Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Fat Girl Traveling (a.k.a., Doing Disney on One Tantrum a Day)

If you had asked me two weeks ago when I last had a real vacation, I would have answered with, “Oh gawd, it’s been at least 20 years.” When the boy was around four years old, we boarded an airplane and set off to visit my mom in Florida for a week. He’s now 23. Outside of that trip, where we stayed with Mom and did one day at Magic Kingdom and another at Sea World, I just didn’t have the funds to travel nor the resources for pet care to allow for it. So my time away from work was spent doing staycations. Until this year.

I’ve found my person. And my person loves Disney. And I love my person. So, we started planning a trip to the most magical place on earth. Don’t call Walt Disney World the happiest place on earth, that’s Disneyland. Somehow, I had this nugget of knowledge in my brain and using that proper terminology greatly impressed the boyfriend early on. Anyway, I’m veering away from my story, our vacation to Orlando.

When I say he loves Disney, that’s really an understatement. To try and convey the level of Disnerd, he purchased the illustrious ANNUAL PASS last year and ventured to the most magical place on earth no less than five times between the time we met in June of last year and when he moved in with me in November. Yep, that’s a lot of Disney. I am not a Disnerd. In fact, I really can’t think of anything that I’m that passionate about. But, again, I love him and a vacation sounded great so I agreed and the planning began.

I’ll spare planning process but I will say that it wasn’t too far into things that I had a mild panic attack and I asked if we could dial it down a few notches. A seven day stay with five park days and just as many restaurant reservations sounded expensive and exhausting. He obliged and we compromised to four park days and three restaurant reservations. I felt relieved and grateful.

The flight. A fatty’s potential nightmare, right? Let me just say that Southwest Airlines did me right. I read about their Customer of Size (CoS) policy and, playing the game of chance, we didn’t purchase a third seat. We got to the airport nice and early and we walked up to the counter at the gate. With zero shame, I explained to the nice lady that I hadn’t flown in 20 years, was quite nervous, and wanted to ask about the possibility of accessing the benefits of their CoS policy. I knew it was not only dependent upon whether the flight was fully booked, but also a visual inspection of me and the boyfriend to see if we were fat enough to warrant the extra seat. She was very kind and considerate. She said that, had either of us been traveling solo, we likely would not have been afforded the extra seat but, together, it made sense. Luckily, the flight had capacity and we were granted the extra seat, which also comes with the benefit of pre-boarding; we got to board before the general passengers which allowed us to do so comfortably and without the judgy eyes of others. We did the same on the flight home, and I was very grateful. I did need a seat belt extender but that was easy peasy after braving the “I’m fat and I know it” conversation at the gate counter.

The parks. Let me preface this by saying that I generally walk about 2,000 steps a day. I work from home. I live a pretty sedentary lifestyle. Knowing the level of walking I was about to do made me very anxious. I didn’t want to ruin our vacation by crapping out early but I also wasn’t willing to compromise my well-being by pushing myself too far.

Our first day was spent at Disney Springs, a huge outdoor mall near the theme parks. It was fantastic and overwhelming. That’s pretty much the theme of my whole trip. Fantastic and overwhelming. This location marked my first tantrum of our trip. We made a pit stop at a restroom and, naturally, there was a line for the ladies. It started to rain while I was peeing so when the boyfriend finished and vacated the bathroom, he ventured into one of the stores and texted me where he was. I had never been here before and had no idea where he was. I panicked and lost all sense of adult logic. I popped into the nearest store to try and see if I could view the store he was in and was promptly yelled at by a cast member (all Disney employees are known as cast members) to move away from the entrance. Ok, she didn't really yell, she was very nice, but I was already close to tears. I texted the boyfriend that I had no idea where he was, that I was going to stand outside the Poutine stand, and to please come find me. He did, apologized, and I asked him not to leave me alone like that again.

Day 2 was our first park day, and our longest and most physically challenging for me, Magic Kingdom. We weren't interested in rope dropping and the boyfriend had FastPasses all planned out so we arrived around 10am and made our way to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - my first roller coaster since 1987. Thank Tom Cruise for the Reliefband and its motion sickness killing sorcery. Splash Mountain was next, and my favorite ride of the entire trip. By the end of the day, we had walked over 20,000 steps and my chubby feets were blistered and sore. This was the only 2-tanturm day. I only remember one of the two. It was about mid-way through our 12+ hour day at Magic Kingdom, it was hot and humid, and I was physically exhausted. Oh, did I mention that it was also prime PMS time? I plainly stated what I needed, which was our agreement - that I say exactly what I need when I need it - I needed something to drink and to sit down. We filled our water bottles with the swimming pool temperature water from one of the drinking fountains and went to see Mickey's PhilharMagic show. In his defense, it was indoors. This was not what I meant. I sat there, refusing to put the 3D glasses on, and all but flipped into a rage when the "special effects" of water mist sprayed my face from the seat back in front of me. Afterward, he apologized for misunderstanding my needs and bought me a frozen strawberry lemonade in an actual air conditioned venue. We ended the evening with the Happily Ever After fireworks show. Despite the rudeness of the park goers around us, I really loved the show.

