The Selfie Experiment: Learning to add myself back into my life.

Not too long ago I read this article on how women in particular shy away from photos, which virtually remove them from the history of their lives and their children’s lives. I’m sure there are many reasons for this. I know as I was growing up, being “vain” was frowned upon and widely discouraged if you were a girl. If you liked your image too much, there was something wrong with you.

In today’s Selfie-obsessed culture, many older folks carry the same kind of belief. Why do you need so many photos of yourself, they might ask. You just want attention, they might say. It’s unhealthy to need that kind of validation from others, they may assert.

Whether you post a photo for yourself or for others, you’re going to get nailed to the wall for it. You’re “narcissistic,” you’re “mental.”

The peanut gallery has plenty to say on the subject of you and what you think about your self-image, and has always, always, always felt the definitive authority on the subject of, well, you.

If you are a bigger girl, in particular, trolls Internet-wide often make posting selfies an exercise in stamina, to see how much body shaming you can withstand if you dare to share a little too much self-love.

There are those “brave” girls who dared to post a glam shot before prom, only to be kicked in the teeth by Internet strangers. There’s only one thing worse than a non-perfect girl posting a selfie, and that’s her audacity to be happy about it. For that they must shamed immediately and put right back in their place… the shadows.

In the end, when we look back over our lives, we see the decades of watching our children grow up with nary a hint that there was a non-perfect mother around to guide them. After we’re gone, it’ll be up to our children to piece together the limited info we leave behind, often already painstakingly edited by us, leaving gaps and holes that our children – who have often been much more merciful to us than we ever could have been – to fight for each memory we left behind to share with their children and grandchildren who follow.

Eventually we’ll be erased entirely, much to the delight of our critics. This is, after all, what we deserve.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently. Being somewhat in the public eye as an author, my image is often meticulously groomed to court a wide audience. There are those folks who won’t read a book by me because I’m *gasp* like the imperfect girls I write about. In fact, I’m worse. I’m heavier. I’m not as attractive. I’m older. There is nothing about my image currently that begs for the attention of a wide crowd. So to protect my image I have to be hidden, out of view, all my selfies policed by those who want me to sell as many books to as many people as possible.

Yeah. About that. I’m kind of over it.

When I started writing I wanted the career of Danielle Steel, who was the top-selling romance writer of the day. I wanted people far and wide to read my work and love it. I tried to write books that I thought might appeal to everyone. It never worked for me. Mainstream wasn’t my lane. They say write what you know, and here’s what I know: I’m not for everyone.

But I know who my audience is: my audience is that group of women who have been told subtly and outright all their lives that they don’t deserve a place in the spotlight. My audience is the group who edits themselves out of their lives because they don’t want to make the people that love them look bad. They’re embarrassed for their kids who show around their family photos, which dare to include a non-perfect mother. They don’t want their husbands to proudly display a photo on his desk at work, lest he be thought less than for having such a non-perfect wife. They’re the ones taking dozens of photos to post on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s always, always, always of their kids, their families, their friends, food or places they get to see, with nary a selfie in sight.

And the reason that is my audience is because that is who I have always been. I’m not a selfie person. For every one I dare to post, there have been a dozen taken and rejected because I didn’t like the way they looked. It’s like I’m that chick on Seinfeld who looked gorgeous in one light and hideous in the other, so I can *only* post the ones where I feel I look attractive enough to be seen, even though they’re all pictures of the same person.

Years back my bestie, who loves me regardless of which light I’m in, asked me to take a selfie at one of Hal’s shows I attended. When I told Hal of this directive, the Selfie King grabbed my phone and spun around so we could take a photo, no fucks given about the angle, the lighting or the Ginger he happened to snap at the time. It was one and done, because there really IS only one Ginger, and he’s always been as OK with that as my bestie has been.

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The people who truly love you feel that way, even if you don’t. That’s why they tag you on the photos they share on social media. It’s not to embarrass you or make you look bad. They are happy to include you as part of their world.

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The people who truly like you, respect you, admire you – they don’t care that you’re non-perfect because they figured something out the people who need you to be perfect haven’t: there’s only one kind of perfect any human can accomplish. You’re perfectly you, and that’s the only thing that matters. In the end, we’re all varying degrees of beautiful, part of this glorious, diverse mosaic of individuals that deserve to be recognized for the unique people that we are.

And guess what? The picture simply wouldn’t be the same without you. So you’re fucking perfect as a result.

The truth is editing myself out of my life, including my career, has done nothing but *damage* my image. How can I write books that empower women to feel beautiful and worthy of love if I’m too scared to post a selfie because it means someone I don’t know won’t like me? My own characters would smack me silly for such foolishness. It’s not only okay that I’m non-perfect, it’s okay that I exist just as I am. I have value just as I am. This journey to health and wellness isn’t about finding that value, it’s about *owning* what was already there. If I’m unhealthy it’s because I’ve forgotten that, and won’t take care of myself as a result.

That’s something the shamers don’t get, nor do they even care. Your health is not the point, no matter how much they claim it is.

So I weighed the pros and the cons of becoming more Selfie-proficient as I’ve dipped my toes in the public image pool. Granted, not too many men are going to “like” my photos. The ones who do are generally older, married, friends, family or gay. I am okay with this. As a married woman, I don’t need a lot of guys paying me attention anyway, and I’ve always preferred the safety of guys who actually don’t want to have sex with me.

Women will like my photos more often than not, and since they’re my audience anyway – that’s ideal. Especially if they’re “non-perfect” like me. (Spoiler alert: EVERYone is non-perfect like me, we all just have different ways to hide or display it.)

So I won’t get any attention I don’t want from predatory men, and I’ll hit my target audience for women. Sounds like a couple for the pro column to me.

Some women will recoil every bit as much as a guy when they dare to see my audaciously posted non-perfect selfies, which means I might lose them as a reader. Honestly what I write would never appeal to them anyway, so really… what’s the loss? If you won’t read my book because you think I’m (insert pejorative here,) you really wouldn’t get much out of my books. I don’t swim in the shallows. I navigate deeper water, one that dares to wear the skin of the non-perfect. If you need your writers to be pretty or perfect, or the “fantasy” of living through the characters they write who are, then I’m simply not the writer for you.

I consider this a pro as well. It’s okay that you don’t want to read my books. There are plenty of writers out there who write those kinds of books, you’re going to be okay. There are plenty of readers out there who read my books, so I’ll be okay too. Hat tip and move on.

See, what many don’t seem to understand about me is that I don’t mind a smaller career as long as it is significant. I’m not out to become a millionaire from my books. I’m out to change the message, which is my only real barometer of success. The fact that I’ve sold even one is a miracle according to the industry, and I’ve sold many more than that, remaining solidly in the top 20% of all independently published writers for six years.

That means there’s room for the non-perfect. There’s room for the message. There’s room for me.

I was perfectly content selling enough to live on, and I did that *without* white-washing my image to some lesser non-perfect image a wider audience could find palpable. My first series hit big even though it broke a lot of rules and smacked conventional romance in the face. For those who couldn’t stand the idea of reading about such non-perfect characters, I basically said #byefelicia. This isn’t the book for you, I’ll tell you before you even buy it. I’ll discourage you from spending your money on something we both know you won’t like.  I’m not for everyone. I know this. You need to know this.

And you need to know that I’m perfectly okay with it.

That’s the kind of ovarian fortitude that built my career. When I caved on that, thanks to industry pressure, my burgeoning career flatlined. I don’t think this is a coincidence. You can’t build a career on bold honesty and then hide from the spotlight and expect things to get better.

That’s not how I roll. That’s never how I rolled. And since my instincts have proved the more successful, Ima go back to what I know works for me.

This is why I’ve dared to make this blog public, to explore all my deepest darkest demons on a public stage. THIS is how I built my image. The people who will buy my books, who will love my work, have always, always, always been the group who looked a little deeper, who cared a little more about what a non-perfect like me had to say. They seek me out. They find me… and they stay.

THAT is my audience.

And I’m done lying to them, watering myself down trying to pretend I’m something I’m not. I’m 100% proof. Some can handle it. Some can’t. That’s just the reality of my entire life.

Knowing this, there is really no risk then in throwing myself into the selfie pool, so I’ve not only been posting more selfies on Instagram but I’ve started posting on Snapchat. I get to utilize these social media accounts for my public image every bit as much as every other account I have. It is limited thus far, but I notice the more I post of my image, the more forgiving I am of it. This is just me, and I’m learning to be okay with that. Each selfie I post is a bold declaration that I deserve to be a part of my history, my family and my career.

These are my first steps on the crowded dance floor of life. Yes, I hear you snickering. Yes, I know for some of you this makes me the butt of your joke. For some, it makes me easier to reject because you find me so repellent.

But, since I was never trying to attract you anyway, I can’t care.

My characters, my audience, my family and my friends… and all of those who dare to swim past the shallows…  deserve more of me, not these limited scattered pieces I’ve been encouraged to leave behind by the people who don’t give a shit about me in the first place, who would rather I be erased entirely.

But I ain’t goin’ anywhere.

I’m putting myself back into my life because I deserve to be there.

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Sunday weigh-in: 292 (1.6lbs lost) 58lb muscle (+3lb gain.)

Non-scale victories: Three of four instances where I was going to excuse a binge, I avoided the binge entirely, and maintained walking 20 mins per workday all week despite back pain.

 

 

It doesn’t get easier. You get stronger.

The other night my son and I were chatting and my new journey to health and wellness came up, including the challenges that I face particularly with the physical activity thanks to my current limitations. Last week I went balls to the wall with the walking only to collapse over the weekend. My “bounce back” time has increased exponentially, and it’s frustrating the shit out of me.

It’s still such a chore to do the work necessary to meet my goals.I mentioned this to my son, who has done athletic training before in high school gymnastics and then kung fu classes as an adult. “I just can’t wait for it to get easier,” I lamented, since it’s still like trudging uphill through molasses.

“It’s like that quote,” he tells me. “‘It doesn’t get easier. You get stronger.'”

I knew in that moment that was going to be my blog topic for the week.

Like his father before him, he has a passion for physical activity that bypassed me completely. It was just never a part of my childhood, never modeled to me by those closest to me. My parents weren’t physically active. My dad was much older and disabled, my mom worked full-time to support the family. Like so many Southerners, many of the celebrations we had centered around food. If we traveled, we didn’t go camping or hiking. We went to see relatives, other older, Southern folk who cooked good ol’ comfort food, enough for an army.

There were no physical games to play, and any of the games I played in school were stressful. When you are hard-wired for anxiety, a simple children’s game like Duck Duck  was an ongoing nightmare. These were obligatory, too, which deeply tests my Personal Choice Boundary. After you’ve had your consent taken away, doing things you don’t want to do because you have no choice leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. So the Presidential Fitness Tests that began when I was 10 at once became the bane of my existence. Run a mile? Are you crazy? The only running I ever did was to escape mean dogs.

Then, beat me if you can.

Though I grew up in 70s/80s, I didn’t have roller skates or a skateboard. I went to a roller rink exactly once, in 1981 or thereabouts. I enjoyed it because of the music, but I couldn’t get myself coordinated enough to maneuver the silly things. I knew that would come with practice, so I asked for some skates for Christmas.

I got a lamp. Such was my childhood.

There were only three physical activities I enjoyed. I liked jumping rope (before I got boobs anyway,) though I couldn’t Double-Dutch to save my life. I’m just not coordinated at all, which is one of the reasons I don’t dance. It’s like my body and I aren’t exactly friends. I tell it to do one thing, and it gives me something entirely different. I’ve become subconscious to it to the point of paralysis. The only way you’ll find me dancing is if I’m locked in a safe room where no one could ever possibly catch me attempting such foolishness.

I also enjoyed the game Four-Square, mostly because it was a game where my size didn’t compromise me. I could play it and I could win. This was important. After my dad’s encouragement silenced, I felt like I had ended up in Loserville. I had plenty of detractors to laugh at me when I stumbled. It almost felt as if they expected me to, like they were waiting for it so they could pounce all over it with sadistic glee. And it’s tough being a living, breathing punchline. Hence why so many fat people don’t (insert public activity here).

If you haven’t watched the new NBC hit series “This is Us,” it stars an overweight actress whose battle with her body and her self-image is a huge part of the show. Her twin brother is an actor known for his impressive physical appearance, and she, by default as his right-hand gal, ended up going to a major Hollywood party at his insistence, even though conventional wisdom suggests people like us would not fit in at such an event. He needed her there and, thanks to her boyfriend’s insistence that they go, she went. Said boyfriend, Toby, is also a big guy who gives zero fucks what anyone thinks of him, so he hit the dance floor with gusto, ready to get down amidst the most beautiful people in the industry.

