childhood · feelings

Mom School

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Me at 16, before I understood anything about hair, makeup, or clothes, in St. Peter’s Square, on my trip to Rome, standing in front of a 1,000 year old olive tree, in the year 2000

I’m currently taking a continuing education course through the city to get a certificate as a medical billing coding specialist.  It’s the kind of practical thing my mom has always hoped I would do and I have always run as fast away from as I can.  We meet in a 6th grade social studies classroom. It is like going back in time.

Apparently, not much has changed in the 6th grade. There is even a laminated poster of a kitten and a dog cuddling to teach us about friendship that looks as if it has been hanging there since I was actually in the 6th grade.  I can’t read the text on the poster because unlike when I was in 6th grade, my vision is terrible.  I need new glasses but I can’t afford them.  That’s just one thing I’m hoping to correct by taking this class.  I’d also like to visit the dentist.  It’s only been, what, 15 years?  That’s the kind of life I’ve been living, while avoiding classes like this.

I feel as competitive as I did back in 6th grade, when I was a teacher’s pet, above average, honor roll, gifted, always the first to finish quizzes. I’m getting B’s now, but I’m getting them fast, damn it. Most of my classmates are older than me, but I am not feeling so young here, just one of the reasons I refer to it as “mom school.”

The instructor isn’t great. She doesn’t teach much, just flips through the material and adds in missing info that will be on the test. She takes questions with a sarcastic sneer and answers as if we are errant children.  It’s as if the surroundings of this classroom have mistakenly convinced her we are actually a group of rowdy 6th graders, as opposed to quiet, responsible middle-aged women who are here trying to get a leg up, a career change, a job with benefits, some respect in this world. She wears dark teal scrubs to teach in and I’m not sure why.  I don’t know if they’re from her day job, or if she has to, like a uniform or something, but to me it feels like a power play.  She already has the job we’re all hoping to get, and it separates her from us.  She has something we don’t.  Maybe I just don’t like her attitude so I’m looking for more things to dislike about her, you know, the way I did in middle school.

The 6th graders who haunt this social studies class during the day, are learning about the Roman empire.  Scrawled across the white board is one of their assignments.  They are to write an obituary for a roman citizen.  Relevant details include, profession, social status, family, cause of death, etc… I love this assignment.  I cannot tell you how much I wish this was my assignment and not the one I currently have.  Every nerve ending inside me is buzzing at the nostalgia I have for 6th grade, wishing I were back in this class for real, and not struggling to absorb the dry regulatory jargon of the desk job I am learning about in more modern times.

It is not lost on me that back when I did learn about the Roman empire, as much as that sort of thing fascinated me, as much as I needed it, I have never found a practical use for the information.

I have actually been to Rome, something I’m certain most, if not all the kids in this class have never done, hell, my own middle-aged classmates may have never done it either.  I have seen all of Rome’s greatest hits: The Coliseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Sistine Chapel, etc…

It was a trip that totally changed my perspective on life.  I was 16.  I grew up poor, but I also grew up special.  I am American.  I’m white.  I’m an only child.  I went to decent schools.  I worked as a Sandwich Artist at Subway for a year, my first job, to save up for the trip.  It was my first job that came with a W-2 anyway.  I was always working.  I threw papers with my dad.  I babysat.  I cleaned houses, long before my foray into sandwich artistry.

I saved every dime except for $15 from each paycheck. (The $15 went to very important things like Taco Bell and movies.)  Before my trip to Italy I had never fully realized what a small part I had in this gigantic world.  I had never been somewhere as crowded as Rome. I had never seen a structure as large as the Coliseum.  I had never seen any place so old, so ancient, so artful or chaotic or stylish.  I had never eaten Gelato.

