You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Coping’ tag.

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.

Advertisements

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! 🙂

There are some bright spots today – Aidan, my little 5-year old boy who is autistic, has decided that he wants to wear big-boy pants!!!! Hallelujah, he may not go to school in pull-ups. I’ve been changing his diapers for 5 1/2 years, and I am SO ready to be done with that. I think he got jealous of his 3-year old sister, which is FINE by me. 🙂 That, and the “tooth fairy” left a note for him telling him he had to be a big boy and wear big boy pants, because he’s growing up. ;p

The other bright spot comes from my daughter Rebecca – I’ve never seen a child narrate her life to music the way this little girl does. Everything is something to sing about – “I going to water, water plants…” to “I go to the pot-tay, pot-tay, pot-tay…” to (at the top of her little lungs) “Mommy’s driving, Mommy’s driving cossetrate!” Seeing her sing reminds me of myself at her age…I loved to sing. My mother used to tell me “Laura, you couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Well, Becca doesn’t either…and I LOVE to hear her singing. It’s the most beautiful sound in the world to me, next to hearing my kidlets laugh – it shows she’s so happy with her world, that she just breaks out in song.

How much better does it get? 🙂

Aidan and Becca playing "hide from Mommy" at the park - June 2009

I have to admit there are days when I wonder HOW we survive our children…”Capt. Obvious” decided, in his infinite lack of wisdom that it would be a good thing to torrent/download a copyrighted file containing the Harry Potter audio books… How many ways can you say, “DUH???” So, in typical litigious fashion, our internet provider (who shall remain nameless, because *I* don’t want to face any kind of lawsuit) has sent their “warning letter across the bow.” Meaning, they have told us, “BUSTED!”

Now, here’s the thing…Capt. Obvious knows better. He’s 19. But this is also a kid who has no driver’s license, no money in the bank, no job, and no car …and who wants to move in with his friends next year to go to another college – one for which he has not applied. Ok – how many ways can you say “Unprepared”? This is a kid who is 19 going on 10-11. He says he’s going to take full responsibility for the copyright thing – and I think that’s wonderful. However, if he gets fined, I’m wondering where he thinks the money is going to come from? AND, he’s 19 – he’s not a kid anymore in the eyes of the law. The penalities could (and should) be bigger for someone who should know better.

Hopefully, this is a warning and it will go no further. Me, being me, though – I catastrophize. I’m envisioning lawyers descending on the house, subpoenas in hand, having to turn over every bit of electronica for examination of something that MIGHT have violated the copyright. I try to be honest – I really do. I know my husband does too – he works for the police, for crying out loud…I have to wonder if Capt. Obvious here realizes the hot water he could get us ALL into.

So…am I ticked off with him? OH yes…Hubby and I have told him he has to erase/delete every single bit of everything he’s ever downloaded. If he doesn’t have a receipt for it – it’s gone. Period. He has to use his computer in full view of us at all times, now, and I’m tempted to tell him he has to use it for school purposes only (although even that might be a stretch given his grades last semester.)

Meanwhile, MY blood pressure has skyrocketed, and I’m afraid I’m going to lose my connection because of his stupidity. Sigh…I guess we’ll see what happens. In the mean time, if I disappear, you know why. If someone else out there has gone through this with their kid, would you please let me know, and let me know how it turned out? I love my kid, pain in the rear that he can be.

I don’t know about you all, but to me the idea of a “retreat” sounds pretty wonderful right now. (A Caribbean vacation does, too – but hey, I’m trying to think realistically!). A friend of mine in Connecticut, Corinne “CoCo” Melvin is hosting a women’s retreat with the theme “Realize, Release, and ReFire” in Westport, CT. (Not to mention that face that being in CT in and of itself is a retreat for me!)

I admit it – I’m jealous! Frankly, I would love to ease back, and enjoy a retreat…I’d have hot teas (herbal, decaf, and regular), and yummy foods: fruit, cheese,crackers – and of course, chocolate! Soft relaxation music playing… I envision a group of about 20-30 women, interested in empowering themselves, living fully, and realizing the power of each other by learning about themselves and each other over the course of a day…a place where we can come together, and know that we’re not alone in all this. We are not alone – powerful words, again.

