Mind Colds and Soul Flu

My earliest recollection of dealing with depression was when I was eleven years old. It was after my dad passed away and life became too much for 1981 Ginger to handle.

I used to feel guilty about that. I’m a lot gentler with myself now. I treat her with the same kind of care I would treat an actual eleven-year-old. What kind of heartless bitch would I be if I expected from a child what I’ve always expected of myself? 1981 Ginger had just lost the person she loved most in the world, the one who loved her back with equal zeal. It ripped a hole in her very soul. Worse, there was no one around willing or able to patch it. Suddenly, she was emotionally and physically on her own. That wasn’t her fault. That was just how it was. The hand had been dealt.

I was a latchkey kid almost immediately, simply because my mom didn’t have the resources to pay for a babysitter. So, at eleven, I learned how to take care of my basic needs. I learned how to get myself to and from school, dressing and grooming, preparing my own meals both before and after school. It was up to me to police my own homework and manage my own free time. I was my own boss at eleven.

Add that to soul-crushing grief and that’s a lot for a little kid to handle, even a child known for being exceptional and mature.

Plus, it was 1981. There were no grief sessions with the school counselor, even after I ended up missing two straight weeks of school. I wasn’t punished (by the school) that I remember, but there was a VERY humiliating moment where the (male) coach (why is it always male coaches?) singled me out during class on my first day back to drill into me the shame that comes with my shameful behavior.

I skipped school. How dare I?

The thing is I wasn’t trying to be bad. I just didn’t have it in me to be good. That’s the insidious nature of depression. It steals not just your happiness, but your very strength. Suddenly normal life, which we all navigate day after day, seemed too big and daunting to tackle with what little energy I had left.

Given I was carrying a lot of buried trauma and a horrible secret about my own sexual assault, it was more than 1981 Ginger could handle. And I knew that, I just didn’t know how to communicate that to anyone else. Instead, I managed their expectations of me instead.

Everyone I knew expected me to roll with it. Everyone else I knew had their own secrets, their own trauma and their own pain. There was nothing special about me, except for the way I wanted to handle it – which in no way included “rolling” with it.

Everyone who has ever been ill understands what it feels like right before you come down with a serious illness, say, a cold or flu. You might start sneezing. Your throat might get scratchy. You may be zapped of all strength and ache all over. The last thing you want to think about is powering through a normal day. All you want to do is stay under the covers and sleep it off so you can feel better again as soon as you can.

Depression works like this because it IS an ailment. It’s not a moral failure, no matter how much my fifth grade coach wanted to categorize it as such. You’re legitimately sick. And just like nobody is going to get pissed at you for calling out if you’ve got fever and aches, no one should get mad at you for taking a “personal” day to regroup. (It’s a sick day, btw. Not a personal day. You’re not playing hooky from life. You’re legit running on an empty tank of gas and powering through sometimes makes it hurt worse.)

I felt sick, so I called out sick.

BUT, just like you don’t get better without medicine or antibiotics, depression doesn’t go away just because you gave yourself a break. Sometimes, and very quickly, it can sink you into a bigger pit of despair. If there’s no one there to help you out, it can cause way more damage than good.

Such was the case in 1981. I stayed home day after day because the problem loomed larger with each passing day. I had stepped out of line to catch my breath, but didn’t know how to get back in the swing of things. This amped up my anxiety, which had already reared its ugly head a time or two by then.

It was a witches brew. (No disrespect intended for any witches.) The problem got worse instead of better.

But it was 1981. Even though I was a traumatized, devastated child, I was expected by all the adults in my life to keep trudging along. Suck it up. Keep moving. Life goes on. There was no gentle guidance, just the same tired expectation of everyone else in my family. My mother was suddenly a single parent, with all the bills landing in her lap – including my dad’s 13-day hospital stay following his stroke, leading to the heart attack that would take his life on his birthday. My sister was likewise in an unhappy marriage with four small kids. Everyone was broke, broke, broke, and dealing with their own personal demons I didn’t even know about. I didn’t know about any of this back then because my family didn’t talk about stuff. They yelled. A lot. But never said a damned thing of any real substance.

We didn’t have a church family at that point, just a church. We had just moved and everything was new. No connections were made. And to be quite frank, churches have never brought me solace or comfort. It was just one more group of strangers, and we all know how I feel about strangers.

Worse, because we had just moved to the area, we didn’t have any friends, just family that was either old or broke or both.

My saving grace at this point in my life was my bestie. I met him in September of 1980. My dad died in December. After he watched that coach humiliate me in the middle of class, this new human, with more compassion in his little finger than most adults had in their whole bodies, decided to step up to the plate, ensuring that I never had to feel alone if I didn’t want to.

I can’t even IMAGINE what my life would have been like without him. Honestly, I don’t even think I’d still be here. He was and is my saving grace.

We would talk on the phone from almost the time we got home from school to the time we went to bed. Well, he went to bed. I’ve always been a night owl. Maybe I was just keeping watch, to make sure that the rug wasn’t going to be pulled out from under me AGAIN. Either way, I managed most everything on my own.

It’s remained that way in these 38 years since. I stumble. A LOT. But I keep moving.

When I tell my story to folks, they’re quick to tell me how strong I am to have endured the things I’ve had to endure in my life. The older I get, the more that staggering list towers. People often wonder how I possibly got (get) through it all.

Well, one foot after the other, usually. It started way back in 1974, when I had to tuck my trauma under the rug and pretend everything was normal. That I was normal. When my dad died, when other family members died, when I was homeless, when Dan went mental, when my son died, just on and on and over and over. I’d take the punch. It might bring me to my knees, but somehow I’d figure out a way to stand up again… even if it took a minute for me to pull myself together to regroup.

They call this strength. I don’t know about all that. I mean, what are my choices, really? Just like in 1981, I had to figure out a way to make it through and just keep moving. Time doesn’t wait for me, as Boston once sang. So, I keep going.

Sometimes I use anger like rocket fuel. I have to. Sadness is just a cousin to hopelessness, and there’s no calling out sick for two weeks while I wait for someone to come along and save me.

It’s always been on me to save myself, no matter how limited my resources might be.

I’m like my car. I have more than 100K miles on the odometer. My paint is fucked thanks to scrapes with the wall. My starter doesn’t work so I have to hot wire it in order to get it to start. My front bumper is always falling off, tied together with zip ties that can snap if I dare park too close to a cement parking divider.

Oh, and it’ll never be paid off. Ever.

It barely runs but I keep running it. It doesn’t get sick days. Neither do I. We’ll both keep on running on a wing and a prayer, hoping that some miracle will eventually come through.

Maybe then I can breathe again. One day the terror of merely existing will have to abate, won’t it? I’ll get to the place where I won’t feel like the walls are always closing in, right?

So, there’s no calling off life. I’m like my mom now. I have to make it all work, even when I’m sick, whether physically or mentally. Even when depression tries to come down on me like a thundercloud, giving me no warning whatsoever.

That was the day I had yesterday. My PTSD has been running RAMPANT for two weeks now and I couldn’t hold up under the strain anymore. Thanks to the lack of estrogen, and all the crazy menopausal mood swings, it hit HARD. I was just taking a shower like normal and suddenly the world was too much to handle. Snap your fingers. That’s how quick it happened. All those flight or fight feelings just overwhelmed me. In a moment I went completely dark, with feelings of devastation and hopelessness that nearly strangled me where stood.

It was right out of the PTSD textbook.

Negative changes in thinking and mood

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb

It wasn’t okay. I wasn’t okay. I remained emotionally fragile for hours afterwards. I burst into tears at the slightest provocation. I raged at Steven who offered me food, when I was trying my hardest to dissect my feelings enough to figure out if I was really hungry or just trying to “feed the monster.”

Lately, since I’ve been trying to cope without reverting to binge-eating, it’s a crucial step I canNOT skip. I both succeeded and failed in many ways.

The victory here is that I was aware. Painfully, excruciatingly aware.

I didn’t self-destruct. That’s the win.

I wasn’t perfect. That’s the reality.

When people ask me how I get through the things I’ve gone through, this is it. It’s equal parts pushing through, like I was always taught to do, and being aware enough to know I can’t do EVERYTHING I need to do to get healthy. Therapy isn’t an option until we get back on medical benefits. I have to wait, doing it on my own, until I can scrape together the means to put my health first over my mere survival.

That means I’m also waiting an extra two months for my cancer screening. I’m having a harder time managing the anxiety over that delay than anything.

So, here I am. Waiting for my miracle. Driving my body and my life around with my figurative bumper falling off and jump-starting the car because I can’t get it to start the normal way.

I’ve never been able to get started the normal way, not since 1981.

But… I’m not giving up. I didn’t come this far to get this close, only to succumb to the darkness. It’s a struggle. Some days more than other days, like yesterday.

The good news is I’m no longer that traumatized, powerless eleven-year-old girl. I know there’s relief on the other side of this. I just have to get through it.

And now… I’m the adult that’s going to heal her. One fucking way or the other.

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Installing a Love filter on the Internal Selfie

I’ve never been big on pictures of myself. I’ll take thirty of my kids, my pets, or even the same park I’ve been going to for six years, but if you want to find photos of me when I was younger, they’re few and far between.

Last year, in an effort to utilize Snapchat more, I began taking selfies. The filters were fun and it quickly became a thing my bestie and I did. Not to brag, but it’s turned us into proud streakers.

That said, selfies that I share publicly, even though I made it a point to force myself to get more comfortable with it, still go through an editing process. I’ve tried to remove myself from that equation when I pose with other people who want their pictures taken with me. I figure if they want the photo, they know what I look like so I just smile and let them edit it for themselves even though I’ve found that I’m a lot like the Two-Faced woman in Seinfeld, where I can be attractive in one pose, but repulsive in another taken mere seconds later.

This is why I like the Snapchat filters so much. They ease cruel self-flagellation that has been instilled in me since birth.

Even cuter still is Bitty Me, my bitmoji.

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You’ll notice that I didn’t shy away from making my Bitty Me fat, because I’m fat. I’m nothing if not literal. This makes posting those Snapchat-filtered selfies a little challenging for me outside of Snapchat. I know that you’re seeing a photoshopped version of me, like a mask or disguise. Surely when you see me in person, you’ll be utterly disappointed. Or you’ll know me in person, and know what a big fat liar I am. I’m NOTHING like my pretty Snaps, right?

Except… you won’t be disappointed, because you will probably see more than the scars, particularly if you already know/love me. That’s the kindness filter, and my Internal Selfie doesn’t have that.

See, that’s the thing about the Internal Selfie – it already has a filter. That filter is shaped by the world around us, telling us how to view ourselves. If you’re a woman, even if you’re young and pretty, there is a long list of defects and faults that can still be highlighted and identified. God forbid you actually LIKE how you look. Such a thing simply isn’t ladylike.

We’re conditioned to downplay our attributes and spotlight our imperfections. This is why my model-thin future daughter-in-law was freaked about showing her collarbones in her wedding dress.

We recently did a dress reveal for those in the wedding party who weren’t able to go dress-shopping with us. Do you think THEY saw her collarbones the same way she did? Total strangers in the bridal shop couldn’t take their eyes off of Brittany. She glowed.

I was feeling pretty self-confident that day too, mostly because the day wasn’t about me. Then we had to pose for pictures and, remember what I said earlier? I just grinned and grit my way through it.

I could pick myself apart like crazy, instead, I put my photo up against another time I wore the same shirt, to remind myself where I’ve come.

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Can’t hate on THAT, now can I?

When the people who love me see me, they’re not seeing the scary Alternate Ginger. They view me through a Love Filter, one that blurs away all those imperfections society at large is so quick to point out. They see me for more than a collection of parts. They know my rocky past. They aren’t expecting everything to be in place. In fact, that I clean up so well after all I’ve been through often takes them by surprise. “You look great!” they tell me, though it’s so damned hard to believe them sometimes.

That’s why I’m so grateful for the photos now, because *I* can see for myself how far I’ve come. I’m going into my 50s so much stronger, healthier and happier than I went into my 30s.

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I’ve been doing a lot of these collages lately, to remind myself where I’ve been, where I’m going, and to stand strong in the moment. I’ve fought VERY hard to be here, with so many things working against me through the years. Yet, I keep getting up and moving forward. Instead of picking myself apart with each and every photo, I want to throw a little Love filter on there myself, because that chick in the photo is pretty darned amazing. I know what she’s been through, what she’s conquered and what she’s accomplished more than ANYONE, and if I had just learned to be gentler on that little girl way back when, maybe I wouldn’t be so insecure today.

I certainly wouldn’t be waiting for some After photo to justify my taking the damn photo in the first place. Newsflash, Ginger: THEY ARE ALL AFTER PHOTOS. That, in itself, makes them beautiful. Not because I’ve lost weight, but because I’ve survived life. If you know anything about my life, you know why that’s freaking incredible. (And why I’m a major badass.)

This was me as a four-year-old, after we moved from Lubbock (where I was assaulted,) back to my hometown of Abilene. Sure, she looks like any other adorable 4-year-old. Except she’s not. This little girl was hiding a secret that she thought would make the whole world stop loving her. Back then, she felt like she’d been ruined, cursed, punished. She’d done a bad thing (gone off with a stranger,) so anything bad that happened to her afterwards with her fault.

As such, this is a little girl whose entire world has been blown apart… and she’s learning how to hide it all behind a normal smile.

 

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When I look at her now, I feel such sympathy for her. I want to give her a big hug and hold on tight, letting her know that despite it all (or maybe, even because of it,) she would go on to do incredible things. She’d be loved by so many wonderful people, each one viewing her through a more merciful filter than she ever viewed herself.

She would spend the next 45 years trying to make up for being bad by being the best she could possibly be. Yet, every time anything truly spectacular happened, she’d self-destruct because that Internal Selfie filter was turned to self-loathing. It simply wouldn’t accept that anything truly great was possible. Her curse was her fault, after all. She deserved to suffer.

Can you imagine me saying that to that little four-year-old girl? I know I can’t. Yet, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Can you imagine hating yourself so badly for something that wasn’t even your fault?

