Because I can.
This essay deals explicitly with eating disorders and body dysmorphia, so please consider your own triggers before reading.
I wasn’t going to write about this.
Maura Kelly’s fat-phobic Marie Claire article “Should ‘Fatties’ Get A Room?” (in which she asks, in earnest, whether or not it’s appropriate for fat people to be shown kissing on television) has been covered extensively. The mainstream media, entertainment and feminist blogs and the fatosphere have dissected every phase of this trainwreck, from Kelly’s half-hearted apology to Marie Claire’s pageview-boosting attempt to “do right” by having fat positive bloggers “counterpoint” Kelly’s claim that fat people don’t deserve to be seen on television (as though this is actually a topic that merits serious debate). The issue has been picked apart by people who are more knowledgeable than I am, who are angrier than I am, who are stronger than I am.
I wasn’t going to write about this, but here I go. Why?
Because I’ve just spent a bitchy, restless Halloween weekend hiding out and pinching my fat until it bruised (an old habit… something I haven’t done for ten years, or maybe longer.) It’s subtle self-abuse, a deeply-rooted and hard-broken habit I didn’t even realize I’d returned to until tiny black spots began appearing like rot in the same spots I pinched when I was eating disordered… my knees, my thighs, my upper arms, below my chin.
“When I was eating disordered”. I still speak past-tense, as though this disease isn’t something I wrestle with every day. Some of us speak this way, people who’ve fought hard to overcome scary, destructive habits or horrible experiences. “Back when”.
Even though I’ve ostensibly been “better” for more than a decade, Kelly’s rant is weighing heavily on heavy me, and I have to own up to the fact that my initial resistance to addressing this had less to do with my feeling that it had already “been done” adequately, and more to do with the fact that I took the blog post prettty fucking personally.
Because I know Maura Kelly, and because I’m one of the “fatties” she’s talking about.
*** Read more…
This essay deals explicitly with eating disorders and body dysmorphia, so please consider your own experiences and triggers before reading.
8pm. Raging headache. I am glaring at the clock with one hand pressed over my eye, dreading my 10, 11 and 12 shows.
“Do you have to go?” asks J., glancing up from his computer. I nod. It’s way too late to cancel, and I know that once I get there, I won’t have time to worry about my head anyway.
I fret over what acts to pack. The Slipper Room crowd is notoriously distracted, but I still want to give them a good show. My headachey displeasure oozes over my perception of everything, and tonight, none of my acts seem any good at all. After I’ve worked myself halfway to tears rejecting everything in my repertoire, J. calls helpfully from the living room “Take the bug! Everyone loves the bug!”.
He’s right. The lightning bug act is consistently a crowd favorite. I’ve been waffling on because the costume is heavy and awkward to carry. But It’s one of my favorite acts to perform, and I decide to bring it, hoping it’ll lift my mood. Factoring in the blazing head pain and the fact that I only have one set of arms, my Caravan number is the obvious choice for my second act. One big, sparkly number with a pain-in-the-ass costume and one pretty, classic number with a sheer, sexy costume I could carry in a lunch box. Read more…
So. These blog entries are a lot of fun to post when I get to be the sassy, indignant, righteous fat lady spreading the gospel of body love.
But sometimes… I’m not that lady.
Sometimes I’m just me, and sometimes me is too tired to engage people on body issues. Sometimes I’m having a bad body day and feeling sheepish and weak. Sometimes, I buy other people’s body lies. I let their doubts and criticisms permeate my hard, glittering, jerk-repellant “I’m Glamorous” shell, and in those moments, I see me the way they see me. It’s almost never good.
But you know what? I’m not perfect. No one is. And if there’s one reason I write these entries, it’s that I believe that women HAVE to take back our relationships with our bodies. We have to create space to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly… the ambivalent body days and the stone-sure confident ones. The creepy-crawly under the rock moments and the triumphant victories.
This isn’t a victory story, but I’m going to tell it anyway, because the low moments are every bit as important and valid and real as the high.
So we begin… Read more…
In the wake of the unveiling of Whole Foods’ new employee health incentivization program, I’d like to extend a hearty “thank you and fuck you” to John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods.
Thank you for taking an active interest in your employees’ health. You don’t have to do that, and the fact that you do rocks.
Fuck you for doing it in an unnecessarily complicated, invasive, judgmental way.
Thank you for encouraging your overweight or health-endangered workers to make conscious decisions about their habits.
Fuck you for attempting to shame them into making those changes by separating them from the “ideal” workers and punishing them for not already being healthy. Read more…
You move to New York, for any one of a million reasons.
You move because of that feeling in your gut that you just have to. You move to New York because you saw Fame when you were five.
Or you move to New York so you don’t end up married to your high school boyfriend, who is the kindest person you have ever known, and who bores you to tears.
You move to New York so you don’t have to spend the rest of your life watching him be a great husband, a great father, a great everything you never wanted and couldn’t tell anyone, anyone, or anyone.
You move to New York because your father or your brother or your childhood best friend has sneered faggot curled-lipped at you for the last time.
Or you move to New York because it worked out okay for a friend. Because you got a job there. Because it’s the only place you can do the thing you most love to do.
You move to New York because your spine can’t shake the drag of that class ring across your cheek, because you can get a good job and wear the right clothes and buy a cool car, but to them, you’ll still be weird or ugly or fat or loose.
