Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fat Girl Feedback

You can email me with your comments if you'd rather not post them:

I look forward to hearing from you. And I'lve got something coming up, I promise.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

An Administrative Note

In the rather short time during which I was not getting comment notifications because the email address to which they were directed stopped working, some stuff happened.

1) There were comments left anonymously to which I would like to respond (which, actually, happens rather often, and I feel awkward commenting on my own post and expecting someone to read it). I would, however, like it known that I appreciate with substantial intensity the comments that are left here, and I plan to set up a this blog-specific email address so that I can post it on the internet and you can write to it if you so choose. Look for that. Because while I would like to ask Alana where she was in treatment and if maybe it was the same place I was in treatment and have a chat about it either way, she probably doesn't want to answer that on the internet.

2) I was solicited to appear on television, which I found somewhat-less-than-mildly bizarre.

3) Some cross-linking went on, which, really, should teach me...something. If it boosts my fat cred, I don't, at the moment, wear a size 20. I've read Ezpy's blog before; I find her and her comment eminently reasonable (despite the fact that I believe the comment is addressed, although perhaps too implicitly: I don't have what the bariatrix call "comorbidities"). I am, however, always a little startled to be reminded that people read what I write and that it has an impact upon them. One appended thought on WLS:

I have been thinking about it a great deal. For reasons good and not-good, and also because I have no health concerns, only aesthetic ones, it feels like surrender.

Probably there will be more to come on that.

Dead End

I got a job.

I got the first job I interviewed for. I am a finalist for the other—going on a two-hour interview tomorrow. If I am given that job, I will have to decide whether or not to give up the other.

I agonized about interview clothing, went shopping, couldn't find anything that didn't fit weirdly over my lower-belly pouch, cried in the dressing rooms just like old times, was late to meet my father for the theater, said "fuck it" and cobbled together interview clothing from my own patchy wardrobe: printed dress with johnny collar outside black cardigan, Oxford shirt with tiered jersey skirt, season-inappropriate knee-high boots. I sweated and crossed my ankles and smiled and got the job. Somewhat startlingly, I never felt that moment of taken-aback, the moment that makes me want to tuck "[bullet]Fat" somewhere on my résumé. "Special Skills," perhaps. This was a pleasant surprise. And all of my interviews have been successful ones.

I am not a happy camper, nonetheless. I don't know what I want to do with my life and I'd like to lose 30 pounds. The not-fitting-into-my-pants 30 pounds. I need a nutritionist and a shrink; I may have found a trainer; I need to get my annual; I need a psychopharmacologist. I need what they referred to inpatient as a Team. I need a Team. I keep putting it off, getting the Team together.

My head is all in the wrong place. I am in the starting-a-new-diet-every-tomorrow wrong place. I am in the creating-subtext-to-my-size-six-sister's-salad wrong place. I am in the crying-to-my-boyfriend-when-Tim-Gunn-calls-the-size-four-model-"zaftig" wrong place. Wrong, wrong.

In this place, I will watch women shamelessly. I will turn my head on the street to watch their curves sway, trace and retrace the lines of their bodies like In the Penal Colony, burning those lines into my own skin. In this place there is nothing that is not an opportunity for shame and self-hatred: not a bus ride, not a family outing, not a book. I feel myself sinking into this place, settling in it, and the proof of the place is that the only door marked OUT in my head is also marked LOSE THIRTY POUNDS, OR MAYBE ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY.

I have not yet reached the place of crawl-out-of-my-skin, of cut-it-off-me, and for this, for this I must remember to be grateful. That is the wrongest place.

But still, I can feel myself settling here, and I can feel it, this place, circling around me and cutting me off, absorbing the energy that would otherwise go to other humans, to a GRE prep course, to polishing up my German, to making new friends. When I feel that I realize that I was not telling lies about the freedom that I have felt (and will, I swear on all things holy like fierce Scarlett O'Hara, will feel again), because it is not about what I weigh, it is about how much I am thinking about what I weigh.

(I am avoiding here the way/weigh pun.)

And I want, in a way I don't recall ever wanting before, to talk about it. I want to tell people, a lot of people, about the way this works, this place, its sinkhole. About how easy it is to go under and how hard to fight. About how easy it is to be surprised (see: Tim Gunn) and how hard to object. I want to tell. In my more preposterous manifestation, I want to tell Tim Gunn. That's a dumb idea. But I do want to tell.

That is not as wrong a place.

I need a Team. And juuuuust maybe, I need to re-quit reading Vogue and quit watching Workout and do a quick refresher course in outpatient treatment.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Things I Should Have Said

So, I'm walking around on the Lower East Side with friends the other night. A white stretch limo and a cab are having a fight about someone cutting someone off, or something. A passenger of the limo is leaning out and yelling at the cabbie. He pulls his head in. He leans it out again. He yells, "You're too big!" At me. (I think—theoretically he could have been telling the cab it was too big to fit in the lane. But.)

