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Big Reminder: Do Something Nice For You

Stuff happens. Work gets hectic, your social calendar is full, your best friend is having a huge crisis, and you’re beginning to tear out your hair.

Stop that! Stop it right now!

Whatever is going on will still be there half an hour from now… unless it’s actively burning up, in which case call 911 and toss a bucket of water over it until the firefighters get there… unless it’s a grease fire. Water won’t do squat but spread a grease fire.

But the office tizzy and your friends’ crisis and the kids’ soccer games and all of that will not end the world if you take a few minutes for yourself and do something – anything – that makes you happy.

So when the world’s going nuts around you and you feel like strangling something to relieve your feelings, please don’t indulge in those impulses. Trust me, it doesn’t solve anything. And depending on who or what you strangle, it really could make matters far, far worse.

The better answer is to create a tiny window and do something just for yourself. Take a bubble bath, eat a good meal, read a couple chapters of that trashy novel or fascinating history book you’ve been wanting to read. Take a walk around the block, nurture your bonsai tree, or do some maintenance on your car engine.

It doesn’t matter what it is. Just choose something you find relaxing and fun.

Stress kills. No, really, it does. A good manicure? Absolutely won’t harm you or anyone else.

Be good to yourself. After all, if you aren’t, who will be?

It Doesn’t Get Better: A Note to Fat Kids, Former and Present.

It Gets Better is a noble sentiment, and maybe for some people part of a stigmatized group it’s true. I certainly hope it is.

But I’m not convinced it’s an accurate statement for the fat kids out there; especially not those who grow into fat adults.

For people of size, I’m not sure it does Get Better, at least not naturally.

Left to its own devices, the Western Beauty and Culture Machine will happily crush you underfoot –for your own good, of course– for being too big for their britches.

Everywhere you look there will be pop-up ads and billboards and interchangeable vapid reality TV “stars” admonishing you from photoshopped pages to change your body into something society deems acceptable. Only then will you get invited to the cool parties, have a partner who loves you and finally be worthy of full human status.

Oh, and don’t you dare be angry. They’re just doing it so you’ll feel better about you! They’re “just worried about your health”. Did they mention you have Such A Pretty Face? Did they make the Pointed Sigh?

Sigh.

It’s not like people really need much of a push to treat fat people as sub-human anyway. We’re manifestations of weakness, of the laziness and sloth they fear in themselves, we deserve our bad treatment because really, we’ve brought it upon ourselves. (You can try pointing out science refuting the claim that size is more than just a case of calories in vs. calories out, but be aware it’s dancing-with-a-pig futile in many if not most cases.)

Nope, you’re a lazy cow and there’s nothing sacred about cows in this culture: They just get slaughtered…or worse, slaughter themselves.

Bullying is now news, after too many –one is too many– kids, perceived or identifying as something other than cut-and-dried hetero, committed suicide.

But bullying, we all know, is not new news and it’s not solely the domain of gay kids.

Yet how many front page human interest stories do you hear about the plight of the fat kid being bullied in school?

Whither our tearful congressmen? Where’s the garment-rending when a bullied fat kid commits suicide?

More importantly, where are our 24-hour specialized hotlines to stop those suicides before they happen?

Tormenting fat kids is less of a headline and more of a forgivable rite of passage, swept neatly under the Children Can Be So Cruel rug (Children Can Be So Cruel, a fully-licensed subsidiary of Boys Will Be Boys and She Was Asking For It In That Skirt Partners, International)

Yeah, children can be so cruel.

Is it a newsflash that adults can be too?  The “War on Childhood Obesity”, however good its intentions might be, is just another way to codify and institutionalize size discrimination against the people least capable of defending their own interests: children.

Regardless of age, if you’re fat, Society, either openly or covertly, wants you to hate yourself thin. Except we can’t hate ourselves thin, at least not in the long term. Sometimes only thing that sticks from years of being hit in the head with the anti-fat hammer until our ears ring with self-hate is…guess what? Self hate.