Kate was much slower to follow. Why? Her entire perspective shrunk to the whispers, the murmurs, the barely concealed laughter and amusement. All she could see/hear were the detractors, those who couldn’t WAIT till she got on the dance floor so they could snicker over the fat chick “trying” to dance.

You’ve probably seen Hairspray. You know what I’m talking about. The detractors are everywhere.

So naturally Kate hesitated. Why put yourself on display like that? You might as well walk right in front of a firing squad. There’s no fun to be had when you’re the butt of the joke. It took her quite a few drinks to muster the nerve to join fun-loving Toby on the dance floor, because that’s the job of booze – to lower one’s inhibitions and raise one’s DGAF.

I totally get that. I’ve danced publicly exactly three times, and alcohol played a part in each and every one, including my wedding dance.

The third activity I enjoyed was leg wrestling, which we did around fifth or sixth grade. Jeff will have to chime in here since his memory isn’t quite as fractured as mine. It was in elementary school, though, and I remember enjoying it because I was killer at it. My leg strength, to this day, is phenomenal – thanks mostly to carrying all of me around day after day. I was flipping people left and right, like some kind of prize-fighter, which at long last restored the admiration and acceptance I had lost. I only got flipped once myself, by some skinny kid, and I remembered thinking, “What the hell just happened?”

I liked winning. Winning felt good. I was gaining respect in a way I hadn’t ever been able to in a P.E. class before that. When I was eight, I was the slowest runner and the easiest pick for Duck Duck Goose. By the time I was 11 or 12, I was a beast who could take you out.

I liked that. Apparently Ginger + Time = Badassery.

I’ve always had very high standards for myself. I don’t just want to do a good job. I want to dazzle you. And I can’t do that if I’m falling down on my ass because I can’t skate, or making you double over in laughter because I can’t dance.

Humiliation is a hard pass for me. Oddly enough, it was the one thing I passed it down to my two kids. Both can watch a zombie get his skull curb-stomped, but if someone gets embarrassed they have to leave the room.

Neither one of them dance, which – again – is all me. Their dad was known as Disco Dan back in the day.

Me? I’ll be nursing a drink at the bar nodding my head along with the beat, thank you very much.

So I do most of my failure stuff in private, where no one can see. When I was nine, I wanted to learn how to ride a bike. My sister had moved out, leaving behind a purple sparkly bike I had long coveted. And I was tired of being a weirdo. I wanted to do what the other kids could do, the normal kind of stuff that we all share as a collective experience. And I simply couldn’t do that. I didn’t know how to swim, skate, ride a bike, I’d never gone camping, I didn’t have any friends who participated in any group games. I was even too big for the Big Wheel I begged my mom to get me when I was in third grade.

I decided I was going to ride that fucking bike. My mom couldn’t teach me because she didn’t know how. My dad couldn’t teach me, because like I said – he was disabled. My sister wouldn’t teach me because she had her own family at the time, and – frankly – hated me anyway. With no friends there to teach me, I decided I’d just teach my own damned self. I dragged that bike into the alley, which was a pretty secluded place with a flat surface, and I didn’t stop until I learned how to ride it.

And nobody knew about it until I was zipping around the neighborhood like a pro.

This has been my long-standing problem. And I know it’s not unique to me. I know there are plenty of us who just don’t want to suck at anything. But you kind of have to suck at something before you can excel at stuff. Natural talent is a good place to start, but skill gets you where you want to go. That takes training. That takes learning. That takes sucking.

At my son’s wedding, there will be dancing. Well, there will be dancing *available*. How much dancing is actually done will depend entirely on how the bride convinces my non-dancy son to participate, and the kinds of people we end up inviting to the shindig. I would like to look back on the event without thoughts of humiliation OR regret, so that means I have to drag that old bike back out into the alley to, simply put, get over myself.

I’ve been waiting 40-something years for this stuff to get easier, so I’ll enjoy it more, and, by extension, do it more. But it’s never going to get any easier. I’m just going to have to get stronger. The biggest obstacle in my way to do that is to learn how to get past the suckatude. There’s nothing stopping me anymore except me. I can buy my own damned skates now, which I just sorta kinda figured out just now. I got my kids skates when they were young so they could learn how, but I somehow never thought to do the same for me. Interesting epiphany that comes complete with its own action plan.

Guess it’s all on me now.

I have purchased dance videos or looked up instructional videos on YouTube to practice my little heart out until I master the moves, but so far I still embarrass my own damn self when I do it.

Virtually I’ve become that room full of hateful detractors, mocking and laughing at my own attempts to get it right.

And I may never master get it right. I may always look like a spider on a hot plate, to quote BBT’s Bernadette. But there’s a great line in the movie “Florence Foster Jenkins,” where Meryl plays a socialite who, though she loved to sing, couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. At the end, she says of her critics, “People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t.”

I fucking wept like a baby when she said that. One, she’s Meryl Fucking Streep. But man… that quote hit home.

Kind of like my son’s quote the other night. If it’s never going to get easier, which is what I’ve always kind of been waiting around for, then I’m just going to have to get stronger.

THAT I have complete control over. Just like the bike so long ago.

There is no expiration date on any of this. I took my first hike when I was nineteen years old. This was back when Dan and I were homeless in L.A., and we were looking for something fun to do that didn’t cost anything. Since Dan was a fitness junkie, who barely had a spare ounce of flesh on the man, he decided he wanted to explore Griffith Park. For those unacquainted, Griffith Park is a huge municipal park in L.A. that spans over four thousand acres of land and houses the Los Angeles Zoo, the Observatory and the Hollywood Sign. It has trails for humans and horses that wind through sloping hills for these amazing views of the city. Dan, who came from West Virginia “hillbilly” stock, could run those fucking hills in his sleep, and couldn’t wait to race up that hill when he saw it.

I was a lot, lot slower, with a more “Can we not and just say we did?” attitude.

I had never hiked before, particularly in hilly terrain. Considering I was carrying 210 pounds, it was not the stroll in the park I thought it might be. I paused maybe four times going up that moderate hill, testing Dan’s limited patience. It was on my fourth “break” that this little old man went *jogging* past us. He was gray-haired, easily 60 or better, but he was trucking like a champ up that incline that had stymied me. He was barely out of breath. Humbled and chagrined, I got up off my butt and I didn’t stop again till we got to the top. If he could do it, I had no excuses. I was nineteen, FFS. I was overweight and unconditioned, but I was still in my physical prime.

And man. What a view once we got there.

I’m no longer in my physical prime, but I’m also not as bad off as I have been. I’ve got some challenges, but I’ve made it a habit of overcoming challenges and doing what people didn’t think I could do.

I dazzle folks. That’s my M.O. That means my physical prime very well lies before me not behind me, provided I pull my head out of my ass, get my shit together and learn how to survive the sucking.

So I guess that means I have only one alternative left. It’s time to shut up and dance.

 

 

Learning not to give a shit about what #theysaid

I was reading an article by UpWorthy today, regarding a sad hashtag that had taken root for people to share their body-shaming history with the world. It was called #theysaid, and the hateful things people have said to us, often under the guise of caring or concern, broke my heart, especially when it was said to very young girls. I started going through my history on Facebook, encouraged by another brave friend doing the same, and ended up remembering some of the more shocking and upsetting things that were said to me, stuff I normally keep buried because that’s where truly hurtful stuff belongs.

Suffice it to say if I had a nickel for every time they said what #theysaid, I’d have a shit-ton of nickels; enough to fill a sock and bonk people on the head with it. I walk around a public invitation for their oh-so-helpful advice and critique. Whether it was said with malice or not, they helped wire my own sadistic chatterbox with lots of ammo to virtually beat myself up for thirty some-odd years, and they did so knowingly and gleefully, thinking I somehow deserved it, telling it would help.

It totally fucking didn’t.

If that’s not a reason to blog it out and work it out, I really don’t know what is.

“Did you get held back?” – said to me by my fifth grade classmates, because I had boobs at 11. They never did believe me when I said I wasn’t. #theysaid

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“You’d be hot if you’d just lose weight.” Said to me by many folks, but the first time I remember hearing it was from my brother-in-law. I was 12. #theysaid

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“Don’t you want to lose weight?? Don’t you want to be thin?” Said by my P.E. coach on the first day of co-ed P.E., when we were tasked with running a mile and I couldn’t do it. I was 15. #theysaid

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“Do your nipples point outward or down?” asked a DJ who was trying to figure out before he met me if he wanted to have sex with me. I was 17. #theysaid

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“Nobody is going to want you.” Said by my first husband, back when he was unmedicated, when he thought tough love would help motivate me change. I was 22. #theysaid

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“GO ON A DIET!!” – screamed at me by a guy driving past me as I was *riding a bike*. I was 23. #theysaid

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“Your haircut makes you look like a lesbian. Since you’re associated with me and we’re the same size, this makes me look bad.” – said by a former boss. I was 25. #theysaid

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“What does she know about losing weight?? She looks like she weighs 300lbs!” – an anonymous comment when my blog was featured on AOL. I was 33. #theysaid

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“What do you know about sex? How can anyone find your pussy? It’s probably underneath layers of fat and sweat, like fucking cottage cheese!” Another anonymous male on the Internet, who challenged what I might have to say about birth control in a political forum. I was 36. #theysaid

My doctor, at a first appointment, without any testing: “You’re diabetic.”
Me: “I’m not diabetic.”
Doctor: “Do you get up in the night to pee?”
Me: “Yes. I always have.”
Doctor: “Then you’re diabetic.”

SPOILER ALERT: I wasn’t diabetic.

I was 36. #theysaid

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“Have you tried to lose weight?” a smirking doctor asked, when I told him I had tried everything to get rid of my chronic back pain – even though I was flat on my back three times a year because of it. I was 38. #theysaid

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“Look I know you women hate to hear the truth, but there is such a thing as a “universal standard of beauty:” and it isn’t you. Men really don’t care about your intelligence, your wit, your charm, your job, etc. All men are genetically programmed to seek the conventionally attractive women… Men don’t want heavy women and we will never hesitate to let you know it.” – an anonymous comment to a blog where I talk about how ineffective fat-shaming is. I was 42. And married. Twice. #theysaid

This was also the same year where a “friend” confided in me what a mutual friend had to say about my size, that this person never wanted to see me hanging around because of my weight, and that I should have gone to the gym instead.

Turns out that friend did NOT say those things. So either she said them because SHE felt those things or she said them because she knew it would hurt me the worst. Either way… #theysaid.

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“Is this writer even a woman?” – said by a book reviewer when I dared to use actual measurements for my Rubenesque heroine, whose HUUUGE bust size was still five inches smaller than what I wore at the time. I was 46. #theysaid

2015

As you can see, scrolling through the pictures, all that “helpful” advice only made the problem worse… as if I really didn’t care to win your favor, to attract you or to make you love me any more.

And guess what?

I don’t.

It’s taken me a few decades but I’ve come to realize that body-shaming doesn’t make you a straight-shooter. It makes you an asshole. And frankly, I’m glad you don’t like me. I get to have a standard too, and shooting you straight, you just don’t measure up, buttercup.

You are one of the main reasons I have had the toughest time dropping the weight, because without this barrier that repels you I MIGHT actually have to deal with you one day, and the thought actually repels me.

When that day comes, and it will not because of you but in SPITE of you, I’ll just have to find clever new ways to repel you.

Until then, while I try to figure that out, kindly fuck off.

And have a nice day. #Isaid

 

Month One Progress. Back on track. (Sorta.)

Well today marks about one month into my new commitment to get under 200lbs by March of next year. The good news is I’ve lost weight. The bad news is it wasn’t at goal.

But progress in the right direction is still progress, or so they tell me. And my nutrition/goal tracker didn’t yell at me when I recalculated my calorie needs to get to 199 by March 26, so it still thinks it can be done.

So there’s that.

My focus this week was reversing some negative habits that were definitely hindering my progress. I used calorie restriction for the first time since i started intermittent fasting. Using SparkPeople, I started to track my food through the first part of the week. Fell off towards the last, simply because I found out something startling: I wasn’t eating as much as I thought I was eating. It was an important thing to learn. When you have an ED, your relationship with food can become horribly skewed. To see it in black and white that I wasn’t pigging out like I thought gives me new data with which to go forward in a much healthier way. When I put my foods into the calculator, even when I ate something “forbidden” like fast food or chocolate, I realized I was getting about 1500 calories per day.  Some days, I even had to work to get it up over 1000 by the end of the fasting period. It turns out that my failure to show results wasn’t necessarily because of the amount, it was the type of food I was eating. I think I’ve pinpointed the culprits down to bread and dairy, which I feel were working against me. If I bought yogurt or cheese to help get me through the week, I didn’t see the progress I wanted.

