NotBlueAtAll

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

Live Longer Through Community

April17
I’ve read a few articles lately about the one thing allows people to live longer and healthier lives and I was not at all surprised, though many have been. It’s feeling connected to community. I can honestly say without hesitation that without that connectedness, without my local fat community, I wouldn’t be here. Fat community keeps me alive when even I don’t want to be. That is the truth in it’s purest form, folks. I have gone through many big life events in the last ten years and fat community was there for me at each and every turn.
Your community may not be fat, it might be queer or feminist or all three of those things at once. Your community may be nature fungi foragers, only you know what your identities and people are. How does one find their community, though? Ultimately, that is something I cannot answer for you. I can say that you have to seek it out, that it may suck at first, you may feel more lost or unconnected, but you should definitely keep trying! My first several attempts at fostering fat community locally failed, but in the end I found my peeps and some lifelong friends, too.
My fat community finding/fostering began with setting up a meet up at a local mall. I think I posted on Fatshionista, a LiveJournal group that I adored and was popular at the time. It was more of a “Hey would anyone be interested in meeting up and going shopping together?” We met up at the Cheesecake Factory and it was my first time meeting folks of size outside of work/school/life things. I was still new to calling myself fat in a positive way. It felt radical to be meeting in public as fat people, we took up space and then some and it was awesome! We ordered our food without guilt, though other needs were discussed (for medical or other reasons). We chatted and relished stories of coming out as fat, so to speak. We had about 12 people, if memory serves me, from the entire spectrum of fat (babyfat to superfat, if you will).
After we ate we decided to hit up Torrid in the mall. I had only ever been to Torrid once or twice at that time, I didn’t really have a sense of my own style as I had spent my youth hiding beneath layers of baggy clothing to conceal both my fat body and my femininity. But I was soooooo stoked to be in a fat pack of awesome people cruising the mall together. Torrid didn’t know what hit ’em! One couple bought each other sexy things to wear and even modeled for us and it was so fun and empowering and visually dazzling! I bought two heart necklaces that I still own and wear regularly (I cherish them, even if they are plastic).
Next we headed to Lane Bryant, the only other option in that particular mall. At LB I did try on clothes and had fun with some of the other folks from the meet up in the dressing rooms. Just that feeling of, “Oh hey this is cool we all get that this is hard so let’s make it fun” sort of a thing. Like tossing each other things to try and others running to get each other different sizes. I recall a classic trench coat I had wanted badly, but even their 26/28 was ill fitting in how the buttons gaped. We discussed sizing bullshit and size-ist bullshit and it was a great time. I never really heard from or saw those folks again, save one.
I tried several more times and once I opened my own cafe I started a regular one on Saturdays there. It was great to have my own space and to host, something I’d never been able to before. Accessibility being a struggle, always, it was so important to me that my own cafe be open and inviting to all, but it was also a historic building where there were no ramps. My meet ups there were intermittent in attendance, but I was there and hopeful for every one we scheduled! More often than not, no one showed, but I shrugged it off and kept at it. Luckily I had also started this blog around this time and got to meet some of my readers this way. I made great friends at that time and some I still consider tried and true, though I’ll admit that others have come and gone, for better or worse.
I first realized that I had fat community, and that I was (am) fat community at a Big Moves dance show, the first I attended. It was also my first time going strapless in public and I was accompanied by my two bffs. I had chatted with Marilyn Wann online about something (honestly can’t recall) and we were to try to meet each other after the show. The show itself was a life changer! Never before had I seen such joy embodied entirely, start to finish. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much! After the show we waited outside, but Marilyn never showed. Through happenstance we asked a nice person nearby to take our photo. It just so happened to be one of the original Fat Lip Readers, former professional portrait taker, and the ever lovely and fabulous Carol Squires who supports Big Moves to this very day!
I did end up meeting Marilyn Wann at my cafe not long after. She signed my copy of her book, “Fat! So?” and even made me feel better about a haircut mishap I was feeling bad about (though the front was hella cute). Through these meet ups and Fatshionista and Marilyn, I was riding high on my fat activism and positivity at that time. It was 2011 and International No Diet Day was an epic event for me, still is. I met people at that “Flesh Mob” that I still call friends (I have written about it here).
Soon I was attending NAAFA and NoLose conferences, BBW Dance Clubs and a Bash and figuring out where I belong, if I belonged at all. The short answer is that I didn’t belong, at least not in those specific groups/conferences. So I started Fatty Affair, which was a fat positive event in San Jose, California, free to the public, that included performances, a clothing swap, a bake sale and vendor tables. It was intended to be a one-off event, but turned into two; the first in 2012, the second in 2013. I have had many people ask me about another (some downright demanding), but alas we outgrew our awesome venue and I have yet to find another suitable spot for our fabulousness.

It seems through all of the great fat things I was doing and attending, I gathered my own version of community close to my heart unwittingly. I began performing with Tigress in the annual Big Moves shows. I started to find power in my vulnerability and a strong sense of responsibility to do the very things for others that were such an inspiration to me before I was part of that world. That is what keeps me going. It’s a belonging, it’s a connectedness, but it’s also a community of misfits.
When you think about community as a basic word, we often think our neighborhood or schools, associations we may be a part of. When you think about what you truly feel connected to, when the chips are down as they say, what do you envision? Do you see your city council members or mayor? Do you see the PTA? Do you see your family and friends? What makes you feel most fulfilled and connected? For me that has been fat community, hands down.
I was recently out of work for a spell and not just down on my luck but truly heading towards dire straits. My blog’s annual hosting bill was looming and as the deadline drew closer I was afraid that I would have to lose it entirely. I didn’t want to ask for help, but didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t need to look far, my local fat community stepped up in a big way! I was so surprised and moved! It actually got me back into writing again, too! My blog saved and so many people wishing me well and sending good vibes and love, I felt connected and seen and humbled and inspired. You can’t put a price on that.
Rad Fatty Love to ALL,

<3
S

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