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The Pink Bag

My beautiful pink tote - I carry this with me pretty much wherever I go

Time to work and write has been a scarce commodity in the last year…I went from teaching and being busy with grading, lecturing and meeting with students to a small private practice that I run about 5-9 hours a week. (I’d love to be open more often, but there’s this slight problem of getting clients in the door!) I’ve been keeping myself busy with working with my clients and applying for full-time work, along with caring for my munchkins – and to be completely honest, taking morning naps. 

 I’d like to say that I’m ending hunger, curing cancer, or creating world peace…but really all I’m doing is living an ordinary, middle-class, financially stressful life.  I don’t have a job that takes me to “Interesting Places,” and I don’t meet “Very Important People.” I don’t travel to ashrams or out-of-the-mainstream cultures looking for enlightenment. I don’t run fascinating self-help seminars attended by hundreds of people, and I don’t have my name on posters or webinars. Although I wish I could do all of these – and write a book full of WISDOM, I’m not the woman who does these or writes these.

I raise my children, live in a suburban townhouse messy with life, and do my work to the best of my ability – I’m about as ordinary as they come. However, I take pleasure in small things, like a new book, or a “can’t-deny-my-color-or-hide-me” pink bag that I found on clearance at Staples, of all places.

My pink bag kind of stands out. It’s a light shade, but intense saturation of pink that’s hard not to notice. Now, I know the “rule” about wearing pastels – ideally you wear them in the spring, maybe in summer. But fall or winter? Never – no way. That’s the time time for dark, muted colors…burgundy, navy, hunter green, rich browns and dark yellows. And yet…Here I am in a season of falling leaves and colder, darker days carrying an “in-your-face-pink” tote. It doesn’t even have the decency to be a a small pink bag. No, it’s a large tote in which I carry my journal, my books and my current research, currently putting together a seminar on size acceptance and positive body image.  (A side note: I DO have a small pink bag, which I use when I just need to throw my wallet and keys in, for short errands. I love my pink bags!)

So, why do I this? Believe it or not, it’s not for attention or simply to get noticed. I do get odd looks on occasion, but I let them slide right off like an egg off a teflon pan. Rather, it’s simply that I love the color pink, in all its many glorious possibilities. I love the salmon, the peachy pink, bright fluorescent pink, fuschia – all the shades I can name, and even some I can’t. (Does anyone know a name for that beautiful shell-pink shade that appears when the sun just crests over the horizon on a breathtakingly wondrous sunrise?)

Simply put, pink makes me feel happy, and that’s a feeling that’s been in short supply lately, with dealing with unemployment and other stresses. (For the record? Depression sucks BIG TIME.) So, when I saw the pink bag on clearance, I bought it. Anyone who knows me knows that my bags go with me wherever I go…so my pink bag is kind of a signature for me. I don’t always carry it, but more often than not I do have it or the smaller pink bag with me, even when it clearly doesn’t match the season or my outfit.

I actually have a lot of pink around me – it’s my favorite color. I have shirts, paper, pens (I just found a fantastic pink Minnie Mouse pen that lights up in different colors!), skirts, and even a pair of pink ballet flats. They make me feel happy. And despite what the “rules” say, THAT makes the difference.

My Little Pink Bag

My little pink bag, used when I don't need my big pink tote

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Do you ever have moments when it seems like nothing you do is good enough, or right? I’m kind of stuck in one of those periods now…it seems like everything is blah and gray, that nothing good is happening, and that nothing will ever change. On one level, I know this isn’t true, but on the emotional side it sure feels that way.

Take teaching my class for example…I started off out the gate slow – I lectured (god forbid), and then made the mistake of lecturing again. If you’d asked me after my second class period about how the class was going, I would have told you, “awful.” Things have improved some – I’m bringing in discussion and we did a movie today along with some lecture on APA format. The hard thing is, I still feel like I’m an imposter and that I completely, totally suck at this. I know it’s been a while since I’ve been teaching, but I honestly don’t ever remember feeling this unsure of myself in the classroom. Still, I’m muddling through. We did “early alert” evaluations for new faculty today – I’m scared spitless about how they’re going to come out, and whether or not I’ll have a job next semester. Am I catastrophizing? Probably – but it’s also where I’m at emotionally here.

