Sunday, July 09, 2017

Roxane. Sigh.

I've been mildly obsessed with Roxane Gay. It started after the This American Life episode. (My post about that here.) But I became aware of Roxane Gay much earlier because she was on MHP a few times. (I really miss that show.) She was always smart and charming and fun. If she had reason to call out a diversity list she always included fat.
She's every where right now. On radio. In magazines and news papers. She was in Portland the other night. So close and yet so far.
I wrote a long post about her and then deleted it because I found examples of her saying things that knocked down my concerns. Really smart things. It's tough because the articles about her memoir call out the things that are the hardest for me to take in. There's what she wrote and there's how people are talking about what she wrote. It is hard for me to accept the narrative of getting raped and then getting fat. Not hard to accept that it happens but hard to have them causally linked.
Fat women get raped too. I remember hearing the story of a fat woman who reported her rape and was told by the police that they didn't believe she was raped because of her weight. Eventually, they took her to the hospital where she over heard the doctors arguing about who would have to do the exam. It's an old and worn out idea that gaining weight protects women from sexuality. But it is an idea that more than one woman has embraced. Roxane knows that the weight isn't really going to protect her but she still sees her body as a self generated fortress.
I'm not being critical of her. I'm critical of the ideas but I've held them. I was always fat so I don't have an event that caused me to become fat. But in my young adult life I believed if I got clear I'd get thin. It would just happen. And I believed that my weight was generated by bad psychology and fear. I thought true love might melt it off.
One of the words she uses a lot is nuance. She is a fan of nuance. Me too.
In a way the rape almost grants her a kind of understanding for her weight. Like she had an understandable reaction to the wounding. And her repeated acknowledgment of wanting to be thinner makes her a good fat person. I really want to be clear about what I'm saying. She was being trolled by fat haters before the memoir. I don't know if it's worse but she still gets trolled be fat haters. She isn't having an easy time of it. But there is a way in which the narrative about her is about the rape and ... that's why the fat. It's slippery and not useful.
I'm obsessed because her book and her experience is driving a conversation about life in a fat body right now and it's frustrating for me. It's her story and I can't pick it apart looking for faulty reasoning. I can (I am) but that seems like bad faith. I feel a lot of the things she does. I also think the size acceptance movement is (somewhat) driven by younger smaller fat woman. They buy clothes at Torrid and pose with pizza and it's all so ... what ever. She thinks the acceptance movement is important but she can't get there.
I hate acceptance. Why should I have to work to accept something so fundamental about who I am? My project is to up root all the internalized body oppression I've been FED all of my life including today. (Lefty news woman making sure everyone knows she's always on a diet.)
When Roxane was being interviewed by Terry Gross she was asked why she didn't get bariatric surgery. In the book she talks about having met with a doctor to discuss it and making the (very wise) choice to not do it because ... (I'm paraphrasing) it's dangerous and it doesn't work. I was taken aback by the question. I mean. Is that just the thing that people do now? Not join a diet club or a gym? Just get your body hacked?
Roxane is said to be brave because she wrote this book. I think she's brave to go through the process of thinking about her fat body in public. I want to be supportive. I want her to get to where she wants to be, not where I want her to be. And...she is thinking about her fat body in public. I could quote twenty insightful things she's said that are so important about life in a fat body. She has a great analysis of how the culture impacts our lives. And then twenty that make life in a fat body sound so horrible that you imagine people running to join a gym.  I want deeper analysis. I want surprising attitudes. I want new ideas. She's often pretty good at those things.
I wish we could uncouple the rape narrative from the fat body narrative. Always. I realize it's a truth. But it's not the truth and, again, it's not useful. I wish we could uncouple the food and exercise narratives from the fat body narrative. It's (pardon the expression) too broad a brush.
One of the things that influenced me to own the fact of my body was a line from a Frank Zappa song.
"there will come a time when you won't even be ashamed if you are fat." Startling idea. Rocked me to the core. I decided to work on getting there. I feel like Roxane is not exactly ashamed of her body. It's more complicated and ... nuanced. But when I was reading the book I often wanted to grab her and beg her to put on something brightly colored and go out to dinner with me. Let's talk too loud and eat too much. Let's be who we want to be and not have a thought about the size of our ass. And if people are asshats let's roll our eyes and smile.
There may come a time ...