That place, that trip, was a revelation for me.  It was the first time I experienced any real sense of independence.  Even though the trip was chaperoned, we were given a long leash.  We had lots of free time to shop & explore.  We were supposed to stay in groups but socially I was a total outsider with these kids and often wandered off on my own, not wanting to do the same stuff as the others.  We had to go out and find our own lunch every day.  It was the first time I ever had so much choice in feeding myself.  They let us drink wine at dinner.  It felt supremely grown up, and I constantly felt under dressed.

Everyone knows that teenagers tend to believe they are the center of the Universe, but I all of sudden had some concept of my place in the world, and I realized I had a lot more to learn.

It’s strange to find myself back in a classroom, learning new things, practical things, things that matter and don’t, like Rome.  That trip to Rome has never helped me get a paycheck.  These paychecks I hope to get as a result of this course will never make me feel like Rome did, or being young did.  If I save them up though, maybe I can go back to Rome some day.

That’s something that this course, for all its flaws, can offer me.  It can offer me some hope.  I may not like the teacher, but I’m grateful for her role in this.  I may not like feeling out of place, but it’s the step you take to transform.  My insignificance in this class, is just as acutely felt as it was standing in front of the Coliseum.  I am a grown woman sitting in a tiny desk, too big for it all, but still needy, like an 11-year-old kid.

When I complain about the teacher, my mom, who I am still living with, who is still the boss of me, at 33 years old, wants me to stand up for myself, to complain, reminds me I am a paying customer, that I spent money to be in this class and that I deserve to have my questions answered.

It’s the first time it’s occurred to me that I have any kind of power like that, not ever, not in my life, but in this class, because that’s how surreal it feels to be a grown woman in such a childlike environment.

Sometimes I feel selfish for wanting my own home.  Sometimes I feel selfish for wanting more money.  I think about people who are homeless, who are living in poverty, starving, who have lost everything, orphans, refugees, and I cannot believe that I would ever complain about my incredible fortune.

It feels wrong to want so much more than I already have, but is it wrong to want to feel like an adult?  Is it wrong to want to feel some autonomy, some responsibility?  I don’t think so, and I wouldn’t begrudge any other soul for wanting that same freedom, not me, and not orphans, and not refugees.  I have to want more if I don’t want to feel dependent.

The thing is, of course, that in America, independence comes at a high price, and if I want it, I’ve got to want money and I’ve got to work hard to get it.  Certainly, if I want luxuries, like trips to Rome, I’ve got to get on my grind, like I did when I was 16.  It wasn’t any more fun being a sandwich artist than it will be at my desk job, but it will give me hope, and it will give me purpose, and I will be useful, and I will be able to give back more in honor of what has been given to me.

After class last week, I was approached by some other students to form a study group.  It seems I’m not the only one who finds our instruction a little lacking and there are other people who are just as nervous about passing as I am.  I think we can help each other.  We agree to meet and to share answers the teacher won’t give us.  I’ve never been great at working in groups but it’s time for me to learn some new skills, so I’m going to try.  I want to go from getting the fastest B’s to the fastest A’s.

It’s Lent, and my little church has given us a book of daily readings.  The end of the first reading for today, Ash Wednesday, says:

We all have the power to let go of self-defeating thoughts.  What thought do you need to deny and release today?

I think it’s that I can’t be more, can’t succeed, that I can’t want more for myself, that it’s selfish to want more than you have, that there isn’t enough, that I am not enough…  It’s a lot, but it’s connected.  It is as connected as a 6th grade class learning about Ancient Rome, and a woman who has been there, learning about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which was enacted when I was just about the same age as them.  It’s all in the same room.

feelings · feminism · mississippi · motherhood · politics · protest · race · sexual assault · trump

Dear Trump Supporter, On #WhyIMarch

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I live in the deep south, where we don’t have snowflakes, we have thunderstorms, and let me tell you, we saw one today.  Hundreds of people showed up HERE, in Mississippi of all places, to march for women’s rights, to say that Black Lives Matter, climate change is real, love is love, and immigrants make America great, so you can save your insults, because we are not afraid of you.  We are the storm!