So it’s hard to say It Gets Better because really, it’s going to get worse. Subtler, to be sure, but worse.

What’s the solution? We can’t wait for it to GET better. We have to MAKE it better.  Individually. Put on your own oxygen mask, then help your neighbor.

Make it better by applying a critical eye (and okay, sometimes a critical finger) to anti-fat bias.

Surround yourself with positive, thought-provoking friends and resources. Read The Fat Nutritionist. Understand Health at Every Size.

Reject any media that celebrates a culture where our bodies are punchlines and our feelings don’t count but still want our precious, precious dollars. I’m not the smartest girl on the block (and it’s not even a very big block) but even I have a problem with giving companies money to insult me.

Stop watching E! and its equally abysmal coterie (Those channels make you stupid. They just do. Read a book. Watch a documentary. Just step away from the “Reality TV” before mindless describes more than just your choice in entertainment).

For the love of all things holy, stop buying women’s magazines.

Watch the runway shows if you want to be up on fashion, at least you’ll only subject yourself to the models and not hot pink headlines offering quadruple chocolate fudge bombs, plastic surgery tips and “630 Ways To Drop Fifty Pounds By Thursday You Pathetic Spinster Cow!” on the same cover.

Find your own path, define your self BY yourself.

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What (traumatized fat kid) Dreams May Come

Three in the morning and my eyes screech open, my heart, tired of being accused of not existing, does its best Charlie Watts in my chest.

No, it’s not one of the usual predawn car alarms or impromptu dog fights,  it is —joy of immeasurable joys— an anxiety dream.

They’ve been coming around with less-than-endearing frequency recently.

That’s no big surprise.

I’m about to move out of the current Villa Plumcake, which is entirely too big, plus it’s being held together by nothing but duct tape and prayer, into a sweet little cottage in a new village a hundred miles away.

Moving is stressful so naturally daytime stress equals nighttime book reports in my underwear.

Except they’re not book reports in my underwear: they’re vivid replays and variations of my mother’s name-calling and overall cruelty about my size when I was a child.

Weird.

It’s weird because I’ve been at peace, or so I thought, with Mommie Dearest for a decade.

I harbor her no ill will, I understand why she is the way she is and even though the phrase “all the warmth and parenting skills of a particularly unself-aware komodo dragon with the worst taste in men this side of Eva Braun” MIGHT be bandied about with what some people COULD describe as pinpoint accuracy, I’ve got no beef –not even a lean four ounce portion, “about the size of a deck of cards”– with the old lady.

"Hi, for the next 17 years I'll be projecting my own insecurities and body hate onto you. Oh, and punishing you for my own bad life decisions. Enjoy!""

So what’s with the nightmares?

I don’t know.

I have them, then I spend the next few minutes in a flush of relief because that’s not my life anymore, the blood stops banging hot in my ears and I’m fine. I go back to sleep to dream about talking to Wayne Rooney about how we’re going to comfort Cesc Fabregas now that his lifetime hero Pep Guardiola has relinquished the reins at Barcelona. You know, like a normal person.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing about this other than to remind my readers –many of whom suffered more than I did– that even when you’ve moved past your childhood, even though you’ve done the inner work and shelled out squadrillion dollars for a therapist and you can look at yourself naked in that hateful dressing room fluorescent lighting and still love what you see, still believe you are worthy of love, sometimes you can stumble or heck, your dreams can stumble for you, and –to steal a phrase from Stuart Smalleythat’s okay.

It’s so easy, I’m especially guilty of it, to gloss over the pure trauma sometimes involved with being a big young person in a world that equates big with bad.

Maybe that’s because in my travel across the fatosphere I’ve run into a lot of mawkish pity parties written by women in the permanent victim mode, those unfortunate souls unable or unwilling  do the work required to move on from their teenage angst and so every human interaction is an affirmation of their deeply engrained flawed belief that they are not worthy of love, that everyone hates them or looks down on them because they’re fat and that their mother/father/seventh-grade boyfriend was right all along.