No matter if I left my yard with a stranger or not, I don’t deserve what happened to me.

It’s time to turn on that love filter. It’s time to see myself through a gentle, softening lens that minimizes the damage and enhances the beauty, because there is beauty there to behold.

It’s okay to embrace that. Better still, it’s okay to celebrate it.

I honestly have shied away from sharing photos with anyone with the bestie just because I don’t want to put anyone off by the photos that I send. My Insta is mostly motivational quotes or pictures of my pets or kids. Not me. I’m afraid to do me. I’m afraid that anyone scrolling past that photo of me will automatically unfollow because no one can truly handle it.

Can you imagine? I’m all about celebrating the beauty in other people, but when it comes to myself I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

So, the challenge going forward is to wrap my fucking mind around it. I’m a beautiful woman who deserves to be loved. If you don’t agree, that’s fine. You’re not one of the ones who is destined to love me.

For those who do, thank you for seeing me through a different filter. I will no longer edit myself out of your life, or my own memories. That seems to be where everything got so off-track so long ago.

That little girl still needs a big hug from those who don’t want to let go.

That starts today with the one person she needed to love her, forgive her, accept her the most.

It starts with me.

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We need to talk about Tess Holliday.

Recently model Tess Holliday reached a milestone that took her by surprise: she became a Cosmo Cover Girl.

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For most of us fat girls, including Tess herself, such a thing was unthinkable. Though we make up the majority of American women, we are woefully unrepresented in the media, which is very much by design. Apparently, giving fat women a platform only “glorifies obesity.” They have to keep a tight lock on those gates to ensure that we American women NEVER EVER see a big body because, God forbid, we’d forget our place and, with unforgivable audacity, get as big and as proud as we wanna be. We’re all just looking for ANY excuse to let ourselves go, because being fat is SO much fun in this society.

Note, this doesn’t work the same way for men. I’m not saying fat men don’t face similar biases, but as I learned as a teenager watching Oprah, many men believe the rules are simply different for them, and society has done nothing but reinforce that message in the decades since.

When I was a teenager, I watched, with all the stabbity rage of a budding bitch, a fat man tell Oprah that his wife *wasn’t allowed* to gain weight, that he would have dropped her fat ass.

He thought that was okay. Most people think it’s okay, as long as it isn’t spoken out loud. I mean, it’s understood, right? You let yourself go and your husband has all rights to cut off the love supply and kick your fat ass to the curb. See Section C, paragraph A of  The Contract.

What is the contract, you ask? Well, it’s that social “agreement” we all sort of accept as the standard of human behavior and relationships. We are sold this bill of goods by multiBILLIONdollar industries that tell us women serve one major function in our culture: to attract men.

Some might argue that motherhood is the more sacred, holy calling, and that’s true, I guess. In most cases, however, you don’t reach motherhood status without someone first wanting to fuck you, so you best heed that social contract, sister.

(It has to be a man, btw. Men plant seeds and women receive them. Hence why lesbian sex scares the SHIT out of some folks.)

Fortunately magazines like Cosmo are chock full of advice how to uphold your half of this contract. They will tell you what to wear, how to look, what to do, to attract, please and keep your man. The media targets girls even in childhood (looking at you, Disney,) and keep you dancing all the way until your uterus shrivels and you are no longer part of the reproductive pool.

You can just imagine the distress putting someone like Tess on the cover might have caused for some folks.

She broke the contract? And the contractors were okay with it?? What fresh hell is THIS?

People are pissed, y’all. How DARE we give Tess a platform to show off her fat body like she might be proud of it? Do you know how DANGEROUS that is?? Imagine young girls getting the message that they DON’T have to change to like themselves? This undermines the whole fucking contract and takes direct aim at the Industrial Dissatisfaction Complex, which depends on our constant insecurity in order to profit.

There is only way our culture can respond, apparently: Double down on the contract.

If you want to find an example of this, find ANYBODY defending Tess Holliday and read the comments that follow. Comment after comment of people crying out, “BUT SHE’S UNHEALTHY,” as if they give one microscopic fuck whether she’s healthy or not.

Spoiler alert: They don’t.

Nope. You really don’t. You don’t care about her getting diabetes, despite you posting some health risk stats like a pompous ass.

Really? Odds are greater for a fat person to become diabetic? Tell that to my husband, who, despite that he was average weight, developed diabetes and I, who has been over 200lbs since my teens, have not. Maybe you’d like to police my underweight future daughter-in-law when she exists on nothing but sugar for days at a time, but the guys who do a double-take when she walks down the street don’t seem to care about that.

If you’re fuckable, being “unhealthy” is just fine.

Still, fuckos like this post this shit like they, some strangers who wouldn’t even think TWICE about Tess or women like her if they didn’t have to, know better about her body than her doctor, her friends and family, or even Tess herself.

The problem isn’t her health. It’s how she looks. You don’t like it. You find it repulsive. You recoil, because the thought of fucking her (because it ALWAYS goes back to this for some reason,) is unthinkable. Therefore you don’t want to see her bare skin. It makes you angry to see it. So angry, apparently, you feel every right in the world to shit on her about it. You’re so mad you want to hurt her by however means possible.

To make you feel less like a jackass, you cry “health.”

But I see you.

We ALL see you.

You’re not doing her any favors. You’re not trying to intercede for her benefit, to save her life or make her better. YOU DON’T GIVE A RAT’S ASS ABOUT HER. You are indulging your need to abuse another human being and you think she should take it because she broke some contract you think she signed to answer to you.

Nuther spoiler alert: She didn’t.

See, here’s the truth. Putting a fat model on a magazine doesn’t “glorify” obesity, it simply acknowledges that bodies come in larger sizes. They always have, and hiding fat bodies in the shadows hasn’t done one damn thing to fix the “problem.” In fact, one could argue that it perpetuates it.

I’ll use myself as an example, because why not? I’ve been your punching bag for most of my life, maybe you’d like to know some details since you’re so terribly concerned about my health and all.

I started out a thin kid, way back when. In fact, I was treated differently from birth for being so “pretty.” My mother’s favorite story was how the men would line up at the church nursery to hold me. I was pretty adorable. (But then again, all kids are. Only an asshole would make a kid feel ugly, because there’s simply no such thing.)

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That photo was taken in Lubbock in 1974, the year I was sexually abused by a stranger. After that, how I related to the world around me began to change. Without anyone to help me recover from the trauma, and in fact – nobody even knew – I developed my own coping tools. I was a four-year-old tasked with taking care of a four-year-old, with only my limited experience with baby dolls to teach me how to mother myself. Back then, I did what I would have done to my own baby doll had she cried: I fed that traumatized inner child. Over the next seven years, I steadily gained weight.

 

Despite this, I didn’t identify myself as a fat kid. I was heavy and things were harder for me, but my dad practically worshiped the ground I walked on, so you couldn’t convince me anything was wrong with me. I believed, rightly, the problem was with everyone else.

 

Then, I was further traumatized when my beloved dad passed away in 1980. I was then tasked as an eleven-year-old to heal and comfort an already battered eleven-year-old. Everyone else expected me to take the hit and move on, that’s simply what you do in life. Buck up, buttercup. Life’s a bitch and then you die. Bad things happen. So what if they seem to happen more to you? Get over it.

That was when the binge-eating disorder began in earnest.

 

It didn’t matter how few fat women were around to “glorify” being overweight around me (zero,) or how MANY women were around who were glorified for being UNDERWEIGHT, (basically every standard of beauty I had growing up.)

I had to bear that Fat Cross all by myself. My mom wasn’t fat. My sister wasn’t fat. My friends weren’t fat. Yet, that train was off the rails DESPITE the fact I started watching what I ate and dieted regularly between 14-18.

Many may not realize this but dieting is a BIG part of Binge-Eating Disorder, as is caring – VERY much – how different my size made me.

Still, I was over 200 pounds from about age 14 on, despite the constant criticism I got, the “tough love,” and being ostracized because of my size.

I was unhealthy but it had DICK to do with my size.

My size was the symptom of something else.

Had JUST ONE PERSON noticed this and helped me develop better coping tools, and supported me while I made those difficult changes, my story would have been a little different. The rose might have bloomed bigger and brighter had I been nurtured rather than punished.

If you really DO care about any of us, you’ll do well to remember this.

Maybe someone WOULD have noticed, had I been allowed to exist with all my “flaws,” rather than being told, “Fix yourself first, then we’ll talk,” while being shoved back in the shadows where something like BED thrives.

But nobody cared about THAT. Instead, society would rather that I be shamed for not being able to “fix myself.”  I have been shamed by doctors, by family, by men (LOTS AND LOTS OF MEN,) and generally society at large, who can clearly SEE me lying in the gutter trying to figure out my way out, but decided it was far more fun to kick me instead.

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So, keep your concern. I already know you don’t give a shit. I’ve got DECADES worth of evidence to support this. You don’t get to scream at me from a passing car “GO ON A DIET,” while I’m RIDING A FUCKING BIKE, and tell me you care about my health.

You’re a dick who likes to hurt people who are many times already hurting. And guess what, fucko? THAT’S IN NO WAY HEALTHY.

Studies show that shaming not only doesn’t work, it often makes the problem worse. One only need to look at how I looked before and after a relationship that *depended* on tough love re: my weight:

 

And how I looked before and after a relationship with someone who supported me and loved me and treated me like I had value despite my “breaking the contract.”

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Shame kills. Love heals. If you care anything about my health, you’ll do well to heed that simple truth. If you don’t, well. To quote Archie Bunker: stifle yourself. Your faux outrage is tiresome. Your veneer as some concerned observer is paper-thin, as is your “support” to help me “change.”

I see you. I know you don’t care.

And even if I am unhealthy, I’m still a living, breathing human being who doesn’t deserve to be abused. Trust me, honey. I’ve had my share. I’m just doing my best to take care of me now and show MYSELF the love the peanut gallery thinks I should be denied simply because of my size.

Fuck. That.

Instead, I’ll deny permission for anyone to abuse me simply because it makes them feel good and I’m an easy target. They get to treat me like shit because society accepts that is what I deserve. Seriously, THAT is way more fucked up than someone who has the audacity to exist as a fat person.

Yet, I’m the one who society wants to shame?

Fuck that DOUBLE.

Spare me your “thoughts” and concerns. If you’re not willing to put in the hard work you expect me to do, I really don’t care to hear your advice.

“Well, why should *I* put in the hard work? I’m not the one who put on the weight.”

NOW YOU’RE GETTING IT!!

My size, my health and my journey has nothing to do with you! Nope. It really doesn’t. And don’t come at me with how much it’s gonna “cost” you in the long run. Unless you’re health-patrolling EVERYONE who participates in risky behavior, you’re DELIBERATELY targeting me to exercise your fat bias, which is a lazy-ass thing to do. Put up or shut up, my friend. Unless you’re going to stand at the grocery store and shame everyone for the crap THEY eat, or shaming restaurants who sell double portions full of sodium and sugar, or going door-to-door to shame folks for sitting on the sofa binging on Netflix instead of exercising, then you can kindly go straight to hell.

You don’t get to pick on me simply because I wear my scars on the outside, just because society gives you a free pass. Go all the way or don’t say anything at all.

“How am I supposed to judge people, Ginger?? How do I know what else they do to take care of themselves?”

DING DING DING!! YOU ARE ON A ROLL!

You don’t know what I may or may not be doing for my health when you see a photo of me on a magazine, or see me pass you on the street. Even if I’m eating lettuce and drinking water, it will take a LONG time for me to fit into the standard. I’m gonna be fat for a while. If I’ve gotta deal with that fact, then so do you. I’m just trying to live my life, same as you. I get things right. I get things wrong. Same as you.

And I deserve to be treated with human decency.

Same. As. You.

So, the next time you see a fat person and your first response is to clutch your pearls and decry the danger of it, I urge you to explore some of your own biases to see how much you might be contributing to the problem… because you sure as hell aren’t HELPING anything.

If you can help, legitimately help. (And no, snarky comments don’t count.) It starts with listening and understanding and compassion AND acceptance that what is a priority for you just may not be a priority for them… because that’s okay.

They get to live their life THEIR way, same as you. You don’t get to sign off on the choices of strangers. Period.

If you’re not prepared to get in there and do the work, then simply take care that you don’t add to the hurt we who exist fat have always had to endure in your hateful little world.

The only thing that has EVER made me want to change is the company I keep.

If you can’t do either of those, then simply get out of the way. Fat, thin, big, small, we’re human. We deserve a place in this world, whether you wish to grant us permission or not. And we’re through jumping through your hoops for something we are already owed, just because you get a charge beating up another hurting human.

To me, that deserves far more shame than some numbers on a scale, particularly when your opinion is irrelevant.

MY JOURNEY ISN’T ABOUT YOU. IT’S NEVER BEEN ABOUT YOU. IT WILL NEVER BE ABOUT YOU.

You can try to fat-shame me, but it’s a waste of your time.

I’m not ashamed of my fat.

I’m not ashamed of my scars.

I’m not ashamed of my journey.

I’m ashamed I live in a world where that all comes second to how men rate me as a potential sexual partner, but don’t worry…

THAT I am working to change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ghost at the Door.

Back when I was a kid, most of my travels revolved around family. My dad was one of eleven kids, back when big families like that were the norm. They remained fairly close-knit throughout the years, despite losing a lot of members along the way. By the time I was born, my dad had experienced quite a few losses, including both of his parents, an infant sister, an older brother, and one of his brothers who went missing during WWII. So, the ones that were left made it a point to get together whenever possible. Family reunions were annual events, divvied up between the remaining siblings scattered all over Texas, and the one sibling who had straggled all the way to Arizona.

While I grew up mostly in Abilene, our relatives were all over Texas. I had Aunt Gertrude in Amarillo, along with most of my dad’s kids from a previous marriage. (I say kids, they were all older than my mother by the time my dad robbed that particular cradle.) Uncle Jack and Aunt Clarice, along with our cousin Bessie and her branch of the family tree, were located in Lubbock. Uncle Tom and Aunt Edith were in Lampasas, which was further south heading towards Austin.

I believe Uncle Clarence was in Houston, and Uncle Joe D. and Aunt Katy were in East Texas.

