NotBlueAtAll

I'm just a fat gal with a blog and an opinion. Well, lots of opinions.

You Can’t Change Someone

November20

(White text box with black text that reads: “You can’t change someone who doesn’t see an issue with their actions.”

Aprox. 9 minute read
I came across the above-unattributed statement whilst scrolling my Facebook feed and whoa did it strike the nail right on the head! Whew! We need to talk about the people in our lives who abuse, shame, blame, and frame us! I would say especially this time of year, but no, these assholes are always dragging us down and we just allow it until, well, we don’t. I’m definitely of the “don’t” group more often than not, as I have learned far too many times the hard way that sooner is better than later with these jerks. Yeah, jerks! 😛
Okay, first of all, you can’t change someone else, in my opinion. You can influence, you can encourage and reinforce, but you can’t actually change another human being. Like, yes by knowing someone we all over time change, but that’s not what this is about. This is about the people in our lives we may, in fact, love, but who simply refuse to see how damaging or unreasonable their behavior is. Typically at first, it’s easy to forgive a misstep or misunderstanding. I am not an unforgiving soul, but I’m also not willing to be complicit in my own oppression. That is what this is really about!
I know it’s easier for some than others to cut someone out of your life. I have sort of become known for this trait. I don’t hold this as a positive or negative, only something that is necessary from time to time. Some may view this as heartless, cold, or unreasonable, but in most ways, for me, it’s been a matter of sanity and survival. Personally, this has been my bio-mother, friends, romantic partners/interests, and later my step-mother and finally my father. It’s never easy, or something you truly want to do. You want the other person to see how much they are hurting you or how they make you feel. I think all anyone really wants in their relationships is to be seen and understood and supported. When you look at the people in your life, do they make you feel seen, understood, and supported? Do you think you do that for them? It’s something to think about. (And Gaslighting is a real thing that happens more often than we can tell, check out this article on the topic, it was an eye-opener for me.)
I think it’s very telling (and vital) to pay attention to how you feel, that first natural feeling when someone’s name pops up on your phone (call or text). I think most of us ignore that fleeting feeling and move onto action mode, which is unfortunate. If you take a beat and a breath after that name pops up, what then? I think it’s a moment of honesty and self-reflection. If someone makes you feel gross, about anything, maybe give some space and time to that relationship and see how you feel in a few weeks. It will give you time to process your feelings and assess the relationship from a new perspective. It’s healthy! And often by doing so you can improve and strengthen that relationship! It’s not all doom and gloom! Haha! I have often advised friends who were uncertain about whether to break up with someone or end a friendship that they should change their phone contacts’ name for that person to how they make them feel. This way when they get a call or text they’ll see, “betrayal, shame, hurt” instead of Pat. Kinda forces you to think about it if it’s something you were avoiding. I have heard it helps. I’m just glad that Android and most social media settings allow for blocking certain people all together!
My step-mother lied to my entire family (had 3-4 different stories, depending on whom you asked) in order to get them to stop talking to me…for three years! What did I do? NOTHING! In fact, I went out of my way at every opportunity with her (agreed to let her legally adopt me as an adult) in order to keep peace within my family and make my dad happy. Ha! No one was fucking happy, doubt anyone is now, but I digress. No one ever told her that her incessant lying and manipulating was wrong. When my little brother asked her calmly and plainly why she lied to him as she was in the middle of the lie she would start to cry and go right into the next lie to get out of the first. Maddening! When my then-husband and I would meet up with my  family for dinner at restaurants, even when there was no present drama (she once burst into tears and threatened to make us all leave because her shrimp was spicy…she ordered the Cajun shrimp. *sigh*), I would fall into a deep depression for sometimes two weeks afterwards. Mostly due to how both parental entities interacted with my brother (telling him to shut up the moment he said a word), or outdated and offensive jokes they would later deny knowledge of. I didn’t even catch it myself, but my then-husband did. He hated seeing me suffer, and we talked about it.
Guess what? You’re an adult! (I’m guessing, but perhaps not. No biggie! I still think you get to decide for yourself who you allow in your life.) You get to decide who you let into your life and share space with. With the exception of work, I suppose. Can we all just agree to try to nip toxic behaviors in the workplace in the bud collectively? Cool. If you’re not one for confrontation, it is perfectly okay and acceptable and grown-up to let someone know that they are making you feel uncomfortable. There’s no argument against stating your immediate feeling. I prefer to tell someone to their face that their behavior is unacceptable, but your mileage may vary. Another helpful phrase I recently heard was, “We don’t do that here.” It’s a plain and neutral statement, no need for further explanation. Solid! In a society built upon white supremacy and misogyny, we all need to work together to keep these clueless assholes from continuing their reign of violence and idiocy!!! Ahem.
Yeah, I’m going there because we all need to fucking go there!!! Because some people who find themselves with a particle of power will find a way to abuse it! More often than not, this goes unchecked, maybe forever. I say fuck that! Life is too short and too precious to put up with that bullshit! Seriously, even in small doses or minor-seeming offenses, these things add up and they can tear people and families and companies and democracies apart! Microaggressions are real and they chip away at our self-esteem and hold us back from having the lives we work so hard for. It’s important to take a moment to pause and really consider how people impact us. Sometimes it’s our own behaviors exacerbating a problem or perhaps we’re just not seeing eye to eye and a sort of relationship stalemate occurs. This is pretty common, I think. Two of my oldest friendships are definitely there. I don’t think any of us actually hate or condemn one another. It’s just that we live very different lives and kind of forgot how to relate to each other now. This is natural.
Substance abuse has a huge impact on all of our lives. Though I haven’t struggled with addiction myself, I have been very close to many who have. It is heartbreaking what it can do to otherwise brilliant humans. After spending five years as a hostage in an abusive relationship with someone addicted to many substances, I became hyper-aware of those behaviors in others. I once had to walk away, though temporarily (thank the universe), from even my oldest friendship because I felt unsafe and was at the time unable to process those feelings and associations. I felt bad about it at the time, but I see now how integral to my survival it was, too. I do think it is okay to walk away from something you just know you can’t handle. It’s extra hard when you know that the person you’re walking away from isn’t the person you truly cared about, to begin with. Substances change people and turn them into monsters, though not always. I have a lot of compassion for anyone’s life’s struggles, it’s not an easy feat for anyone to go through.
At the end of the day, you have to look out for yourself. You can’t help others if you’re suffering, too! This is a life lesson I have learned, the hard way, repeatedly. I expand and contract with each new human I allow in my life and bond with. I trust until I can’t and then I never want to again, over and over. It feels sometimes as though everyone only wants to take from everyone else or they’re out to get you. I know it’s not true, but dammit if it doesn’t feel that way at times. Especially when going through tough times, it feels as though folks would rather watch you go down flames than offering any actual compassion or support. Yeah, that’s part of the reason why I haven’t been able to write for so long. When people make you feel unsafe or gross about being yourself: RED FLAG! I worked hard to become the person I am today, hot mess that I am. It is a journey and I don’t need fuckers throwing nails on my road, dammit!
Truth is, I’ve written about this subject before, but it was centered around fatness. I think this post does a bit deeper dive into interpersonal relationships, rather than our bodies. Our bodies are not the cause of other people’s behaviors, though they will claim that it is and that it’s all our fault, every step of the way. It’s not. You and I and everyone deserves to exist in the world and live the best life that they can! There will always be fat haters, but you don’t have to allow them into your actual life! You can tell them why, or not, whatever works for you. Fat acceptance is about autonomy, plain and simple! That’s it! Live and let live, ya know? I’ve had a few people cut me out of their lives without explanation, a couple even said that they honestly didn’t know why, and then continued to not want to communicate after and I respect that. It’s not for me to decide what’s best for them. Nor is it anyone else’s to decide for me. Autonomy! Woo!
Are you struggling with certain relationships in your life? Are you dreading interacting with certain people? Are “The Holidays” giving you anxiety because of certain people you feel you can’t avoid? Have you cut someone out of your life? What other relationship struggles are you dealing with? Let’s talk, discuss, and share!