I’d have journaling workshops with all kind of creative materials, a stretching or yoga class, a meditation class, or creative visualization. I’d do a session on developing and writing your own personal myth – YOUR story, and where you want it to go, as well as do something where people could develop and create a personal symbol for them – to symbolize their growth, their self-love, and their connection to what’s important to them. I would hope to find something where people could connect with their dreams, and the person who gets lost in the day-to-day hassles of everyday living – and be able to take home that symbol as a reminder that this person is STILL there.

I would love to finish the day with a meal – literally, break bread with each other, and end with a releasing and celebration service or ritual, in the outside world…a park or yard, some outside space whereever we’d be.

As women, we often have the sense that we have to go it alone, that we have to be perfect and never show any weaknesses. We feel so isolated, even around people, because it’s so hard to let our authentic selves out. We feel vulnerable, judged, possibly rejected because we may or may not fit in, or we may not fit what we thing others want us to be. We are so alone, and lonely sometimes…I would love to have this retreat as a way to connect with each other, to say “you’re NOT alone” and “I understand”…”WE understand.” “You really CAN be who you are here, it’s ok.”

Anyway, that’s my dream retreat. I hope someday soon, I can make it happen. Until then…I’m dreaming, too – and working to make that dream a reality.

This is cross-posted from my other blog, “The Other Side of the Couch” where I discuss more psychological and professional issues.

Do you ever have times when it feels like the world is crashing down, and everybody wants everything – not just now, but yesterday-than-you-very-much? Sigh…it’s been one of those days for me. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels with trying to find work -and setting up a private practice feels like starting to climb Mt. Everest. There’s not just the therapy/psychology stuff to tie up (application for licensure, getting supervision, finding office space…) but also the business aspects, like registering a business in Colorado, figuring out what taxes and how much I’m going to have to pay, finding all the right forms, dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. And the big thing, of course, is the money.

I’m like a lot of you – I have a lot of student loans and a credit card. My credit card, I will take full and total responsibility for – after all I decided to use it and I need to be the one to pay it. It’s that simple. My student loans…well, I wouldn’t have gotten through school without them, and I WANT to pay them off. I’m making payments now – barely – with my job as a nursery supervisor in our church. BUT – the money to start my practice has to come from somewhere, right?

I feel like I can’t apply for a loan – how am I going to say I’m going to pay it, when I’m not even sure I’m going to get clients? How do I advertise my services (groups, couples, individuals, personality disorders, DBT, etc) without spending some money somewhere on promotional materials? It feels like a catch-22, and I feel so discouraged.

If you ever looked at my professional blog, you know I advocate strongly for coping tools. So…I’m practicing what I preach. I’m telling myself that I don’t have to do it all at once, that I can get help if I need it, and somehow it will work out. I’m writing (something that helps me), journaling and soothing myself (hot cup of tea, anyone? I made a MEAN coconut chai…) I’m planning, too – I’ve got a notebook and am keeping track of everything I’ve done, people I’ve contacted, promotional ideas, and initial/start-up expenses.

In all actuality, my start-up costs are going to be pretty low for a new business – about $3000. I COULD finance that on another credit card, but I figure I”m worried enough about making payments on the one I have and on my student loans. I guess that getting a loan isn’t much different, though – I’d be making a monthly payment no matter what, right? So…I think the hardest part is getting over the fear.

And funny I should be facing this yet again…One of my favorite self-help books is called, “Feel the fear and do it anyway” (Susan Jeffers – AWESOME book). The fear is really what’s overwhelming, when I get down to it. Everything else is details, and are things I can take care of…it’s that fear – the fear of failing, of having to declare bankruptcy, of having my credit ruined (my ex-hubby did that for me before and I NEVER want to go through that again) – there are any number of things to be afraid of.

So if I were working with a client, what would I say? Probably pick one baby step, and do it. Just do it, and then deal with the fear. I’d remind myself that I really don’t have to do it all at once, and that baby steps are fine. I’d probably have myself list the tasks and then prioritize them a couple of ways -in order of easiest to accomplish, most pressing, etc. And, me being me, I’d have myself keep a record of what I did, how I felt and what I thought while doing it, and how I felt/thought after it was over. Yeah, folks, I really use this stuff myself, too 🙂

So…I guess with these things in mind, here I go…wish me well 🙂

This is also posted on “The Other Side of the Couch,” my more professionally oriented blog.