McCandlesses were everywhere.

Years later, when I posted some photos on Facebook, a friend I had made through my best friend (both gay men) asked me if I was related to a man named Weldon McCandless. I was, in fact. He was my dad’s great grandson…. who happened to be marrying someone my friend knew.

It really IS a small world, after all.

Before I turned 10, we made regular trips from Abilene to Lubbock to visit family. Like I said Uncle Jack was there with his wife Clarice. Cousin Bessie was always happy to see us, and would prepare a Southern Feast for us full of good ol’ comfort food staples. I used to swear I could smell her biscuits cooking by the time we reached Post, a small town just outside of Lubbock.

I had a special affinity for Bessie, not just because she fed me down home food on the regular. Her birthday was in November as well, so I felt a special kinship to her. That she was one of the family who understood pain and loss endears her to me now, given all I’ve been through. She outlived I believe two or three husbands, and all of her children… even a few grandkids. Yet she always had a smile for everyone and loads of love.

Needless to say, we share kinship in more ways than one.

Uncle Jack and Aunt Clarice had done very well for themselves. They lived in a beautiful home I can still see if I close my eyes. I can almost feel the velvet-accented wallpaper beneath my fingers. I so envied their cozy home full of the minor comforts I always associated with being financially secure.

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(Left to right: My mom Patsy, my Aunt Gertrude, Cousin Bessie, Aunt Clarice, Bessie’s Granddaughter. Note the photo album front and center.)

I loved that house. I loved their family room, their kitchen, their big patio/backyard. There was only one room I didn’t like: the music room.

It may very well have been the formal living room, but nobody actually “lived” in it. It was right off the front of the house, by the foyer heading towards the cozy family room that was big enough to accommodate our large clan. In that front room there was some seating, a sofa and maybe a couple of chairs, along with a coffee table. There was also a stereo, hence why I called it the music room. Back in the 1970s, our entertainment came in the form of fancy schmancy consoles, and so a stereo/record player could prove to be the focal point of the room.

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Anyone care to venture a guess WHY I would not care for these console stereos that were all the rage when I was growing up?

If you guessed, “Well, they kinda look like coffins,” give yourself a cookie. That was EXACTLY why. I mean, seriously. WHO THOUGHT this was a good idea??

When I was young, I kept a weary eye trained towards these things *just waiting* for the lid to open and a corpse to emerge.

It’s a helluva thing to have that kind of imagination since childhood.

Needless to say my imagination ran WILD every time we stayed there. You know, it’s a funny thing: eventually you always tend to find what you’re looking for. And it was in this upper-class home that I lost one whole night to a ghost.

I don’t remember which of our many trips to Lubbock it occurred, but I remember the night itself like it was yesterday. I was young of course, but whether my dad was there or not, I can’t recall. The McCandless clan kept my mom and me (and even my sister,) even after my dad passed away, so we traveled there quite often in the early 80s to hang out with the only family my mom had in Texas. This was more important after the family began to shrink, first with my Dad’s passing in 1980, and then Uncle Tom in 1984.

All I know is that I was pretty young, we were in Lubbock and we were staying there for the night. The guest room where I stayed was about a door or two down from the music room.

Stage. Set.

I don’t even know if I was able to sleep. Most times I can’t when I’m in new environments. Going to sleep in a hotel takes FOREVER. At some point, though, the darkness had settled in my strange new habitat, cloaking it in unfamiliarity.

Such things are ripe for Scare-the-Pants-Right-Off-You moments.

The outside light flickered into the bedroom window and hit the door *just enough* that it drew my eye that direction. There, barely visible, was a hint of white cloaked in the shadows. My heart stopped. I froze. And I stayed frozen.

It looked unnatural, more like a ghost than anything I had ever seen at such a young age. A white silhouette, shaped vaguely like a person. That was all the evidence I needed to freak the fuck out. I couldn’t breathe, I was too afraid to move. I stayed like that till morning, imagining every horrible thing a young child could imagine. I just knew drawing attention to myself would spell my doom. If I dared even LOOKED that direction – instant death. This made any further investigation impossible.

Forget going to the bathroom. I held in EVERYTHING.

I stayed rooted to the spot ALL night, until daybreak spilled into the room and revealed the source of my terror: a white shirt hanging on a hook on the back of the door.

Because of course it was.

I’ve been dealing a lot with my anxiety lately. I’m starting to experience some consequences of losing my job, and it hits squarely in a place I feel most vulnerable: my health. The loss of insurance was a big blow. I’m insured now, thank God. It’s costing us through the nose, but I got it. But now I have to switch everything around to get the new scans done. The delay scares the shit out of me, even though logically I know I’m probably okay. I was so super duper fortunate at the beginning of this year, getting that clean bill of health after the initial scare. Nothing has really changed in how I feel. In fact, I feel stronger, physically, even though I am still recovering in many ways from the total hysterectomy. My body is changing, my moods are all over the place. There’s a lot going on.

I *know* that the fatalist thinking is probably my mind playing tricks on me, because I was warned by other survivors that would happen. After I had a bout with a bladder infection earlier this year, a fellow survivor asked, “So, how long was it before you thought it was the cancer?”

Instant. It was instant.

She tells me that she felt that way about *everything* for about eight years, even when the doctors said everything was fine.

So, I have that to look forward to, I guess. More shirts. Plenty of doors.

This past week I had a particularly nasty scare. I woke up and within about ten minutes of perusing Twitter from my phone, I realized I was dizzy AF. Like, the dizziest I have ever been. Like, ever. I sat up and the whole world spun around me. I was afraid to walk to the bathroom. I sat there in the same sort of frozen panic I experienced with the Shirt Ghost, thinking to myself the same fatalist thoughts. The dizziness lingered. Nausea sat in. I blamed the heat, since my bedroom doesn’t have A/C and it holds heat in like an oven.

Finally I staggered out into the living room for some air. I sat next to the A/C and struggled to function. (Strug to Func, as Queer Eye’s Jonathan would say.) My oldest son ended up taking care of me. He brought me a cold compress and a trash can just in case I couldn’t make it all the way to the bathroom. After I finally threw up, I was able to nap on the sofa for about an hour, before heading back to bed. I felt myself when I woke up after a longer nap in the comfort of my bed.

Having had food poisoning in the past, I quickly put it together that it must have been something I ate. Yet at the time, I thought maybe this was the end. I nearly called 9-1-1. After cancer, *everything* has this extreme slant to it now. I have to talk myself down from the ledge constantly. Everything feels tenuous.

After decades of battling anxiety that’s nothing new, but this year is especially tough. Thanks to that unexpected and exceptionally serious cancer diagnosis, I learned some monsters are real. Turning on the light won’t make them automatically go away. It has supercharged the intense vulnerability I’ve always felt, way back to when I was a child.

I ran across a tweet yesterday that gave me pause. It talked about the long-term effects of childhood trauma. There was a handy dandy graphic and everything.

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Reading through it, I kind of had this light bulb moment where I realized almost everything I fear IS a white shirt, hanging off of a hook, right there in the shadows. It looks scarier than what it is, and I’m hard-wired by past trauma to freak out about it. There’s a kid down deep in there who is still waiting for the monster to jump from the closet, even when nine times out of ten it doesn’t. She can’t truly rest easy because she’s already seen it happen. The worst HAS happened and she’s had to pick up the pieces so many times before. She’s primed to react. That’s nothing to hate or regret, and it certainly doesn’t demand an apology. She did the best she could with barely any direction (and no, the church SO doesn’t count in this case. We’ll be getting into THAT later.) The fact that she was able to carve out any accomplishment at all, despite all the shit that was thrown her way, is a freaking miracle.

That kid deserves my empathy and respect, not my punishment and condemnation.

The other day I showed Brittany Disney’s “The Kid,” starring Bruce Willis. It’s my favorite thing he’s done since David Addison, because he truly just melts my heart, even if he has to work for it.

(Especially because he has to work for it.)

If you haven’t seen the movie, Bruce is surprised by his younger self to fix something that went wrong in his life. He has no patience for this kid, because the way he sees it that kid is “a pathetic dweeb” that embarrasses him, because he’s too weak (which in this case, only means young) and makes all the mistakes that Russ (Bruce’s character) has taken great pains to bury.

It made me think of what would happen if 8-year-old Ginger popped into existence right now.

Like Bruce, I might find that I had way more to learn than teach.

Fortunately, I need no movie magic to figure this out. She’s still there, deep down. And all she really needs is me to be there for her, like no one was way back when. That little girl desperately needed someone to give her comfort and reassurance, to tell her everything was going to be okay. 1978 Ginger needed someone to hug her and tell her she had nothing to fear, even when the world is a fearful place. Her life would be a long list of complete badassery, filled with people who would love her for it.

I guess 2018 Ginger needs to hear that, too.

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What would I tell her?

What do I tell her?

The other day I ran up against my discomfort answering the question whether or not I’m a cancer survivor. Believe it or not, that’s a difficult question for me. As you know from reading this blog, the whole thing was back and forth for a while, so I’m tempted to add “for now,” and knock wood. Hence why the doctor’s appointments are so terrifying for me now. I get to put that theory to the test.

I still see that ghost at the door, mostly because that’s what I was trained to do. I’m a reactor, remember? I keep the lights on so I can see the threats coming, even when they’re shadows inside my own brain, particularly when I’m put on the spot with this kind of question.

See, I was raised super religious. I was taught that I could never get too cocky. If I bragged about good fortune, God would be quick to take it all away. I’m supposed to remember with unfailing gratitude that I’m a pile of dog shit without God, and worse things are bound to happen to me if I don’t keep my head down and “follow the rules,” even if following the “rules” makes me miserable.

It’s supposed to, FFS. We’re religious, after all.

So, if someone asks if I’m a survivor and I say, “Yes! I beat it!” God will smite me for my pride and boastfulness and I’ll lose everything.

MEANWHILE…

All my other posi-thinking training tells me not to give negative thoughts a place to seed. If you dwell on the problems, the problems persist. If I even mention my fears to the fam or my friends, they’re quick to cut me off and tell me not to attract the stuff I don’t want. If I add, “for now,” after I claim my survivor status, then surely I’m telling the universe I don’t really *believe* I’m worthy of such a gift, and God (or the Universe) will smite me for my lack of faith.

And there are enough Bible verses to echo that sentiment to further confuse the situation.

I feel like I’m walking a mental tightrope over molten lava. All. The. Time. Even writing this blog feels like a lightning rod.

But the thing is…factually speaking, I am a survivor, and not just of the cancer. I’ve survived all the stuff that has already happened to me, and as we all know… it ain’t been pretty. I’m still standing. I’m still smiling. Cousin Bessie would be proud.

Not only am I still standing, and still smiling, I still feel deep down that things have yet to get better. In fact, I believe they can be really, really great. Beyond my wildest dreams, in fact.

I just have to get up off the floor, walk towards the scary ghost at the door and turn on the light.

So, 1978 Ginger… It’s time that we face our fears and trust that no matter what that turns out to be… shirt or monster…

We got this.

Because we do. We’re not just survivors… we’re more than conquerors. And the best is yet to come.

We’re gonna make it so.

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Netflix’s “Insatiable” and the myth of The Great Until.

Recently Netflix dropped a trailer for their upcoming series “Insatiable,” a “dark comedy” about a girl who gets terribly bullied for not fitting in, who then exacts her revenge against all the people who were mean to her the second she gets the chance to come back a “winner.”

Unfortunately, their trailer was met with a pretty loud clapback because of the way this particular character “didn’t fit in”.

She was fat.

Sigh. Y’all might as well settle in, folks. We have a lot of ground to cover.

Starting with the success of Kate on the popular NBC drama “This is It,” the Powers that Be are starting to get the hint audiences are ready for Fat Stories, giving us Fat Folk an opportunity to be represented in the media as something OTHER than the plucky sidekick.

This can get a little tricky when they rely on thin filmmakers to tell these stories because thin people who have never been fat (or worse, fear becoming fat,) many times don’t understand what I will call The Fat Experience. They have what they perceive as the Fat Experience, but that doesn’t mean they understand – at all – what it’s like to navigate life as a fat person. What they have instead is the universal perception of what it must mean to be fat, which is generally crafted by… dah dah dah DAH – thin folks.

I ran into this a few years ago when I attempted to read Danielle Steel’s “Big Girl.” DS made her career writing about the super thin and super rich, so when romance fiction began to embrace fuller figures she dipped her toe in the rising pool to give it a whirl.

I made it nearly two hundred pages before I had to tap out. I explained why in a very extensive review, but suffice it to say – the story was phoned in, with SO much left unaddressed because in DS’s mind, being Fat was the key conflict in her heroine’s life.

I mean, it must be, right? Because that’s all that we’re ever allowed to see.

If we’re not thin, we’re focused on being thin because being fat is AWFUL, you guys. JUST AWFUL. It is the ONE THING that determines your happiness, because it casts a shadow on your entire life experience. You get made fun of every day, you’re lonely every night. Everything is on pause until that scale finally begins to move in the right direction.

howaboutno

I swear if I see ONE MORE story featuring a fat girl crying into her ice cream because no guy will date her, I’ll fucking scream. THIS IS NOT THE EXPERIENCE FOR ALL OF US. We’re not sad all the time. We’re not lonely all the time. We’re not bullied incessantly, certainly not to the point of constant, daily abuse. Are there shitty people out there who will say shitty things? Yes. USUALLY they’re pretty far removed from us, like strangers on the internet, or people you pass on the street. Usually, people are more civilized in personal one-on-one contact. Our lives are often full of VERY supportive people, and a lot of people who are a helluva lot more forgiving than the media would have you believe.

And we date. And we have sex. Lots of sex. (No, I don’t care that I put that visual in your head. Fat people fuck. Deal with it.)

We fall in love, we get married, we have children – we do EVERY SINGLE FUCKING THING THAT THIN PEOPLE DO.

Fat is way more of a hard stop for you guys than it is for us.

I mean it has to be, considering you all want to put EVERYTHING on the other side of losing weight, like the starting gate to life begins on the other side of After.

