The personal touch of Rachel Moss

I wasn’t going to get all outraged about the WisCon drama that is all over the the blogosphere, because enough people have. Honestly, I live in Wisconsin, and I didn’t even know that there was a sci fi convention going on anywhere in the state.

But then I went and looked at the pictures, and read the comments, and saw that someone I personally know, with whom I have personally sat in sacred space, who has shared the story of her body with me, trashed all over the internet. 


Rachel Moss, let me tell you something: It sucks to get threats. It sucks to be so damn visible. It sucks to have your beliefs get you in trouble. Welcome to the real world. Karma’s a bitch, especially in the digital age. 

I spoke to this friend of mine on Facebook and let her know of stupid Rachel Moss. Stupid the nicest thing I can think to say, really. My friend already knew about it, and she has responded here.

Enough’s enough. Fat fights back. But you probably didn’t figure that.




So far and yet, not really

I am embarrassed to even write this, but I will, because that’s what I do.

Yesterday, I was zipping around a corner on my way home, listening to XM radio, Deep Tracks. Which is the psychedelic/classic rock channel. Because it’s springtime, and for me, nothing says spring like Led Zepplin.

So I’m grooving to Pink Floyd, and I notice one of the tax preparation companies had a guy in an “I want you!” uniform on the corner. Nothing says financial accountability like paying people under the table to dance around in Uncle Sam costumes.

I take a quick look at the him. White, beer gut, bald, couldn’t get the front of his uniform closed because he was too fat, missing the top hat that went with the costume. Sloppy Uncle Sam, totally. Would I trust this guy with my W-2? No f-ing way.

And into my head pops this thought, immediately, after that 3-second visual summation:

“That is really not the type of image they should be using to promote their store.”

Driving along, I caught myself. “Why?” I asked myself.

I had the following internal dialogue.

“Well, because he is fat, and slovenly looking.”


“Well, that fat guy’s image implies that the government is greedy, has taken enough of our tax money already.”

“Um, ok?”

“Yeah. Haven’t you ever noticed the regular Uncle Sam is always thin and tall? I mean, what does that say? It says that, fiscally, he is eating just enough of the American tax dollar. In fact, it says if we don’t feed him, he might become almost frail.”

“Um, are you noticing something here?”

“I guess. I guess I am saying that a fat image means greedy and a thin image means deserving.”

“Mmm hmm.”

“And I guess that means I have some internalized fatphobia.”


It’s funny how insidious all that is. I’m really struggling with the fat-ism right now. I think because it’s finally pretending to get warm here, which means it’s maybe going to hit 60 degrees here today. That means people will be wearing shorts and t-shirts. It is Wisconsin after all. We grab a sunny, semi-warm day and run with it.

The prospect of more exposed flesh is a bit daunting. What is OK? What is not OK? As do many women, I have body parts that are considered acceptable and unacceptable. This year I am considering not giving myself a full, polished pedicure for the first time in years. Which is a big deal: I didn’t wear sandals until I was 24. My feet are normal looking I suppose, but I hated them for years and refused to expose them to the world. My upper arms are a disaster, but every year I wear tank tops, because what the hell, I like them and they jiggled horrendously even when I managed to starve myself to a size 14. My legs are relatively OK — from the knees down — but years of waitressing, retail and coffee-shop jobs have left me with the family tradition of spider and varicose veins. My own lack of body-sense has me walking into shit non-stop so they bruise like soft fruit regularly as well. I remedy this with self-tanning lotion to mask their motley discolorations. I never expose my stomach, so that’s not an issue. And bathing suits? Well, my upper thighs haven’t seen sunlight in I don’t know how many years. It’s a feat just for me to walk around the house in my underwear.

Every year I shed some stupid “don’t” about myself in the face of warmer weather. “I don’t wear tank tops.” or “I don’t wear sandals.” These mandates that have kept my body appropriately covered, controlled and out of the public eye are repealed year by year as I gain more confidence in myself and my right to feel comfortable in hot weather, despite my fat body. I think part of it has come with age: The older I get, the more I am not in the same playing field as younger women, the less I feel like competing over who is sexiest. The more I simply want to be comfortable, both in my body and in my clothes. When it’s 90 degrees with 98 percent relative humidity, I am not convinced that anyone is winning the cuteness competition, fat or not.