I’ve been told that dairy is inflammatory, and this would certainly suggest there’s something to that.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t binging before, generally towards the end of the fasting period, probably because my body was still physically hungry. My routine is 16/8, so I don’t eat for sixteen hours a day (from 9pm to 1pm the following day,) allowing me an eight-hour window to get my calorie needs.

Thanks to my body burning more fuel, this obviously increased my regular food intake, and right before bed which current wisdom tells us is no good. Knowing I had to log my food, that curbed a lot of desire to just keep going, like we talked about in the last blog, so some days I just didn’t, stopping at 1100 or 1300 calories. (Hence the drastic weight loss for the week, I’m sure.)

But as for my normal intake without the binges, I’m doing okay even though I’m “indulging” in the foods I like rather than going on any strict “diet.” It showed me that I have more room to play with food intake than I thought I did, particularly at the start of my day. I had been keeping it low to moderate during the day because I have a Southern cook preparing the evening meals, which are always ginormous – or so I thought.

Turns out they were running about 700 calories, even with a dessert thrown in.

This gives me a little more wiggle room, putting me back on track to what I was doing when I started intermittent fasting the first time around, where I saw so much effortless success *without* having to count calories.

Of course, I was also making much smarter decisions about food too, which I’m putting a much more concentrated effort in these days.

Back on track all the way around, I guess.

I also started walking again at work, usually putting it hand in hand with the food intake. When a coworker splurged on donuts on Friday, I allowed myself to have one – AFTER my walk. I’m trying to create real life balance that takes the emphasis off of “bad” or forbidden foods, so that I can participate in the world around me.

But I’ve been trying my best to reorganize my thinking, since physical activity is hand-in-hand with the food intake part of my process. I can’t change my body without the physical conditioning, and building strength is every bit as important as losing weight. I took it easy to start, to ease my knee and my back into things. By the end of the week I was even able to tackle the file room, so score one for building a little stamina.

Due to the lack of exercise throughout the month, I haven’t really seen any body changes. The measurements have more or less stayed the same. I think that’s my goal for the coming week, especially since I have Monday off. Sounds like an excellent opportunity to go for a walk at the park, which does more to transform my body than anything else I do. I can walk almost five miles at a stretch and it feels like nothing. It is my favorite form of exercise hands down, and, happily, the most effective.

It also renews my spirit every single time I go there, and some days I need that more than others. I think as the days get longer, I’ll be doing this after work as well. I meant to do it over the weekend, but real life intervened as it often does and I simply didn’t make it more of a priority, which I realize is a self-defeating decision at best.

Recalculating…

At any rate, I’ve met some minor goals and for that, I’ll give myself a well-deserved attagirl. I don’t hand those out as easily as I should, which is probably directly due to the perception problem I have in relation to body image, food intake and self-esteem.

Sounds like a blog for another day…

In the meantime, here’s where we stand at the end of Month One:

Weigh-In: 293.6 (-4lbs)

Measurements: 49-45-58 (+1″, same size.)

 

 

 

 

 

Fat Town.

It should go without saying that I love to travel. An open freeway beckons to me like a lonely lover. I have literally traveled – by car – from one coast to the other, and loved each and every minute of it. This is my idea of paradise:

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And I plan to do it again and again and again, until the wanderlust is exhausted at last.

I don’t anticipate this happening anytime too soon, especially since my Muse loves to travel every bit as much as I do. You put me on the open road with some good music on the playlist, and my creativity just unlocks. It’s unchained. Unstoppable. Other people see mountains and cactus and oceans and forests from their windows. I see stories. I see the history of the Native American going west, and the backdrop for the civil war going east. I see monsters and aliens and heroes and survivors as I pass through place to place, summoning the spirits of those long gone, as legend, history and imagination blend into one.

I’ve even been known to meander through cemeteries, the older the better. I love reading names and dates and wondering exactly what their lives were like. I long to know what comprised the dash between their birth date and the day they died.

If there’s a story there, I want to know what it is. The more forgotten, the better.

I guess you could say I’m a seeker.

My mother must have been too because we never stayed in one place for very long. By the time I was eighteen I had moved over twenty times, across two states and a smattering of towns. I learned at a young age that if you get stuck where you are unhappy, you simply move.

Dan was the same way, so I became even more of a nomad once I met him.

During my many travels, I’ve gone through tiny little slips of towns that barely have anyone living there, yet live there they do. They seem satisfied with that tiny little parcel of land, and breathe life into what might otherwise be a ghost town without them. I often wonder if maybe the people who settled that town were heading somewhere else, and just decided that particular speck of land was good enough, and no one that followed ever thought to question. Kind of like the scene in Pleasantville, where wild child Jennifer, as played Reese Witherspoon, asked her class what was beyond the borders of Pleasantville, and everyone seemed so puzzled by the question.

Why would anyone go beyond Pleasantville? It’s just so darned… pleasant.

Clearly these small town folk across our nation feel the same way. A small number of people stay there in those little one-streetlight towns, where the only jobs seem to be at the fast food restaurants or gas stations where people passing through need to stop to refuel before they head on out again.

Seemingly, they never feel stuck enough to move, as if they are perfectly comfortable there. I can’t fathom such things, personally. Not when there’s so much to see and do and experience.

Why stay in one place?

And yet… here I am, for the fourth decade straight, living right square in the middle of the same place I’ve always lived: Fat Town.

I first rolled into Fat Town way back in the 70s and figured, hey. It’s comfortable here. I know who I am here. Nobody bothers me much. The expectations are low for all the residents here. People outside our borders look us up and down, decide what we can give, and what they want to take, and more often than not pass us by.

It is that “passing us by” thing that is a big, big appeal for Fat Town, especially for someone like me.

Though it seems illogical to everyone else who damns fat as the quick pathway to an early demise, Fat Town is safe.

That hidden speck of town is off the beaten path by design. Fat works many times like a fortress, to keep people at arm’s length when it might prove too dangerous to let them any closer. So we burrow a little deeper away from folks, setting up our environment to keep us as comfy (and padded) as possible. We have all our favorite luxuries and all our chosen enablers, who help us keep what is often a hard life more comfortable.

You might be asking how Fat Town could be comfortable, given the residents are often reviled and hated, heaped with public shame and abuse as though they deserve it, simply because they weigh more than folks think they should.

Doesn’t this make us a target for negative attention?

Not as much as Thin Town might think, especially if you’re a woman. Everyone outside of Fat Town is perfectly content ignoring those of us who live in it, which is quite comforting for some of us who learned a long time ago if you’re targeted for how appealing you look, really bad things can happen.

Lately I’ve been thinking how my life would change if the barrier I put in between me and everyone else was gone. I’ve tried to use some visualizing techniques, since I’ve never been able to imagine myself “thin”. My brain simply won’t go there, and I think I’ve pinpointed the problem: stark terror. When I think about hugging someone I care about, someone who could hurt me because of how much I care, without that extra padding between us to absorb the blow, I feel like I could hyperventilate. Likewise, I start to feel uncomfortably vulnerable when I think about being in a crowd of strangers without my Fat Suit on to keep me oddly invisible to those who might cause me harm.

It just seems easier, and safer, to keep everyone, good or bad, at the border of Fat Town.

That terror is important to understand. I moved here initially because I was terrified of men, and men generally don’t favor girls who live in Fat Town. I probably didn’t do it consciously to start, but it has been a more or less conscious choice for about three decades now.

I was a pretty child, or so they tell me.

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Even when I was a baby, men would line up outside the church nursery just to hold me. It was one of my mother’s favorite stories.

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I was the star of my life up until I was four, when I was snatched from my front yard by a stranger who would forever alter how I looked at men. By no real surprise, I guess, this made damned sure I’d alter how men would look at me thereafter.

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Then…

2.2.2017

Now.

Suffice it to say, I found Food Town before I eventually moved to Fat Town. I was a four-year-old harboring a dark and dirty secret I felt I couldn’t share. I needed comfort for that. The only person who knew about that need and subsequently could meet it was me, at the time a four-year-old child. I decided to self-comfort with the only thing a child knows how to do. An extra cookie. Another piece of candy. A bowl of ice cream – anything to make the boo boo sting just a little less. Even today, if I’m feeling bad I reach for more. More of what? More of anything. Whatever you have that makes me feel good, load me up. Make it count. I wanna feel it. It’s instinctual. Primal. It all goes back to that four-year-old who had to self-comfort and had no clue how to do it. I had to use the limited tools I had at the time. And just like the baby doll I had way back then, I would feed this aching four-year-old when she cried.

Since she cried in private, because no one could know why she cried, likewise she ate in private, because no one could know why she ate – and she sure as shit wasn’t going to tell anyone.

I’ve written about this in a few of my books, taking a heroine who has been stained by sexual shame and how she self-comforts with binge eating as a result. Though I’ve written some very explicit intimate scenes, these were the ones that make me feel most exposed. At one point, I literally threw my laptop across the bed after I finished writing one. You know that dream of being naked in a crowd? That. Times, like, a gazillion.

The safest part of living in Fat Town is that most people will chalk it up to my laziness alone. I simply have no willpower. They don’t know the real reason, which for a lot of us would be the worst thing ever.

By the time I was ten, I was a secure resident in Fat Town. And of course there were kids who said what they were going to say, but I usually let it go in one ear and out the other. It probably helped to be bigger than the bullies, another silver lining of Fat Town. How do you frighten off a bear? Pretend to be bigger than the bear.

I simply chose not to pretend.

Being picked last for games didn’t matter much to me because I didn’t care to play those games anyway. That kind of physical activity didn’t allow for creativity, at least the kind I liked to indulge. I would play alongside my favorite TV shows quicker than I’d play kickball. I might have danced, the ultimate form of physical creative expression, but there were a lot of hang-ups there. In a strict religious upbringing, anything that even hints at sexual expression is forbidden, even more so if you’ve been chewed up like a  piece of gum and you can’t let the world know how tainted and corrupted you are and risked being loved or thought of any less.

Since being pretty was no longer my objective, I aspired to be the smartest person in class. I easily reigned over the playground with a ton of friends who would love the imaginative games we’d play.

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Then, like now, I was fun, I was just way more outgoing. I liked to have a good time. I attracted friends who loved to laugh, to play, to *live.* And why wouldn’t I believe I was awesome? I had all these great qualities and I knew with all certainty the only man I let close to me after 1974 would never, ever hurt me. My daddy gave me that confidence. He treated me like one in a billion, and that’s what I felt like.

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Then he hurt me in the most awful way possible. He left.

I was eleven when my dad died, and I felt like I had lost the only person in the world who treasured me for who I was. This was more than love. It was more than the value I got from others. I actually felt like a prize, like I, myself, was this precious gift to be exalted above all others.  Suddenly, like a splash of cold water in my face (more like a tsunami,) I realized that not everyone would love me as unconditionally, or treasure me as wholly.

In fact, I realized a little late (especially given my long residency at Fat Town) that not many people wanted to love me at all. Forget being treasured, I found myself fighting for basic human value. Being pudgy was cute when I was a kid, but the older I got, the more work I had to put into in order to earn that courtesy from other folks. I needed to change for most of them to even pay attention to me, much less value me or – God forbid – love me.

But the bad habits were already in place, second nature to me by that point.

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Through the 1980s I tried many times to leave Fat Town, if only to chase after everyone else in Pubertyville where all the boys I liked seemed to live, only to get hurt by someone’s unthinking actions. I’d poke my head out only to get bonked by some karmic anvil, then race right back to where I was comfortable (safe), bolting the doors and locking them tight so I couldn’t get hurt like that ever again.

I don’t know that it was conscious at this point either. I’d get hurt, I’d eat. I’d eat more. I’d eat a lot. I’d eat as much as it took to numb the pain, and as the pain grew more intense, that amount multiplied. It only exacerbated the problem and became this endless self-defeating cycle.

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What Fat Town looked like in 1982, when I was twelve…

 

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Fat Town circa 1985, when I was fifteen.

People who live outside of Fat Town see how illogical this is and tell us, time and again, that in order for things to change we must change some things. But change hurts and that’s how we deal with pain. Food is not only a comforter, it’s instant gratification. The further you get into Fat Town, the more appealing that is. I can eat that chocolate cake and get a boost of endorphins *right now*. I’m happier, *right now.* It’ll take weeks, months, even years to see the kind of change I need to truly escape Fat Town, to make me as “happy” as the world around me tells me I’ll be. You know, later. Eventually.

They want me to give up happiness now and pull the lever on a slot machine for a possible happier happy in the near future, in a future I really can’t even envision for myself. And for what? So I can live longer? So I can attract people who show me daily they don’t give a shit about me? Those aren’t necessarily the high stakes you think that they are.