My son, Aidan, is autistic. We began to suspect that something was wrong when Aidan didn’t start to walk on time, like other kids. He eventually did walk, at 16 months, and our doctors told us, “Don’t worry, he’s fine.” Now to any other parent, that might sound reassuring – but to me it was extremely frustrating, because I KNEW something wasn’t right. I have the advantage of doctoral training in counseling psychology; one of the many things we learn is how to recognize, assess, and treat developmental disorders in children. And yes, autism is one of those disorders. So, I had an “in” when I started recognizing symptoms.

Aidan is a little different in that he never really regressed, as many children with autism do. Aidan simply stopped. At about 18 months, he had tubes put in his ears for chronic ear infections – we had hoped that he would start catching up when he stopped being sick so much of the time. His second birthday came and went, and he was still delayed. He had trouble eating independently, and didn’t like to be hugged as much as I would have liked to hug him…so, although there were some “red flags,” they weren’t flying high enough to really warrant a lot of attention. Still, at his checkups, I brought up the possibility of autism with our family doctor. Her advice was to “wait and see.”

One thing I should tell you is that I have a really, REALLY good working relationship with my family doctor. She is an incredible, amazing woman that I trust. More importantly, she listened to me and considered my concerns. Again, though – I had an “in” because of my training, and I’m sure that helped.

Aidan’s sister was born a few months after his second birthday, and Aidan didn’t react to her at all in the way you’d expect a toddler to react to a new intruder. He simply didn’t care and actually acted as though she simply didn’t exist. Unlike most toddlers, he wasn’t curious and he wasn’t jealous. He simply…was. Again, I was concerned – after all, I knew what to look for.

Aidan’s 3rd birthday came and went, and he was pretty clearly not meeting the developmental milestones. I’d been keeping track of these since I’d first noticed difficulties early on – and, as I mentioned earlier, he simply “stopped.” He wa stuck at about 2 to 2 1/2 years old. Our doctor listened to my concerns, and again we give it a few more months just to wait and see. Ok…so we did.

At three and half years, she saw him again – she’d wanted to assess his development specificially withing the few months between visits to see if there were any changes. There weren’t…he as still “stuck” in the two year old phase.

Now if any you know, have been around, or have children at this age, you KNOW what fun I’m talking about. Learning the power of “no” is huge at this age – now imagine getting stuck there, and dealing with it for over two and half years. Potty training – the same. Stuck at early two.

After this visit, our doctor decided that it would be a good thing to run a complete evaluation – ironically enough, she recommended my training clinic as the best place to do this. I KNEW what the outcome of the evaluation would be – after all, I’d been tracking symptoms and such for 2 1/2 years. So, off we went to CSU for the evaluation. I remember telling therapist (who again ironically enough was in the same exact position I’d been in three years before) that I thought Aidan had autism and oppositional defiance disorder (ODD; essentially disobeying for the sheer idea of disobeying and argumentation.) She said, “Well, let’s do the tests and we’ll see.”

Guess what? Amazingly enough…he was diagnosed with mild-moderate autism and oppositional defiance disorder. Here’s the thing – even when you’re prepared, even when you know what’s coming – hearing it is a shock. No parent ever wants to hear that there is something wrong with their child. I’d been through this before when my oldest was diagnosed with ADHD. I thought I was prepared.

And on the way home, with Aidan babbling in the back seat of the care, I cried. Partially out of relief – here was the evidence for what I’d known for years – and partially out of a profound grief. There was something very wrong with my baby.

From this point, we entered the world of “services” and “therapy.” I have to say that I’m eternally grateful to the local hospital and therapists – their work in speech and occupational therapy worked wonders. It’s expensive and I’m also glad we had insurance that covered it. AND, I thought about what life would be like if we didn’t have these advantages.

Today, Aidan speaks relatively close to his age group – he’s about 1 year behind. His motor coordination is better, and he interacts with people much more often and appropriately. I thank God every day for that. He has improved immensely, also in part due to the wonderful Head Start program – he had a wonderful classroom staff and was thrilled to be a “big kid” and go to school. He hugs, kisses, shows affection, interacts and even initiates play with other kids – all of these are miracles I’ll never take for granted again.

