Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Didn't Read Anything Tasty Last Week


So, I had a bad day yesterday. I started the school-year schedule, which includes waking up before God, and it just went downhill from there.

I started submitting query letters to literary agents, and I was all panicky and anxious, and somehow, all these fears of failure coalesced into hating my body all day long. I didn't want to get dressed, I didn't want to eat, I didn't even want my husband to hug me when he came home. I felt like a giant ugly blob of grossness, and all the relentless, negative tape-loops I thought I'd cleaned out of my brain were working overtime. Not only was I going to fail at getting an agent because my novel sucked and the market's full of vampires - no, obviously I was going to fail because I am a big, fat, toothy, ugly loser.

I'm not writing to get pity (though I'll shamelessly take compliments anyway.). I'm writing this down because it illustrates just how intertwined our bodies are with our everyday lives, with our emotions; and how body acceptance is a process that doesn't end. Fifteen years after I chucked dieting the first time, and I still have all that crap I grew up listening to in my head, waiting in the back of my brain until something else has me jittery and inattentive, and then it sneaks up and makes me feel like shit.

And I hate that my anxiety is so closely linked to my appearance, but that's how I was taught; that's how my mother wired me, right from the start. I was not a child who could leave the house in a tutu and rain boots: that would have reflected badly on my mother. In fact, the only thing that reflected well on her, as far as I was told, was looking perfect - perfectly matched, perfectly styled, perfectly brushed and curled and accessorized. Too bad I was so fat, or I really could have done her proud.

I understand her wanting me to start off on the best foot, to make the best first impression I could. But since I could never actually look good - just good for a fatty - the whole concept of first impressions, of appearances, just makes me stupid with anxiety. Even when the people I'm "meeting" can't see me, and have no way of knowing how big I am.

My writing should be able to stand on its own (and I think it does, or I wouldn't be trying for an agent at all), but the toxic tapes in my head told me that I'm fat, and therefore worthless, and therefore a failure before I even get out of the gate.

I've dealt with this most of my life by failing on purpose. If it's my choice to fail - by not trying, by dropping out - then it's not a judgment on me. It's not because my body is unacceptable - because I am unacceptable. It's because I didn't want to.

Fuck that. I've missed out on a lot of life because "I didn't want to". No more. Even if I fail, so what? I tried, right? I pursued a difficult and insanely competitive profession because I wanted to! I wanted to put myself out there, to do the only thing I've wanted to do since I was 10 years old. If my timing of the market isn't right, if my writing is truly awful, well, I'll figure that out.

I will have wanted to, and from where I'm sitting? That makes me a success, right out of the gate.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ugh, Ugh, Ugh

Uh-oh. Is your house making you fat?

And here I thought my fat made me fat. Silly fatty. 

Of course all the tips assume that not a single one of us is able to eat according to cues of hunger and satiety. We don't listen to our bodies. No, we eat because food looks good, or because our wall color made us depressed, or because our plates are big. 

And of course we're all dieting. I mean, what kind of terrible people would we be if we just stayed fat? 

I know, I know, I shouldn't be watching the Today Show. But I like to while away my morning waking up in front of the TV, catching up on my news and message boards and blogs before I'm ready for real work, and this is what I keep on in the background. Plus, if I didn't watch shit like that, where would I find anything to write about? It can't all be book reviews and gushing about third-tier TV series around here. 

So. Let's break it down, shall we?

1. Turn up the lighting....Dim lights make food look more attractive, which encourages binge eating.
           So - I should only eat disgusting-looking food, because then I won't want to eat? Let's also completely ignore the fact that binge eating is a bona fide eating disorder, and you can't get it by just eating until you're full. Finishing your dinner? Not binge eating, morons.

2. Color everything blue.
          This one I don't get at all. I guess they've done research that blue walls or blue colored plates and flatware or lighting makes food less appealing, and people will eat less when presented with blue. I have blue and green plates; I've never noticed that the people I serve on the blue eat less than the people who eat off the green, but what do I know? I just eat till I'm full, after all.

3. Make your plate smaller.
         Because obviously, everyone cleans their plate all the time. Hunger cues? What're those?

4. Only use your kitchen for cooking and eating.
          God forbid anyone else see the kitchen - the source of nourishment - as the heart of the home. Get out, or you might catch the fatz!

5. Get enough sleep.
          They suggest spraying your pillows with lavender. But, wait - I thought fatties were lazy gluttons who napped on the couch, covered in bonbons? I don't see how getting enough sleep will prevent fat, but being lazy won't.

6. Spray energizing scents.
          Because people with more energy - are more energetic? The article doesn't explain this at all, and frankly, I don't get it. If I'm energized, will I suddenly develop new genetic code that makes me skinny? 