See, there’s this idea that if you accept a fat person as is, you’re not doing them any favors. To be “helpful,” you have to employ the tough love, which for most fat people includes microaggressions – like ignoring us and all the stories we might have to tell that don’t fit in the “diet till you get thin, then we’ll talk” narrative.

Basically, we’re all being ghosted till we get the hint and go away. We’re getting photoshopped out of the picture. Seated way in the back so we’re not visible on camera.

Without that “After” picture, far too many of you can’t be bothered to recognize us as equal humans. But it has dick to do with our health. The thing you’re trying to protect is your bias, which you keep shrouded in that phony baloney health concern to make you feel better about it. We fat folk know the dealio. You really don’t even try to hide it. Your distaste more often than not comes down to a matter of simple aesthetics.

There are people who won’t read a romance novel starring a Fat Heroine not because they think a fat person is too unhealthy to find love and happiness, it’s because they don’t want to read about fat bodies getting nakey, because ew.

Yet I’m supposed to read book after book of the Sexy But Doesn’t Know She’s Sexy waif, because, you know, THAT is the escapism I’m supposed to crave, thanks to an inherent shame/dissatisfaction I’m supposed to feel as a woman in this culture.

In order to be happy, I have to pretend I’m someone else entirely.

All of this stems from the social conditioning shaped by the media around us. What did Dietland’s Plum call it? The Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex? How many multi-billion-dollar industries exist right now that have ONE purpose: to make women feel “dissatisfied” about themselves so they will buy one more magazine, one more self-help book, one more piece of makeup or shaping undergarment?

G’head. Go count ’em. I’ll wait.

For Fat People, conformity is a no-brainer. EVERYONE accepts that being fat is a bad thing, right? Lose weight – problem solved.

I’m 48 years old and the thinnest I have EVER been in my adult life was about 190, which is still technically overweight. Despite that critical flaw, I have fallen in love more than once (and been loved more than once in return.) I even had a WEDDING, if you can believe that. My wedding dress was a size 30 you guys. *30*

Is that even a real size, Becky? Oh. My. God.

Despite that anomaly, I’ve raised babies into men – including the emotional kind, converting a couple of confirmed bachelors.

(Yeah. I did that.)

I’ve had jobs, I’ve even crafted a six-figure career – mostly reaching out to other outcasts like me who were done handing the spotlight to other people simply because of a number on a scale. I provided them characters that looked like them, badasses in every size and shape, and they couldn’t get enough. Never, not once, did I put their HEA on the other side of losing weight, even if their journey included weight loss.

*Fun fact: The stories that sold the most? The ones where the fat heroines didn’t give a flying fig about losing weight. They marched straight towards their dreams anyway, scale be damned.

I know a little bit about this. I’ve fallen in love, I’ve had sex, I’ve traveled extensively, made friends with famous people and had countless incredible experiences – all quite before The Great Until.

What is The Great Until? Well, it’s that little piece of Eutopia where everything is perfect and everyone loves you, and you can finally – FINALLY – start your life.

If I was waiting for that, I’d be 48 and still be waiting, and people would call it “an excuse.” Imagine.

Not ALL fat people subscribe to the Great Until, but fat people do commonly make this mistake. I’ve even made it. We’ll do X after we’ve lost X. Christmas, weddings, birthdays, summer… whatever the occasion, whatever the reason. Nothing spruces you up like dropping a few.

This is mostly because the messaging demands it. Imagine how fewer books they would sell, or support undergarments, or diet plans, if we all kind of collectively went, “Nah, we’re good,” and forged ahead to make the life of our dreams.

It would be catastrophic to Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex’s bottom line if we all decided that, yeah. We’re pretty fucking satisfied.

There is no room for this story in our current narrative, which is constructed very carefully to drill into our heads we have to conform to society around us, rather than the other way around. If Fat People figure out there are more of us than there are of Thin Folk, we might actually demand to be treated like – I dunno, human beings or something.

Can you just imagine what THAT world would look like?

Instead we’re all shamed by the existing narrative to stay in the shadows, because fat people. Ew.

But the funny thing about life is that it happens to Fat People anyway.

I’ve never had the luxury of waiting for the Great Until. Life keeps zipping along and demands I keep up. If I were waiting around for my body to look “perfect,” I’d still be waiting. I’d have never done one goddamn thing, and that’d be a fucking shame. I figured since those days were going to pass without THEM waiting for the Great Until, it was silly of me to put my life on pause. Instead, I decided to feel the discomfort required of paving my own path, without waiting for permission or approval, and forge ahead anyway.

MOST OF US DO THIS, in spite of what we’ve been told. You have to. The only people waiting for me to cross some imaginary finish line are the people AROUND me who need such criteria met to give me any kind of credit, as if losing weight will unlock all the other accomplishments.

Newsflash: I’ve been acing obstacle courses my whole fat fucking life. LIVING LIFE AS A FAT PERSON IN THIS CULTURE IS AN OBSTACLE COURSE. Just because THEY don’t want to give me credit for it doesn’t mean I’m not a total badass.

Fortunately there are those pioneers who are paving their way through this confusing thicket. Ashley Graham is a personal favorite warrior of mine. I found her during my Groupie research days, and she was a prototype for my character, Andy. Ashley has gone on to be the first “plus” size model on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue. She even starred in a sexy rock video, years AFTER I wrote a scene similar in one of my (30) size inclusive novels. She slays on runways, even has her own swimsuit line, which includes sexy bikinis for bigger bodies.

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This does a real number on the Summer Marketing Strategy from the Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex. How DARE we dismiss the “Is your body beach/bikini ready?” marketing plan?

Odd how many of their marketing plans depend on our shame, isn’t it?

Years ago, a journalist from back east got fat-shamed by one of the viewers for “promoting unhealthy lifestyles” to the young women who might be watching the news. She addressed this on a broadcast, which of course, led to more fat-shaming by those who agreed with the ever so helpful asshole who wrote the initial letter. I wrote a blog addressing said fat-shaming, and was FAT-SHAMED for doing so.

How DARE we say anything at all until we crossed over to the Great Until? Only then will we be allowed into the arena, to share our stories, and forgiven for losing all that horrible fat.

Here’s the thing about The Great Until – it’s a lie the weak tell themselves as a Get Out of Courage Card. There’s no such thing as The Great Until – there’s only the GREAT RIGHT NOW. Only a fool would squander it, chasing after some pipe dream that was crafted by someone else entirely JUST TO KEEP US UNHAPPY WITH OURSELVES.

It requires a lot more strength and bravery to deal with the Great Right Now in The Great Right Now.

Fortunately, the gates are opening. Things don’t look like they did 30 years ago, and that’s a good thing. I pride myself in being part of that change, because that’s what artists do. We change how people think via the stories we tell and how we tell them.

It’s a huge responsibility, especially in these troubling, chaotic times.

In 2018, we’re going to have three stories that include the Fat Experience. I’ve watched two of the three, because as I’ve said before, I support representation. They do have to earn it, though, so I watch very carefully to ensure the overall message of inclusivity doesn’t do more damage by consciously or unconsciously supporting the more restrictive narrative.

I need to see them break through those walls like the Kool-Aid guy, basically.

There’s This is Us, which DOES hit that hammer of shame pretty hard sometimes, but also gives Kate some necessary wins along the way. In fact, the storytelling is often very brave, showing that the only one forcing Kate to wait until The Great Until is Kate herself. She doesn’t want to date, she doesn’t want to pursue a singing career, she feels utterly disposable next to her picture perfect mom and her picture perfect siblings. These are real things. She sees bullies often where there are none, which shows the insidiousness of how that lifelong heaping of shame for being different colors every single experience she has. Ultimately SHE herself is her biggest fat-shamer.

Lazy storytelling would have people calling her a fat cow at every ten paces. This is Us doesn’t show that, they show the microaggressions, which is so much harder. I can’t tell you the last time someone called me a name in public, but I have YET to get on a plane without seeing at least five people stare at me in terror that I might sit next to them. This is Us captures that. They highlight uncomfortable glances by the people around her, who watch her carefully to see if she falls out of step with the narrative. It’s odd, you see, for a big woman to go out onto a dance floor full of Thin Folk. That’s what we’ve been told. That’s what we tell ourselves. That’s what Kate has decided was true.

What This is Us captured was the echo of all those insults past, making it hard to dip one’s foot in the pool of new experiences, which hurts SO much more than someone calling her a name.

These are the painful realities no one really understands.

Kate’s foil is often her boyfriend, Toby. She didn’t want a relationship with Toby at first, since she was SOOO focused on losing the weight. Everything else had to wait. Until when? The Great Until. Toby is not a Great Until kinda guy. He’s ALL about RIGHT NOW. He was persistent and burst through those Great Until walls. He also saw no reason for her to wait on singing, and set up gigs for her to build some confidence. Finally, thanks to this supportive relationship, she decided to audition for a legit singing job and she wasn’t selected. She let her Chatterbox fill her brain with all kinds of sizeist crap until she finally stalked back to the studio to read them the riot act for not accepting her because of her size.

What the writers did with that was SO FUCKING BRAVE, and SO FUCKING REAL.They didn’t buy into the narrative that Kate had to lose weight to make her dream come true. She simply had to focus on the right thing, i.e., the work, and not use her weight as an excuse.

I can ONLY imagine what a slap in the face that was to ANY of us waiting for the Great Until to be taken seriously.

In This is Us, Kate has fallen in love, sung in public, gotten engaged, gotten married – even gotten pregnant, all without the benefit of losing weight. They kinda had to. They hired a fat actress, so they actually had to write stuff for her to do NOW, rather than depend on some magical moment when she’s lost enough weight to “fit into” the narrative.

Funny how that works.

This proves once and for all there IS no Great Until, there is only the moment, which forces filmmakers and storytellers to break new ground on inclusive, diverse stories.

In AMC’s Dietland, protagonist Plum tells us from Episode One that all the events that we were about to witness happened Whilst Fat. Again, they had no choice but to do so, because the actress herself was undeniably fat.

What would the story be, IF the story did not depend on the After Photo?

Plum began her journey like so many of us fat girls – on a mission to lose weight. But life around us doesn’t wait for The Great Until, so we all kind of have to muddle our way through day by day. Thanks to actresses like Joy Nash and Chrissy Metz, we now have a physical representation of what that looks like on screen. We get to see things from another POV.

For instance, Plum starts her Dietland journey hoping to get her stomach stapled so she can finally become Alicia, the person she has always felt like she was inside. THEN she can go out on dates, or start her writing career… be seen.

dietland-dress

Meanwhile, the audience can see all the opportunities she’s missing with her preoccupation of being thin. This stands out particularly in the area of romance. Several characters find her interesting as is, and we are screaming at our TV that she just needs to GO FOR IT and not wait.

(Ok, maybe that was just me. I so would have nailed Ben the first episode. But I also gave up waiting for The Great Until a long time ago. I’m not even a little bit sorry for either.)

plumben

Unlike This is Us, Dietland wasn’t written to give Plum a HEA. Dietland was written as satire, to exact revenge on our misogynistic media, cultural fatphobia and the Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex. Dietland is more than a Fat Revenge Fantasy – it’s a FEMINIST Revenge Fantasy. It slaughters ALL the sacred cows with unnerving boldness and a complete lack of apology.

So, you have This is Us:

Dietland:

And now, adding to the Fat Conversation, is Insatiable:

I’m putting these trailers together so you can see why one drew ire over the others. A thumbnail is worth a thousand words. Compare them honestly and YOU tell ME, which one of these things is not like the other?

In all fairness, I have yet to watch Insatiable. It comes out in August, so the only things we can base anything on, even whether or not we will watch it, are the trailers. These have been met with very loud, very robust criticism. When I started to watch, my first thought was “What’s the big deal?” After it was over, I shared their disgust in how this story is presented as well as my distrust they can add ANYTHING useful to the Fat Narrative.

Eyes were rolled, people. Eyes were rolled.

There’s a lot here to criticize, even without judging the entire series as a whole. Advertising is the cornerstone of the Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex, after all. Sometimes ya just gotta count the red flags.

Still, like my husband tried to do in 1999, when we were off to spend NYE with someone I knew was an abusive asshole even though we hadn’t yet met, people have been urging me to reserve judgment until I can see how it plays out. One of Insatiable’s stars, Alyssa Milano, whom I normally love, even spoke out against the controversy following the trailer.

“We are not shaming Patty,” Milano said. “We are addressing (through comedy) the damage that occurs from fat shaming. I hope that clears it up.”

Actually, no, Alyssa. That does NOT clear it up. But I suppose that’s probably my fault. I’m not far enough removed from fat shaming to find the comedy in it.

Red Flag Number One: Telling the Fat Experience without Fat Representation.

No, folks. A thin, conventionally attractive actress in a fat suit is NOT fat representation, any more than a white woman in blackface could sell the black experience. Just… no. If at any point you can take off the trappings of what makes you oppressed, you don’t know – you can’t know – what it’s like to have to navigate life with little choice of waiting till The Great Until to be seen, to be heard – to earn your humanity. And let me tell ya, folks, I’m sick and damned tired of a Thin Person trying to tell ME what they think MY experience is. Because it all comes back to the same, tired narrative before: if I’m fat, I get made fun of constantly, I’m super duper sad, and I wash all my lonely tears away in a tub of ice cream every night. If ONLY I could lose weight, then my life would be perfect.

Fuck. The. Fuck. OFF if you think this is my reality.

For a Thin Person who thinks that Fat is catastrophic, they are too eager to sell the Great Until as a narrative. That’s what they understand. If THEY were fat, they wouldn’t have the courage to date, to pursue their passions, to stand up to oppressors… it just makes sense.

Yet, I’m the one who is supposed to be defined by their limitations?

I don’t think so.

Ain’t it funny how they understand how ALL of those things are harder for a fat person to do, but they give us no credit whatsoever for actually DOING them while fat? You’d think THAT would be the story to tell. “Wow! Dude! You did all that WHILE fat?? Impressive!”

Instead, they pretend we don’t exist, except for one tired stereotype, because aesthetics.