I rallied for Park Day #2 at Epcot. I was stoked for the Flower and Garden Festival. I wasn't disappointed, it was wonderful. We took it easy and slow, ate our way around the special food carts throughout the World Showcase. The frushi in Japan is amazing! We met a lot of characters and got tons of great pictures at Epcot. I know there was a tantrum but it must've been mild because I can't place it. I enjoyed Dole Whip from Pineapple Promenade and splurged on perfume from Guerlain.

Park Day #3 was a half day at Hollywood Studios. I got to meet Kylo Ren and Chewbacca (he's so furry!). I finally ate a Mickey Pretzel and a Mickey Ice Cream Bar. It was here that I learned that no level of Reliefband zaps allow me to enjoy simulation rides. Star Tours was awful. The spins and dry heaves brought on this day's tantrum, although I don't really think it was a true tantrum. Not like the others, anyway. I felt terrible and needed an extended recovery period. Fantasmic was so cool to end our day. 

Park Day #4 was the boyfriend's birthday and we spent it at Animal Kingdom, his favorite of the parks. It was all new to me as it was still under construction during my last visit. I was a bit weary, exhausted from all the walking on the previous days but I'm so glad we went. The food at Satu'li was outstanding and Pandora at night was beyond beautiful. We left before park close and had a nice night at the hotel (I mean, it was his birthday *wink, wink*). I know there was a tantrum in there somewhere, but it was unremarkable - to me, at least.

With all four parks done, our sixth day included lunch reservations at Sanaa for the full bread service and butter chicken. Holy shit, the food was incredible. Dinner reservations at 'Ohana, an all-you-can-eat Polynesian Grill at the Polynesian Resort. Again, the food was next level.

All in all, we had a great trip... I had a great trip. I'm glad I went and glad I let the boyfriend push me out of my comfort zone. Hell, not only did I wear my Minnie Mouse bikini at the hotel pool, I ate lobster and salmon roe. Yeah, I still don't like seafood.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Aggressive Dating is Over (a.k.a., I'm Not Undateable)

No, I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth. I’ve been here, the whole time, navigating the tumultuous waters of aggressively dating to have finally found a port in relationship-ville. Yes. You read that correctly… I am in a relationship. The one thing that I was pretty adamant that I didn’t want yet here I am. And it’s a rotating sphere of happy, anxious, doubt, and comfort. You know, pretty much life.

So, to fill you in between last time and the present…

After determining that I wasn’t interested in random hook-ups but still terrified of the all-in serious relationship, I set my sights on that elusive unicorn known as the “Friends with Benefits.” It’s a great dynamic, in concept. Nothing too heavy, light on the expectations, just find someone that you have enough in common with that you can hang out and do stuff with, and then do other stuff with them, too. None of that “meet the friends and family” stress, bypass the “first date impress me” crap, all of the benefits of having a significant other without the “where is this going” significance. Notice I said that this was great in concept. Stay with me, here…

I had been texting with a few nice dudes. Dudes I got on well with in conversations and seemed to have enough in common with to attempt that FWB thing. You have to get that out of the way right up front to make sure that you are both on the same page, making sure you’re looking for the same level of togetherness. There is nothing worse than getting to know someone, feeling comfortable in what you believe you’re embarking on, only to find out they want more (or less) than you thought. Even when you do that, and have very specific conversations about expectations, limitations, and desires, sometimes it gets fucked up anyway. But I’m not going to get into specifics about all that right now. Just trust that I know what I’m talking about.

The field was eventually narrowed down to two. I began talking to them both around the same time – within a few weeks of one another. The distinct difference between them is that I met one of them face to face almost immediately and, the other… let’s just say that there were control issues at play that caused an undue delay in the IRL meet-up. As I began to spend more time with my new friend, it became clear that we had a lot in common. We love the same shows, enjoy a lot of the same movies, both hate people, both generally prefer a night in rather than some elaborate evening on the town. Being with him was easy and comfortable. I mean, even my cats and dogs liked him (and he liked them, too, especially Wahlberg, his new feline BFF). I looked forward to seeing him and, without really admitting it to myself, missed him when we weren’t together. We were seeing each other just about every day. Mind you, we both went into this with the strict intention of being just friends… friends who also, you know, get it in.

Because I haven’t had an honest, real relationship in my entire adult life, I was unsure how to determine where his feelings were and felt too insecure to ask – so I did a lot of ignoring my own feelings as they developed. I also attempted to pull away, emotionally speaking, by continuing to text with (and eventually meet) the other guy. He, too, was not interested in a traditional “relationship,” which was fine with me. And then, all at once, it happened. I finally met the other guy. (As an aside, my FWB and I were very open about this part; he knew I continued to talk to and occasionally see other guys.)

It felt like a long time in the making. It was overwhelming and exciting, and it was clear that the dynamic was (would be?) different than what I had going on with my existing FWB. We didn’t seem to have nearly as much in common, outside of cake (if you’re sitting here wondering wtf cake has to do with anything, please refer to my last post, it’ll make more sense), but that somehow seemed safer in the face of those feelings I was developing and stuffing away for the other guy. It seemed less emotionally charged and, therefore, not as much as an overall risk.