My work on the private practice is another area of angst – I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and that I’m trying to ride with one wheel missing – I don’t have an “advertising budget” and I’m working the resources I have as much as I can, but still – nothing is happening and it’s very frustrating. No clients, no group…nothing. I keep wondering if I’m just not meant to succeed…but then I think, “Dang it girl – hard work and keeping this going is what will pay off!” So…I keep on keepin’ on here. I call people, I send out flyers, I leave messages on voicemail, and I keep praying and hoping something will happen. In my dreams, the phone rings and I get a therapist on the other end saying, “Hey, is your group still open? I have three people I’d like to refer to you…” Ok, I admit it probably won’t happen like that. The bottom line is that I have to “do my homework” to make this work…and realize that it WILL take time. Great on the “brain” level, but still hard on the “heart” level – emotionally I feel like I’m a failure again.

And then there’s finances…oh heck…I’m worried if I’m going to be able to pay my bills, given that nothing is happening with the practice and that my teaching job pays very little. It’s a good thing I generally love what I do in the classroom – I’m certainly not doing it for the wonderful paycheck. I think that’s what has been hardest for me with the teaching – I LOVE teaching psychology, and I’m very frustrated that I don’t seem to be communicating that or the material very well. Instead, I feel pressured, anxious, and incompetent. And I’m NOT used to feeling that way in my classroom!

So where do I go from here? I really don’t know. I’m frustrated, feeling down, and more than a little nervous about the student evaluations and upcoming faculty evaluation. I’m scared about what’s not happening with my practice and am wondering if I can make it work. I’m overwhelmed about the finances as a result, and feel like if I think too much about it, my head will explode. I just hope it gets better – that I find my footing again in the classroom, and that something “clicks” with the practice end of things. If not, that I can find work that will help me pay my bills – no small undertaking in this economy. As you can see, I’m great at judging myself – so one of the things I’m trying to do is be gentle with myself and not judge myself so harshly. Chances are, I’m judging myself much harder than anyone else is. So…I try to be nicer to myself and keep on keepin’ on. I keep hoping, praying, and working to see if I can make any of this happen.

If anyone had told me 6 years ago that I’d still be changing diapers on a nearly 6-year old, I have to admit I would have been scared spitless and wondering what the hades I’d gotten myself into. And yet, here we are with Aidan in kindergarten and still wearing pull-ups because he either can’t or won’t use the toilet.

I remember when he was 3 and 4, people would say to me, “Don’t worry. He won’t go to school in diapers.” Well…again, here we are. Now, I’m just hoping he won’t go to high school in pullups.

The thing with Aidan is that, in terms of the autism, he’s pretty high functioning. He talks, expresses emotion, interacts socially (to some extent), and is generally a sweet little kid. Here’s where the other side, the ODD, comes in though. ODD is short for Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and it roughly boils down to where a child will say no and be oppositional simply for the sake of being oppostional. If you say the sky is blue, this child will say it’s purple with yellow polka-dots until he’s screaming bloody murder and insisting it’s purple with yellow polka-dots. This all occurs without me arguing with him. With some things, like the color of the sky, it’s really no big deal. But, with some things, it IS a big deal – like with potty training.

When I said “can’t or won’t” I was referring to the ODD. Aidan CAN use the potty to urinate, and generally does except when he’s in an ornery mood. Then, he’ll go in his pullup purposefully if I ask him to use the potty. Using the potty is a battle, no matter what I try, because of the autism-ODD combination.

Now let me explain that I have a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. I KNOW what to do, and we have a very behavioral household. There are rewards for trying, and better rewards for doing. For oppositional behavior, there are set consequences – losing privileges and time-outs along with losing whatever activity he was engaging in during the oppositional period. (Losing it for a time period, not permanently depending on what it is – I don’t want to punish my daughter for her brother’s behavior.) The long and short of it is that I know what to do – and it’s *still* frustrating.