By the time I was thirteen, I just kind of figured out my life was going to hurt. If things were going well, I could count on something big and bad happening to keep me from getting too full of myself, like God making sure I paid for such a healthy sense of esteem when I was little. I was raised to believe humility was a virtue, particularly for women, so there was a problem with someone feeling a little *too* special. The pounds packed on. Acne hit at thirteen like a machine gun. My teeth started to twist, and my mother certainly didn’t have money for orthodontics. It wasn’t like I was ever going to be some raving beauty.

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I couldn’t figure out why I, who had been denied so much in my young life, should give up the one thing that gave me true, unquestionable pleasure. Simply put: getting fatter didn’t matter. I had set up my place in Fat Town, where things were safely predictable, even if lonely.

I’d been behind the eight-ball for nearly ten years at that point, and nothing around me indicated it was going to get any better, at least for the long haul. Putting a diet on top of it often felt like insult to injury, considering the thin girls I knew weren’t any happier. They were every bit as scared, lonely and insecure as I was, they were just better at hiding it.

Only I carried around the physical manifestation of such things.

Despite my fluffier exterior, I still attracted people. I was still creative, smart and fun, plus I cared about people. A more devoted friend you couldn’t find. I knew if people loved me despite my permanent address in Fat Town, they deserved the best of me. And that’s what they always got. Still, to this day, that is what they get, maybe even more so.

And I got lucky with some great people. There was my bestie Jeff, who was the opposite of me in every physical way…

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Yet he loved me every bit as unconditionally as my Daddy did. Maybe even more so. He treasures me, and he has showed that to me every single day of our 37-year friendship. This is remarkable to me because he has seen it all, good, bad and ugly. Of anyone in my life, he knows me best. He knows all the dark secrets, all the bad choices, all the temptations I did and didn’t take. Even still, to this day, I confess my darkest desires, my most impossible dreams, and I know he won’t judge me or love me any less.

He was even the first person I told about what happened to me when I was four, when his unconditional love saved me from making the worst, most permanent “instant” fix of my life.

Other people got in too. I made all kinds of friends from all walks of life. Though some will sell you the sad sack fat girl meme, I still got hit on. I still GET hit on, and in fact got hit on this very week when I went to a club to see a friend play. No matter my zip code, I’m still me, so I still attract folks, even living squarely in the middle of Fat Town at my new address at the cross streets of Old Street and Obesity Boulevard.

They’re just fewer, and I’m kind of okay with that because along with good folks, there were also those who got a little too close who were not so good. Back-stabbing friends, people who would use me to get to other people, or girls who would use me to make themselves look better to guys by comparison. Not the least of which were a whole number of men who were not so noble. As I got older, and started filling out into a fuller figure, this mostly meant older men. In Pubertyville, everyone was every bit as insecure as I was, and they couldn’t risk having a girl like me on their arm for the whole world to see.

Older men didn’t care about that stuff, because usually I was never on their arm in public either. They made their visits to Fat Town in private, where they could savor womanly curves wrapped in youthful innocence and I was starving enough for attention that I’d let them.

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That’s the paradox of Fat Town. It can keep you safe from some, but if you’re used to hurting yourself, it makes it that much easier to accept when others hurt you as well. And I felt like I had control over it, because I didn’t get unwanted sexual attention like other poor girls did. I didn’t have to learn how to tell a guy to fuck off, that I wasn’t interested.

I simply took their interest away, and took my chances with those that remained.

I never wanted just anyone to want me, that shit was far too dangerous. But I still wanted to be the star to someone I loved, just like I used to be, without all the risk. Hence why I would always, always, always return to Fat Town, where the expectations are lower, fewer people gather, and no matter what happens I can self-medicate with my drug of choice (food) – to hell with the consequences. So what if fewer people loved me? Love hurt. So what if life was shortened? Life hurt.

Food comforted. It made the hurt hurt less.

Despite the alcohol I started drinking when I was fourteen, or the sex I started having around the same time, food became my vice of choice. Not only was it quick and easy and often cheap, it was socially acceptable across the board. The universal wisdom of the ages? Fix it with food. Have a bad day? Have some chocolate. Feeling a bit out of energy? Have a soda for a pick-me-up. It was socially ingrained into me that food was a fix-all, which was even validated by a doctor when I was eight years old. After I passed out at lunch one day in the third grade, the doctor diagnosed me with low blood sugar and recommended a candy bar and a soda if I got too lightheaded. My own mother wouldn’t let me have soda, but a doctor said it was okay?

Well, okay!

Food became my luxury of choice. We couldn’t afford skates, but I could get a dollar candy bar at the store and feel pretty darned good while I ate it, and after the sugar rush kicked in.

The greater the pain, the greater the fear, the greater the indulgence. If one is good, two must be better. When you feel like less, simply have more. This made sense to the four-year-old who was still comforting me.

All these years later, feeding a problem is still part of our cultural message, which makes changing these habits a battle I usually fight all alone.

And like any four-year-old, I’d rather have a Snickers bar than kale.

Growing up is hard.

Even more challenging, in and out of Fat Town are the feeders. It is our nature to comfort with food. It is our nature to celebrate with food. It is our nature to seek food. The poorest person on the planet will feel like a king as long as he has something to eat. It is our basic human luxury. So, when we care for others, food is where we start, from the time they put a newborn baby in our arms. Even those who criticize you for your Fat Town zip code will be the first to invite you to lunch, take you to dinner, buy you something delicious and tell you to indulge in a decadent dessert, just this once, because you deserve it.

The people we love deserve to be spoiled, right?

Spoiled. What an appropriate word.

Even my husband, whom I love and I know loves me, will pop off with, “It’s not like we do it every day.”

Confession: I do it every day. I think about, obsess over and rejoice in food every day. I indulge in one more bite every. single. day.

Unlike an alcoholic, who is encouraged to change their behavior by divorcing themselves from everything in their life that led to the problem, a food addict has to learn to manage their disorder when they are inundated with triggers every hour of every day. Whenever we eat, we have to make conscious choices about the food we place into our mouths. Back in 2003, when I first decided to get serious, it was like I was playing Russian Roulette every time I took a bite. Every. Single. Bite. Matters. And we have to question where that line is between healthy nourishment and unhealthy emotional eating.

That’s why everyone always jokes that they’ll start their diet on Monday. You can’t escape it. It’s all around you. Every day. Name me a major holiday that doesn’t revolve in some way around food. Name me a celebration that doesn’t have food at the heart of it. There’s always something looming in the future that makes “giving it up” inconvenient. Even at our offices, our coworkers show their love for us by buying donuts or the bosses spring for a pizza party.

At my office, there’s a constant supply of M&Ms because our CEO has decided to use the fun little candy as a way to teach our new business model.

Hell, even I keep a candy dish on my desk to give my coworkers who pass my desk a little something to perk up their day.

It’s cheap and it makes people feel good. What more could you ask?

So you make it work in Fat Town, which, even if you’re doing anything to ultimately move away from it, is your address for the next several months or years while you make these changes. And truth be told, it’s not so bad to live in Fat Town. Yeah, we have problems. We get shamed on the regular. We have to go to special stores to buy clothes. Sometimes we find ourselves suffering health consequences from our extra weight, and very little empathy riding shotgun since, after all, we’ve done this to ourselves. But I know who my friends are. I know that men who interact with me want no more than I’m willing to give. I have a built-in asshole detector the minute I meet someone new where I can tell whether or not they’re a decent human just by how they look at me. I’ve got decades of experience now reading people, and I know when they see the fat, and when they see me.

Sure, we don’t get promoted as often, overlooked as “lazy” because that’s the common stereotype. Sure, we don’t a dozen likes on our Instagram selfies by men, who reserve their kindnesses and their compliments for the women they want to bone.

I, personally, consider that a plus.

Sure, there are people who won’t read my romance novels because they think I’m talking right out of my ass, because what woman from Fat Town knows about real romance anyway?

I’ve been managing those things for years, and most of the time I come to the conclusion that my fat has actually *saved* me from the folks who couldn’t be bothered to care about me in the first place. I’ve made it more challenging to love me because I need people to get through the obstacle course to prove that they’re worthy, that they won’t hurt me, that they can be trusted with the treasure that is me.

I’ve locked it away in the ultimate safe. And only those really special people, who are brave enough to risk the stain of loving someone from Fat Town, have cracked the code and proven themselves worthy.

I guess I really AM Mjölnir.

So you see the confusion. You see my dilemma. Just like that small town girl who is intimated by the lights, noise and dangers of the big city that may call to her, I’m petrified to permanently say goodbye to Fat Town. Hence why this is where I’ve always returned.

It’s a battle, for sure. But one thing about me… true no matter where my address… I am a conqueror.

It’s time for me to hug that little four-year-old and tell her everything is going to be okay. She’s going to be all right. I’m going to keep her safe in ways I never knew how to do before, because I’m a lot stronger than I used to be. I’ve been through many battles, I wear many scars, but I’m still here. I’m still breathing. And that means I am stronger than what has happened to me. I don’t need to pretend I’m bigger than the bear. I AM the bear. So we can venture outside the fortress, we can live the life we are terrified to live, because no matter what, we’re going to be okay.

It’s time to move on now. It’s time to travel somewhere new. It’s time to get “unstuck.”

I’ve never said this before, and maybe the Universe needs to hear it: I can handle it now. No matter who I meet. No matter what I face. I’m ready.

Today I can only make a step, but I’m taking it. One step away from Fat Town and towards Gingerville.

Let’s go.

So they tell me it’s bikini season.

So it’s now June and from what I understand, I need to double my efforts to get that smoking hot bikini bod ready for the beach. In fact, the issue even popped up on Fox News, where Andrea Tantaros had something to say about it.

“At this time of year, anyone with a functioning brain asks themselves that question, ‘Are you beach body ready?’” Tantaros insisted. “In fact, I ask myself that question every single day. And I bet you people who have a problem with this ad going into summer time are not beach body ready.”

Well, you got me there, Andrea. I am not beach body ready, per your bikini standards. I never have been.

I can honestly say that I have never worried whether or not I have a bikini body. That could be because I was raised in a very conservative Southern Baptist household, where such displays would be frowned upon for their inherent lack of modesty. It could be because I’ve never really been that much of a water lover. I didn’t even get the opportunity to learn to swim until I was 14, where a friend of mine promptly left me in the deep end to thrash and panic and almost drown because she thought I was “kidding” when I said I couldn’t swim. That traumatic experience made me phobic of pools and lakes and oceans, or any place where I’d be at the mercy of large amounts of water. I’m one of those weird people who is more afraid of the water than I’ll ever be of wearing a swimsuit in public. I have taken swimming lessons at the YMCA, *wearing* a size-24 bathing suit. The water? Much, MUCH more terrifying. To prove that point, here’s me in the bathing suit on a public beach in Cancun, circa 2005.

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There’s not one damn photo of me in the water.

My reticence to wear a bikini could also be because even though I was raised in the 70s/80s, laying out and getting a tan never worked for me. I’m 100% Irish. I have two shades:

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(If you think I’m speaking in hyperbole, take another look at that beach photo. If you look really close, you can even see my sunburn.)

Of course, much of it could be because I was sexually assaulted as a four-year-old, and as such I’ve never felt the burning need to show off any more nakedness than necessary to a beach full of potentially dangerous strangers. I need more than just a few inches of skimpy fabric covering a few patches of vulnerable flesh.

This body was no accident. Subconscious armor, but armor nonetheless.

Either way, I’ve never really cared to have a bikini bod. It doesn’t even make my backup list of priorities. Not even a little bit. And my brain functions just fine. (Last check, my IQ was in the 130s, and that was testing while I was high.)

What this boils down to, really, is a simple marketing issue. In order for me to fulfill my primary function as a woman (attracting a man,) I need to focus on being as sexually attractive as I can. If I don’t, there’s something inherently wrong with me and I must be shamed as a result.

Believe it or not, I have more value than what I look like three months out of the year. And that value doesn’t go up or down based on what small-minded, superficial people dismiss or discard just because I dare to show up on the sand in regular clothing.

(You can do that, by the way.)

Bikinis can and do show off a sculpted body brought about by hard work and exercise, but those who have a sculpted body usually care about their physique every month of the year, not just during “bikini” season. So the target for this kind of shaming are those who usually do not focus their attention on being as attractive as they can be, and what better time than to single them out and remind them? If you want to pin me down to a religious philosophy, it’s this: help people where you can, and if you can’t help, just don’t hurt. Shaming people helps NOBODY. It only, needlessly, hurts those who may have needed the help most of all. (A kind word goes a long way, s’all I’m saying.)