So, I found myself faced with a decision. Turn back the dial with my FWB in an attempt to convert our thing back to just friends in order to explore this new thing with the other guy, or stop lying to myself that I didn’t have feelings for my first friend, have an adult conversation about it with him at the risk of ruining things or – maybe even more terrifying – knowingly label what we have as an actual relationship and commit to everything that comes with it.

I’ll spare y’all the details of the decision making process. I certainly didn’t get through it alone. I have my confidantes who were admittedly sick of hearing about it all as I worked through it. Obviously, based on the beginning of this post, you can surmise that I chose relationship over FWB.

Turns out, the discussion I was dreading actually started earlier than I thought, even if I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Little jokey comments about jealousy, knowing that wasn’t “part of the deal” or anything that had been anticipated, should have been signs for me that he was “catching feels” right along with me. I shoved a lot of my own feelings away so it was easy to ignore what he was throwing off, too. We were being totally ridiculous, and then we decided not be ridiculous anymore.

It was official, we were together.  As we began to tell people, it became clear that we were the only two people who didn’t know we had been in a relationship for a while. And here we are, a month and a half (give or take) post-ridiculousness, and – overall, day to day – nothing is different. We still see each other just about every day. There are overnights every weekend. There are the Saturday night trips to the 24-hour Meijer for energy drinks and junk food. We still have to watch The Challenge: 30 on MTV every week and make fun of the crappy contestants together. He got me to finally watch Rick and Morty, and I freakin’ LOVE it! (IT’S PICKLE RICK!) I even stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a Milwaukee Brewers game with him last weekend. That part of being a couple is easy-peasy, we had that shit down already.

I’m not gonna lie and say that it’s all unicorns farting rainbows, though. This is really my first relationship as an adult and, because I'm not sure how to relationship, I am intermittently questioning and evaluating where it isn’t necessary. Basically, I’m having a hard time just going with the flow and letting things happen. It’s not all the time, but it hits me every now and again. I’m learning that it’s better to talk it out with him than to silently freak the fuck out about it, hoping it passes. He’s very patient with that part of me and doesn’t make me feel bad for occasionally going all girl-brain about all this shit. He’s a great guy, and I feel incredibly lucky to have found him. He’s smart, freakin’ adorable (don’t let him tell you otherwise), hilariously funny, caring, and kind.

I don’t know why I fought against it. Fear, mostly. Fear of the unknown, fear of being emotionally vulnerable, fear of getting hurt. But just look at me now… apparently, I’m premium girlfriend material and I just didn’t know it. My crystal ball is still in the shop, so I don’t have a hard line on what the future looks like for us, but I’m glad I’m all-in. I haven’t been this happy in a very, very long time. Relationship looks good on me. Wish us luck, y’all!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Aggressively Dating: A Fat Girl Navigating the Singles Scene

Y’all know I’ve dabbled in online dating from time to time (ahem…. see The Undateable Series). Upon returning thoughts of putting myself back out there yet again, I’ve sought the opinions and advice of my friends. My tattoo artist thinks that online dating is a bullshit waste of time, and that’s it better to just go hang out in a public space and let things happen naturally. Yeah, easy for you to say, my friend; I’m an introvert! Hanging out amongst the people at large is emotionally draining and makes me want to crawl under a blanket to recover. So, I’m a few months into my inevitable return to the sketchy scene of online dating and, this time, I’m learning a metric shit-ton in the process. Through what I’ve come to lovingly refer to as “Aggressively Dating,” I’m learning what I want, what I’m not interested in, that I actually do have “a type,” and that there are some things that are fun once but really aren’t sustainable long term.

What do I want outta this shit show?

When I reactivated my profile on OKCupid, it was with the explicit intent of seeking a long term relationship. I’ve been essentially single for over a decade and, since the boy has moved out and I’m finally living alone for the first time in my life, I figured the logical thing to do was to pursue a romantic relationship. So, I met a handful of guys, had a first date or two, and promptly started to reevaluate what I wanted. Like, I value my alone time. When I began to think about the natural progression of becoming involved with someone, discomfort set in at the idea of sharing my space with another person. Disagreements about what to watch on Netflix, irritation that I’ve just spent 9 hours playing Dragon Age Inquisition on my Xbox One, gripes because the interior of the refrigerator resembles that of Edward Norton’s fridge in Fight Club. Who needs that shit? So, I tweaked my profile, shifted my perspective, and adjusted my expectations.

The inbox influx…

After those changes were made and my re-vamped profile went live, there was an abrupt increase in the number of messages in my OKC inbox. Younger, hotter guys were hitting me up, and that was exciting. (On a side note, my good friend and confidante gave me dating parameters that she calls “The Rule of Seven,” so I have a minimum age that I am allowed to consider. That age is 28. I trust her, so I stick to that. Thanks, girl!) A good percentage of the messages immediately found their way to the trash. Being on the receiving end of, “I’m interested in eating a girl out for 2 straight hours with nothing in return. Interested?” was comical, at best. I started responding to more messages, and sending initial messages of my own. I grew bold in my newfound outlook on dating. I decided that, although I wasn’t opposed to finding myself in a relationship at some point, I was ready to concentrate on having some fun in the interim. You know, see what’s out there. Besides, how awful would it be to date someone for a finite duration only to find out that the sexual chemistry falls flat? Let’s take some test drives!

