Let up on Palin

My political slip is going to show in this post.

I stopped regularly following the election when we all realized Clinton wasn’t going to get the nomination. Obama is fine, I just don’t think he is experienced enough. That’s all.

However, I am kind of a media junkie. From my work comptuer, I log in to a news site about every 10 minutes to check the weather, check facebook, check the news, check my email, and check more news. The internet is my primary source of news these days, along with the snippets of NPR we leave on for the dog blaring from an old clock radio in the bathroom. He will be the most informed yellow lab this side of the Mississippi.

And here is what I am seeing:

Palin! Palin! Palin!

Oy.

I have yet to see any smear campaigns about Biden. I barely know who Biden is. Except that he’s white and male.

And that’s probably the point.

Here’s what I know about Palin, and I haven’t even read a FULL NEWS STORY about her:

-She is a member of the NRA
-Her unwed teen dauther is preggers, but don’t worry, she’s marrying the dad;
-Another child has Down’s Syndrome;
-She has a grizzly bear pelt covering the couch in her office;
-She hunts and fishes;
-She claims not to know what a Vice President does;
-There are concerns that McCain doesn’t even really know her;
-The evangelical Christian conservatives are really excited about her
-She flip-flopped on the famed “Bridge to Nowhere.”

I am awaiting the headlines regarding her hair, her choice of clothing, make-up, shoe heel height, choice of eye glasses, and pictures revealing her status as a cheerleader in high school, or that she was involved in some unfortunately-named-pageant wearing a bathing suit and heels.

I know nothing of Biden. Except that he’s old and white.

Everyone’s up in arms about Palin. Oh, she sucks. Oh, she’s horrible. Oh, she’s dumb.

You know, I am in no way a conservative. I don’t own a gun. There’s no way I would have five children, let my 17-year-old get married, be excited that evangelical Christians were excited about me, or have a grizzly bear pelt within a 5 mile radius of my office. Palin and I? Far more different than alike.

But all the crap she is getting?

It’s pure sexism. If she were a man, no one would give a fuck if she hunted, fished, had an unwed pregnant teen daughter, had a kid with a developmental disability, or belonged to the NRA.

That she does all of those things and is now up for the Vice Presidency challenges our assumptions of what a woman is supposed to be doing.

She reminds me of Clinton in a certain way.

Clinton did her own thing too. She had her own career. She didn’t give up her life to Bill. She had shit to do, and she did it. And while I prefer Clinton to Palin a million times over, both were, are, will continue to be victims of the institution of sexism.

Because any man — any white man — that is up for vice presidency — will not have to face questions about why he decorates his office the way he does, about why he is a member of the NRA, about why he wears pants suits, about why he didn’t give up his career when his husband ran for office, about why he let his children get so out of hand. He is given the privilege to do whatever the fuck he wants, whenever he wants, and no one ever questions it.

That is why I am a feminist. Because people like Palin and Clinton should be able to run for office without the world having to devolve into a discussion of hair and pantsuits.

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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. 

Whoa.

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.

 

 

Dieting is Disordered Eating? Ya think?

So I was reading the news, and after looking at 21 pictures of celebrities aging with and without the benefits of plastic surgery, I stumbled upon this.

Oh, good!

Now we all have eating disorders.

I have mixed feelings about this article. I am glad that Self  has the balls, quite frankly, to address this issue, because I can’t even pick up a copy of Self  without feeling like shit. Every issue has some tanned, toned uberwoman on the cover who will show me how to get the perfect abs and eat the perfect salad if only I turn to page 121. The sight of the magazine itself is triggering and every time I see it I want to upturn the sales rack in rage that I am expected to spend my life in search of the Mecca that is taut glutes.

What bothers me about the article, however, is the dismissal of certain behaviors into categories other than traditional eating disorders. Some of the behaviors on display, such as “secret eating,” or “purgers” are actually criteria of bulimia. They are medically serious, and shouldn’t be dismissed as “dieting gone too far.” While I recognize that Self  cannot diagnose anyone with an actual eating disorder, I do have a serious issue with the notion that they take real symptoms of eating disorders and minimize them, treating them as though if a woman was to stop the diet, she could stop the behavior. This is not the case: Once a behavior has stepped over the line into the realm of ED, simply ending Atkins, Weight Watchers, or the cabbage soup diet isn’t going to be the panacea a person needs. There will be no riding off into the sunset, eating healthily and normally, body image intact, smiling face turned toward a bright new day full of nutritious, binge-and-purge-free, starvation-free days. No.

I am appreciative that the Selfsurvey and this article recognizes that dieting is triggering for many people, that dieting is, in and of itself, a pathological form of behavior. Dieting gives us something to aspire to when everything else is out of control. Calories in, calories out, the motto goes. It is a soothing form of control when everything else is awry. Tame it, harness it, corral it. After all, when we cannot control the world around us, we turn to the body. That is a very basic principle of feminism, and the Selfsurvey and this MSN article seems to grasp that.

The quotes of the women in the article point to how desperate they are: They see the diet as the answer, the control of food as the salve to their problems in life. If only they can maintain the proper proportion of body weight, they will conquer the world. They may recognize this is a problem, but they do not care. And this is the hallmark of an eating disorder. When insanity about the behavior is recognized and discarded as unimportant. Only the behavior rules, the ritual matters, the numbers count. One woman says: I would be very upset if I gained 5 pounds. She weighs 103 pounds, and has given birth. She barely exists, a wisp in the world. Her literal footprint is tiny, and she works daily to keep it that way.