I want you to hear me now.

WE WILL NEVER SHUT UP.

I know why you want us to.  It’s because every moment that we resist, speak up, defend our rights, march, rally, tweet, blog, write, perform, sing, and generally take up space, you get a little uncomfortable.  That’s what being wrong feels like. It feels like embarrassment, shame, humiliation.  I understand.  I have felt all those things, and I empathize, but I also see right through you. Your defensiveness, bullying, desperate clinging to old worn out backwards ideas of the south, of faith, of God, of a twisted hypocritical morality are more transparent than the wrapper on a fruit roll-up.

Here’s what you need to know.  We will never get over it and move on.

WE WILL NEVER ACCEPT DONALD TRUMP.

The reason is simple.  Trump has crossed way too many lines, remorselessly, purposefully, to gain personal power.

You may be able to ignore his bragging about sexual assault, but as a survivor, I will never be able to do that.  Every time I see that man, I will remember his cruel, shameful, disgusting words on that tape, and every time they will remind me of my own assaults, of the many times I have been groped, harassed, and treated as an object. Every time he is physically near a woman, I fear for her safety.  I remember the many victims who spoke out against him.  I remember the many young beauty pageant contestants who claimed he violated their privacy and made them feel unsafe.  I remember the insults and the misogynist language he has used to humiliate and threaten women, on tape, for the whole world to hear.  I do not accept that.

You may be able to ignore his mocking of a disabled reporter, but I will never be able to do that.  I have too many disabled family members, have seen too much suffering, and carry way too much empathy and kindness in my heart to accept that.

You may be able to ignore his racism, but I will never be able to do that.  I am raising a woman of color.  I care more about her than I care about anything else in this world.  I care more about her future than anything else in this world.  I care more about her heart and soul than anything else in this world.  I would do anything for that child.  She is the number one reason I marched today.  I will not miss an opportunity to do everything in my power to make her path in life safer and more joyful.

You may be able to ignore his hatred of immigrants, but I will never be able to do that.  I know that had my family, generations ago, and the father of my child’s family, just one generation ago, not immigrated here, that I would not have my daughter, my home, my citizenship, and I know that this country would be worse off.  I cannot accept that.

You may be able to ignore his Islamophobia, but I will never be able to do that, because I know that the freedom I have to practice my religion, is incumbent on all people being free to practice their religion, or none at all, and that hatred is neither Christian, nor practical.

You may be able to ignore his lies, but I will never be able to do that, because I place a high moral value on the truth, on honesty, on facts, on information, on data, on science, and on integrity.

You may be able to ignore the damage he will do to our planet, but I will never be able to do that.  Science does not care what your opinion is.  Climate change is real, and if you don’t understand it, stop reading this right now, and get informed.  All you need to do is a simple google search and you will have a wealth of knowledge right at your fingertips.  Our world already has climate refugees.  We already have melting ice, disappearing habitats, natural disasters, drought, wildfires, earthquakes, rising oceans, rapid warming, grave economic, wildlife, and human loss.  At this point, it is not a question of if it will happen, but, how bad will it be?  Without a president who takes this seriously we will all suffer, gravely, our children and grandchildren most of all, and I do not accept that.

I could go on.  Trump’s list of crimes, frauds, insults, bullying, hate, lies, and ignorance, seems to get longer each and every single day.  The important thing to understand, is that there is nothing he can do to earn my acceptance of him, short of a remorseful public apology to the many groups he has threatened and insulted, followed by his immediate resignation, and disappearance from public life.

But of course, there is good news.  We do not need Trump’s permission to be kind, good, moral, just people.  We don’t need his permission to donate our (TAX DEDUCTIBLE) money to organizations that combat hate, help those in need, and help heal our souls.We do not need Trump’s permission to treat each other with kindness and respect.  We do not need Trump’s permission to accept and love all people, regardless of skin color, socioeconomic status, immigration status, sexual or gender identity, or religion.  We do not need Trump’s permission to register to vote, to organize our communities, to run for office, to volunteer, to take back the legislature in 2018, to support women, to fight for our rights, to protest, to make art, to be creative, to believe survivors of sexual assault nor to demand accountability and fairness from our government.  We don’t need his permission to raise an entire generation of strong powerful women, of future presidents, of leaders of the next revolution.