I say nothing.

A friend, a particularly oblivious one, picks up this thread, rolling it over in her head. Out loud. And I was so embarassed.

It took me until today to wonder why I'm embarassed about that sort of thing. I'm not the one behaving badly. So why am I so ashamed, why do I want to strangle the oblivious friend? Why don't I just turn around and say, "Oblivious Friend, it is quite clear that that comment was directed at me"?

(I don't know why.)

So (this is not a consequential "so"), I'm combing the internet for a trainer who's accustomed to working with fat clients. I don't want someone who's going to get all snotty about the fact that I'm not going to start an I'm-Training-Now diet, but nor do I want someone who's going to get all snotty about the fact that I wouldn't mind dropping a dress size or that I'd like to tone my upper arms. I may have found someone who fits the first criterion—we'll have to see about the second.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Jumble Sale

I apologize for the hiatus. It was not on purpose.

I have had a rough couple of months. I have been reminded again and again and again that I have an eating disorder, still. I have contemplated a return to treatment; I have contemplated gastric bypass surgery.

Yesterday I met a friend for a movie and we were wearing very nearly the exact same thing. She had a wifebeater on under a knee-length cotton jersey dress, and I was wearing a 3/4-sleeve boatneck under a calf-length cotton jersey dress. She wore sneakers; I wore sneaker flats. She wore black rhinestone cats-eye sunglasses, I wore white Versace cats-eye sunglasses. This girl is my best friend, and a size 2 or 4. By the end of the night, I felt inferior to her in every way.

My boyfriend and I went to Shakespeare in the Park. Macbeth, not that great. But the women, posing in the park and waiting for people. Since I got to college, friends have been telling me that New York makes them feel ugly, tiny girls and normal-size girls both comment, "Everyone really is that skinny." And I don't think I've ever felt it like I do now, because I feel in competition with these legions of beautiful women, like I am supposed to be beating them at some game, some brutal game, in which they are armed to the bright teeth in their bareness and I am unshielded by all the body that weighs me down. I watched the women pass and thought of what my friends have told me, and thought it was true. New York has the most beautiful women in the world.

Also yesterday, I went to the Fat Girl Flea Market for the first time. I don't wear my own size right now. This, additionally, is the reason I've not unpacked yet. My pants don't fit me. My own pants. This has never happened to me before. I have never had a wardrobe full of clothing that fits me, clothing I like and/or love, that fits me well because it fits me, and suddenly I'm twenty-five pounds heavier because I have been so colossally afraid of something, and I don't wear my own size. My own clothes. Or clothes that should fit me. And I was reminded of this several times. The fabulous Svoboda jeans for $40 in my size that wouldn't go over my thighs. And I couldn't quite wrap my head around the people. Some of them were so fabulous, and so beautiful, and all I could think was that my eyebrows weren't groomed. And then partially I felt so out of place—my finds were few; so much of the piles of clothing was polyester, so much of it was frumpy.

From Shakespeare in the Park we zipped downtown to see aforementioned best friend's boyfriend & friends play a show. After, we went out for some sushi and drinks with one of the friends and his girlfriend, and this is where it all started to strike me. My best friend, by virtue of her boyfriend's membership in this social group to which I am peripheral, was so much more at her ease, and slowly it all came over me, a sort of anxious despair, and it turned to depression and to anger and it took me over. This morning I cried in my boyfriend's bed, and on the subway as I headed home.

And. I sat down next to a fat lady in head-to-toe pink and sequins. I swear to God this lady was sent by God. A fat, pretty lady in just the world's most ridiculous clothing, in which she looked fabulous. Pink sequin shoes to pink sequin fedora. Pink lip gloss and all. She turrned to me and told me, "You two are just so sweet." And I said, "Thank you." And she said, "He really cares about you." And I'd been making the way I was feeling about myself into the way I was feeling about my boyfriend, I was filling up with vitriol, and I think this lady was an actual angel. She leaned over again a little later and told me, "You have what every woman wants: a romantic man. I'm hatin' right now." I do not have what every woman wants. But I definitely cheered up enough to flirt with a guy in Whole Foods.

And now I am watching What Not to Wear, the British version, which in many ways I like better than the American. I like that they take their clothes off. Trinny Woodall stands in her underwear in profile next to a very thin young girl who hates her body, who has been a bulimic. They compare bodies. It strikes me that when we are afraid of fat what we are afraid of is not size, it is blemishedness. It is the body itself, it's permeability, its fragility, its softnesses and pores.

The sense I have of beautiful women is that they are invulnerable, impermeable. They wear their long bodies like armor.

