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Actually, No, It’s Not a Behavior

I’m assuming that most of you who don’t reside under rocks have heard about Jennifer Livingstone and her awesome response to the concern troll who chastised her for being a bad example by being fat at people on their television screens.

In case you have been vacationing in Bedrock and don’t know about it, her response was to go on air and call the bully out for what he is: a bully.

All the wrapping it up in diaphanous garments of concern for little children who might be exposed to the horrific sight of a woman who isn’t thin leading a valuable life and succeeding in a demanding profession can’t hide the ugly message of ‘get off my screen, you’re wilting my manbits.’

Plenty of fabulous bloggers have discussed this episode in some detail. Check out this great entry by Michelle, the Fat Nutritionist. She does a lovely job of breaking down how it’s bullying and why that should be called out.

But one thing in the entire conversation has really struck me: the conflation of body type and behavior.

I’m not just talking about the random assumptions of how people who are fat behave as opposed to how thin people behave. I’m talking about the fact that the original email to Livingstone and quite a few of the ‘but it’s not bullying’ comments on Michelle’s blog all claim that fat is – in and of itself – a behavior.

Here’s a quote from that original email:

Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain.

I don’t know about all of you, but I did not choose the size of my body, nor is it a habit I maintain.

I have a lot of habits. I make a lot of choices as to my behavior every day. I can choose the behavior of taking walks, eating foods I enjoy, playing The Sims, washing dishes in a timely fashion or leaving them to marinate a while, how much attention to pay to Jake the Cat’s constant need to be cuddled, what books to read, and whether or not to sing along with a song I enjoy.

These are behaviors and habits. Some of them may or may not affect the size of my waistline on at least a temporary basis.

But my waistline is not a behavior any more than my height is a behavior. That can also be altered temporarily if I choose, should I take up the behavior of wearing heels, but it is not in and of itself a behavior.

My eyesight is not a behavior, though some of my habits can affect it on a temporary or a permanent basis, such as if I spend many hours on the computer. Still, my eyesight is not a behavior.

My hair is not a behavior, though my behavior can affect it dramatically. I can choose how often to wash it, what products to use on it, how to style it, whether or not to change its color with dye… but all of that does not change the fact that my hair is not a behavior.

My height, my weight, my eyesight, my hair, and dozens of other things are simply physical characteristics and nobody who does not know me can hazard a useful guess at how the are the way they are. Any of dozens of behaviors or choices may or may not affect them.

My waistline may or may not be affected by the choices I make in regards to food and exercise… but I know people who try out every diet known to man and beast without their weight changing one iota in either direction. I’ve heard the story of many a person with an eating disorder diagnosed as EDNOS (eating disorder, not otherwise specified) who had every single symptom of anorexia nervosa except the weight loss.

There are those who struggle with clinical depression and find taking anti-depressants helps a lot. But you know what? Many of those drugs have the side effect of weight gain. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think it’s probably better to take the drugs, gain the weight, and be able to function than to be thinner and trying to cope with suicidal ideation.

Genetics play a huge and uncontrollable part in body size. I’ve got five generations of family photos on my wall that illustrate the inherent unlikelihood of my being thin.

I am fat.

It’s. Not. A. Behavior.

But you know what is a behavior?

That’s right, making the choice to treat people as less than worthy of existence because of a physical characteristic.

I didn’t choose my height, my weight, my eye color, or my skin tone any more than you did. But every single day I can make the choice to treat others with dignity and respect.

And that really is a behavior.


Fatties With Heads! Doing Awesome Things!

We’ve all seen the photos that go with scary screeds about ZOMGOBEESITEEEEE! They tend to look like this:

… or like this:

No heads. No human expressions. According to media standards all we are is bellies… and an occasional pair of buttocks. It’s propaganda that dehumanizes us and makes the world fear us.

But the fact is that we have heads, we have hands, we have feet, we have interests and friends and lovers and spouses and jobs and all the same things thin people have. I, for one, am sick and tired of being portrayed as a stomach or a pair of nether cheeks.

Enter Stocky Bodies.

It’s a fabulous collection of stock photos of fat people doing things like exercising, hanging out with friends and lovers, shopping, getting tattoos, making jewelry, and just generally having lives.

As the creators state on their site:

Our images challenge oversimplified and demeaning representations of weight prejudice by showing subjects engaged in everyday activities, such as bike riding, shopping for fashionable clothes and performing their jobs. The documentary imagery to be shown through the library is a non-stigmatising view of what it is to be fat and live an affirmative life.

You have to sign up and agree to terms of use if you want to use the pictures, but the process is painless and free… as are the pictures.

The brainchild of Dr. Lauren Gurrieri and Mr. Isaac Brown, they gathered together Australian FA activists to act as the subjects of their photos. In fact, you may have recognized the ever-awesome Kath of Fat Heffalump up there riding her bike.

So far the only thing I can think of that would make it better is more photos!

Just Do It

Hello, my darlings! Did you miss me? I know I did! But I’m back now, with all kinds of lovely things to talk about… and a couple not so lovely, but let’s leave those for next week, shall we? Right now I want to talk about having a good time and trying things.