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Grandmom's Chair

I have my Grandmom's chair in the library. And the footstool that my uncle made. My aunt made the needlepoint cover for it. I can picture Grandmom sitting in the chair, feet on the footstool, reading the paper. In my memory she is huge, dominate, not to be messed with and beautiful. White hair and fierce blue eyes. Skin so pale and paper thin.
The other day I was moving some books around. I had pulled the chair out to get to the shelf. When I turned around I realized the top of the chair was at my waist. I have been aware that the chair is smaller than my memory of her in it but standing there it became even more real to me.
I say I am a forth generation fat woman. I am talking about my maternal lineage. The women on my Dad's side were big but not fat. Although they thought they were. They talked about needing to lose weight all the time. They also seemed to think my mother and I were fatter. We were.
Looking at the picture of my great grandmother I see that she isn't exactly fat. She's round. My grandmom was round. They had bellies and breasts and thighs. My grandfather was tall and thin. My aunt took after him, tall and thin. It was a source of frustration for my mother who gained weight eating less than her sister. Genes are a grab bag.
I am fatter than all of the women in my family. I could put Mom's shoes into my shoes. I was a head taller.
Grandmom had no shame about the size of her body. It was just part of who she was. My mother was always trying to change her body. She sat sipping her liquid diet drink while the rest of us had dinner. Grandmom did not approve and she let it be known.
Grandmom had to walk up two flights of stairs to get into her house. She had to walk up one and a half to use the bathroom. For years she went down one to do laundry and carried the basket back up and up another to hang the laundry in the yard. She worked in her garden which was all slope. We walked to the store and the bakery and post office and church. She was on the move all the time.
When Grandmom's bridge club was in session and I came home from school they discussed my weight. At some point Grandmom would grab my arm, squeeze and say, "she's big but she's solid. I was never sure what that meant but it felt like she was saying my body was OK the way it was and no one should think other wise. I know that part of why I experience being fat as just ... my body and not a disease ... is because of my grandmom. I'm big but I'm solid.
I'd be afraid to sit in Grandmom's chair. It's very low and narrow. I'd be afraid I wouldn't fit and I wouldn't be able to get out. But I love it. Mom had it recovered at some point in lovely rose covered upholstery. But I sat in it when I was young.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Year Sixty Four

If you add six and four you get ten. Ten in numerology is a really great number. In the Tarot the ten of cups and the ten of pentacles are both really great. The ten of swords and rods are a bit problematic but they have to do with the completion of ideas. I'm not all that into numerology or Tarot but I do like when things add up. This feels like ten year.
I moved to the Hood and turned sixty, which felt auspicious. This feels like the top of a really hard climb. Now I can sit still and look around. Who knows? Maybe there's a longer tougher climb ahead but for the moment ... I'm just gonna sit here.
I don't have much going on about the age thing. I'm fine being the age I am. I don't like how hard it is to keep my body together. I can take nothing for granted. Drink too much? I might fall down and it's way harder to get back up. If I get sick I get really bleepin sick. If I get tired I get zonked. It takes a sort of hyper vigilance to feel good. I took a lot of chances in my youth and I liked feeling that wild.
Eh. That was then.
I have recently begun thinking I'm almost seventy. It's not true. It's just the way my mind works.
For so many years I drove myself crazy on my birthday. And I'm a little crazy today. Just a little. I'm going to swim. I'm going to get a massage. Mandy made me a cake.
Sixty Four.
Let's see how it goes.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Year Four

It's hard for me to remember what happened when. At some point the mommie stopped wanting to come to the nest. She was just too afraid. I started spending the weekends with her. Her fear got worse as the dementia deepened. I spent more and more time with her and less and less time in the nest.
And then she was gone.
There were things in the nest that were accommodations for her. Chairs. Furniture arrangements. All of that has changed. I have freedom but it doesn't feel free. The nest was technically hers and now it's mine. I am endlessly grateful.
I used to sit in my bedroom and stare into the library and just be happy about the fact of it. We turned the library into a little hospital room for the mommie and I wondered if it was going to change my feeling for the room. It deepened the feeling. All of the meaning making in the all of the books pales in light of that experience. That little room held us for that terrible time.
I still doubt that I'll fill all the shelves with books but right now it looks like they are full. If you move a chair you see the empty shelves and the messy shelves but the chairs hide all that. It looks lovely and I sink into it.
I'm still ambivalent about the Hood. I like some things but I find it shallow and ohsowhite. I just learned that Oregon began with a Constitution banning black people. How did I end up living in a state that began with a Constitution banning black people?
We did have our first annual Pride parade this year. It felt really small town and really sweet. It's a beautiful town in a beautiful state. I love watching the way the colors change with the seasons. I have a few very dear friends. I just don't feel part of much.
I am just here in my nest. Probably with a book.
That sound kind of pitiful and I don't feel pitiful at all. I honestly take take pleasure in just sitting and looking around the room.
It's been a difficult year emotionally. I'm still sad a lot. I still cry a lot. But that seems normal. It's not that hard.
I can't find a way to say how I feel that doesn't feel cliche or trite. This was a year in which something ended. And so. Ya know. I am trying to conjure the next phase.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