Shame is a punishment, one that callously disregards a woman’s value based upon nothing more than how she looks. This punishment, by no coincidence, that can be remedied thanks to several multi-billion dollar industries (which fund the media with their advertising dollar, perpetuating the mindset.) These industries have no problem bartering your self-esteem for their bottom line. If you felt perfect as is, they would cease to exist.

Notice I singled out “women.” For men, the newest fad – if you hadn’t heard – is the Dad Bod.

(Note all the proud Daddies showing off their bods, shirtless, out and about in public, without one ounce of shame.)

And if you match their advertisers by comparison, to see what products are being marketed when men are the primary demographic, you’d find the weight loss and “anti-aging” commercials replaced with … yes… ads for beer and pizza. Voila! Instant Dad Bod.

Guess it’s a good thing chicks dig it.

If you’re an innie instead of an outie, the whole Bikini Bod thing is just another excuse to oppress, suggesting that there are different classes of women for no other reason than simple aesthetics. Apparently this is some important work. It’s as if these yahoos think there simply isn’t ENOUGH body-shaming stuff going on every single day (bikini season or no) for those of us who really don’t prioritize making ourselves a walking, talking billboard of sexual attractiveness.

And what better way to keep us prioritized from the things that really matter?

Granted, I like to feel attractive. I like to be in relationships where I can be romanced and wooed and seduced, as an object of desire for someone I likewise desire.

I’ve never worn a bikini in. my. life… and yet, somehow I’ve managed to make that happen, simply by flexing all those other muscles that make me, me.

Shocker, I know. According to the brainiacs at Fox News listed above, I’m a freaking anomaly. Why I’m not on the cover of Vanity Fair is mind-blowing.

Oh wait, no it’s not… turns out that even if you’re a brand new woman, attractiveness is still the #1 priority for making a magazine cover. (If you don’t count tabloids.)

Personally I am OK with the idea that I’m not an object of desire for just anybody. I rather like it. The guys who gravitate to me tend to be a little deeper than those shallow pools who think that I have nothing better to think about or worry about than how I look near buckass naked on a public beach every summer.

More good news for me, according to a recent radio interview, comedian Hal Sparks talked about the missed sexual opportunities for very hot women…

Sorry, ladies, that sounds like a real bummer.

So not only do I get the more enlightened, respectful men, whose concern for the world around them goes way beyond the surface, but I also get more time to teach my lovers a thing or two, from the conscientious lovers who taught me a thing or two.

Per any ugly guy I’ve ever met, fat girls give the best head, which I guess justified their debasing themselves to sleep with them.

Mama’s got skillz, and I don’t waste them on just anybody, particularly those guys who are looking for just a streamlined lady parts’ delivery service.

“So what do you do?”

“I fight injustice where I find it, I bring joy to those who don’t have it, I fight for those who can’t fight for themselves and I try to use my voice to enlighten the masses on new ideas on how we connect to each other and how that impacts our society.”

“But do you look good naked?”

#NEXT

I’ve always found myself drawn to those who are more intellectual, more empathetic, more – oh, I dunno – human… who allow me to be a human too. They make better boyfriends, husbands and lovers all the way down the line. The men who I find desirable care more about the things going on in the world than what someone looks like three months out of the year. Their functioning brain is actually in their head, rather than their pecker.

The way I see it, you get what you advertise for. If you need to starve yourself all spring so that you can drop five or ten critical pounds in order strip down to nothing, putting yourself on display as a sex object in order to attract a guy, you can’t really blame him for treating you like a brainless collection of body parts, one he can replace by a newer, younger, thinner model whenever you cross the inevitable portal into female invisibility.

(You can run from fat. Age catches us all.)

If that’s what I lose out on by NOT working a bikini bod, I don’t really consider that a loss.

And that’s not to hate on bikini-wearers, by the way. If you want to wear one, knock yourself out. No judgment, all love. You do you. Just don’t call me stupid because I don’t find the need to do likewise, because that’s – well – stupid.

People look at me and make a lot of assumptions about me, based on the fact that I don’t have a bikini bod. The first, obviously, is that they think I’m stupid… that without their shaming me for my ignorance, I simply wouldn’t know I needed to fix anything. I’ve lived in this body for 45 years, but, without the kindness *cough* of strangers, I simply wouldn’t know my weight is a critical concern. They somehow think that what they’ve said to me I haven’t heard before, by others, or even myself. Parents, children, siblings, bosses, teachers, doctors, friends, spouses or lovers… no one EVER in my life has EVER pointed out that hey… I may not have that bikini bod and I might want to do something about it.

“Well, Ginger. You obviously didn’t listen to anyone else, so I have to say something.”

Actually, no you don’t. The possibility exists that I don’t consider being overweight the fatal flaw you do. And I don’t really have anything to prove to a total stranger who is in and out of my life within minutes, who has forgotten me long before I have forgotten you.

In 1994, I used to bike to work. A car full of guys screamed, “Go on a diet!” at me while they drove past, laughing heartily at the funny fat broad on the bicycle. I was the joke, you see, and just like the drunk assholes who heckle comedians, they thought their two cents were needed to make the joke even funnier. They probably couldn’t pick me out of a lineup today… but I have never forgotten their words. And guess what? I’m still fat. It didn’t help one iota… in fact, I *gained* weight. So fuck off with any “concern” trolling. It’s just an excuse to be cruel.

You may want to shame me for not trying to attract you… but maybe… JUST MAYBE… I consider repelling cruel, superficial jerks a mark in the “win” category.

However, since being sexually attractive is part of my job as a woman, many think I need to be prodded back on track as painfully as possible, even if I’ve heard it before. Year after year. Media outlet after media outlet.

It’s the only way I’ll learn, right?

The second assumption is that I’m lazy. Because *obviously* I don’t do the CLEARLY easy work of fixing my problem, it boils down to a lack of will.

And sure. You could look at it that way… if you want to be stupid or lazy. Just because I can’t step out in a size-2 bikini doesn’t mean that I’m not actively working to make my body fitter, or making conscious choices about my health.

The fact is I know more about weight loss and healthy eating than your average bear. Three decades of trying every diet you can think of will do that to you. I’m conscious about what I eat, even when I eat the bad stuff. I know what impacts the body, in regards to sleep, stress, good foods vs. not so good foods. I can do everything right and still see a weight gain or no loss at all, and I’ve had to figure all that out, divorcing my feelings of self-worth from the “failure” of staying fat. I’m the research queen when it comes to causes I care about. Did you know that some researchers believe it is more dangerous to continually yo-yo diet every year, indulging in winter, then losing weight for summer, than it is to remain a steady constant weight with a proper diet and exercise? Losing weight is always recommended, but constant dieting, especially drastic calorie restrictive diets, ultimately do more harm than good. When I spent the first four months of 2015 exercising and eating right, barely losing 10 pounds, I could pinpoint the culprit as the stress I was living under, which was fucking with my body so much more than simple ignorance or laziness.

You can see, then, how those assumptions would be so offensive.

So no one gets to shame me when they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about – which is pretty much EVERYONE making stupid and lazy assumptions about my size just because I’m big/fat/obese – whatever adjective you prefer.

The fact of the matter is that I already HAVE a beach body, because I have a body healthy enough to go to, and enjoy, the beach. It may come as a huge surprise to those in the media, but I’ve been to the beach many times. There’s no bouncer in the parking lot sending you home if you don’t fit into a bikini. People of all shapes and sizes go there and have a good time, and the world keeps on spinnin’ around.

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As for me, I still won’t be wearing a bikini anytime too soon, but that would never be my biggest concern even if I had a body people wanted to see naked on a beach.

(In doing all the emotional, intellectual dirty work to get to the root of my emotional overeating, one thing it keeps coming back to is the fear of being attractive to anyone who might do me harm. If the day ever comes I DO get a bikini bod, believe me, the people who have the most to say about it would never even see it. I’ll wait till I’m 80 and then just do it because I’m an eccentric old lady no one can tell what she can or can’t do.)

Moral of the story: don’t let anyone shame you. If you want to wear a bikini to the beach, wear a bikini to the beach. And if you want to work out, do it to make your body stronger, to be healthier and more able, to live a long life where you can annoy these pinheads as long as possible. Never, ever do it so others will love and accept you.

If they need you to be skinny to do either of those things, then they do neither of those things.

Learning to embrace the “During.”

If there’s one thing that 2015 has taught me in these many months, it’s the fleeting nature of existence. Every season we experience, and we will experience them all, is ultimately temporary, whether good or bad. That’s good news for the bad stuff, promising us that light at the end of the tunnel so we don’t ever give up. It’s not such great news for the good stuff, which we hope lasts forever, but is over way before we’re ready.

There’s a line in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, where two people find love right before a meteor destroys the earth. The heroine laments to her new love that she wished they could have met when they were younger, that they didn’t have enough time.

“It never would have been,” he tells her.

It’s such a poignant moment because no truer words have ever been spoken. Good stuff, bad stuff… whatever it is, it is just a season to endure or to enjoy. Yet it’s our human nature to seek out the victories, to celebrate them as if we’ve crossed some imaginary finish line. The good stuff means we’ve weathered the bad, we’ve endured the battle… we’ve survived and have emerged victorious.

And granted, we have done all of that, but crossing over that finish line inevitably puts us at the starting line of yet another race. We’re never really “done.” Nothing is ever really permanent. As such, our victories, hard-won though they might be, aren’t really the full story. They’re little bookmarks on eras of our life where we proved our mettle every single time we managed to rise after being knocked back down.

Getting back up again – THAT is the true victory.

Without getting back up again, winning is impossible. So why are we so fixated on those fleeting glimpses of success defining the story, to the point that there is no story worth telling without it?

I’ve been giving this some thought since Hal Sparks posted the following tweet:

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Of course, as someone who has struggled with my weight and with weight loss for roughly four decades, I had something to say about that. I’m quite resentful that the arduous process of weight loss is often downplayed by the importance given to its conclusion, as if the baby steps we take towards health and wellness don’t count until we fit into some two-piece bikini on the cover of People Magazine. For those of us with a lot to lose, this gray area of invisibility lingers long, and it’s hard enough to keep motivated without bartering our value to simply be *seen* in the process.

We set up unrealistic expectations when we simply show the Before and After pics, because it’s the During part where the hard work is done. That During part could last months or years, with ups and downs and triumphs and failures, but all we see is the resolution of the “problem,” which is the most time anyone in our fast-paced world can spend on a weight-loss story anyway. The only thing that matters when you’re fat is what you do to change it, and even then many only care when it’s all said and done because – more often than not – no one cares enough about you to be in those trenches by your side.

Judging is easy. Investment demands much more than these folks are willing to give.

So why exactly is it my job to impress them?

You can see where I am in the battle when you look at me. I can’t hide it. I can’t run from it. It’s right there. But this visual cue only tells half the story. It tells you how I got there, but it doesn’t say one damn thing about what I’m doing (or not) to change anything. Oddly the judgment always defaults to “not”. Whenever I step outside my front door, you have the before picture, which comes with this hidden disclaimer that I must somehow suck as a human because I have *so much* to change. Without an “after” photo to validate my journey, there’s no real visual proof how totally kickass I can be or how valuable I am… outside of being a fellow human being.

That should be enough but far too often it’s not. And it never will be. My goals for my journey may not include fitting into a Size 0, or having six-pack abs. Maybe my After includes running a mile without stopping, or losing enough weight I no longer qualify as “obese” on my medical chart. These are worthy goals, even if they’re not what others have determined for me. Even with an After photo, you never really cross someone else’s finish line.

It’s baffling to see anyone say these things to a fit woman, but that’s usually where we fat folks live. The message we continuously hear from the world around us is that we can unlock the secret code to social acceptance, a bonus round, if you will, with a glorious “After” photo. That’s why everyone wants it. It’s our golden ticket to join the world around us.

To prove to you exactly how important that photo is to the conversation of weight loss, I have tried in years past to get endorsements for weight loss blogs where I – with all my weight to lose – offered myself up as a guinea pig to highlight the journey in painful detail, with all the ups and downs, triumphs and trials, to encourage all those other folks out there on the same rocky path as I am.

I even approached Oprah’s magazine. I got shot down. Hum. Wonder why?

Oprah-Weight-Loss-before-and-after

Truth be told, nobody gives a shit about the “During” part. They just want the awful, ugly, frowning “Before” shot and the victorious, glamorous, smiling “After” shot. Even those who have the best of intentions err on the side of After.

I, of course, expressed this discontent to Hal, and he, of course, reminded me that the “During,” is, in fact, important. It’s were we all live.