Thank you so much for your continued love and support! I have been truly touched by the kindness and generosity of the readers of this blog. My fat community has been such a bright light in a dark time. You have my undying gratitude and affection!

Rad Fatty Love to ALL,
<3
S

P.S. Check out and use the hashtag: #FatAndFree on Insta & FB!

If you are able, please consider donating any sum you see fit to support and keep the blog alive until I’m back on my feet again. It isn’t much to raise ($150 for hosting), but I am hoping enough people can donate a buck or two in order to keep this little safe space alive another year. I have more things I want to share with you and some exciting fat projects I’ll be partnering on soon! Stay tuned!

Donate here: https://www.paypal.me/notblueatall

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And as always, please feel free to drop me a line in comments here or write me an email, I love hearing from readers. (Tell me your troubles, I don’t judge.): notblueatall@notblueatall.com

When “The Holidays” are Triggering…or worse!

November17

(Image of small illustrated holiday tree with the following written above it:
Reminder: we don’t have to continue holiday traditions that leave us broke, overwhelmed, and tired.)

*Aprox. 11 minute read

I came across this image and text whilst scrolling my FB feed and I instantly clicked and shared it to my own timeline, but then it wouldn’t leave my mind immediately and I realized just how much I’m processing and working through so much of my own stuff around this time of the year. My own current circumstances may differ than many/most, but I hope to alleviate some of the negative things we all think about and carry with us through this complicated season. This isn’t about religion at all, for me or for this post, but more about family dynamics, consumerism, societal obligations, and general toxic behaviors. I hope you will comment below with your own thoughts and feels and advice if you have them to share. These thoughts and feels are my own, no matter how unpopular. Ha!

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The media and marketers want us to buy into the idea that “The Holidays” are about family, togetherness, giving, kindness, celebration, gratitude, helping those in need, etc. What that really looks and feels like in our actual lives is often very different. And even if it is still about those things, it doesn’t mean that’s what we’re actually feeling while in the midst of it all. It’s more often than not the most stressful, saddest, toughest, coldest, rudest, and most triggering time of year. I personally feel that the brunt of this hustle and bustle and work and emotional labor (not to mention the shopping, gift wrapping, housekeeping, cooking and such for these gatherings) falls on women almost exclusively, but that isn’t what this post is about. This is about the toll these things take on us. The impact they have on our quality of life and most of all the trauma we endure and ultimately have to carry as a result of it all.

