and be the sizes we want to be. Apparantly, my use of hyperbole, sarcasm and general bitchiness failed to get that point across, so I'm trying something completely out of character and using sincerity and feel-good lingo. Let's see if that helps.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jamie Lynn and dumpster babies...

I'm really disgusted with Western society right now. I mean, more so than I usually am. There are a lot of people screaming that Jamie Lynn Spears is glamorizing teen pregnancy. And maybe, to some degree, she is. But that's a side effect of her reality. This kid has lots of money. She has been working in TV and movies for several years now, and has amassed some serious cash. So yes, when she got knocked up there wasn't some big panic for her of "oh my god how am I going to pay for this baby?" She was able to just have the kid and carry on. Good for her. It's not as if she's saying that all sixteen year olds should rush out and get pregnant. And now there are people freaking out that in an interview with OK magazine, she says that being a mom is "the best feeling in the world." Apparantly she's supposed to hate her life, hate her baby, and be miserable for the rest of eternity. Apparantly by saying that she loves her daughter and is extremely happy to have her little family, she is singlehandedly bringing about the destruction of childhood in North America.


As a "teen mother" (god I fucking hate that phrase, more later) I can tell you that there is nothing glamorous about getting knocked up young. And the reality is that for us normal folks, having to provide for a child is HARD FUCKING WORK. Some girls are lucky enough to have immense support from their families-they continue to live at home rent-free, their parents babysit while they're in school/working/just continuing to be normal young women, they get huge amounts of financial support...and to those girls I say "stop whining you spoiled cunts, you get all the good parts of having a baby with none of the hardships." If anyone is "glamorizing teen pregnancy," it's these completely average young women whose parents continue to support them AND their children. They have no extraordinary circumstances (such as celebrity and wealth) yet they continue to have perfectly normal lives while procreating at extremely young ages.

Some of us don't get that help. I have survived innumerable hardships and done everything short of prostitution or theft to provide for myself and my son. Having him so young made my life harder than it really needed to be. But does that mean I should love him any less? Should I wallow in misery and self-hatred for the rest of my life? Should I start some sort of movement advocating mandatory abortions or adoptions for anyone who gets pregnant before they're 20? Should I tell young moms that their lives are over and they may as well just give up?

This is why I hate the phrase "teen parent." It carries such negative connotations. While I was in the hospital after Ronin's birth, recovering from an emergency c-section, I got a harsh introduction to the world of "teen parenthood." I woke up from a nap the day after the birth to be told by a nurse (possibly the only decent human being working on the maternity ward...mat nurses are by and large cuntsmears) that the hospital social worker had been down to NICU (Ronin was quite premature) to "check up" on my baby. This didn't sit well with me. As some of you may be aware, you just don't fuck with The Beckstar. So, in spite of my still oozing incision, residual fuzziness from the anaesthetics, and the fact that I hadn't walked on my own since the surgery, I figured I had to deal with this. I plopped my bloody, stoned self into a wheelchair and headed off to the social work office on another floor of the hospital. When I confronted this woman with questions about why she had been down to "check on my baby" without my permission or even knowledge, while I was having a nap and recovering from fucking SURGERY, she responded with, "It's policy. All children born to mothers under the age of 18 receive a routine welfare checkup." When I asked why parental consent for this "checkup" wasn't required, she told me that "when the parent is under 18, it doesn't really count."

Excuse me?

So, a HEALTHY baby is born to a HEALTHY mother, albeit prematurely due to TRAUMA RECEIVED IN AN ACCIDENT, not by any defect or fault of the mother, and because the mother is under 18 you can just waltz in and poke and prod the baby, looking for a way the mother may be unfit, and her consent "doesn't really count?" What the fuck country is this, lady? I'm sorry, I thought I was in Canada, with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms or some shit like that. I raised quite a fuss about this little incident and informed the self-righteous cunt sitting across the desk from me that either I received an apology in writing or the Human Rights Commission and every media outlet in the province received my story in writing. The end result? I got a letter from DSS apologizing for my "being upset by the behavior of their employee," and stating that they "regret her decision to perform the inspection without my knowledge, but it is department policy to conduct said inspection, and parental consent is not required where the welfare of the child may be at stake." Basically, they didn't need my consent for the same reason they don't need the parent's consent when allegations of abuse arise. If you are under 18 and give birth in Saskatchewan, you are automatically under investigation for child abuse. Now, this may have changed in the past eight years, but that's what the policy was "in my day."