There are things about Aidan, though, that are noticeably different. He tends to speak in a monotone that sounds intense or pressured – there isn’t much emotion or inflection in his words. He looks a little different too – there is just something about him that seems a little “off.” He’s fascinated with things no other child I know of has ever even noticed: power poles and lines, “red balls,” train tracks (not the trains – the tracks) and signs. One more thing – heaven help me…I’m STILL changing diapers. (Changing poopy diapers for a 5 1/2 year old is NOT fun, either!)

His little sister speaks more clearly and in a more complex manner than he does, and she’s potty-trained now. She’s teaching him some things with language, interacting, and normal pre-school stuff that he needs and can really only get by interacting. He’ll be in a regular kindergarten next year, and I’m worried for him.

We all know how kids treat other kids who are different and how early it starts. My prayer for the other children and for Aidan is that, somehow, they can overcome the differences and help each other.

I took the kidlets to the park today. We are lucky here in the Fort Collins/Loveland area, because there are some really nice, well-kept parks. Our favorite is the Veteran’s Park by Lake Loveland. The weather was nice (and lately it’s been pretty volatile), the sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot or chilly – Perfect park weather.

I learned a lesson today, too…never, ever judge a situation by what it appears to be. A few weeks ago, we went to the same park and I was looking for a picnic table. I work on my art and writing while the kids play, and a table really helps. This particular weekend, both shelters were booked. “Ohh-kay,” I thought..there was a group using one shelter and they had dragged over the two “public” tables as well – and weren’t using them. So I asked politely if they would mind if I used one of the tables. The lady who had rented the space coldly told me that, “We paid $100 for this and we’ll use what we want.” I was taken aback and told her that the fee didn’t include the public tables and she argued that it did. Long story, short was that she pretty snidely informed that it was “first come, first serve” and too bad for me. To say it left a bad taste in my mouth is an understatement – I was PO’d. Anyway, we stayed at the park that day for a little bit anyway – the kids wanted to play, and I sat on the grass and the edge of the playground and watched.

Which brings me to today. We went again to this same park, and there was a group setting up a birthday party in one of the shelters – they had taken two tables. I TRIPLE-checked the reservation list, and they weren’t on it, so I sat down at one of the tables where I could both work and watch the kids. There were some murmured comments, which I assumed were “What’s she doing? Doesn’t she see that we have these tables?” Me being me, I stubbornly refused to move, just waiting for a confrontation like the last one. This time I was working on reading and planning for my business, so it was easy to concentrate on the other stuff.

My munchkins had brought sidewalk chalk with them, and I encouraged them to share it with everyone – not just themselves. They did and we got quite a gallery going on the sidewalk of kid’s drawings in the summer – it was great. A few of the girls from the birthday party even joined in. So, after a bit everyone kind of scattered. Aidan and Becca came over to drink their water, and it was at this time that the party gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” and open presents. My kidlets watched and I told them, “It’s not ours guys…but you can wish the little girl happy birthday if you want.” They didn’t, and so I went back to work.

About 5 minutes later, someone touched me on the arm. It was the mother of the birthday girl. Uh-oh, I thought…here it comes. I’m sure my face reflected this, because she immediately said, “Oh, nothing’s wrong. I was just wondering if your kids would like a piece of cake?”

And yes…there was the lesson I’ve written about, wearing a kind smile and an offer of friendship. Be the change you want to see in the world, indeed. My munchkins gratefully accepted, and we decided to do something in return. We got the sidewalk chalk, drew some balloons and wrote, “Happy Birthday Arianna! From Aidan and Rebecca”

I was humbled today. I thought I was above being judgmental and arrogant, and I was taught a lesson. Thank God for people who teach us – and I’m glad I was open enough to hear the lesson. And so…I pick myself up, dust myself off and begin again to try to practice what I preach. It pays to look at the other side of the mirror.

So, happy birthday Arianna – you and your family gave ME the gift today. I wish you the best, and am glad there are people like you and your family in the world. You give me hope.

So, I wore a dress today for the first time since….well, I don’t remember when. I even wore it to church, which was pretty amazing considering that I’m in the nursery with a bunch of rowdy toddlers. But…I wanted to feel pretty, and I haven’t felt that way in a long, LONG time. It’s hard to feel that way when you look like I do – society doesn’t reward women who don’t fit the ideal. Instead, we (all of us – even I fall prey to it now and then) tell women that they’re flawed, ugly, undesirable, etc. because they’re not 6 feet talll and 110 pounds with looks like Kate Moss or Giselle Bunchen. So, I wore it, and I did feel pretty. Several people told me the dress looked good on me, and that I looked good – I haven’t heard that in a LONG time.