A lot of dieting talk has been swirling around lately, and I am finding myself a bit caught up in it. Maybe it is my fault I am so fat. Maybe if I was simply a better person, if I exercised more, if I ate less, if I did something different, if I was just another person. Because really, for me, being thin is what that is about: being a different person. I cannot even really imagine myself thin. Thinness, or “less fatness” was always a state of impermanence for me; transient, a vagrant body. It was like holding onto fog. The more I hear talk about dieting, about losing weight, about warmer weather, the more my body dysmorphia spikes. It does not help that my IBS is really out of control right now. When my body feels bad, my mind does, too. I see my face with several double chins. My arms look bigger, my hips a wide expanse. Mirrors are my enemy now.

Which allows for that internalized fatphobia to creep in, or creep out, I guess, as I am sure it simply was buried in there and managed to poke its head out of the soil when I wasn’t paying attention.


Changing my mind

A friend recently said to me:

“Whenever you talk about things that are difficult, you always end it with, ‘Oh, it’s fine.'”

And I do.

As a person who has been pretty committed to self-analysis most of her adult life, I have really not shown that dedication by my choice of words. Everything is fine. “Oh, I got hit by a car and fucked up my shoulder and now I have chronic pain. It’s fine.” “Oh, I have a migraine the last half of the month every month. It’s no big deal, it’s fine.” “Oh, yeah, my family stole some shit from me and my house because they hate me because I am liberal and not Christian and queer, but really, “It’s Fine.”

Really, none of these things are fine. Really, all of these things are things I have suffered through and with, each has brought me sleepless nights, tossing and turning with endless nightmares, pain, worry and anxiety. Each has had its own mini-crisis, and I have worked hard to figure out how to fix each of them. And these aren’t the only things I claim to be Just Fine about. There is so much more. I am Just Fine about many of the very painful things I have dealt with in my life, things that I talk about with very few people because they are embarrassing and tiring and I don’t want to reassure anyone that I am just fine about them anymore. Because maybe I really am not.

My life has been a crazy, intense, good, rich, albeit unstable life. I have had so many things happen in the few short years I have been here; I am only 30 after all. I am in a nostalgic place this week. I happen to be on a listserv for Wisconsin Pagans which may be shutting down due to lack of participation. I myself have not participated on the list in years, but I have lurked, watching people come and go over the past 10 years. Ten years! I don’t remember being committed to anything for ten years. I have known some of these people for ten years, I have watched philosophies change, spiritualities change, communities grow and ebb and flow over ten years. My own sense of spiritual self has changed in ten years. When I joined the list, I was seeking community. I participated in intense debates over the place of anarchy in pagan community. I helped till land for one of the first intented pagan communities. I helped found a pagan pride day in Milwaukee, and an ongoing get-together that I believe still occurs there monthly. I had meaning, in an existential sense. Seeing this list potentially die off is like seeing a piece of myself die off.

I have always been an existentialist. I used to speak to god as a child, having long conversations with him about the nature of the world and our purpose here. I felt touched by his presence; I felt safe when there was no safety in my real, earthly life. It was calming. Church was refuge. Faith in something bigger than myself has always been my grace. There is great peace in seeking with others who seek. As an adult, I sought in other paths. I’ve let my seeking go recently, troubled by trends of power I see people trying to grab; you cannot hold the universe in your hands. You cannot harness god/dess. We are here to learn, not to control.

And so I think I need to learn to stop saying: I am just fine, it is all fine, everything is fine, when really, it is not. The state of “fineness” is really about control. About putting a verbal straightjacket on events, emotions and occurrances that are raw and powerful, on things that one can learn from. What is the meaning of pain in the here and now? What is the meaning of the current painful experience in the current context? By saying “I’m fine,” I do not allow myself an opportunity to go through it and be done with it. I simply control it, suppress it, perhaps reject it. I worry too much about others worrying about me. I don’t want to be a bother, a concern, an annoying pebble in everyone’s shoe. By saying, “I’m fine,” I’ve believed the focus on me and my issues have been deflected, which has allowed them to fester far too long. What we try to control quickly becomes out of control.

Whatever happens to the pagans on this list that I have known, I know they will be changed forever because of our collective experiences together. I have been. As I move forward in my own life, I plan on pursuing a spiritual path that looks toward mindfulness, a focus on the here and now, something which has always lacked in my manic, frenzied life. I have rushed too far ahead of myself, too many times, not appreciating what is in the immediate, the quick. I will start by acknowledging what my body tells me with truthful words about its experiences, something that will require mindfulness indeed.