Let's recap. Western society says that if you have a baby when you are a teenager, you WILL be a bad parent if left to your own devices, you probably already have abused your child somehow before they are born, and your life is effectively over. Therefore, you must do penance by hating both yourself and your child forever, and you are not allowed to enjoy the experience of parenthood. You must instead don sackcloth and ashes anytime you are seen in public with the child, go on welfare for the rest of your natural life and refuse to even attempt to better yourself, because you are a Teen Parent and the best you can hope for is meager survival.

People, this is why things like the "prom baby" happen. Granted, girls who do shit like that are probably a little fucked up to begin with, and it's utterly wrong. I'm not excusing their behavior. What I am saying is that when we bombard young women with these ideas that if they get pregnant they're completely fucked (ha ha) and then expect some sort of contrition in place of celebration from the ones who do have babies, we create a culture of fucking dumpster babies. I have pulled Ronin out of a daycare centre because the owner had the balls to make a distinction (while I was in the room) between "teen moms" and "real moms." I have said very unpleasant things to complete strangers who have made comments like "don't you think you should have at least had the decency to give that baby to someone who can take care of it properly?" I have gotten into a physical altercation with a girl who told me that I shouldn't be happy to be a mother at my age. You just don't fuck with The Beckstar. But not every young mom can be me. The reason these attitudes are allowed to continue is that many young moms don't feel they have the right to stand up for themselves as women and as mothers. And unfortunately, in many parts of our community, the stereotype of the undereducated young mom is true, so these girls don't know how to defend their family the same way I have. (With a few notable exceptions, I tend to believe that the pen is mightier than the sword. But when you mess with my family you'd best believe that I will fucking gut you with that pen and write a letter to my MLA in your blood.)

Let's educate these teen moms, you say? Open special daycare centres and programs for them?

Let me ask you something, my friend. ARE YOU FUCKING HIGH? Have you paid any attention to today's lesson at all? Better yet, have you ever set foot in one of those "special programs" for teen moms? Go ahead, try it. I fucking dare you to see how long you can take being spoken to as though you're a five year old sociopath before you just give up and flush all your kids down the WalMart toilet.

What we need is for people to pull their heads out of their asses and treat mothers like mothers, regardless of age. Discrimination against young parents is a form of human rights violation that is not only still legal, but in fact sponsored by our government. Yes, educate children about sex, pregnancy, birth control and everything that entails. I am a huge proponent of reality-based education, and telling young women that if they have a baby before they are truly ready it will be HARD AS FUCK. What I want is for girls who do get pregnant to be told that they can still accomplish anything they choose, they might just have to work a little harder for it. We need to get rid of these "daycares for children of teen parents" and "teen parent programs." In fact, I wholeheartedly applaud the Saskatchewan Party for abolishing that den of government-employed fuckstains that used to operate on Avenue M South. I have struggled in my life with depression and suicidal thoughts, but never so strongly as I did after my only visit to that building during my pregnancy. Looking back now, I kind of want revenge on the government health nurses and counsellors who psychologically fucking raped me that day, but at the time I walked home KNOWING that my life was effectively over and that I would truly be better off throwing myself in front of a passing truck than ruining my life and dooming my unborn child to the worst kind of hell on earth by having the audacity to have a child at that age.

We as a society need to start treating parents like parents, no matter their age. I am a better mother than many women twice my age. Good or bad parenting does not depend on one's birthdate. I am all for support programs for parents, but they must be all-inclusive. It is extremely psychologically damaging for a young pregnant woman to have to face a distinction between herself and a "real mother." We cannot segregate parental support based on age-it must be done based on need. And regardless of age, a woman who chooses to give birth to and raise a child MUST be allowed and encouraged to see the joy in her decision, and to love her child the way nature has dictated. If we tell young women they shouldn't be happy, love their children and enjoy being mothers, they very likely won't. And that leads to poor parenting and a repeating cycle of poverty, abuse and misery in a far more direct way than age ever can.

I celebrate my child. I have walked a hard road because of my decision to keep him, and I celebrate that too. It has made me who I am today, and this child has brought me more joy and more learning opportunities than anything else in my life. Anyone who says that young mothers shouldn't celebrate their children the same way older mothers do should be sterilized on the spot, because they obviously have some deep seated hatred of children if they advocate parental apathy like that. And if this celebrity controversy can raise public awareness of this travesty, I'll be thrilled. Unfortunately, what it seems to be doing is giving these hateful, discriminatory fear-mongers a platform for their filth. And that makes me a sad panda.