The problem with the Great Until is that it doesn’t work in practical application. Until they invent a pill that helps me shed this weight like a fat suit, I have to navigate the day to day as a fat person – even if I’m a Good Fatty trying to lose the weight. And guess what? This fat person likes to do stuff, hang around people and enjoy life, so I ain’t waitin’ around to be happy. When I was a freshman, I had friends, I had dates, I even managed to kick ass in Speech/Drama. I still wanted to lose weight, sure. I believed the Great Until for the big stuff, like say, marrying Steve Perry or being an author, but at the time? I was just along for the ride of life, and I didn’t let being fat stop me from doing what I wanted to do.

This included pursuing every single guy I wanted to pursue, to varying degrees of success or failure. (Sometimes that failure included GETTING the guy.)

I also wrote. Like, a LOT. First story and first poem featured when I was 12. I wrote my first novella at 14, my first play at 16 and hundreds upon hundreds of poems. In ninth grade, I lost my notebook full of poems, which came back to me with “Fat Bitch” written all over it.

You might only see the bullying in that story, since that reinforces the trope. Personally, I see a jealous twat that saw a book filled with my creative accomplishments and the best they could come up with was write “Fat Bitch” as some sort of retort.

If you’re going to insult me, at least be creative.

FTR, this Fat Bitch has been paid quite a bit of coin for what she writes, and she didn’t have to wait for The Great Until to do it. THAT is the ultimate revenge to that bully, who was too scared to even sign their name.

Like Imagine Dragons sang…

Kids were laughing in my classes
While I was scheming for the masses
Who do you think you are?
Dreaming ’bout being a big star
They say you’re basic, they say you’re easy
You’re always riding in the back seat
Now I’m smiling from the stage while
You were clapping in the nose bleeds

The thunder is only gonna get louder, y’all. It has to. That’s the only way they’ll hear me.

Living the life of my dreams on my own terms is the only “revenge” I need, which brings us to…

Red Flag Number Two: The Fat Fantasy. (TM)

Here’s the problem when Thin People tell your story, their goals then become your goals, even when they’re not your goals. I’m not saying I have never wondered what it would be like if I could lose the weight and how certain folks would have to eat their hearts out, but I was also a kid. It was easier for me to lose weight to gain their acceptance than change the world at large to make it accept me.

Like Plum would say, this would take a revolution.

Needless to say, from my wanting to be an author to marrying Steve Perry, ALL my fantasies are grand. I can’t be bothered to amend my fantasy to fit into your fantasy, which in itself is a steaming load of crap. You wanna know why?

In order for me to support the Get Hot & Make Them Eat Their Hearts Out trope, I’d have to ACCEPT that being fat is a fatal flaw.

That was easier to do when I was 15 and didn’t know anything about the world and how it works. Now that I’ve navigated it for thirty plus years, to varying degrees of success and failure, I know that … wait for it… being fat isn’t a failure.

Nope. It really isn’t. It was how I coped with life when I had no clue what I was doing, and I’m allowed to get it wrong every bit as much as I’m allowed to get it right. And I’m grateful for it. It is my experience, it has been my path, and I’ve learned a lot about the world that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

I’m grateful for this path, because it makes me a better, kinder person. It’s opened me up to see beauty in everything, not just what is socially acceptable.

That’s one of things I love most about myself.

Let’s face it, if I TRULY were the kind of person who would want to extract revenge on bullies to feel better about myself, this would make ME a bully, no?

You’re asking me to agree with my dehumanization, just because in YOUR mind, being thin is a measure of perfection – SIMPLY because that’s what our media reflects back to us. How would that look if you applied that “logic” to other marginalized folks?

Imagine this story being told by a bullied disabled kid, who suddenly came back for revenge when he miraculously became whole? Or a black kid, when he woke up white, or a gay teen, who happened to wake up straight. Or a girl… who happened to wake up one day as a boy.

A bias is a bias is a bias, even if the bullied target could “change” what makes them “imperfect” in your view, which is too narrow to allow me to exist outside your boxes.

Yet *I* am the one who is required to change?

How THE FUCK is that supposed to be my fantasy?

Red Flag Number Three: Abuse is a good thing!

The reason the Fat Girl isn’t Fat anymore? She got PUNCHED IN THE FACE, which resulted in her jaw being wired shut, so Miss Fatty McFatterson could no longer stuff her fat fucking face. Drastic intervention that took away her will, had DICK TO DO WITH HEALTH, but who cares because now she’s SO hot and SO beautiful, ZOMG we should ALL get punched in the face*!

(*Strongly do not recommend you take this course of “helpful” action with me. I punch back. And I likely outweigh you.)

And you fuckers wonder why people CARVE THEIR BODIES OPEN just to make you happy.

The only reason this outrageous scenario even exists? They had to hire a thin actress to tell a fat story, because a thin person simply CAN’T tell a fat story without the thin perspective, and they needed something drastic to explain her miraculous transformation.

Oh! I know! Let’s have someone beat up Fatty – I mean…. Patty.

That’s a punch you feel twice, my friends.

I. Can’t. Fucking. EVEN.

Red Flag Number Four: Your comedy trailer isn’t funny.

One of the unspoken rules of comedy is that you can’t punch down. If you’re poking fun at something, you can’t belittle those more oppressed than you to do it without coming off as a bully. If your story depends on fat jokes to be funny, EVEN if you’re poking fun at fat bias, IT ISN’T FUCKING FUNNY TO FAT FOLKS.

Case in point: Shallow Hal.

If a thin person tells me a “fat joke,” even if they want to preface it and tell me how horrible it is that people would laugh at it, Ima think you find it a lil bit funny and are looking for my permission to laugh.

Permission denied, motherfucker.

In my experience, this mindset underscores an underlying, if unspoken, prejudice against me AS a fat person, whether they mean it that way or not. Per what I’ve read, the Insatiable crew took great pains not to make fat the joke, but that’s not what I see in the trailer. I see that a fat person’s life was awful because she was fat, then when she got thin and “hot,” she was empowered to make her revenge.

What does that make me think of myself as a fat person… hum….

There’s a school of thought that divorced parents should never talk badly about the other parent to the child because that child, who comes from that person, would learn to be self-loathing.

If you’re saying, “Fat, ew!” how the heck am I NOT supposed to take that as, “You’re fat, EW!”? I run into this all the time with thinner friends, who bemoan how “fat” their thighs are, or how ugly their “love handles.” As someone with fat thighs and love handles, I now know the prism through which you view me… and it’s not favorable.

You can try to frame this story as a comedy, but right now I’m hard-pressed to agree with you because I felt every “punch” from that trailer. I prefer NOT making my fat and my struggle your joke, thank you VERY much. Like Hannah Gadsby said, “I built a career out of self-deprecation, and I don’t want to do that anymore. Because you do understand what self -deprecation means from somebody who already exists in the margins? It’s not humility. It’s humiliation.”

There’s a VERY thin line between fat-shaming fat-shaming, and fat-shaming fat. From the trailer at least, their fat-shaming looks to be within their own protected acceptance of what that looks like from a fat-bias point-of-view. If you think I’m wrong about that, by all means test it. Put fat right in front of it and see what happens.

Oh, right. The fat people are pissed. That should tell you something. Something along the lines of HIRE FAT PEOPLE TO TELL FAT STORIES, FFS.

Dietland is constantly pushing the boundaries, usually using Joy Nash’s fat body to do it. It is in our face with unflinching audacity. The actress has literally been filmed completely nude for scenes that they broadcast ON TV.

It’s as shocking to me as Queer as Folk was to the LGBT community back in the day. I see myself realistically being reflected back to me, DESPITE THE UNSPOKEN RULE THAT IT IS FORBIDDEN. EVERYTHING from the Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex tells me to HIDE the fat, and there it was – ALL of it – on TV – in full color.

whoa

That’s why representation is so fucking important, y’all. Not just for us, but for the Thin People around us who don’t see the world the same way, because their own experiences are validated every time they’re reflected back in the thin-obsessed media. My family is all thin/average weight. They are constantly surprised by the subtle nuances that This is Us and Dietland address. They learn what it is like to be inside my head and my body for a moment, and it’s so fucking rewarding to hear them go, “I get it.”

They’ve lived with me forever, but they don’t see my side of the story. They see me press on in The Great Right Now as if it’s no big deal, because that’s what I’m used to doing. I’m used to hoisting the heavy baggage a little higher and soldiering on, bearing my struggle silently because the Narrative depends on MY SHAME. It depends on me knowing my place, which is back at the starting line, waiting to earn my moment. If I trudge forward, I must do it quietly, secretly… covertly. Just one incremental step allowed at a time, and more than not, a few steps back and forth over the same worn path, because everything around me is built both to enable me to stay fat as much as it is to shame me for not being thinner.

When I go out to eat with folks, I am encouraged to try all the foods and the drinks. “One bite won’t kill you,” they say. Meanwhile I’m doing fucking SAT level algebra to figure out how to balance enjoying life like a normal person and not setting myself back for my health goals. Landmines are everywhere. They don’t want us to be fat, but they sure as hell enjoy fattening us up. Ironically, feeding fat people is considered just as nice as denying them attention till they get their fat butts in shape. Donuts at the office, going out to a restaurant that doesn’t offer a whole lot of items in my calorie range, the occasional happy hour, making every fucking holiday food-centric… before you know it a week has passed and I’m no closer to my goals than I was the week before.

If I was waiting for my life to start, I’d be totally screwed. Instead, I just had fun, enjoyed life (and food,) and hung out with lovely people who truly do love me as is, no merit badge of thinness required.

Just yesterday my beautiful, wonderful, thoughtful son brought me a soft-serve ice cream cone. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was a No Sugar day, as I’m doing my best to take down THAT nasty addiction. No, it’s summer, it was a hot day, and my lovely son wanted to do something to make me happy. Ice cream always hits THAT spot, right?

Steven wanted to go to Red Robin the other day, and I relented because it’s a drag being That Person, who always has to keep everyone in line with food. *I* know which restaurants I favor, because they offer easy healthy choices I enjoy, but I live with regular folk who don’t have those eating goals. Sometimes that means going to mainstream restaurants everyone else gets to enjoy, and I have to make due around some of my biggest temptations, kind of like taking an alcoholic to a wine tasting.

Everyone else can comb through those glossy menus, salivating over the over-portioned, unhealthy food we get advertised to us through that same media that shames us for being fat. Me? I need numbers. I want calorie counts. I’m looking for pitfalls to avoid. No appetizer. No booze. (It was also a non-sugar day.) Burger after burger, sandwich after sandwich, I realized I could go cheap and eat unhealthy, or customize for a healthier – and more expensive – option. I was scouring through that menu basing my lunch on the calorie content, rather than the price or – more importantly – what I might have wanted to eat.

How can I be healthy and still make everyone around me happy? I compromise. A LOT. Everything is strategy. Everything is work. Yet, I smile and pretend it’s all good, I got it covered. I’m in control.

The lie of most people with an ED, I reckon.

People around me are often so unaware of the things I push through every single day, which have nothing to do with the Sad Fat Wallflower meme that has been rerun and rehashed ad nauseam.

Which brings us to…

Red Flag Number Five: The low hanging fruit of stereotypes.

Stereotypes reinforce biases, even when you’re using them to make fun of themselves. In order to make fun of it, you have to validate its existence in the first place. Some stereotypes in action in the Insatiable trailer:

Fat people are hot people who simply don’t try hard enough.

Fat people are unhappy by virtue of being fat.

Fat people are lonely by virtue of being fat.

Fat people are bullied hard, but could save themselves from all that if they simply conformed to society and lost the weight.

Because fat people are hot people who simply don’t try hard enough.

That’s what the Fat Fantasy they’re pushing underscores, even to a ludicrous degree.

I mean, why WOULDN’T you want to want to get skinny if that meant you could make all the haters eat their hearts out? Do you know anyone who’d be willing to HIT ME IN THE FUCKING FACE* so my jaw would be wired shut and I’d shed these pesky pounds once and for all?

Because geez. Why didn’t I think of that?

Do you have ANY. FUCKING. IDEA. how destructive a message like this, reinforced in ANY sort of way, can be? First of all, weight loss is not a merely matter of willpower. Nope, it really isn’t. There are a LOT of reasons people overeat and self-destruct, and if you don’t deal with that at the core, the symptoms will never fully go away. There’s a reason that the majority of people who do lose weight gain it back again.

Do you know how many young girls are out there, without the benefit of life experience showing them they can be whatever they want to be and forge their own path without conforming, who will look at this and have this same sad trope REINFORCED that they have to lose weight to avoid being bullied, alone, unhappy, and feel like UTTER FAILURES whenever it doesn’t work that way for them?

Here are some stats for you:

Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. Unfortunately, only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.

Studies show that the more reality television a young girl watches, the more likely she is to find appearance important.

95% of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.

Only 10% of people suffering from an eating disorder will seek professional help.

Kids start dieting as young as age 10, which is when we hit preadolescence and start to look for outward validation to build our self-esteem and establish our unique identity apart from our parents.

A big part of where we get our cues to do this is through the media. For women and girls, this isn’t good news, per the stat above. The average American woman is size 14 or better. Here are some Real People for ya.

Meanwhile, THIS is what they’re selling. The average model now weighs 23% less than the average American woman. In our media, representation of ANY woman presents a challenge, much less one that doesn’t fit into a very narrow box.

Hence why women of size are so damn passionate about how we’re represented. We’re not “coloring outside the lines” of beauty – we’re proof THERE IS NO LINE.

BUT, it doesn’t fit the narrative OR the aesthetic so…

Yesterday, I took Brit to her first wedding dress salon. The wedding isn’t for another year but, after a week of binging Say Yes to the Dress, we kind of wanted to see what styles would actually work for her. Despite being “Model Thin,” Brit has her own “problem areas.” In particular, she hates her wrists and her collarbone. She thinks that the pronounced appearance of her bones makes her look unhealthy skinny. We thought maybe changing the neckline from a strapless to a halter might work to “conceal” her problem area for her, but EVERY woman we talked to yesterday could not compute the problem. They were ALL staring at how beautiful she looked in a strapless ball gown saying, “Um, so WHAT is the problem?”

One even told her that this was the “model look” that every other bride was going for.

Isn’t it funny how in our culture, we simply couldn’t understand the concept of “too skinny” because that’s what is always reflected back to us, whereas even THIN women can tell you at least two tips to look less fat.

I maintain that Fat issues are Feminist issues because they slant horribly to affect women. If a woman is fat, she loses cultural value. If she’s thin, she gains it. It is literally that basic.

Per the trailer, this seems to be the ENTIRE PREMISE of Insatiable, which is pretty much the biggest red flag at all. It makes me shy away from a full viewing of it, despite the fact I LIKE Alyssa Milano, I LIKE Netflix and I LIKE Teen Vogue. But I’m just not sure I can trust any of them with my Fat Experience. Not when it looks like that. Not after the bar has been raised through other stories, dating all the way back to Hairspray.

The problem with the Great Until is that it’s THEIR problem. THEY are the ones who keep moving my starting gates, demanding our perfection before they dare recognize our humanity, which is – by definition – imperfect.

If you need me to be thin to tell my fat story, that’s the only confirmation of fat bias I really need. You need to ask why YOU needed a thin person to tell a fat story, and then deal with the fact *it makes you more comfortable to do so.* Figure out why THAT is, and maybe – just maybe – you’ll figure out a way to tell a story that will CHANGE the narrative, rather than add to it.

I tell you what, though. I’m a pretty good storyteller. Netflix, you are free to call me if you ever get brave enough to tell the story of a fat person from a fat person’s POV. I’m not afraid of representation. I represent like a MF. Like a reviewer recently said, “Why is everyone really scared to write about a big girl other than Ginger Voight!!”

I don’t know, girl. I really don’t know.

Netflix might have to pull up their big boy pants and hire fat actresses, though. Might be a deal breaker for them. Certainly seems to be.

Just know that I’ve got dozens upon dozens of stories now. My Muse didn’t wait for the Great Until to give them to me, and I didn’t wait for the Great Until to bring them to life, even though I’m pretty sure far too many are going to wait for the Great Until to listen to them.

By then, however, I fear you may not be able to afford me. That’s the acceptable narrative, is it not? That’s my “revenge,” correct? Ima make you pay when you suddenly become attracted to something I have to offer and come panting at my door. That IS the Fat Fantasy, no?

Imagine me having the audacity to say that if you’re waiting for The Great Until to give me the credit I deserve now, then you’re going to have to work just as hard to get into my favor as you expected me to work to get into yours.

Shoe, meet other foot.

Netflix: your move.

Reevaluating life through a Queer Eye

Back in the day, I used to watch Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and I enjoyed it a lot. Not sure why it took so long for me to jump on the bandwagon for the reboot, but I just got around to watching it last week, binging all 16 episodes over the course of a few days.

I gotta tell y’all… it was one of the biggest healing experiences I’ve had of late. It’s not just because the series is good, though it is. It’s pure, and that’s something so many of us could use at the moment.

Though I hadn’t watched it myself, I was very pro-reboot, and pleased that everything I had seen about it was positive. As you probably have already learned by now, I’m a fierce advocate for the LGBT+ community. Almost every book I write has an LGBT character. I consider their fight my fight because my best friend of 37 years (38 this September,) is a gay man. He’s closer to me than family, so you better believe that his fight for equality and acceptance is easily in my Top Three socio-political priorities. It’s actually more important to me in some aspects than to him. I bang the drum, march in the parades and wave my ally flag proudly. He’s just trying to live his life as happily and safely as possible.

If you ever watched Queer as Folk, I’m Debbie, he’s Michael. I’m the brash redhead steamrolling my own parade. I refuse to accept that the world has different rules for him. I don’t consider myself free as long as someone I love is so oppressed.

For far too many of those 37-38 years, he has been. Every gain the Queer movement has made in the last four or five decades has been an uphill climb, with one step forward and three steps back so much of the time.

Hence why I watched and supported the first Queer Eye. Representation is key, kids, and we have to support our outlying friends and family to include them in the liberty and justice we often take for granted.

I think that there were two things holding me back from diving back into Queer Eye. One, the Fab Five is brand new, and I had a loyalty to the original group. I’m an extremely loyal person. When I find something I like, I’m passionate about it, and look upon any changes with extreme prejudice. Reboots, in particular, test this rigid quality. Most times I won’t even bother with watch something that has been remade. (Spider-man has tested this one too many times. I’ve run out of gas at Tom Holland. If they recast again, they’ve lost me.)

The second thing holding me back was the rep the new QE gained as weepy TV. The blurb on Netflix urges viewers to “Grab your tissues!” Even the website shows a tissue box with the new Fab Five pictured all over it. As I’ve already stated, Menopause has turned me into an emotional basket case. I can count on one hand how many days I’ve gone without getting teary-eyed about SOMETHING in the past few months. Even worse, it hits suddenly. Like I could burst into sobs at the slightest provocation.

It’s not something I like about myself at the moment, since I’ve long prided myself for my strength to handle tough situations. Now I can’t even make it through certain commercials. I’ve come to accept it, but I don’t feel any burning need to aggravate it. I’ve been overdosing on comedies to try to combat this, which hasn’t worked out well for me. I watched Coco, and I think my face is still swollen from THAT ugly cry fest. (Still, I think it may just be one of Pixar’s best written movies of all time and everyone should see it. Just bring tissue. Lots and lots of tissue.)

I fell in love with the reboot (again, something I had to work up to watch) of One Day at a Time, lovingly referred to as ODAAT, but even though it makes me laugh (God bless Rita Moreno,) it also holds no punches. It flat out made me weep all the way through the Season Two finale.

Thanks to ODAAT showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett, I checked out the “comedy” special Nanette on Netflix. Comedian Hannah Gadsby took me on QUITE the emotional journey and I haven’t yet recovered.

(One unexpected offshoot – it made me realize just how amazing my hubby is. Nanette isn’t for the faint of heart, particularly if you’re a straight, white man who is in any way touchy about being called out on your privilege. Steven rolled with every punch and listened to what Hannah had to say without any defensiveness. It was remarkable, unexpected and inspiring, just like his love of Dietland. Seriously, I fell in love with him all over again.)

Since I had already been walking on emotional landmines, often without knowing that was exactly what I was going to do, I girded my loins and started QE. By the end of the first episode of Season One, both Brit and I were teary-eyed, but deeply invested and completely in love with the new Fab Five.

Seriously, my life will not be complete until I get to hang out with – at the very least – Jonathan and Antoni, wearing homemade facial masks and eating guac while working our way through the Classic Cry list of old movies. It’s on the bucket list. I’m not even kidding.

On the first episode, the new Fab Five declare that while their predecessors worked for tolerance, their objective is acceptance. Given the whole series is filmed in Georgia, they have a lot of room to introduce that form of acceptance with people usually unfamiliar with the LGBT+ community. They’ve also opened up to mentoring more than straight guys, hence the name change. In the last two seasons, they’ve worked with gay men, a woman and a transgender man.

What I love most about the Fab Five is that they’re often changed in the task of changing others, which is beautiful to see. This is most noticeable with the episode with the transgender man, whose unique struggles helped open the eyes of some of the Fab Five towards trans issues. When it opens THEIR eyes, it opens ours (and definitely opened mine.)

It’s a beautiful thing.

They’ve also worked with cops, firemen and the super religious, which has opened up dialogue on hot button topics like Black Lives Matter, religious ostracizing of the gay community and the dramatic political divisiveness driving our culture. They don’t back down from it. They address it head on. It is both heartwarming and healing to see the two sides of every issue realizing they’re part of the same coin. Hearing a super religious dude tell the Fab Five what I had always wanted to hear from ANY church I went to broke me into grateful sobbing that someone somewhere was getting the message of grace, mercy and unconditional love *right* for once.

My experience with religion has not been so heartwarming. Like Bobby, I was reluctant to walk through those metaphorical doors and open myself up, once again, to disappointment. I’ll get into it eventually, but not today. I haven’t cried yet. I’d like to keep it that way.

There’s a lot to like about the new QE, not the least of which is the respect and genuine love that the Fab Five shows for their makeover nominees. They call them Heroes, and treat them as such.

And when I say love, I don’t mean that fake “Bless Your Heart” kinda love you find in polite society. I mean Gay Love. Not gay sex, gay love, and there’s a big ol difference. See, there’s something you have to know about my gay brothers and sisters: they ain’t about holding back. They will tell you the truth, even if sometimes that truth stings. Aisha Tyler (my Unapologetic Queen,) talks about this phenomenon in one of her standup acts, saying that because gay folks had to lie so much while closeted that once they come out of said closet, they ain’t never lying again.

You want someone to tell you the truth, befriend the LGBT+ community, because they aren’t afraid of it no matter WHO you are. Even when we see some busted ass celebrity on the news, my GBFF will say, “Looks like she pissed off her Gay.”

Your gay friends have your back, and they aren’t afraid to tell you the truth.

For these Makeover Nominees, such oversight is needed.

The New Fab Five have their work cut out for them, not just turning frumpy heteros into slick lady’s men. They’re not only teaching them social skills or grooming/style tips. They’re teaching them life skills. One episode in particular, there was a guy who wasn’t that invested in taking care of himself or his surroundings. Normally, Bobby (the design guru,) performs his magic behind the scenes while the other four are hard at work on the nominee, who returns home to the stylish new pad Bobby creates with a touch of his magic wand. This time around, he had the nominee help him clean – because it was important for that particular fella to learn that life skill, not just get new stuff.

They intervene also with diet. The first nominee was a guy who drank Hillbilly/Redneck Margaritas daily, which is basically a huge glass of Mountain Dew with tequila mixed in. Antoni, the food and wine guru, wanted to get him away from so much sugar and began a quest to find something he could enjoy just as much without all the detrimental consequences.

What I like most is that they’re not trying to change anyone into something that they aren’t. They accept everyone as is, which is how, I truly believe, that they’re teaching true acceptance. They believe every single makeover nominee is beautiful, and they just have to give them the confidence they need to take better care of themselves. Van, the style guru, works hard to find what these folks will like, what fits already into their personal brand, but “elevates” them up a notch.

That one word choice has changed how I feel about everything.

How many times have my own personal enhancement journeys crashed and burned because I convinced myself I was a POS who didn’t deserve it and shouldn’t be happy anyway? ALL OF THEM – because most of the advice I get as a fat woman is that I hold no value until I lose the weight. In order for me to live the life I want, I have to get to the other side of my Before and After.

They leave me high and dry in the During, where it’s just me and a bathroom scale. That scale has only one job: reminding me I’m not over the finish line, ergo I’m still worthless.

Literally worthless. Fat is Bad. If Ginger is Fat, Ginger is Bad.

BUT…

If I see myself as a quality human being FIRST, and everything I do is to “elevate” what is already there – imagine how much more loving I will be in the During.

My Chatterbox is an Evil Bitch, we know this. She’s a liar and she’s an abuser, we know this, too. And I think it’s time for her to have her own makeover, courtesy of what I’ve learned from the Fab Five:

  1. Be loving. We both have a need to accept and be accepted by the people closest to us. Just as we would never tolerate someone calling us a name, nor would we ever be that abusive to someone else, we need to be gentler and more loving with the only person stuck with us from birth till death: ourselves. When those ugly words start to rise, “You can’t fix ugly,” it’s up to us to lovingly correct those destructive messages that serve no purpose except to make us feel bad.
  2. Take your inherent worth, and elevate it. There’s nothing wrong with being different. There’s everything wrong with living life half-assed. It isn’t because you’re this size or that, it’s because you are unhappy with where you are, but have little motive to change it, so you accept all the crud that comes with. Sometimes you go through all the drastic changes everyone tells you will fix everything, and you find out you’re still the same ol’ schlub you used to be – that there is no magic cure to fix it all, because what is broken inside is still the same. You can change what you think is holding you back, and still be unhappy (like the one makeover nominee who had lost a lot of weight but still lived with his parents and wore ill-fitting clothes.) It wasn’t the results that determined his success, but how it changed him (or didn’t) on the inside. He was still half-assing, like I’ve been half-assing. I need to elevate my whole way of thinking, reminding myself that I have not lost or gained one iota of worth being fat or losing weight. My worth is almost entirely contained in the worth I show myself, and that has little to do with a dress size. There’s no wait list for such care, you can start now and HAVE to start now. A body in motion and all that. Self-care is something I can do all the way through the During, and I don’t need outside permission to feel good about it. Like I said in my Papercuts an Tomato Juice blog, I like to dress up, wear nice clothes, put on makeup – feel beautiful. That is still me, but elevated, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted in the first place. We can and should move that to the “done” column daily.
  3. Show care in every aspect of life. You don’t need to chase fashion trends or spend all your money at Sephora to become presentable. There are many things you can do to take better care of your whole person, you just have to make the effort to find what works for you. The diet that you eat, the care you show your surroundings, the way you interact with other people. There are so many ways to tie it all together for a better, happier life overall. Look for the opportunities to make everything better.
  4. Have. Fun. This one is thanks to Jonathan, who is a hoot and a half. He’s the most flamboyant member of the Fab Five, and I have always had such a love for gay men who aren’t afraid to be themselves in a world determined to hate them. He lives life with flourish and fearlessness, wrangling a good time out of just about anything he does. My most eye-opening moment with this rule was when Antoni hosted a cooking lesson and Jonathan and Van teamed up to make one of the worst omelettes of the day. Jonathan quips, “We were the worst. But we had so much fun. Thanks for having us.” He knows he owns, even if he flops. That’s a revelation to me. I don’t understand the concept having fun while failing at something, clearly this is a problem. I need to focus on having fun, win or lose. Which brings me to the most important thing I’ve learned so far:
  5. Be brave enough to risk lose once and a while. This is courtesy of Karamo, the culture guru. He is charged with getting nominees out of their comfort zone. Everything we want in life is outside that zone, so one tip to success is learning how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. In the episode I referenced in #4, Karamo takes the Makeover Nominee – a home-schooled 18-year-old one week away from college – to a paintball range, forcing him to go up to complete strangers and start a conversation, with the ultimate goal of finding people to play with. I would never do this. I’m the approachee, not the approacher. Life is way more comfortable to me if I interact with people who already demonstrate they’d be open to it. The thought of going up to any random stranger strikes fear in my socially anxious heart. But I get the point, and will apply it accordingly.  You do things that scare you, you live through it, you gain confidence that you can do the things that you think you cannot do. Feel the fear and do it anyway, so they say.