ODD is a frustrating disorder to say the least. Sometimes he’ll just say no and/or refuse to do something for reasons I can’t begin to understand. Sometimes, it’s even for things he enjoys and wants to do. I don’t think even HE understands it sometimes. Stubborn is an understatement – this kid sometimes gets in his own way. Adding the autism into the mix complicates things because he has trouble relating to people anyway. I’ve been asked how much is ODD and how much is autism, and I honestly don’t know except to say I’ve seen both. ODD doesn’t account for his fascination with automatic doors, elevators, transformers (the ones on the power poles, not the toys), and lights or his language and physical delays. Autism doesn’t account for the oppositional behavior and the purposeful defiance that I see.

In the end, I think it burns us both out. I see him get so frustrated and upset and I WANT to help him. My love for this child, in spite of the ODD, is unending and I wish I could do more to help make things a little easier for him. And yet, I get burned out and frustrated. When I’ve changed the disgusting, feces-laden pullup for the 8th or 9th time in a day, there are times when I just want to scream. When I have to deal with “no” and “I won’t” and “You can’t tell me what to do” or him ignoring requests repeatedly, I want to run away. I get angry, frustrated and exhausted.

And yet, we muddle on. Although to some extent it’s a battle of wills, it’s also the story of a son who loves his mother and family and a mother who loves her son with all her heart. Will he get out of pullups? I sincerely hope so. I’m not going to say “by high school” or by anything anymore – my sense is that it just puts pressure on both of us. We already try to make potty training less a matter of control and more a matter of pride for him, and I work hard NOT to get into fights with him over it. The pressure of “by high school” or by anything is more on me – and I have to let go and let him do this on Aidan-time. I’m hoping the peer pressure of being in school will help and so far it seems to have had a positive effect

So where do I go from here? I keep loving this special child that tests my patience every day. I enjoy and appreciate the smiles and the happiness that I’m so lucky to have, given his autism. I love the hugs and imagination, and even the lights, elevators, escalators, and “button doors.” I see things I wouldn’t ordinarily pay attention to, like the color and shape of the transformers on the power poles and the shape of the lights and buttons in elevators.

And, I keep trying. And trying. And trying, and trying. I have faith that he can eventually do this, and that I will survive it. And I never, never, ever give up.

Warning: This post has should probably be rated PG-13, with an “L” for language

I read an interesting blog post from one of my favorite blogs here, Kate Harding’s “Shapely Prose”. The subject was sexual harassment, and how we women are trained pretty much from birth to be quiet, ladylike, submissive and “good” – and how those same qualities get turned into blaming the victim when a rape occurs. It got me thinking about how many experiences we have of being assaulted, harassed, and violated.

One of my first memories was going with my dad to the barber shop when I was a very little girl. I remember feeling creeped out by the way the barber would talk to me, and yet I also remember being told to “be nice.” Now that I have a daughter of my own, I cringe every time I hear someone tell a little girl who is clearly uncomfortable to “be nice.” “Being nice” is more about OUR comfort as adults than it is about respecting a child’s right to her/his own feelings. And that’s sad.

My first husband…well, prior to our wedding we had talked about that first night because we were both virgins. I made him promise me he would stop if I asked him to, because I was afraid of the pain. He promised me he would, and guess what? He didn’t. He didn’t to the point of taking me three times that night. I could barely walk the next day, and when I called my mother her response was, “well you made your bed, now you have to lie in it.”

I also remember being in the hospital at one point, and having another patient – male – enter my room and try to sexually assault me. I told the staff about it, and they “arranged” a time for me confront him. When he got up and left the room, slamming the door in my face, they simply said, “well he’s brain damaged. We can’t expect more.” Then, I knew I felt violated a second time and didn’t say much – where was it going to get me? Today…well, I would have said, “You sure fucking can! Get me a lawyer, because I want to press charges.” The hospital was lucky I didn’t sue them as well.