It’s getting to be summer here – at least weather wise, and feeling pretty in a pretty dress while standing in the sunshine and smelling the lilacs was like receiving a little gift from above. And then…back to the real world, when I looked in the mirror.

It’s funny, though, because in Second Life, nearly everyone is drop dead gorgeous. I have to admit that I created my avatar to be that way as well…I could make her look like me in real life, but if I can control appearance and size why would I want to? I talk about self-acceptance, but I’m not happy with the way I look. I’ve been exercising for about a year now, with no substantial weight loss, so I saw my doctor this last week – I am now on what amounts to a starvation diet – 1000 calories per day with one hour of aerobic exercise every day. I am losing weight, but I wonder if I’m losing my sanity along with weight – is it worth the sacrifice? I want to look good, and feel good about myself. I generally have good self-esteem nowadays – until I look in a mirror. I want to be accepted – and yet I still have trouble accepting myself.

What prompted the change was the way people reacted to my avatar in Second LIfe (SL). I will NEVER look like my avatar – no matter how much I work, because there is no way to make a 42-year old woman who has birthed and nursed three babies look like a twenty year old who has never had children and looks like she eats less than Lindsey Lohan. However, I also think there are steps I can take to look and feel better. When I am on SL as my avatar, I feel pretty. I know that it is a virtual mock-up of a fantasy, but my personality reflects the difference. I’m flirty, active and fun…and I feel attractive. In the mundane world of real life, I’m a flabby, tired mother who spends a great deal of time chasing kids, changing diapers, and cleaning up messes – it’s hard to feel attractive when you smell like diapers and have spots of smushed peas and carrots on your clothes and in your hair.

So what’s the point? A friend of mine on SL and I were chatting about how easy it is to get sucked into this virtual world. It’s easy to want to escape real life, because real life is not always fun. It’s messy, dirty and you can’t always hide between an attractive exterior. It’s also more intense. I think in part that’s because it’s overwhelming at first to find yourself in this beautiful “world” where the normal inhibitions of everyday living are absent – in it’s own way, it’s addictive.

And therein lies the trouble…Am I my avatar, or is she me? I think it’s a little bit of both, and people continue to be people, whether in virtual reality or not. He told me of people who have exacted revenge by destroying the virtual property of people that have jilted them, and of others who have been hurt by the actions of people they thought of as friends. Even though it’s “play” for many, for others, the lure of social contact and an end to loneliness seems like a lifeline.  When the two collide, people get hurt.

Ironically enough, it seems easier to trust people online -we think we are anonymous when on SL, but in reality, there are probably ways to find out to whom we’re speaking. Psychological research has found that people tend to be more open and less inhibited when they think they are anonymous; this is as true on SL as in any research study. The possibility of real life hurt and damage is very much present, and we (myself included) act as though we have blinders on. We’d like to think that the people we trust with our identities and our secrets are trustworthy, but that’s not always the case.

So, back to the issue at hand – for a long time, I wouldn’t let my online friends see pictures of me, because I was afraid that after seeing what I really look like, they would see the real me instead of the attractive avatar. Dishonest? Probably…but also grounded in real-life experience. There’s nothing like getting to know someone, only to see a look of disgust or shock in their eyes when they see the real you for the first time. I’ve found, through experience, that no matter how great your personality is, some people will always judge you by how you look. And I want to keep feeling pretty.

Okay – I know I’m fat. I weigh 200 pounds, and wear anywhere from a size 16 to a size 20, depending on the item of clothing and whether it’s for my top or bottom. AND, I’m a good, interesting, worthwhile person. I wasn’t always fat, and it’s interesting that I like and respect myself MORE now than I did when I wore a size 7 and weighed 110 pounds. For all of my life until I had children, I was thin – and I hated myself.  Physically, I probably looked the best I ever looked, but inside I was a mess. After a disastrous first marriage, I was still relatively thin – 135 pounds, after having one child. My metabolism was never the same after giving birth, and after each child, it’s continued to slow.