My libido – an analogy

Let’s say that, for a long time in your younger days, you really enjoyed cake. I mean, cake was great; you always felt satisfied after cake and generally looked forward to more. Then, the cake started to get stale and, eventually, you realized that cake was no longer meeting your needs. In fact, it was kind of making you sick. So you give up cake – cold turkey – and it wasn’t so bad. You abstained from all cake for a year, then two years, and before you knew it, you had gone a really long time without any cake. Of course, over the years, you’d see an occasional slice and get a pang of desire, but you fought through the craving and resisted. Until, one day, you indulge. And it was like fireworks and rainbows and unicorns and glitter bombs all rolled into one. All at once, you remember how much you fucking love cake.

Now what the hell am I doing with my life?

That is a question I've come to ask myself a lot lately. I’ve returned to my roots as a full-on cake aficionado. My reservations have lowered and I have become a person that I forgot I had once been. Don’t get me wrong – safety first… generally. I do my research, verifying the facts that are available to me, before agreeing to meet someone (remember my new friend, Tony). I make a concerted effort to ensure my physical well-being as best as I can. I’m not gonna lie… I’ve taken some risks and done some things that gave me a moment of pause afterward. You ever have a first date that evolves into hot sex on your living room floor only to find yourself, shortly thereafter, sitting on your couch next to a naked guy who’s going on and on – for 45 minutes – about how often he thinks about his ex-girlfriend of two years ago? Yeah, well, I have. I don’t recommend it. Despite everything, thus far, I have no regrets.

Lessons learned

  • One night stands are fun, once in a while, provided both parties are on the same page.
  • I have no desire to be someone’s recurring booty call or last resort.
  • “Friends with Benefits” sounds awesome but seems nearly impossible to execute.
  • I am allowed to have preferences, rules, and standards; I do not need to make compromises or “settle.”
  • There is no shortage of dudes who prefer a fat chick (although they do prefer to use cutesy euphemisms such as voluptuous, curvy, and thick).
  • Guys will go to great lengths to try to get you to send them pics of your tits, ass, and lady bits.
  • Sexting can be entertaining, but gets boring when it becomes apparent that that’s all he’s bringing to the table.
  • Aggressively dating means that I clean my house more often.
  • Sometimes, I make bad decisions (but I learn from them).
  • I still got it.

Now what?

Really….. I’m still figuring it out. Yes, I love cake *but* enjoying cake from four different bakers over the course of two weeks is, frankly, a bit exhausting. I’m trying to rein it in and shift my perspective once again. I’d like to find that medium ground that allows me to have my cake (preferably just from one baker) and figure out if we want more from there. So, my quest continues even though that means that I’m keeping the sleep/wake schedule of someone half my age, I find myself rolling my eyes and sighing heavily quite often, and threaten to deactivate my OKC profile at least a few times a week. Wish me luck!

Image via

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Review! Dietland, by Sarai Walker

DietlandDietland by Sarai Walker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderful book for anyone passionate about Fat Acceptance. I am about the same size as Plum, and have been for many years. If this book had been available 10 years ago, when I was Plum's age, I'd like to think that it would have jump-started my self acceptance then rather than leaving me to endure another 9 years of self loathing, disordered eating, and weight cycling.

I found a kinship with her as the author illustrated Plum's journey through breaking out of the rigid construct of diet culture, healing the wounds of years of food restriction, and coming out the other side having rediscovered her body's natural hunger/satiety cues; she found intuitive eating without knowing that's what she was doing.

The theme that resonated with me the most was her reclamation of style and fashion. Finally realizing that it felt good to wear clothing that not only fit her body properly (at the size it is now) but also expressed her vibrancy of character. That's difficult to do in oversized, shapeless, colorless garb.

I thought the political content was very timely, which is a nice coincidence considering when it was published. In today's world, with the American climate seemingly trending toward further marginalization of the people who are outside of society's skewed/unrealistic (and often unattainable) ideals of beauty, particularly in the wake of the Women's marches shortly after the inauguration, the underground activism felt real and relevant. Some of the actions were disturbing; however, as a work of fiction, those acts definitely set the tone. In a world where so many are attempting to normalize things like "grab her by the p***y" and other demeaning ways to reduce women to nothing more than eye-pleasing instruments of male pleasure, it was a welcome break to read about a group of strong women who were making steadfast attempts to educate other women in the freedom of not living your life with "f**kablility" as one of their life's objectives.

Overall, I found the book engaging and I identified with the main character in both wonderful and heartbreaking ways. I would highly recommend it to any woman of size who is either already well on their way to accepting (or even loving) themselves as they are or, perhaps more so, those who have yet to find Fat Acceptance for themselves. Thank you for this book, Ms. Walker!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Enjoying Entertainment Used to be Easier: Kate's Weight, Fat Pam, and Beyond

I love to be entertained. I mean, who doesn't love to sit back and laugh at a hilarious new sitcom, or fall in love with the quirks of the main character in a blockbuster movie. I have a touch of social anxiety and recently discovered that I am an introvert, so it makes sense that my primary source of entertainment is television and movies. Between my cable provider, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, I pretty much have access to all of the entertainment I could ever want. And it was great. Until I stopped hating my body.

