“Insatiable” Final Verdict.

Yesterday, Netflix dropped the first season of its new, controversial series “Insatiable.” Twelve episodes I was encouraged to watch by the shows creators, to give it a fair shot instead of going by what I saw in the troubling trailers, which suggested it was a fat-shaming, fatphobic, sexist mess.

It’s got Alyssa Milano, FFS. Alyssa Milano. How bad could it be??

alyssamilano

I reckoned that was fair. I decided to watch the whole show, even though I was 98% sure it was going to hurt me. I made this same mistake when Shallow Hal came out, and I – like any good sport – went to see the movie in the theater. I sat down from two teen girls who found all the fat jokes hiLARious, who not only laughed, they also made it a point to make sure I saw them laugh.

meryllaughno

I warned my husband ahead of time to intervene if he saw any binging behavior as a result. I don’t normally give that kind of control away to anyone, but I felt it necessary. I was in a sour mood all day yesterday, knowing what I was going to put myself through. I even drank a very rare cup of coffee, since I already know this works as an appetite suppressant, and quite frankly… I just didn’t trust myself to get through the program without some safeguards in place.

If you understood how much I hate coffee, you’d understand why this is a big deal.

It’s no secret I have problems with disordered eating. One of my worst foes is BED, or Binge Eating Disorder, described below:

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating. It is the most common eating disorder in the United States.

Some behavioral warning signs of BED:

  • Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or lots of empty wrappers and containers indicating consumption of large amounts of food.
  • Appears uncomfortable eating around others
  • Any new practice with food or fad diets, including cutting out entire food groups (no sugar, no carbs, no dairy, vegetarianism/veganism)
  • Fear of eating in public or with others
  • Steals or hoards food in strange places
  • Creates lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge sessions
  • Withdraws from usual friends and activities
  • Frequently diets
  • Shows extreme concern with body weight and shape
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance
  • Has secret recurring episodes of binge eating (eating in a discrete period of time an amount of food that is much larger than most individuals would eat under similar circumstances); feels lack of control over ability to stop eating
  • Disruption in normal eating behaviors, including eating throughout the day with no planned mealtimes; skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals; engaging in sporadic fasting or repetitive dieting
  • Developing food rituals (e.g., eating only a particular food or food group [e.g., condiments], excessive chewing, and not allowing foods to touch).
  • Eating alone out of embarrassment at the quantity of food being eaten
  • Feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt after overeating
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Feelings of low self-esteem

I wrote about these things in GLITTER ON THE WEB, simply because I needed to dig around and deal with it. It’s something I know a little too much about, since I’ve been binge-eating since I was a kid. The first binge I remember was after my dad died when I was eleven. My mom decided to make tacos, which I love even to this day. Over the course of two or three days, I ate 52 tacos. I know… I counted.

It amazes me looking back how my life could have radically changed for the better if this behavior was treated like a sickness, rather than bad behavior. If someone would have been able to help me get to the root of my problems, rather than punish me for how I coped with them.

Kind of like the whole depression/anxiety thing.

We gotta be gentler on our kids, y’all. Otherwise they’ll grow to adults who binge to the point of discomfort and still feel empty inside.

After the cancer diagnosis earlier this year, I went on a food cleanse in a lot of ways. My nurse told me that cancer feeds off of sugar, which makes it grow, so no sugar. Having a physical addiction to sugar, it was difficult for me to cut it out of my life, even when I knew what a threat it posed to me personally. (This is how I know sugar is my biggest addiction.) Still, I managed to cut it down as I developed my diet around cancer-fighting superfoods.

I lost so much weight, I freaked out, thinking it was the cancer. This was back when Steven was in the hospital. I lost about eight pounds in a week and a half and I. Tripped. Balls. I was still spotting, thanks to all the fibroids still squatting on my lady organs, and I had no idea if the cancer, which was reputed to be aggressive, was compounding by the day as I awaited surgery. Back then, even with a sudden low-carb diet, extreme weight loss was scary as hell. Cancer puts everything in the cross hairs, even after you get a clean bill of health.

To this day, if I step on that scale and it’s not radically lower, I actually feel safer, even if I’m hella discouraged that I’m not anywhere near my goal.

Back in March, after I was given the all-clear from chemo, which SHOULD have been the point of victory, I kind of fell apart. This is why I’ve been stalled in the 260s for months. From March to May, I was binge-eating to manage all the stress AFTER the event, as I’m wont to do. As a result, I was dancing around with that devil sugar far too close for comfort. I was playing Russian Roulette with my food. Once the immediate danger had passed, I reverted to my old coping tools, which we all know are unhealthy.

Basically I didn’t feel like I deserved to get so lucky, so I was self-destructing. The other part of me, the one that is so, so grateful for this second chance, couldn’t seem to stop the runaway train if though she really, really wanted to. I didn’t just go back to sugar, I was INHALING it.

Experiments in animals and humans show that, for some people, the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin are also activated by food, especially highly palatable foods. Highly palatable foods are foods rich in: Sugar.WebMD

After being terrified for so long, in the immediate aftermath of “whew,” I binged like it was my job, simply because of the physical “reward” of it.

I couldn’t face my Superior coaches because I was too embarrassed. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had made them a promise and let them down. My relationship with food is a battle most days, and it’s been that way for 44 years. Still, I truly thought with their oversight I would be able to stay on the straight and narrow, simply because I couldn’t bear the thought of failing in front of them.

Turns out, I didn’t fall off of the wagon. I did a fucking swan dive.

I’ve been better the last few months. Better, not great. I’m focusing my eating on things that build my body, which as I explained in the LAST Insatiable-inspired blog, is a challenge on most days. To keep it healthy, to keep it ordered, I *myself* have to be a constant guardian of how I think about food. I remind myself there is no good or bad behavior around food, simply choices.

Steven and I were discussing this yesterday, when he decided by gum he wanted some Mrs. Fields cookies.

We have made it a point to go for walks on his days off. This helps replace some of the activity I used to get from work. Since it’s been hot in SoCal, we usually go to a mall instead. Big mall. Lots of walking. 4000 steps, easy. Regularly we pass things like Cinnabon and Mrs. Fields, where the smell of their decadent goodies slaps us in the fucking face, but most of the time we resist. I’m even pretty good at the Food Court. They can get Johnny Rockets or Philly cheesestake or Chipotle burritos, but I lean more towards Asian foods. Brown rice. Veggies. Protein. I went to Pink’s once. Got the veggie dog.

I make allowances. I’ve learned this.

Steven has likewise been super good for weeks and decided he was going to have himself a freaking cookie. So, he got some teriyaki chicken with no rice, so he could save his carbs for a mini cookie or two.

I was proud of him for this. He made a conscious choice about the food he wanted to eat and compromised accordingly. I commented to him then if we had been taught this as kids, how different our lives might have looked. Instead we were taught foods were good or bad, and we were good or bad to eat them, and good things were binge-worthy when you wanted to be happy, and boring food was ideal when you wanted to “be good” – i.e., suffer.

I celebrated my cancer victory by indulging the very food that might have put me on its course, because that’s what celebration looks like.

I, too, had a small victory yesterday in that Brit and Steven both wanted Red Robin, but I put my foot down. I could have found something at Red Robin to be healthy, but I wasn’t in the mood to be healthy. I wanted a big, fat, greasy burger and bottomless fries. I’d have gained at least two pounds before I left the mall, walk included.

With Insatiable ahead of me, I couldn’t take that risk. I had to remain vigilant.

Normally I cave to the masses, but this time, for my own protection, I set a boundary.

Still, I held off watching Insatiable until fairly late. My son Jer was surprised when he saw me with a very rare cup of coffee, particularly at the hour I had chosen to pour it. But I knew I needed the extra assistance.

It was fully my plan to watch all twelve episodes of this show, which I knew had the potential to hurt me. Not just hurt me, but derail me. Not just derail me, but invalidate me.

These were my biases going into it. I knew that wasn’t fair, either, so I enlisted the help of my model-thin future daughter-in-law and my reformed-skinny and now normal-weight gay bestie to watch with, so that I wouldn’t fly off the handle about the little things, taking things too personally.

Instead it was my goal that, if I saw the kind of show I was dreading, I would add a creative “fix” within the blog. Y’know, from the fat perspective.

I made it 15 minutes of the first 42-minute episode before I realized there’s no fixing this trainwreck.

Here are some tweets I wrote along the way.

Screenshot 2018-08-11 12.48.08

Screenshot 2018-08-11 12.51.46

(Seriously, did they re-purpose a pregnancy suit??)

Screenshot 2018-08-11 12.48.58

Screenshot 2018-08-11 12.49.03

At this point, I thought THIS would be the ironic tipping point. Just cut that shit off at that moment, just to prove the fucking point. Still, I soldiered on. Then… I got this… because the filmmakers had decided they had one last cannonball for their biggest, most hateful cannon:

Screenshot 2018-08-11 12.49.08

I very nearly had a Mushu breakdown, right there on Twitter.

Sigh. Okay. So. Consensus from the bestie: There is absolutely no one watchable on the show. He didn’t care what happened to anyone, it was sort of The Worst of the Worst, with no one to root for, even accidentally. The kids zoned out, this trainwreck couldn’t even keep their attention.

Meanwhile, someone who HAS lived a fat life, especially as a sexual abuse survivor, felt crushed under the oppressive heal of what someone ELSE thought was funny. I have nearly committed suicide three times in my life, but someone thought the serious, abusive things that drove me to it was fodder for “comedy.”

I didn’t laugh once. That was their failure.

I didn’t eat once. That was my victory.

Insatiable is so hateful – and so tone-deaf about its own hatefulness – that I felt battered under the weight of it, as a fat woman (who used to be a fat teenager,) as a woman in general AND as a rape survivor. There is nothing there to fix. A creator wanted to work through her own body issues and DGAF who she might have hurt in the process.

Well done?

Seriously. How can you turn the #metoo movement into such a fucking joke? Having a character LIE about sexual assault – particularly to be self-serving and vindictive – is just what the anti-metoo assholes want to see/hear, to justify NOT BELIEVING THE VICTIMS. This has been a battle my WHOLE FUCKING LIFE, for myself and other survivors like me, and you made it a PLOT DEVICE? It’s so fucking irresponsible just on its face that I barely got past that first scene…. BEFORE ALL THE FAT STUFF EVEN CAME INTO PLAY.

That this piece of shit is marketed to young girls breaks my heart. Way to perpetuate everything you claimed you were satirizing. You not only confirm the message, you’ve stamped it with a golden seal of approval.

I don’t have to “see the rest” to see how you might have fixed things. I have no faith you can. Not when you’ve taken my personal trials and tribulations and turned them into your “joke.” Fuck you.

I’ve been in tons of abusive relationships in my life, hanging in there so *I* wouldn’t be criticized for giving up too easily. It was never MY job to fix/justify this abuse, and it was just as abusive to me to stay in those hurtful, painful situations. But I did it, *to be fair to people who in no way fair to me.* I don’t do that anymore. If you think I should… fuck you.

The whole reason I HAVE an ED is because of sexual abuse. I was four years old, coerced from my front yard by a full-grown man, raped blocks away from my home in the back yard of a stranger. I never told anyone because I felt deep, abiding shame for what happened to me. I thought it was my fault. I thought I was “bad,” so God punished me. I had no adults to help me heal, instead I just fed that hurting little girl all the food she wanted so it would heal the hurt.

No amount of food has ever been enough to fill the hole ripped into me. It just made me feel good in the moment, and in my life – which has included death of loved ones, homelessness, and abuse – I cling to the things that make me feel good.

I overindulged, to make up for the rest.

By the time I hit my teen years, I was at least fifty pounds overweight.

ginfluffy

(Note: this is what an actual fat body looks like.)

I didn’t care what the kids at school thought because I could seduce full-grown men thanks to the fact I could wear a 42-C bra. This gave me a sense of control in an area where I had been rendered powerless, so needless to say I was empowered by that in all the wrong ways, and got crushed by the consequences because of it, like so many sexual abuse survivors.

Here are some more fun stats about children survivors of sexual assault:

  • Withdrawal and mistrust of adults
  • Suicidality
  • Difficulty relating to others except in sexual or seductive ways
  • Unusual interest in or avoidance of all things sexual or physical
  • Sleep problems, nightmares, fears of going to bed
  • Frequent accidents or self-injurious behaviors
  • Refusal to go to school, or to the doctor, or home
  • Secretiveness or unusual aggressiveness
  • Sexual components to drawings and games
  • Neurotic reactions (obsessions, compulsiveness, phobias)
  • Habit disorders (biting, rocking)
  • Unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
  • Prostitution
  • Forcing sexual acts on other children
  • Extreme fear of being touched
  • Unwillingness to submit to physical examination.

There were three different events in my young life that should have tipped off the adults around me that something was wrong. Most involved sex, which I was taught from the crib was a big fat sin and I shouldn’t want to have anything to do with it.

When I got caught with a cousin playing, “I’ll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours,” I got punished and banned from their house. When my mom caught me and the neighbor boy getting naked for each other through our bedroom windows, I got a full beating with a belt for being so naughty and so dirty. (I was eight.)

She also had plenty to say when she found an erotic story I wrote (which, at the age of 12, was filled with a lot of misinformation that should have clued her in that I needed education, not more punishment.)

I was punished and shamed for all of this… which made the ED that much worse. Food, especially unhealthy food, makes bad things feel better, remember.

In fact, being shamed for the weight gain at all, when it was symptomatic of that initial trauma, makes it that much worse. It makes me feel vulnerable and unsafe, which is where that BED was born.

Many survivors of sexual abuse often work to become very fat or very thin in an attempt to render themselves unattractive. In this way, they try to de-sexualize themselves. Other survivors obsessively diet, starve, or purge to make their bodies “perfect.” A perfect body is their attempt to feel more powerful, invulnerable, and in control, so as not to re-experience the powerlessness they felt as children. Indeed, some large men and women, who are survivors of sexual abuse, are afraid to lose weight because it will render them feeling smaller and childlike. This, in turn, may bring back painful memories that are difficult to cope with.” – Sexual Abuse and Eating Disorders

So, maybe you can understand why taking body image and trying to make it “funny” didn’t work for me. Maybe you can see why I heard danger bells all over this fucking series trailer, and thought maybe – just maybe – I knew I shouldn’t tune in.

Funny how I was “shamed” for that, too.

Maybe once you hear my story, you can understand why making light of such topics, which have made the last 44 of my life a freaking battlefield, would not be “fun.”

If not, let me tell you: It wasn’t.

And fuck you.

But even if I take my personal feelings out of it, there was still a lot to criticize. Like Jeff, I didn’t find one damned character worth watching. This is how Fear the Walking Dead lost me, too, and I’ve NEVER gone back after Season 1. I gotta relate to SOMEBODY in order to get invested. Dietland’s Plum made stupid mistakes all the time, but she was vulnerable enough that I could empathize and even somewhat forgive her – or at the very least understand.

Instead, Insatiable was a glossy tongue-in-cheek middle finger to serious topics, none of which were treated with any respect. They were treated like a joke, because comedy.

In truth, though, this overview, even if it HAD been funny, will not do anyone any favors. For that teen girl who might be watching, who is bullied for the way she looks, who is driven by fantasies how life might be different IF ONLY she were thin, might actually try a fad diet to lose all that weight quick so she can look like a beautiful Disney star who just happened to take off her fat suit.

Note: If you lose 70 pounds in 3 months, you don’t show up runway perfect. You’re deflated, not perfected.

deflatingbeta

But this comedy in particular doesn’t seem to bother itself with facts, which is where it fails most spectacularly. Comedy, even when it hurts, even when it shoots you point-blank between the eyes, HAS TO BE TRUE.