I want us all to take this moment, this day, where we made such an incredible, powerful, open, loving, and massive display of our power and let it be OUR INAUGURATION as the leaders we must be, and Trump supporters, when you live in a fairer, better, wealthier, healthier, safer country because of us, you can thank us later.  You are welcome to join this movement at any time.  There are no walls here.

 

 

 

body positivity · feelings · feminism · motherhood · politics

Goal Setting Video!

So this Friday I was supposed to only talk for a few minutes but FAIR WARNING I talk for like 20 minutes.  If you don’t have time to sit and watch the whole thing I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND. Here’s the basics, sometimes New Years Resolutions aren’t the right thing to do.  If you fail at them, give yourself forgiveness and a second chance, or third chance. Set goals that are important to you, that you want, that you desire.  THANK YOU in advance for watching this video!  If you like it, like, subscribe, comment, share, all that!

xoxo

Leslie

babies · feelings · motherhood

Love is a Battlefield

One of the most commonly repeated pieces of advice on parenting is “You have to pick your battles.”  The original quote is actually “choose your battles wisely.”  Oh, if only I had the wisdom to know.

I think this is true of course. I try, of course. I do let things go sometimes, except I have a toddler fast approaching two years on this screwed up beautiful painful dark evil wonderful healing psycho bi-polar planet and for her, battling me is a deep instinctual urge.  Most days it feels like she chooses every single battle.  She will fight whether I engage or not.

At the moment it feels like I am cursed to battle her over food.  After many years spent creating and then battling my own food issues, I am now doomed to deal with someone else’s and it’s not her fault but, she’s totally irrational about them.  I mean, I can’t blame her I guess.  So was I for a long time.

Where as I once longed for permission to eat anything I wanted, my daughter now longs for permission to eat only a list of pre-approved foods, which feels like it gets smaller all the time.

For the longest time she would eat pretty much any kind of pasta and she used to love lasagna.  I gave her some tonight and she wouldn’t even taste it.  As soon as she laid eyes on it she began loudly and obnoxiously rejecting it, shouting, “I don’t like it! I don’t want to!  I don’t like!” and pushing the bowl away.  Then she grabbed a little fistful and smeared it all over the table, then grabbed the spoon and flung it to the floor, then ran her cheesy saucy hands through her hair.

I halfheartedly went through the motions of trying to convince her to eat it, but I knew it wouldn’t work and it didn’t.  I’ve asked people for new ideas on how to get her to eat and everyone responded with stuff I’d already tried over and over again.

As a baby she tried everything and regularly ate vegetables and other healthy foods.  At school she eats everything they serve.  I am enraged with jealousy.  Her problem doesn’t appear to be the food.  It appears to be me.

I felt insanely defeated.  I let her have some blackberries and yogurt just to get something in her belly.  She then demanded a bowl of goldfish crackers.  I gave them to her.  She ate two and demanded I clean her up and let her get down.  I was too exhausted to fight her.  Dinner time is the worst.

Then we were sitting on the couch and she asked to watch Mickey Mouse.  This child is obsessed with Mickey Mouse.  She’s his biggest fan.  Given the choice between watching Mickey Mouse and doing just about anything else, she will always choose Mickey.  She has a little toy Mickey she MUST sleep with at night or all is lost.  Her favorite book right now that she has to read 45 times a day is a Mickey Mouse Christmas book.

But this is one of the areas where I have the total upper hand.  I control the remote.  I am the only one who knows how to use it right now, and I get the say in what goes on.  I’m fine with Mickey and his friends, but I would really like her to get back into Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which I like a lot better, and she used to love before Mickey took over our lives.