Much like what I wrote about in my last blog post, it's increasingly difficult to enjoy social media without being inundated with weight bias; I'm bombarded with ads for weight loss supplements and plans, before and after pictures and weight loss success stories, health "concern" trolls, and outright fat hate every day when I browse Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It insidiously inserts itself into my online shopping experience. Ordering books like Intuitive Eating and Body Respect trigger a skewed algorithm that tells my Amazon home page to offer up myriad titles of diet and "lifestyle change" books in my "Recommended for You" and "Inspired by Your Shopping Trends" lists. But I persevere, take a breath, and move on.

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that mainstream media prefers to display thin, sculpted bodies that adhere to the traditional societal image of beauty. It probably also isn't a revelation to hear that often times the fat person in a television show or movie is there for comedic purposes; the butt of the joke, the best friend, the DUFF. But it's much more pervasive than that. The rabbit hole of fat bias and stereotyping goes very deep. The breadth of this didn't register in my consciousness until I decided I wanted to stop hating myself, to put an end to my nearly 30 year battle against my own body. And now I can't seem to tune it out. I have to believe that people who identify with other marginalized groups face the same turmoil as they fight for respect, equality, and legitimacy in society. And considering all the nuances of intersectionality, how can it not get overwhelming? My favorite line from one of my social media friends is, "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention." I said it before, but it bears repeating, it gets exhausting to be so angry all the time, to have to keep justifying my right to exist the way I am right now (which can often be a fight in my own mind). And not just my right to exist as I am, but my right to be respected as a human.

The messages in entertainment that shame and marginalize fat people, some subtle while others opting for more blatant tactics, are everywhere. The pilot episode of the Netflix series Jessica Jones shows a fat woman eating a cheeseburger as she works out on an elliptical while the lithe and athletic main character provides her disdainful narrative (there is so much wrong with that scene, I can't even). I excitedly watched the pilot episode of HBO's new series, Divorce, and caught three separate instances of fatphobic dialogue, including health concern rhetoric. Finally having a television show like This Is Us feature a character that actually looks like me (with respect to her body type), I felt a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Then I watched the pilot episode as Chrissy Metz's character, Kate, is introduced to the audience as every fat woman trope out there. I want to make it clear, these are three examples of television shows that I really like but I struggle through much of the content (seriously, I love This Is Us). I have to watch around the stuff that gets under my skin. Just watching the commercials for American Housewife was enough to allow me to conclude I didn't need another fat-lady-making-fat-jokes-about-herself television show in my life. (On a side note, learning about the whole "Fat Pam" narrative confirmed that I made the right decision there.)

Before getting involved in Fat Acceptance (and the less diluted realms of Body Positivity) and deciding to ditch diet culture in favor of adopting intuitive eating and the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement, I would have watched those examples above and, if I thought anything at all, I probably would have agreed with the messages they conveyed. More likely, I would have just unconsciously internalized it and engaged in self-hatred and disordered eating for a while. Knowing how omnipresent these messages are makes me hesitant to do things like re-watch my favorite movies. I don't want to tarnish the good memories of my favorite characters and story lines by watching them through eyes that are no longer encumbered by my own, internalized fat hatred, with a mind now acutely aware of how cunningly subtle the messages of fat hate can be.

While I think that the Kate character in This Is Us is a very real representation of a lot of women (regardless of their size), my hopes are that her character will evolve into a woman who learns to stop hating her body. Being fat and accepting it (I'm not at the point where I can say I love my body, but I'm trying) doesn't mean that the world is easier to navigate. There will always be places I don't fit (literally and figuratively) and people who want to hate me simply because of the way I look. I think it's good to show that in a television show (like Kate's perception of people snickering and side-eyeing her on the dance floor) because it's real. But I'd also love it if those same characters didn't always turn that inward to substantiate their self-loathing and internalized hatred.
Image via. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Yep, Still Undateable: My New Friend, Tony

When I last had you captivated with my tales of online dating, I had yet to introduce you to the final aspirant for my love and attention. Let’s call him “Carl ‘Tony’ Anthony” because, well, that’s what he called himself…

‘Tony’ is a 50 year old man living in Allenton, WI. A successful civil engineer who took over the family construction business after his father passed away. He loves what he does because it keeps him busy and indulges his affinity for world travel. You see, his company is often in the running for seven figure contracts from around the world, important people vying for his civil engineer-y services for things like road design and city planning. His company also does things like planning and construction of state-of-the-art entertainment complexes such as Edmonton Arena and Rogers Place (which I have since Google-learned are one in the same). Now, I wasn’t under the assumption that my new friend Tony was purporting to have had a hand in such a grand project, but was merely providing an example for educational purposes.