On Friday afternoon I went to a Big Moves dance class. I felt fabulous. Self-conscious about my belly in sweats, but I felt fabulous. I am a good dancer when I am not trying too hard. And there was a fabulously attractive baby-butchy kind of girl, tall and solid, an extraordinary dancer, and I enjoyed flirting with her. But mostly I enjoyed looking at my own body move, looking at my jawline and neck and shoulders in the mirror. I felt graceful. (I am graceful. I was a dancer until I was 13, when I felt too bad about my body in a leotard to continue.)

This entry is called "jumble sale" not just in reference to the Fat Girl Flea Market but also because it is very jumbled. Mimetically jumbled. I am jumbled.

And I miss the beautiful fat girls of Portland.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Quality of Life

So here's the thing. A couple of people have posted on the WLS entry that their quality of life has been drastically improved by weight loss. And of course, there are eight hundred gazillion people on the internet ready to tell you that their quality of life has been drastically improved by successful weight-loss dieting.

I get it.

That sounds sarcastic, like, "Shut up already." Seriously, though, I do, because what I'd call my own "quality of life" is better now, at a size 20, than it was at a 26/28/I'm not quite sure what my size was when I weighed seventy pounds more than I do now.

Here are some reasons why:
Mobility. Not so much "fitness" (I don't think I was particularly unhealthy at that weight, and I'm not particularly unhealthy at my current weight—noting that in neither condition am I particularly "healthy," because I smoke cigarettes sometimes and I drink a bunch and eat food packed with preservatives by the handful, and I have never had a lot of upper body strength, though my legs are tough and my cardiovascular fitness isn't bad. Also, I'm pretty bendy) but fitting into things. Chairs. Spaces between tables in restaurants or people in crowds. Airplane seats, good Lord.

Clothing. The difference between the way I dressed when I was bigger and the way I dress now? Vast. And partially, this really is just a reflection of how I feel differently about myself, which I don't think can be brought down to how I feel about my size. But now I am all knee-length skirts and jeans that fit me and cardigans buttoned so that they don't make me look boxy. This morning I came upon a picture of me from the summer of 2004. Badly-fitting black jeans (not in the punk-rock way; I am so not punk-rock), button-down sweater of the shapeless variety, bad hair. Yikes. And a lot of that? Is because I have about twelve times the clothing options now that I did then. A lot of straight-size XLs fit me; every standard plus-size line makes my size (though junior-plus lines often don't). This means I can dress more like the person I want to be (that would be, these days, the person I am). It means I can dress for occasions, tailor my clothing to an image, and ultimately have a lot more power over the way I present myself.

Body shape. I'm more proportionate now than I was then. While I'm (obviously!) still fat, I'm fat in a sort of all-around fattitude kind of way (with the exception of my upper arms, which is really more about weight loss and skin sag than fatness). I have a more defined body shape, like, oh, here is my waist, here are my hips, here is my jawline, there are my breasts. This means that I don't stick out in the same way, and that I "pass" for unfat more easily. I mean "unfat" here not as actual size, but as social identity.

...And here's where I run out. I think that's where the real impact of my changes of body size have ended for me. I'm very, very cognizant of those quality of life changes, but I really think that for me "quality of life" is mostly about how I feel about myself, and that does not, it turns out, have a direct causal relationship to my degree of fatness.

Let's talk quality of life.

I've said a little bit of this in the comments section already, but: the things that are troubling my quality of life right now have nothing to do with being fat and everything to do with my academic neuroses. I am currently unable to finish writing my last couple of papers ( my entire college career...) because I have some twisted self-sabotaging separation anxiety going on, and it makes me anxious and crazy in addition to having an impact on my grades. Anything to do with being fat? Well, yes, actually, but not caused by fatness, even a little, and not about my body or even the way I feel about it. All of the things that stress me out? Not about fatness. They're about graduating (less than a week) and whether or not to move in with my boyfriend and saying goodbye to my friends and getting a job and thinking about applying to graduate school down the line...not about fatness. I don't seem to care very much about fatness these days. I have a family who paid my way straight through private college, and who are proud of me, and my thesis advisor tells me I can get into top modernism programs when I decide to apply to grad school, and my boyfriend wants to read my thesis because he likes me a lot, and my friends back home are eager to have me back, and my friends here are sad to see me go, and the sun is gold on the avenue outside the coffee shop I'm sitting in, and there's dumb Sugar Ray on the radio, and fatness doesn't have anything to do with any of those things.

Fatness does have to do with this: when a kid in a car leers at me, gives me the once-over, checks out my ass, I am not sure if it's because he thinks I'm cute (uncomfortable), or because he is internally mocking me (more uncomfortable). It makes me feel too visible, either way, and it makes me feel bad about my body, especially my worry that it is the latter. But. You know how much time this takes out of my day if I don't dwell on it? Five minutes. Tops. Including writing about it on the internet.