This isn’t just blog fodder, btw. I have actually used all of these things this week, including a job interview for a job which I had already upsold myself. I had applied for one position, but it paid $4 less an hour than what I had been making. When I said I was really looking for something that paid more, I landed an interview for another position I probably never would have considered – but have the skills to ace anyway.

Steven always says, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” I’ve used that a few times in the last seven days. That old Chatterbox has responded in kind, because that bitch doesn’t appreciate any of it. Anxiety has flared and it hasn’t been pretty. But I just remind myself of those five new tenants and keep on truckin’. So far, it’s working.

Now I get to test myself with a big one: writing something that scares me.

At the moment I have three projects that could be AH-MAY-ZING. The concepts are so good, the storytelling soil so rich, I fear I may not do it justice. I have confidence in my skills, but these stories could be game changers, especially in this sociopolitical climate in which we live. These stories need me at my absolute best, and I’m afraid I’m just not good enough to say what I want to say. I’m so far outside my comfort zone that I haven’t been able to even put an outline together on any of them. It’s stupid, really. I’ve written over thirty books, and these past few years I’ve done tremendously challenging projects that have demanded much out of me emotionally and professionally.

What I’m doing now is completely half-ass.

It’s time for my own mini-makeover. I’m not only going to take care of myself today, I’m going to elevate myself. I’m already good, but maybe – just maybe – I’m meant for something greater.

Time to see what happens when I venture outside my comfort zone to test it and see.

Catch you on the other side.

 

 

Dietland and my complicated relationship with Bangability.

This week’s Dietland showed Plum Kettle on the painful, humiliating, expensive and drastic journey to becoming “bangable,” as defined by her drastic weight-loss detractors as her driving motivator for thinness.

Because isn’t it always?

In case you were unaware, it is a woman’s first priority in this culture to attract the menz, and as such, the reason we are willing to do pretty much anything. Y’know, if magazine covers are to be believed.

Our main job, our noble calling, is motherhood, and you can’t get there if nobody wants to fuck you. Hence why bangability is key.

Fortunately for us, there are countless people willing to help us achieve this notable status. The weight-loss industry, the fashion industry, the cosmetics industry, the media… you can’t sling a dead cat in any direction and not find SOME advice how you, disgusting slob and wretchedly unbangable chick, can get a man to notice you so you can get you some.

That is, after all, our truest desire.

It’s in the Bible.

If you dress up, if you take care to look nice, put on makeup, get yer hair “did” or your nails done, everyone clearly knows that you’re gunning for some peen. That surely IS the reason for grooming yourself to the point of torture, right?

Spanx, people. Fucking SPANXS.

And as we have been told repeatedly for – well, at least as long as I’ve been alive and aware of it – men will only find you bangable if you change.

It doesn’t matter how or WHAT you change… just that you do something opposite than what you’re doing now. You’ll note most of these tips aspire to change you from your natural state. Curlers, straighteners, hair removal, concealer, padded bras, slimming jeans… lift, tuck, conceal, hide – CHANGE….nothing you have naturally is at all bangable.

Even beautiful, teenage, rail-thin models get photoshopped for optimal bangability.

If you’re a woman, you HAVE to change. Gotta. You’re simply unbangable as is, darlin’. If you’re older, you need to look younger. If you’re fat, you need to be thinner. If you have curly hair, you need to straighten it. If you have straight hair, you have to curl it. If you have a wide nose, you need to contour. If you are pale, you need to be more tanned. No matter how perfect the world may find you, trust me there will be something, anything about you that needs to be changed to be bangable.

Dare you like something about yourself, the kind folks in the Peanut Gallery are quick to let you know the error of your ways.

For some of us, there are more obvious violations. For me, it’s weight. For you, it might be unruly eyebrows. Are your lashes not full enough? FALSIES, baby. There is LITERALLY a product for every sin you don’t even know you’re committing. If you don’t believe me, watch a makeup tutorial on Youtube sometime. That alone made me realize I have no idea to girl properly. Five products JUST for your face? Ten more for your eyes? Three more for your lips? Two more for your eyebrows?

Are you fucking kidding me? And we’re not even talking about clothes, accessories and layering yet. Even for those of us who love clothes and makeup, there is no way to keep up with the latest new thing that will perfect what is unbangably wrong.

The SPANX, people. My God, the fucking Spanx.

(For the record, I’ve never owned or wore a pair. When I was younger, it was due to cost. Now that I’m older, I just don’t give a shit. Ain’t nobody got the time to wiggle into sausage casing just so that complete strangers aren’t offended by my cellulite. Things are going to jiggle, folks. Get fucking used to it.)

It’s no wonder that women take two hours to get ready. You can’t rush the fine art of being bangable, y’all. You just can’t.

Granted, women tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. Do guys really care if you have 20 layers of product on your face? Are they really wondering if your lashes are real or Maybelline? Do they care if your lipstick is coordinated with your nail color, or if your underwear matches?

Probably not.

There was a joke meme going around years ago on the differences on what it takes to please women and what it takes to please men. For the women, guys had to buy flowers, pick her favorite restaurant, talk about her interests, basically devote his life and attention to her. For the guys, it just said, “Show up naked. Bring beer.”

I’ve seduced my share of men in my life. It wasn’t always THAT easy, but… the point has some merit.

Bangability simply isn’t that difficult, if that is what you’re aiming for. Most of the time it isn’t, which is why sexual attention is often unwelcome or bothersome. Despite what men think, just because we dress up doesn’t mean we’re advertising some cute new petting zoo.

My future daughter-in-law, Brittany, and I are tried and true partners in crime. I don’t have a lot of really close girlfriends, but she’s risen right to the top as my favored cohort. My boys generally don’t care to traipse around Los Angeles with me, doing the things that I love to do. But whenever I say, “You wanna?” to Brit, she’s down. For a borderline agoraphobe, having this kind of “safe person” is glorious. We go out to events pretty regularly, which often includes live music in famous Hollywood venues. Before each venture, we tend to do the Girl Thang and go shopping for clothes (particularly if it’s a “theme” night.) We mull long and hard over the accessories and makeup we’re going to wear. We coordinate to the point of OCD madness. On the day of, we tend to get started hours before we have to leave, and end up leaving late almost every single time.

The truly ironic part is that only one of us has to work that hard to be “bangable” as the previously referenced culture norms demand. We look different, we’re treated different, even though our goals/motives are completely the same.

Brit is not heavy like me. In fact, she’s the polar opposite of me. She’s underweight, and has the same difficulty reaching her goals as I do mine. Though this chick can eat (and trust me, anyone who has ever seen her do it can attest,) her metabolism burns so high that she has stayed between 90-95 pounds in the four years she’s lived with us. Given she’s the same height as me, the differences between us are drastic. I have even been asked (by a stranger in passing, and a man,) if I am the reason she doesn’t eat.

Nobody asks her, when she’s knuckle-deep in pizza, fried foods, southern comfort staples, booze and the endless sweets she indulges (because she can, because there’s no limit on what SHE eats,) if SHE’S the reason *I* indulge, which would be a whole lot closer to the truth.

But hey, whatevs. SHE is the one who is “bangable”, so clearly she’s the one who is doing it right, and men reward her (and punish me) accordingly. Even though we do almost the same things basically, except we kinda don’t – not when it comes to health. She’s in her 20s. She’s invincible. Her diet came with all the stuff I had cut out for years, and trained my family accordingly. There were no fried foods, no cream sauces. Oreos. MY GOD, the Oreos

Those are Brit additions, because I’m not going to afflict her with my diet, when she actually needs to put on weight. She loves whole milk, I always bought skim. She drinks full-sugar soda daily, I drink a diet soda maybe 1-2 days a week. I love salads of all kinds, she needs her salads compatible to ranch dressing, as, like many Texans, vegetables are her Ranch dressing delivery system. I also eat far less snack food, junk food, fast food, and I don’t vape like a dragon.

When we go to Sizzler, I get the salad bar. She gets the steak dinner WITH a loaded baked potato, WITH a salad (loaded with ranch,) WITH all the extras, with the biggest bottle of beer they have AND a soda.

Yet who’s the one who gets the dirty looks when I get a bowl of banana pudding, or drink a diet soda?

I should be eating lettuce and drinking water and LIKING it, goddammit. Don’t I WANT to be bangable, FFS?

Since you were so kind to ask… NO. I sure damn don’t.

This is what those concern-trolling shamers, who feel like it’s THEIR job to make me feel bad, to punish me for my weight – as if the weight isn’t punishment enough – don’t seem to understand. They think their stamp of approval, signing off on my bangability, will “inspire” me to go the other direction. They actually think I want to earn their favor, when all I really want to do is punch them right in their hateful faces.

I’m not necessarily a violent person, and I hate the color orange, so I have a long history of eating pretty much out of spite, flaunting my fatness to keep them far, far away, since it seems to work oh, so well.

(It’s been a coping mechanism for as long as I can remember. Since I’ve wanted to avoid sexual attention since the age of, oh, four.)

I did this to myself. Knowingly. Purposefully. I WANTED to be unbangable, because dudes viewing me sexually has always, always, always been The Danger Zone. If I looked like Brit, I wouldn’t leave the house. It gives ME anxiety whenever SHE wears a bikini, because I just can’t imagine lighting that kind of welcome torch. I personally feel the need to drape myself around her like a force field as is, just so some horny dude doesn’t put her in his pocket and run away.

Seriously, when she goes outside to vape, onto the Sunset Strip of all places, I worry if she doesn’t come back right away. These fuckers are relentless, y’all.

And as Jen Kober says, being skinny makes it so much easier to be kidnapped.

Truth is, Brit’s very cute. She’s a pretty girl and she knows it. If she didn’t, there would be nightclubs full of old rocker pervs to reassure her. They will do anything to get close to her. I’ve watched it happen almost every single time we go out. They will find any reason at all to get close enough to paw at her like a horny Schnauzer. “Ooo, your jacket. Is that leather? I love it.”

Though she wears an engagement ring on her finger, and will always answer every, “Who are you here with?” with a pointed, “My mother-in-law,” these guys are rarely deterred. She’s thin, blond and cute. Her bangability is without question, but has little to do with how she styles her hair or how much time she spends on her makeup. I tell her all the time that she could show up in a burlap sack with bedhead and it wouldn’t turn off these guys. “Burlap? Wow, I’ve always loved that texture. Such a novel choice! You must be very smart and creative.”

If she showed up naked with beer, a line would gather.

Guys who are with other chicks will still peacock around her, just to get her attention. Whenever I point them out to her, she always says, so sweetly, “But he’s with a date!” As if that ever stopped a dude anywhere from sucking in his gut near a pretty girl.

It’s kind of funny how predictable it all gets.

It’s so pervasive that, when we went to see a comedy show, she commented how the guy she was seated next to was such a nice, refreshing change from all the guys who come onto her at the bars. She noted it was probably because the comedy crowd was different.

What she didn’t notice, and what I never miss, was how he kept looking her up and down every time he got the chance, all the way through the show. He was already old news to her by then. Guys who find her attractive are a dime a dozen, and she’s already won the lottery landing my son. (Totally unbiased opinion.)

But I always have my Predator Radar on, particularly in “Mom Mode,” and so I pick up on cues others miss… like the chick sitting next to him with that big rock on her left hand. She didn’t seem to notice how he kept checking Brit out, either. Yet he couldn’t help himself from studying the bangable chick at his side, more than likely storing every detail for his spank bank.

Honestly, Brit is so cute I often wonder why I even bother sometimes to dress up. Despite being more than twice her size, I disappear beside her easily. If bangability was my objective, I’d be sadly barking up the wrong tree.

But – again – bangability is NOT the objective. All the events we go to are centered around people we consider friends, who, even though they’re men, the business of bangability isn’t even on the table. We’re just out to have a unbangable good time.

Such things ARE possible, you know.

I dress up because I like it. Crazy, right? I like to feel pretty. And both of those things are possible, too. I like to wear makeup. I’m a girl, FFS. I like pretty makeup and nice clothes, feeling beautiful and adorned, and will do so even if the masses think I’m completely unfuckable. Such things are by design and I’m used to it, so it has nothing to do with that.

I mean, no offense, but… it’s not about you. I’d bang me. And do, on a regular basis. You’re really kind of unnecessary in the whole deal, except for all the sexy details I store in MY bank. And if you think I’m not bangable because I’m fat, odds are you don’t make that list no matter how you dress or how hot you look.

They’re called standards and, believe it or not, I have them.

If I don’t turn your head, it’s perfectly okay with me. My dressing up and looking pretty was never about you in the first place. I’ve loved makeup way back when I was thirteen years old. I was still a virgin (by my standard, I didn’t “lose” my virginity until I gave it away willingly) with no plans on fucking anyone until I was married. (Ah, youth.) Still, I wanted to have makeup in the WORST way. One of my most beloved toys was my Barbie styling head, which I would style and primp for hours on end.

makemeprettybarbie.jpg

Needless to say, I couldn’t WAIT to be like all the other teenagers and do my own hair and makeup instead of playing with a plastic doll head. When we used to live with another single mom and her kids, I’d watch 16-year-old Beth sit for hours at her makeup table, perfecting her 80s flip, getting her makeup *just right*. It was my introduction to girling. My efforts were never so perfect.

ginger9thgrade

And it didn’t help ANYTHING that puberty hit me like a fucking freight train. I wanted makeup simply to detract away from hellish acne. Look at anything but my pimples. PLEASE.

But my mother insisted I was much too young for makeup. I come from a very conventional household where my late dad called the rouge, lipstick and nail polish my mother wore, her only makeup staples, her “war paint.”

These were, in fact, the only makeup items I was allowed to wear as a thirteen-year-old.

