Thursday, July 03, 2014


In my adult life I've only had health insurance for three years. I usually worked in small restaurants. Places that could barely keep up with my pay check and the owners didn't have insurance either. I had really great insurance for two of the three years I worked at EA and COBRA for a year after I was laid off.
Oregon has always had a health plan for low income people but it was hard to get into until the Medicaid expansion. Thank you President Obama. And yes I know single payer would be better.
There is also a  really great low income clinic in town so I went for my first insured check up a month or so ago. I am always nervous meeting new doctors. I loved my doctor in SF. And now, I love my doctor in Hood River. She is wonderful!
For the last few years I've been on a low dose blood pressure medication but I'd run out in January. It turns out my blood pressure is "great." She didn't want to put me back on pills. Works for me. I think there are a few reasons for this but I'm blaming Benedict. Pets lower blood pressure and fish are the best at it. My cholesterol numbers have always been good. My blood sugar hovers beneath the defined threshold for diabetes but doesn't change from year to year. That's been true for as long as I remember. So the numbers are good.
She referred me to an orthopedist to see if I could get knee surgery. They did x-rays. I have no cartilage in my right knee and I have a few bone spurs. My left knee is in better shape but not much better. I am the perfect candidate for knee replacement. Cool. Oh but they can't do it in Hood River because it's a small town hospital and not equipped. Huh? Not equipped for what? Because I'm fat I might have un-diagnosed heart disease and if my heart went crazy during surgery there would be no heart doctor available.
Hmmm. Let's review. My blood pressure has gone down. My cholesterol has always been good. My sugar numbers are not too bad for someone with a genetic predisposition for diabetes. I may well have un-diagnosed heart disease. I have a drug history. I have a tobacco history. It's been decades since I did either but still. There is heart disease in my paternal blood line. But...apparently those aren't the concerns. It's about my weight. If I lost a certain amount of weight I could get the surgery. She said a number. I didn't retain it. She is doing some research into hospitals in Portland that are "equipped" but she suspects either they or the insurance will require me to lose weight and possibly do lap band surgery first.
Lap. Band. Surgery.
That's not going to happen.
She gave me a cortisone shot. I can get three a year. I'm not pain free but it did make a difference. I spent my first day of less pain cleaning my bathroom without having to stop and rest my knee every two minutes. It was great! I'm not sure how long it will last. Let's say a month. Three shots a year. Three months a year of less pain.
So, I don't know what's going to happen with the possible Portland thing. Transportation is always an issue. Even the day of my appointment there were transportation problems and that's just in town.
It took me two days of brooding to be able to talk out loud about it. I'm hurt. I'm angry.
Unrelated to this experience I've thought about if I even could loose weight. I can say with absolute confidence that I have a very healthy diet. There are things I could eliminate but not much. My ageing slowed down digestion doesn't allow for much. I am getting to the pool now and will be getting there as often as possible. At the first check up I discovered that I had lost some weight in the last year. Not sure why but what ever.  
Here's the thing. I have a condition. I have pain and disability. Both can be mediated by technology. And I'm being told I can't have that technology because I'm fat. Everyone who has surgery is at risk for bad things to happen. I'm fairly sure everyone signs off on the possible risks before they lay down on a table and let a doctor cut them open. I imagine there may be people with a higher heart disease risk that get the surgery.
I feel like I need to make someone understand. Just listen to me. But I know there are people who get it and people who never will.
And now I'm going to go clean my kitchen while the pain is at bay.            