I wonder how much of the burden of fatness can be obviated by changing one's thinking. I think it is a lot. I am often accused by those whom I love of being too abrupt about this changing-one's-thinking process. It's not that I don't recognize that it's not that easy. On the other hand? They're your thoughts. You bring them into being. If they're not working for you, bring other thoughts into being. Clearly, I am very, very privileged here: I had the kind of health insurance that would put me away for a month to let other people tune up my thinking. But the things I learned there have changed my life, so much for the better that it takes my breath away when it sneaks up on me. Being fat is not crippling anymore. Being fat does not make me an outcast anymore. And that means that fat never did those things. It means that the problem was not fatness, but the way I thought about fatness and about myself as a fat person.

I like this way better. I am not saying that I am perfectly happy, but am I happy? Yes. I am proud of my achievements, mental-health and otherwise, and I am proud of the person I've become, and that no matter what, there were people who loved me to help me become that person, and there are people who love me who will continue to help me be the person I want to be.

There are people who love you, too.

When I started talking about being fat, I was blown away by how willing my friends are to just take it in stride. Even the ones who don't agree with me. A friend was just sitting here across from me talking about how she's reluctant to buy clothes right now because she's at her heaviest. At "her heaviest," she wears maybe a six, but probably a four. I told her she should always have clothes that fit her. And she decided to buy a pair of jeans. A few months ago, she had made a comment about the Padded Lilies, whom we were thinking of bringing in for an arts event, a comment about how synchronized swimming is hard, and how can fat people do it? I said this: "I do hard things, and I'm fat." She nodded. No more was made of it.

Fat is not really as isolating as we let it be. We let it be isolating because it is a social identity of outsider-ness, of alterity. We feel that the whole world is made up of real humans and we are fat imitation humans. We feel that no one will empathize, no one will get it, no one will want to get it.

People want to get it, and we can tell them. People love you. People love me. I started presuming that I can talk to them about being fat, like they presume that they can talk to me about feeling too fat. And then you don't have an isolating thing anymore, you don't have a boundary that cuts you off from the world. Talk about it flippantly. Assume that it's fine to talk about being fat. It is.

My point here, and I am certainly rambling away from it, is that while there are substantive downsides to being fat, there aren't nearly as many as we think there are. Maybe I still won't be hired to be a cocktail waitress. But when I walk into a grad school admissions interview and tell them that I am interested in James Joyce and canonicity and gender studies and the semiotics of the body, especially fatness, I will cock my head and I will smile and as God is my witness, I will never lose out on a place in a grad program because I felt shy and awkward and stupid and fat fat fat in the interview. Never.

And that means, hopefully, that I'll get into more grad programs than I otherwise would. I'll have a better range of options. I'll be able to pick exactly the right school, a school with professors I admire and a beautiful, beautiful library. And I will sit in the library doing research for the professors whom I admire and love the work I'm doing even if I still don't know for sure that I want to be an academic for ever and ever, world without end, amen, and that is quality of life, oh yes, even if I get up from the table and can't walk home from the library as quick as I'd like to, that is still quality of life, and it is the quality of life that is not conditional.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


I finished my Major Academic Project; I celebrated its finished-ness; I am now sitting in the sun on my balcony with a glass of champagne from one of several bottles my mother sent in celebration of the finished-ness (my second glass, as a matter of fact) and also pineapple chunks; I am so happy it hurts.

I bought a graduation dress at Anthropologie, and, somewhat ridiculously, it is a size large. The sweet, perky salesgirl sized me up and asked me if I was sure I wouldn't like to try a 12 instead of a 14 in that halter dress. I was sure. I was only taking the 14 from her hands because otherwise she would know that I wear a size far above that size, which is a little scary to admit in Anthropologie. And actually, as it turned out, the 14 was only a little too tight, which says something odd about Anthropologie's sizing, as I wear a 20. But I tried on a stretchy red jersey dress in a large, and it fit just fine. I wanted an extra-large, to see if it would be less cleavagey (busts in plus clothes are always too big for me; in straight sizes, always too small), but the dress didn't come in extra-large. And so I will wear it with a cardigan, and peep-toe heels, and try not to let my bizarre bust fall out in front of my professors and my father. But the point is: shopping at Anthropologie. How the clothes fit, some of them, when really they shouldn't. How fat is something different when you have money. How the salesgirl will check the size of your ass, surreptitiously, and decide it's not really that big, and certainly, you are not a fat person. You are dressed too well to be a fat person.

And from other dressing rooms, you can hear it, women are buying three dresses at once, a little jacket, they are calling for an extra-small because the small is too big (this makes sense if a large will fit me, actually). For me, the one dress and cardigan was more than I could afford—my mother was paying, in authorization to use her emergencies-only credit card.

