This Is How We Do

Over dinner:

Thor:  Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom!  Do you know what Nathan Hale’s last words were?

Me: ” Urrk glurrrg unf” *flop*

Thor:  *eye roll*  That is not right.

Me:  “Help me!”

Thor:  Not right.

Me:  (in my best JFK voice)  “Ask not what your country can do for you…”

Thor:  Wrong.  And wrong accent.

Me:  (in my best Patrick Henry voice)  “But as for me, give me liberty…”

Thor:  *sigh*  Wrong quote, wrong accent.

Me:  (in my best Forrest Gump)  “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country!”

Thor:  Mom.  Seriously.  That’s the right quote, but the way wrong accent.

Me:  British?

Thor:  Probably.

Me:  Hm.

This kid makes my world go around.

This kid makes my world go around.

Thor:  Do you know how he was captured?  Nathan Hale?

Me:  Oh, yes.  The British set out a trap for him.  It was a really big box with a stick holding it up, with a piece of rope tied around the stick.  They put a pie in the shadow of the box because Nathan Hale was known to love pie.  He was walking through the forest, saw the pie and just went for it.  He loved pie so much, he didn’t even notice the box, the stick, or the string.  When he crouched down and started eating, the British pulled the string, which dislodged the stick, causing the box to fall over Hale, capturing him.

Thor:  Wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Me:  Oh!  It was cake?  Not Pie?

Thor:  Mom.  They sent in a spy, who was pretending to be a double agent, and that spy got Hale to confess that he was a double agent, so they captured him and killed him.

Me:  I like my story better.

Thor:  Your story is better, but mine is right.

B:  *never says a word–just keeps eating his dinner*

Rolling Down Hills, and the Climb Back to the Top

Originally posted on The Outside Lane:

When I was little, I loved rolling down hills. It was thrilling and exciting to lie down at the top of an incline, make my body into a straight line, then bump bump bump bump flop flail boink my way down to the bottom in a mess of giggles, hair, and grass stains. I’d get to the bottom, run back to the top and start again. Lather, rinse, repeat until I’d made myself so sick, all I could do was lie on my back and watch the clouds until my stomach settled. It was good.

I don’t know what happens after we die. I know it’s comforting to believe that we’ll be reunited with loved ones. I know it is satisfying to believe that bad people will be punished. I know it is psychologically validating to believe that we are more than just the sum of our small lives, and…

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Let’s talk body image.  But let’s start with one of the reasons I hated Pitch Perfect as vehemently as the majority of theater goers loved it:  Fat Amy.

Pitch Perfect fans, stick with me.  I’ll explain, then I’ll explain some more.

I won’t confuse Rebel Wilson with Fat Amy, but I will take umbrage at the idea that it is okay to laugh at fat people if they call themselves fat first.  It is never okay to make fun of someone’s body.

Let me say that again:  It is never okay to make fun of someone’s body.

People got excited about Fat Representation with Wilson.  For me, plopping Rebel Wilson down in the middle of the rest of the Bellas was sheer tokenism.  Representation should mean a statistically proportionate show of X in a group of Y.  In a sea of Hollywood-sized beauties, we had one spotlighted overweight girl, who was presented as the gross-out character.  She was barely human.  She was one zit-pop above John Belushi’s character in Animal House

The Fat Girl couldn’t be the smart one, or the one with the best voice, or the one with the A-Plot romance, or the one struggling with any issue other than her weight.  Because, you know, Fat Girls exist in a bubble outside reality where they only worry about dieting and finding a man who is willing to touch their lard.

Fat Girls aren’t out there getting law degrees, finding cures for diseases, worrying about their 401k growth, or raising babies.  They are just eating and crying, or eating and letting you in on the joke of their sad, Twinkie-filled lives, agreeing with you about how gross they are.  Fat Girls aren’t people. 

Fat Girls are jokes.  That is not representation.

That was my 3rd biggest problem with Pitch Perfect, and how it was presented as a refreshing option for fat people.  My biggest problems were what a terrible human being Anna Kendrick’s character was, and the sloppy writing.

Rebel Wilson is in trouble because she, an actress, lied about her age, her name, and her socio-economic background.  I’m not sure why this shocks anyone who has ever heard of acting, but it’s raised some scandal and in addressing it, Wilson threwback to her Fat Amy character in saying her real name was “Fat Patricia”.

I started wondering about what Rebel Wilson owes us as an audience, and decided she owes nothing but a good performance when we’re paying to see her work.  The rest?  Come on.  We’re not paying to learn about her mundane life, to paraphrase Cate Blanchett’s beautiful statement regarding the possibility of her having had lesbian love affairs, last week.  We’re paying to see, god help us, Fat Amy.

What does Fat Amy owe us? 

Fat Amy owes us less than Rebel Wilson does.  Fat Amy owes us what we owe each other:  Basic human decency.