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Between Them Both

I was at the end of a New Yorker. Back where they have the TV reviews, which I usually skim, or skip. But the review was for a show called: My Mad Fat Diary. It began with a mention of the Louie episode about which I wrote a few weeks ago. Apparently it got a lot of praise for "breaking a TV taboo", which the writer correctly calls false and lists shows that have had fat themes only some of which I've seen and a few of which I hated. The Louie episode was slagged in fat blogger land. After some preamble the reviewer focused on My Mad Fat Diary and peaked my interest enough to go to YouTube and watch it.
I had trouble finding the first season and figured it wouldn't matter if I just jumped in on the second. I was wrong. I later figured out that the first season was available with Spanish subtitles. But starting with the second season meant that I began with Rae's (the fat girl) relationship with Finn (the cute boy) in full swing. I had several confusing reactions. I wasn't comfortable with how easily the relationship seemed to form. Finn didn't seem to have any issues at all about her size. And. They didn't look right to me.
After I watched the first season I felt better about the development of the relationship and I loved so much about the show. It's visually fun. The music is great. It's full of bone ringing realness. I am still filled with reactions and could easily watch the whole thing again.
While Rae is trying to accept that Finn could possibly like her she is haunted by a poster of a woman in a bra that reads: Hello boys. That poster returns later as the impact of it on her best friend (the cute girl) is reveled. Rae daydreams about setting the billboard on fire. It brought back a time when I had feelings for a man with whom I had no chance. And really. I probably didn't want one. But I was so attracted to everything about him, including his remoteness.
At that time there was a commercial in which women in bras and underwear and wings (wings) (eye roll) were looking into the eyes of the viewer with the "you want this don't you" look and I felt crushed. I felt slain. I felt assaulted. It was about being fat and old and just not airbrushed beautiful with wings. (wings) (jeez) I have the wisdom to call bullshit on it but I am and will always be a thirteen year old girl waking up to desire that felt hopeless.
Those women in those pictures are part of a machine of meanness. It's a machine that rolls over men who don't believe they can have that and women who believe they can't be that and the women who think that's all they have to offer. It distorts the real nature of attraction and longing and connection.
For me, and for Rae, this feeling of not being want-able is also rooted in an absent father. And in the show, when she meets him, he gives her a record player and she forgives his years of distance. Annnnnd. That's exactly what my father did. A record player and Beatles album. So easy.
I could go on and on about the show but it was that "they don't look right together" reaction that startled me. What did I mean? Later in the show when she meets a beefier (also very cute) boy I felt better.
My maternal grandfather was a very tall, very thin man. My maternal grandmother was a shorter fat woman. Remember the nursery rhyme?
Jack Sprat would eat no fat
His wife would eat no lean
So between them both
They licked the platter clean
I remember thinking it was about my grandparents. My Pop-pop's name was Jack, after all. I always thought they were perfect together. Except for all the fighting.
The constantly entwined narratives of food, appetite and the sexuality of fat people is frustrating to me but I didn't even get what the nursery rhyme was saying. We all ate the same dinner. My grandmother would have not allowed any food shaming at her table. What I got was a sense of fun and perfection. A sense that people are made for each other in funny ways.
The review ends by focusing on ideas about physical appetite, specifically food. There is a narrative about eating in the show. I'm always a bit confused by eating disorder ideas. I get some of it but not all of it.
The show centers around Rae but develops the lives of all the people around her in strong and perceptive ways.
No one thing about us is the reason for how we feel in the world. Fat. Thin. Fatherless. Smart. Funny. For some reason the music from The Breakfast Club is playing in my head. Which may mean I've lost my own thread. Or it may mean that I've never recovered from being a teenager.                                                
By the end of two seasons I had been moved in my sense that Rae and Finn didn't look right together. It was because of the fantastic character development and personal development arc. It didn't seem like a miracle of love and light that the cute boy liked the fat girl. Size had stopped being central.
While watching all this YouTube I discovered this amazing woman.

