I am what is known as an “in-betweenie.” I am, as this lovely post describes, neither a size 8 nor plus size. I am “in between.”
“Wait a second! If you’re NOT plus sized, why are you even writing about this?”
Couple of reasons that don’t just have to do with the importance of society as a whole learning how to treat fat people as, you know, PEOPLE.
One, now that I’m vaccinated (House Pfizer), I’m about to get a physical for the first time in three years. Normally, I go every *other* year, because I’m not managing any chronic conditions, so there’s usually not much change from year to year. Well, I was due to go in March 2020, so that didn’t happen, hence three years.
In the interim, the practice I go to has moved locations and basically the entire staff of doctors has turned over. As I mentioned, I’m an “in-betweenie” but according to the BMI chart, I am just a hair shy of “obese.” The primary care physician I used to go to and I understood each other on this front, though. After my first few visits with her, where every single time, she’d look me over, look my chart over, and ask: “Did they record your weight correctly?” she finally asked: “Do you think you might be unusually dense?” I don’t think she was trying to politely call me stupid, and yes, among other things, I’m negatively buoyant. That is, I’m denser than the amount of water I displace, unlike most people, who can float. I exercise a lot, my numbers are good, so I never got The Talk about how I’d Be So Much Healthier If Only I Would Lose 25 Or Better 30 Pounds.
Well, now I’ll be seeing a new doctor. And I have to admit, I’m anxious that she’s going to hassle me about my weight. And I am not looking forward to that.
The utter contempt with which the medical establishment treats fat people is well documented – and obscene. The fact that anyone, anywhere would be worried that their doctor is going to be too busy judging them to provide competent care is unacceptable. And yet that’s the reality that FAR FAR too many people face. And you know what it doesn’t help anyone do? Be healthier.
On a more positive note, there’s been some great Fat Acceptance stuff happening in pop culture lately. I can highly recommend two shows: Dietland (if you like your humor EXTREMELY dark) and Shrill (if you want a little sweetness with your incisive social commentary).
Both are based on eponymous books, by Sarai Walker and Lindy West respectively.
Dietland follows Plum (Joy Nash) as she learns to stop apologizing for her existence as a fat woman in concert with the rise of the Jennifer movement, which seeks to visit consequences on criminal men the official justice system has allowed to avoid them.
Shrill follows Annie (Aidy Bryant) through the normal ups-and-downs of being in your 20s: feckless boyfriends, fighting for career opportunities, supporting your friends even when you don’t agree with their choices, parental illness, etc. But Annie is also fat, which impacts all those things, as she works through growing up and coming into her own as a woman and a professional writer. And Annie *never* apologizes for her existence as a fat woman, even if some of the people around her can’t always deal with that.
And that’s what I wish for all of us – thin, fat, in-betweenie – radical self-acceptance and NEVER apologizing for who we are.
Image of Fat Acceptance movement activist Maui Bigelow found here (and you should go read the post).
The Republican response to President Biden’s recently-proposed bill is to start nitpicking which bits of it are not “real” infrastructure. That’s because even Republicans have a difficult time keeping a straight face attacking infrastructure. But if they can break off bits of the bill and say, “Why THAT’S not infrastructure!” they hope they can dismantle the whole thing. Of course, that’s silly. Lots of bills have some clauses that are added on for various reasons. And Biden’s bill is actually called The American Jobs Plan, so any parts of it that create jobs or make things easier for workers belong in the bill.
Generally, I don’t think it’s worth playing the Republicans’ game. Parsing what is and isn’t infrastructure is how they want you to spend your time because when you do that, you’ve already mostly conceded that the “other” stuff isn’t worth funding. (It’s the same game as when we ask for gun safety laws and they want to debate what kind of gun is or isn’t an automatic weapon.) But infrastructure is “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.” The Republican argument focuses solely on the “physical . . . facilities,” — roads, trains, bridges, maybe the power grid. But that’s only one kind of infrastructure. Infrastructure is also the “organizational structures . . . needed for the operation of a society.” (emphasis mine)
There are several reasons why Republicans want to define infrastructure as narrowly as possible, but I’m going to focus on a big one: unconscious (well, mostly unconscious) sexism.
We tend to think of the things that women need as their personal needs and not the “organizational structures needed for the operation of a society.”
So if you bleed for several days every month, that’s all on you. You pay (often with added taxes of the sort added to cosmetics) for the necessary supplies. You use up your sick days (and you get the same number of sick days as men, who don’t have cramps). You manage the mood swings and other things that go along with menstruation.
Similarly, in our society, it’ still very much the case that women are responsible for the vast majority of child care. And, again, because it’s something that women need, we view child care as a personal need, not as one of the “organizational structures needed for the operation of a society.” We provide almost no parental leave. And we certainly don’t provide any form of child care outside of schools — which generally don’t take children under five and which have schedules that don’t match up with people’s work schedules. Employers aren’t required to provide on-premises child care nor are they required to pay women the extra amount needed to pay for child care.