The really sad thing? For literally YEARS after that incident, I would have nightmares of being chased and hunted down, and not being able to yell or scream because I couldn’t open my mouth. Talk about dreams reflecting real life…at this point in my life, I recognize that I was dealing with classic PTSD, generalized anxiety, and depression. It didn’t help that my husband was an emotionally abusive man either, or that I grew up in a verbally and emotionally abusive home. Following years of being verbally and emotionally abused took its toll on me though, and I didn’t even realize that they (both the hospital and the man) shouldn’t have been able to get away with what they did.

Another incident occurred while I was in graduate school. This time I was guest lecturing for my advisor, and was confronted by extremely rude, confrontative, aggressive behavior from a male student. The first time I lectured, he “merely” made sexist comments. My advisor (a woman) “advised me” to let it go, so I did. In graduate school, advisors have a LOT of power over you, so I didn’t feel I could take action. The second time this happened, I was more firm and the student nearly became violent at the end of class. He was calling me a “motherfucking bitch” and “cunt” and other names. When I turned away, he yelled “Don’t you turn away from me, you motherfucking cunt!” Where was my advisor during all this? Trying to placate HIM. It turns out this student had various harassing incidents on the student listserv, and other in-class violations which had gone unreported.

When I told her I was going to report this incident, my advisor wanted me to “collaborate” with her and her teaching assistant so we could “be consistent” in our reports. I went over her head, and felt every right in doing so – she was essentially revictimizing me by trying to put a face-saving spin on the incident. I wasn’t having any of it and went to my teaching supervisor and the department head – both male and both more supportive than my advisor. Now, you have to realize that my advisor was one of the more vocal feminists in the department – I realized after that incident that she was more talk than walk. It was a horribly sad, eye-opening incident.

What ended up happening was the the case was taken to the student ombudsmen, who supported me. The student was expelled. The damage between me and my advisor was irreparable though, and shortly afterward I changed to a different advisor. I found out later that one of my friends had been raped her first year by another graduate student and that our (mutual) advisor had acted very similarly, and actually discouraged her from reporting it. So much for being a feminist, or even supportive. You would think that incidents like these would affect this woman’s career – but no. Tenure is a powerful thing, and this woman is internationally known and acclaimed for her research. So…like many incidents involving women who are in unequal power positions, it got swept under the carpet.

The truly tragic thing about these incidents is that they’re not isolated. They’re COMMON. Nearly every woman and far too many girls have stories like this to report. It is hard for me to even accept that I’ve been assaulted at all, but I consider myself a survivor. I’ve survived a lot of abuse, and yet it’s nothing compared to what some women and girls experience.

In our society, women are still objectified and judged by their attractiveness to a male audience. My appearance and my body size – my attractiveness – are what matters in society, and all of these are open to scrutinization and comment, whether I want it or not. I’m STILL being violated, as are ALL women, whether we want to admit it or not. This is in addition to everything SweetMachine writes about – women are victimized if they dare vary from the ideal of what a woman should look like or be. This kind of thing is still ignored, minimized and laughed at, because we want to believe our society has overcome these kinds of abuse.

And that’s what these incidents are – abuse, pure and simple. Women in this country, and around the world (in even worse situations) are abused on a daily basis. It’s so common, we don’t even think about it at ALL, much less think about it as abuse. As SweetMachine pointed out in her post, we think that the way we’re taught to behave, the way we’re taught not to be provocative is protective and normal. In reality, it’s the beginnings of blaming the victim. Before something even happens, we warn women and girls, “don’t do anything that could be taken wrong.” We SHOULD be warning men instead, “don’t do things that hurt people.” It’s that simple – we’re blaming the potential victims for the inappropriate, hurtful and violating actions of others.

No wonder we’re afraid to report. No wonder we’re afraid to talk. No wonder we keep quiet on the blogs, listservs, websites, emails – we risk being harassed or hurt every time we open our mouths. And now…I’ve had enough. I’m opening my mouth, and not just talking but yelling it to the rafters: “THIS IS WRONG! WE HAVE A RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM ABUSE!”