See Nanette and get back to me.

Honestly the whole travesty made me lose respect for anyone involved, including Alyssa Milano, who normally is a fierce advocate for the hurting and the vulnerable. How she couldn’t see this as the painful, toxic mess that it was is a mystery – especially when folks tried to tell her how it made them feel.

I realize a job is a job sometimes but Jesus. There’s gotta be SOME measure of responsibility. Especially if you’re a mom. How do you NOT look at everything through the filter of what might be good for the world in which your kids live?

I was once given a book to doctor. It was supposed to be YA, but it was basically a rape fantasy book. The bad guy was a rapist, who raped as many girls as he could. This is literally what drove the plot – assault to assault. I had to work this into something that, when it hit the market – IF it hit the market, could tell the tale this author was trying to tell without causing more damage. A rape scene just for the sake of it being brutal and rapey is exploitation. I want nothing to do with a story like that.

So, I gave it a purpose. I added a lot in regarding the rapist’s motivation, the culture where this behavior thrived, and the fallout for the victims. I was really proud of what it turned into, considering it nearly killed me to have to write it. Normally I can crank out the first draft of a novel in a month or less. This one took, what? Six or eight? I had only been tasked to doctor, but I ended up having to rewrite it entirely so that I could proudly stamp my name on it.

It hurt me to write it, so I wanted to make it worth the pain.

Ultimately it was all for naught because YA didn’t want anything to do with it. (Big surprise.) I knew it was a long shot going into it. But, seeing as how one of my goals is to write a bannable book, I decided to give it a go. I put everything I had into it, which was good stuff, though wretchedly painful. (AND IN NO WAY FUNNY.)

I was told I could take all the stuff I added to this story, the details that put meat on the bone, and make my own story out of it. One day, when I am feeling stronger, I will. And I’ll market it like a drama, because that’s what it always was.

Stories bear great responsibility, particularly if they’re your own personal demons driving them.

Which is all you need to know about Insatiable, really. Creator Lauren Gussis went on record that as a 12-year-old, she had an eating disorder.

“I always had issues with my body and weight. I was always in the 90th percentile for weight. I always felt bad about it. I was bullied when I was a teenager. My friends dumped me. I felt alone without the protection of friends or being one of the popular girls. I got attacked a lot. I think that made me isolate, and I think food became a solution to that for sure.” – Lauren Gussis

According to the Vanity Fair article, Gussis has gone on to get help. She assures she has compassion for all of us who have suffered, and wanted to give us a show where a person can become the mental picture they see of themselves and realize that they still suck. At least, I think that was her point. I couldn’t make it past the :15 mark to figure it out. Also according to that VF article, she “understands” this.

“I have so much compassion for everyone who has feelings about this issue,” Gussis continued. “I want this to be a starting point for a conversation. I had a lot of mentors who encouraged me to tell my stories. I encourage other people to tell their story.”

Never fear, Ms. Gussis. I have been telling my story for a while now. And one day you’ll see that story for yourself on a big or small screen. Of course, that’s going to be a lot harder now, because you and thin-privileged folk like you kind of need me to shed my “fat suit” first, and this series kind of validates that shit-for-brains mentality.

Worse, that you now say the criticism you face is akin to censorship, because the very people you claimed to want to help ARE TELLING YOU THAT YOU HURT THEM, is every bit as dismissive as shunning the fat person in the story in the time it takes to take off a fat suit.

You’re not willing to listen to the fat folk, you certainly don’t want to BE fat folk, you don’t want to CAST fat folk or write kindly about fat folk… and yet… I’m supposed to believe that your steaming POS ISN’T fatphobic.

princesideeye

Sure, kay. Fine, fine.

“But what about Friends, Ginger?? You LOVED that show and Monica wore a fat suit.”

Yeah. I didn’t like that either. Any more than I like all the weight jabs on Big Bang Theory or Modern Family.

The difference is none of those shows set themselves up to ADD TO THE CONVERSATION OF BODY IMAGE. In the case of Jay from Modern Family, the fact that he’s so fatphobic is part of the joke, in a very Archie Bunker sort of way. He voices the stereotypes so that he can be put in his place. If you’re trying to make THAT the joke, then that’s fine.

Howard making fun of his mother, or the ease of bedding chubby chicks, not so much. They go for the low-hanging fruit on the tree for an easy joke, and it always, always, always misses the mark for me. But it’s like .05% of the entire series as a whole – NOT THE POINT OF THE WHOLE DAMNED SHOW.

In the case of Lauren:

“I wanted to poke at all those issues through comedy. But every single one of the issues that these characters struggle with — from eating disorders to body dysmorphia, to sexuality to needing outside power and validation, to wanting to be perfect, to mental illness — I have struggled with every single one of those things.”

You don’t get to target serious issues to make a serious impact, and then shrug off, “Well, it’s supposed to be funny. Don’t take it so seriously.”

FUCK.

YOU.

“But Ginger… Lauren used to be fat herself. And fat people LIKE the show. How bad can it be?”

What can I tell you? There are Gay Republicans, too. Self-loathing is an epidemic. Anyone who enjoyed that mess clearly agreed with the mentality that fat is a funny plot device, and I’m just not one of those people.

It’s salt in my wound, basically, which in no way invalidates me or my opinion just because someone who hates themselves for being fat thought it was okay.

My verdict? Insatiable leaves me hungry for a story that actually cares about its target audience, but sadly fills the media with one more story that makes it that much harder to get a more compassionate story written. For all the young people out there who have had their worst thoughts about themselves reinforced by this show, I wish you strength to turn off the TV. These are her issues. They don’t have to be yours. There are lots of stories out there, compassionate, empowering stories to help you get to the other side of whatever you are going through, whether it’s an ED, teen bullying or, God forbid, emotional trauma from some form of abuse.

I know, I have already published 30 of them.

In fact, I’m going to take Lauren’s advice and keep writing more and more of them. I’m gonna do that fat. Eventually I may do it thin. And if I ever, EVER, do anything to hurt you guys once that happens, please feel free to check me.

Because shit like this? It’s out of order.

They stand in contempt, of me and everyone who looks like me. I owe them no further viewings to be proven wrong. I owe you no audience for that contempt, especially if it makes me feel bad. There is no excuse to give that abusive behavior a free pass. And if  you think I need to put myself through that to hear what you have to say, which you have proven you cannot do without hurting me, your opinion of me is moot.

Case closed.

You are dismissed.

judgegiffy

 

Advertisements

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.

ashleygrahambikini

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.

 

 

Rediscovery

Yesterday, thanks to a Google notification of “Rediscover This Day,” I ended up in a “hole” of old photos taken roughly around 2009, and I was absolutely stunned how I looked in them, like another person I wasn’t expecting.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself “feeling” like me, no matter what age or shape I am. If I think back to when I was sixteen, I “feel” like the me I am now, when that person was completely different. She had a lot of my earlier experiences, but she doesn’t have the added experience I’ve had as an adult. She had no idea what was coming, or what she could live through. She was still trying to figure out a lot of stuff, often blindly navigating through dark, treacherous mazes I’ve already solved. I can’t go back. She can’t go forward. We’re simply not the same, though in my memory that’s how we remain. I just see me in a different time, at a different weight, wearing a different size. It’s like that’s the only variable when I think of my early life, say about 13 – 30. What I was wearing determined the kind of person I was at the time, otherwise I was still me.

However once I hit my thirties, much of that leveled off because my weight really didn’t vary like it did when I was younger. I remained really heavy, for one, and just like you can’t be a little bit pregnant, you can’t be a little bit obese. Whether I’m 330 or 260, I’m still treated the same, generally, so mentally there doesn’t seem to be a difference in the person I see in the photos. I still see only the flaws, because I am reminded daily by the world around me that’s what defines me.