So I said to her, “Nope, sorry.  No Mickey because you didn’t try your lasagna.”

“How bout… Doc Stuppins?”

Doc McStuffins is her second most favorite show ever.

“Nope, sorry, no Doc McStuffins.  You didn’t eat any lasagna.  How about some Daniel Tiger?”

“No Daniel Tiger!  I don’t want to!”

“Well, how bout nothing then?”

“How bout… Daniel Tiger?”

I cannot tell you how good it felt to get her to ask for Daniel Tiger, even out of desperation for some screen time, lol.  It was an episode she hadn’t seen yet and she followed the story really well, afterward pretending to do the same things the kids on the show were doing. Then she asked for another Daniel Tiger!  I know it’s stupid, but I really needed that.

When we were reading books before bed, we went through this one that’s basically like a book of opposites with dinosaur illustrations.  Every page I ask her which is which.  If it’s happy and sad I say, “which ones are happy?” and she’ll point.  I ask her why and she sometimes has a good answer.  My favorite page of this though is the page that says, “Dinosaurs Cute and Dinosaurs Not.”  It has an illustration of two different sets of dinosaurs.  The “cute” ones are thin and attractive with a little bow and the other ones are big and bumpy and awkward.  I have never told her which ones are “cute,” but every night I ask her which ones are cute.  She always points at the “not” cute ones with the awkward lumps.  I have no idea if she even understands the word, but it makes my heart swell with so much love for her every time.  I love that she’s choosing the weirdos so much.  I love that to her the awkward dinosaurs are cute.  I will never ever correct her on this.

That is a battle I get to win every night for now.

babies · feelings · feminism · motherhood · politics

Afraid of Dinosaurs

museum-367730_960_720Ever since my toddler has started going to preschool three days a week, I have been amazed at the things she is learning. For sure, the things I love most, are the things she picks up from other kids.  She came home the first week and suddenly knew how to roll a car across the floor, something that had eluded her before, playing alone in our house where she showed very little interest in cars.

Today, she was sitting in the shopping cart at the store and we passed some toy and she said, “That’s 5 dollars.”

What?  I mean, I guess she could have picked this up from me or from TV in some roundabout way, but it was so specific.  My mother’s intuition told me this was some statement she was parroting back that she had heard a bigger kid say (she’s the second youngest in her class) while playing.  I have no idea if the toy in question was actually 5 dollars, but I doubt it.  It was just fascinating to me that we were in a store, she saw something and randomly announced, “that’s 5 dollars.”  I laughed so hard.

One of the more random things that she started doing a few weeks into preschool is coming up to me (especially when my attention is elsewhere) and saying, “Afraid Dinosaurs Mama!”  Then she asks me to “hold” or buries her face in my leg.  This is a little performance she does almost every day.  She comes to me, “Afraid Dinosaurs Mama!” and then I have to snuggle her.

As a mom, I sometimes find myself at a total loss for the right way to respond to something, especially seemingly irrational toddler things, especially when I have no idea where they’re coming from.  So I had just been holding her up until now saying, “Mama will protect you.  I won’t let any Dinosaurs get you,” and trying to figure out where this fear is coming from.

At first I thought maybe it was my step-dad stomping around the house, which can be kind of alarming, but she did it even when he wasn’t around.  Then one day at school, she pointed out a giant mural of a dinosaur on a storage building in the playground area of the school.  That could totally be it, I thought, she’s remembering this from school and… I don’t really know.

What I do know is that she wants my affection in this moment and she’s pretending there’s a dinosaur there to get it, so I give it, freely and happily.  I am her mama and I am not gonna let her down, but today it occurred to me to try something new as well.

I taught her to flex her muscles and say, “I’m Strong.  I’m Tough.  I’m Not Afraid.  I’m Brave.”