Yes, I said Trauma. It’s a heavy word, but necessary. We are exposed to people, places, and things at this time of year that we just aren’t the rest of the year. There’s the travel aspect if that’s something you must go through to visit with family. As a fat bodied individual, you are subject to an entirely different set of rules if traveling by aircraft on a commercial airline. You may be forced to buy two seats, you may be forced off of a flight you’ve already boarded, you may be abused or assaulted by fellow travelers and even airline personnel. This is something we accept as part of the privilege of air travel, but it is traumatic. You can plan for everything, but the world still chooses (IT IS A CHOICE!!!) to oppress fat people throughout the world. It might be the only time of year you travel because of this. You might be preparing for your travels now and considering if it’s truly worth it or not. This doesn’t even bring the financial impact of air travel into this equation, but I’ll get to that shortly. You do this to be with Family! Your Loved ones! They would do it for you…right?!

Family traditions! Oh, the warm and fuzzy wholesomeness of being Home with Family for The Holidays! Right?! Isn’t that what this is all about? Every family has their own traditions and rituals or ceremonies. My family would go to Midnight mass after spending Christmas Eve at one of my grandparents’ home for a big dinner. The next morning we’d open our gifts at home but then rush over to our other grandparents’ house for the opening of more presents, followed by a full day and evening of family revelry. We’d usually get home late, exhausted (I often had to be carried to the car or into the house after passing out), but full of that family love that everyone hopes to have in their lives forever. I just didn’t realize I would only have it for 13 years. Ha-ha!

That’s not always so close to reality, that wholesome image. Often, families at this time of year consist of a variety of personalities, values, and beliefs. Sometimes those beliefs are outdated and downright damaging. But we’re expected to remain silent (especially women!) and “just try to enjoy the holiday!” So what exactly are we getting together to celebrate here? If we have to just shut up and sit down for this shit, we become part of our own oppression. Wait! Aren’t we supposed to be celebrating togetherness?!

Okay, okay…Family! Maybe your extended family isn’t toxic. Awesome! You sit around the dinner table passing all those delicious homemade dishes you’ve been looking forward to. Grandma’s pie and Auntie’s casserole, but the minute you take a helping for yourself all eyes are on your plate! If it’s only that you’re lucky. Often our worst food and body policing come from those who claim they love us most, Family. If it’s not monitoring your portions or actual food choices, it’s comments on your body, unsolicited diet advice, mentions of abusive ex-boyfriends (okay, that one’s personal), and more. I don’t care what they say, they are not concerned about your health at all! If they were they wouldn’t make you feel like absolute shit for simply inhabiting a fat body! It isn’t your fault! You have done nothing wrong!

The foodstuff doesn’t seem to end, really. If it’s not one holiday feast it’s another, or a potluck at work, it’s always something! And there is always some miserable ninny who will ooh and aah at all those delightful and delicious delectables, only to loudly shame and blame anyone actually eating the fucking food! I hate this person, and I don’t care who they are! This person hates themselves, hard! This person is mad at you for not feeling as bad as they do. This person will steal joy from a toddler! Seriously! Unforgivable! There must be some requirement for every company ever to hire this person. UGH!!! Anyway, fuck them, enjoy and nourish yourself!

The financial impact of this season is perhaps toughest of all. How many of us have gone into debt all in the name of giving? Or had to go without necessities yourself so that you could give to those you love? I get it. It’s hard to make those choices. And I don’t know what it’s like to have the added pressure of having kids who expect things this time of year. I grew up poor, but my grandparents always made sure we didn’t go without too much. Though being an 80’s kid (born in ’77, after all), it was the height of the toy craze. I’m kind of glad about this part in a way, I mean even now I never really want or expect the newest/coolest/hottest/top of the line anything! Ha!

For me, one of the worst parts of this time of year is the societal obligations and phoniness. People you know who outright hate you will somehow make you feel as though you should be buying them a special gift just for knowing they exist. Then there are the competitive gifters! You know the type. You think you got them a nice, thoughtful gift and then they get you something ridiculous like fucking plane tickets or some nonsense (I realize how that sounds, I’m a very untrusting human, because that very thing happened to me). There’s just so damned much you’re “supposed to do” because of what time of year it is and that just stinks, in my opinion! Even if you aren’t religious, there’s this whole American way of consumerism that drives folks out in hordes, and often against each other, all in the name of bargains. It’s disgusting. (I worked retail for ten years.)

Look, it isn’t all terrible. I love the smell of the crisp, late-autumn air! Few things in this world exhilarate me like that or fresh and new rains (it’s so rare in California, I cherish every drop!). The scent of douglas firs and pine and veggies roasting in a hot oven. I love giving gifts most of all and take it very seriously! But the pressures of the holidays are just too fucking much, dude! Gift giving is my love language and let me tell you, I have been hurt and burned far too many times. Now I hold back, I can’t just give because I want to anymore. Not just because I’m broke as fuck, but because often folks don’t know how to handle a thoughtful gift, given directly from the heart. It can be too intense for some.

I’m voluntarily estranged from my family as I write this. I’m also divorced, single (no romantic partner to speak of, not that I’m prioritizing that at all right now, obv.), and unemployed, living alone for the first time in my life.  I don’t know how to feel this year. Mostly just terrified for my survival, but aside from that, how does one celebrate when all of the trappings of the season do not apply? How can I not let all the past traumas of my life drag me down in my darkest hour as these dates approach? I am fortunate to have an incredible friend group who feels more like family (most of the time) than my own ever has. But they each have their own families to celebrate with. I’m not “Oh woe is me!” over here, I am simply looking at patterns and behaviors and society more critically these days.