That’s why in-between photos tend to be few and far between. I still see the same person, the same person who still hasn’t slayed her biggest, feistiest dragon. What, exactly, do I have to brag about? When I went back to work after three months, everyone was all, “OMG have you lost weight?” In my head, I’m like “Yeah, five pounds. Big whoop.”

When I saw these photos last night, it WAS a big whoop. It was a very big whoop.

Screenshot 2018-04-04 16.44.48

I was shocked that I looked so much heavier than I “felt” at the time. I felt like I hadn’t changed all that much since 2004, when I lost that initial 70lbs. I mean, I knew I had gained weight, and of course when I hit 300, I knew I was going the wrong direction – but I didn’t realize that I had basically started over again. Somehow or another a thirty-pound variance felt more like that wibbly wobbly timey wimey… stuff, where you think the 90s happened ten years ago.

(Or is that just me?)

I’ve been beating myself up hard core over losing so little in the last year, because it only “feels” like 20 or so pounds, and I used to do that in my freaking sleep. Given I lost 70 in about a year, 20 feels like a HUGE step backwards – like I’m not really trying.

When Hal and Frank gave me kudos for the results of my recent past, I was stunned, like it wasn’t enough and couldn’t be enough because I’m still smack dab in the middle of my journey.

Hell, I say middle but the truth is I always feel like I’m stuck in the starting gate since I have so far left to go. And because I’m my biggest critic, fueled by the nagging, relentless Chatterbox, I never let myself off of the hook for it. I won’t give myself a gold star till I can prove I’ve made real headway.

What that is, I probably will never know. The finish line keeps changing.

I keep changing it. Me. Though I blame everyone else for it, assuming they are as hard on me as I am on myself.

It didn’t hit me till last night that the people who love me have known every version of me, and they are a lot more supportive than I have been able to be. Hal himself knew 2009 Ginger, who is so different from 2018 Ginger. He just might have a better perspective of my journey than I apparently do, so if he says “good job,” shouldn’t I believe him?

Shouldn’t I attempt to consider things from his point of view, which is equally valid, even if it’s shaped a little differently?

So I took the time to see the differences, which were unmistakable. THIS is what he was talking about when he gave me such big props for my progress thus far.

It was pretty mind-boggling to see myself through the eyes of someone else, particularly someone who has been historically kinder to me than I myself have been.

Even weirder, the progress, though slow, has resulted in photographic proof that I’m being kinder to myself by example, as if I’m finally giving myself the love and care I deserve – and the love and care that can only come from me… especially when I’m beating myself up for not doing more, and a lot faster.

If this were someone else, say, someone I truly cared about, I’d be their biggest cheerleader, singing their praises. Yet I would never even think to do this for myself because I haven’t yet crossed the finish line.

Happiness must be earned. At least that’s how I learned it.

Here’s the kicker: I already have.

I realized that these changes have been so gradual that it’s both okay and necessary to remind myself of what I’ve already accomplished, otherwise I’d get caught up in the ten pounds I’m currently on like I always do.

If you’ve ever tried to gain or lose weight, you know cracking that “ten” – for instance, for me, right now, breaking 260, becomes the goal, rather than looking back at what you’ve already done.

But sometimes it’s necessary. It’s necessary to remember that even though I’m not where I want to be, I’m not where I was.

I’m not who I was.

And that’s great. In fact… it’s exactly what 2009 Ginger wanted. Nine years ago, she was pretty browbeaten by life. Her health problems had resulted in the loss of the best job she ever had, which was important considering the writing thing still teetered on being a pipe dream. She was forced to compromise every day after that, and became sadly and dangerously self-indulgent to overcompensate, just to grab a little happiness. Denial had never been her strong suit, particularly when she was miserable.

And she was pretty miserable at the time, quite often because she felt that was what she deserved.

Let’s face it, she was always prone for self-destruction. When I look at that photo, I see someone who was drowning, sinking into herself, buried by her bad, impulsive choices.

As critical as I am, even I don’t see that anymore. I see a new me, a more confident me, a me who knows who she is and what she can do in ways that poor other woman just didn’t.

But here’s the thing… I can’t hate. I won’t.

As browbeaten as she was, as unhappy and self-destructive, SHE had the gumption and the muchness to somehow became ME, giving me all the tools to become the person she wanted to be. I’m more secure in my relationships, all of which were both tested and strengthened by the cancer scare. I’m more confident of my skills and abilities, which I am now certain are exceptional.

Whatever Southern Baptist brainwashing left inside me just cringes even typing that, and I have to fight that first impulse to downplay that I really don’t think *I’m* exceptional. Like so many women in particular, I’ve been conditioned to believe that singing my own praises and tooting my own horn is in very bad taste. God forbid I come across as stuck up or haughty. The only thing worse than being a woman is being a woman who thinks too highly of herself.

Yet I don’t say that to be conceited. I work very, very hard for every ounce of muchness I possess, which just so happens to be a lot. It’s had to be, to survive the many challenges I’ve faced. But the simple truth is that I was created for it. It’s in my character. Good has never been good enough for me. I’ve always been shooting for excellence, and nail it much more than I give myself credit for. I keep that finish line out of reach for a reason. Like they say, shoot for the moon so even if you fall, you land among the stars. While I hardly ever reach what I consider my ultimate best, I now know for a FACT my attempts are still exceptional.

Why be ordinary if you have a choice?

Screenshot 2018-04-05 00.27.59

Why on earth do we want to diminish light like that in an already darkened world? Why play it small if we were created to be great?

Spoiler: We were all created to be great. Who, then, has the authority to diminish us?

To quote Sia, “I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive!”

If you’re lucky enough to draw your next breath, why waste it on putting yourself down… simply because the world around you is uncomfortable with you building yourself up?

Like Rocky says, if you know what you’re worth go and get what you’re worth – but be willing to take the hit. If you’ve paid your dues, there’s no one on this planet that can take what you’re owed…

Unless of course you give it away.

Ironically, Plan B taught me that more than Plan A. When I was selling my books well, I was always afraid that it would end, that it was coming too easy, that all those good reviews were just people being nice. SURELY I couldn’t POSSIBLY make the most money of my life doing the thing I loved most. Who gets that lucky?

2014 Ginger, that’s who, but she didn’t realize it until it all went away because she was too insecure to closer her hand around her dream and own it.

That’s not me anymore either.

Screenshot 2018-03-24 14.03.19

Thanks to Plan B, in a much smaller pond than selling limitless books even long after I’m gone, 2018 Ginger figured she could ace her job and use her skills in ways that ensured she was an invaluable member to the team. She can stack her skills against other people and see by results that she is an asset. In some cases, it’s not even a contest.

The only problem is that Plan B doesn’t always agree. This time, though, just like the photos, I can see exactly what I’m worth. And I haven’t been afraid to shoot for the moon every chance I got, hoping eventually someone with any power to reward me for it could figure it out. I go to work every single day ready to kick major ass, and I do that way more days than I don’t.

That’s a far cry from 2014 Ginger, who freaked out that her Plan A success was some freak aberration that would somehow right itself, pulling the rug right out from under her while she was celebrating her first successes. The silly broad let it all slip right from her fingers.

Remember, I have to have equal amounts of chaos to make up for any successes, and 2014 was my most successful year, not only as a writer but it overshadowed any “regular” life I ever attempted. It was, quite simply, too good to be true. When it began to fall apart, that felt more normal. I’m so used to the rug being pulled out from under me, it’s like I will it to happen just so I can get it over with.

By no surprise that’s exactly what happened.

2018 Ginger weathered the storm that followed, and figured out a few things. The most important of which is that I was meant for a life much bigger than what I’ve accepted thus far. I knew it in the sixth grade, when Mrs. Adams hung my very first story on the classroom wall.

This is what I was created to do. It’s a gift that was given me, this shiny Lamborghini that I’ve left hidden away in a dark garage for fear the peanut gallery would confirm the greatest fears and lies I tell myself: that I simply don’t deserve it.

I mean, who do I think I am?