This is my very good friend, Kat, and her horse, Joe, participating in a recent gymkhana.

They came in last place, alas. Still, considering that Kat hadn’t been on a horse in two years and had only just gotten Joe, she feels that getting through the entire course was plenty of win. And, in point of fact, it is. Rising in the ranks can come later.

Sometimes the most important thing isn’t whether we competed well or got precisely the result we would wish for on a star, but the fact that we got up and did something we don’t normally do.

I did a couple of those sorts of things on my recent vacation. I tried my hand for the very first time at making lemon curd. Why in the name of all that’s delicious did I put this off for so long??? I am now officially a curd-making fool! I’m eager to play with various citrus fruits, adding different flavorings, and making bigger batches.

Of course, trying out a new dish (especially a pastry-related one) isn’t that huge a risk for me. I have a natural affinity for the kitchen, and if I fail… it’s a few wasted ingredients and an hour or two, not the end of the world.

But I did do something much scarier for me. As some of you are aware, Mr. Twistie is a musician. He gigs with a couple bands in addition to the one he heads and writes for. One of these bands had a gig at a KOA campground with a nightclub and docks, and the idea arose that it would be fun if all the guys in the band brought along their wives. I had nothing else on that weekend and our next door neighbor was happy to look in on the cat, so I said sure. That’s not the scary part.

The band was hot, the room was dark, and I have night blindness. When the lights dim, I can’t tell what’s a foot in front of me. It’s the worst inheritance I got from my mother. So on the incredibly rare occasions when I go to clubs, I tend to park myself in a chair and not move for the rest of the night.

After a while of sitting in a room that looked like this to me:

… one of my friends came over with a parrot. Someone had brought a pair to the party and R had one of them on her shoulder. She wanted to introduce me. Well, I reached out and gave the bird a pet, and what did he do? He reached out with his beak, took a firm but gentle grip on my shirt, and hopped straight onto my shoulder! I’d never held a bird before. There was something intoxicating about this creature choosing to come be with me.

And then I did something else I hadn’t done before. I got up into the darkness, made my way onto the dance floor, and danced solo with that parrot on my shoulder. What’s more, I managed to dance around with no visual clues in a sea of seriously drunken people without physical harm to me, any other dancers, or the parrot!

Now that was a chance taken!

Would I do it again? That kind of depends on my mood and the situation. Am I glad I did it once? You bet your sweet bippy, I am!

Sometimes you just have to do something utterly unexpected. It’s how you know you’re still really alive.

Random Bits of This and That

Darlings, I have spent the last couple of weeks recovering from my painful and painfully embarrassing back injury (I’m feeling much better now, BTW, and thanks to everyone for the good wishes), and it’s resulted in an oddly random approach to things. I’ve spent a lot of time lying on the couch or in my bed listening to my own brain and it’s… scattered.

I’ve decided to go with it and provide you with some links and random thoughts about stuff and leave you to sort through it all as best you can.

First off, check out this brilliant and awesome Riot Nrrd comic. And always remember what they say about assumptions.

Big Fat Blog has some interesting thoughts on weight loss maintenance, including links to a blog that supports weight loss, but is completely honest about the toll it can take.

If you read Letters to a Young Fat Girl: Lesson the First, and are looking for more support, go check out this touching post at The Rotund. Remember: it does get better, and you are not alone. And if you catch someone bullying someone else, DO SOMETHING. That last bit is from me.

I’ve been thinking about Halloween. I love Halloween. I love costumes and I love candy and I love the campy end of spooky stuff, and I even love The Monster Mash. My Halloween will probably consist mostly of handing out candy while watching a Hitchcock film. What about all of you?

And speaking of holidays, my thoughts have also included Thanksgiving. In fact I spent some of my time laid up poring over my lightest (in terms of their physical weight, not in terms of diet foods) cookbooks and plotting my ultimate Thanksgiving meal. Lo and behold, as I was doing this, the phone rang and Mr. Twistie and I were invited to spend the holiday with some good friends and their rottweilers.

We’re going. We’re going to have a great time. But it does bring up something about me: until quite recently I was terribly phobic about dogs. Any dogs. From teacup poodles to great danes, they freaked the sewage straight out of me. Then one day about five years ago, I decided I was going to get over this crippling phobia. I had no money for therapy, so I girded up my loins and started doing my best to interact with dogs one on one on my own.

It’s taken a long time and a lot of effort, but now I can talk merrily about visiting with rotts. In fact, one of them loves to sit on my lap. My only problem with it at this point is the fact that when she climbs up there, it feels like she’s going to break my knees.

Next I shall attempt to overcome my terror of heights. Or possibly fire. Or… yeah, yeah, I know. I’m a ball of phobias. Still, dogs are no longer immediate cause for panic attacks, and I call that pretty awesome.

What’s So Awesome About You?

There’s been something in the air of late. The first inkling I got was when my esteemed colleague wrote about how to take a compliment, already. And seriously, if you haven’t read it go do so right now. It’s a wonderful and important article we all should read.