She LOVES it.  She still wants me to hold and cuddle her, and I do, but now it’s an even more fun game of putting on her “tough girl” face and repeating the mantra.  “I’m Strong. I’m Tough.  I’m Not Afraid.  I’m Brave.”  We did this about 90 times tonight because toddler.  It was an incredibly good feeling.

I needed it.  I needed to teach her something good.  I wish that I grew up in a time where these qualities were fostered in me, where being strong and tough and brave was as important for me as it was for the boys around me.  I learned them anyway, the hard way.

My mom has been trying to console me all day.  She knows I’m grieving over this election loss, over what it means for me and my daughter, for our rights.  I haven’t been able to let much positivity in.  I tell her, “Afraid Dinosaurs Mama” and she tells me, “I’ve felt this way before too.  We will get through this.”  She made spaghetti and it was so good.  She tells me my daughter will be the first woman president.

I am legitimately afraid for people’s lives.  I am afraid for soldiers who may be sent to another unending bloody war at this man’s hands.  I am afraid for Muslims, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, refugees, people of color, and women who will lose much at this man’s hands.  I am afraid of Black churches being burned.  I am afraid of schools falling apart.  I am afraid of nuclear weapons.  I am afraid of the never-ending bitter objectification of women.  I am afraid that so many people don’t care about that, or don’t understand it.  I wish these things were dinosaurs.  I feel better prepared to deal with dinosaurs.

But I have a daughter, and I have to teach her, and I have to hold her and protect her.

That’s the way forward.  Raise more women who know that they are strong, tough, and brave.  Support the women in your life who are afraid but still fight.  Hold women.  Protect women.  Teach them they are strong.  Teach them they are tough.  Teach them they are brave.  That’s how we change it.

body positivity · fat acceptance · feelings · feminism · weight loss

The Last Diet I Ever Went On

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A photo from my former “style blog,” where I stand posed like a flamingo and hold an ice cream bar.

Back in the early 2000’s there was a very popular diet book called The Skinny Bitch diet.  It was a New York Times bestseller, and a secret manifesto for an extreme form of veganism. You were of course, not to know this from the cover.  The word “vegan” isn’t mentioned at all in the marketing. Your first clue that it’s bullshit is that they have to lie to you to get you to buy it. Then when you actually read it, they sell you a vegan diet with compelling, manipulative and graphic depictions of animal slaughter.

The book goes much further than just mere veganism though.  It’s a highly restrictive way of eating.  No animal products of any kind (not even honey, because it comes from bees) and no sugar, no refined carbs, no processed food (unless it was vegan… hypocritical much?), strongly encouraged organic food only, and no caffeine.

For a lot of women who were sick of being fat (so all of us back then, and yes obviously, you could be sick of being fat without even needing to be fat, that’s how pervasive fat hatred is), this was a very appealing book on the surface.  It was like a sassy, edgy, cool diet book. It was marketed like chick lit, and for those of us tired of feeling sad and being on the sad Atkins diet or whatever, it seemed like this might be a diet book that would make us feel angry instead, which is much more satisfying.

The authors used really mean bullying language and lots of profanity; lovely little quips like “don’t be a fat pig anymore,” and “you need to exercise you lazy shit.”  I LOVED it. Let me tell you, for somebody who deeply hated herself, this book was like a breath of fresh toxic air.  The book hated me too!  Finally, I had semi-scientific proof that I was horrible.

This mean ass book had me MORALLY CONVINCED that following its every command was the right thing to do.  It was also a very convenient excuse for me to become the most annoying of all my friends and to have VERY STRONG OPINIONS about why this current version of restrictive eating was TOTALLY ABOUT LIKE THE PLANET AND STUFF and not because I hated my body and wanted to erase it somehow.  One of the ways the diet industry loves to convince you to buy their books and products and restrict what you eat is by convincing you that you have a moral obligation to do so.  Buy this or you’re bad- erase yourself or you’re bad- alienate all your meat-loving family and friends or you’re bad, and so on…

(P.S. I am not anti-vegan.  I know there are reasonable vegans out there who have great reasons to be so.  I also know that veganism is not a miracle cure for weight loss though, and that anybody selling you veganism as a weight loss method is not to be trusted.  A vegan diet does not equal a place in Taylor Swift’s Supermodel Squad.)