I used to love Christmas! I would wear Santa hats and eat a candy cane every day with glee! In my town, we have a Candy Cane Lane where all the houses in the neighborhood decorate and the fire department gives out candy canes to the kids, and families and couples stroll along the sidewalks in the evenings. It’s really lovely and special (and you probs have one in your town, too), and I miss all of those feelings that used to go along with all of that. I miss my grandma and my aunt Jo and I can’t ever think about this time of year without them, their warm and inviting homes and arms, their cooking and hilarious banter. This year especially! I have never felt more alone in the world in my entire life! Not lonely, mind you. I just miss what family meant back when ya know? I miss the matriarchs of my family in a deep and cutting way I can’t quite put into words.

This time of year also brings up a lot of memories of my adolescence, like my first love. We met just 1 week before Christmas. I’d sneak out at night and walk around my neighborhood with them or sneak them in my window and just kiss and hold each other for hours. I don’t know how I never got caught! Ha-ha! It felt so romantic though, to be freezing cold out, but so full of warmth from a connection between two people. It didn’t last long, but it is still fresh in my mind and I just haven’t ever had to think about this time of year as a single, solo, independent human. It feels complicated! Ha! I’m glad to have my own space and safe place to live. I just miss having someone to stay in and keep warm with.

Facing December without a job is so tough! Most companies won’t start hiring until mid-January when the new budgets come out. So I have to just stick it out and hope for the best. I have been applying to allllll the jobs and have already had a bunch of interviews, but these things take time. Patience I have, but money I do not. I’m actually far worse off financially than ever before in my life, and I know I have published those exact words the last time I would out of work. I can assure you that this time it is far worse. C’est la vie!

I share all of my absurdities because I want you to know that it’s okay to question what has “always been”. It’s okay to not want to do things that you didn’t or don’t get to have a say in. It’s perfectly awesome to start or create your own new traditions and rituals, with whomever you choose! Seriously, what other point to adulthood is there?!  You get to decide what you will and won’t stand for in your life and in your celebrations. There will always be hard times, complicated feels and so much to navigate through this time of year. You can choose to opt out or to opt-in, in whatever way feels right for you!

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If you do not have a support system of your own for the coming festivities, I offer my unbiased and empathetic ears/eyes. Send me an email, take a load off your mind or chest or whatever, I get it and I’m here for ya! notblueatall@notblueatall.com I’m also on some other apps and things if you need real-time support. I don’t yet know what my plans are for celebrating if I even feel like it at the time. But I’m always glad to be able to provide some emotional support for someone who truly needs it.

What gets you through a difficult holiday season? How do you prioritize your own self-care? What helps you stay away from self-destructive behaviors when it’s so easy to fall into those traps? What is your favorite part of this time of year? Least favorite? How do you stay true to your beliefs when surrounded by others toxic behaviors? Do you have a new tradition or ritual you started? Do you have a fave handmade item or recipe you’re proud of? I wanna hear it all!

Thank you so much for your continued love and support! I have been truly touched by the kindness and generosity of the readers of this blog. My fat community has been such a bright light in a dark time. You have my undying gratitude and affection!

Rad Fatty Love to ALL,
<3
S

P.S. Check out and use the hashtag: #FatAndFree on Insta & FB!

If you are able, please consider donating any sum you see fit to support and keep the blog alive until I’m back on my feet again. It isn’t much to raise ($150 for hosting), but I am hoping enough people can donate a buck or two in order to keep this little safe space alive another year. I have more things I want to share with you and some exciting fat projects I’ll be partnering on soon! Stay tuned!

Donate here: https://www.paypal.me/notblueatall

My blog’s Facebook page for things I share that aren’t on this blog (and updated daily): http://on.fb.me/1A18fAS 

Or get the same “shared” content on Twitter: @NotBlueAtAll

I also have an Instagram, I rarely use it but would like to more…encourage me to?:
https://instagram.com/notblueatall/

And as always, please feel free to drop me a line in comments here or write me an email, I love hearing from readers. (Tell me your troubles, I don’t judge.): notblueatall@notblueatall.com

A Rant: This Too Shall Pass?

July30

Um, so I’m in a bad place (temporarily) and the post you are about to read is a rant and a half, filled with profanity.

You have been warned.

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Trying really hard to see the silver lining, brighter side, etc, but just feeling super beat up by everything right now. I do all I am asked to, required to and more and nothing seems to fucking matter. I have to fight for everything, just to survive. I’m fucking tired of the struggling so hard! I’m exhausted physically and emotionally. I conserve and ration and plan and for what?! One step forward, two steps back and back and fuck you!

After weeks of back and forth and getting nowhere I finally figured out why two months of unemployment payments have not been coming my way: the state unemployment service (EDD) never updated my address in their system for debit cards when they updated it with my new claim. Way to fucking go! So while there is money somewhere for me, just sitting there all lonely like, I can’t actually touch it! Brilliant! I cut up my old edd debit card when my old claim ended. When I called to get a replacement I was told that they can’t issue me a new one until EDD updates my address in their system. Which would be at least another week anyway and my rent is due on the first.