Yet, there’s little that makes it more difficult and/or financially infeasible for women to work other than child care. Elizabeth Warren, who was a law school professor at the time, tells the story of the time that she almost quit her job over child-care issues. And there was no “organizational structure” needed for the operation of society that she could lean on. Child care was viewed as just one of her own personal needs that she had to take care of. Luckily for Warren, her 78-year-old aunt basically gave up her own life to come and provide what society would not. But we don’t all have one of those aunts.
Now trains, and bridges, and even broadband internet: men need those things. So, sure, they’re necessary for the operation of society. But things like child care — things that mostly women need — those are too “soft” to be infrastructure. But without child care, there may as well be a big river with no bridge between a woman and her job.
So let’s not let them get away with writing OUR needs out of existence.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates a burning people, those whose land is starved of blood, civilizations which are no longer holders of the night. We reconquer with our feet, with our tongues, that dangerous language, saying more of this world than the volumes of textured and controlled words on a page. We are the gentle rage; our hands hold the stream of the earth, the flowers of dead cities, the green of butterfly wings. Cinco de Mayo is about the barefoot, the untooled, the warriors of want who took on the greatest army Europe ever mustered—and won. I once saw a Mexican man stretched across an upturned sidewalk near Chicago’s 18th and Bishop one fifth of May day. He brought up a near-empty bottle to the withering sky and yelled out a grito with the words: ¡Que viva Cinco de Mayo! And I knew then what it meant— what it meant for barefoot Zapoteca indigenas in the Battle of Puebla and what it meant for me there on 18th Street among los ancianos, the moon-faced children and futureless youth dodging the gunfire and careening battered cars, and it brought me to that war that never ends, the war Cinco de Mayo was a battle of, that I keep fighting, that we keep bleeding for, that war against a servitude that a compa on 18th Street knew all about as he crawled inside a bottle of the meanest Mexican spirits.
Another point about having a relationship with your landbase, about being the Witch of Your Place:
Get to know your house. Now, after a year of COVID, that might sound odd. Surely by now you know every room, closet, cabinet, and corner almost too well. But what about the Spirit of the house? As an animist, I believe that everything has Spirit, has consciousness, has a life. And houses certainly do. Whether you live in a centuries-old farmhouse or in a newly-built apartment on the 23rd floor, you home is alive and it wants to know you.
You can start by finding out as much about it as possible. Zillow will probably show you at least the last few owners. Land records may tell you more. What was the land before the house was built? Farmland? A campground? Wild space? (I recently learned that my home sits on land that was cedar forest, which makes sense because when I moved here, the sense I had was of a spirit made of cedar wood being very curious about what I was and why I was coming here.)
But I also want to encourage you to talk to the house. Maybe the first few times you do this, you’ll want to cast sacred space, call Hestia, and formally introduce yourself. Tell the house that you are coming to it with an open heart and that you want to be in right relationship to it. Ask the house to tell you what it wants you to know. If it helps you, stare into a candle flame, or mirror, or scrying bowl and listen to what the house has to say. Houses often communicate to you with scenes and scents, so don’t dismiss those as “just my imagination,” or “my subconscious,” or even “a random event.” If you ask the house to tell you something and you hear creaks coming from the guest room closet, open your heart and go investigate. Maybe that’s where you need to sit to meditate with your house. After a while, talking to your house gets to be kind of like talking to a constant companion and can be less formal. Although annually, maybe on your move-in date, it’s nice to do something more elaborate. (The Romans celebrated Vesta’s feast day around June 7th, and that’s a lovely time of year to throw open all the windows, sage all the rooms, sprinkle lavender water in the corners, pour a bit of oil or spread some bay leaves on your hearth (yes, you have one even if you don’t have a fireplace; it may be your microwave) and sing your house its favorite song.)
Which brings us to the fact that houses, in my experience, like presents. My Moon is in Taurus and somehow I wind up in homes that like EXPENSIVE presents, but the presents that establish relationships don’t have to be costly. When I moved into this home, I gave it a bag of locally-produced cornmeal on the mantle for a few days and then scattered the cornmeal in a circle around the house. A good cleaning (especially now in Spring) can be a gift to your house and a window washing is something EVERY house loves. Sometimes, even gifts for you can make the house happy: a tool set so you can make small repairs as soon as they’re needed, new matching towels for the bathroom, new batteries in the smoke detector (really, you should definitely do this as an act of magic, calling in protection for you AND the house). Houses also love plans — after all, nearly all of them started as plans on a piece of paper. So making a plan for annual maintenance or for weekly cleaning can be a satisfying way to show your house that you’re as serious about doing things for it as you want it to be about doing things for you.