The Right Fit

Oh where to start.

Apparently, I am done with school now for the next several months. Unless some of my classmates can convince my program that we should take clinical skills with another group of students up in Wausau. Which wouldn’t be bad. Or unless the program decides we can go ahead and start practicum a few months early. Which also wouldn’t be bad. But if those things don’t happen, then …

School’s Out For Summer!

In other news, I went and visited N’s adorable horse this weekend, which gave me a fierce case of hives. So miserable was I that I rolled around in the grass for a while before we left. I’m sure that helped. You know how it is when your allergies are so bad and you are so anguished because your face is so puffy and you can’t breathe and you itch and snot is in places it shouldn’t be that you just start becoming irrational so you do things like roll around in hay? You don’t? Well, clearly something is wrong with you. 

But the point of me telling you all that is that I wore, for the first time in months, the goddamned Right Fit Jeans from Lane Bryant out to the barn.

I pulled them out of the dresser, trying to figure out what to wear. Because I don’t have an entire wardrobe of barn clothes. Shocking, I know. First I put on some crappy Old Navy jeans in a size 22 that are so low rise they show even my bikini underwear. I felt crappy in the crappy Old Navy jeans and so I ditched them, and dug around in my dresser for something else that I didn’t wear ever, and came up with the right fits, which are Blue 4.

I had held so much hope for the Right Fits. When I first bought them, I thought they were the miracle jean. Finally, Lane Bryant had realized that a 31 inch inseam was a crappy compromise in the jeans department. The averages were a nice 33 inches, perfect for me and my 5’9″ height. The waist didn’t gape, but it was a bit tight — I normally like my waists loose so I don’t have my belly bulge over, what I’ve heard other fatties refer to as “the dreaded muffin top” phenonmenon. The thighs fit well. The color was a bit too dark, and there wasn’t any whiskering or fading built in. But all in all, I was ready to move forward into the promised land of perfectly-fitting jeans.

Unfortunately, the waist stayed very tight, while everything else got freakin’ HUGE. The pants stretched ginormously, until I felt like I was wearing a skirt with legs. Palazzo pants, in denim. And I was really self conscious about the waist: It fit so well, that it was clear how far my hips came out from my waist. I needed the fabric of the hips to girdle my actual flesh hips. This was my perception. I washed and dried them numerous times; I have this theory about Lane Bryant pants, which is that they don’t come pre-shrunk — every time I’ve found a perfect pair of pants there, they become imperfect the second they come out of the drier. I’ve spent years not drying pants as a result. I threw those Right Fits in the drier three times, back to back.

No luck. They were resilent, and stretched each time. There was no way I could go down to a Blue 3, because the waist was already so goddamned tight. I pranced back into Lane Bryant and tried on a Yellow and a Red. Maybe I really wasn’t a pear shape. Maybe somehow I was a Triangle or an Hourglass. Maybe I had thought of my body all wrong all these years. I mean, I was a pear, I thought, but not an obvious pear. I was a pear in STEALTH! Maybe, just maybe, I could sneak by the Lane Bryant clerks with their measuring tapes and crazy new sizes and re-shape my body into an hourglass or triangle by wearing a yellow 3 or red 5. Maybe I would do just that! Ha!

And so I marched into Lane Bryant defiantly, intending on doing so. Everyone else was screaming of the miracle of right fit jeans. Why couldn’t I? Maybe I just needed a different color, a different shape. When the clerk approached me as I gazed over the yellow triangles, staring my hips down, I told her I was doing just fine, Thank You Very Much. I then walked over to the Red section, and grabbed more pairs. I looked disdainfully on the blues. No more pearishness for me, thank you. Good bye blues.

I got into the dressing room, and tried on the yellows. And discovered the thighs didn’t fit right. The waist was too big. There was room for a belly where I didn’t have one. Maybe if I wore the jeans backwards to accommodate my ass, they would have been better. Unfortunately, the era of Kriss Kriss is long gone.

I then tried on the reds. These were better, but they fit just like a regular pair of jeans. I mean, OK, but not, you know, great. It wasn’t like the clouds parted and an angel descended into the dressing room, singing Hallelujah!, golden coronet blaring. They were, well, meh.

Defeated, I left.