And maybe something clicks. Something about social power, and semiotics, and lifestyle fantasy.

The feminist movement used to talk about "click" moments. Moments in which you sense something falling into place. (Shopping at Anthropologie, and how proud I was to say my dress was from there, and how my sister reacted as if my size had changed rather than that I had discovered that Anthropologie makes very stretchy clothing: click.)

Or: something about the shifting boundary between fat and unfat. Who is which? Fat is a social identity. It is interesting that I call myself The Fat Girl, because I am only The Fat Girl to myself. In high school, we had a different Fat Girl. She was much thinner than I was. She wore maybe a sixteen. I wore a twenty-six. But she wore drab clothes and looked like she was waiting to be kicked (I also did the former, but not the latter: I looked like I would cut you if you kicked me). She was somehow doughy. She had a receeding chin and low cheekbones, a gummy smile. She was fervently religious. She was The Fat Girl, not me, and people made fun of her. I made fun of her too, though not for being fat.

Or: sometimes now (often?) I don't even feel like a Fat Person, in the way that means "abnormal, subhuman." But more than ever, I socially identify as a Fat Person.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


("Bariatrix" sounds like a superhero, or an old-fashioned feminization of something, but I am going to be talking about weight-loss surgery. Yes, even though "bariatrics" actually refers to any and all care for very fat people, technically.)

Here, the proprietress of Hello, I am Fat considers weight-loss surgery. That woman is a very good writer, and every time I visit her blog—which is admittedly sporadically, since her updates are few and far between—I am overwhelmed by the visceral force of her suffering. That woman is suffering, and she is not kidding around about it. Feeling her suffering reminds me of how I used to feel about my own body, and I can't usually stick around that blog for very long. What disturbs me most is how normal people seem to find the fact of her suffering. People empathize or try to buck her up, but there is no sense that this experience either is or should be out of the ordinary.

Already, I'm imagining how I am going to be, a year from now, she says. I've done that too. I've made lists and spun fantasies to go to sleep by. I have tried to stop doing those things. I have considered weight-loss surgery.

But more than I have considered weight-loss surgery (and I never, certainly, went as far as scheduling a consultation, because for me, once I set myself on a track, I am on it, so a consultation is basically anaesthetic), I have considered how I feel about weight-loss surgery in the abstract. People who are in favor of fat acceptance are supposed to really hate it, and I think part of the reason that it's a thorny issue for fat acceptance is that in some way, it makes fatness a choice, and a lot of fat activists are devoted to fighting that idea. Me, I don't care so much. I'm okay with choosing fatness. I'm kind of having fun being fat right now. I'm kind of having a lot of fun being fat right now. I am rocking my fatness. I don't know if I'd choose it away. (I think if I were less socially privileged I'd be a lot more interested in choosing it away.) On the other hand? It is expensive and dangerous, and it is the promise of all of your fantasies fulfilled, and it might be a lie. It kills people because they want to be thin, or it cripples them, or it takes their money and years of their lives and doesn't make them thin. Or it makes them thin, and they have what they thought they wanted and discover that thin isn't quite the magic bullet that we, the unthin, tend to think it is. There are so many people waiting to begin living their lives until they are thin. But I think what they are waiting for is not "thin," it is "assurance of safety and success," and thin can't really give that. And maybe there are people for whom weight-loss surgery does just what it needs to do, it takes the pressure off their knees or rebalances their hormones or whatever. Bodies are mysteries.

It's hard for me to figure. On the one hand, can you blame people for wanting to escape social stigma and the suffering that comes with it? I don't think so. That is such a powerful dream—there is no way to describe it if you haven't experienced it. On the other hand, can you wish that they would stick around and tough it out and get their shit together and stop feeding an industry and an image that's damaging to fat people who don't choose weight-loss surgery? Yes, I think you can.

So why haven't I chosen weight-loss surgery? Usually when I ask myself if I'd rather be thin than fat, say, a size 8 rather than a size 20, the answer is an instant and unqualified "yes." Currently I'm having a little bit of difficulty answering that question because I'm not really feeling any penalties of being fat other than residual emotional stuff, and I'm so enjoying all of the stuff surrounding fatness—getting to shock people by shocking about it, the thrill of the chase of fat clothes shopping, the thinking about fat semiotics, &c. Nevertheless, I think if the question were if I'd rather never have been fat, the answer would be affirmative. But that's not going to happen. And weight-loss surgery won't take away the pain I've already come through. It won't take away my stretch marks or my loose skin or give me unblemished years as a taut teenage beauty-ideal girl. I'm sad that I never got to be that girl. But weight-loss surgery wouldn't fix that. And it would, I think, in some way negate the tremendous amount of work I've done to stabilize my life and my mind, not to mention my weight, to make myself happier and healthier and kinder to myself and others. A friend told me recently that she thought I should take a fattish friend of hers under my wing, teach her to stop yo-yo dieting and how to dress her body. That I am the kind of person who is a resource for that is something I consider a tremendous achievement. And weight-loss surgery would tarnish that achievement.