When friends move into new homes, I was taught to give them bread, a beverage (often wine), a candle, and some salt. I say, “May you never hunger. May you never thirst. May you always be warm. May your life always have savor.” What gifts would you like your friends to give your house? Do you ever talk to your house? What rituals do you have?
For the first time in my adult life, it’s been 36 days since my last period.
Now I did turn 50 this year, so this might be perimenopause. (It also might be that I’ve had both of my Pfizer shots in the past three weeks, and no one thought to study whether there were any impacts on periods until vaccinated people started reporting menstrual irregularities. Period stigma? Seems like.)
But it’s got me thinking about how much silence and shame there is around all phases of bleeding: menarche, bleeding, reproduction, menopause.
(WordPress tags both perimenopause and menarche as misspelled words.)
At least with menarche, there’s some cultural recognition that this is a good thing.
I was eleven. I woke up with a stomachache, but, being the Tracy Enid Flick type I was, dutifully got on the bus anyway. By the time I arrived at school, I had started to bleed. It was before the first bell rang, and a male teacher was on duty, and I was NOT taking this issue to him, so I went to an older female friend who took me to the school office where the secretary called my mom, who picked me up and took me home so I could get myself cleaned up, and then later took me to the mall and lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant. Later that weekend, my dad and I were working on a school project that required some construction, and while we were in his workshop, he awkwardly congratulated me and told me he was very proud of me. Sweet, if mortifying to a preteen.
Over the next several years, I learned how to manage my period. In the beginning, at least for me, it was irregular in arrival time and volume. Which, because my shitty christian school was rigid about everything, including how much time we were allowed between classes for things like getting to the bathroom to manage periods, resulted in breakthrough bleeding more than once. Humiliating, at least in part due to period stigma, which made the blood itself embarrassing and made it too embarrassing to ask for extra time between classes. As a young teen, I couldn’t figure out how to work tampons and was too embarrassed to ask anyone – more period stigma – so I suffered more than my share of these incidents, because pads shift and handle the gush of blood that comes when you’ve been sitting for, say, 45 minutes in class and then stand up way less effectively than tampons do.
Anyway, eventually I figured it all out and things settled down. The first year we were married, I went on the Pill, but me and it did NOT get along, so my spouse, who’d never minded condoms in the first place, was like, “Dump it and let’s use condoms,” and so for the past 30 years, my cycle has continued on its merry way completely unmolested.
I even left bad cramps behind by my late 20s in part because I stopped trying to tough them out. No one is handing out awards for being there all miserable. Starting to hurt? TAKE PAIN MEDS, DOPEY. So since my 20s, my cycle has been like clockwork, and I have to admit, it’s been great.
OK, well, the expense of pads and tampons every month for 30 years, and the cramps, periodic headaches, bloating, breast tenderness, occasional breakthrough bleeding on clothes or sheets (inconvenient at home, mortifying at, say, a business meeting or in a hotel bed – period stigma strikes again!), and every once in a while, the arrival of my period giving me a massive case of the shits hasn’t been “great” exactly.
But knowing almost to the hour exactly when all that was going to hit was.
I never got caught in hour one of a flight to West Coast all: “Shit. I have nothing on me. Which flight attendant looks the nicest?” Or on a business trip all: “I have work to do, but first, where is the nearest goddamn Walgreens?” Nope, I always knew if I needed to pack a box of tampons, make sure I had pain meds in my Dopp kit, and make sure I had black pants to wear on the necessary days.
Likewise, if we wanted to plan a romantic trip, as long as I did the math right, we could plan something 12 or 18 months out and know I’d be in the clear. Sure, plenty of people like to have sex while bleeding, but being crampy and bloated and bleeding to the point that sex would leave the hotel sheets looking like a crime scene has never really put me in the mood.
Well, that certainty may be becoming a thing of the past.
And we don’t talk about it. We prepare the young for the start of all this, but we don’t prepare the middle aged for the ending. After all, who is more invisible, more ignored, considered more insignificant, more ridiculous than the menopausal woman?
I’ll be picking up a copy of the fabulous Dr. Jen Gunter‘s The Menopause Manifesto when it comes out later in May (and if you don’t follow her on Twitter, you really should). My mom is not much help – she was still bleeding, heavily, having suffered from fibroids (another word WordPress doesn’t recognize) for more than a decade, by the time her doc was like, “Lady, you are 56 years old, and you’ve been dealing with anemia and heavy bleeding for ten years. Let’s get this uterus and these ovaries OUT.” So her experience of menopause was…abrupt. And perhaps not terribly applicable.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs — Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Photo by the blogger. If you copy, please link back.
I’m kind of hate-watching this series. The Welsh countryside is lovely, but the writers appear to believe that people walking into rooms, saying something, and getting no response at all from the other person makes the show edgy or dark or something.
As much as I liked the Queen’s Gambit, this sort of bothered me about that series, as well. We get it. You think the actress’ eye liner is cool. But long shot after long shot just lingering on her make up gets, well, old.