7. Run up and down the stairs.
          And keep exercise equipment just laying around the house, because then you'll use it! We all know fatties don't exercise ever!

8. Get rid of "fat clothes".
          I agree with this. Not to keep you thin, of course, that's bullshit. But clearing your closet of clothing that doesn't fit you? That just makes life so. much. easier. Of course, I'll keep my fat clothes - they're the only ones I have, after all.

9. Thinspiration!
          No, I'm not kidding. Keeping a photo of some other body pasted to your fridge will remind you not to eat! It keeps you focused on your goal! It totally tells everyone who comes into your house how virtuous we all should be, and it's totally not disordered at all! 

The thing is, it's not just this article, this spot on Today. It's this, and it's the segment on every other talk show, and it's the weight loss commercials, and it's the rapidly-shrinking plus sections in brick-and-mortar stores, and it's the people catcalling on the street, and, and, and. This is relentless, and it's inexcusable. Sure, I snidely deconstruct, but that's just to keep sane. What I'd really love? A world where there's nothing for me to write about at all.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's "Yeah"

Not yea, not ya, not ye - two of those are different words entirely.

If you want to transcribe the word people say when they're agreeing, or saying "yes" - it's "yeah". That is the only correct way to spell it.

This is right up there with misuse of homophones as a pet peeve for me, especially in published materials and from people who write for a living. This is something you should have cottoned to years ago. Honestly, it's not hard.

What are your spelling peeves?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tasty Tome Tuesday!

Nothing But Trouble
Rachel Gibson

Like those strips? BaconsDad made 'em for me. I think they're ossum.

Chelsea Ross is an unsuccessful actress-turned-personal assistant who leaves Hollywood to take a job in Seattle, working for an injured hockey player who's run off every nurse and health aid the team has hired for him. Mark Bressler is universally surly, angry about the car accident that crippled him and ended his professional hockey career. He doesn't want an assistant any more than Chelsea wants to be working for such a jerk, but Chelsea's got bills to pay.

It's a classic setup, but it is a romance novel, after all. Gibson's prose is tight and easy to read; Chelsea's and Mark's voices are distinct and likable. The attraction is completely believable - Mark isn't so angry that we want Chelsea to run the other way, and Chelsea is professional enough not to flirt, but not so professional she doesn't notice she's working for a hottie.

Funny and fast-paced, Nothing But Trouble was a fun ride, and a quick, satisfying read. Highly recommended to all romance lovers, especially those looking for good contemporaries.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tasty Television Thursday!

Let's talk TV.

I LOVE TV. It is an unholy love. I probably love TV more than candy, but not quite as much as Bacon. I'm watching TV right now, in fact - The Cooking Channel, which is a usual destination for me in the middle of the day.

Mostly, I watch documentaries, dramas, and cooking shows. I'm not a fan of reality TV, and most sitcoms fall flat for me. But give me a show about giant jellyfish or a How It's Made marathon and I'm in nerdy television heaven. I also DVR Jeopardy! every day. Yes. That nerdy.

I was looking forward to a new season of goodies, but I looked up the listings for fall the other day and I am sad and disappointed. There's really nothing very appealing on the network schedules, and though I love my returning favorites (especially from FOX), I'm hoping that mid-season will bring us something better than yet another police procedural or family drama.

My favorite new summer show this year is Haven, on Syfy. Based on a Stephen King story, it's - yes, another - cops-investigate-weird-shit show. Not as out there as Fringe, not as dark as The X-Files, Haven is more character-driven than plot-driven, and features a young, capable cast headed by Emily Rose as FBI Agent Audrey Parker. Called to Haven, Maine on a case, she stays for an indefinite "vacation" when she finds that a woman who looked just like her had come through the area ~30 years ago - right about the time she was born and abandoned by her mother. Could the mysterious woman tied to the "Colorado Kid" case be her mom? If she is, what are the chances that they both ended up in Haven by accident? And what's up with all the weird shit going on?

Rose is backed up by Lucas Bryant as local cop Nathan Wournos and Eric Balfour as local ne'er-do-well Duke Crocker. Wournos' taciturnity and Crocker's negligent charm are wonderful foils for each other, and watching the two of them spar over Audrey's big-city FBI cynicism is the best part of the show.

The writing is a little uneven - the supernatural plot elements seem to wrap up too neatly, too quickly - but I thought the same about Warehouse 13, which has found its footing in its second season, so I'm not too worried about Haven. I highly recommend you give this quirky little series a try - especially since there won't be anything else worth watching anytime soon.

Haven, Syfy, Fridays at 10 pm Eastern

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

OK, Let's Talk About This

So, a study just came out in The Journal of Pediatrics that shows that girls are starting puberty earlier than ever - developing breasts at age 7 or 8, for example.