It’s that simple.

So here I am, on a Sunday afternoon, feeling a lot like there isn’t a whole lot of hope for the future right now. I’m still generally optimistic about my private practice and about teaching, but I’m having a hard time feeling motivated at the moment.

Now to be fair, this is coming after a morning in the church nursery with a bunch of rowdy preschoolers and toddlers – it’s like herding wet cats back into the bathtub. I also only got 4 hours of sleep, and those were interrupted by disturbing dreams. So, I’m legitimately tired.

However, some of the exhaustion is emotional too. Starting a private practice takes a lot of work and energy, and starting any business is a slow process. I know I need to be patient AND I want it NOW. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t do too well with ambiguity, although I’m trying. (And yes, the old saying about what comes into your life is what you need to work on very much applies here!) So, I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and not getting very far.

I’m also feeling very pressured about getting my class(es) ready for fall – I’ll be teaching at the local community colleges and one class is a brand new prep – I’ve never taught it before. It’s Developmental Psychology, and is cool stuff – but pulling together a brand new course in a little over a month is a LOT of work.

I’ve written on my professional blog about feeling emotionally paralyzed – when I feel overwhelmed, that’s what happens to me. And right now, I feel paralyzed out of my mind. I try to follow my own advice, though, and even though I’m not feeling super-confident at the moment, I’m pretty sure I’ll be feeling better in a few days. The hard thing is right now, when I’m feeling this way, I tend to get down on myself – I tend to think of all the things I’m doing wrong, or think of the “if only’s” and “what might have beens.” I feel like I can’t do anything right, or that I’ll never succeed. This isn’t true, but emotions can be a web that catches you – and sometimes it’s hard to break free. Getting judgmental of anyone – even ourselves – isn’t a helpful thing.

“Tenebrous Ennui” basically means a dark, gloomy sense of a utter weariness and discontent resulting from lack of interest or boredom. In my case, it’s not really lack of interest or boredom, but more withdrawing and avoiding. (So maybe “ennui” isn’t the best term, but the whole thing, “tenebrous ennui” sounds pretty cool.) Anway, feeling overwhelmed and gloomy is the order of the day. I know this isn’t the case, but right now my life feels empty and barren – and I know that it comes from being overwhelmed with TOO much. Life is anything BUT empty and barren.

So where do I go? I ask myself the same thing I ask my clients…”What do YOU think?” My sense is that I need to counteract the sense of fear that underlies the feeling of being overwhelmed. To do that…well, I need to take my own advice and “move” and “do one thing.”

So, for the class…I could work on putting together the schedule. For the private practice…I can finish the application I’ve got for the local community mental health agency I contacted. (Having an interview tomorrow provides some motivation – stressful, but motivation all the same.) I also need to remind myself that my situation isn’t ME – it affects me, but doesn’t define me. I exist outside these stresses, and I can still enjoy things and take care of myself. I don’t have to be judgmental and punishing with myself – in fact, it’s way better if I’m not. This is something that takes a LOT of reminding for me, though!

I have a feeling that once I’m back in the thick of it and don’t have time to ruminate and overanalyze things, I’ll be ok. Meanwhile, I don’t want to marinate in my own gloomy sauce – so I’m going to go DO something. Even if it’s only ONE thing – it’s something.

This is one of my favorite blogs here (“Shapely Prose”, and here are two posts on being different in our world:

“The Fantasy of Being Thin”:
http://kateharding.net/2007/11/27/the-fantasy-of-being-thin/

“The Fantasy of Being White”:
http://kateharding.net/2009/07/08/guest-post-the-fantasy-of-being-white/

Feeling Overwhelmed - Picture copyright 2009 Laura Burlingame-Lee

Feeling Overwhelmed - Picture copyright 2009 Laura Burlingame-Lee

I recently got one of those super-uper-duper, ultra deluxe daily planners so I can organize things for my private practice. While it’s really cool for a lot of things, one of the things I like the best is this little insert card based on the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It asks you to pick something in each of four realms and come up with things that get in the way of you doing it.