This American Fat

I listened to The This American Life episode:Tell me I'm Fat with some trepidation. The introduction to the show sounded promising because it said we need to rethink the way we see being fat. Ya think? I starting rethinking the way I saw being fat decades ago but ... OK. I listen to This American Life a lot and have for years. I do because it's smart and usually has a different perspective. Full disclosure: I sent them a piece years ago. It may have even been about the way I experience being fat.  I have the rejection letter somewhere.
There were some great moments but after I listened I was overwhelmed with sorrow. A deep bone crushing sorrow. And. Of course. Rage. I started a post but couldn't even finish because ... why?
But then Margaret posted the show on Facebook. I yammered on in her comment box. A friend read it and I ended up yammering on in her ear. So. Clearly I have something to say. These are my thoughts.
The prologue was relatively solid in terms of ideas. I've been aware of Lindy West. She seems interesting. She sounds a lot like Marilyn Wann but no where near as radical. In the first act of the show She and Ira laugh it up about a time when she broke a chair and in that moment she still feels like someone who makes jokes so she can be an easy to get along with and not too demanding. She shouldn't have to worry about a chair. None of us should. When she's talking about Dan Savage it felt great because someone needs to bang back on that fat hating ass hat. And she did a great job. She talks about Seeing Leonard Nimoy's fat photo's, which are wonderful. Another disclosure: I saw him in a car in Boulder once. He smiled at me. Swoon. She does a great job in this section. She also says being fat is it's own punishment. It's something she wrote to Savage years ago but even now with her new woke perspective she doesn't seem to notice it. Am I nitpicking?
When responding to another post by Savage in which he responds to a Gay hating suggestion that Gay marriage isn't a good idea because they die younger ... (ridiculous) ... he says that then fat marriage isn't a good idea. In her response to him she says fat people are already ashamed. Um. Otherwise her response to him is great.
Then there is a bit of a great song by Sophie Tucker in the second act we get to Alma.
I can't really write much about this because it is just entirely heart breaking. And right after it, in a break, Ira is introducing an upcoming act and says...grab a Twinkie. Why?
It's an awkward quip at best. Alma works with him. The quip felt like a cover for (I hope) the sadness he might have been feeling after hearing the choices his coworker and (possibly) friend has made and continues to make. And it seems like everything comes down to the idea that size acceptance is about fat people being able to eat crap with impunity. I'm pretty sure eating a Twinkie is no proof of how much you've unseated the internalized oppression that fat people are relentlessly unseating. Not shame. Oppression.
Act three.  I love Roxane Gay. She is smart. She is fierce. She is nuanced. I don't really have a problem with the things she says. I feel them. They are personal. They are not rhetorical. They are complex. And they break my heart. They make me want to go into restaurants and hair salons and theaters and BREAK ALL THE FUCKING CHAIRS.
The forth act is about a Christian weight loss program, which is teeth gritting.
If you listen to the podcast there's one last bit from Lindy West. And it is very sweet and on point. The show is worth a listen. I imagine it will get a few people thinking.
The Take Away, another one of my favorite shows because it is generally smart, is doing a week long series on obesity. So far it's blather about why people are fat as if fat people are a construct of modernity. Lindy West will be doing a discussion at some point. Her intro talks about pizza being a feminist issue. Because .... why?
When ever I write one of these posts I get caught up in a long yammer about my ideas about food. I'm just not going to do that. But we have to stop conflating size acceptance with some loopy idea of permission to eat.
A friend of mine was told by her doctor that she is morbidly obese. She also says she has trouble finding clothes that fit some times. She is NOT FAT!!!! Not even a little bit. It infuriates me. When I'm telling her she's not fat I wonder if I should just let it go because the doctors and fashion industry clearly think she is. Maybe I should just welcome her to the community. The problem is that as long as someone her size is seen as fat I will not get good medical care. I will not have parity in public spaces. We have to be clear about what fat is. It is so much more than one size, or a group of sizes. It's an expression of diversity. It is so complex and so personal and our conversations are so frustrating. It isn't just about how much some one eats or how much they exercise or what their genetic background is or if they can buy a dress. It isn't about accepting the size of your ass. It's about not even having to do that work because the nonsense ideas about being fat have been knocked down. IN OUR HEARTS. IN OUR BONES.
Now that I've started I'm having trouble stopping. I could go and on and on. I have in the past. I got tired. I felt like I was saying the same thing over and over.
A friend of my mother's picked me up at the airport once. She told my mother that when she first saw me she didn't think much of me because of my size. But once I started talking she realized that I was so smart and interesting. Mom thought this was great because the friend had realized who I was despite my fatness. I thought the woman needed to ask herself why she was so hateful and literally narrow minded.
I wanna break all the fucking chairs.