I only had one goal when I started writing. I wanted to be the kind of writer like the ones I loved when I was a young reader: the ones who wrote emotionally engaging books that left me hungry for more. I wanted to *feel* something, I wanted to remember the characters and love them enough to read every book at least twice. The authors who delivered, well they earned my steadfast loyalty.

*I have those kinds of readers.* Loyal readers. Passionate readers. Readers who will make sure my table is the first they visit during a fan event. Readers who create crafts to celebrate my books, or bring first editions for me to sign because they feel lucky to have the original covers.

They reach out to me, share their stories and… whether I’m 290lbs obese or 270lbs obese… they want to get a photo with me like I’m someone who’s more than a number on a scale. They don’t see the shell, they just see someone who added something positive to their life, and they want to remember the moment they got to meet me.

What better success in life is there?

And I’m trying to play ordinary, putting in my 40 hours and praying for the weekend? I’m using up all my energy to prove myself to my job that I’m forfeiting my career, letting weeks and months and years pass as if I have an unlimited number to get everything I want to do done.

Am I a lunatic? Didn’t I already learn from January that isn’t the case? Didn’t January teach me that I need to be grateful for my many blessings, because despite all the bad shit I’ve been through, I’ve been incredibly lucky too.

People now feel about me the way I have felt about my favorite artists, and that’s freaking incredible. Those positive reviews weren’t just people trying to be nice. They were readers who were touched by something I did – with nothing more than a blank page and a blinking cursor.

Why in the world would I downplay this? It was what I always wanted.

I’ve had more than one million of my pages read in Kindle Unlimited. That. Is. Mind-blowing. I can see in real time what is being read and when. Though I haven’t published anything new in two years – which is about how long I’ve been juggling Plan B – I’m still in the top 20%, with at least a dozen of my titles read each and every month. My career is sustaining itself purely on word-of-mouth, with titles selling, and series selling, long past their debut.

That’s astounding. 2014 Ginger had no idea the fire, though admittedly dimmer than it was back in the day, would still be burning years later. 2018 Ginger knows. She’s learned well, and she’s got plans.

Imagine what will happen when I hit the NYT bestseller list. It may or may not be 2018 Ginger, but what she’s doing now is definitely preparing for it.

(Aiming for the moon, always.)

It’s true that I want more for my writing career. More sales, obviously, a full-time income to allow me more time to write. Screenplay success as well as success with novels. I have plans, huge plans, all of which will demand much, including a strong will to manifest it as surely as I create a world on a page. But to ignore how far I’ve gotten because it’s not where I will ultimately land is as disrespectful and ungrateful as looking at my weight and thinking I haven’t done enough to make a significant change.

I’ve been significantly successful with both, and I deserve to own that 100% because of one important reason: I’ve done the work. I’ve paid my dues before I even knew what dues were. Whatever task I’ve had, I’ve always been incredibly driven. I couldn’t just get good grades, I wanted straight As. I could take a test and get 98%, and still obsess over the thing I got wrong. To prepare for tests, I’d spend the night before a test creating “test” tests, and I would take it over and over again, obsessively, till I could get EVERY. QUESTION. RIGHT.

I’ve done nothing my whole life but prepare for excellence.

When I was in sixth grade, we were diagramming sentences in Language Arts. By this point I realized I only had one arrow to fire in school and that was my brain. I wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t popular. We didn’t have a whole lot of money. But I was smart, testing easily in the 90th percentile all the way through school.

English was my specialty, so I was answering every single question the teacher asked. It got to the point where my classmates didn’t even try anymore. They just all turned to look at me, waiting for me to answer.

THAT was my identity, I made damned sure.

I want to ace it all, and was usually able to do that without too much agony, which is why not being able to conquer the weight hits my ego so hard.

Maybe that’s why I feel the urge to idle at exceptional in everything else. I’m overcompensating. I need you to see that this shell is not the end-all, be-all of who I am, and the more invisible I feel, the more I feel the need to kick ass. I’m like the TARDIS, I’m way bigger on the inside. Who knows what all remains to be uncovered… rediscovered?

If that scares you, it should. Because it scares the shit out of me.

Will I be the little girl who had no problems outshining her fellow students, who had oodles of confidence to spare thanks to the love of one good man to make her feel like she could rule the world?

Will the phoenix rise burning with a fire that threatens to lay everything holding her back to waste?

Will she finally be able to confidently voice her tremendous goals and plans, no longer couching it safely to save face, just in case she fails “like always”?

There’s no way to tell for sure until I uncover, or rediscover, the Ginger buried deep down under all this cushion. You know the one. She’s kept herself small enough to fit into the small minds of people who want to keep her in a rigid box that doesn’t fit, myself included. I’ve kept her pilot light burning at the lowest setting, afraid of catching myself on fire, because it’s easier to fail when nobody expects you to do anything significant.

And here I am, day by day sneaking up on myself to do just that.

What a revelation.

Imagine how my life would change if I deliberately owned my true worth without having to “earn” my way to it. Imagine if I just decided tomorrow that I deserve better than what I’ve settled for. EVERYTHING would change, including my appearance.

I know that because I now have photographic proof. That’s the real difference between the gal on the left and the gal on the right.

The one on the right is getting a clue that she doesn’t have to hide away in a prison made of flesh. She doesn’t recognize the 2009 Ginger because she knows she’s worth better choices. It’s okay for her to be happy. It’s okay for her to be successful. It’s okay for her to see her dreams come true and get the things she wants out of life. It’s okay for her to win. It’s okay for her to be beautiful. It’s even okay for her to be wanted.

It’s okay for her not only to exist, but to be seen. For real. In the spotlight.

So here we are. I feel a little like Tony Stark after he had created dozens of iron suits, each evolving on the inadequacies of the last. I’m still tweaking. I’m still working on it. I forgive the 2009 Ginger for getting it wrong. She did the best she could at the time. She allowed a rough life to turn her into an unhappy person who wasn’t sure she could have the things in life she wanted.

2018 Ginger knows better. The lesson of my life is not that I can take a punch. It’s that I always come back swinging.

2018 Ginger knows a thing or two about that.

luke-skywalker-shoulder-brush-star-wars-last-jedi

2018 Ginger is handling life like a badass, the clever lil’ minx.

And I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Happy Feaster

Today is Easter, one of the holidays where food plays a huge part of the celebration. From deviled eggs to chocolate bunnies, to that great big Easter ham, this holiday, for me, has always been one of indulgence.

Maybe that’s why I have always liked holidays so much. I can get away with behavior for which I’m normally criticized. You don’t get singled out as the obese person when *everyone* is going back for seconds, or eating two pieces of pie because you simply have to have a taste of each one.

This year, however, is different. Thanks to the health scares both Steven and I had this year, our diets have completely changed. There is no “taking a day off” from Steven’s low-sodium, heart-healthy, low-carb requirements. He took one look at the ham’s nutritional guideline and found out a 3-ounce piece of ham is over 900mg of sodium. He’s allowed 2000mg per day, so that means our normal Feaster of ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and Hawaiian rolls would probably knock him out of the diet in about one meal.

And while Sunday is my indulgence day anyway, I could probably eat all the sweet goodies I normally prepare for the holiday – like my favorite lemonade pie which I use to celebrate every Easter because it is a Springtime favorite, and the cherry “salad” my son loves (which is in no way, shape or form healthy.)

Today’s a holiday after all. A reason to splurge.

And all I can see are the potholes and pitfalls, which makes me not so fun company on the holiday.

Honestly, the lack of enthusiasm to try to rescue this meal and this celebration has left me “meh” on every other aspect of the holiday. I don’t have small children, so there’s no egg hunt. I don’t go to church anymore, so there’s no new dresses and going to listen to an Easter message.

I guess the April Fool’s joke is on me this year.

I feel like an alcoholic whose company party just broke out the free booze. I know it’s bad for me but I want the bad stuff.

It’s hard to feel like a dirty sinner on one of the holiest days of the year.

So what’s a girl to do, especially with a houseful of people who deserve their Feaster even if I’m not up for it?