So, what’s this broke fatty to do? I have to PAY $15 to get SOME of the money Western Union wired to me so I can pay my rent on time. I was in a real pinch and was considering putting my rent on my credit card (last month my amazing roommate paid my rent + utilities) so at least I can get some of it. But that’s not the point, right?! The point is that this government agency drops the ball and I have to pay for it. What the fuck else is new?!?! Poor folks always getting the fucking shaft from the government. Write a book about it already! LOL!

It sucks and it’s bullshit and it just gets slapped up on this massive pile of bullshit that I’ve been struggling with lately. I feel so fucking vulnerable because I’ve done all the things and have to just fucking wait for shit to happen now. Really?!? More waiting?!? Can things just start to happen for me now? Please?! I haven’t heard back about my latest job interview yet, but should this week. But please, if you know someone who is out of work, don’t fucking ask them about it all of the fucking time!!! It is just another brick in the face that is every fucking rejection, every damned day! Stop it! We know you care, caring is cool, but it hurts after awhile, the endless asking, “Have you tried XYZ?” “Have you heard back about XYZ?” “You should really look into XYZ.” Please just stop and give somebody a consensual hug!

I don’t get angry often, but I have to right now. If I don’t I’ll fall into a puddle and may never return at this point. I’ve been hiding out in my room, crying a lot and mostly just trying to process, be patient and heal. It’s fucking hard! I’ve been avoiding social scenarios because I’m not sure I won’t just cry the whole fucking time. I’ve had the luxury of a personal puggyman security detail since Saturday. My ex is moving into a new place and asked that I take the puggo until shit is settled. Which I don’t entirely mind, he did also bring me tacos de oro today, but I hate the open endedness of it at the moment. I’m sure he does, too, though.

The truth is, things are shitty right now for a lot of folks. I know it’s not just me. Most of my friends are going through some tough and/or horrible stuff at the moment. It sucks. I’m trying to be a good friend while also trying to take care of me but I feel like I’m failing on all fronts. I’m so insecure this week it’s fucking painful. Strangely, I’ve taken to liking being alone the last two days. I am fearful of others in small ways. Last night I was home alone with the two grumpy men (mine and my roommate’s dogs) and I was jumpy as fuck! Every little noise, every everything and I was a paranoid mess! I was literally shaking like a leaf when one dog started barking, because he was by the front door. I was paralyzed with fear. Then angry at myself for getting so worked up over nothing. *Sigh*

I have moments where I’m sitting or laying and wanting to get up to do something (or needing to pee) and it takes everything in me to get the power to actually do it. Like, I’m stuck or something. I hate it! This isn’t me, dude, this sucks! The people I want to be with most are or will be out of town this week. The few locals left are dealing with their own shit and I already feel like a burden just talking to them lately. I know I’m usually able to just get on with life and let go of the pain and hardships, but today is not that day. Ha!

Thanks for reading my rant. Tomorrow I’ll post pics of my NoLose 2013 Talent Show performance. Yay!

 

Fats Hating Fats

July25

I know that I no longer really use the term Fat Acceptance anymore, but for the context of this post I will. I have been a fat activist and fat acceptance blogger/supporter for many years. Gosh, how long has it been now? Well, I’m not exactly sure, but a long ass time. For me it all started with a copy of BUST magazine and the article about the U.K. Chubsters fatty gang. I immediate hopped online to discover all I could about  them and the movement they represented and talked about.

Soon I found myself jumping from link to link to blog to blog until finally happening upon the community that would change my life for the better: LiveJournal.com’s Fatshionista community. Without that community I never would have dabbled in fashion, question my own internalized fatphobia, learned to heal my relationship with my body, taken a helicopter ride over Maui (had to buy 2 seats and feared fat shame, so glad I did it!), started my own small business or this very blog.

I longed for fat friends, solidarity and community. It took awhile, but I did find it. The key was that I refused to quit no matter how hard it got. The first few meet ups I organized were disappointing. When I had my cafe there were times when no one would show up at all. Or the clothing swap where only four people came and I was left with a car full of left over clothes to donate. Slowly but surely though I met the right people and found my community in fat acceptance.

I have met some very famous fats on my journey but only one gave me that awkward “OMZ! I have your book!” feeling and moment. What I have found is that most fats, famous or not, are awesome people. I never had fat friends growing up and the few that I did hated themselves and the world, too. I haven’t always been fat myself, but was fatter than most and then some once I hit puberty. I had a fat bff when I had the cafe, but her refusal to accept my fat body and her constant self hate was too much for me to handle.

Years of attending fat events and conferences and meet ups and dances and picnics and more and I thought I knew what my local fat community was: awesome! What I hadn’t realized until the last year or so is how it is also very fluid. It changes and reshapes itself constantly. There are the veterans and the newbies and while I thought everyone was accepting and positive and loving and all of that, I was very wrong.

Even in a community where we share the same pain, oppression and battle against a society brainwashed by marketing schemes, there are still cliques and mean girl attitudes that continue to shock me. This past weekend I heard stories of fats hating fats. Of famous fatties saying things like, “I’m fat, but not mid western fat!” or terms like “Forklift fat” and more. I’ve heard disabled fats feeling invisible or worse, that their needs were “just too much.” It seems even in a community where we bond over our mutual struggles in the world, there is still so much room to grow in just loving and accepting each other. The worst is the whole “good fatty versus bad fatty” mentality. It has got to end if we are to make any progress outside of our own community.