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See, that’s the dirty little secret no one tells you. There are no “Before” or “After” photos. There are only “During” photos. Every physical state that we’re in, whether we love it or whether we hate it, is temporary. This is life. And life is messy. There is no point where you break through the ribbon at the finish line, or reach the top of the highest mountain. There is always, always, more to go, things to accomplish and battles to win.

You don’t believe me? Check out this blog from a gal who, by the standards of our fine (*cough*) society has crossed her finish line, but boldly asserts the idea There is No After. Putting a “thin” shot next to her “heavy” shot didn’t instantly fulfill her or fix all her troubles, and as such proved to her how much left was to do AFTER the After.

There. Is. No. After.

There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of weight loss because the rainbow has no end.

There is today. There is now. There is during. There is life.

I uncovered myself one pound at a time; now, I must REcover myself…I must DIScover myself. And that…that is the new goal. Not numbers. Not sizes. Not inches.

Me. I am the goal. Finding. Loving. Being.

Can anybody hear me?

I hear you. And I get you. One hundred percent.

The last four months have been a bitch and a half. I decided to spend this year focused on my weight, my health, my journey – only to have the universe slam me with crisis after crisis. There have been times I wanted to abandon the One Year project, convinced that this is just not the time to do it. There are simply too many chainsaws up in the air. Each new tightrope I walked had no wiggle room aside from the very next step I took, which was precarious at best. I wasn’t thinking my end-of-year “After” moment. There were no triumphant laps around the pool just to prove that I hadn’t become a statistic of my ambitious body change project. I was thinking only of my next breath as I struggled (struggle) to keep my head above water, often nearly drowning in the process.

In this year alone Steven has been yanked around with three different employers, which put a huge drain on our monthly income thanks to bounced paychecks, and less than honorable management that would strip the hourly wage to nothing after a couple of days of low sales. This occurred right when we needed the money the most, which resulted in one of our cars being repossessed. Tim’s cat, Simba, managed to break *both* hips at once. Thanks to all the stress, I’ve been sicker in the last four months than in the last four years.

To tell you the unique juxtaposition I’ve experienced this year between absolute highs and fuck-it-all lows, my first traditionally published book released the same week that we got served eviction papers. The irony of it was painful. The book I wrote while homeless finally publishes the very month I flirt, once again, with homelessness.

This has been my 2015.

Because of all this, I’ve been fighting off the dogs of depression with varying degrees of success. On the good days, I can manage my wavering moods with exercise or herbal remedies. On the bad days, and there have been more than a few, I’ve danced with some really dark thoughts that all circled back to one very unsettling idea:

Was this my After?

It sure as hell felt permanent, yet another hole to dig myself out of, with only a teaspoon to do it. There was nothing more depressing than After the After. The current (temporary) situation as it is feels it will never get any better, so why bother? It’s been rough, made rougher still by this idea that I can’t share this part of my journey because it’s not sparkling, shiny and successful. I’m still mired in the During, and I know in my gut far too many people won’t even hear me until I emerge on the other side of After… if I ever do. Needless to say I have not been running at full capacity. There were some days the victory was simply getting out of bed. All the other stuff slid right off the priority list.

And yet, I couldn’t give up entirely. On the one hand, I’m frustrated that the one year I put aside to really get serious is the one year that Life decides to throw everything at me at once. How inconvenient, right? But on the other hand, the universe isn’t out to get me. It’s happening this way for a reason. There are lessons to be learned here. It’s my job, in the During, to figure out what that is.

It dawned on me that maybe, just maybe – the During is it, no matter how imperfect and haphazard it may appear.

I’m swimming like hell for the shore, best I know how. My immediate need is my income, so that was where I diverted all of my focus and energy. In the midst of all that, I’ve completed two books and tweaked a script, doing everything I can think of to get any lifeboat coming my way so I can get back to where I was a year ago, while finding the energy to change who I’m going to be in the future, dropping nearly 30 pounds and a couple of dress sizes in the process. There have been victories in the During, even though, llike some demented cosmic board game, it seemed like every step I had taken towards my “After,” I was sent back five steps.

Nothing was harder to confront than this idea that my success, forty years in the making, was so limited – and now over in the space of six months. (Not a ringing endorsement for any OTHER goal, lemme tell ya.)

But it wasn’t over. It was only temporary, just like this new state is. I wasn’t any better, stronger or wiser… I was just luckier. It’s my turn to deal with the crap, and I’ll get through it because I AM strong, even if I don’t measure up to someone else’s backwards metric to measure it.

We fixate so much in this life about the After as some place to rest and languish after the hard work is done. And of course in our (*cough*) culture, the truest measures of Happily Ever After success to the outside world are wealth and attractiveness. (For women, this means our inherent fuckability, but that’s another blog altogether.)

If you have neither of these things, just pack it up and go home. Stay silent. Stay invisible. Nobody gives a shit about the struggle. Those of us fighting our way through the During simply cease to count until we reach After, and many, MANY times after the After.

But there is no After. There is only During. And During is messy. It is fraught with complications and failures and missteps and excuses and depression and elation and determination and tenacity.

After doesn’t show you who you are. *During* is where you figure out who you are and what you’re worth. My wise best friend told me that I don’t need to apologize for my During.

He’s completely right. The During is everything. It’s life, not some fucking race to be won. The race will never be won, because life is a journey with no finish line except at the bitter end. If your value depends upon your “After,” you’ll never truly know your value until you draw your last breath.

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So we’re going to stop waiting around for the “After,” myself included. Like everyone else, I have been hinging my own value on who I become *after* this year. But who I am now counts. I started this journey with the idea it’s not about weight loss. It’s about conditioning, and that’s where the During lives.

So yeah. I’m going to post pics and run the risk that some Internet asshole will find something negative to say about it, even with the work I’m putting into myself to change. They’re going to do that even AFTER the “After,” no matter who you are.

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As you can see, people don’t give much of a shit about the After, either. Not really. Even they know that every state is temporary, and what they see can be altered, changed to fit their ideas of physical perfection, even if one can do this:

This is my race to run. No one else gets to tell me where the finish line is, or move it based on what some total stranger thinks I need to be doing. From now on I’m going to abandon this idea of “After,” because it robs me of all the joy, the triumph and the lessons of my “During.” And nothing – NOTHING – is ever going to prove my worth more.

You want before and after photos?

This was me before I was sexually abused at age four:

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This was me before my dad died when I was eleven years old:

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This is before I was homeless, living out of a car at the age of 19:

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This was me before eight years of living with someone with bipolar disorder, and the emotional and physical abuse that followed:

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Before my nine-day-old son died in 1995:

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This is me AFTER I managed to crawl out from under menial jobs and finally provide for my family:

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And this is me AFTER finding love again:

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This is me AFTER losing 70lbs in a year:

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This is me AFTER making my dreams come true as a working writer:

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In essence, every single photo taken represents a Before, During and After. In essence every photo is a starting point and a finish line. And I’m me, in every single one. Every good thing. Every bad thing. Everything.

And that’s okay because I am okay. I’m strong enough to fight through the battle – and that strength is the source of my inherent beauty as a human being, not how I’ll look in a smaller size.

Every single photo we take is a “not there yet but working on it” photo, and deserves to taken, documented, seen and appreciated.

So if you’re waiting for an After pic to give me the respect, consideration or admiration I’ve already earned, that’s your issue not mine. Every single one of us is in the During, which means it ain’t over for any of us. In the pursuit of self-excellence, it never will be… and never should be.

Welcome to my During. I can’t promise you that pics of triumph and victory won’t outnumber those of trials and stumbles, but I can promise you every single photo will be 100% me. For those who would love me, that’ll be enough. For those that won’t, it never will be.

Here’s the only After photo that counts: It’s me after I realize that it’s not my job to make your world prettier by disappearing.

I’m here. And I count. Right now, in the During.

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The Fight to Love One’s Self

A thought has been returning to me lately, picking at my brain with this kernel of an idea, some deeper, hidden mystery I have yet to crack. Those are the best kind, really, since I’m one who likes to dig and probe and get past the bullshit to the underlying issue, especially when it comes to outdated ideas that make no logical sense to me. I like to challenge the status quo, especially when I see it does more harm than good. Because self-esteem is a huge obstacle I constantly find myself battling, this one simple question has continued to flummox me:

Why are we discouraged from loving ourselves?

We’re told in one breath we’re beautiful, awesome, unique, important… an original who has never been before nor will ever been again. But God forbid we actually *embrace* any of that without someone else’s permission. For some reason, if *we* are the ones saying how awesome we are, we immediately invalidate our innate awesomeness. That one little thing, believing that you’re beautiful, awesome, unique and important, owning it and expressing it, tips the scales from polite humility to outrageous vanity simply if it comes from within rather from an outside source.

I had this inked onto my brain from childhood. I was brought up in a devout Christian household where true virtue rejected any hint of vanity. Sure, I was good enough for Jesus to die for my sins, but I wasn’t allowed to simply state how amazing God had created me to be. Instead I was taught that I was lucky Jesus was so awesome and had decided, out of the pure goodness of his heart, to save me because I’d be a complete and total wreck on my own.

I don’t think people understand what this kind of doublespeak does to children. Let me be perfectly clear here: it ain’t good.

I grew up thinking that I wasn’t allowed to own ANY of my value. In the space of graduating from Sunday school to Big Church, I went from a beloved, albeit weak, child in “Jesus Loves Me” to complete wretch in “Amazing Grace.” (Actually, given the lyrics of “Jesus Loves Me,” I guess the transition shouldn’t have been THAT much of a shock. It never says that Jesus loved me because I was created to be amazing, simply because “the Bible told me so.” If we’re so sinful and so weak and so wretched, why does God love us so much, I wonder? And what would happen to humanity if ever loved ourselves just as much?)

Since I already had lived through the trauma and shame that follows a sexual assault, it wasn’t hard for me to believe that I was undeserving of any love that followed. I suspected I was inherently unlovable because I went from being virtuous to being corrupted, dirty… cursed. And yes, that’s what I thought of myself, because being “virtuous” was so lauded in my home. I had that decision taken away from me, but I was no less tainted. Every time the preacher spoke about sin, I knew I had already stacked up my share. I got “saved” when I was eight years old. And again when I was 12. And again when I was 15. And again when I was 25… it just never felt like the love I was searching for was enough to wash it all away. And you know what? It never will be. Because the source has to come from within. I keep expecting everyone else to fill my cup, rather than just embrace I have everything I need to fill it myself.

This has been the root of my problem since I was four years old.

Though I was encouraged to keep mindful of all my many faults in order to avoid “getting a big head,” there was always this thought tapping at my brain suggesting that I wasn’t unlovable at all… that I was truly special, truly unique, truly – well – gifted with something amazing. In sixth grade, when I found the gift of writing, I latched onto that with the hope that nagging thought was right. It exalted me, where everything in my “normal” life constantly sought to put me in my place. I always had things I had to improve to be truly accepted. I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough, “virtuous” or disciplined enough to accomplish anything great. It was foolish of me to own anything about myself that didn’t fit into that humble viewpoint. How could I be so special when there was so much wrong with me?

It made me believe, for decades, that I could never truly be special until I fixed all that was wrong. I kept putting off all the stuff I was doing, the stuff that gave me that sense of value, that sense of being wonderfully different and wholly original, till the Great Until. I never believed anyone else could love me because I wasn’t truly allowed to love myself, at least until I changed and adapted myself to the standards of others. Self-acceptance was kept out on a stick in front of me, to keep me in line, to get me to “do the right thing,” or suffer the consequences.

Would I have known that being overweight was a deal-breaker had others not told me so? In a word: NO. When my dad was alive, he made me believe I was perfect just the way I was. I knew I was fat, but it never occurred to me that this was some huge flaw. Only after his voice was silenced did I hear the negative words of others, often disguised as “helpful advice” to help me change more into what they thought I needed to be.

To put it in perspective, THIS was what I looked like when the negative voices began to infiltrate and shape my own feelings of self-worth:

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Imagine what would have happened if that girl had been allowed to *love* herself rather than start picking herself apart at the tender age of 12?

Not sure if this is solely a gender issue, but it seems to me that women in particular are burdened by this warped logic. Not too long ago I read an article regarding a woman who started agreeing to any compliments sent by anonymous men on the Internet as a way to “break the ice” with her. And her comments weren’t bitchy, necessarily; at least I didn’t read them that way. But regardless of how she responded, just including that ownership of her attractiveness usually brought out negative, even abusive responses in the men who felt it incumbent upon themselves to take her down a peg or two.

It went something like this:

Guy: Hey, you’re hot!

Girl: Thanks, I know! You’re cute too!

Guy: You’re not all that, bitch!

So here’s a woman who is obviously physically attractive enough to get these compliments, but dare she agree with something that is fairly obvious, immediately she is vain and “full of herself.”