This is easy enough and I decided that I would also list what I could do to counter those things. (I’m probably using it wrong, but who cares? I’m using it and it’s helping me, right? 🙂 ) Anyway, I’ve found that a pattern has been developing. For a lot of things, fear is the reason I’m not doing whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing. For example, in the social/emotional realm, I’ve noticed that I really don’t like making “cold calls” (calls to people I’ve never spoken to, trying to promote my business.) Now, to start a business, you really HAVE to make a number of cold calls, right?

So in thinking about what’s getting in way, fear is a big part of it. Specifically, I’m afraid of being rejected, ridiculed or hung up on. Honestly, being ridiculed is probably not going to happen – so that particular fear is a little unrealistic. However, the other two are real risks. So, in my planner, my “Do it:” activity is “Do One Thing.”

Doing one thing makes things a little easier – it makes whatever is getting in the way less threatening. If I have to only make one call, I can do other things that might make rejection easier to deal with. If I can do only one thing, it might be a “baby step” toward making the call – like looking up the phone number or contact person via the web. It might be realizing that I can send an email, and then make the call a follow-up. There are a multitude of “one thing”s I can do.

The same is true for the physical, mental/business, and spiritual realms. Often I get busy with minutiae that distract me and end up enabling the fear or lack of motivaton to do the other tasks. Again – one thing. If it’s physical, I can make sure to take a short walk – it doesn’t have to be my usual 4-5 mile trek. If it’s mental/business – another area where fear rules, because I don’t know much about business – I can read one chapter in a book devoted to running a small business. If it’s spiritual, it can be as simple as noticing the Divine in the world around me. I can see it in my children’s smiles and laughs, the blue sky and green around me (thank you for the rain!), the wonderful friendships I have and am making.

Again, doing ONE thing can help counter the problem. Lack of motivation, fear, lack of intertia – these all get in the way of us living our lives. How many times have you found yourself wishing that you could do something, but feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task? Of how difficult it is? Or how complicated? Doing one thing – one thing each day – helps you first, break down the task into do-able chunks and second makes it less overwhelming or difficult.

My one thing lately has been MOVE! I’ve written about moving before, and moving to me means moving in all the realms – doing one thing is a form of moving. I’m not completely set up yet, but I’ve also noticed that once I do ONE thing, it’s a lot easier to do more. I usually end up doing more than one thing on my task list, but I only hold myself accountable for doing one. Anything else is a bonus, and it helps.

1) Kids, cars, and hours do not mix well
2) Shake well and serve does NOT work in cars!
3) Your brand new mini-van becomes a “family car” in about 5 minutes
4) French fries find their way into crevices that you never knew existed
5) New crevices are invented the longer you’re on the road.
6) When the kids say, “Are we there yet?” and you haven’t even left the driveway, you know it’s going to be a long day.
7) There really is such a thing as purple dirt
8 ) It’s great to promise kids that we’ll go in the hotel swimming pool – until the weather changes
9) Do NOT allow noise-making toys to come in the car with you. You will lose your sanity within 2 1/2 minutes.
10) Sugar is NOT your friend.
11) Never take toddlers on long trips until they’re completely potty-trained.
12) Even when you leave space for more crap, the crap you get STILL ends up taking more space than you have.
13) When the water coming out of the hotel faucet is brown…worry. Worry a lot.
14) Little kids tag team to annoy, and the sum of the volume of their voices is greater than each one could possibly be alone.
15) Tinkerbell is NOT cute after the DVD has been played over 20 times. In one trip.
16) Your significant other will invariably pack more than s/he will ever use and will insist that it’s all necessary. (Sorry, Matt…)
17) Schedules are made to be broken.
18) Construction delays always occur when your kids are at their crabbiest.
19) The food you ate that morning will inevitably visit again by noon.
20) You will always be one diaper short. Always.
21) Family is…family. ‘Nuff said.
22) Kids always have to go to the bathroom immediately AFTER you pass the rest stop.
23) There is always another souvenir.
24) When going uphill, you’re always behind the truck.
25) You’ll never have enough time or money while on vacation – and they both go too fast.
26) Someone, somewhere WILL throw-up. Usually either in the middle of nowhere in the car or in the hotel room where you can’t escape it. Sigh…

Any more you all want to add? Let’s see what we can come up with?