I haven’t decided yet. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I didn’t get any errands run yesterday so I have to do my grocery shopping today, which – thanks to my depleted stamina – I have absolutely zero motivation to A.) figure out a menu, B.) go shopping for it and then C.) prepare a big meal.

If I felt better, I’d probably “earn” my decadence by a long walk at the park. Mile Square is one of my favorite places in the world, and a place I haven’t been in months even when I needed its zen more than I ever needed it in my life. It’s a 4-mile trek at the very least for me, and I just haven’t been physically up for it. I did two small walks on both my breaks on Friday, which used to be my norm, and I needed all day Saturday to recover.

If I want to make it to work tomorrow, I have to take it easy – which I friggin’ hate. I’m so effin’ tired of being stuck in the mud. There are so many things I want to do and plan to do but the body is in charge right now and it will drop me like a stone if I get a little over-eager. I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating that is for someone like me. I’ve gone from the “make shit happen” gal to “sorry, I can’t.”

And I know it’s temporary and I need to give myself a break but I’m just OVER it.

Emotionally, I’m just not ready for a holiday or a celebration or any of it… which of course makes me more tempted to eat rotten. Food is how I deal, remember. And here’s a crystal clear excuse to indulge because *everyone* is doing it and it’s just culturally accepted.

Me not taking part of Feaster is just sad.

And I don’t want it to be sad.

What do I do? I dunno. I haven’t figured it out yet. I have five people to feed, three of whom aren’t required to guard their food intake as strenuously as Steven and I have to. One of whom is underweight and actually needs to gain, even though we haven’t exactly figured out the right combination to do that yet. They *like* the food traditions that we have, particularly my two sons who have eaten a specific menu their entire lives. My underweight future daughter-in-law is a person who equates eating and food with happiness, so if I don’t at least try to make an effort I’ll disappoint her on this holiday, and frankly I’m tired of being the “No” person who has to put a buzzkill on all feasts and celebrations because I’ve become scared shitless of eating poorly.

So I’m working it out here, working through my emotions and my hangups, and trying to find that delicate balance. And I’m no closer to a solution now than when I started writing. Usually an epiphany will pop up if I just keep typing.

That’s another April Fool’s joke on me, I suppose.

Guess it’s time to stop typing and start doing. Here’s to making good choices…

And thank God there are no more food holidays for a while – because I have got a lot to figure out.

Patterns and Pitfalls

This was my first week back to work and it has been a tough one. I didn’t make it a full 40 hours, some days I was lucky to make it to Hour Six. I wore out easier, which I was forewarned through my HysterSisters could happen. I aced that job initially thanks to my endless stamina. Thanks to recovering from major surgery, that stamina, unfortunately, is quicker to reach its end. I am enormously grateful to have a job where I can leave early if I need to and everyone is pretty chill with it. It’s the medical industry, so they understand what we have to do for our health. These were the folks, in fact, that insisted I go to the ER that day because they could all tell I was in bad shape, and ultimately saved my life by catching the cancer so early.

When they saw how much I was struggling, they were the first ones to tell me to go home and not feel guilty about it. No one was expecting Wonder Woman.

Honestly, my leaving early affects my paycheck more than my job security, and thank God.

Although, going on month 3 without any kind of paycheck presents its own challenges. It’ll be nice to feel human again. Sadly, in our culture, you need money to do that.

Though I had been gone for three months, some habits were easy to fall back into, like muscle memory. This was beneficial for my job, so much of which I had let seep from my consciousness while I was so preoccupied with – y’know – living. I worried that I’d forget some of the basics, but no. It was second nature the second I sat at the desk.

Everyone was sweet and welcomed me back, that felt good. I was told by many that they had been praying for me. I thanked them for every prayer, because I know it helped.

Going into the bathroom the first time back was a bit jarring. I spent a lot of unfun time in there prior to my first surgery, and going back in there felt a bit like going back into a cell you’d been held prisoner. It kinda was, I guess, given the severe nature of my problem. I’ve fainted giving blood before, so having to clean up copious amounts of it ALL. THE. TIME. was psychologically taxing. I nearly had a full body shudder remembering those days the second I closed the door behind me.

I wasn’t expecting that.

I also wasn’t expecting how easy it would be to fall back into *bad* habits as a result.

My whole life I’ve cruised through painful chaos on autopilot. If bad things were happening, and things were out of my control, I medicated through food. Food gave me a “high” to get through it, numbing me to the rigors of some of the hellish obstacles I have gone through in my life.

There’s a reason we all bring comfort food after someone dies. We’re not JUST saving them the trouble of their own self-care, we are “treating” them with stuff we know will pour a tonic on the ache.

I’ve been doing this since I was four.

Day One back to work, which was last Friday, someone brought donuts. And it was someone’s birthday, so there was cake. From Porto’s. If you’ve never had Porto’s, you might not understand how hard it is to resist the sight of this box:

portos

But that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t eat one donut. I didn’t even hang around while they sliced the cake (chocolate cake, btw, my absolute kryptonite.)

That was Friday.

Since then I’ve eaten Porto’s three times. Not cake, I’ll clarify, but still. I don’t take denial well, particularly when everything else sucks.

Turns out once I was funneling all my energy into, you know, being upright and productive, all my “thriving” habits went right out the fucking window. I came home utterly exhausted, ill-prepared to fight whenever anyone suggested we just “grab something out.”

“Grabbing something out” – that’s the red kryptonite. It changes me into the person I don’t want to be, doing things I don’t want to do.

But my defenses were down this week. They were obliterated by just how God-awful I felt. Not all of it was horrible, mind you. I wasn’t curled up in the fetal position in pain. It was a dull, throbbing thing that every now and then would remind me of my internal stitches. I go from strutting down the hall like Wonder Woman on a mission to suddenly slowing the fuck down, feeling like I’m about to give birth to a set of Ginsu knives.

It was not a fun week.

So I medicated the way I’ve always medicated. Through the comfort of eating.

Not at every meal and not all the time, but enough. Enough that I feel bad. My mood is in the crapper and I barely want to function around people. Living with depression forever, I know that means getting back into the groove of things – which absolutely has to happen – will take THAT much more out of me, when my tank is already nearing empty.

For that reason alone I’m spending my Saturday alone to recharge the battery. I have to. There is no other choice.

And it’s frustrating. Nothing pisses me off more than limitations, particularly ones I have dominated in the past. It shouldn’t be this hard, but it is, and I kind of fear it always will be. There’s a reason the majority of people who lose a ton of weight gain it back.

It’s because the world around us doesn’t change. The unhealthy way we coped with these patterns in the past are entirely too easy to fall into, even after time has passed. Even, apparently, after a major health crisis.

We have people and events more often abetting our bad behavior than discouraging it. Culturally it’s hard to get away from unhealthy food. It’s everywhere and woven into everything. You rarely see a celebration that doesn’t revolve around food in some way. And it takes a lot of strength to say no when people are just trying to be nice. These are boundaries you have to develop and then safeguard daily, which is extraordinarily difficult for people-pleasing folks like me, who have enough problems establishing healthy boundaries. Saying no is hard enough, saying it repeatedly – even when you’re the sole holdout, even more so.

It sucks doing this alone, but that’s kind of the nature of the beast. I got to this size on my own, nobody is paying the price for that but me. So it’s kind of on me to make those changes. I can’t expect everyone around me to make it easier for me to make these changes.

I just wish it didn’t have to feel that much harder.

Here’s the thing. I HAVE to make these changes because I WANT a different pattern. There’s a big difference between surviving and thriving, and I’m beyond eager to get to the thriving part. In order to do that, I have to live deliberately. I have to make plans and stick to them, even if I’m the only one.

I know for a fact I didn’t lose weight this week. In fact, as of this morning, because I wanted to brace myself for the bad news of tomorrow’s “official” weigh-in, I’ve gained.

That. Sucks.