I've thought a lot about my initial reaction. I think there was more than one thing going on. Some of own personal developmental arc, some cultural chatter, some desire for the more beefy guy to be the ... one. What? 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Year One

A year ago I walked into the nest. I was exhausted from the move. Dazed. Struggling to believe that after failing at everything I've ever done and never making much money I was going to live in such a perfect place.
It's only been recently that I have had feelings of at home-ness. Familiarity. Familiarity is not the same as taking things for granted. I still find myself staring at the ceiling, or the paint, or the floors and smiling. I still feel almost joyous when I toss in a load of laundry. Grateful isn't even a big enough word.
Leaving San Francisco was excruciating. Knowing how much better this would be didn't help. Experiencing how much better it is doesn't make it better. But I do know that San Francisco has changed. Changed in ways that felt bad. I try to hammer on that fact when I feel sad about not being there. Because I do wish I was still there.
I like Hood River. A lot. It's beautiful. Autumn was red and orange and yellow. The snow was beautiful. The spring was an explosion of blossoms. And, so far, summer is warm and interesting. Interesting because the town fills up with people who want the wind and the water.
There's lots of locally produced food and great markets. There is art and culture although I haven't been able to participate yet.I found a place to swim. It's a challenge getting there but I am making it more often. I found a doctor who I love. I have a friend who I've known for more than half my life and very cool neighbors.
I grew up in my grandparents house. That's how we said it. We didn't say "our house". It was good for them to have us there as they got older. It was good for Mom to have them for child care while she worked. But there was this sense of obligation and things being temporary. And when Mom and I moved out things fell apart in many ways. It kind of hard wired a feeling of alienation and loss connected to the idea of home.
I had settled into my life in SF and even though it wasn't really working any more because of my increased disability leaving rattled all that wiring and it's been hard to relax. It still is. But I see it all for what it is and try to just notice and not get bogged down. I'm not always successful.
We all want the people we love to be happy. I think it's hard for the people who love me to accept that I still get wiped out by sadness and anger and frustration. But I do. It doesn't mean that I'm not aware that I landed in an almost miraculous circumstance. Terrible things might happen but the probability is that I will not be homeless. I have this place. I have my wall of windows and my view of Oak Street. I have books. I have food and health care and a place to swim. I have my plants and my fish. It's very good. But even as I type that I fill with tension. I feel like if I relax too much it will all fall apart. It's just old wiring.
There are things I'd like to do to the nest. Back splash in the kitchen. Better flooring in the bedroom and library. But if I never do any of those things are really comfortable and good.
A year.
It really just blows my mind.    

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ordinary Dancers

When I was eight, or nine, or maybe ten, Mom gave me a Hawaiian themed birthday party. I'm not sure why. Ken painstakingly hollowed out pineapples from which we drank sherbet punch. We all wore plastic leis. I think I had a straw hat. I vaguely remember being disappointed that coconut didn't taste like the inside of a Mounds bar. And we danced the hula. Or we danced our understanding of the hula. Mom said something to me, which I can only paraphrase. She said I didn't move like a fat person. She would never have said it in those words. I remember not being sure if she was saying something good, or bad. It was not the only time I was given that particular ... um ... compliment.
Daniel wondered what I might write about this. It's a wonderful video of a man dancing.
I remember watching Susan Boyle singing and Simon Cowell's (who I find loathsome) jaw dropping with disbelief. Tears well up just thinking about it. She's a very good singer but it was the busting of expectations that made it so emotional.    
There are so many of these talent shows now. And there are so many videos that surface on Facebook titled in a way that frames the performance of an individual in terms of surprise. Maybe they're missing a limb or, they're very young, or they're different in some way. When you think about how narrow the cultural idea of coolness and beauty is the numbers of people seen as unlikely are overwhelming. I don't really like these shows. I rarely click on the videos any more. I just find myself weary of tired ideas about talent. I did check out this video of a woman dancing the other day. Made me smile. You have to have strength and stamina to do that.
So when I checked out the video that Daniel sent me I was  a bit braced. And. Oh. Wow. What a great, sweet, fun, heart opening thing it is. The guy is dancing from the top of his head to the tips of his fingers and toes. His face is dancing. He is having fun. He is playing. And he has moves, baby. I loved it.
Of course. "No one saw" his performance coming because, I suppose, he's fat.
I wonder if we will ever just be open. Just see people and think ... oh. What are you about? Who are you? Do you dance? Do you sing? Are you funny? Are you smart? Just be open to truly get who any one is and what they're capable of and what they might bring. When will we just be delighted by the possibility of  another person?
The narrative of unexpected or unseen talent is the base of so many great stories. It's not always about physicality, or difference. Jennifer Beals in Flash Dance is the unlikely story of a working class girl trying to get into ballet school with street moves. I was rooting for her. I get the appeal of the unexpected winner. Maybe there's just too much of it now.
And, specifically when it comes to fat people I get cranky. Men who can rock the floor like the man in the video, or hang upside down on a pole like the woman in the other video are great fun. They are delight-full. And for every fat dancer who doesn't try because they don't think they can, these people are encouragement. Amber Riley ripped up Dancing with the Stars. Everyone claps and smiles and then a minute later they all nod in agreement about how impossible it is to be healthy and be fat.
I guess I want to celebrate how great these people are and I also want the fact of them to be ordinary.
I loved dancing. Every Friday when I was a tween I was a at the rec center dancing. For hours. As I got older I danced less. I became more armored. And then I had a band and I was dancing again. And now. I feel it in my bones. I might not be able but I still feel it. I have always moved like a fat person.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