Something happened to me tonight, that I’m sure has happened to millions of other large – fat – women worldwide. I was verbally assaulted, on the basis of nothing more than my appearance. I am visiting my mother in Orem, UT and I was unloading our van, when a truck full of teenage boys roared by. As they leered out the window, they took it upon themselves in all their righteous ignorance to yell out, “Fat Rear! Fat Rear! Fat Rear!”

I was shocked. I was hurt in a way that few people can do to me anymore – this was sheer violence, expressed in a verbal way. Now one of my areas of expertise in psychology is peace and violence. Violence is expressed in two ways: direct and indirect. Direct violence is an attack, whether it’s physical, verbal or another form. Structural or indirect violence is the structure in society that allows the direct violence to occur – these are our prejudices, our stereotypes, our discriminatory actions and our “isms”.

Tonight, I was victim of direct violence – a verbal attack that was meant to be cruel and hurt. Even more harmful, though, is the fact that these young men felt justifed in making the attack. Fat prejudice is so ingrained in our world, that we don’t even think twice about denigrating someone who doesn’t fit our idea of conventionally attractive. Women who are fat, who have deformities, who are different-looking from the norm are all considered fair game. This is wrong, in any uncertain terms. Women in general are paid less than men – fat women are paid even less. One study examined hiring biases and pay biases. Men in general earned more and were hired more often than women, but here’s the really interesting part: Fat men were hired less and paid less than thin women, and fat women were paid the least and hired the least often of any of the groups. The students who participated were divided into groups, and each group was given the same resume – the only difference was the picture attached to the document.

Fat women were judged to be less intelligent, less competent – not to mention completely unattractive. Being fat in this society is bad enough – fat prejudice is one of the last “acceptable” biases there is. We are seen as “fat and ugly,” “fat and smelly,” “fat and lazy,” or “fat and stupid.” The point is that no matter how you justify it, no matter how righteous you feel in believing that it’s a matter completely under control and that if “you only exercised more and ate less, you’d be fine”, no matter how “helpful” you think you’re being by mentioning someone’s size – even if commenting on weight loss – you are engaging in fat prejudice. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? It is – and imagine what it’s like being on the OTHER side. Think about what it would feel like if someone said to you, “Wow – you’ve gained some weight! You were starting to look like you were starving…remember those concentration camp survivors? I was wondering if you were one.” Insensitive, clueless and prejudiced, isn’t it? Point out what seems to be a good thing – weight loss – often reminds the person of how unattractive s/he used to be perceived.

I’ve had people say to me that I’m making excuses for looking the way I do. Here’s my question back – Even if I am, SO WHAT? What business of anybody else’s is it if I look different from the norm? Ok – some of you are going to say, “Well MY insurance premiums and health care costs are higher because of you” – is that REALLY true? If you say this to me, I’ll first tell you that a) I”m healthy and have the medical records to prove it, b) that I DO eat well and exercise, even if you don’t want to believe it, and c) Mind your own f***ing business. Frankly, there are so many conditions, so many socioeconomic reasons – including the pharmaceutical companies’ greediness, so many people in poverty that being larger than normal is a drop in the health care bucket.

I’m not talking about morbid obesity, or fetishist obesity – those are problems, and in the case of a lot of involuntary obesity honestly beyond control (and don’t even get me started on voluntary – or fetishist – obesity.) The bottom line – if you’ll forgive the pun – is that we, as a society need to move beyond our prejudices and discrimination. We consider it a hate crime to use certain terms about people of color and people of Jewish descent – as a society, we HAVE accomplished some things.

So, why – WHY, WHY is it acceptable to do the same to large women? This is every bit as much a hate crime, and should be treated as such. And here is where my struggle comes in.