I went on and wore my wide leg trouser jeans that I had gotten from Lane Bryant; I am a big fan of the trouser jeans and wide leg jeans. They offset the hips, don’t you know? Also, I fancy myself a bit of a bohemian at times, and I walk around with various 70s tunes in my head, such as “I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates …” just to make myself feel I fit the part. I mean, I don’t really, but we all like to pretend we are something we really aren’t, don’t we?

Recently, as I mentioned here, I’ve been pulling out my old “fat clothes” and trying them on for size. When I lost some weight at the introduction of a new cRaZy pill, I started stuffing myself, sausage like, into smaller pants. I go back and forth in my body image perceptions. Sometimes, I genuinely view myself in this way: Wearing smaller clothes makes me appear smaller. And then sometimes, wearing larger clothes makes me appear smaller.

I guess “view” isn’t the right word. SEE would likely be more appropriate. At times, the dysmorphism I carry with me is so endemic I cannot see myself for how I truly appear, and I cannot see others for how they truly appear. Terribly thin people appear normal, I appear monstrous. Other fat people appear thinner than I. I am always the hugest. Sometimes, I can’t tell how fat I am unless I look in a mirror. I feel like my whole world view is reflected in a series of fun-house mirrors. I never see anything in truth.

This was most poignantly illustrated to me when I looked at my wedding photos in 2004. When I saw them for the first time, just the candid shots, I saw myself as hideous, grotesque, fat, disgusting. I thought: You are the most vile, beastly, ghastly human being on the planet. How could you have let yourself get this way? What is wrong with you? Who could love you? You are ugly personified.

And I spiraled into a horrible period of disordered eating and exercising. I did not look at myself in a mirror, full on, for a year. I did not lose any weight despite my best efforts.

See, what had happened was my body had gotten tired of the dieting and ED game I had been playing for years. It had crapped out. And then I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put on psych meds. It was the end of losing weight for me. Once you’re on an antipsychotic, you’re on the fat train express.

I decided I’d better learn to accept myself. This was it. Fat and crazy.

When I started getting better about how I looked, I looked at those wedding pictures again. And I realized I didn’t look so bad. Not so fat. Not so ugly. I just looked like me.

That’s kind of what happened with the Right Fit jeans. I put them on, and N said, “You look cute. Are those new jeans?” I explained that they weren’t, that I didn’t like how baggy they had been, how the waist to hip ratio made me look fat and how I was self-conscious about it. Pulling out all my old fat clothes, though, because I’ve been more into comfort, more into how I feel in clothes, had slightly changed my perception about the jeans. About me. Not just slightly. More like, immensely.

I’ve reclaimed my pear shape. The waist isn’t so bad after all. It isn’t so tight. The legs aren’t horrendously baggy. The length is still perfect. The ass does fit well, which is great. They are quite comfortable. They fit who I am now, which is a hell of a lot more accepting of what I look like, in reality, rather than who I think I should look like, or who my dysmorphia tells me I look like. I’m not shoving myself into jeans and pants that fit someone else’s body, for once. Which means, in a certain way, I’m learning to love my own.

Sizing up

Today I am wearing flats.

They are a size 11, which is one size larger than I normally wear.

I like them because they are soft, and slip off my feet easily, and kind of flop around when I walk. They don’t fit my feet properly; they aren’t too tight, too constricting, too conforming. They are just right.

I remember buying them. It was last year. I had wanted ballet flats to dress up bermuda shorts, an acceptable form of shorts for the way my legs looked. I walked into Target, figuring that a good $15 was all I wanted to spend on such shoes. I normally wear very expensive shoes, shoes with good insoles that are cushioned and absorb shock and resist slip. Years of working at coffee shops and restaurants and retail and car accidents and bike accidents had rendered my joints sore, and I believe in proper footwear to stave off pain. Dansko, Keen, Naot: these are brands I turn to. It’s been a long time since I’ve spent only $15 on shoes.

So, I tried on these flats. I originally tried a 9; no socks means I can usually pull of that size. Too small I determined. Then a 10. They still felt too small. I mean, they actually fit, but I didn’t want to feel taut fabric on my feet. I wanted the fabric to skim my feet, I wanted it to be loose and comfortable, like a slipper. Should I wear an 11? Who wears an 11? Would it make my feet look too big? Would I look clownish? Would my feet take up too much space? I put on the 11, and they were so comfortable. That sealed it. I bought them, and didn’t regret it.