And A World To Carry On

Woke up. Picked up the phone. Saw the headline that Maya was gone.
Checked email. A friend and his wife had a baby boy.
Checked Facebook. Saw a picture of them both. Remembered holding him when he was the age his son is now.
Pretty existential way to start the day.
The mommy is the same age Maya was. Physically she is very healthy but her mind is slipping. Every day I wonder how she's going to be and if there is something I need to do. I know she will die. I just want her to have what she needs and wants until that day. And she pretty much does.
I don't have a belief about what happens after we die. I believe something happens. The heaven/hell thing makes no sense to me. Eternity is a long time and both places would be pretty full by now. Eternal bliss sounds boring. Eternal misery sounds like it would just become ... numbness.
Reincarnation? Maybe. But everyone was Cleopatra, or Plato, or someone famous. And the math is bad. Too many people now compared to how many people there have been.
I just dunno.
It doesn't make sense to me that this awareness I experience as me will just go dark. Energy is always changing form. A great mystery awaits. Or maybe not. Maybe the remaining synapse firing will whisper a tale of light and love and then ...
The mommy likes to talk about her family sitting on the clouds waiting for her.
Maya knows. And a boy in Colorado might have something to tell us. Once he learns to speak our language. I had just begun to wind down from the loss of the boy from the bus. I mean. Really. He was lost to me years ago. And yet he has been so present in the last few days.
I know what I hope. I hope for a moment of lucidity. A sort of Frank Capra summing up in which it all makes sense. And then. What ever.
I am remembering how we were back when the babies who are now fathers were born. I am imaging the family that is now beginning and how they will be. We all just make this shit up as we go along. We read some stuff. We talk to some experts. We make agreements and commitments and we hurl ourselves forward. But we're really stumbling along.
Maya was really good at something I've never been good at. She loved her life. She embraced it. She owned it. I'm so easily laid low by the ... oh ... I don't know. The this. And the that. I am full of resentments and complaints.
I do know one thing. Or I feel it with such unequivocal certainty that it feels like knowing. I've seen the love. I've seen the new dad in the arms of his own father. And his mother. And my own. So much love. You can't really do anything but yield. You can't be judgy and peckish when you're in that moment. Looking into those little eyes. You can get back to judgy and peckish after you put them down and face what ever is happening next. Or at least I can. But in those moments you have to yield.
Maybe we imagine all things we come to believe. So this is what I am imagining. Maya found out about our new boy and stopped by to smile at him. And then. She was on her way.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Boy From the Bus

