Monday, September 14, 2015

Mondays are a Real M*F*R Sometimes

Mondays are great, aren’t they?

My 5am alarm vibrates against my wrist. I get out of bed and start to make my way to the bathroom (without my glasses….pretty typical) so I can do my morning business, grab my treadmilling gear, and take it back to my room so I can get dressed to huff and puff and sweat to an episode of Grace& Frankie. As I pass the closed door of the boy’s room, I see the light on and I hear him talking to himself…and the conversation doesn’t sound pleasant. I knock, enter, and ask what’s going on. I immediately smell Nature’s Miracle, and before I could ask, he tells me that Oli peed on the floor, while he was at the gym. I ask him what he’s doing and I squint (without my glasses on,
I have the vision of an aged mole in bright sunlight) and kind of make out that he’s sitting on his bed with some papers in front of him. Oh yeah…the medical history questionnaire he has to complete to take with him for his physical – today. You know, the packet of forms that I printed out for him five days ago. The same packet of forms that I asked him, no less than a dozen times this weekend, to not wait ‘til the last minute to fill out. And, of course, he doesn’t “get” them; they don’t make any sense and they’re dumb, so dumb. This is most likely because he hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep and he’s already annoyed from a series of events this early morning that were beyond his control. So I get my glasses from my room (I can SEE!), go back into his room, and sit down to help. And he’s being particularly short-tempered and snippy, which doesn’t make it easy to help him.

We get through the paperwork and by that time, the small bit of motivation I’d had to walk on the treadmill dwindled and dried up like a sad little cherry tomato that fell behind the kitchen table, forgotten about until the cat drags it out to play with. I look at my watch (which also happens to be my FitBit…irony, part 1) and I see that – if I wanted – I could lie back down for an hour and a half.

I lay down in bed, reset my alarm for 7am, pull up the covers, and shut my eyes. Cue Georgeanne. Georgeanne is one of my cats. She is almost 17 years old and had developed a love of singing at inappropriate times (the experts refer to it as “excessive vocalization,” and it can mean a lot of different things, medically speaking). Of course she decides to shout it out just as I decide I’d like to catch a few more zzzzz, of course. I yell at her a few times to shut up, which sometimes works. After the fourth chorus, I decide to just get up and do the damn treadmill anyway. I grab my glasses (again) and disconnect my phone from the charger…and see that it’s 6:58. Well, there goes that idea.

I navigate my morning commute across the hall and power on my work computer. I typically do this in stages as I’m preparing to start my work day at 7:30 a.m. This allows the old girl (the computer, not me) to boot up, and I don’t have to sit there staring at it while it chugs along. I pop back into the office after five or so minutes to log on (a dual-step process), and then I go let the dogs out. I peek into the office around 7:15 and see that the computer is still only at the “Welcome” start-up screen. That’s odd. I remember that there was a program update over the weekend that I neglected to stay connected to the network for, and I supposed that it could be bogging things down (note that I am not an IT person so that is probably not even a thing that could happen). I finally have my breakfast together and sit down at my work desk at 7:28 a.m. The dual 17” monitors are still welcoming me while spinning its little blue ring; so let out a heavy sigh, roll my eyes, and call the Help Desk.

Working for a huge corporate conglomerate, you can never be too sure what you’re going to get when you call the Help Desk. I really prefer to either report a tech issue online, or use their handy Live Chat feature. Since I couldn’t even get to my desktop, let alone connect to the network, I had no choice but to call. After a brief recording describing the top system outage, I was informed by a friendly-sounding woman (another automated voice) that my expected wait time is 201 minutes. Folks…that is not a type-o…two-hundred-and-one minutes. That’s about 3 hours and 21 minutes, if you're counting. Well, that’s not very helpful, Help Desk Robot Woman. As I sit on hold, I hear the magical sounds of the computer finally getting over itself, and I land on my desktop around 7:45 a.m. Things then seemed to be running, albeit slowly, so I threw caution to the wind and hung up the phone, knowing I’d lose my place in the long hold queue. What the hell…I live a life of danger; I run with scissors.

As I’m going through my email, viewing my daily calendar, and trying to organize my day, I see Olimar out of the corner of my eye sitting in the middle of the office, ears hanging low, and he’s shaking. That can only mean a handful of things:
  • He’s just had a bath, and he’s chilly.
  • He just got in trouble and has been scolded.
  • He has to pee.
  • He’s about to toss his doggie cookies. 