Here’s my radical thought: Why shouldn’t she be full of herself? If someone is conventionally attractive, odds are they know it. Why do we force them to lie and feign modesty so that they can be more socially acceptable?

Why is dishonesty/duplicity any more virtuous a trait than “conceit”? (I used to have a male friend whose go-to saying was, “I’m not conceited. I’m convinced.” Apparently this is something you can say as a dude.)

Let’s face it. When we feel like we look good, we stand a little taller, smile a little easier and walk with a lil bit of a strut. You think that hot girl on the Internet, whose photo was chosen because she thinks she looks pretty hot in it, is *surprised* when you tell her she’s beautiful? Do you really think some drive-by praise by someone she doesn’t know, which echoes dozens of other guys who aren’t original enough to come up with something different to say than default to her looks, is supposed to make her feel more special or more valuable than she is allowed to feel about herself? “Well, I’m gonna make her day and tell her how beautiful she is because hot gals worth having really don’t know for a fact how hot they really are.”

Is she supposed to be grateful you pointed out the obvious?

Seems to me that women bear the responsibility of humility a lot more than men. Is there ONE song on the radio where a woman croons affirmations to her lover, who wouldn’t believe he was attractive and desirable otherwise if she didn’t tell him?

But I bet you can name five songs by men who do that very thing.

The rules of humility don’t necessarily translate to men, who are expected to be confident go-getters in order to be successful.

If a guy is full of himself, who believes in who he is and what he can do, we call that “swagger.” Some women are even fairly turned on by it, as evidenced by the popularity of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise. My hand to God, there’s a passage in the book where Ana asks Christian what she will get out of signing The Contract to submit herself to him. His answer? “You get me.”

Panties fell off all over the place because we as women are socially conditioned to accept that as the ideal. He’s in control and we’re lucky to have him. He’s the alpha, dontchaknow, and alphas by their very definition don’t need you to tell them who they are. They’re the ones telling us, and we generally agree. That’s why alpha males are exceedingly attractive to a lot of women.

An alpha male demonstrates his superiority, whether hard-won or not, and oozes self-confidence that serves him well both in his career and relationships. He knows how to get what he wants and – the clincher – he knows he deserves to get it. He’s not waiting for permission. He’s issuing a demand.

If a man does that, it’s hawt. If a woman does it, it’s unseemly and impolite.

In many ways, winning the attention/love or even lust of an alpha male elevates the female to that virtuous status she’s not allowed to claim for herself. He says how beautiful, special, unique and amazing she is, just by choosing her. And, since we already know he’s Da Shit (mostly because he believes it to be so,) this pathway to awesomeness is one of the more socially acceptable ones.

But what of the alpha female? What of the woman who knows who SHE is and what SHE has to offer all on her very own? If you take the traits of an alpha male and apply them to women, how accepted would she be? How exalted would she be? Or would she be vilified as a vain bitch who needs to be put in her place?

But why?

If a woman has a banging body that demands hours at the gym and rigorous training, and you tell her that she looks amazing, why can’t she say, “Thanks, my body is pretty freaking incredible.” She put in the work every bit as much as some musclehead dude who posts endless shirtless selfies on the Internet to delight and amaze hordes of screaming groupies.

Why does her owning her hard-won awesomeness have to take anything away from anyone else?

Why can’t she celebrate her appearance every bit as much as she’d “brag” about getting a promotion at the job, raising decent kids or, say, just for argument’s sake, writing a popular book?

“Well, Ginger… the problem is saying ‘I know,’ when she just should have said thank you.”

What’s the difference between the two? Isn’t the acceptance of a compliment virtually an agreement anyway? Many folks can’t even TAKE a compliment because of this. They’ll quickly reject it, shake their head, even argue if they don’t/can’t believe it. Women in particular are conditioned to do this as part of being “virtuous.” (*For the record, I can’t even type/think that word without an involuntary gag reflex.)

We’ve been sold this bill of goods that humility denies that which makes us special, because simply owning it would make us vain.

Here’s the literal definition to “humility”:

a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.

On the other end of that spectrum is “vanity”:

excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.

This makes humility – having a “low” view of one’s worth – the polar opposite of vanity, which shows “excessive” pride. But it’s still an extreme. Honestly, I really don’t see how it’s any better or any more “virtuous.” (GAK.)

I don’t like to brag. There is no ‘but’ there. I really don’t like to brag. At all. It was beaten out of me by the church. This might be fine if I was trying to be a know-it-all jerk, which, truth be told, I can often be. For everything else I have to do, it’s a pretty big roadblock because – thanks to the extremes of “humility” and “vanity,” – I honestly don’t know where the line of acceptability is. This sucks, because it often diminishes the amazing things I do, shading it with this fucked up idea that it really couldn’t be THAT amazing simply because *I* did it. Remember? Low view of one’s worth? That’s the sin of humility… it makes the incredible unremarkable unless a third party acknowledges it. (And even then you can’t simply say, “I know.”)

(Embarrassing confession alert: I was so browbeaten by this humility vs. vanity bullshit that I truly believed from an early age bragging about things would result in the loss of those things. In other words, if I say I have pretty eyes, if I believe I have pretty eyes, eventually God will tire of my uppity attitude and take them away. Scary shit when you’re eight years old, lemme tell ya, and that fear is deep-seated. When I hit some success last year with the books, I was petrified to acknowledge it for fear it would go away. I considered it “luck,” something fleeting and unpredictable… and – truth be told – I still do. This is how far the neurosis goes. Hence why I’m here now, sorting it all out, untangling it and taking a good, hard look at it so that I don’t keep tripping over it.)

I was telling a friend of mine, one I respect a great deal, that I have a hard time tooting my own horn when it comes to the things I’ve done. He said that it’s not vanity to own one’s own accomplishments. If I worked hard for it, I have earned the right to take pride in it.

Instead I was waiting all this time for ever increasing degrees of validation in order to prove what I had done was, indeed, pretty remarkable. I felt it, mind you. I wanted to own it. But I didn’t feel as though I should. I needed permission first. I was searching, in vain as it turns out, for that sweet, vague line of acceptability.

The other day I was on the phone with my incredible/amazing/supportive/encouraging manager. Just having someone with her experience in my corner should be validation enough, but I still struggle to make everything as perfect as I know how to make it, just so I can impress the mighty folks she has in her back pocket to read my work. And I always, always, ALWAYS feel like every new thing I do will be the one thing that proves, without a doubt, how big of a “fraud” I really am. Remember that carrot on the stick? How can I be a great writing success when there’s still so many things wrong with me?

In fact I had toiled over a project that was *quite* the emotional drain on me, certain that it was going to miss the mark in a hundred different ways. It was outside my genre (sort of,) and it wasn’t my story, so I often had to fight my instincts to go to dark places I wouldn’t have willingly gone to on my own. I was in completely new territory and unsure of what she might say when she read it. Much to my amazement, she instantly loved it within the first few pages. When she called me, because an email wouldn’t do, she told me how great of a writer I was. I dissolved into tears because it ultimately gave me permission to believe that I *do* have what it takes to make this my career.

Believe it or not, even after 21 books released, and inching up into the coveted 20% of writers who can make any money at all doing this, I still worry that I’m a big fat fraud who is deluding herself. I haven’t yet hit those markers that determine my greatest worth in what I do, markers, oddly, that keep moving up the ladder as I take incremental steps towards where I want to be. “I’ll believe it when I make money on what I write.” Okay, you’ve made money on what you write. “Well, maybe I’ll believe it when I have a popular book.” Okay, you’ve got a popular book. “Okay, okay. FINE. I’ll believe it when the success lasts more than a release day event.” Okay, you’ve had the success last more than a release day event. “Okay but what about…?”

The carrot always stays three steps ahead. Always, always, always.

I can’t blame this entirely on the fact I was not trained to love myself or appreciate my own special contributions to the world… I think a lot of writers struggle with this fear of inadequacy and failure. All artists do. All people do.

But I can’t help but wonder how much further we’d all get if we’d just allow ourselves the liberty of loving who we are and being in awe of what we can do. Obviously we believe we have something special. It takes a lot of gumption to produce a hefty novel and present it to the world, certain that what you have said deserves to be heard… especially if you’re charging for it.

But to believe we’re “great” – or even “good” – takes some chutzpah most of us lack. Hell, it’s hard to get a writer to even admit he or she is a writer, because they’re waiting on that day someone ELSE tells them so. (Usually in the form of success, however they’ve chosen to define it.)

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say I’m a great writer. Just writing it there flies in the face of all I’ve been taught over my entire life. I think I’m a pretty good writer, and I’d like to say it is only because I have extraordinarily high standards for my work and hit my own objectives more often than not. Truth be told, though, I’m still relying on everyone else to validate that core belief. Some days are better than other days, usually depending on my daily income. I fluctuate between a healthy self-esteem, one that recognizes the progress I’ve made and the things I’ve accomplished, and a bottomed-out self-esteem, where I think I’ll never reach that next rung on the ladder because I sucksucksucketysuck.

Again, it may have more to do with the artist mentality… but I really feel I need to find a way to reconcile these two conflicting beliefs. Humility vs. vanity represents two extremes, and neither one of them truly represents the reality of where we are in our lives. It’s all skewed perception. The only real difference is that one is socially accepted and the other is not.

Social acceptance, however, is bollocks. We should never outsource our self-worth to other people. Who else could be as qualified as we are ourselves in determining our own personal value? And it’s vitally important that we do value ourselves. Our success and our relationships depend on it. If you low-ball yourself, if you make it a habit of “marking yourself down” so that other people feel comfortable with you, then you’re not truly loving yourself. You can’t love yourself if you diminish yourself.

You’re also cheating everyone else because you’re not being fully honest. I’ve often said I’d rather deal with an honest asshole than a sweet-as-pie liar.

So today, I think we all need to come back to center and remind ourselves that we are beautiful, awesome, unique and important. (And yeah… the fat chick put the word beautiful out there. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I get to behold myself whichever way I want to, thank you VERY much.)

Actually that last little bit was a total bluff. I don’t believe I’m beautiful – yet – but I’m working on it. And by “working on it” I don’t mean trying to lose weight. I could pick my appearance apart from the top of my head to my Flintstone feet and still find a dozen other flaws. I could lose all the weight in the world and still be “unattractive” by society’s standards. (To which I say… fuck society.)

We women do this all the time, constantly berating ourselves for all those little imperfections that negatively affect how we view ourselves. If that wasn’t bad enough, we’re encouraged to keep doing it by this bullshit mentality that loving oneself is the mark of vanity – which, aside from being a slut maybe – is about the worst thing a woman can be. Not great news for all us fat slutty bitches who think suspect we’re pretty damned awesome when you get right down to it.

No, I’m claiming my beauty BECAUSE of my imperfections. My battle scars are my beauty marks because they show how fucking strong I’ve been to overcome the things I’ve been through. It is because of that long, painful, broken road that I get to decide whether I’m worthwhile for myself rather than allowing every Tom, Dick or Harry (whether they are qualified to judge me or not,) having the final say on something so inherently subjective anyway.

If you truly believe it, who is anyone else to tell you differently?

Toward that end, I’m going to start a new project called “DURING.” I’m not where I want to be yet, and I don’t think I ever will be. I’m one of those annoying people who always wants to reach that next level, who obsesses over the next hurdle to jump, rather than celebrating the progress I’ve already made. (A product, I think, of this whole humility vs. vanity bullshit.) Instead I keep waiting to cross that ever-changing finish line to declare those victories, feeling in some way that’s how I’ve earn the right to love myself. I’m waiting for that “AFTER” photo that justifies the “BEFORE” photo, which totally undervalues everything I’m trying to do with this transformational year. I say it’s not about weight loss, but it feels like a lie when I stop just short of taking photos, or publicizing anything but the “wins.”

Step One to truly loving myself means I have to recognize I have value now. I have importance now. And from now on, I need to act like it regardless of what others may think.

(That includes posting this blog, which I have been sitting on and tweaking and fiddling with for five whole days to get the courage to post it. This truly is a work in progress.)

It’s time to claim our own worth, regardless what polite society has to say about it. That line of acceptability? I think I finally figured out where it is.

It is where WE decide to put it.

Let It Go

Anyone who knows me knows that I love animated movies and am a complete Disney/Pixar fangirl. I’ll watch these movies with no child present, except for the one that still lives inside of me. When these stories are done well, they will have a message for every person that watches, not just the wee ones that may have been the intended audience.

In fact, some (like Up and Shrek 4) have storylines better suited to the midlife adults forced to watch scores of animated movies thanks to their growing families.