But it only sucks to me, because life is bound and determined to go on as usual around me. So I have to make my plan accordingly. I have to make peace with the idea next week will be another week full of challenges and disappointments. I take comfort in the fact that I’ve already got Week One under my belt, so I’ll be better equipped to face whatever challenges and disappointments may come, I just have to properly prepare for it.

For today, I just plan to walk gently through the weekend and not use food to make up for feeling so cruddy.

Cuz it only makes me feel cruddier.

It also hasn’t escaped my attention how this kind of week happened around the time I realized I’ve hit some major milestones with the weight loss. I reached nearly 50lbs lost from 2014, and 30lbs lost from last May alone. I’m seeing the changes, and they are impressive, even if they’re not happening as fast as I would like.

I suppose it’s unsurprising that I regressed, because deep inside I’m petrified of being successful at this, hence why it’s going so fucking slow. It’s the only way I can fool myself into making drastic change. The end result I’m working towards is unchartered territory, you guys. I don’t know who I’m going to be when I get there, or who will make the distance with me when I arrive. My life can’t help but change, opening me up to new people and experiences, any of which could be scary or heartbreaking.

I don’t see losing weight as getting rid of a problem so much as introducing me to all the problems I’ve spent my whole life trying to avoid, particularly with attention from men. So far I don’t make the cut with a lot of them, who are waiting for me to lose a lot more weight before I earn their attention (hence why most of my followers/commenters, etc on Instagram and Snapchat are female.) Men tend to like what I say or how I think, but random photos? They safeguard themselves against *that,” thank you VERY much.

That’s not a complaint, btw. That’s been my safe place for as long as I can remember.

Now I look at my photos and realize I like what *I* see, which is fucking terrifying. I suppose rebounding was inevitable.

This week everything is back to what my normal has always been, and I fucked up by doing what I’ve always done. I fell into the pit of my problematic behavior that led to my health scare, which is fucking stupid. In the back of my brain, I will forever hear that doctor’s echo saying the word “cancer,” which quickly changed how I viewed *everything.*

At least I thought it did. How easily I have caved to old habits both scares the hell out of me and makes me feel like shit.

I know better. I’ve done better.

So fuck cancer then. Fuck it now. I refuse to goosestep back into the habits that potentially led to my problems. I plan to end this year the healthiest I’ve *ever* been. To do that, I have to work a little harder and be a little tougher, even if it means I have to make those unfun new changes all on my own, without the support of anyone in my immediate circle.

I’m on my own in this, but I’m a total fucking badass underneath it all. I’ve lost sight of that in the minutiae of the mundane, where I’ve been so focused on threading a needle that I forgot I own a sword.

Pitfalls, you will not win. I will win. Slowly, maybe. But surely.

260 little reasons.

So I weighed in yesterday because it was March 1st and, for the first time in forever, I finally got a full night’s sleep. I wanted to see what that meant on the scale, and I was excited to see that I had broken through not only one but two milestones. I am now under 270 pounds and under 60% body fat.

269weighin312018

Confession: prior to surgery I had gotten as low as 266. It went so low, in fact, I was starting to get nervous, since I was home all the time and not getting proper exercise. It felt pretty drastic over the few weeks it took me to get surgery scheduled and I was actually kinda scared it was a bad thing.

Cancer + weight loss… seemed like a bad omen.

It was probably more to do with my cancer-fighting diet where I ate no processed sugar, I went low carb, filling my diet full of cancer-fighting fruits and veggies and nuts to battle the Beast the only way I could at the time.

At least that’s what I told myself then. In reality, the 260s are another ring in my emotional tree I have to conquer in order to kept blasting down the weight so I can finally conquer obesity.

I haven’t been looking forward to this part of the journey ever since Hal put it in my head that each milestone comes with the residual pain/mindset that made gaining weight preferable to dealing with the emotional/physical trauma I was going through at the time. The reason I haven’t been looking forward to it is because it involves someone else, someone whom I love, and these are not going to be good conversations. They make both of us look bad and make me feel bad. No bueno on either front.

I think most people who have been abused find a way to protect their abuser. What many don’t understand about abuse is how insidious it is. Most women will say if a man hit them, they’d be out the door in a second. But it doesn’t start there. It starts way far away from there, in this slow, gas-lighting process that whittles away at any amount of self-esteem you might possess to resist such negative, toxic relationships.

I know, because I was one of those women. At sixteen, when I used to live by Oprah, I swore NO MAN would ever abuse me. I grew up on the Burning Bed, FFS. I watched The Accused only once because it made me so angry I was ready to take a twig trimmer to any man I met. NO ONE, I swore, would ever make a victim of me.

Then love happened.

I was seventeen when I fell in love with my first husband, Dan. He was beautiful. He had long, blond hair, crystal blue eyes and he was the kind of man who made me feel safe in his presence. He was a good man, and I mean that even now, even after all that happened.

I met him through my mom, who worked at a convenience store at the time. I was seventeen, a bit of a hard-head, who was bound and determined to do what I wanted to do. No one could tell me anything back then. I’d been through hell, much of it by that point my own doing, and I wore my scars openly. I had no interest in her favorite customer until September 25, 1987, when I met him face to face for the first time.

dan1987.jpg

He looked straight out of a music video, or a Patrick Swazye movie, and I was immediately smitten. Mom’s stories of how good of a man he was, and he was a man at the time, 27 to my 17; how he’d walk her to her car in the ice so she wouldn’t fall, or how he’d coming running, literally, from his house a few blocks away if he heard a car backfire because he wanted to protect her from any gun-wielding wackos. He was kind and generous, and he was completely uninterested in a romantic relationship with me, but I didn’t let that stop me. I wanted what I wanted and I was going to get it, by God.

danginrosepark

I spent the next couple of years wearing down his defenses. I was impossible to shake, even though he tried a couple of times. We were friends, I wanted more. I lived in perpetual angst day in and day out. It was intense and dominated everything, like many love affairs that happen when we’re so young. Actually, ALL of my affairs have felt this way, but never anything like this. I was starring in my own soap opera, and everything around me fed off of it. Songs scored my soundtrack, all heart-wrenching ballads of unrequited love.

If you’re following my 25 Days, 25 Songs thing I’m doing on my official author page on Facebook, you’ll know today was “song that reminds you of your ex” day. This could have easily been the song that I chose:

I was hopelessly in love, and if you know me you know that there’s really no going back from that. Once I’m strapped into the ride, it would take dynamite to blast me out of it. If I love you, I love you hard and forever, that’s just the way I’m made up.

But he made it clear that he didn’t find me attractive. I was “friend-zoned” before it had a name. However, I’m a hopeless romantic so I hung in there. I let nothing deter me, even the occasional red flag. Instead I internalized all the flaws, because after all – the problem in the equation was that he didn’t want me. What was wrong with me?

This is not to say he was perfect. He had come from an abusive home, had bounced around from place to place, he was even on probation when I met him. I didn’t care about any of that. He was scarred like me, so it made me feel like less of a loser. He was also good-hearted like me, generous like me, he cared about things and people – I understood that he could be both really really good and really really messed up at the same time.

I didn’t know it way back then but he wasn’t necessarily messed up as he was sick. He made bad choices in manic/depressive episodes that had landed in him trouble with the law, alienated from his family, and – as I came to learn later – resulted in one bad mood away from being my worst nightmare.

The only real red flag I had about that happened one night when my cousins were hanging out with us and horseplay got a little out of hand. Remember, I was a hot head back then, so when I saw him knock down one of my teen cousins I jumped up to confront him, nose to nose, in his face.

He pushed me down onto the sofa behind me, so of course I shot back up even more pissed off. He pushed me down again, I jumped up again. The next time he pushed me down, I grabbed his arm and took him down with me. However with the momentum of this exchange, he ended up going right outside the big plate-glass window behind the sofa.

This engaged The Shadow, which is what Dan would later call his psychotic alter ego. The next thing I knew he was grabbing me from behind, putting me in a neck hold and threatening, in front of a house full of people btw, to snap my neck right then and there.

