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.