Also, it would cost me a gazillion dollars and might kill me or leave me malnourished and smelly and emotionally shell-shocked and it would hurt a lot and I would never be able to eat tremendous amounts of Indian food with my dear friends and then go to sleep in a happy exhausted sated pile ever again.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hair! (Results version)

I love my new hair so much, I cannot even say. I put myself into the stylist's hands, said "funky," said "asymmetrical," said "not shorter than my chin," and let her get to work. You have no idea how much hair there was on the floor. I have been growing my hair pretty much uninterrupted since I was thirteen. Now it grazes my shoulders. And that's the longest layer. There are layers no longer than four inches (when the curl's unstretched). There are teeny-tiny short curls around my face. The asymmetry is pronounced. It's sweet and fluffy and funky. I am done with shapeless teenage-girl hair forever. It is sassy-twentysomething hair. It is fantastic. Also, it is like big arrows pointing at my cheekbones and jawline. Whee. Hair.

The other day there was a fat activism workshop on my college campus. The Feminist Student Union and the Queer Alliance publicized it sort of halfheartedly. My thriftshop-planning partner couldn't make it, but wanted me to go to chat up the activists, who are tied into the Portland fat activism organizations. I went. I was the only fat person, other than the people who were giving the workshop.

It was...fine? I wished, passionately, that the women presenting had been better public speakers. This is my own work-within-the-system preference, but I hate playing into stereotypes, and fat people are constantly at risk of seeming unprofessional and having that chalked up to their fatness. These women are not professional public speakers. Maybe that means that they shouldn't be representing their organizations in this medium. I'm not sure. I wanted to yelp, "stop saying, 'you know?' right now!" But the discussion was pretty free and pretty fun, and that it was happening was nice, and I met a staff member who's doing her dissertation on representations of fatness...especially in advertising and fashion. Which is to say, all the things I like best. We stood around afterwards and talked about Susan Bordo and Fatshionista and my thrift store plans and her dissertation. The idea of "fat studies" is really gathering steam as an academic field. There's a conference at Smith coming up this month. I really might be interested in that, but I wouldn't want to do it exclusively. I'd want to do it in the context of the way I'm working with things like canonicity and cultural identity in my thesis. I wonder if talking about fat studies in my personal statements to grad schools would make me a more (innovative!) or less (...fat) attractive candidate for admission to said grad schools.

It is a sign of such intense weakness that my abs are sore from the minimal yoga I am doing twice a week. Can I blame it on surgery? Bah. My legs have always been tough, because I walk a lot and I'm carrying my own weight when I do it, but the rest of me? Not so much. I am looking forward to working on that, so the soreness is probably positive.

And by the way? I love my hair.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Trajectories: Eating Food, Hair & Femininity

I did good today.

I woke up and made myself an omelet with spinach and onions and cheddar cheese. And ate some applesauce. This was brunch. I had a microwave South Beach pizza for dinner (okay, I am totally not on the South Beach diet and those things are way too expensive, but they are also miracles of modern science, because the South Beach engineers have crammed THIRTY-ONE grams of protein and ELEVEN grams of fiber into a 340-calorie microwave pizza that doesn't taste bad, and the biology of that, like, totally eludes me) with some roast beef slices and grapes. And a cup of hot chocolate as a late-night snack. Way to go, kid, on mission: Eat Nourishingly In A Way That Is Constructively Emotionally Nourishing (I am not good at catchy mission titles).

And now I have corn muffins in the oven for breakfast or library snacks or something. They smell nice. I had sort of forgotten, over the past week, how wonderful nutritive food is, and how much more comforting it really is. But the thing is that it's slower, and when I'm as upset as I've been of late, I don't want to slow down, because slowing down allows the upset to creep in at the cracks.

A trip to the campus health center yielded a prescription for a stopgap anti-anxiety medication (just to get me through to the completion of my Major Academic Project), seven months' worth of practically-free birth control, and, to the end of attaining said practically-free birth control, the information that my blood pressure is back to its preferred pre-surgery mark, which is 120/78, which is perfect.

I have taken the muffins out of the oven. They are pretty. Golden brown and puffy.