Racism is an especially vital subject that often isn’t addressed in the fat acceptance realm. Racism is something I have been keenly aware of, an activist and ally against and a struggle in my own life as far back as I can remember. In a space like No Lose I learned so much last year in the anti racism workshops and white allies group on Facebook. I had no idea until then what a privilege I have by having grown up in such a diverse community (the San Francisco Bay Area). I was looking forward to doing more of this type of work and learning this year and was excited to jump back into the tough dialogues and conversations necessary to make this community inclusive and safe for everybody.

What I hadn’t thought I would hear in such a space is how I and other white allies, regardless of the work we do within our community and at home, would be reduced to nothing but a skin color. I heard a story from a fellow fat that in seeking information to coordinate for a workshop they were told, “I’m not talking to white people this week.” and dismissed. Had this person given them even a moment to speak they would have thanked them for helping them through a difficult time last year, but they never had the chance. It breaks my heart to see past connections broken like this. I have no idea what caused this, nor is it my place to guess, but it was still a surprise and in an activist space I do not think that this is okay.

From the No Lose page:

NOLOSE* is a vibrant community of

fat queers and our allies,
with a shared commitment to feminist, anti-oppression ideology and action, seeking to end the oppression of fat people!  

I did not see this philosophy or attitude at the conference itself. The workshops I attended did not once mention solutions, healing, community support or even open discussion. It seemed to be more of a sharing of painful stories, anger, frustration and experiences thing and not a workshop at all. I understand and support having a safe space for connecting and bonding over shared pain and experiences. I think that it is important and vital to have this, but not alone. There needs to be more of a creative mindset, I feel. There were caucuses for this, but workshops? Nothing was “workshopped” in my eyes. At least not in the five or six workshops I attended.

No Lose may provide a more revolutionary space than the straight world has to offer, but it is not the inclusive utopia it strives so hard to be. There is work being done, don’t get me wrong. But the work and solutions versus accusations and calling people out and insisting upon accountability without making it safe to do so just isn’t happening or working. In a previous post I was put upon to hold those accountable who bullied me at the conference. If you’ve ever been bullied you know this is not an easy task, often it is impossible to feel safe to do so.

I was minutes away from a full blown panic attack when I was physically pushed aside by a smaller fat. This was moments before the talent show began. When it was time for me to hit the stage there was an issue with the mic stand on the stage (I needed it moved in order to dance) and then my music started late and I could barely hear it and I forgot all of my choreography. The moment I left the stage my panic attack hit me harder than a brick wall and I ran hysterically crying up to my hotel room. By the time I’d composed myself and calmed down enough to re-enter the conference space again, everyone was gone. The dance party was canceled and so I chose to hang out with some awesome people in the bar for an hour instead.

The following morning was my volunteer shift bright and early and then the Sunday Salon where I read my controversial piece “Fatty Dancer” and things would never be the same again. Not once did I feel safe enough to report or hold accountable the people that bullied me (physically or emotionally, there was way more than the pushing incident). There was so much going on, and in the end, what would it have accomplished? All I have ever wanted to be is myself. I fight for the right to be me and to live the life I want to live everyday in the straight world. I didn’t have it in me to fight for that at No Lose. Perhaps that is on me, so be it.

Since no one is willing to tell me exactly what I have done wrong, what specifically in my piece hurt people or is racist, I cannot see that anything with it or me is wrong. I was held accountable, I got up in front of the entire conference and acknowledged the pain I’d caused without knowing how or what caused it. In an activist space I expected more information, compassion and discussion. There was no discussion that I was allowed into. Many superfats felt invisible in a conference where the social currency was fuckability and always the smaller fats deemed more popular/accepted.

I wanted to quit being an activist due to how I and other fats were treated. But fuck that! I am an activist. I have always been and always will be an activist! I may not always have the spoons to speak up for myself but I almost always want to help and stand up for the underdog. I know the work I have done and continue to do can speak for itself. My events are inclusive to all. There is talk and sharing of pain and struggle, but always with a message of healing and connecting and community. No one is an island, but we all know what that feels like.

Living in a fat body in western society is hard enough. We are the embodiment of many people’s worst nightmares. Those on either end of the spectrum of oppression get it worst of all and that doesn’t take or give to anyone else. We have to stay connected and work with each other and for each other in order to make things right. Hating people you do not personally know is continuing the oppression you claim, as a fat activist, to want to end. What the fuck is that about?! We can do better! So stop spouting hate about who is or isn’t in your cool fatty club and realize that you’re harming all of us by doing so. There are so many great minds and vibrant voices being silenced and shut out. I refuse to sit idly while this happens. I will not be silenced and I will not stop working towards something better. Please join me.

Rad Fatty Love to you ALL!
<3
S

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Lose 2013: Sunday Salon Submission “Fatty Dancer”

July24

This is the piece I submitted and read to the attendees of No Lose for the Sunday Salon. A lot has been said and assumed about this piece and about me because of it. I have reflected and acknowledged that people were hurt by this piece at the community feedback session that same day (see my quote/response and thoughts below).