You move to New York because it feels like the fucking apocalypse is coming, and, even in this nerfed-out post-Giuliani playground for tit-sucking rich kids, you know you’re better off here than anywhere else, because beneath the organic food stores and RayBans there is still a coat of dirt slicking everything and i mean everything. Because beneath the air-controlled condominium surface, at its crust, this city still has a heartbeat, and it isn’t afraid of the apocalypse because, hell, it’s BEEN the apocalypse. We’re even on good terms with the roaches. Read more…
I am not a Christmas enthusiast.
I wouldn’t really call myself a Grinch, either. I like the twinkly lights that stud Fifth Avenue. I will dutifully plug in the eighteen-inch tall pink tinsel tree my mother sent me after my first year in New York, when she realized I really wasn’t kidding about ordering Chinese food on Christmas day. I don’t tell small children that Santa started off as a Pagan party animal, and I don’t sneer at people in fuzzy earmuffs humming carols. In short, I don’t begrudge people their own warm and fuzzy Christmas, but as for me? I just don’t GET it.
I don’t understand why we’ve designated one day for making children (in first world countries) smile (with money!). It’s so clear to me that this only reinforces the damaged relationship between love and material possession that exists in so many families. I understand that parents are in a hard spot, and that the cultural pressure surrounding the holidays is enormous. But in many families, the spendfest is used to relieve pressure, anxiety and guilt that build up year-round. I have several friends whose awful, awful parents made a big deal of Christmas and then held it up all year as their ‘proof’ that they were good parents who loved their kids, when they would have been better served by saving their $300 and actually treating the kid like a human being year-round. My own parents, in their zeal to forget having grown up poor, bought us so many gifts every year it was almost embarrassing – but no gift I ever received made me feel more truly or deeply loved for having gotten it.
I do know parents who have managed to revise the Hallmark version of Christmas, impressing upon their kids that celebrating Christmas is a fun cultural tradition, but that gifts aren’t the same thing as love or respect. These parents give me hope that somewhere further down the line, some civility and sanity will return to the proceedings. Imagine: Wal-Mart employees won’t be trampled to death by panicked parents who are terrified that their children won’t know they’re loved unless they get this year’s hot Wubble, and kids who grow up in needy families (or, heaven forbid, non-Christian faith systems) won’t be made to feel like second-class citizens, or like they’re underloved just because dad is a janitor and not a doctor. Read more…
When I take my clothes off, my body gets a variety of reactions. Some people are thrilled to see a woman who looks ‘real’ onstage, and some people are obviously uncomfortable. Like any professional performer, I expect my reviews to be mixed at best. Still, if I had I a dime for every time someone has made a beeline directly for me after a show to say “You were so good! Really, you did an awesome job. You should keep doing this!’, I would be a rich woman indeed.
At first blush, this seems like really fantastic feedback (it is, in a lot of cases!). But in some of these compliments, there’s also a strain of overemphatic positivity that makes me very uncomfortable, and it’s taken me awhile to figure out why.
The reason I am uncomfortable is this: sometimes, when people compliment my performance, they do so in a way that makes it painfully obvious that they think I need more reassurance and support than the skinny girls up there. I am almost certain this is well intentioned, so I have a hard time feeling angry or frustrated with the people who turn into cheerleaders in my presence. I get it, I think – they see me and suppose that I must get tons of negative feedback and criticism, and they think they can help by doing their part to ‘positively reinforce’ my self-esteem.
The thing is, it doesn’t take a village. At least not in my case. Read more…
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fat (mine in particular, more than the associated political and health-related minefields).
I’ve gained a lot of weight since moving to New York two years ago – weight I lost (and worked hard to lose) while I was living elsewhere. I am ambivalent about the re-gain… part of me is disappointed, and buys the shame trope (“but you worked so hard to lose it – how could you let this happen AGAIN?”). Another part of me is more understanding. (“You moved to New York with no job, no friends, no place to live and $1,000 to your name. That first year was scary and awful and ROUGH.”) Another part of me is proud. (“You still look hot as hell. Way to go!”)
It can be easy to ignore weight gain… you switch out your jeans for stretchier pants, and you dig in the back of the closet for the shirts you swore you’d never wear again, but you kept, with a fat girl’s fatalism, anyway. But when you take your clothes off in public, weight gain is impossible to ignore. I’m a burlesque dancer who’s gained 40(ish?) pounds in the last two years, and I’ve stripped my way through it. It has been bizarre.
When I was thinner, I still didn’t cut a slim figure. I have big shoulders, strong calves, an hourglass shape. I’m not built to be a size zero. At my healthiest, I was a size 8-10, all muscle and tits. Now, at a size 16-18, I am what people euphemistically call ‘ a big girl’ and hasten to add ‘but hot!’. I still have multiple curves, as opposed to one big curve in the middle. But I am a most definitely bigger-than-average girl, a ‘plus-sized’ girl. In theatre reviews, I’ve been called ‘zaftig’ and ‘pleasingly rubenesque’. From the go-go box (where, yes, I can hear you, even if I’m naked!) I’ve been called “gross” and “significantly overweight”, and have been the subject of disparaging bachelor-party grumblings about “fat strippers”. (This sort of judgy-judgy is not size-specific, by the way. A fantastically hot and talented friend of mine whose body I would kill to have has been likened to a ’scrawny baby bird’ by loud, rude audience members, and I know it is every bit as stinging as ‘fat’ is to me.)
There is no ignoring the fact that I am fat when I shake my cellulite onstage. The audience can’t ignore it, and I can’t ignore it. And as my size has changed, I’ve noticed that the way people deal with me has changed as well. I’m going to write about this. Please enjoy it (or, you know, don’t).