(For those of you who think that you have the “cure” – please don’t bother – I have been and am continuing to work with my medical doctor on the best way for me to exercise, eat well, and be healthy. I walk, I watch my portion sizes and type of food, and like everybody, goof up *occasionally*. Please don’t say that I couldn’t be doing these things, because I wouldn’t be fat if I were. It’s simply not true. I’m also on medications that are known – scientifically – to cause weight gain. I try to counteract that effect every way I can.)

The point to this rant? It’s taken me a long time to accept that I am the way I was intended to be. In our society, you can’t go anywhere without seeing, hearing the message that you’re no good if you’re not thin. I still struggle with accepting my myself, but overall, I like myself a lot more as I am, except when I have to shop for clothes. I hear women say sometimes that they’d rather die than be fat…and I feel sorry for them. They truly have NO idea that life isn’t about being thin. Life is about living, loving and being – no matter WHAT you look like.

For those of you who aren’t plus-size, have you ever stopped and really looked at the clothes that are offered to large women? Many of them are flat-out UGLY. And please don’t say that it’s incentive to lose weight – everybody should be able to find stylish, well-made and comfortable clothes at ANY size. When I go shopping, there are times when I feel as if the designers, manufacturers and buyers of stores think, “Well, these are fat clothes, so it doesn’t matter if they look good or not.” I mean, who decided that huge, fluorescent polyester floral prints look good (on ANYBODY)?? Who in their right mind would want to buy clothes that are cut like tents? Just because I’m fat does not mean that I don’t have a figure – I do, and it’s hourglass shaped, thank-you very much. I have beautiful curves that I WANT to show off – just because the way I look doesn’t fit society’s ideal of what a woman should be does not mean that I or any other large person should be delegated to the “crap” section.

Frankly, it is *absolutely* possible to make the same styles and shape of clothes look good in larger sizes. Shopko does it (Please, PLEASE, **PLEASE** come back to Colorado!!) Coldwater Creek does it (and if they’d add some more of their dresses to that line, I would buy them). Talbots Women does it. Kudos to these places that make larger women feel pretty, good, and desired, just as they are. There are a number of places that prove it’s possible. Frankly, I don’t even mind paying a *little* more; I understand that more fabric is required. I’m reasonable. There are also many, many places that offer one stylish line for “regular” sizes and one fugly line for plus-size – I won’t mention names, but those of you who have had to shop for decent plus-size clothes know exactly who I’m talking about.

And forget trying to find a decent bathing suit, or lingerie. Blech! Land’s End has beautiful bathing suits in a large variety of sizes (thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!) Cacique specializes in lingerie for plus-sizes. The rest of you – GET WITH IT!! You don’t really think that all plus-size women are celibate, do you? Hello?? Don’t even get me started on trying to find plus-size maternity clothes – Motherhood Maternity has a few, JC Penney’s has some and that’s pretty much it. And nursing wear is literally nonexistent, except for a few sets of pajamas. Folks, fat women have sex, and fat women have babies – yes, we enjoy life as much as anyone else. Do you know why most large women work out in baggy sweats? Because it’s next to impossible to find good quality, comfortable, workout clothes in our sizes!

To all retailers: PLEASE!! The average size of women in the US is a 14 – do you REALLY want to lose that much business? Yes, most of us would love to be thinner – some of us even die trying. And yet, some of us, believe it or not, work to be healthy and can actually accept ourselves and (GASP!) love ourselves as we are.

We are tired of being told we’re not good enough, that we’re lazy, that we’re ugly, that we stink, and that we’re not worthy. We’re tired of having very little choice in finding nice clothes, bathing suits, and lingerie. We’re tired of hearing “You’d be so pretty if only…” (We’re pretty just as we are, thank-you very much.) We’re tired of being around thin friends who complain about how fat they are…trust me, you’re not fat, and I’m not here to make you feel better about yourself. We’re tired of being forced to justify our very presence in a world that despises and hates us. (How do you think we feel when we hear people say, “I’d rather die than be fat!” Then again, the people saying these things probably don’t care what we feel, because to them, we’re worth less than than the caca they flush away.)

Guess what world? We’re here, we always will be here, and we aren’t going away. And you know what? I like who I am, and I’m learning to “love the skin I’m in.”

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror

Advertisements