I am not a doctor, I'm not even vaguely a scientist, so I can't comment on the actual findings or why girls might be pubescent earlier than they have been. But I am a fat woman, so I feel qualified to comment on the supposition that this rise in early puberty might be due to fat, and to comment on the social consequences of early puberty.

First of all, I was a fat kid. I've been fat since I was born, and I was on diets when I started puberty, at age 10. The diets probably made me the late bloomer I was, at least for my family: my skinny mother had breasts at nine, her period at 10. I didn't have breasts till 10, and it was a full two years later, at age 12, that I "finally" got a period. I expect that my daughter will have much the same experience.

Was my "early" puberty a result of me being fat? Or of my genetics? Considering the stories I've heard about my maternal grandmother also starting her period at age 10, I'm more likely to consider genetics than fat. Especially since I get the fat from my dad's family - whose girls were well into their teens before they started menstruating.

What gets me, though, is that every news outlet who comments on this article mentions that the numbers of early puberty are up since 1997 - and so are the numbers of obese children.

Except, are they? 1997, as my fat acceptance friends will no doubt remember, was the year they moved the BMI goalposts for no scientifically valid reason. Millions of Americans went to bed "healthy" and woke up "fat". That sounds totally scientifically sound, doesn't it? And of course, we should apply these same standards to children, for whom the BMI was even less intended than it is for adult individuals, and then blame every health problem on their fat. That sounds like an even better idea, doesn't it?

So, no, there are probably not any more fat kids today than there were, so, no, I'm not simply going to say, "Ah, of course. Fatties getting boobies is a crisis! Put those girls on diets!"

Which brings us to the social consequences of early-onset puberty, which include low self-esteem, body-image problems, and eating disorders. 

Hmmmmm. Let's think, for just a second, about those three problems. What else causes those problems? Is it - maybe - just perhaps - American society's insistence that any ounce over a size 00 is fat? American doctors' insistence that fat is the root of all evil? MAYBE? YA THINK?

So fat kids get breasts earlier. Then they develop eating disorders. Obviously, it's the fault of the breasts.

The other correlation with early puberty is early sexual activity. Which is obviously because the early pubescents are just so ready, and not because everyone they know calls them a slut because they have tits. No one would do that, right? Right.

What we have is a scientific finding - there's more early puberty - butting up against the societal condemnation of fat sluts. While I think that early puberty needs more study, I also think that decrying the consequences of it as somehow caused by it, and not by society's need to put the hate on someone, is ridiculous. The reason we have low-self-esteem and eating disorders and slutty behavior in response to puberty is not because hormones make us crazy. It's because society looks at our bodies and thinks, "Hey, we own that. It's not yours, and it's not acceptable to us the way it is, so you need to feel bad about it. You need to treat it like crap, abase it appropriately, and then maybe we'll see about letting you back into the fold."

The fact that this study covers only girls, and that numbers about boys' precocious puberty are almost impossible to find, says a lot about what we want to know about as a culture, doesn't it. It's not about boys' bodies being unacceptable or somehow broken, even if they, too, are fat; it's not about boys becoming sexually active earlier.

It's about girls not fitting the mold, girls not being acceptable.

Just sit with that for a minute, and then ask yourself again why fat acceptance is necessary, why feminism is necessary.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tasty Tome Tuesday!

House of Night book 1
P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

1 out of 5 Bacon Strips

In a world where vampirism - oh, excuse me, vampyrism - is brought on by hormonal changes in the teen years, budding vampyres (yes, seriously) are "marked" with a forehead tattoo just as they begin the change, and brought to the House of Night where they'll learn about vampyre society, history, and be given a safe place in which to undergo the Change.

Zoey Redbird has been Marked at the beginning of Marked, to the horror of her friends and family. Only her grandmother, a Cherokee wise woman (God, I wish I were kidding) seems unsurprised and, better?, delighted that Zoey has proven to be special. She helps Zoey escape her mother and stepfather and takes her to House of Night to begin her education.

So, yeah. This is Harry Potter meets bloodsuckers, another variation on the hero origin myth. Zoey doesn't fit in anywhere, and then finds out she's not only a vampyre, but she's a super-awesome vampyre with powers no one's seen in centuries. Pretty standard stuff, and none of that is my objection to this novel. Wanting to find out you're someone else - someone powerful and special - is a standard teenage wish, and there's a reason such stories keep popping up, generation after generation. And I applaud the Casts for taking it on, and for giving the vampire mythos a new spin (but not for spelling it with a y. Seriously.).

But they should just have titled it "Fatties, Sluts, and Fags Need Not Apply".

We get fat hatred from the first chapter, when on page 2 - TWO, y'all! - Zoey complains about her erstwhile boyfriend getting fat from his incipient drinking problem. Yeah. Because that should be the main concern when a 16-year-old is always drunk. That he might ruin his abs. Nice priorities.

It continues to the House of Night, where the faculty provide healthy foods for the dorm kitchens, because "you don't see fat vamps." Yet the kitchens are full of sodas and sugary cereals, so - Yeah, I don't get it, either.

And of course, all the students are svelte and attractive, even before they start the Change. Except, of course, for the one kid who's not doing well, and who will end up dead before the book is over. He's "chubby", and lazy, and no one likes him. Shocker!

But you know, I really can get past a certain amount of fat hate. I mean, I do live in the world, and I know that not everyone has yet realized that it's just a moral panic. So, fine.

What really appalled me was seeing the antagonists referred to consistently as "sluts" and "hos". The Casts do touch on teenage sexuality, and bully for that, but I can honestly say I preferred Twilight's chaste avoidance over Marked's relentless sex-negativity. Zoey first runs into nemesis Aphrodite when Zoey stumbles upon her giving a blow job to the boy who turns out to be Zoey's new boyfriend.

Yeah. Aphrodite. Blow job. Boyfriend-stealing.

And maybe these are the issues that teens deal with today. I haven't been in high school for 15 years, now, so I don't know if people are really having oral sex in hallways. I do know that girls denigrated each other with "fat slut" way back then, and it's sad to realize nothing has changed. It's sad to realize that I may have to throw my daughter to these sexist, sizeist wolves in a few years, and I hope that the positivity of our family will be enough to counteract those attitudes. I certainly won't be giving her books like these to read, that's for damn sure. Slut-shaming is treated as if it's not only perfectly normal, but laudable. Zoey is, after all, our hero, and Aphrodite is the bad guy. Slut as shorthand for evil is always lazy writing, but it's especially egregious in a Young Adult novel, in my opinion. Teens are mighty impressionable, and having such bad behaviour reinforced in a favorite novel does them a grave disservice.

As for the token gay, they make a point of telling us that he's not one of those swishy gays. He's just a nice guy who happens to be gay! Hey, I can say fag! Some of my best friends are gay! Amiright or what?!

Good thing he's kind of butch, because we all know those swishy gays have fatties for hags. And what's a fag without his hag?

Look, I'm not a PC person. I rarely notice when things are offensive - so if I've noticed, it's really offensive. This is so very troubling in a book for teenagers, I'm not sure I can even express the depth of my disappointment. Impressionable young people do not need an example like this.

On the other hand: The writing is competent, even though there were some glaring grammatical errors (Effect instead of Affect; can not instead of cannot), but I can't tell who made those errors, so I come out on the side of decent writing. The dialogue was very realistic, and the first-person narrative did really give me a sense that Zoey is a good person - she just needs a little more guidance, and maybe a comeuppance by a fat slut.

I don't think I'll be picking up any more of this series, and I would definitely say it's inappropriate for its target audience, unless you're going to use it to start a conversation about slut-shaming, fat-shaming, and how vile teenage girls can be (even the nice ones).

Next week: Nothing But Trouble, by Rachel Gibson

Friday, August 6, 2010

Kroger Knows The Secret Of Time Travel

Seriously, y'all. Their benefits department knows all sorts of secrets, obviously, because they just sent us a big, glossy brochure about how to get big-money rebates on our health insurance simply by going back in time and picking skinny ancestors with low cholesterol, low blood pressure, and low blood sugars.

Of course, that's not what they said. No, they had to couch it in coded language, but I know what they really meant. Obviously, telling us all that if we have below a certain BMI, blood pressure reading, blood glucose level, and total cholesterol count will result in us being given back money was a giant indicator that we need to go back in time and choose "healthier" ancestors.

Ignore, for a moment, the fact that BMI is a useless measure of anything on an individual. Ignore, for a moment, the fact that doctors still don't quite understand cholesterol, and that having a good ratio of "good" to "bad" cholesterol is probably more important than the total number. Ignore the fact that all of these measures are determined in the majority by our genes. If you can change your body, we'll give you money!

The underlying fallacy here is that we are in charge of our own health, of course. I could eat wonderfully and walk five miles a day, and my BMI and cholesterol will still be high. My blood pressure would probably be abnormally low, but who cares if you cost the company more in emergency-room head-trauma incidents because you pass out if you stand up too fast? At least you wouldn't be about to keel the fuck over from a heart attack!

The whole brochure was full of such "helpful" advice as "Eat fruit for dessert!" "Take the stairs instead of the elevator!" "Fuck you if you're disabled!"

Well, no, they didn't say that last part, any more than they said you should invent time travel and change your genes. But that's the only way some of us are going to get those rebates, despite being given completely clean bills of health from our doctors.

Way to go, Kroger!