And today I made the appointment to cut off my hair. I have long, kind of dramatic hair, and it's one of the ways that people identify me politely ("the girl with long curly hair," instead of "the fat girl"). It's also one of the things people compliment politely ("You have such beautiful hair!" is second only to "You have such beautiful eyes!"). And other than a highlight here and a face-framing layer there, I haven't changed it since I grew out a total hair disaster when I was thirteen or fourteen. Although I've had very competent (and expensive) people cutting my hair, I've been terrified to make any big changes. Hair is important. There is the normal fear of looking bad. There is the sort of inchoate fear of change that attaches to your hair, the fear that maybe has something to do with your appearance, but is mostly just fear of loss, I think, that rises up strong when you try to call a salon. And for me, there is the fact that having long and dramatic hair was a way of asserting femininity when for a long time I didn't feel particularly feminine. For a long time I didn't feel feminine at all. For awhile, in fact, I somehow harbored the private belief that I did not have breasts. I wore a D cup at the time, but secretly, I believed that what I had was fat not breasts like other girls. But yes. Long hair. Femininity. And my mother had always wanted me to have short hair when I was little, because curly hair is so difficult to take care of, and that had always been a bathroom power struggle. I thought my face was too fat for short hair, that long hair somehow...hid something? I don't know. Now I'm finding sort of the opposite is true: my hair has gotten so long that I lose volume at the crown, which makes my face look rounder than it is.

I want a sideswept bang and shorter layers, to emphasize my cheekbones.

And now I have a hair appointment. The stylist is heavily vouched-for by women with curly hair on the internet. I have pictures to bring with me. Chin-length asymmetrical bobs.

And I do feel the upsurge of inchoate fear. But I don't think I feel particularly concerned about losing my femininity (other than the fact that my boyfriend is attached to my long hair). I want the clean slate of a big hair change, its trumped-up symbolism. I cut off a chunk in the mirror today. I am impatient. I am shaking my head and my long, long hair—almost waist-length when you pull the curl taut—and anticipating the strangeness of lightening.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Coffee Heath Bar Crunch

I just ate a full pint of ice cream for what I think is the first time since before treatment.

You will not never binge again, I remember someone Staff saying. For so long that wasn't true. I don't mean until now, but for months and months I kept a very, very tight rein on my eating, counting exchanges, worrying if any extra bite or thought of biting was disordered.

And so what? I have done an eating-disordered thing. I am having the worst week of my life, and I was in the supermarket because I needed groceries and I knew it was perilous to be there, but it was also perilous not to be, and I just could not find a reason not to comfort myself in what is still one of the very few ways I know how.

And the things just keep coming, the stressful frightening things, and I just don't know how to survive them, weather them, and the kid with whom I host lunches for prospective students came into the admissions office today where I was already sitting, all ready to engage in an I-have-so-much-work pissing contest, and I nearly cried. That's the way to sell the school!

I have done an eating-disordered thing. I have done eating-disordered things before. I will do eating-disordered things in the future. It doesn't mean I have an eating disorder now like I did then, not the same magnitude. It is not all or nothing; surely I've learned that much.

I am going to survive this week and I am going to find some small form of stress relief that is not food. Something that allows me to recognize my feelings instead of swallowing them.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cute as a (fat) button

I feel kind of weird saying this (the reasons why are a whole different post), but: I'm feeling pretty body-positive these days. Perhaps it's partly that I'm recovering, and I'm very keen on the fact that I can do things like walk, and stand up, and lie on my stomach. And have sex. But I was getting into the shower today and looked at myself in the mirror and felt pretty cute. Okay, better than pretty cute. Totally did a couple of cheesecake poses in the mirror. Totally thought (for just a second!) about becoming an internet alt-porn fat pinup girl.

Yes, there are things I don't like about my body. Things I hate about it. Things I would consider fixing with plastic surgery (especially considering how well my gallbladder scars are healing! I am so excited that I scar well!). Interestingly, most of these things have to do with the effects not of being fat, but of weight fluctuation, being thinner than I used to be, losing and gaining weight repeatedly and quickly—stretched skin that leaves me baggy in places I totally do not want to be baggy.

There really are people who think if you are fat, you are ugly. I am not one of those people. I may have been at some point, but I definitely am not now. There are so many more important factors in beauty. Bone structure and proportion and the skills of presentation. And there are people who believe in the "pretty face," who can deal with your face but not your body if you are fat. I have been one of those people. I am not one of those people any more.

Honest-to-God, I loved my body in the mirror today. Squashy and baggy and cellulitic, porous and hair-dotted, smooth and pale and curved and cute as hell. I loved my body like the my-mom's-a-hippie puberty guides tell you you're supposed to. For a few minutes. It was great. This is so, so new. I cannot even tell you.

More and more and more, I think, Okay, I could do this. Fat my whole life? Cool. It would mean never being the girl I was supposed to be. But think of the girl I could be instead! She's pretty fantastic. She's tough and straight-talking and fascinating, she's funny, she's smart and thoughtful. She is not an ingenue, but she is pretty fantastic.

Also, if she would get her ass to the gym, she would be smoking hot. I should probably talk her out of plastic surgery, though, right?