The second page of the article gives tips on what is problematic behavior when dieting. In reading the list, it’s hard not to see how any diet isn’t disordered eating. How repeated dieting can lead the vulnerable into an eating disorder. A simple “preoccupation with calories” is considered disordered eating. Is that not what Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig teach? Eliminating entire food groups is also considered disordered eating. That makes Atkins die-hards disordered eaters. Anyone who has ever dieted or is currently dieting, is, essentially, practicing disordered eating. And disordered eating in those who are susceptible can lead to full-blown, dangerous eating disorders.

I wonder what will happen as a result of this Self survey. There seems to exist a duality in the media: the fascination with dieting gone wrong, dieting that turns into a disorder, and the attainment of the perfect body, which cannot be attained except through, as the Selfsurvey illustrates, disordered eating. This is a dangerous Catch-22, played out on the bodies of people everywhere: Diet enough to look good, but not enough to look like a freakshow. The only ones who win are those who make money off of our bodies: The diet companies at the beginning, and the shrinks at the end.

On Madness and Body Image

I lied yesterday.

There is one reason I like mania.

It, more than anything else I have ever tried, cures my belly woes.

When I am manic, I have no IBS symptoms. I can eat with reckless abandon and nothing will touch me. I will not bloat, I will not cramp, I will not have pain for days on end after the purposeful or accidental ingestion of something forbidden.

Two days ago, I ate The Worst Meal Ever. It is also one of my favorites. It is white bread slathered with sundried tomato cream cheese as an appetizer, pasta with cream and Gorgonzola cheese with bacon and chicken as an entree, and flourless chocolate cake for dessert. I have ingested this while not in the throes of mania, and have suffered its consequences for days: bloating, gas, pain, cramping, constipation or diarrhea. I eat this meal only when I think I can handle it, when my belly isn’t already distended from some other food issue, when I really want the food and am prepared to suffer its consequences.

This is how much of my relationship with food has been over the last number of years. What I enjoy eating has to be weighed in terms of how much pain it will cause me over how many days. It is almost formulaic.

Except when I am manic.

Mania is such an interesting proposition for my body, body image, my weight and my IBS. When manic, I have dropped weight in the blink of an eye. In my eating disordered days, it has been during times of mania that I have dropped the most weight, because mania is a natural appetite suppressant. Sixty pounds in three months? No problem. Mania did it for me. There have been days where I have been simply so enamored with my own thoughts and doings that I literally forget to eat. The concept of hunger does not factor in. I used these times to diet, and extended the manic episodes indefinitely with ephedrine when the natural high wore off and hunger returned.

When I am hungry, I crave bizarre foods. Crackers and cheese for lunch.  Peanuts for dinner. Whipped cream for breakfast! And I indulge, indulge, indulge. Yesterday I ate six 100-calorie cupcake packs over the course of the day and washed it down with soda. I eat more fast food. I do all of this because I can. Because on days when I am not manic, my stomach revolts at, literally, the mention of these foods. I think of saccharine nonsense like frosting and immediately my colon cramps, it has become that Pavlovian. Mania somehow stops the IBS from happening, and I am so thankful that I just binge on things I cannot eat 75% of the time without becoming significantly impaired.

IBS contributes to fair amount of my body dysmorphia. I can be bloated so uncomfortably for days. I don’t know how visible this is to the population at large, but for me, the visibility isn’t what matters: It is how I feel. I have considered giving up eating for good, and simply fasting for days on end just to avoid the discomfort of bloating. It is a nightmare. I feel sluggish, ugly, my clothes don’t fit well, I imagine I am the fattest person in the world, unlovable, disgusting, vile, obese, tragic, and hideous. The image in the mirror is so distorted when I am bloated: I appear twisted and three times the size I actually am. If I don’t feel right, I don’t look right.

But with mania comes a reprieve from IBS. There will be no bloating, no trying to figure out what foods to eat in what combinations or when or how. There will be no accidental ingestions. I feel good, and slippery and slick, like a silver fish swimming in a stream. It’s smooth and right. My body just feels nice when I am manic, and that’s the best feeling of all.

I am not sure why all of this is. I have been thinking about it a lot this past week. When I am just a regular old person, not mixed, not rapid cycling, not depressed, and not manic or hypomanic, my bowels are ornery and cranky. They require a certain kind of care. Certain foods must be avoided, certain restaurants are really bad. I can’t have soda with meals. A bathroom must always be nearby.

And I’ve noticed other things, too: When I am depressed, or in a dysthymic state, I am more prone to generalized pain all over my body. My back hurts more, my shoulder flares up. I’ve noted I get worse migraines in the winter, a time when I am typically more dysthymic. Mania cures all of these physical ailments better than any pill. The elevated levels of neurotransmitters is the balm for all my troubles.

If nothing else, it continues to be proof for the mind-body connection. On my end, I just enjoy the body goodness while I can. I try to keep myself in check in my mind, try to be present for important conversations while my mind is singing inside, try to corral myself when I need to sleep, try to keep a leash on my ever expanding euphoria. But I revel, absolutely revel in how wonderful I feel in my skin. I eat whatever I want and know that soon my intestines will not be so forgiving. I place my hands on my flattened belly and take comfort in knowing there are no extraneous grumblings. I move with ease, not bent over slightly from pain. For me, this is the best part of mania, it’s gift to me: Remembering what it’s like to have a normal body.

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.”

“So?”

“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.”

“Bingo!”

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.

 

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