 My high school in Maryland was an experimental school. I don't remember the descriptors of the experiment but there was more freedom than I'd had in Pennsylvania. I arrived for my first day of class with my culottes and sweater vest, my circle pin, my perfectly applied Bonnie Bell makeup and my hair in a flip created by an hour with steam rollers on my head. In Pennsylvania I'd been a hippie because I wore beads and said groovy. In Maryland there were real hippies, especially boys with long hair. I don't remember if Bill sat next to me on the bus or if I sat next to him. I don't remember if he was friendly first but I think he was. I do remember flirting and talking and being friends. I wasn't in love and neither was he but we were friends. He was cute. Long blonde hair. So cute. And we sat together on the school bus.
My appearance changed. Jeans and shirts.No makeup. No bra. Hair gone wild. I was going through so many changes so fast and not with anything like grace. I was just trying to keep up. We hung out in groups on the school yard. We skipped school and drank Boone's Farm and smoked skunk weed and Marlboros. We read Tolkien and Kesey and we dropped acid. I'm not sure how much of this I did with Bill. I remember the bus. I remember going to see Ike and Tina Turner. I remember having a kiss on a bridge in a wooded area and him touching my breast. We weren't in love. We just young. We were just starving. We were just being kind.
I never saw him after high school. I haven't really thought about him in years. I'm a member of a Facebook group for my high school graduating class. Today someone posted the obituary for Bill. The boy from the bus is gone.
From the obituary I learned that he was married and had two kids. I don't know anything else. And it's OK that I don't. We don't all stay connected. It's just life. I feel regard for his family as I would for anyone. I feel a little sad. Mostly I am flooded with memories. Little tiny memories. So long ago. But I can remember his smile. So cute.
My class is having a reunion barbecue this weekend. I can't go but it makes me happy that they're going to be together. And these memories of the boy from the bus make me feel closer to them all.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I heard Louie C. K. being interviewed on NPR the other day. He talked about a scene from his new show in which a fat woman had a monologue. I like Louie's show but he can be ... oh...gross, or something. So I tuned in with a certain amount of trepidation. I liked the way he talked about it in the interview but it is not my experience that fat people are well represented in the media.
The show starts with Louie and a very fat man gorging at two restaurants. Other than giving me a mad craving for vidaloo and puri it didn't hit me in any particular way. And then the "fat woman" enters the story. And. It wasn't horrible. It wasn't perfect. But it was interesting. Afterward I thought more about how much had been packed into it, including the idea that Louie was embarrassed when his friend told the waitress at the second restaurant that they had already had a big Indian food meal. It's one of the running themes of the show. Moments when Louie thinks he has a chance with a woman and something goes wrong, which is usually about who he really is being revealed. The Louie on the show is a character written by Louie, based on his life but not actually him. And the character is frequently a jerk.
So. He's a jerk when the very cute and very smart and very engaging fat woman approaches him. No surprise. He's a jerk in the end as he takes her hand and looks around to see if anyone is watching. He might want to be a better man but ... he fails. Almost always and certainly with the fat woman.
However. There was the monologue. The monologue he wrote. I found it interesting. I intended to write about it but the day went by and I wasn't getting it done and then ... I read another blogger's reaction. I didn't have any argument with her reaction. I even had a few of the same thoughts. She is fierce and  radical and smart. She didn't see anything to like in the scene and she has really good reasons.
It was a scene in a television show, written by a white man with all of the privileges of that perspective. It was really well acted. It lasted quite a while, in other words he sat back and let this woman articulate her feelings. Of course they were really his feelings, or what he imagines a fat woman might say. I get it. All true. But I found it interesting. I found it moving. It made me think. Not in the sense that I heard some truth I hadn't thought about before but ... it made me think. I find it some what hopeful that this kind of representation was on television.
Louie is problematic in so many ways. But he makes me smile. He makes me laugh. He makes me think. I find myself wanting to talk about his show but I always recommend it with lots of codicils. And I'm not defending him, or elevating him. I feel like I should do more of a line by line break down of the monologue but I'm not feelin it.
I think is awake. I think he is challenging. If I were twenty years younger I might ask him out.