I have empathy for those girls, but at the same time I secretly want to shake them and say “Maybe you don’t have friends because you’re a total downer. No one likes a sadsack, regardless of the size of said sack. Get thee to a therapist and work that sh*t out. Then let’s have gin and tonics.”

Still, it’s okay to have a mini relapse, a relapsette, if you will.

It’s okay to revisit and remember those dark times and the people who led you there.

Just don’t get stuck.

Your childhood, no matter how magical or traumatic, is over.

One of the great luxuries of being an adult is the ability to reframe our own past.

We can’t change it –Lord knows I wish I could, I totally would’ve gone back and cut that snotty Ruth Wallach-Eisenberg’s stupid crimped hair when I had the chance since I got punished for it anyway– but we can change how we look at it, how we let it inform who we are as adults, even if we stumble.

After all, you’re good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn-it, people like you.

 

Big Reminder: The Holiday Party Edition

If you work in an office setting, chances are the annual holiday bash is rapidly approaching. It’s a time to let your hair down, relax a bit with the people you spend more time with than your family, and see whether the big bosses can take the legendarily lethal punch the folks in accounts receivable make.

If you don’t work in an office setting, chances are you still have at least one good friend or family member who considers the winter holiday season a darn good excuse to throw a big bash. It’s a time to catch up with those people you only see at these parties, nibble from the annual cheese ball, and see who succumbs to the lethal punch the host makes.

I well remember my parents’ annual Christmas do. The decorations, the careful choosing of which music to play in what order, the platters of fabulous food… and my fathers’ lethal eggnog which I swear could induce alcohol poisoning from six feet away.

I’ve been to a lot of parties for a lot of holidays over the years, and the one thing that seems absolutely guaranteed at each of them is seriously free-flowing liquor. Either there’s a single punch that will begin impairing your ability to pass a sobriety test before you even begin to drink it, or there’s a bewildering variety  of adult beverages and a genial host urging you to try a bit of everything.

How to get through the season with your driving record clean and your social network intact? Thinking just a bit beforehand can be just the ticket to keep you from disaster.

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Big Reminder: Protect Yourself

Summertime and the living is easy… er… sorry. I love Porgy and Bess. But it is summertime and that means we need to be extra thoughtful about our skin. After all, we don’t want to burn and we don’t want to develop skin cancer. That would not be superfantastic by any means.

So remember:

Use your sunscreen, but be sure to leave a patch somewhere for your body to absorb Vitamin D from the best possible source: good old Sol.

Hydrate yourself regularly with cool, delicious drinks, preferably with tiny umbrellas.

Get into the shade now and again…

… by any means necessary.

Oh, and consider this the perfect opportunity to invest in a really fabulous hat.

For those who do not read Dear Abby religiously

Hilda!…as Francesca does, here is a little reminder to the Single Ladies and to all the Big Girls that there are, indeed, men out there who love us for our bodies AND our minds and hearts. (Not that having men be attracted to us makes us any more or less “valid” as people or as productive members of society, but it is nice to know.)

Warning: the column may have some emotional triggers for many readers.

The Big Reminder (and pretty shoes on sale)

To kick off 2010, Francesca reminds you to take certain life-saving measures (and directs you to designer shoes on sale at terrific prices):

Always wear your seat belt, whether you are in your own car, or in a friend’s, or in a taxi.

Make a fire evacuation plan with your family. Make sure everyone in your house knows where all the exits are, and decide now on a rendezvous point outside. When you have sleepover guests, show them all the exits, too.

Burn prevention tip: If you have small children, put down tape on the floor a few feet around the stove, and make a rule that they may never cross the tape.

Tell your spouse/parents/medical proxy that if anything should happen to you, you want to donate your organs to save someone else. Signing a donor card is nice, but ultimately the decision will rest with those who love you. Don’t leave them with the burden of wondering what you would have wanted!

Have a safe and life-affirming 2010!

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