No Lose 2013: Sunday Salon Submission  “Fatty Dancer”

I want to tell you that I am fat. I want to tell you that I’m a dancer. But the truth is I haven’t always been either of those. I started dancing when my toddler feet hit the ground, but I was a weird, skinny kid who always felt awkward and ugly. At age five I was at a friend’s house dancing to the radio when her sister came in and told me, “What do you think you’re doing? White girls can’t dance!” I was crushed. I ran home crying and begged my mother to change me so that I could dance once again.

As friends went to dance lessons and gymnastics, I stayed home and danced in my carport. I pretended there was a grand ball or a life changing showcase for all to witness my amazing dance skills. I danced with my bff to the radio and cassettes. We had dance routines for everything! We had big dreams and bigger hearts. We loved to dance and refused to stop.

Junior high meant social dances, just like in the movies. Only, the big song of the day was “Me so horny” and I was boy crazy! Puberty hit and with it so did a lot of other stuff. Drugs, boys, depression, weight gain…these things are common, for sure, but for me it felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders, too. High school was a special kind of torture. I fell in with the “wrong” kids and started cutting classes, experimenting with drugs and sneaking out at night to kiss boys in graveyards.

By the time I met my abuser I’d forgotten all about my dancing days. Somehow I thought having a boyfriend was the biggest priority. Oh if I could shake some sense into my fourteen year old self! Meeting that individual would change the course of my entire life. I spent the next five years as a hostage in my own home. Every aspect of my life was controlled by him. I would spend so much time in my head and retreat and disconnect entirely from my body. I had to. I disconnected to protect myself from the abuse. I would fantasize about escaping, about being saved, about evaporating into a vapor. I did not dance for those five years.

When I finally escaped I was 19 and didn’t know who I was or how I fit into the world. At a size 20 I soon realized that I didn’t. I wore baggy corduroys, baggy t-shirts and coordinating flannels to hide what my body had become: fat! I was in a new town with a new job and no idea what my life was supposed to be now. I’d been given another shot at a life, but I was so depressed and unknowingly suffering from PTSD that I mostly just sat home and cried a lot. Soon my old friends came back into the picture and insisted I get out and dance!

We tried dance clubs where we could get in, but not being 21 made that tough. Until they talked me into going to a goth club in San Francisco called “The So What” and it was like a light bulb moment for me. I fought and resisted, “What is this goth shit anyway?” I complained. But they dragged me there kicking and screaming with smuggled in liquor and the promise of a good time. I didn’t believe them for a second. Until we hit the dance floor and this industrial band was playing and in a flash, I was in love!

The fashion, this different style of dance so new to my eyes. I was among the freaks and the weirdos…my people! They were free spirits and moved as they pleased, on their own, no couples! This was fantastic and I soon fell right into it! I bought a cassette of the band (16 Volt) playing that night and tucked it into my back pocket. Years  later I got to meet and hang out with those dudes in San Jose. So cool!

I went back to that club with friends and on my own. Sometimes I would go just to have a space to dance without people judging me. It always felt so free and right when I would dance there. It was when I first tried to love my body. I wore an oddly put together mish-mash of lingerie pieces and satin and random chains and crosses. I didn’t know how to do my own make up and would just sort of smear black eye liner here and there.

When I met my future (and now ex) husband, he wasn’t into dancing at all. He went with me to the goth club once but just stood against the wall, I’m sure trying his best to have a good time. I never went back. Later, that club closed and I never found one even close to as good as that.

13 years later, after so many careers, pitfalls and even running my own cafe, a friend talked me into going to FFE (full figured entertainment) in Oakland. I hesitated, but then figured I was in good fat company. I’d been a fat activist and blogger for some years and felt comfortable in my own skin. But dancing? I thought I was “too old” for the club. Ha-ha! I didn’t really know how to dress, but went with it just the same. I didn’t know most of the music but I picked up some new dance moves on the floor and had the best time! Soon I found myself returning to FFE with my friend as well as others. I got to know the club promoter, Tigress and even tried other dance clubs.

I did find a goth night in San Jose, but it will never be anything close to as awesome as “The So What” but what can ya do? It was perhaps a moment in time. I go to 80’s and new wave nights, I go to goth nights and sometimes I go to a local BBW club when my friend talks me into it. I’m not into the whole BBW scene, but when you’re with the right people and dancing you kind of forget about all of that other stuff (at least I try to).

When Tigress asked me to join her in a dance duet for Big Moves Bay Area’s spring show “En Masse” I said yes without thinking. I had not performed on a stage in seventeen years! I had moments of doubt and insecurity, but Tigress was awesome and we had so much fun busting our humps rehearsing for the show. I had never before experienced that whole “runner’s high” thing until those rehearsals. I get it now! It is a wonderful feeling. It is addictive. I fell in love with dancing all over again!

What was amusing to me was how few people knew I could dance or that I enjoy it. Some friends were shocked, others cried at my performance and many thought it would be a very different style altogether. Okay, they thought I’d be doing a bunch of booty shaking, which I’m obviously not opposed to, but they were so not expecting a serious number from the likes of me and Tigress. Ha-ha! I love that! It was such an honor to be a part of “En Masse!” It was a fantastic show and I would have attended even if I wasn’t in it.