Early on in our conversations, he let me know that he’d had some bad experiences on OKCupid, women from foreign countries asking him for money, so he wanted to be super careful. He felt very lucky to have met me because he had been seriously considering deactivating his account. He asked if I might feel ok giving him my cell number, so we could text. I didn’t feel I was putting myself at risk by giving him the number, I can always block him (or change my number) if things got weird. He then suggested that we both deactivate our OKCupid accounts. I saw no harm in that. I mean, I wasn’t doing so under the guise of thinking that he was “the one,” I just didn’t want the complication and potential confusion of getting to know more than one guy at once. Done. And our text conversations commenced. Questions and answers and pictures, back and forth, as we attempted to determine if we were compatible.

This is the perfect juncture in the story to let you know that I was not so fool-hardy as to not take steps to attempt to validate some of the things he was telling me. I Googled his phone number and did reverse image searches on the photos he sent me via text. No results; no matches anywhere on the net. That’s a positive sign, right? No results for his name on social media, but he said he doesn’t use it because he just doesn’t have the time. Alrighty; moving along….

As we got to know each other, I asked him where Allenton is in Wisconsin. The name sounded familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it. Here is a screenie of his response:

Uhhhh, that’s nice?

So I Googled ‘Allenton WI’ and linked to this...

I guess he didn’t think the zip code or census data were important.
I challenged him, responding, “Lol, did you totally copy and paste that info about Allenton from Wikipedia?” He didn’t admit to doing it while also not not admitting to doing it. So, was he just wanting to sound smart? Or was he so unfamiliar with Wisconsin geography (e.g., currently a citizen of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) that he felt that was his best bet in casual conversation? I decided to leave that breadcrumb in the back of my mind, where it could mold and fester into proper suspicion.

A day after we began our text conversations, he asked if I would Skype with him. “Jackpot,” I thought! If I’ve learned one thing from Nev Schulman, it’s always get them to video chat. I’ve never used Skype before because I’ve never had a reason to use it. So I told Tony that I would download it and sign up for an account. He gave me his Skype ID and, as soon as I sent the request, he added me and sent me my very first Skype message:

And our first Skype call began. I was using my smartphone and, having never used the app before, I thought I had done something wrong when I could see him but not hear him. He disconnected the call after less than 2 minutes and we resumed using Skype instant messaging, where he let me know that he had been able to hear me just fine. He chalked it up to his connection, and I said I would download it on my PC for our next attempt to see if that worked better.

Over the next few text chats, I learned that he bought his house in Allenton in 2007, and the employees of his company (whom he refers to as ‘his boys’) have helped him renovate it. His dog, a two year old German Shepherd named Kent, is very smart and loyal. His mom lives in Janesville, and his younger (only) sister, who is happily married with two little children, lives in another state. He’s never been married but his most recent long term relationship ended 11 months ago when his girlfriend cheated on him, accusing him of not being attentive enough. “Am I not giving you all of my attention, Sandy,” he asked? Yes, Tony, you are quite attentive… a bit too attentive.

He couldn’t stop telling me how happy he was that we’d met. That he just wanted a partner, someone to love and cherish, and he was sure that we had chemistry and would be together. He talked about how he can’t wait to ‘fix up a date’ for us to meet, and for me to meet his family and he hoped that I wanted the same. He went on about how he wanted to travel with me. He was falling for me, he said.

Alright, Tony, let’s back this shit up a minute. We’ve been chatting for all of two days and you’re falling for me? You don’t even know much about me. Let’s take it down a few notches, m’kay? He apologized for being too forward, but he knows what he wants, and he wants me. I said that I appreciated his optimism and self-assurance, but that it was too intense for me this early on and was making me uncomfortable. He apologized again and our subsequent conversations were more vanilla. We tried to Skype again, this time I logged on using my PC and webcam but, just like the first time, I could see him sitting there speaking (and drinking his pink energy drink from a Blender Bottle) but no audio was coming through. We disconnected and chatted a bit over instant message.

He likes scary movies, especially 80’s classics like Friday the 13th. He prefers Xbox One to Playstation 4 when playing his favorite games like FIFA and Assassin’s Creed. Cats are ok, but he prefers dogs. He doesn’t watch much TV because he’s so busy with work. Oh, speaking of work, he has a contract coming up that’s taking him to Miami – and – he’s waiting to hear if he got the bid on a huge contract in West Africa, which would have him staying there for five months to oversee things. How exciting!

“What’s your email address? When I’m in Miami, I’ll be so busy with my boys that I can’t text or Skype so I will email with you,” he explained. When I conveyed my confusion (no texting but email is doable?) he simply resigned himself to getting back in touch when he returned in four days. I started to feel the weight of that putrid, decaying remnant of our first conversation, the WikiPaste incident. Perhaps I hadn’t done my due diligence in my initial detective work. I started looking through all the pics he’d sent me. He was wearing this black baseball cap in a few of them, it had a logo and slogan on it. Maybe if I Google that, I thought, I can at least see if it’s from some place near where he says he lives. Breadcrumbs, people, breadcrumbs. The logo was in pink embroidered script, Zesty* – Real Men Drink Pink. Hmmmm….creepy strip club maybe?

