Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm A Fat Slut

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight...
That's why the lady is a tramp.

Fat: affluent, cushy, fertile, flourishing, fruitful, good, lush, thriving.

Won't dish the dirt with the rest of the girls:
That's why the lady is a tramp.

Slut: bimbo, floozy, harlot, hussy, jezebel, slattern, strumpet, tart, tramp, trollop, wanton

She's all alone when she lowers her lamp:
That's why the lady is a tramp.

If you're a woman who's made it to adulthood - or even just to age 14 - you've probably been called fat, or a slut, or a fat slut.* The words aren't merely their definitions, aren't merely their synonyms. They are the words most likely to wound deeply, because they are the words that identify everything that a woman should not be. They are the arrows that come already loaded in the quivers of adolescent girls, the weapons we, as a society, hand to our daughters with instructions to use them against the girl who is different, the girl who is defiant, the girl who insists that she knows best for herself.

At some point, we are all that girl, that different woman, that strange defiant female. At some point, we are all fat sluts.

I've been one for roughly two decades now. I was the early bloomer, the girl who woke up one day to find herself all lush curves and bountiful breasts and nowhere to hide them, the envy and the terror of her peers. The name-calling and the snubbing were almost instantaneous, and I reacted with an even deeper shame for my bigness, my "huge" hips, my "flabby" thighs, my breasts. I was Fat.

Fat can be overcome, if one shows enough shame and enough self-denial. But I was never good with self-denial: there is far too much joy to be had in a perfectly-baked cupcake or a perfect little bite of chocolate to forswear them in pursuit of approval, and I couldn't be counted upon to stick to the diets that would have rendered me acceptable to the girls I knew. I was Fat, and I was going to stay Fat, and if I ever thought to forget it, someone would remind me.

Fat, however, is nothing next to the brazen shamelessness of being A Slut. While Sluts are most often the girls who enjoy sex, enjoy men, and enjoy themselves without reservation or shame, they can also simply be the girls who don't like the other girls. The women who find other women's conversation impenetrably complicated, who never cottoned to the rules of calling other women names behind their backs while inviting them to dinner parties to their faces, who will never be "Rules Girls", who don't understand when being useful and forthright went out of style. A Slut finds the social rules for men to be far more sensible, and lives by them.

After spending my pre-teen years being Fat, I embarked upon my high school career as A Slut, as well. Why I would want to spend time with girls who'd done nothing but berate, ridicule, or condescend to me was beyond me, and I ignored them in favor of easier, quieter, more honest friendships with boys and men. They expected that I would be exactly as I appeared to them, and wouldn't stand for my constant self-deprecation or useless self-denial. The identity I formed during my teen years was a strong, useful, honest woman, one loath to deny herself what she wanted simply because it wasn't seemly for her to want at all. What was the point of feminism, after all, if I had to play by a complicated series of rules in order to be acceptable to the world at large? Wasn't that the sort of thing our mothers had tried to eliminate for us, this constant focus on appearances above all else, even unto tending to the appearance of good character, rather than the cultivation of such? Shouldn't I be caring more about how I changed the world than about how I looked to it?

Unfortunately, that wonderful woman was hidden away behind the fad diets and the bitchy machinations of my "friends", and I only ever felt comfortable when I was alone, or with my boys. I was always on my guard around my girlfriends, and I know they knew it, because I was always "stealing" someone's boyfriend or eating the wrong things or wearing the wrong things. I tried, but I was, and would always be, A Fat Slut.

Upon learning that I was having a daughter, I panicked. I knew nothing about how to raise a girl, I told my now-husband; I didn't like princesses and pink and everything dainty and feminine. I didn't know how to teach her to move in the world of women, because I'd never been able to figure it out. What on earth would I do with a girl? I asked him.

"Teach her to be like you. What's wrong with you? Aren't you a woman?"

I hadn't known what to say in return, because that seemed so obvious. Yes, of course I'm a woman. But I'm also A Fat Slut, and I can't teach our daughter to be one - can I?

The answer? Of course, I can. Because if I don't teach her to embrace herself, and damn the consequences, then we'll never be able to be anything but Fat Sluts. We'll never simply be useful people, unique people, if "fat slut" is still allowed as a term of hatred, as a badge of undesirable "otherness".

So there it is: I'm a Fat Slut. I'm a tramp. I'm not afraid of my lush body, or my quirky personality, or my decidedly non-vanilla relationship needs. I'm not afraid that my daughter likes dinosaurs better than dresses, or building better than ballerinas - or baby dolls better than Hot Wheels.

I'm a Fat Slut.

Are you?

*I know there are those out there who were called the opposites: Skinny Bitches and Skinny or Fat Prudes. For this argument, it all comes under "Fat Slut".

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Bit About Me

You'll notice I added a new link over on the left: the website of The Church Music Association of America. It looks a little odd, mixed in with the romance novel reviews and fashion snark, but my one great passion right now is music, and sacred music in particular.

I've always sung in school choirs and church choirs, and never really thought much about it: I could carry a tune, and church choirs always needed another voice. Then in 2006, I had the opportunity to not just sing with my parish choir, but to actually be hired on as a professional vocalist for the Diocese of Phoenix. The salary wasn't huge, but the honor of being compensated for my talents was tremendous to me. I'd never considered myself that great, and while I'd taken a few classes toward a music minor in college, I never finished, and never thought myself any great shakes at singing.

But I'm versatile: I've been a soprano, alto, and tenor at some point in my life; and I read music well, which is a boon especially in volunteer choirs.

I dearly loved my Phoenix choir. (If you're ever there, do stop by Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral for the nine a.m. Mass. You won't regret it.) They're the only thing I miss from Arizona, and I wandered around Denver for a few months trying to find a choir I liked, a choir I fit with, and most importantly, a choir that sang appropriate Catholic music.

I auditioned for Dr. Horst Buchholz in January - the same Dr. Buchholz who is the vice president of the CMAA and director of the Cathedral Choir in Denver.

This choir? Is amazing. I'm having a fantastic time singing, and I feel useful at Mass again. And the music is - heavenly. If you enjoy classical music even a little bit, I urge you to check out polyphonic pieces written for the Church. The music is exquisite, is transcendental, is so perfectly to the glory of God that though I feel exhausted and taxed beyond my capabilities trying to learn it, I also feel freed and comforted by being so close to His most wonderful works.

Lent began on Wednesday. I rarely give things up, but instead try to do things. I usually try to be a better housewife, because I'm terribly lazy, or to be more patient with people. This year I think I shall try to use all the talents God gave me, in a deliberate spirit of usefulness. That is, I will try to be conscious that my talents did not spring forth from me alone, and that they are not intended to be used solely for my gratification, but that I can be of use to others better than I can be of use to myself alone.

And to be a better housewife. Seriously. I'm really lazy.