I felt like a bit of a phony at first. These other girls had been performing and rehearsing and who was I to be in this big amazing show?! But they were all so kind and supportive. It was an emotional journey for me as well as a physical one. I had some childhood stuff come back to haunt me but worked through it with some major help from my friends. After our tech and dress rehearsals I had so many people tell me how fantastic our piece was that I couldn’t believe it. Then after the two performances, to see the looks on my friends and new boyfriend’s faces?! Well, that is priceless!

I felt a bit of loss after those shows were over, though. No more rehearsals? No more laughing and being silly with Tigress? Nothing to look forward to or work towards? I was in mourning for dance. I hit up the club as best I could, but that local BBW club’s DJ is the worst ever and it just wasn’t filling the dance gap. When I saw that No Lose was looking for people to be in the talent show I signed up, again, without even thinking. I had no ideas, no song in mind and no inspiration. I had to dig deep for that one! Ha-ha! I wanted to do it just to keep dancing.

I want to tell you that I am fat. I want to tell you that I’m a dancer. And I am both of those things now. I spent far too much time away from doing the thing I love to do that I just cannot stop now! I want to be the dancing granny on YouTube, in a dancing grannies dance troupe! I want to take every opportunity to move in a joyful way! I often say that human connection is the spice of life for me. Conversation is my drug of choice and listening to my glorious gut will never steer me wrong. But now I also know how very powerful movement can be.

I used to watch the Big Moves performances and be in tears the whole time. They were tears of joy, mind you, but inside of me lived an ache for dance. A knee injury and lack of health insurance kept me fearful for so long that I thought I could never do it. A little low-cost acupuncture here and learning to stretch properly there and being mindful and connected to my body now and I can honestly say that I have never felt better!

I know and love every roll, lump and wrinkle on my body now. I feel like I own my body and don’t just lease it. I had to learn how to eat things that would support my body better as well as my dancing. Because, leg cramps!!! Ha-ha! When people see me dancing all night long, all arm fat flailing and rump shakin’ goodness? I no longer care what they think of me. I’m having the time of my life while they’re holding themselves back. I cannot worry about that or them. I can only worry about what the next song will be and how I am going to bust all the moves when it hits! And when “California Love” comes on? You better clear the dance floor because that is my jam and I am going to get down! Ha-ha!

It took me 35 years to get here. To be the dancer I always wanted to be. To love the incredible gift that is this body, all 325 lbs of it. To understand and heal and appreciate what it can do for me and where it can take me. As it changes shape, I get to rediscover and reconnect with it. My grandma often told me, “Never get old, Sarah!” and while I can’t promise anything on that note, I can honestly say that I feel so much younger now than I did in my twenties. I no longer carry the weight of the world, I only carry my own. And I am happy with that.

Now I choose to celebrate life with every step…Dancing!

This is what I said at the feedback session later that day in response to several people saying that they were hurt by this piece, that it is racist or has “clear racist undertones” and I felt I needed to respond and respect their feelings.

“I want to acknowledge that people were really hurt by the piece I wrote for this morning’s salon. This was not my intention. I wanted to share my lived experience. I am going to take some time to reflect on it and I do not want to place that responsibility on anyone else. Racism is something that I work on in my life everyday and will absolutely continue to do so. Thank you.”

I never thought I would ever in my life be accused of being racist or that something I wrote would or could have racist undertones because of how and where I grew up and how and where I live my life now. I have always been committed to equality for all and work very hard within my communities to create a safe space for everyone. I know it is not the responsibility of those who were hurt by this piece to educate me on the how’s and the why’s. At the same time I do not at all understand but I want to very badly. I understand accountability and mistakes and I would absolutely admit to such an occurrence. What I don’t yet fully get is how sharing my lived experience has hurt people.

I don’t consider myself an ignorant person, despite the fact that I’ve had only up to a 9th grade education. I work very hard to be informed, educate myself and be involved in community and activism, not just in issues of size acceptance. I consider myself an ally to the oppressed and feel that everyone’s story is important and should be heard. When we take away the voices of others, when they are silenced and shut down, we continue that oppression.

I have done a lot of thinking on this and discussed it with others. It was brought up that perhaps how I was dressed/presented myself that made me appear a certain way that isn’t actually true of my real life. I was dressed in my Sunday best because I was speaking in public to a large audience. I felt safe to do so. I had planned my outfits over many months and was excited to get into my costumes for No Lose.

I would and could not hurt someone intentionally. I do my absolute best to not hurt anyone ever. To have my words twisted and misrepresented is hard and painful. What was worse was getting thanked and called brave for apologizing from other white folks when in fact I hadn’t apologized. What hurt more than that was not feeling allowed to talk about it, to question it or to ask what I could do to make things right. I have survived so very much in my short life, I help other survivors and those who are currently struggling, all of the time. I do it because I care and because I have been there. I am a compassionate individual but also a very publicly vulnerable one. This has taken me years of work to get here and I’m finding it hard to stay true to myself while carrying the burden of fear and shame along, too.

If you have questions, please ask me. If you have a comment, please leave one. I am always open to discussing things. I don’t pretend to know everything, far from it, and always seek more knowledge. I do realize that putting myself “out there” carries a risk. I have always accepted that risk. I want to be responsible in my vulnerability and compassion, though. Fat people get enough shit thrown at and on them and it has been a real eye opener to see that come from other fat people (not just on the subjects of this post). I hope that together we can improve things so that everyone feels safe in our community. I am willing and ready to continue to do the work.

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