The first couple results took me to dead ends, promos for California winery tours. I kept seeing a link to this amateurish looking website for something called “Standard Re-Start*,” but it looked like another dead end, until I started clicking around. It’s all health and wellness crap, real pyramid scheme-y stuff, and *lo-and-behold* one of their products is a pink energy drink powder called Zesty* (see also: the prelude to our first Skype call, the video content of our second Skype call). And there it was, right on their Facebook page:

But, but….. that says “Look at Dude*.” That’s not Dude. That’s Tony! Right? And it just escalated from there. A few clicks from that page took me to Dude’s personal Facebook page. I found many of the pics I had received by text. And while we’re on the subject of texting with Dony (Tony…. Dude…. Dony), one of the first pieces of info I searched was his phone number. That was my introduction to the world of ‘non-fixed VoiP’ phone service, but knowing what VoiP is, didn’t look any deeper. Now that I was feeling queasier about the whole thing, I searched the number again and found that the carrier is a company called NextPlus (get your *FREE* account to text and call over Wi-Fi… blah, blah, blah). You can, with nothing more than an email address, set up an account with NextPlus and obtain a phone number with any area code you wish. There are apparently two viable reasons why someone might use it to communicate: 1) They are concerned about their privacy and believe that someone can glean more actual personal information from a cell phone number than is possible for the general public, or 2) They have something to hide. At this point, I’m betting on the latter.

Facebook is a great and powerful tool. I found some similarities between real-life Dude and the online alias Tony. Dude is 46 and lives in a small town in Wisconsin that isn’t Allenton. Remember Kent, the two year old German Shepherd? He’s actually six years old, and his name isn’t Kent. Dude is in a long term relationship with a woman, both of them frequently on the receiving end of jokey comments from friends and family about “putting a ring on it.” Dude’s mother passed away suddenly a couple of years ago and never lived in Janesville. Dude has a sister who lives in another state with her two kids, but no sign of a marriage, happy or otherwise. Oh, Dude has a second sister, too. I wonder why she didn’t make the final cut into the life and times of Carl ‘Tony’ Anthony. Then, things got weird…

Dude’s girlfriend, the one he is very much still in a relationship with? A click on her Facebook profile greeted me with the message that we have a mutual friend. I am Facebook friends with one of her relatives. Not someone I know in real life, or have ever even spoken to off Facebook. We are Facebook friends out of happenstance. An acquaintance of an acquaintance of a friend, who I added to grant me access to a closed group.

What was Tony’s end game? I wish I could say for sure. Learning all of this info on the real guy behind the pictures, I was left with the question, “Is it Dude using a fake name to scam women, or is he a victim here, too, having had his pictures and online presence stolen by Tony in an effort to scam women?” I had a plan. The names of Dude’s aunts and uncles were listed in his mother’s online obit, and one of my options was to tell Tony all about my cats… that just happen to have the same names as three of his uncles (totally not true, but a great story, bro). You know, see if that shakes him. I could try and bait him into offering me some samples of that crappy energy drink powder; see if I could catch the catfish that way. Alas, my fun ended prematurely.

After “returning from Miami,” he sent me a text message, telling me that he missed talking to me. He asked if I could Skype, and I agreed. Before we could even get to another fake video chat (oh yeah, that’s a real thing), I jokingly shared that my friend was concerned about my blossoming relationship. I told him she said I should ask him to send me a pic of himself holding a sheet of paper with my name and the current date written on it. He just about lost his mind. The immediate and complete overreaction was very telling, “How can you think that of me, we talked on cam,” he exclaimed. I went on to say how my friend’s daughter had been scammed by someone who could even fake a Skype call. He stopped responding. And that was the last time I heard from Tony.

I reported his spoofed calls to Skype, and his account was banned for abuse. I reached out to NextPlus to file a complaint, and their response included that they deactivated the account for fraudulent activity. I contacted OKCupid and, after some initial run around, I received feedback that they have blocked his login credentials to prevent him from ever using that profile again. I felt good about all that.

Be smart online, and in life. No one falls in love after three days of text messaging. If it feels weird, it probably is.

I learned a lot from this experience. About the things people attempt when trying to scam someone via online dating. The “civil engineer” is just as common as the “military man,” because it's plausible for either to be out of the country for extended periods of time. Google reverse image search doesn’t reliably return results. All of the pictures he sent me via text were on Dude’s Facebook page, yet they returned zero web results when plugged into Google. Most importantly, I learned that I thoroughly enjoy puzzles. Once I got that first hit from Google, I was a woman on a mission. Nothing could stop me until I had it all figured out. Nev and Max – watch out!

* The names of the real life people, products, and businesses have been changed to protect the innocent and avoid giving traffic to their shitty merchandise. Ambiguity of some locations is intentional.
Image via

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My Fat is Not a Virus

I saw an article shared on social media recently about 15 couples who "lost the weight together." At first I scrolled past it, but then my curiosity got the better of me and I did something that I try never to do... I ventured into the comments section of the Facebook post.

After reading a bit of the back and forth vitriol between the 1% of the Fat Acceptance (FA)/Health at Every Size (HAES) readers futilely arguing their side against 9% "concerned for your health" and 90% outright disgust and hostility, I wanted to read the article. I wanted to give it a chance to show me it had more substance than the fat hatred in so many of the comments.