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But I so desperately wanted all of it, particularly eye shadow. I’m a creative person who has always loved to decorate things. Why not myself? Given my eyes have always been my best physical feature, it was torture not to experiment with makeup that could light them up like a Christmas tree. (They are green, after all.)

Had they had as many glittery choices then as they do now, I might have considered shoplifting. I probably would have never done it, but I would have considered it nonetheless.

I have a theory that I must have been a drag queen in another life. If my passion for makeup isn’t enough to convince you, my healthy love of disco should seal the deal.

To tell you how creative I was, for a short time in 1983 I was mixing food color and baby powder, just to see if I could make my own. That never worked out either. Ultimately I had to wait for several more years before I got the real thing.

You know, AFTER my first kiss and AFTER I gave up on the whole virginity thing. As it turned out, the makeup I had always wanted had precious little to do with my bangability.

Do you see the emerging theme here?

When you’re a single gal, fat or thin, you really don’t have to work that hard to get laid, if getting laid is your objective. (Epiphany hammer coming down in five… four… three… two…)

YOU CAN’T FIGHT THE BANGABILITY, Y’ALL. You don’t have to pass Go, you don’t have to collect $200. You start the game bangable. Think of it like a passport that you’re born with. Pretty folks, yeah. They may have checks from a lot more people, filling their pages with validation after validation, where you can be like Brit, say you’re pretty and BELIEVE it.

But guess what? Fat, thin, young, old, geek, chic – there’s ALWAYS going to be someone in this world willing to stamp your Bangability Book. Getting laid is about the EASIEST thing you can do. Many times, all you have to be is available.

Guys have tried to pick me up while I was on a pay phone (ask your grandparents,) doing my laundry, sitting on a grassy knoll, reading a book, even walking down the street. No bars. No makeup. No ritual or ceremony. No sexy clothes.

Just existing with a vagina.

Your ONLY question is what kind of guy do you want to bang? Are you looking for love? Are you looking for security? Because that’s where it gets a little trickier, particularly if you have high standards.

Not all peen is created equal, folks. Therefore bangability, or the art of attracting all peen, is NOT optimal. For some of us, who have fought our inherent bangabilty off with every ugly stick we could find, it truly IS the Danger Zone.

Believe me when I say that when Brit and I gussy up, it’s not ABOUT men or sex. We’re in committed relationships with no intention of picking anyone up. In fact, Brit and I do this even when we’re going to hang out with other women. None of what we do has dick to do with… well, dick. If you get turned on, that’s kinda your problem.

Not to say that it’s all bad. I’ve had my share of attention, and I’ve enjoyed the hell out of it when I got it. Still do. I’m only human, y’all. I’ve used my cleavage more than once to get my way, which is always an ego boost. (It also saves money at the bar. Even at the Whiskey, we’ve had our drinks paid for.)

When you lock eyes with someone who finds you attractive, there’s a charge of electricity that’s pretty hard to beat, even if you have no plans whatsoever fucking them. It makes you feel good. Powerful. Alive.

Like anyone else, I like that. I’m a Scorpio. The flirt is built in.

What I like better is knowing that the guys who find someone like me bangable are way more choice. A lot of guys look through me or past me or around me because of my weight, it’s true. I prefer that I’m not the easy option or the first choice. I’m not the lowest hanging fruit on the tree. You have to climb through all the thorny foliage I’ve grown to keep you out. You have to forgive the bruises on the outside to get to the sweet fruit underneath, and honestly… most guys are too lazy to keep going past the first barrier. I’m a human obstacle course and very few ninjas make it to the other side.

That has ALWAYS been by design. Call it… Asshole Repellent.

Assholes are the ones who will punish me for my brazen unbangability, withholding their attention and even their kindnesses, because God forbid I think that banging is even remotely on the table, even if I’m not asking for it. They’d rather look through me than make eye contact. Because that’s what I clearly deserve. They will pile other people in between us, a human shield, just so I am reminded – AGAIN – of my blatant unbangabilty, as if I had to be reminded, as if that was my objective in the first place.

If women are out for peen, surely fat women are out for peen DOUBLE.

We lust by the pound, doncha know.

All things considered, a man who finds me sexy demonstrates very attractive qualities, like depth, tenacity and, you know, decency. He tends to appreciate the whole package, including my mind, my wit and my strength. He’d never be satisfied with some blow-up doll of the feminine ideal. He needs more.

I’m the Queen of More. Only a true king can recognize it.

Self-esteem boost x2, plus you get to separate the wheat from the chaff? Win/win. My lack of “bangability” is a fucking PLUS, not a minus. Always has been.

Older women get this. The older you get, the more that kind of attention wanes from weaker men, who need you to be hot to make them feel better about themselves.

Eventually all of us women reach and pass our Last Fuckable Day with these losers which, despite the parody in this clip, IS a reason to celebrate.

It’s kind of liberating, honestly. You get to the point when you’re not doing it for *them,* you’re doing it for you. Whether you drop hundreds of dollars to let some sadist rip your pubes out by the root, that then becomes your choice. Whether you’re dropping thousands of dollars on hundreds of product to keep you makeup-ready, buying sexy underwear or – gasp – losing weight, becomes a lot more loving the less you care about random, superficial dudes wanting to fuck you. You get to do what you want to do, what makes you happy.

If it’s anybody else’s choice, then it falls dangerously close to abuse. Why would we ever open our hearts or our legs to someone who thinks we’re not good enough? How much do we have to hate ourselves to buy and accept this message?

And guess what? It’s never your “last fuckable day.” Guys of worth will still find you sexy. Hell, guys of little worth will find you sexy, they just won’t admit it. If you show up and bring beer, odds are you will still get them to fuck you. They might not be the 50-year-old rocker dudes clinging to their own youth by chasing 20-year-old groupies, but honestly… what’s the loss?

I’ve been overweight my whole adult life. The last time I broke 200 pounds, I was 19 years old. For much of the time since, my focus has been antibangability. Not that uncommon for women who have survived abuse. I don’t want strangers finding an excuse to touch me. Whether you find me fuckable or not is none of my concern, because odds are GREAT I don’t want to fuck you.

I need to trust you to fuck you, and have a reasonable expectation that you won’t, you know, destroy me when it’s all said and done. As a result, I wear my “Fuck Off” sign like a goddamn tiara. I scare off a lot of men.

I’m okay with this.

It could be a perfect plan except for one problem: despite all I’ve done to keep them at arm’s length, there are guys who will still want to fuck me, because there’s more to bangability than some number on a scale. I see it in their eyes if they dare hold my gaze. I’ve actually seen it rattle some guys. Makes me wonder who the revelation scares more… me or them. Probably the person who looks away first, which is usually me.

As a married lady, I don’t need those kinds of complications that come with looking twice, so I rarely do it. But the truth of the matter is that, married or not, if I wanted to fuck, I could find someone to do it. I was about ninety pounds heavier last time I tried to “show up and bring beer,” and a line still gathered. Handsome guys. Younger guys. This idea that Fat = Unfuckable is a tired myth, and nobody knows that better than I do, because I’ve spent a good thirty years trying to do everything I could to turn men off and they just won’t go away.

Which, mind you, isn’t always a bad thing. I like men. I like being wanted and loved by men. I just don’t want to be used and hurt by men, so I have had to be very selective. In truth, my antibangability has proven the ultimate test of a GUY’S bangability. If you can see through all the bullshit, look past the scars and the pain and still see a woman of worth… you’re a fucking prince in my book. Sure, they’re fewer in number, but quality over quantity, ladies.

If you’ve ever been with someone who wants to “reward” you versus someone who wants to treasure you, even worship you, you’d know exactly what I mean.

Hence why I wanted to throttle Plum when she asserted that she couldn’t be pretty simply because she was fat. She said it with a straight face, as if her best friend’s employee (a hot, young guy) didn’t moon over her constantly, or the sexy cop wasn’t all about her chocolate cake (not a euphemism.) She’s even got a lesbian hot and bothered. All of this attention is just as legitimate as Brit’s Whiskey fan club.

Yet… Plum thinks she still needs to staple her stomach to become bangable?

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YOU’RE ALREADY BANGABLE, GIRL. The only question now is whether you’re bangable to the masses, because as we ALL know, we’re just not worth a damn until a world of faceless dudes decide they want to fuck us.

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Despite OVERWHELMING evidence to the contrary, it’s easy lie to believe because goddammit if it doesn’t try to rear its ugly head every time we turn around, whether it’s in Plum’s fictional existence or our own. Just yesterday, author and feminist Roxanne Gay tweeted a personal letter she got from some stranger who felt it appropriate to ask her how her husband makes love to her. “How does he find your vagina?” this stranger (I’d bet dollars to donuts was a dude) wanted to know.

Really? Fucking REALLY?

I hate that fucking stereotype every bit as much as I hate the loose vagina one for women who have dared to have sex, or, y’know, a baby. Where DO you fuckers get the information you have about our bodies? And why are you so worried about a fat chick’s vagina anyway, if fat is what makes her so unbangable?

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I still haven’t forgiven David Copperfield for his “flour” joke re: Jabba the Hut in one of the I Love the 80s episodes. Seriously, if you’re a dude who thinks you have to “roll me up in flour to find the wet spot” just to find my vagina, not only do I have SERIOUS doubts you could find the clit on a skinny chick, if you’re this intimidated by size I’m going to assume you must have a wee willy winky, too.

Is that rude to say? I mean, we can talk frankly about this, right? Since you can bring up your concerns with my husband finding my vagina, since I’m so fat. We’re close, right?

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There are countless people out there ready to let us fat folk know that Fat = Unfuckable, particularly when we’re at ALL in the public eye. God help you if you mutter an unpopular opinion. The worst insult I ever got about my weight, which was aggressively sexual, was on a political forum. Fat feminists are particularly targeted, and, for some strange reason, these pissed off bigots will go right to the rape threats just to prove how unfuckable they find us.

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If there’s one thing our culture simply won’t tolerate, it’s all those women who DARE to exist unbangably. And all those multi-million dollar industries I mentioned above make sure that every single woman knows it, every minute of every day of her unbangable life.

It’s so misogynistic, I rage to the point I can’t even see straight. That women perpetuate this myth, at all, makes me even more stabbity.

Despite their billion-dollar efforts, some of us have opted to go the other way. For some of us, this has been a pretty effective shield for a long, long time. None of the guys who come up and paw at Brit are guys whose attention I want, so I’m not particularly sold on doing anything that lures them. I have had decades of self-abuse literally under my belt to ensure that nobody like that touches me, or gets close to me, or eyes me like some predator on the Serengeti. I am a fucking lioness, not some defenseless, little gazelle.

If my choices are “Scare you” or “Be scared of you,” guess which one I’m going to choose?

Some of us aren’t trying to lose weight just to be more bangable, even though we know that will ultimately be the result because of this superficial, misogynist culture. Some of us are pushing through DESPITE that unfortunate byproduct, and the difference needs to be acknowledged.

Why?

Because it’s anti-feminist as fuck to paint me with a brush that diminishes me, that’s why.

I get to exist, and make my choices, and do what I want to do, without having those motives questioned in regards to how it relates to a man. I’m not some halfling who needs their blue Verified check to show the world I’m acceptable. I’m not putting myself through this for anyone but me – not my husband, not my kids, not Rando Joe on the street. It’s all about me, baby, to have a healthier, more active body as I enter the second part of my life. Whether that’s 150 pounds, 200 pounds or even 2-fucking-60, my goal is to treat myself with a lot more kindness and respect.

That starts by rejecting counterproductive social constructs that have done a helluva lot of damage to me in my life as a woman. My worth as a human has dick to do with… well, dick.

Recognize, or STFU.

Like the goddess Pink so aptly sang, “I’m not here for your entertainment.” My existence doesn’t need to be justified by how many guys want to fuck me. Pretty is not the rent I pay to live in your world.

The way I see it, if I’m not here for you to “bang,” your opinion of my “bangability” is moot. The only outside person whose opinion matters is the hubby, who signed on for a lifetime commitment to banging only me, so… yeah. There’s nobody to impress after that. Except me, and I still count.

I get to dress up, wear makeup, look pretty, FEEL pretty, all without your approval or agreement, just because it pleases me. Because I feel lovely, and goddammit… that’s allowed.

Women are much too complex and diverse to abide by such limited rules. We’re going to be fat, thin, pretty, ugly, wear makeup, cut our hair short, wear casual clothes or the latest fashion, buy a thousand beauty products or none at all. Most of us will do this without worrying about how it attracts peen. Regardless of that, I guarantee you that at least ONE guy will find you fuckable despite the rules you adhere to or the rules you break.

See, that’s the secret no one in the fashion industry, the cosmetic industry, the weight loss industry or the media wants you to know. They DEPEND on torpedoing your self-esteem to protect their bottom line. Their job isn’t done until you feel lesser than and ready to open your wallet to “fix” what’s wrong, just like poor Plum.

They get you to question your inherent bangability and then put it on a stick way out in front of you, where you’ll never catch it. (Proven by the fact that they showed Plum what her new, thinner body would look like, complete with all the scars from taking off all the excess skin.)

There’s NO finish line. There’s no way you can win if you play the game by their rules. The only way to win is to STOP PLAYING.

Are we still bangable if we break their rules? Fuck yes, we are. As is, guaranteed. No waxing, no injection or surgery required. Anyone who is telling you differently is selling something, sweetheart. And it’s your self-esteem, battered to shit.

I’ve had a long, complicated relationship with my bangability, and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that it is a measuring stick you alone hold. Giving it away won’t get you laid. It’ll get you leveled. Trust NO stranger with it, because odds are great they’ll use it against you. There are no good intentions behind someone taking possession of something that was already yours in the first place.

Good, worthwhile, bangable people will help uncover your bangability. Bad, shitty, unbangable people will steal it away and try to lease it back to you, and tell you it’s your fault.

Learn who to reward, and who to ignore, accordingly.

Grasp that shit in a steel grip and hold your lovely head up high. Feel pretty, Plum and Plumettes. And go hook up with that young hottie and finally get you some, FFS. Ot the cop. Or the lesbian. Whomever you want, basically.

BECAUSE YOU CAN.

Just the way you are.