I was thinking about buying a new swimsuit, so I’ve been trying them on here and there, just for fun.  There is no lighting so unflattering as that of a dressing room, and there are few moments with such potential to destroy a woman’s self-confidence as those spent in said ill-lit dressing rooms, squeezing bodies into lycra casings.

I wear a size 16.  At best, when I put on a swimsuit, I can expect it not to look too bad.  At worst, I can throw out my back laughing.  People, there are some badly made options out there.

Last night, I went over to Ross and found seven different suits to try on.  All the suits were the same size, save for one, which was two sizes bigger just because I wanted to see it on.  The one I liked best was too big, and the one I liked second best was designed by someone who did not understand that putting a seam up the center crotch of a ladies’ swim-bottom means her labia will end up occupying entirely different halves of that bottom, like when Marcia and Jan Brady put the tape line down between their beds, and neither was allowed to cross over.  You don’t want Jan and Marcia fighting in your bikini bottom.  It draws all the wrong kind of attention.


Here we see the Jan and Marcia suit while the sisters are still being friendly.

Anyway, the suits I avoided trying on were suits with tags screaming INSTANT MINIMIZER! and SPANX! and MAGICALLY SLIM! and REDUCES TUMMY!  Why?  Because for the love of pete, if I’m going swimming, I want to be able to actually move my parts and breathe.  The last thing I need are jokes about me having beached myself because I am gasping for air in my Spanx suit. 

Also, because a size 16 is a size 16 no matter what you stuff it into.  If it magically reduces your belly fat, that’s probably because it has squished the fat around to your back, and is bubbling up over the straps in a place you can’t see it.

And also, because I don’t owe anyone my perfection in swimwear.  My body is not a problem to be solved, and I thumb my nose in the general direction of anyone who thinks it is.

Your body is not a problem to be solved, either.  Are you fat?  That’s okay.  Are you skinny?  That’s okay.  Are you Cindy Crawford?  Thank you, I like looking at you. 

You don’t like looking at me?  That’s okay.  Don’t look at me.  But don’t ask me not to exist because I am the sight that makes your eyes sore, and not the other way around.

In preaching to the choir (because I know if you are reading this, you are delightful), let me say these things:

1.  If you own a mirror, own your reflection.

2.  Understand that you are not your body.  Your body is just the costume your soul is wearing.  If you love your costume, wear it with pride.  If you don’t like it, change it.  But do not let anyone else tell you there is anything wrong with it–you are the star of your movie, and you are in charge of the wardrobe.  No. One. Else. Gets. To. Pick. Your. Costume.  Only you.

3.  Understand that it is okay to love your Body Costume the same way you love your favorite outfit.  Anyone who tells you different–anyone who gets upset with you for liking how you look has bigger problems than you can imagine.

4.  Stop looking at People of Walmart pictures and laughing.  Don’t do to someone else, what you’d die if someone else did to you.  You don’t know those people, or the hows, and whys of what brought them to the day someone snuck a photo of them for the purpose of mockery.  Those are human beings.  Those people are not Fat Amy. 

5.  Find ways to appreciate other people as forms of art.  Everyone is a different genre, from your realists to your abstractionists.  Enjoy them the way you would enjoy something wonderful in a museum.  You don’t have to want it hanging on your living room wall to recognize the value of it.  You can simply appreciate it for what it is.

6.  For a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous literary representation of a girl who happens to be fat, read Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell.

You Guys Are Awesome

Now that the dust has settled from that last post…whew!  People, thank you for the kind responses you made, and those of you who contacted me privately with your own stories, thank you for trusting me.  Please, don’t carry things like that alone.  Find someone you trust, or find a stranger (because sometimes that’s easier) and unburden yourself.

I think what you’ll find is that sharing your story not only helps you, but also creates opportunity for others to heal.

With that said, I’m going to put in a quick plug for your local rape crisis center.  Find out where it is, and support them.  Women and girls, men and boys, and the elderly all suffer, and your rape crisis center is sometimes the only emotional support a child, young person, or senior adult has access to. 

Think about how hard it is to share a story like that, then multiply it by police stations, emergency rooms, and evidence collection kits.  We need crisis centers, who are there to help people pick up the pieces, and hold it together before, during, and after the authorities and health care professionals do their investigations and necessarily intrusive examinations.

There.  I’m exhausted of being serious!  Let’s talk about something fun.

Have you read any good books lately?

I develop serious relationships with books, so it isn’t easy for me to read fiction.  I approach fiction like I approach friendships.  I want to find out all about the book before I commit to spending any amount of time with it.  If I like it, I’ll keep coming back to it, until it has become a part of me. 

If I’m not happy with what I find out about the book, no matter the recommendations, I am just not going to take it to coffee.  Nope.

Non-fiction, I’ll gobble up happily, any time, any day, don’t really care.  I love memoirs, but those don’t become my friends like other books have.

And then, there are the books I loved so much, I will only ever read them once because to read them again would only bring me the pain of realizing I can never get back to that first time experience.  Where’d You Go, Bernadette is one of those.  If you haven’t read that, you are cheating yourself.

Slummy Mummy is a book I read over, and over again.  The protagonist reminds me so much of a friend that I hear her voice in my head as I read.  Oh!  Your Voice In My Head is another book I won’t ever read again, but loved.  Non-fiction, memoir.


24 Years, 3 Feet, and 100 Hours of Therapy

I have written before about my date rape experience, and why I support rape crisis centers.  I’m pretty much an open book when it comes to all that.  I don’t mind talking about it because I’ve worked very hard to heal the damage done, and because my voice might mean the difference between hurt and health for another person.  I also don’t mind talking about it because Raped is not who I am.  Rape is only something that has happened to me.  Lots of things have happened to me, and believe me, 90% of those things eclipse that one night.

I’ve tried to write this post about six times now.  I’ve been very long-winded.  I’ve been very brief.  I’ve been gentle and I’ve been strident.  And, I’ve had to admit that as much growing and healing as I have done, I’ve still got some to do.  I’m trying it one last time.

You see, a couple of months ago, a man came into my office and sat down at my desk.  It wasn’t too long before I realized that the reason he looked so familiar is because the last time I saw him, he was laughing about how he had just forced himself on me.  Twenty-four years had added brawn and gut, and his hairline had receded like low tide, but it was him.  The only thing separating me from the adult version of the teenager who had done so much damage was about three feet and a hundred hours of therapy.

My panic default is Charm School politeness*, so once I was assured he hadn’t made the connection to me, I switched into Stepford mode, got through the encounter as swiftly as possible, then ran into the bathroom to hide until my heart quit pounding.  I texted a most trusted ladyfriend, and called on my cyber-posse, who all made me feel better with a lullabye of what kinds of terrible things could be done to him.

Then, I pulled myself together and went back to work because…what else was I going to do?  I couldn’t very well hide in the bathroom for the rest of my career.

I went home and told my husband, then spent a few days worrying, but decided to deal with it the way I had the first time.  Quietly.  I called our employee assistance hotline and I asked for some advice.  They were mostly concerned with getting me to a rape crisis line, so I had to explain repeatedly that the incident was a quarter of a century gone by–that I have coworkers who weren’t even born when it happened–and that I just needed an idea of what I could do to avoid future contact.  They weren’t really equipped to advise me on that.

Who is?  I mean, the guy didn’t recognize me.  I never pressed charges.  It isn’t like he’s a convicted felon, or I have any reason to request him being barred from our office.

I waited another couple of days, and I told my manager, asking for confidentiality.  I didn’t want my coworkers to know.  I didn’t want to have to explain it all again.  There’s the kicker.

While I don’t mind talking about what happened to me in the context of:  This terrible thing happened once, and I overcame it.  I totally hate talking about in the context of:  This terrible thing happened, and this is making me feel vulnerable again, and I am afraid–not of him, because Lord knows I am a different woman today and I would not hesitate to take off an ear, gouge out an eye, and remove his favorite part–but of how seeing him dredges up all the old panic, hurt, and reminds me of how helpless and weak I was.  I do not like looking weak.

So, I tried to laugh about it.  I tried to make it seem like it was nothing.  Whistling in the graveyard.  Lalala.  No big deal, just FYI, you know?

Last week, he came in again, and he came to my desk with another request, and this time he called me by my name.  My name is not on my desk, and I was not wearing my badge, and there is no way he would have known my name other than having been previously introduced.  After I concluded the business by passing him off to my manager, he came back to my desk, called me by my name again, thanked me profusely, and left.  It was a good ten minutes before I realized he had recognized who I was.

This time, I didn’t run to the bathroom.  Instead, I rounded up my coworkers and I told them who he was, and why I wanted help avoiding him.  And I accepted the hugs, and the hand holding, and took my sympathy lumps because these are good people who care about me, and who hate that someone hurt me, so my pride has no place between them and me.

But it is embarrassing!  And I think that’s something people don’t understand.  You get raped, and you are embarrassed by all the accoutrements of the violation.  When you say the word rape, you are including a whole list of words you don’t normally share with people, and you expose yourself in a way that comes with more baggage than a celebutante on vacation.

The great news is that a transfer has come through for me, so I won’t be at that office much longer, and while I am there, my coworkers are watching out for me.

What’s kind of funny is that for the past several weeks, I’ve been dealing with depression and some serious self-esteem issues (all while I was at LTYM and should have felt like a rock star!) and I couldn’t pinpoint why.  Him coming back into the office put a fine point on it, and it hit me tonight that it was just all the old stuff coming up again.

Back to work on myself for me, it seems.

Still, I faced him and it didn’t break me.  That’s huge.  I’m not broken.  I am strong.  And I’m still me.

*Charm School polite only comes out when I feel threatened personally.  When it’s my family being threatened, I turn into this Tasmanian devil of Alabama ugly.