Naturally, the authors had totally bullshit credentials, so they wrote a diet book of course, which was cool because they were also already thin. We all know that naturally thin people are like, total experts on losing weight.  It’s kind of like if I had decided to become a mommy blogger before having my kid, even though I’d never given birth, because, I like totally have a mom. I was born!  Listen to me!

So needless to say, this eating disorder masquerading as a diet worked it’s magic.  I bought it all hook, line, and sinker.  I followed the diet in this book for months, to the letter.  I was very committed and yet remarkably, I never lost any weight.  There are lots of reasons why scientists now believe diets don’t work, yet we keep trying them, and I was no exception. I spent tons of money on this diet too, because it was so restrictive and it was like, only the most expensive foods possible were on it.  I was also starving all the time because everything was so low calorie I had to eat a ton of it not to feel hungry, then of course it would pass right through me and I’d be hungry again in what felt like minutes.

I remember the book telling me that skinny bitches only ate one piece of fruit for breakfast, that’s it, and only if we were starving could we have another piece of fruit. There is not a nutritionist in the world who would tell you one piece of fruit is enough calories or balance of nutrients to get you through an entire morning after you’ve not eaten since maybe 6 pm the night before, and that meal was carrots.

I talked about and defended this diet constantly in order to justify how annoying I had become, placing myself in an ever-spiraling cycle of being the most annoying person around.  I was super socially detached, because I couldn’t eat nearly anything I didn’t prepare myself.  I tried to save face a lot by just not eating in front of other people at all.

After months of this, eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore, but I was too embarrassed to admit to anyone that this totally unsustainable way of life was making me so miserable.  I never “got used to it” as all diets promise. So I developed this habit of most nights, after starving myself all day or just not having enough money to buy organic avocados and raw almonds for 3 meals a day, going to Wendy’s after work and eating their latest monstrosity, an incredibly delicious sandwich called the Baconator, that feels like eating a heart attack in physical form, with large fries and a coke.  I would shovel this into my mouth in secret in the parking lot of the Wendy’s, so nobody could see my shame, all the while mentally torturing myself for being such a failure.

Then in front of everyone else I would eat slices of orange bell pepper and talk about how much energy I had, even though I was constantly exhausted.

Then, one day while I was living my double life, I came across an article in O Magazine written by a fat girl about my size who had been dieting on and off for years and had stopped and embraced something called “fat acceptance.”  From what I remember about this article (which is very little) she talked a lot about her relationship with her mom and how she thought diets were actually making her gain weight, I think?  She said she had found peace when she started reading fat acceptance blogs.  This was the most shocking thing in the article.  These were literally like BRAND NEW words to me. Okay? FAT. ACCEPTANCE.  What in the hell was that?  I was instantly suspicious.

I was so fucking skeptical my eyes nearly rolled right out of my head, out the door and went off to live a life of their own somewhere without me and my confused ass brain, but the concept that there was something out there that might free me from this misery I was in was so fascinating I had to know more.

I googled “fat acceptance blogs,” with the same curiosity I would, “is Bigfoot real?”

The internet was a little different back then.  If you google this today, you get directed to feminist websites that have entire catalogs of articles written about this.  There’s a Wikipedia page for it.  There are dozens of actual books written about it.  There’s a whole glossary of new terms with which to discuss it.  Back then, it was a relatively small community of bloggers who wrote on their own individual blogs and shared information. It was insulated.  It was subversive.