That being said, I wasn’t in any real hurry to watch Frozen. I heard it was great, but there was nothing in the trailer that made me want to rush to the theater to see it (Olaf notwithstanding.)

I’d catch it when it came to Netflix, that was fine by me.

Then I read that some grandmother in Utah, as well as conservative commentators and religious wingnuts, took issue with the movie and its award-winning song “Let It Go” as some kind of gay propaganda that was a “satanic push to turn kids gay.”

And just like that, “Frozen” shot to the top of my “Must See” list.

You may not know this, but I’ve been trying to turn gay for decades. I’ve done all the right things: I’ve become friends with gay people, I’ve gone to gay clubs and gay-friendly churches, I’ve marched in Pride Parades around a TON of gay people, still… no luck. I grew up on the Golden Girls, I’ve listened to Lady Gaga, loved Ellen DeGeneres and recently binge-watched all five seasons of “Queer as Folk” back to back in a sleep-deprived stupor.

But darned if I’m not still completely and totally straight.

(In fact, watching hours upon hours of hot, naked guys only served to make me straighter.)

What’s more, I told my kids about gay people from the time they were small and even THEY didn’t grow up gay no matter how many gay people they knew personally, or how many events they attended.

It’s like we were born this way or something.

So whenever any well-meaning religious person tells me that this may be the thing that does it, I’m right there with bells on. Let’s make this thing happen, y’all.

Sadly, “Frozen” did not turn me gay, even with watching it a second time with my gay best friend. And the song, “Let It Go,” did not make me want to throw down my heterosexuality like a bad habit, to turn my back on being a good (read: straight) girl and live my life without any religious rules.

Frankly, I’d given those up many years ago. Generally they suck and have little to do with truly spiritual rules, such as love, mercy and grace.

However, the song “Let it Go” DID resonate with me, quite deeply as a matter of fact. I could see the correlation with “coming out of the closet,” but that comes from a place of empathy. You may not know this, but we all have our closets in which we hide.

You don’t have to be gay to hide your true self for the comfort/acceptance of others. Some of us lived our whole lives that way. We were trained at an early age to make ourselves more “marketable,” to overcompensate for our flaws, so that we can be accepted and loved.

This is particularly true for women, whose appeal largely depends on the social acceptance of those around her. Turn on any TV, pick up any magazine and you’ll see how women are targeted to diminish our flaws and hide our imperfections so that we can become more socially acceptable.

Needless to say, I’ve got a steep, uphill climb to reach that elusive standard of female perfection. It’s always been easier, and safer, just to hide.

If you put my pros and my cons down on paper, they mostly walk hand in hand, the yin and the yang to every personality quirk. I’m smart with quick wit, but that came with a heaping helping of social anxiety disorder. No matter how smart/funny I am, I often appear stupid/awkward because I simply do not know what to say. I’m guarded, so I appear shy and fearful. I am deeply passionate, which is much too intense for some people, who misread my intensity as a threat. I am driven and focused, which often comes across as obsessive. I’m intuitive, but impulsive. I truly want to make people happy, but too much of that turns me into a bitter people pleaser. I’m strong but I’m scared, determined to win the fight with the world, but often too vulnerable to take a stand with my own trusted, vetted inner circle.

I started an email to a friend today, to explain the way I’ve always edited myself for his approval, but ended up deleting all four attempts and never sending anything at all. It was just too scary to get that real.

I’ve done a lot of hiding in my life because I couldn’t risk letting the real world know the real me.

And really, isn’t that all the extra weight really is? It’s a closet. I’ve locked myself in my own lonely room, where I hide my powerful nature and live a half-life separated from the people who could love me fully, just because I can’t accept what makes me different.

Which is everything, by the way. There are plenty of contrasting ingredients in the Ginger Voight cocktail, and it is definitely not to everyone’s taste. Instead of finding the rare souls who could appreciate every nuance, I’ve spent decades watering myself down just to make myself palatable to the masses, the majority of whom couldn’t be bothered to give a shit either way.

In the year of Muchness, I’ve got to let that stuff go.

When Elsa was on that mountain, shaking free the shackles that had her bound, I was right there with her. To own who you truly are, who you were meant to be, even when that scares others or shakes them out of their comfort zones, is an empowering thing. To burst forth and declare that you are OK with who you are is where transformation finally begins, where you go from being merely acceptable to *significant.*

That was what we were ALL born to be, in our very own, unique ways.

This transformation is destined to happen, whether you want it to or not. If you have contained yourself for the benefit of others, it will rage in you just like the storm Elsa sang about. It hurts to be bound by the limited expectations of others. The confusion, the self-doubt, the loathing… all of those things will wrestle with that beautiful spirit that dares to rise within you and be seen and heard, despite the consequences.

The more you push that beach ball under water, the bigger splash it is going to make when it finally bursts free. It may not look like what others want it to look like, or sound like what others want it to sound like, but it is your song to sing; no one can do it but you.

And so you must.

So I must.

Here’s the kicker, and why it is so scary: we will lose people when we dare to live our honest lives as our truest selves. The people who got comfortable with us in our ill-fitting closets will want to stuff us back in there, to live under their expectations in return for their favor. But like Marianne Williamson said, there is nothing enlightened about dousing our inner light for the comfort of the insecure.

We need to be who we were meant to be, daringly and without apology. We need to own that transformational power and accept our responsibility to the universe itself to be wholly, perfectly ourselves. That is what we were meant for, what we were born for. All those fears of what we’ll lose and all those worries of who will or won’t accept us?

That has never been our problem.

Let’s let it go.

Room for the Unpretty.

Recently a commenter on a previous blog felt the need to remind me that when it comes to men, women only have value if they fit a certain physical criteria. His exact words: “Men really don’t care about your intelligence, your wit, your charm, your job, etc. All men are genetically programmed to seek the conventionally attractive women.”

I guess his main point is that my being heavy means I’m S.O.L.

I have no value, see, because I – as a lowly woman – committed the high crime of being “ugly.”

How dare I?

Months ago Jennifer Weiner, the first writer who introduced me to plus-sized heroines starring in their own love stories, faced something similar on Twitter. She was essentially attacked for not being “conventionally attractive,” as if this invalidated her human worth in some way, despite her being personally and professionally successful.

Her opinion didn’t matter, her existence was nullified. She’s not pretty, so she doesn’t count.

And, as the commenter on my blog says, “Men don’t want heavy women and we will never hesitate to let you know it.”

How nice of them to offer this profound public service, because as far as the media is concerned we women are perfect JUST the way we are.

So these men, stuffed to the gills with their own sense of self-importance, must therefore take this great burden upon their shoulders to whip all us ugly chicks into shape as some sort of community service.

You poor little dears. Such a Herculean task, considering the average American woman is a size-14. Thank goodness you’re all already so godlike thanks to your mighty penises! Otherwise, well… I just don’t know what.

You may not be aware but apparently some guys are really miffed that some of us ladies just don’t work hard enough to make ourselves attractive for them. How dare we even try to exist when clearly we just don’t count, simply because they wouldn’t want to fuck us? Maybe we should all be flown to a tropical island out of their view so they won’t be so inconvenienced by the sight of us.

But it’d probably sink, right?

Bahdahbump.

Jennifer’s response to her troll hit me square between the eyes because it was a concept I had never really considered before. She said: “Thanks. But, thing is, my job is not to be beautiful. Or give strange men boners. There is room in the world for unpretty.”

Wait, what?? You mean… you mean… I can be a human… a woman even, if a man doesn’t find me attractive??

Why isn’t this in a manual somewhere? Someone call Cosmo quick! This is groundbreaking!

I mean, can you imagine? A woman can have an opinion, express an idea, hold a job, graduate college, run for office, have a presence on social media, show her face in the world and being pretty doesn’t have to have anything to do with any of it??

Stop the presses!

This. Changes. Everything.

No matter what I’ve read, what I’ve been told, and worse – what I’ve told myself – I don’t owe it to the world to be pretty. What a load off!

I’ve been very candid over the years on how being unattractive had the unexpected benefit that jokers like these would never give me the time of day. Believe it or not, it’s a real time saver. It separates the men from the boys better than Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth, because the commenter wasn’t wrong: assholes will never hesitate to, you know, show you they’re an asshole.

While idiots like these think that no men would like me/value me/respect me/befriend me or even want me, my reality is a *tad* different. I may not be everyone’s sexual cup of tea, but most men can still treat me like a human being even if they don’t want to get me into bed. Strange, huh? There are men on this planet who know that women are more than a collection of parts assembled for sexual gratification.

That means I get to be a whole person. It’s really neat. They laugh at my jokes, consider my ideas, listen to my stories. Even when they don’t agree with me, they’re not going to shame me for being unattractive to undermine everything else I have to say. They already figured it out I didn’t owe it to them to be pretty, so they can just accept me as I am.

The only guys who buy into this antiquated idea that it’s my job to do everything in my power to attract them as a sexual partner, simply because I’m a woman and they’re a man and biology, duh, are the ones I would never want in the first place.

I know this will come as a HUGE surprise to some of you guys out there, but I don’t give a shit if you find me attractive. I’m not out to fuck you. It’s not because I hate men or am bitter or frustrated or frigid. I like sex. I like it quite a lot. I’ve created a whole career out of it. I like men, too. As frustrated as I get with your gender at times, thanks to interactions with guys like the commenter mentioned above, I really, really like men. I wouldn’t want a world without ya. I even have a weakness for your swagger. Men in my life outnumber the women. I live with three. My best friend is a man. And I have a laminated list of those I find to be the best of the best. I’m attracted to men and enjoy the company of men.

But that doesn’t mean I want to fuck all of them. On this planet, at this moment, I can count the men I’d fuck on one hand. You have a better chance of being hit by lightning, or winning the lottery, than landing in my lascivious crosshairs.

Simply put: I don’t care to pick the lowest hanging fruit on the tree. That may be what some of YOU think I deserve, but – again – that is not my reality. I have a ridiculously high standard… and guys who think I should change for their approval would NEVER make the list. Even if I didn’t wear wedding rings on my finger, my days of chasing after assholes ended a long, long time ago.

Regardless of what you think, I don’t seek to earn the sexual desire of each and every man that I meet. Because I’m married and faithful, your sexual desire has no practical purpose for me. Neither my survival nor my happiness depends on it. Even if I was single, I reserve the right to pick and choose those who might earn (and be rewarded with) my interest.

If you are the kind of guy who can’t recognize that very fundamental truth, you ain’t it.

If you don’t want me because I dare to be an ugly woman… it’s not my job in the least little bit to care.

*I* don’t want *you.*

Weren’t expecting that, were ya?

You may be wondering why I wouldn’t be interested in all that business between your legs, because obviously you’re this brimming specimen of a masculinity, one who clearly has to fight the ladies off with a stick. (N’ you carry a big one if youknowwhatimsayin’, ammiright??) You attract everything in a three mile radius with a vagina, so *clearly* you need to remind us fat chicks we don’t stand a chance just to preserve your precious energy.

Thanks for the information, I guess? Imma just go live my life now anyway, kay?

What you *really* mean is no man like YOU would want me for real. Frankly, that’s not the incentive to change that you think it is.

I’ll make it simple for you and use small words.

I don’t want to fuck you.

No, really. I don’t. This ain’t my first rodeo, sugar dumplin’. I’ve slept with a my share of men in my day, including men who thought they were god’s gift to the ladies. More often than not they were sadly misinformed. The best lovers have always been those men who valued the whole of a woman, not just how her “parts” were assembled. Great sex is more than just what happens when tab A inserts into Slots B, C or D. (Or E or F if you wanna get a little adventurous.)

Guys who are willing to dismiss a woman’s appeal as a person, with her wit, charm, intelligence, talent, humor or kindness, simply because she doesn’t fit into some narrow, simplistic opinion of physical attractiveness, don’t have the imagination required to interest me in sex.

And frankly, I don’t mind telling you that.

So you see, you don’t have to worry about my weight because I’m not in the running to be your sexual partner.

You wanna know something else? Something really, super cool? Since I don’t want to sleep with you, how you rate my desirability is really none of my concern.

You don’t have to worry about me at all. Yay, right? Your burden just got a WHOLE lot lighter.

Good news for you, there are plenty of girls out there who give a shit what you think, who think so poorly of themselves, they’ll let you run their esteem into the ground because they think they deserve it.

But that’s not me, nor any other quality woman I know.

So rest easy knowing that I don’t want anything from you.

The even better news is I don’t owe you anything, up to and including a forum to spew your narrow-minded point of view.

So no further anonymous, trollish, shaming, insulting, demeaning comments will be approved, ESPECIALLY if they’re written by someone without the cajones to sign their own name.

Now bugger off. And have a nice day.