Being the kind of person I am, I realize that these young men at their root are more empty, more lost than I ever will be. THEY are the ones who are hurting – and they express their insecurity, their immaturity, and their emptiness by hurting others. I, at least, have a sense of myself as a warm, caring, intelligent, helpful, and yes, beautiful human being. I hope these young men eventually grow out of their immaturity, and I’m praying that they do. If I have to be honest, there’s a part of me that wishes they would somehow experience the hurt that they’ve inflicted on others. I’m sure I’m not the only one who they’ve hurt. There’s a part of me that wants vengeance, that wants to crack their empty heads together.

But…the part of me that values who *I* am really doesn’t want to do this. That part of me wants to use this experience. That part of me will use it – to help me understand the people who end up seeing me in my office, who I end up working with as colleagues and as students, and who I encounter when I’m not feeling my nicest. I pray that I remember this when *I* feel like being hurtful or cruel, or when I feel angry. I pray I remember it as I move on, and I pray for those young men – and everyone else – who can’t see past our physical bodies to see the wonderful people we are inside.

This is cross-posted from my professional blog, The Other Side of the Couch. I’m interested in what you all have to say, too!

I’m thinking of planning a retreat. I know, I’m probably nuts, but I figure if I need it, a lot of other people do as well. With my values being what they are, I’d love to make it free of cost, but reality dictates that I probably should charge to cover rental space, materials, food, speaker/teacher fees, etc. So, I have some questions for you all: If I were going to do this, what are the kinds of things you’d like to see? I have some ideas, too – I’d like to blend creative expression in some form with self-esteem, empowerment, relaxation, and healthy interactions.

I’m envisioning a day to start with people being able to choose/sign up for 4-5 one hour “experiences”. I would probably do a group breakfast, all together with fruit, pastries, tea/coffee, juice, along with a keynote/introductory address. Then, have people split up to do their “classes” with a 1/2 hour break in between for mingling and sharing experiences, and then wrap up with a brief talk about taking it home and living it in your life.

Here are the topics I’d like to see – PLEASE feel free to add your own! If I do this, I’d want it to appeal to as many people as possible, and would consider anything you suggest. Here’s my list:

Welcome, Introductions, and Orientation:

Workshops:
1) Setting Boundaries
2) Affirmations and Individualizing: How to honor and love yourself, and how to move away from letting others define who you are
3) Healing through Spiritual Practices: Meditation, Creative Visualizations, Ritualizing/Making the Sacred
4) Creating Balance in an Unbalanced World: Nurturing and caring for yourself while also meeting work and family obligations, realizing the importance of caring for and nurturing yourself and building it into your daily routine
5) Empowerment – Identifying and using your strengths
6) Writing Your Own Path – identifying archetypes that speak to you, and writing your own myth with you as the hero/ine.

Lunch – boxed lunches, catered; juice, water, iced tea

7) Finding Your Inner Artist – Finger painting and intuitive painting
8 ) Body Work – Intuitive Free Dancing to a variety of music
9) Body and Self-Acceptance – Learning how to “love the skin that you’re in”
10) Barriers to Achieving What You Want to Do With Your Life: Identifying what you want to do, and what the barriers to doing it are, collectively brainstorm steps to take to being overcoming these
11) Becoming the Person You Want to be: Taking stock of where you are in your life, and discovering who you want to be; celebrating the parts of you where you have reached this goal, and creating a plan to help you get to who you want to be – All Together

Wrap-Up, Thank-you’s to speakers/presenters, Evaluations and Suggestions.

I also envision having some vendors there making available relevant and inspiring products – humorous items, journals, inspirational works of art, gift baskets…I’d love to be able to offer a gift basket as a door prize/raffle/auction item. Another idea would be to have participants bring in creative pieces for a silent auction to benefit a local cause. What else can you all think of?

How does this sound to you all? Please let me know your suggestions – I’d love and would really appreciate what you’ve got to say. Thanks, so much! 🙂

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror