Random Life Things

Fat Part II

TW: Fatmisia/Fatphobia, ableism, diet culture, dieting, size mentions, eating disorders, weight loss drugs

In the United States of America (Land of the Free and Home of the Brave), you can legally be fired for being fat in 49 states.  In this essay, fat is not used in a derogatory manner.  Fat is just a descriptor, like thin or tall or short or white or black.  Fat people all over the world are taking back the word fat from cruel people who use it to hurl pain at others. Michigan is the only state with laws prohibiting anti-fat discrimination.  There are also six cities where discrimination against people based on their size is illegal: Binghamton, NY, Madison, WI, San Francisco, CA, Santa Cruz, CA, Urbana, IL, and Washington, DC.  Approximately 42% of Americans are considered ob*se, meaning that almost half of our citizens can legally be discriminated against for their weight.  Ob*sity or ob*se are harmful terms used to medicalize and stigmatize fat people.  I will only use them in reference to studies on or research related to ob*sity.  Each of us who lives in America has been steeped in an anti-fat stew for as long as we’ve been alive.  Some people may think it’s right or fair that someone can be fired for being fat.  It’s likely that some people believe (falsely) that fat people got that way because of their own behavior.  Some people may believe that all people above a certain weight are unhealthy, or that body positivity is only good for people up to a certain size.  As far as people’s “health concerns,” Lindo Bacon’s Health at Every Size cites a plethora of sources that show it is actually anti-fat bias that is correlated with illness, not fatness itself.  So why are Americans so obsessed with being thin and why are Americans so terrible to fat people?

In Sonya Renee Taylor’s revelatory book, The Body Is Not an Apology, she explains that, “it is an act of terrorism against our bodies to perpetuate body shame and to support body-based oppression.  I call this ‘body terrorism.’  Terrorism is defined as ‘the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.’  It takes no more than a brief review of the historic and present-day examples of media manipulation and legislative oppression to acknowledge that we are indeed being coerced into body shame for both economic and political reasons.”

As Virgie Tovar explains in her book, You Have the Right to Remain Fat, Fatmisia affects everyone because people are either being oppressed because they are fat or they are afraid of becoming fat because they know how awfully fat people are treated. Fat people are treated differently because they don’t function within the norms of the default or ideal body according to society. We aren’t straight, white, thin, middle class men (or women). We are punished for being different, even though most people would never choose to be fat because they know about body-based oppression, even if they haven’t experienced it themselves. While there is a small minority of people who would choose to be fat, one study showed that 16% of women surveyed would give up a year of their life to be thin. In addition, 10% were willing to trade 2-5 years, 2% were willing to give up to ten years of their life away, and 1% said they would give 21 years or more. People are willing to die early to be thin, which is so sad but honestly kind of makes sense because of how terribly everyone knows fat people are treated.

I want to take a moment here to address something that many of you will think I am making up: thin privilege. Having thin privilege doesn’t mean no one has ever been mean to you because of your size or made unwanted comments about your weight, it just means that you aren’t systemically oppressed for being thin. You can shop at almost any store you want to for clothes. Airline seats are made with you in mind. Your doctor is more likely to believe you about symptoms and not attribute any ailment or illness to you needing to lose weight. You can’t legally be fired in 49 states because of your weight. Because of sizeism, smaller fat people hold some thin privilege as well. Fat people have identified a spectrum of fatness. People lower on that spectrum have still probably experienced oppression, but probably not as much of it as people higher on that spectrum. As a midfat, I’ve probably experienced more body-based oppression than a smallfat, but relatively a lot less oppression than someone who is an infinifat.

My brother called me chubby from as early as I can remember.  Every time we would argue, and even when we weren’t arguing, he felt the need to call out my weight.  I weighed about the same as other kids my age until I hit puberty.  What my brother was saying wasn’t even true.  I didn’t start wearing clothing in sizes that couldn’t be found at most straight-sized brick and mortar stores until I was in my mid-twenties, but it stung so deeply to know that someone I loved thought I was fat.  Straight-sized people can find clothing in almost any clothing store that will fit them.  At the time, I thought fat was the worst thing a person could be.  Society, the media, and my relatives had made sure of that. 

In addition to being called chubby, my family members, friends, and even strangers have been alarmed by the fact that I don’t eat vegetables.  People love to point out that if I ate more vegetables and less junk, I would lose weight.  Everyone is always telling me I am, “just too picky.”  It is incredibly shaming and my paternal grandmother continues to ask questions like, “when are you going to grow up and eat your vegetables?”  When the DSM-V (The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual for Psychology) came out, there was a term for people who avoided certain complete categories of food- Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.  ARFID.  It wasn’t that I was “just too picky,” I’d had an undiagnosed eating disorder for all of my life.  I remember one time in middle school when I decided that I wanted to be a vegetarian for moral reasons.  Since I didn’t actually eat vegetables, at the end of the second or third day of barely eating anything, I fainted.

I can remember my mom starting Weight Watchers when I was about ten.  Since she was dieting and she prepared our meals, the whole family was dieting.  I remember eating homemade Weight Watchers ice cream sandwiches- one chocolate graham cracker broken in half with fat free whipped topping frozen in the middle.  They tasted pretty good and I assumed that if the adults in my life were dieting, it must be the right thing to do. 

My brother eventually stopped calling me chubby about 16 years too late when I was in high school after I had a meltdown about it.  My heart was breaking because I thought that if my brother thought I was fat, it must be true.  If I was fat, that meant I had failed as a person.  It meant I was lazy and gluttonous and wasn’t trying hard enough.  Not trying hard enough is not something people could typically accuse me of, as I tend to be an overachiever in all things.  I was especially an overachiever at dieting as a teenager.  My doctor and any number of media sources made it seem simple.  If I consumed less calories than I was burning, I would lose weight.  This was kind of a game to me.  I tried to subsist on as few calories and burn as many calories as I could.  It never worked and I always ended up compensating for the missing calories by binging later. 

Freshmen and sophomore year of college, I learned that I have a hair-trigger gag reflex and could throw up any time I wanted to. This, coupled with my deep hatred of myself, led to about a year and a half of bulimia, during which time I was the skinniest I’ve ever been.  People treated me as though I had achieved something marvelous and spectacular.  Everyone told me how great I looked.  It was wonderful and awful.  I came across some photos from that time recently and even now, with all of the knowledge I have about diet culture and Fatmisia, my first thought was, “wow.  I wish I could look like that now.”  I stopped making myself vomit sometime during sophomore year when I got into a relationship with a guy I really liked.  It was too complicated making sure I had a tooth brush and mouthwash with me after every snack or meal.  I gained the weight back, but I was still what anyone would consider straight-sized and could still purchase clothing at stores that didn’t sell plus sized clothing.  That boyfriend eventually told me I had gained too much weight and was no longer attractive.  When I told him that I had lost it all by making myself throw up, he said it would be ok with him if I started doing that again.  I didn’t resume my bulimia, but I did stay with him and feel like shit about myself for at least another year after that.  At the time, I thought, “even the person I love, who is supposed to love me, is telling me I’m not good enough because of my size.  That must mean I’m truly worthless.”

My brother and that boyfriend are not the reason I’m fat now and they surely aren’t the only people in my world who have ever commented on my weight, but that judgment from my brother about my weight as a child and pre-teen and the revelation from my then boyfriend when I was not fat still sit with me.  It breaks my heart to know how steeped in diet culture I was and how much anti-fat bias I held.  It isn’t that I don’t hold any of that bias now, but I’m much more aware of it and try to challenge it every time it pops into my head.

While I was in graduate school, I decided to go to The Bariatric Clinic in my area.  They happily prescribed a diet and phentermine, a weight loss drug that I had heard about from my cousin.  Phentermine is an appetite suppressant that is also known to cause rapid or irregular heartbeat, delirium, panic, psychosis, and heart failure.  I signed a waiver.  I didn’t care if it killed me, I, like so many others, just wanted to be thin.  I was on phentermine for a few months and lost the weight I wanted to.  I don’t remember why I stopped taking phentermine, but I’m glad that it hasn’t had any apparent long-term effects on my health.

I tried to get back on it after returning home from the Peace Corps in spite of my being straight-sized at the time.  The doctors refused.  Not because of my weight, my BMI even then categorized me as ob*se in spite of me being able to wear straight-sized clothing, but because I had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder during my time in the Peace Corps, and a medication that can cause psychosis isn’t ideal for a patient that already experiences psychosis.

After I developed Bipolar Disorder, a variety of different psychiatrists tried a variety of different pharmacological treatments for me.  On one combination of medications, I gained about 40% more of my body weight in two to three months.  When I finally got around to getting a dietician this year, she was appalled.  If a drug is known to cause weight gain and that weight gain occurs as more than a specific percentage of your body weight over a specific period of time, the drug is supposed to be stopped before you gain more weight.  My doctor at the time either didn’t know that or didn’t care.  It resulted in me seeing a photograph of myself in a tank top and shorts and deciding that I didn’t deserve to live. 

I tried joining a gym.  I tried dieting.  Nothing would take away the pounds that the medicine had made me gain.  To me, being fat was such an awful thing that I deserved to die just for living in a fat body.  As a result of seeing that photo, I became suicidal.  That depressive episode turned into a mixed episode that eventually landed me in the hospital, but there was little that could be done about my fatness since I’d already gained the weight and nothing had seemed to bring it back down.  I even started taking Vyvanse, a drug prescribed for moderate to severe binge eating disorder, to try to lose the weight or to at least stop gaining.  It didn’t make me lose any weight really and I was left in a body that I absolutely hated.  I’ve told you all of this so that you have some small understanding of what my experience with diet culture and eating disorders has been like. 

What I really want to talk about is what it’s like to be a fat person with an eating disorder.  Behaviors that are frowned upon for thin people with eating disorders are encouraged for fat people with eating disorders.  If someone weighs over a certain weight, counting calories and restricting and over-exercising may be seen as desirable by health care professionals.  For people under a certain weight, that type of behavior will land you on an inpatient unit for eating disorder treatment.  In addition to dealing with my own internalized Fatmisia, I experienced very blatant Fatmisia while in treatment for my eating disorder.

From September to December of 2020, I was in treatment at a PHP and IOP for my Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and eating disorders (ARFID and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder).  My OSFED was, at the time, presenting as me skipping a lot of meals and restricting the meals I did eat to less than what I would normally eat.  I had read You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar a couple of years prior and had recently read Health At Every Size (HAES) by Lindo Bacon.  I knew that yo-yo dieting and restricting were terrible for my body, but I couldn’t seem to make myself eat three meals and two snacks a day as recommended by the dietician I was seeing as part of treatment.

That dietician, who I adore, decided that for group one day, we would talk about Health at Every Size and the voluminous research referenced in it that proves that diets don’t work and being fat isn’t a personal failure.  She told me ahead of time that we would be doing the group as she knew that I really valued HAES as a resource and way of understanding the world.  I was so excited for my friends in treatment to share in what I already knew- that being fat isn’t a personal choice or failure and that diets fail over 90% of the time.  What I mean by that is that research has shown that of those who diet and lose a substantial amount of weight, 90-92% will gain all of the weight back within 2-5 years.  Many of them will gain back more weight than they originally lost.  In addition, up to 70% of a person’s weight is actually genetic, so being fat has little to do with behavior and isn’t quite as simple as the “calories in- calories out” approach that we’ve been taught our whole lives.  I thought this information would be revelatory to my fellow eating disorder friends.  What I didn’t expect was someone I really liked and respected declaring that everyone over a certain size is unhealthy and, “I get body positivity up to a certain point, but come on.”  I called this out as fatphobia, having not yet learned the word Fatmisia, by saying in my group end check out that “fatphobia is real and pervasive” and was devastated when the response was, “well, I guess I’m just a fatphobic asshole.”  The person who said this is a person who holds a lot of thin privilege but who is oppressed in a lot of other ways.  They had always seemed really progressive, so I was shocked.  I was one of only two fat people in the room and the other fat person appeared to be asleep. 

For the life of me, I couldn’t let this experience go.  I spent weeks’ worth of therapy sessions and dietician sessions talking over and over again about how I just didn’t understand how someone who was so progressive in so many respects could still be hung up in Fatmisia.  My therapist suggested that me, my therapist, my dietician, and the person who had made the fatphobic comments should have a session together where I, the fat person, was to do the emotional labor required to educate the thin fatphobic person on how and why what they had said was harmful.  If it had been any other type of discrimination, the facility would have taken it more seriously, but they didn’t.  Instead, they did the equivalent of asking a Black, Brown, or Asian person to explain to a white person how and why racist remarks were harmful.  I was angry and I explained to my therapist that this would be asking me for a lot of emotional labor that I didn’t want to do and that it wasn’t my responsibility to do.  That therapist told me that if the Black Lives Matter movement was less angry and was mourning in the streets, they would get a lot farther.  I informed her that it isn’t Black people’s responsibility to make the movement more palatable for white people, just as it isn’t my job as a fat person to explain why fatphobia is harmful to a thin person steeped in their own Fatmisia.

I’m still shocked by that therapist’s response.  I’m still shocked that the facility didn’t step in and do anything.  I’m still shocked that the only repercussion was that the group collaboratively came up with new group norms (including anti-discrimination language) that would be overturned immediately as soon as my dietician left for private practice.  The new group norms that the facility director came up with included rules about being authentic and not thinking too much about the effect of your words before you speak.  Someone had used discriminatory language about people like me.  I told my therapist, the dietician, and my case manager.  As far as I know, there were never any consequences for the person who made the comments.  They eventually, weeks later, reached out to me via text to apologize.  I explained that I valued our friendship and that I was open to having a conversation about it, but I still needed some more time as I was still angry and hurt.  Their response was kind and understanding and was much more in line with the person I thought they were than their fatphobic comments.  We never ended up having that in-depth conversation, but I passed along some resources from the Fat Liberation Movement for them to read as well as a copy of You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar.  I have given out probably four or five copies of that book since I read it a couple of years ago.


I wasn’t ready to have a conversation with that person at the time, but if I was brave enough to reach out to them now, I would tell them this, “What you said was damaging and harmful.  Even though I’m not in the weight category you were speaking of, you were speaking of people like me and about a weight I could reach at some point in my life.  You reinforced the belief society has already beaten into my head that I’m not good enough and I never will be because I will never be thin again.  You reinforced so many hurtful messages I have received throughout my life.  You are someone I really respect, like, and trust, so it hurt worse coming from you than it would have coming from someone else.  You reinforced the idea that there’s no way for me to ever be “healthy” because I am fat.  You reinforced the idea that health is something everyone should be able to achieve, even though there’s a significant portion of the population for who that goal isn’t attainable due to chronic illness regardless of size.  I thought you were progressive, and if your feminism doesn’t include fat people and disabled people, it isn’t intersectional and you need to take a good hard look at it.”

I think there are more things I would want to say, but even months later, I am still so upset thinking about the interaction that I can’t make the words come to me and can’t make them make sense.  I’m used to messages like this from my family members.  I’m used to messages like this from society.  I’m not as used to messages like this from friends.  People think they can say stuff like this around me because I’m not that fat.  This week, I publicly made a commitment to call out fatphobia and Fatmisia when I see them.  I posted on my Facebook and my Instagram.  On Facebook, I said, “I’m done keeping quiet on other people’s fatphobic posts. I wouldn’t scroll quietly by if it was racism or ableism or homophobia and I’m not going to for Fatphobia/fatmisia anymore either. If you post something insulting or untruthful or insinuating something insulting or untruthful about fat people, expect some facts to pop up from me in your comment section.  Immigrants can be deported from New Zealand for having a BMI over 35 and you can be fired in 48 states for being fat, but I’m sure some of you still think the fatphobia is all in my head. Here’s my recommended reading list for those of you who need convincing:

The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon
Health at Every Size by Lindo Bacon
You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar.”

On Instagram, I posted an excerpt from Sonya Renee Taylor’s The Body is not an Apology.  It said, “fatphobia remains one of the most underdiscussed and unacknowledged forms of body terrorism.  The allure of thin privilege is frighteningly persuasive; from easy shopping to better job and romantic opportunities, society promotes and rewards thinness and punishes fat.  The pernicious lie of fatness as an individual failure of self-control, lack of discipline, evidence of gluttony and laziness all wrapped in a scientifically unsound narrative of health often leads even the most vocal intersectional social justice activists to promote weight loss and advance fatphobic body terrorism.  Stomping out fatphobia will mean challenging our friends, families’, and coworkers’ indoctrination by questioning stereotypes, sharing what we are learning about fatphobia, and asking others to learn with us.”  My comment below said, “Fatphobia/fatmisia is EVERYWHERE and is widely accepted by most people because they think fat people got that way through their own laziness and bad eating. I’m here to tell you that 70% of weight is related to GENETICS and NOT behavior or food choices. About 90% of people who diet and lose weight gain it all back (and often plus some more!) within 2-5 years. I’m asking you to think about this critically instead of just absorbing what society and medical professionals have told you. @lindobacon wrote Health at Every Size and it is a phenomenal book about what diet culture and fatphobia/fatmisia are doing to people. The excerpts above come from @sonyareneetaylor ‘s The Body Is Not an Apology and this book is a revelation. It talks about all the ways body terrorism affects everyone. It talks about the intersections of fatphobia/fatmisia and class, race, physical ability, mental health, etc etc. it’s only about 130 pages long, can be purchased on Amazon for about $17, and is guaranteed to change the way you look at the world. If you say you are concerned about fat people because of our “health”, read Health At Every Size and stop your concern trolling. Health is not a realistic thing for many chronically ill people to achieve, regardless of their body size. There are many many fat healthy people and many many thin unhealthy people and vice versa. It’s ableist to assume that everyone can and should be healthy because health is unachievable for so so many. Medical professionals contribute to this by refusing to see fat people’s health problems as anything but a symptom of their weight. People have DIED from undiagnosed cancer that their doctor just said was weight related pain. If you care about equity or justice at all, you must try to disrupt and dismantle fatphobia/fatmisia. If you call yourself a feminist, but aren’t doing this work, your feminism is hollow and incomplete.”

I’m sure that I’ll make many more posts and write many more essays about this as it’s a topic near and dear to my heart because it affects me every single day.  For now, I’ll just leave you with the reminder that all bodies are good bodies.  All human beings are inherently worthy of dignity and respect, regardless of what kind of body they live in.

Glossary of helpful terms

ARFID- Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.  ARFID is an eating disorder characterized by highly selective eating habits, disturbed feeding patterns or both.

Fat- In this essay, fat is not used in a derogatory manner.  Fat is just a descriptor, like thin or tall or short or white or black.  Fat people all over the world are taking back the word fat from cruel people who use it to hurl pain at others.  I will describe myself as fat because I am fat.  If that makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you to seek out resources on Fat Liberation and Fatmisia.

Fatmisia- from Simmons University, “Fatmisia (also called Fatphobia or Sizeism) is prejudice plus power; anyone of any weight or body type can have/exhibit size-based prejudice, but in North America and across the globe, thin people have the institutional power, therefore Fatmisia is a systematized discrimination or antagonism directed against fat bodies/people based on the belief that thinness is superior.”

Fatphobia- the fear and/or hatred of fat bodies

IOP- Intensive Outpatient Program.  This is a level of care that is technically outpatient, but for people who struggle and need the structure of a 3-5 day a week program.  The one I was in most recently was from 8AM- 1:30PM five days a week, then I dropped down to 8AM-1:30PM three days a week before discharge.

Ob*se- this is a harmful term used to medicalize and stigmatize fat people.  I will only use it in reference to studies on or research related to ob*sity.

Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED)- a DSM-5 category that, along with unspecified feeding or eating disorder (UFED), replaces the category formerly called eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) in the DSM-IV-TR.  According to Wikipedia, “It captures feeding disorders and eating disorders of clinical severity that do not meet diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), binge eating disorder (BED),  avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), pica, or rumination disorder.

PHP- Partial Hospitalization Program.  This is a level of care between inpatient and outpatient for people with mental health, substance abuse, or eating disorder struggles.  They usually consist of several hours of group therapy plus individual therapy.  The one I was in most recently was from 8AM-3:30PM five days a week and I also got to meet with a dietician once a week.

Straight Sized- straight-sized people can find clothing in almost any clothing store that will fit them.  They do not have to shop in the plus size section of stores.  This is generally considered to be a size 16 and below, though some clothing brands do stop production at a size 12.  The national average size for women in America according to research published in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education, is, “a Misses size 16-18, which corresponds to a Women’s Plus size 20w.

Definitions about levels of fat vary, but here is a helpful chart based on definitions from thefatlip.com:

Recommended Reading

Health At Every Size by Lindo Bacon

The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
https://smile.amazon.com/Body-Not-Apology-Second-Self-Love/dp/1523090995/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+body+is+not+an+apology&qid=1613081552&sr=8-1

You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon

The Fat Studies Reader edited by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay

My Fat Studies Amazon Wish List with books recommended by people in the Fat Studies Community

https://smile.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/3MRZQIT0NIPJS?

Random Life Things

Fat

I’m writing a much longer piece about this for whatever my memoir ends up being, but this is something everyone needs to know.

Your “concern” for fat peoples’ health is actually both fat phobic AND ableist. Health is not something that every body at any size is able to achieve. Setting the bar for worthiness at being healthy is setting the bar impossibly high for many thin people, fat people, and other people in between who experience chronic illness. Someone shouldn’t have to be healthy to be worthy of basic human decency. Someone shouldn’t have to be below a certain weight to be worthy of basic human dignity. Your health policing of fat people doesn’t help and MANY studies have shown the harmful effects of anti-fat bias. Many of these studies even point to anti-fat bias as being the cause for health problems, rather than being fat being the cause for health problems. Being fat isn’t the problem- fat phobia is. The problem is a society that is willing to see a person as less than just because of their weight. The problem is covert and overt fat phobia. Next time you think you want to mention something about someone’s appearance to them, ask yourself if it’s something they could change in five minutes. If it isn’t- keep your opinions to yourself.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/fat-is-not-the-problem-fat-stigma-is/

Random Life Things

Happy Birthday, Taylor Swift!

This year, for Taylor Swift’s birthday, she gave US a gift. She released the delightful album #evermore with such masterpieces as long story short, no body, no crime, and Marjorie. Marjorie was written about Taylor’s grandmother and I absolutely love the sentiment behind it. It made me think about and miss my Grandmommie a great deals. So, I decided, what better way to honor her than make a slideshow of her photos set to a song by my favorite artist? My Grandmommie endured a great deal of pain and suffering in her life, not least of which when she was diagnosed with and ultimately succumbed to Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive brain cancer. To me, she was always the most beautiful woman in the world. To me, she is was a star. She was my very own Debbie Reynolds. These are just a few of the photos I have of her, but I wanted to share this slideshow because I needed a good cry and maybe you do, too.

mental health, Random Life Things, Tragedy

I’m Ashamed of My Love for Harry Potter

On May 11, 2012, I wrote a blog post about how I’ll never be ashamed of my love for Harry Potter. A lot has changed since then. While I’ll always appreciate the sense of friendship and security the books gave me, I can no longer support the author, J.K. Rowling. At first, it was a like on a transphobic tweet that she tossed up to being caused by old fingers. Because she knew how people would react to J.K.R. being transphobic. Then it was the way she treated a trans character in her Robert Galbraith books. Recently, she wrote an entire post on her website that was anti-trans. She has doubled down in her anti-trans rhetoric and even shared a link to an anti-trans website where she purchased the shirt she was wearing in the photo in a tweet. Other people have described her transphobia much more eloquently than I could, as a quick google search would show you.

I do not stand with JKR. I am disgusted by her transphobia, bigotry, and hatred. I am disgusted that when I read and re-read the books, I didn’t notice or care that she used the Goblins as caricatures of Jewish stereotypes. I didn’t notice or care that there were so few POCs represented in the books. I didn’t notice or care about the abundance of mental health and physical ableism. I used to think the Harry Potter series stood for inclusivity, but I was wrong.

This is me making it formally known: I stand with trans people and condemn the actions of J.K. Rowling. I stand with people who hold minority statuses who were not represented in her books or who were represented unfairly and inaccurately. I stand with fat people who her series ridiculed and made to seem like bad people.

As such, the web address for this site has changed. It is no longer AccioAdventure.com. I’m selling that domain name. The new domain is butdoitanyway.com in reference to the Carrie Fisher Quote that has been at the top of my site for quite some time.

mental health, Random Life Things

You Have The Right to Remain Fat

Recently, Bill Maher said some incredibly inflammatory things about fat people. He asserted that “the problem with our healthcare system is that Americans eat shit and too much of it.” He stated, based on this OPINION PIECE in the New York Times , that “poor diet is the leading cause of mortality in the United States.” The article, which contains gems equating fatness with disease such as “Three in four adults are overweight or obese. More Americans are sick, in other words, than are healthy,” is misleading at best.

The study that this opinion piece cites actually says “Specific diseases and risk factors, such as drug use disorders, high BMI, poor diet, high fasting plasma glucose level, and alcohol use disorders are increasing and warrant increased attention.” It further states that,” Ischemic heart disease (IHD); cancer of the trachea, bronchus, and lung; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Alzheimer disease and other dementias; and cancer of the colon and rectum were the 5 leading causes of death.” While “obesity”and overeating are risk factors for Ischemic heart disease, so are things like:

Rather than examine the complexities of the information presented in the study, Bill Maher decided to lash out at an already marginalized, ridiculed, and shamed population. “But why do people have so many pre-existing conditions? Being fat isn’t a birth defect. Nobody comes out of the womb needing to buy two seats on the airplane.” He goes on. “Everyone knows “obesity” is linked to terrible conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and virginity.”

The links between being fat, diabetes, and heart disease are there, but are not well understood and don’t prove which causes which. “Excess weight is an established risk factor for type 2 diabetes, yet most obese individuals do not develop type 2 diabetes. Recent studies have identified “links” between obesity and type 2 diabetes involving proinflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6), insulin resistance, deranged fatty acid metabolism, and cellular processes such as mitochondrial dysfunction and endoplasmic reticulum stress. These interactions are complex, with the relative importance of each unclearly defined.” Not all patients who are fat develop Type 2 Diabetes. Not all people who develop Type 2 Diabetes are fat.

Maher goes on. “There’s literally nothing being overweight does not make worse.” He cites things like eyesight, pain, memory, fatigue, depression, and a weakened immune system without actually offering evidence to support any of these claims. “We scream at congress to find a way to pay for our medical bills but it wouldn’t be nearly the issue it is if people just didn’t eat like assholes who are killing not only themselves but the planet.” He says a lot of other really inaccurate and inflammatory things, but I’d rather get down to the nitty gritty of why this matters.

“Obesity” is complex.
While we all know that overeating is one thing that can contribute to being fat, “The risk factors that contribute to “obesity” can be a complex combination of genetics, socioeconomic factors, metabolic factors and lifestyle choices, among other things. Some endocrine disorders, diseases and medications can also cause weight to increase.” Healthy foods are considerably more expensive than processed foods, genetics play a huge role in whether or not you’re fat, and some medications, particularly psychiatric medications, cause side effects like weight gain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or even diabetes. A few years ago, a combination of medications I was on caused me to gain 70 pounds in 2 months.

Fat Shaming DOESN’T work.
According to a 2014 study from the University College London, “Our results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain,” the study’s lead author, Sarah Jackson, said in a statement. “Previous studies have found that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating. Stress responses to discrimination can increase appetite, particularly for unhealthy, energy-dense food.”

Health At Every Size is an approach that every doctor should be familiar with.
I’m very lucky. I have excellent doctors who actually listen to me, evaluate me, and work hard to accurately diagnose me. There are people my size and larger who are not so lucky. There are women who have been told their pain would resolve if they lost weight who actually had undiagnosed cancer. Health At Every Size posits that the war on obesity has been lost and that, rather than shaming people for something that is very difficult if not impossible to sustainably change, doctors should address their own fatphobia and anti-fat bias when it comes to how they practice medicine.

Diets don’t work.
Here are some good places to start if you don’t believe me or if you just want to do more research on your own:

https://medium.com/@aweightlifted/why-diets-dont-work-and-what-actually-does-dfd6df2f23f2

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/05/04/why-diets-dont-actually-work-according-to-a-researcher-who-has-studied-them-for-decades/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/sallytamarkin/weight-neutral-dietitians

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201010/why-diets-dont-workand-what-does

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/6/13/17452936/dieting-weight-loss-netflix-explained

James Corden’s video is a good start, but still has some problems.
“We know that being overweight isn’t good for us, and I’ve struggled my entire life trying to manage my weight and I suck at it… I’ve basically been on and off of diets as long as I can remember and, well, this is how it’s going.”

I’m not going to get into it too much on this post, but Intentional Weight Loss is inherently fatphobic. From Fierce Fattie, “The fat acceptance movement was created so the fat bodies were no longer erased and marginalized and discriminated against. By intentionally losing weight, you are erasing a fat body if you have a fat body, and you are buying into the rhetoric that being thinner means that you are more worthy, more desirable, and a lot of people say, “Well, I’m losing weight to become healthy.” You are also buying into that rhetoric that being thinner means that you are a healthier person, which is not based in science. “

In the words of James Corden, “Fat shaming is just bullying….and bullying only makes the problem worse.”

Want to know more? Virgie Tovar is a great place to start. She has this excellent Tedx Talk:

She wrote this book that changed my life: https://www.amazon.com/You-Have-Right-Remain-Fat/dp/1936932318/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=virgie+tovar&qid=1568654331&s=gateway&sr=8-1

She has a great website with a blog and resources: https://www.virgietovar.com/

Here are some things I’m meaning to read but haven’t got around to quite yet:

https://www.amazon.com/Body-Not-Apology-Radical-Self-Love/dp/B0797YK75T/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=virgie+tovar&qid=1568654390&s=gateway&sr=8-2
https://www.amazon.com/Things-One-Will-Tell-Girls/dp/1580055826/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=virgie+tovar&qid=1568654390&s=gateway&sr=8-4

And here is a whole great list of books I hope to read many of!
https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/118723.Fat_Acceptance_and_Fat_Activism

Adventure, Random Life Things

2019

As I wrote about in my post about writing, I got myself The Hemingway Deck by Best Self Co. as a tool against writer’s block. This year, I will attempt to make my way through at least part of the deck on my blog.

What do you need to do by the end of the year to make this year meaningful?

-Hemingway Deck By Best Self Co.

By the end of 2019, I would like to have a stable full-time job with benefits (specifically health care). I will travel to Scotland, spend time with the people I care about, and love on my dog. A job won’t directly make this year meaningful, but getting a job means that I am and can expect to continue to be mentally stable, and that would be very meaningful indeed. By the end of the year, I hope I have not been hospitalized for my mental health (or for any other reason)! I hope I have made new friends and nurtured old friendships. I hope I have volunteered my time to causes I am passionate about.

In trying to figure out what would make 2019 meaningful, I find myself reflecting on 2018 and all of the amazing moments I have had with the people I care about. From lobbying for Amnesty International with River in Washington, D.C. to screaming at the top of my lungs at the Taylor Swift concert with Monica to thinking, for a few minutes (and until I saw his teeth in the photo I had taken), that we had just met Ed Sheeran with Tiffany, 2018 has had some really amazing moments. I got to spend a week with my family at the beach, got to spend a weekend at the beautiful Lake Fontana with my parents and brother, saw SO MANY concerts, went to NYC with my best friend, had Breakfast at Tiffany’s, had tea at The Plaza, was there for a live recording of The Daily Show on election night and saw Michelle and Barack Obama speak in Washington, DC. I got to spend time with my cousins, parents, brother, best friend, and friends. I started babysitting for three children who I enjoy spending time with. The year may have started a little rough, but by May, things started looking up, at least for my mental health and my social calendar.

To be fair, 2018 certainly had it’s challenges as well. Politically, it’s been a rough year. It’s been a tough year to be a woman. It’s been a rough year to be a survivor of sexual assault. I’ve had to avoid the news as much as possible while still remaining as informed as I can with print media. I struggled with depression and anxiety and gained back almost all of the weight I had lost from 2017-2018. I had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep and found myself not wanting to leave the comfort of my bed. I let things get so bad in my room that it looks like a bomb went off in here. I spent more money I didn’t really have to spend on things I didn’t really need to own that I’ll just end up getting rid of in 2019 when I hopefully get my act together and declutter my room.

I hope to travel to new places and smile more and dislike myself less. I hope to fear less, love more, and stop being so afraid of life that I miss how magnificent it can be. I hope to stop judging myself about every single tiny thing I think I do wrong and start having faith in myself that I can succeed and do hard things. I hope to grow in my friendships and my relationships with my family members. I hope to be more patient and to stop absorbing every mean thing people say to or about me. I hope to remember, all the time, that there are many people who love me and want to see me succeed. I hope to maintain the fragile mental stability I have seen since starting to see a new psychiatric nurse practitioner in May. I hope to grow by leaps and bounds in therapy and learn more about myself and the person I’d like to become. I hope to talk to myself the way I talk to people I love and treat myself like I’d treat a friend.

I think that for 2019 to be meaningful, I need to pay attention to the small moments. I need to learn to love and appreciate myself as I am instead of as I wish I was. I need to revel in the laughter of my friends, the smiles of my parents, the barks of my dog, and the look on my brother’s face when he steps into Scotland for the first time. I want to read more poetry, read more novels, write more blog posts and articles, spend time playing board games and going to movies and smiling with friends, take River on walks, bake new things, and practice gratitude for the many overwhelmingly wonderful moments in my life.

Random Life Things

Self-Rescuing Princess

A friend of mine told me about a short story he was working on and it immediately made me think of the song “Little Me” by Little Mix.  If you don’t have the time to watch the video, here are the lyrics:

She lives in the shadow of a lonely girl
Voice so quiet you don’t hear a word
Always talking but she can’t be heard
You can see her there if you catch her eye

I know she’s brave but it’s trapped inside
Scared to talk but she don’t know why

Wish I knew back then
What I know now
Wish I could somehow go back in time
And maybe listen to my own advice

I’d tell her to speak up, tell her to shout out
Talk a bit louder, be a bit prouder
Tell her she’s beautiful, wonderful
Everything she doesn’t see
You gotta speak up, you got to shout out
And you know that right here, right now
You can be beautiful, wonderful
Anything you want to be
(Little me)

Yeah you got a lot of time to act your age
You can’t write a book from a single page
Hands on the clock only turn one way, yeah yeah yeah
Run too fast and you risk it all
Can’t be afraid to take a fall
Felt so big but you look so small

Wish I knew back then
What I know now
Wish I could somehow go back in time
And maybe listen to my own advice

I’d tell her to speak up, tell her to shout out
Talk a bit louder, be a bit prouder
Tell her she’s beautiful, wonderful
Everything she doesn’t see
You gotta speak up, you got to shout out
And you know that right here, right now
You can be beautiful, wonderful
Anything you want to be
(Oh, little me)

(Little me yeah)
Tell you one thing I would say to her

I’d tell her to speak up, tell her to shout out
Talk a bit louder, be a bit prouder
Tell her she’s beautiful, wonderful
Everything she doesn’t see
You gotta speak up, you got to shout out
And you know that right here, right now
You can be beautiful, wonderful
Anything you want to be
I’d tell her to speak up, tell her to shout out
Talk a bit louder, be a bit prouder
Tell her she’s beautiful, wonderful
Everything she doesn’t see
You gotta speak up, you got to shout out
And you know that right here, right now
You can be beautiful, wonderful
Anything you want to be

Yeah, little me

As I was trying to decide what to write about today, I was listening to Little Mix and remembered the conversation about my friend’s short story.  I decided that I would write something to Little Me:

People will try to make you feel small.  Don’t let them.
People will try to make you feel like you take up too much space, like you use too many words, like your feelings don’t matter as much as theirs.  This is bullshit.  You are no more or less important than anyone else.  Your thoughts and feelings and opinions and dreams matter just as much as the next person’s.

He will use words dripping in honey to make you stay in what became toxic a long time ago.  He will make you feel stupid, insecure, and crazy.  Leave the second you don’t feel happy anymore.  Leave before he cheats.  Leave before he gaslights you.  Leave before you let him ruin your self-esteem with cruel words and lies.  If you don’t, it will take years to recover, but you will- in fact- recover.

People will tell you you’re a good writer.  Believe them, even on days when you’re struggling to come up with what to put on the page.  Believe them, even when you feel like you aren’t producing your best work.  You probably won’t believe this, but you will have bylines one day in a local women’s magazine.  You will write blog posts for important organizations.  You will write blog posts of your own that will help other people.  Ed Sheeran says that writing songs is like turning on a tap in an old house and I think the same goes for writing other things as well.  When you first turn on the tap, the water may be brown and gross and undrinkable, but the clear cool water will come with time.  The first things you write will not be the best, but better things will come to you.

You’re going to feel like you want to die from time to time.  The feeling will pass.  I promise.  Sometimes it takes longer than others, but you always end up happy to still be alive when the dark cloud finally moves.

One day you will read the words:
“darling, you are worthy.”
“darling, you are worthy.”
“darling, you are worthy.”
“darling, you are worthy.”

in a book by Amanda Lovelace.  You think you hate poetry, but you don’t, you secretly love it.  It awakens a fire within you that you didn’t know was there.  When you read these words, you will finally believe them.  You will be 29 years old.

It will take time, but you won’t hate yourself or your body forever.  You’ll come to a place where you start to accept and love every flaw and imperfection.  You will use this to set a good example for young people around you by not constantly critiquing yourself in front of them.

Your parents will tell you to absolutely NOT get the dog.  They will say no.  They will say you can’t.  They will give you a million reasons why not to get the dog.  Get the dog anyway.  She becomes so much more than a pet.  Best. Manic. Purchase. EVER.

It’s ok to need help and it’s ok to ask for help.  You learned this already, back in 7th grade, when you reached out and Beth got you the help you needed, but sometimes you will forget.  Sometimes you will feel unworthy of help and like your problems do not matter.  That is your brain being mean and isn’t reality.

Your dream job isn’t going to work out the way you want or expect it to, but it will work out the way it needs to.  It will feel like the end of the world, but I swear you will make new dreams.

You will make new friends and lose old friends.  You will reconnect with some people and lose others forever.  You think the end of high school is the end of everything because you’ll all be going your separate ways.  You aren’t wrong, but you aren’t completely right either because you haven’t even met your best friend yet.  The people who are meant to be in your life always find a way back into it.

You will get to travel the world with your best friend.  Oh, the places you’ll go!  You’ll put your toes in oceans across the world and eat ALL of the soft serve ice cream together.  You’ll see historical places and witness history being made.  You’ll march for what you believe in in Washington, D.C. and in Asheville and you’ll also spend hours in sweatpants or yoga pants just watching tv together.  You will have tea at the Ritz in London and at the Plaza in New York.  You’ll eat breakfast at Tiffany’s and have freshly squeezed juice at a market in London and eat ice cream at Edinburgh Castle.  You’ll see plays on the West End and on Broadway.  You’ll witness each other’s heartbreaks and healings and will be so much better for it.

One of your idols will die and the world will feel smaller and darker for a long time.  You’ll re-read all of her memoirs and eventually read her novels.  You didn’t get into Star Wars until college, but Carrie Fisher will have an impact on your life forever.

You’ll feel like giving up a million times, but you will always hold on to a spark of hope or find someone to hold the hope for you until you can find it again.

You are brave and strong and fierce and beautiful and intelligent and worthy and anyone who tells you or makes you feel otherwise is a liar.

You’ll be single for longer than you thought possible, but during that time you will learn to love yourself and you’ll heal from the ways you’ve been hurt in the past.

You will keep going, even when you feel like giving up.

You will learn better and will then do better.  You will become a person that you can be proud of.

You will forget all of your accomplishments during your dark moments, so make a list of them and read it when necessary.

You are not a failure.

You are not a waste of space.

You are an activist, an advocate, a writer, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a niece, a cousin, a granddaughter, and so much more.

You are worthy.

You are loved.

You are important.

You are a self-rescuing princess.

Random Life Things

Highlights From The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis

Not everyone has time to read through a 138 page document produced by The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, but fortunately/unfortunately, I do.  The Commission gave 56 recommendations for what to do to help with the crisis, but the President just can’t seem to get a grip on any of them.  Instead of listening to his own Commission, he has decided to focus on enforcing opioid laws instead of providing opioid treatment.  Here’s a rundown of what the commission had to say.

Roster of Commissioners

Governor Chris Christie, Chairman
Governor Charlie Baker
Governor Roy Cooper
Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy
Professor Bertha Madras, Ph.D.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi

Introductory Letter

“Our people are dying.  More than 175 lives lost every day.  If a terrorist organization was killing 175 Americans a day on American soil, what would we do to stop them?  We would do anything and everything.  We must do the same to stop the dying caused from within.”

“Without comprehensive action, including your national public health emergency, the death count will continue to rise.”

“It is time we all say what we know is true: addiction is a disease.  However, we do not treat addiction in this country like we treat other diseases.  Neither government nor the private sector has committed the support necessary for research, prevention, and treatment like we do for other diseases.”

“The recommendations herein, and the interim recommendations submitted by the Commission in July, are designed to address this national priority.  These recommendations will help doctors, addiction treatment providers, parents, schools, patients, faith-based leaders, law enforcement, insurers, the medical industry, and researchers fight opioid abuse and misuse by reducing federal barriers and increasing support to effective programs and innovation.”

“We recommended that all law enforcement officers across the country be equipped with life saving naloxone.”

“We recommended full enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act to ensure that health plans cannot provide less favorable benefits for mental health and substance use diagnoses than physical health ailments.”

“Today, only 10.6% of youth and adults who need treatment for a substance use disorder receive that treatment.  This is unacceptable.  Too many people who could be helped are falling through the cracks and losing their lives as a result.”

“One of the most important recommendations…is getting federal funding support more quickly and effectively to state governments, who are on the front lines of fighting this addiction battle every day.  Bureaucracy, departmental silos, and red tape must not be accepted as the norm when dealing with funding to combat this epidemic.  Saving time and resources, in this instance, will literally save lives.”

“Accordingly, we are urging Congress and the Administration to block grant federal funding for opioid-related and SUD-related activities to the states. . This was a request to the Commission by nearly every Governor, regardless of party, across the country.

“The Commission also identifies the need to focus on, deploy, and assess evidence-based programs that can be funded through these proposed block grants.”

“From its review of the federal budget aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic, the Commission identified a disturbing trend in federal health care reimbursement policies that incentivizes the wide-spread prescribing of opioids and limits access to other non-addictive treatments for pain, as well as addiction treatment and medication-assisted treatment.”

“The Department of Labor must be given the real authority to regulate the health insurance industry.  The health insurers are not following the federal law requiring parity in the reimbursement for mental health and addiction.  They must be held responsible.”

“We are recommending that a drug court be established in every one of the 93 federal district courts in America.  It is working in our states and can work in our federal system to help treat those who need it and lower the federal prison population.  For many people, being arrested and sent to a drug court is what saved their lives, allowed them to get treatment, and gave them a second chance.”

“Drug Courts are known to be significantly more effective than incarceration, but 44% of U.S. Counties do not have an adult drug court.”

“The Commission recommends enhanced penalties for trafficking of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues and calls for additional technologies and drug detections to expand efforts to intercept fentanyl before entering the country.”

“The time to wait is over.  The time for talk is passed. 175 deaths a day can no longer be tolerated.  We know that you will not stand by; we believe you will force action.”

What This Administration Has Already Done:

  • Announced the launch of a new policy to overcome a rule that prevents states from providing more access to care at treatment facilities with more than 16 beds.
  • Directed all federally employed prescribers to receive special training to fight this epidemic.
  • The DOJ has continued its efforts to stop the flow of illicit synthetic drugs into this country through the U.S. Postal Service
  • NIH DIrector Dr. Francis COllins has been partnering with pharmaceutical companies to develop non-addictive painkillers and new treatments for addiction and overdose.  THe Commission worked with Dr. Collins to convene a meeting with industry leadership to discuss innovative ways to combat the opioid crisis.

 

 

Random Life Things

Privilege

If you identify as white and you are reading this, chances are it’s going to make you a little uncomfortable.  But discomfort isn’t always a bad thing.  Discomfort can be a place where learning and enlightenment happen.  It has been for me in the past and continues to be for me in the present.  Anyways, today I want to talk about white privilege.

Yesterday, I posted a graphic on Facebook.  It said:

dear white people

It got a few likes, but what really stood out was the person I have known for over eighteen years commenting on it and claiming that white privilege isn’t real but that people are racist against this person all the time for being white.  I tried to be patient.  I tried to be kind.  I tried to explain that white privilege doesn’t make you a bad person or mean that you don’t have difficulties or that no one is prejudiced against you, it just means that you started your life (and live your life) with several advantages over people of color.

I tried to explain that reverse racism isn’t real because we, as white people, have not been oppressed on an institutional level for hundreds and hundreds of years.  We have not been enslaved in the millions because of our skin color.  We didn’t have to suffer through the indignities of Jim Crow.  We haven’t been lynched because of our skin color in the thousands (though some white people have been lynched for siding with and helping people of color).  We are statistically less likely to be incarcerated.  We have representation in all forms of media that look like us.  It’s easy to go into a store and find a barbie or doll that looks like us.  Most of our favorite tv shows and movies have main characters that look just like us.  The vast vast majority of “heroes” are white.  We get to learn about many many people of our own race in school.

Our parents don’t have to give us “the talk” about police safety because we are less likely to be shot and killed by police officers.  According to Vox, “An analysis of the available FBI data by Vox’s Dara Lind found that US police kill black people at disproportionate rates: Black people accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population. Although the data is incomplete because it’s based on voluntary reports from police agencies around the country, it highlights the vast disparities in how police use force.”

Someone may have biases or prejudices against you because you are white, but that is not racism.  (Please see video #2 if you are having a hard time with this concept).  I tried to put it in simple terms that could be easily understood, but this person continued to argue with me, at which point I ran out of spoons and had to end the conversation.  I just didn’t have the energy to continue at that time.  I unfriended the person for a variety of reasons, but one of them is that we aren’t that close to begin with and I really have no desire to be friends with someone who won’t even entertain the idea that white privilege exists even though it has been explained and pointed out to them.  I wish that I hadn’t unfriended them.  I wish I had said, “this is emotionally exhausting work for me and I need to take a break and come back to it.”  But that isn’t what I did and, as a result, I had an even harder than usual time falling asleep last night, wondering if I had just been able to come up with the right sentence, if maybe I could have changed this person’s mind.

I know it’s possible, because I, too, once didn’t believe in white privilege and was very defensive the first time someone tried to explain it to me.  I know it’s hard to believe now, but I was actually in the College Republicans my freshman year at WCU and used to call Feminists “Feminazis.”  I’m not proud of the person I was, but I’m proud of the person that my college professors (Dr. Pete and Dr. Herzog), graduate school friends (Monica, Hanna, Jen, and Shyra), and graduate school professors (Lisen, Russ, Heather, Phyllis, Melody, and Valerie) helped shape me to be.  I care about others, I’m empathetic, and I understand that my ability to even type this up on a computer and post it to the internet with my name on it reeks of privilege.  I could tell you of so so many instances where white privilege has benefited me, but I find myself again running out of spoons.  Perhaps I’ll revisit this post later.  Just in case I don’t, please do me a favor and watch these three videos:

 

Random Life Things

Harassment isn’t sexy.

Something happened last week that made me really uncomfortable, but the more that I think about it, the more pissed off I get.  Last week, I received a message on Facebook from a guy I kind of-sort of know from undergrad.  He is an acquaintance at best.  Everything was fine at first, we just kind of chatted about what he’s been up to and what’s new in my life.  He sent me his cell phone number and asked me if I wanted to hang out when he got home.  In an attempt to be polite, I replied with something along the lines of “oh, I’m really busy between now and when I leave and I want to spend as much time with my family as possible.  I’ll check, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have much free time” instead of just saying “no.”  That was my mistake, but it’s often difficult for me to flat out say “no” when I’m invited to do things with men.

I pretty regularly feel like I have to apologize or make an excuse that they would find legitimate.  Saying “no thank you” or “I don’t want to” would make me a rude bitch in the eyes of many people, so I often say things like “oh, maybe….I’ll have to check my calendar” or “oh, I’m so sorry, I already have plans”.  In general terms, if I really want to hang out with someone, I’m going to make time to do so and would say something along the lines of “I can’t today, but I’m free on Saturday if you want to hang out then”.  This summer is different and a little more tricky since I do have less than 40 days left in this country and a LOT to get done in that time.  But I digress….the conversation continued via Facebook.  The specific details of it aren’t really important, but he ended up saying that he hasn’t had much alone time for the past year and telling me that there are three things he’s been without for a year and that he really needs right now.

A person that I hardly know asked me to hang out with him, then expressed to me that one of the things he needs as a result of his deployment is a woman.  I can assure you that he has no romantic or long term intentions, as he included “a woman” in a list of other things.  Perhaps I misunderstood, but the context of the rest of our conversation led me to believe that he was hopeful that I could help him with this ordeal.  Partially because he said things like “that’s what I hope to get when I get home” and “been gone for a year and rarely alone”  pretty shortly after asking me if I wanted to hang out with him.

This offended me and upset me for so many reasons I can’t count them all.  I don’t care who you are or what you have done for this country, I am not an object and am not a piece of meat that you get to order from a menu just because you’re a veteran or just because you think you need and are owed the company of a woman.  With the exception of my student loan service company and $5 I borrowed from my friend last week, I do not owe anyone anything, including but not limited to: my time, my money, my body, my belongings.

I have read on many Peace Corps South Africa blogs that many volunteers receive marriage proposals frequently.  When they say no, the men who have asked can’t seem to comprehend why the volunteer wouldn’t want to marry him and can’t seem to fathom why the answer may be “no.”  I hadn’t realized how frequently *some* men in America (and women, I’m sure) have the same attitude.  Our culture teaches women that if we do dare to say no, we better have a pretty damn good reason for doing so and we better be willing and able to give a list of how and why we came to that conclusion.  Just saying no doesn’t seem to be accepted and “no thanks” seems to be the mark of a prude or a bitch rather than an assertive individual.

I guess what I’m getting at is this- Even when this guy made me really uncomfortable, my response was to make an excuse and say I couldn’t talk anymore because I was going to go watch a movie.  The next night, he facebook messaged me again.  He said “hey” to which I responded “I wish you well and I hope your trip home is safe, but you made me very uncomfortable last night.”  End of conversation.  I should definitely work towards being better at communicating my feelings to others, but that does not give anyone the right to say things to me that make me feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

Later in the same week, I responded to a different request from someone else by essentially saying “no…sorry!” and was told that I had hurt this person’s feelings.  I am allowed to say no.  It’s not ok that people often try to make me feel guilty or ashamed for telling them no.  I should not feel like I have to apologize or make excuses when I don’t want to do something.  There is a big difference between being assertive and being a bitch, but I think that many people confuse the two.