P.S. I do not get all the credit for feeling super-cute. I put up a picture in a fatshionista thread and got several truly lovely compliments from several truly lovely (& fashionable!) women. That helped. Credit where it's due.

I am thinking about the following two things: intersections of fat and class (pursuant to discussions on fatshionista; the weirdness of fad diets that DENY YOU CARROTS, because WHAT THE FUCK? Those posts are coming. Long overdue, though they won't be definitive. Also about opening an IRA, but that has nothing to do with fat.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Different Body

Over the past two weeks, something truly unpleasant happened to me. I got sick, in the mode of what my doctor (see: "blame it on the fat") thought was acid reflux. I did all the things that I was supposed to, all the things that have worked in the past. Nothing. Called my doctor, doubled the dose of medication. Nothing. Finally, I went to the emergency room, where I was summarily informed that I needed my gallbladder removed, right away. I had emergency surgery in what turned out to be the nick of time. Because the situation was actually rather dire, the recovery process is a little grueling. I've had a drainage tube embedded in my abdomen, which is sliced open in three places. I've been on Vicodin for a week. My stamina is nil, and pain persists.

It has made me think of my body in a different way. I mean, it's brought up some body image stuff in general (the feeling of being gross and not intact is a familiar one), but also: fat or not, I am pretty happy in my body as a matter of general principle. It is sturdy and serviceable and healthy. It doesn't hurt when I sit in weird positions. I can walk long distances at good speeds with my hips swinging, looking confident in a way that makes me feel confident. I can't do that right now. I walk slowly and shufflingly, hunched, like an old person. Can barely stand up straight. It's hard to think of myself the same way when this is the way I walk. Normally, my body is tough and resilient and ebullient, I can wiggle and dance and bounce. I am agile. I am durable.

Not so of late. And it makes me realize the things I normally take for granted. All the things my funny imperfect wrong body, over which I do a lot of hand-wringing, can do for me, and does do for me, without complaint and without recompense. I am not glad to be sick and weak and in pain, but I am glad to have the little refocusing of attention.

On the other hand: Today in the doctor's office, before he came in to remove the drainage tube from me (a procedure that has the following steps: cut cord anchoring tube through holes in skin; pull hard to remove eight inches of coiled plastic from abdomen) I (for a change!) could not resist the attendant scale. I shucked off my heavy shoes and weighed myself (at the end of the day! in clothes!) and discovered I'd lost about ten pounds. I wonder how much an inflamed gallbladder weighs.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Apologies for the long hiatus.

I suppose one's boyfriend is bound to find one's blog, eventually, but it was no less shocking for that supposition. At first I thought, Well, fine, and then, over the course of the evening, I remembered things I'd written. Like little stones dropping in my stomach. And then a big stone, last of all: My weight. The number. Is on this blog. Which he read. Oh God. I can't think of anyone who would think it's fun for her boyfriend to know what she weighs. But apparently he still likes me.

But here's the thing: what throws me more than anything—more even than the numbers—is that I feel I lost my ability to put a good face on things. That keeping this blog—that wanting or needing to keep this blog, having the thoughts with which to fuel it—make me a little bit totally insane, and now I can't hide it. I like to be able to do my own spin control. Lately I have been more positive about my body, happier about it, than ever before. But that is a state that includes ambivalence—and, as always, it's the ambivalence with which I have a hard time. The I'm not sure. I like to have a defined position, even if it is sometimes more aspiration than totally reflective of my constant internal state. And I like my current defined position, such as it is outwardly manifest. It is lovely and open and light and charmingly countercultural and it is politically sound and it supports me and other fat people and I like it. But I don't always reach the high bar it sets. And that's what I have trouble with. Perhaps unsurprisingly.

We—he and I—drove down to a group therapy meeting at the treatment center at which I spent a month more than a year ago. I was on edge. Nitpicky. It was an intimate experience. I did not make a lot of eye contact. I was aware of doing that. Of feeling collapsed into myself. Was the nit-picking, then, an attempt to ward off what otherwise might have been a terrifying intimacy? Based on someone liking me (let us say loving me, even) even sitting in a physical presentation of I am not as on top of things as all that, really.

I like things to be sure. I like them to be clean and solid. Food has a lot of that resonance to me: in my most eating-disordered moments, I decide based on clean or not-clean? and what that means is safe or not-safe? I have trouble in in-between spaces and in-between times (like, say, now, this pre-semester limbo). I am not at my best in the liminal areas. And it's why being outed is disturbing, because I have been a little liminal here. Sassy and confident, yes, but also insecure and obsessive and gross. Both. Which are both sort of percolating around right now. Which doesn't mean I'm not doing well. I'm doing better than I've ever done before. Which means confronting liminality, I guess.