But then I saw this post on Shapely Prose, which should also be required reading. Warning, the language is far saltier there than it is here. We are PG, SP is hard R. Just so’s you know what you’re getting yourself in for. And this isn’t the only place I’ve seen this concept. It’s starting to float around the Fatosphere in a big way, and I – for one – am completely in favor of it.

If you haven’t gone to see what the concept is, it happens to be standing up to be counted as brilliant at something, no apologies.

So here are a few things that make me, Twistie, pretty darn fabulous:

I’m a terrific self-taught cook and baker. In over forty years of baking, I have never made a bad pie crust. I can put together a good meal out of unlikely resources. If you come to Casa Twistie, chances are you will not leave hungry.

Over the course of the last three years or so, I have overcome my lifelong phobia of dogs. No longer do I quail in the face of corgis. Not only that, I have been adopted by my neighbor’s chihuahua and another friends’ tribe of rotts. I still approach strange dogs with caution, but the sight of a perfectly well-behaved small dog on a short leash no longer fills me with such panic that I have to cross the street.

Cats and small children instinctively trust me.

I taught myself to make bobbin lace and made all eleven yards of lace for my own wedding gown.

I can find the upside or the funny in almost any situation, and get the joke across to someone else.

I come up with quips and aphorisms off the top of my head that people assume were written by someone famous.

I have had people literally stop me in public places to tell me how fabulous I am. You can’t ask for better proof of awesome than that, can you?

When I sing out loud, I can be heard half a block away without benefit of a microphone.

So what about all of you? I want you to come right out and tell me what’s so special about you, and I want it without quibbles, apologies, or caveats. Be proud of yourselves.

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.

‘Tis the Day After Christmas…

…and all through my house

The only creature stirring

Is my cat chasing a new catnip mouse.

It’s been a good time this year. While we weren’t precisely drowning in luxury items, we had enough to go around and enough left over to spread a bit of cheer to others. In the days to come, we will enjoy the leftover food and the thoughtful gifts…and probably chuckle a little bit at the ones that mystify us. We’ll snuggle close and appreciate the time Mr. Twistie has off from work and the fact that my writing career allows me to be flexible in my scheduling. The aforementioned cat will be blissfully spoilt with all the tandem petting we will give him.

Then it’s time to turn our thoughts to 2010.

People tend to make grand resolutions in the week or so before New Year’s Eve…and break most of them before Groundhog Day. Admittedly, I love that movie, but even if I didn’t, I still wouldn’t want to break its heart by lying to it (Query: How many Surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: Fish.).

So it is that I approach the whole notion of resolutions with a bit of trepidation. And yet it really does seem to be expected of one. I thought I might get mine written down a bit ahead of schedule. What? My mother had me so terrified of being late as a child that I was regularly half an hour early to nearly every function. I’ve relaxed a bit as an adult. Now I consider ten minutes early sufficient in a pinch. For major events like an entire change of calendar, I like to be Johnny-on-the-spot three or four days before anyone else.

So here, without further ado, are my New Year resolutions:

1: I resolve to fly my freak flag high. I love bright colors, bold styles, big jewelry, hats, and loud classic rock. Anyone who has a problem with this, or any other aspect of my personality is cordially invited to suck it. I am a (mostly) gentle soul and I’m not hurting anyone, so how I dress or what I love is between me, myself and I. I do not apologize. I do not slink. I do not have to explain to anyone in the world what a grown woman is doing with a rubber duckie collection or what a fat woman is doing wearing orange.

2: I resolve to do good for my community. It’s easy to remember to give to good causes at Christmas and the New Year. There’s a Santa with a donation bucket or a Good Soul coming to your door or a reminder from your favorite cause everywhere you turn at this time of year. When I shopped at Borders, I threw in a stuffed panda bear for an abused child. When I got some coffee at Peet’s, I donated a couple bucks to the local shelter for victims of domestic violence. I love it that giving is made so very easy at this time of year, but I need to remember to do more in the other eleven months. I’ll be clearing some older, but still perfectly wearable clothes out of my closet in the next month or two. Luckily, I remembered to take some literature on that shelter so I can contact them to see if they can use anything. And I’ll keep being a good neighbor. They need someone to look after their cat sometimes. I’m happy to do that. Maybe I can do…no, scratch that. I definitely can do more. It’s time to make it happen.

3: I resolve to take better care of myself this coming year. Over the last few months I’ve been a bit cavalier about my own welfare. I stay up into the wee hours, rise when Mr. Twistie starts getting ready for work, pour myself a massive mug of coffee and remember to have breakfast slightly after noon. There have been reasons for this personal neglect, but it’s time to stop and pull myself together. Regular sleep and regular meals are important. I deserve them. And since my mommy has been dead for nearly twenty years, it’s kind of my job these days to make sure I get them.

4: I resolve to rediscover my own creativity. Again, there have been reasons I haven’t pulled down my lace pillow or written a short story in longer than I care to think about. But those reasons are no longer there to stop me. My life has changed for the better and I’m about to bloom again. Watch out world!

I think that’s enough to be getting on with. What about all of you? Are you making any resolutions this year? Tell me about them.

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