Monday, May 29, 2017


Because of the spasm and the virus and the flu and the general depression that makes me want to sit in the dark ... I've watched a lot of TV this year. Some of which was good and much of which was dopey. In many of the shows there's a narrative in which a bad guy becomes good. Or maybe just reveals some goodness. Generally I like characters who are a little good and a little bad because we all are. But there is something so satisfying and surprising about really bad guys doing good.
For so many years the mommie and I couldn't talk without arguing. And then we both started watching Days of Our Lives. There were clear good guys and clear bad guys and then there were guys who could go either way and we could argue about them. It was soft arguing that had no real consequence. Those conversations relaxed the real tensions between us. We would talk for a long a time about these imaginary people. We could stretch out and have strong opinions. We couldn't do this with our own issues.
On the weekends I tend to listen to the radio and I heard this story on the Ted Radio hour. It's powerful because they call it our story. There isn't really a bad guy. There's a guy who did a bad thing. It's thought provoking. How do we forgive and still have a sense of accountability?
There's a saying about people who forgive and forget, people who neither forgive nor forget and people who forgive but never forget. The characteristics have associate religions in the saying but I don't find that part useful. I have always related to forgiving but not forgetting.
Forgiving isn't hard if you see people and their actions in context, if you accept that people make bad choices and that you might have made a few of your own. Forgetting often feels like accepting the unacceptable.
I've been thinking about all of this mostly because of the screen time but also because I'm not confident in my ability to be in relationships. I retreat into my self. I am confident in my intentions. I want to forgive. I don't really worry about forgetting because my experience is that forgetting happens on it's own.
The political environment is so toxic and filled with hate. It feels like the bad guys are in power and they are ruining everything. They're ruining a lot.
I like the way redemption feels. I like when the bad guys are surprising. But I've been watching a lot of TV.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Yoga Zone

Right before I got sick in the beginning of the year I was feeling really good about my yoga. I do a very short practice but I came up with a few poses that moved well from one to the other and I was able to stay focused. Then I got sick and weak and out of the groove. I am back to a daily practice but it's never really been as good as it was.
I do a seated triangle pose. Instead of holding the stretch (which is a really good stretch for my shoulders) I get into the movement. It's like Pavlova takes over. I'm doing Port de Bras. Not a good Port de Bras. A flailing, spaced out Port de Bras.
I feel like part of yoga is about stillness. Your extend your arm and your leg and you stretch as far as you can and then you ... feel. You breath. And you feel. It's awareness and intentionality. It's not flailing.
For a few days I added music. Krishna Das chanting to be specific. I'm usually irritated by that kind of thing but he has such a warm, resonant voice. It helped. It exacerbated the Pavlova thing a little but I found my self holding a pose longer, for a few beats, or until the end of a phrase. I moved slower.
When I was sick it took me a long time to get dressed. I could barely get from the shower to the bed. The weakness was obliterating. I'm not that weak any more but here is a residual effect it seems. I get really spaced out. I find myself in a blank stare, often with a sock in my hand. I think we need a little bit of that kind of thing. Just zoning.
Spaced out.
Spaced in.
I'm not sure it's useful to have goals in yoga but if I have one it's enhanced awareness. I am no where near that goal.
Except every once in a while.
It's just me.
In the pose.
Wide awake.