After a few tense moments, he finally released me and went outside, where his buddies joined him to help him calm down.

At that point, there was NO WAY I was going to calm down. I marched directly to the kitchen, grabbed a knife from the door and went outside to find him. I threw the knife at the ground at his feet and told him if he was going to do it, then he should just fucking do it.

Of course he didn’t, he was back to Dan at that point. Somehow it all smoothed over in a rednecky kind of way, and I was back to my hero worship of him within weeks.

Anyone who has been abused knows how this cycle goes. There’s an incident and then there’s the “honeymoon” phase, where they feel so guilty they will bend over backwards to ensure that nothing like that will ever happen again.

I really couldn’t tell you how long we’d known each other by then, but I do know it was long enough that I brushed it off as some isolated incident, brought about by the fact we both got a little out of control. I didn’t get up in his face without accepting there might be some consequences.

Again, I internalized.

By 1989, I had worn him down enough that our relationship finally turned physical. He wanted to move to California and I knew I never wanted to live without him, so off to CA we went, by car, with a few hundred dollars in our pocket. I expected to stay with my sister once we reached LA, but she decided against that. She didn’t want the whole thing to turn into some endless handout so instead she directed me towards the nearest welfare office and wished us good luck.

Off to the welfare office we went. He was approved for GA (general assistance,) which gave him some food stamps and a voucher for a single room at a hotel in downtown LA. When I say hotel, think of the place in Big that Tom Hanks had to stay when he first got to NY. It was that shady and that scary.

Since I had quit my job to run away with him, I wasn’t eligible for anything, which meant my only home was the car we brought with us from Texas. Dan, being the Dan I fell in love with, decided to forfeit his voucher and stay in the car with me, since he wasn’t about to leave me alone in a car on a street in the middle of big, scary city.

There we were, homeless in LA without a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, living out of our car, eating out of dumpsters, digging for any sort of change to buy a $0.33 taco or a $0.99 Pepsi just to get us through the day. We would spend time in Griffith Park, hiking forever in the mountains there since it was something we could do for free, and as long as we wanted.

Ironically, I went from the 220lbs I was when I met him to probably under 200. My size 20 jeans were nearly falling off about a month or so into our homelessness. It was the thinnest I had ever been in my adult life.

thingin

By April of 1989 I was pregnant with my oldest son Tim, which, unfortunately, flipped the Shadow’s trigger BIG time. We were homeless, jobless, had no money and suddenly there was a baby to consider, so the stressors kicked in BIG time.

Actually, I paint a grim pictures. I actually DID have a job when I got pregnant. I went to one of those trade school things to get an office administrator job and had finally gotten hired by some folks in Encino. He was working pretty steadily with day labor.

But we were in no shape to have a kid, and Dan never wanted any anyway. Suddenly he was angry at everything. And he didn’t leave, because he didn’t feel he could.

My pregnancy is where the abuse started in earnest, particularly after my mother rescued us and we all went up to Fresno to start over. There were some intense, scary moments, there was also an outside relationship. He got a job working at my mom’s store and had a customer, female, who he talked to and about endlessly. There was no ring on my finger after all, and let’s face it: he settled for me because I had worn him down, but I was never his ideal. He had been trying to get me to lose weight almost from the beginning, and even told me once when he saw an obese woman that he never wanted to see me get to the point where my gut hung down over anything else.

In my effort to soothe myself, I did what I had always done: I ate. Being pregnant made this a thousand times harder, because I had horrible all-day-sickness for the first five months. I ate what would stay down, which wasn’t at all good for me. Sugar, check. Fat, check. Proceed food, check. Caffeine… you name it.

I gained sixty pounds with that pregnancy, which meant I was 260lbs when my son Tim was born in 1990.

I don’t believe I’ve gotten under that since. I was 260 when I got pregnant with Jer and 290 with Brandon. The abuse was probably a big part of it. I was subconsciously building a barrier between Dan and me, one I knew he wouldn’t want to cross. It affected our intimacy to the point I can tell you exactly when Jeremiah was conceived because of how rare of an event lovemaking actually became.

“So Ginger… why did you stay?”

I wish I had an easy answer. I still loved the man I fell in love with, though I despised the evil twin who would come out whenever I was least expecting. That’s a very confusing place to be, and I didn’t really know how to handle ANY of it. What do you do if you love the person you hate, or hate the person you love, but still, after everything, need them to breathe? Dan was the reason I related to ANY Diane Warren song. I didn’t know how to live with him and I didn’t know how to live without him, even when I also relied on an outside relationship to get me through the bullshit.

If you have ever read Enticed, you can see how I split the two personalities in between two brothers. It was the only way to deal with my own spitfire 16-year-old inside who kept screaming at me that this was not cool. We were NEVER supposed to let someone run us over.

Yet, when he cheated – I stayed. When he threw hot coffee on me when I was pregnant and cornered in a bathroom – I stayed. When he pushed me down and threatened to bash my skull in – I stayed. When he chased me upstairs with a knife – I stayed.

By that point I was both financially crippled and emotionally entangled, which, some trivia for the readers, was the original title of Enticed. And that was what we were, entangled. I was worried if I ever made a break for it, my whole life would come down, starting with the deaths of the people I loved, whom The Shadow threatened if I ever even HINTED I was ready to bolt.

When he wasn’t The Shadow, things were not only bearable, they felt “right.” We had kids. We finally married. And I didn’t want to give up on the Dan I first fell in love with, because after all – THIS was what I had always wanted. I vowed my love would save him. Without me, he would have been lost. And I never would have forgiven myself for that.

I was 21, 22, 23, 24 and I carried the world on my shoulders.

So I did what I always did: I just piled on the pounds and prayed for the best, which eventually happened when we realized that his problems were due to his mental illness. He wasn’t an evil man, he was sick, which was a relief. It made it okay to love him again, to defend him again, to carry on and try to piece together our happily ever after, despite the burning wreckage it had often proven to be. For better, for worse, right? Sickness and in health. He needed me more after he was medicated than he had before he was, and only a cold-hearted bitch would have left him when he was most vulnerable.

By then the die was cast.

When I see 260-whatever on the scale, I am transported back to the 1990s when my life was a huge, scary mess. And I think it triggered hard when I first saw those numbers on the scale a month ago, prior to surgery, when I was also facing another really scary beastie named Cancer.

This is what I’m going to have to work through to lose these next nine pounds, which really doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? It feels like climbing Mount Everest though. Worse, there’s a fair amount of guilt involved given the fact that, once Dan realized he could be treated, he turned his entire life around to do what was right for his family. He defeated the Shadow at last, and I never, ever want to diminish that accomplishment by dragging up all the bad shit. That’s in the past, buried where it belongs.

That is my ring in the tree. I stood by a man I believed to be intrinsically good, though he sometimes did really bad things. I both hated him and loved him. I was both afraid of him and ready to battle anyone on his behalf.

And in the end I don’t regret loving him because it gave me my two amazing sons, who take the best of their dad with them into this world every day. What broke him, I had to fix for my kids, and that’s a rocky road I’ve managed to conquer. Their lives are better than his life, which is all we ever wanted for them.

But yeah. It’s gonna be rough. This was the first part of it, tearing off the shades of nostalgia to look this pain in the face again. The good news is I’m older now, and the 48-year-old Ginger would never tolerate the stuff her younger counterpart did, so by that very definition I can’t beat her up for not doing better or knowing better. Yeah, her path hurt people, including her own children, but when I look at my sons and our life now I can’t be anything but grateful to have survived it all. I can’t hold onto the guilt, the shame, the self-loathing anymore and defeat this tightening ring.

It was the path I walked and I chose to walk, that made me who I am today. It’s time to turn this jagged scar into a tattoo, or pour gold into the crack. That starts by feeling the pain and allowing it to hurt, like alcohol on the wound.

The only way out of the 260s is through.

I’m digging out, you guys.