I don’t know if I can properly convey how it felt to read these blogs.  Literally for the first time in my fat life (all of it post puberty) I felt like I mattered, but more than that, I felt like myself.  Truth bomb after truth bomb just flooded my consciousness.  Everything was just a resounding brilliant exuberant form of “YES!”  Fat people are people!  It’s not nice to make fun of people, even if they’re fat!  Fat people can be healthy!  Skinny people are sometimes unhealthy! Diets don’t work! You deserve love! You are a person! Your body is not bad because it’s fat!  Boom. Boom. Boom.

The fountain of all this fat acceptance wisdom seemed to emanate mainly from one place though, and that was Kate Harding‘s blog, Shapely Prose, where Kate and other bloggers dissected fat hatred, and proposed the radical feminist concept that fat people are people. She certainly wasn’t the only influential blogger, but she was definitely at the top.  She was whip-smart and was published and featured in bigger more reputable places than just her blog.  She also wrote about feminism and other things not related to fat acceptance. She had a ton of credibility and she is an even more respected and widely read author today.

Kate had inspired thousands of women to consider the possibility that they weren’t worthless horrible human beings simply because they didn’t look like Victoria’s secret models.  She had also written, really, the quintessential manifesto for fat acceptance which was and still is, the Shapely Prose FAQ page, in which she answered with sass, research, science, data, logic, and incredibly well-reasoned arguments why being fat is not a crime, it’s actually okay, fine, and not a moral failure.  I will forever be grateful to her and that community for speaking out and giving me this life line.

The thing was, not in a bullying way, but in a frank, in-your-face, truth-telling bad ass kind of way, Kate’s writing gave me similar feelings to what the Skinny Bitch diet had, but instead of angry shame it was more like angry feminist inner power, and this time I could tell, for whatever reason, that without a doubt, she was right.

Even at my most committed on the Skinny Bitch diet, I was dubious that it was trustworthy.  For one thing, I never became the svelte sophisticated glamorous thin woman I had been promised on the Skinny Bitch diet, and I had followed it to the letter for months, yes, even exercising.  I had just gotten sadder.

Nothing in my life improved from dieting, and I think it was this sort of rock bottom that allowed me to see the light.  I was depressed, unfulfilled, overworked, underpaid and not pursuing any of my passions.  I wanted to write but I wasn’t writing.  I wanted to do theater but I never auditioned.  I wanted a boyfriend but I detested my own body and appearance so much that men could smell my misery from a mile away.  I was a walking red flag.

I wasn’t in control of my life at all, and I was placing all my dreams and effort to make those dreams happen in the hands of a diet book written by self-proclaimed bitches.  It’s not like this was the first diet I’d gone on.  I had been on many before it, but this was the last one (and in my opinion the most evil).  I no longer wanted to be thin above all else.  I wanted to be a nice smart person and a good human being, and I started by being that to myself.

I forever gave up on the idea that “once I was thin,” everything would get better, and you know what happened?  Pretty much everything got better.  I moved to New York, where I got my first published writing work.  I put up my own original plays.  I started my own blog, a body positive style blog that I wrote as a silly character/alter ego named Coco Beautiful, and it started raining men.  I was pulling HOT dudes that I never would have even had the confidence to look at when I was in my dieting craze (otherwise known as my entire teenage to adult life to that point).

Also, this new “fat acceptance phase” did something no diet ever managed.  It stuck. Despite the fact that fat hatred is still resiliently lurking around every corner, I am still fighting it, over 8 years later, and my life is better than ever.  My mental health is the best it’s ever been.  I have a beautiful healthy child who fills my life with joy and purpose.  I’m dating a great guy right now.  I’m getting paid for my writing work.  I have incredible friends and family.  I feel beautiful.  I love my style and taste and feel wonderful and sexy in my own skin.  I eat. whatever. I. want. to.

It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t.  If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot more people trying to convince you to be thin than not, but it’s a lot better, and one thing I know for sure, is that I’m pleased as punch not to be anybody’s bitch, skinny or otherwise.