I'm not going to link to it here, I don't want to give it any more traffic than it's already getting. I'm sure you'd have no trouble finding one of its many iterations if you really want to. It's really more of a slide show than an article. The lead-in is a short but scathing warning about the issue of "contagious obesity." This was a new term to me, this "contagious obesity." With no scientific evidence cited (are there ever in these types of articles?), these two paragraphs "confirm" a fatphobe's worst fear: being fat is contagious. What was masked as weight loss "success stories" was nothing more than a platform to extend another kick in the teeth to fat people. Isn't that so often the underlying (or sometimes in-your-face) intent with articles featuring stories of weight loss? To make those who are fat feel small and unwanted, while inflating and bolstering the confidence of those who fit the slim societal ideal of beauty? Oh, the irony. I was overwhelmed by feelings of anger, upset, and sadness. I wanted to cry and hit something all at once.

A closed Facebook group I belong to recently had a great discussion about "before and after" photos and the grossly disproportionate heroism and accolades granted to people who lose weight (and fat people who are "at least trying" to lose weight, a.k.a., the "good fatty"). How weight loss is seen as the pinnacle of success and life achievements. Like being fat is the epitome of personal failure. After reading this "15 couples" article, I just felt utterly defeated. Maybe it's because I'm still in the beginnings of my HAES and FA journey. There is so much resistance against and hate toward fat bodies that I can't help feeling like I'm trying to put out a forest fire with a toy water pistol. To feel like I have to constantly justify my right to exist as I am, sometimes even to myself, is exhausting.

Between the constant barrage of media like that article, medical prejudice and mistreatment, ill-conceived and intrusive comments and advice from friends, family, and even strangers... how do you rise above it all? How does a fat person (or someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder) keep fighting against all this? How do we defend ourselves against internalizing all that hate when it constantly threatens to seep in like deadly gas through a poorly sealed window, so we can be mentally healthy and not fall back into diet culture and/or disordered eating and behavior?

After 27 years of trying to lose weight and change my body, at the age of 39 I found some great women on Twitter who showed me that there was an alternative. Through reading blogs like Fat Heffalump, The Militant Baker, and Dances with Fat and articles and books written by Lindy West, Linda Bacon, Virgie Tovar, Lesley Kinzel, Lucy Aphramor, Evelyn Tribole, Hanne Blank, and more, I learned so much. Like being happy and being fat aren't mutually exclusive and that being fat doesn't mean that you're a walking death trap of sickness. They taught me that I don't have to sit by and silently accept the discrimination and hatred directed at me and those with a body like mine. It was a novel idea for me that I can eat a salad because I love the taste of the fucking salad and not because it's a "clean" or "good" meal, and that it doesn't make me a bad person or weak-willed if I have dessert. Tweets by Fat Girl Flow, Artist Ali (and her Ok 2 Be Fat account), Your Fat Friend, and so many others have been like my lifeline, women who know me without knowing me. Instagram accounts like She Might Be, Kobi Jae, Suma Jane Dark, The Chza, Heffalumpish, A Beard Named Troy, Eff Your Beauty Standards, and The Every Body Project show me that every body is unique and beautiful in its own right, and I don’t have to make myself smaller or dress to blend into the background.

It's been two years since I started adopting the FA and HAES philosophies. I try not to look backward, but that can be just as challenging as moving forward. Throughout this still relatively new period of personal growth and acceptance, I can't help feeling isolated. Despite a stellar online community of support among people who are fiercely passionate advocates for FA and HAES, I grow apart from my family and friends in the offline world ('IRL' as the kids call it). My friends and family who are fat don't seem to grasp what HAES is or how to reconcile it against decades of being told that being fat is bad and is never ok. Many of them misunderstand intuitive eating as my "new diet plan," or insist that it "won't work" (as they are assuming I'm doing it as a means to lose weight). Even my friends who aren't fat seem to perpetually deny themselves certain foods, assign a moral value to what they eat (or don't eat), restrict their meals to rigidly dictated portion sizes rather than trust their body's own cues of hunger and satisfaction, or exercise out of a perceived necessity rather than enjoyment, all because they fear being or becoming fat. I love my friends and family very much, and it hurts that I no longer connect with them on that deep level. When you find that the strongest link in your bond with someone was your mutual desire to become (or stay) physically small, how do you segue your relationship beyond that? I don't want to talk about what I eat (unless it's to share a really delicious recipe or restaurant dish). I don't want to admonish myself for not exercising. And hearing others do that, all the time, hinders my blossoming ability to leave diet culture and years of disordered eating and skewed body image in the past. I've stopped hating myself, and I'd like to keep it that way.

Ideas like "contagious obesity" are dangerous and detrimental to everyone. They further marginalize, stigmatize, and exile fat people in an already fatphobic society. It gives fatphobes another reason to hate fats. It doesn't matter how long I've been fat or what circumstances brought me to my current weight. It doesn't even matter if I'm "fat and healthy" or if I'm fat and have a chronic illness. You can't "catch" fat like you can catch the flu virus. My body is not your concern. My body is not your business. My body is not a disease to be cured.