I remember my first pair of ballet flats. I was 12, they were Sam and Libby’s. They were delightfully cute and feminine, with bows on the vamp. I was a fat child, burgeoning into puberty; my fat was redistributing, and so there wasn’t that much feminine about me. Except those shoes. I just wanted to feel pretty, when I had been told so often I wasn’t. Everyone told me, you have such a pretty smile, someday when you lose weight … Or, you have such a pretty face, if only you’d lose weight … Or, you’d be so much prettier if you’d lose weight. It was clear my prettiness, my femininity, depended upon my size.

And so in my hands, I held the key to prettiness, femininity: Shoes. I had two pairs: A peach pair, in a size 10, and a black pair, in a size 9. Neither pair fit right, a testament to the constant dilemma I faced as a child and young teenager: Clothes and shoes held the key to unlocking my beauty, to escaping my fat, and stores did not cater to fat kids. Therefore, I was destined to be ugly. The shoes pinched, they were somehow too small or too narrow. Either way, my family didn’t have tons of money, and so I had to be thankful that I even got these brand-name shoes, and then they didn’t fit right because somehow my feet were fat, and therefore ugly. I couldn’t even have pretty shoes, goddammit.

Somehow, I learned that size mattered. Being able to fit into the smallest size possible meant I was prettier. Being able to shop in stores that carried smaller sizes meant that I was prettier. And so I internalized my inability to tame my body, to keep it in a certain size as an inability to keep it pretty. I never cared so much about my weight as I did about my size. Can I fit into an 18? That means I can still buy clothes at most stores in the mall. Can I fit into a size 9 shoe? That means I can be assured I can find shoes at most shoe stores. Fitting into these numbers means that I was still fitting into the retail standard of beauty.

Up until two years ago, I continued, unconsciously, to adhere to this sized standard of beauty. At the advent of seroquel, I gained probably 20 to 30 pounds of weight without any assistance on my part. It literally magically appeared, despite a grueling exercise and dieting regimen. Seroquel fattened me up like a farm turkey before thanksgiving. I’m a rich butterball. I was able to fit into size 18s-20s at Old Navy (And not the Old Navy Plus Size) prior to Seroquel. This was my dream: I could walk into regular stores and buy pants. I was officially, conventionally pretty according to retail standards.

Then I got the bipolar.

I climbed clandestinely past a size 22 into a size 24. I wept. A size 24! I hadn’t been a size 24 since high school! I was going to size my way out of Lane Bryant soon! I had sized my way out of conventionally pretty and size myself out of fat girl pretty! It was a hysterical crisis.

I realized this: I was fucking mentally ill. And fat. I’d better suck it up. What was worse? Being crazy or being fat? Society hates both things. I was fat all along, I was only kidding myself by thinking that just because Old Navy and Target and Alloy and Delia’s had deigned to make Size 18 and 20 clothing that they considered me acceptably, conventionally pretty. In truth, they were laughing behind my fat back.

And so I started figuring out how to live in this fatter body. I still didn’t overcome the sizism for a while. When I lost weight at the introduction of topamax, I crammed myself into size 22s and size 20s, relieved that I could get into the smaller sizes again. I saved my bigger sized pants, in the event that my weight rollercoastered up again at the addition of more medication.

I’ve been pulling out my fat pants this year, and taking them in, or trying them on for size. I’ve noticed something about myself. I am enjoying wearing them, as they are. The size 24s are loose and baggy, but they are comfortable. When I put on the size 22s or size 20s, they fit, but they are tight, show off my shape, make me appear fatter than I really am. The size 24s glide over my body, drape well, allow me to feel at ease in my body the way the smaller sizes don’t. I am less self-conscious because I feel good. When I go shopping now, I automatically pull out a size 24, knowing that it’s bagginess will probably feel more comfortable to me than the smaller size 22, that I will feel less self-conscious by having more fabric that allows me to move more easily.

Sometimes, the bigger sizes actually are too big and I have to retreat to a smaller size, but it’s less vindicatory now. I’ve realized the inherent inability of clothing manufacturers to keep consistent sizing, even within the same brand, and it’s become less about my own body and my own failings and more about the manufacturer’s idiocy. I’ve externalized it all. It’s not about me, not about whether I am pretty, whether I have appropriately harnessed my body to fit some arbitrary retail standard of beauty.

And so, I sit here with my Size 11 flats, which no one knows are a size 11 except me, and in my size 24 pants, which no one knows are a size 24 except me, and think a lot about how clothes have become more about how I feel in them rather than about how I look in them. It’s made all the difference.

« Older entries