My knees creak and my thigh muscles threaten to seize up as I squat down to clean up the large pile of his barely-digested serving of breakfast kibble. I start to wonder if I can afford to quit my job, sell my house and car, and just backpack across the country. (I recently watched Reese Witherspoon in Wild, which is a really great movie.) It seemed like a good idea in the moment. Maybe just one of those tiny houses, somewhere off the grid….but with Wi-Fi.

Alright, back to work. I find out from a couple of co-workers that the start-up issue is something that others are experiencing, too. There is an open case for it on the Help Desk’s home page, and it encourages you to add your workstation to the ticket if you’re
experiencing the issues. So I clicked on the simple, one-click button to add myself to the ticket. Then I clicked on the button to confirm that, yes, I wished to add myself to the ticket. And then I got a pop-up message that there was an error with my request, and I should call the Help Desk to report it. The irony was strong this morning. I tried to keep my good humor about me as I went on with my work day. The struggle was real.

So this is 40? That got me to thinking, with today’s life expectancy, what is considered the top of “the hill?” You know, as in just before you’re considered “over the hill.” I know it’s typically when you turn 50, but seriously, who’s living to 100 these days? I’m just wondering because “over the hill” sounds great! I mean, doesn’t that colloquialism mean that once you reach that point in your life everything is so easy and carefree and joyous, like a basket of kittens and hundred dollar bills? “Over the hill,” because the journey down the hill is much easier than the climb up the hill. Right? That’s what that means, right? Why is everyone laughing?
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Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Open Letter to the Fat Haters

You may have already seen or heard about the YouTube video that portrays itself as an open letter to fat people. It’s already gotten a lot of attention in social media, so I won’t link to it or even mention the title or name of the YouTuber that posted it. If you haven’t seen it, you aren’t missing out. And although the original poster has since taken it down (claiming YouTube removed it, but that’s since been disproven), it has been reposted anonymously…so it’s out there if you really feel you must see it. I’ll provide a short synopsis here, and I will attempt provide it in the spirit in which it was originally intended in this not-so-verbatim recount:

A young woman sporting blonde hair with a hot pink stripe, a dark colored top (or dress, you can’t really see her in full), and glam-style makeup introduces herself, and lets you know right off the bat that she isn’t happy about having to share her world with fat people.

She tells the world that fat shaming isn’t real. That fat people made it up, using hashtags like #BodyPositive, #FatAcceptance, and #BodyLove so they can stay fat and be proud of being so gross. She tells the world that fat shaming isn’t a thing, unless you also allow such promotional hashtags as #TeamSmoker and #HeroinLove.

She recounts an experience she had at an airport, when she had to wait longer than she should have because a family of fat people was given the privilege of line jumping to the front…because they couldn’t breathe or stand because they were so fat. She not only called out the fat parents, for being disgusting (such as sweating Crisco), she also called out the fat child. And she went on to call out that fat child for invading her space when seated next to her on the plane; explaining that she had to literally hold this child’s fat away from her body or it would have been all over her.

She explains at a few different moments during the 6ish minute video that she isn’t talking about the fat people who have medical conditions that render them fat. She also makes a differentiation between people who are a little overweight, with some “cushion for the pushin’,” from the “really big, fat” people. She’s only addressing the fat people that are fat by choice…and she’s only doing so because she is selfish and wants those people around longer. She’s doing this, and saying these things, because fat people need to be told the truth; and she cares about the health of fat people. Because if you’re fat (and you aren’t fat because of a medical condition), you’re sick and you’re going to die soon. She diagnoses all fat people (who aren’t fat by medical disease) as having heart disease and diabetes, and all fat people will lose a foot to their diabetes…before they die young.

In this video, she advocates for everyone to “call out fat people for their bullshit” in order to save their lives. I am a fat woman. She negates any feelings I may have about her opinions by saying that there is no such thing as fat shaming. Now, I have my own feelings and beliefs about shaming, the word itself, and the actions that are referred to as shaming…

As an aside to the main character of this story (the video), my perception, of late, has been that the word shaming has been overused to the point of not meaning anything. It’s become the boy who cried wolf. Not that the actions aren’t still there; they are. But, much like the words “abuse” and “hate”, shame is being affixed to any behavior a person experiences that makes them slightly uncomfortable or doesn’t agree 100% with their own personal opinions. It’s the new “bullying.” This is not what shaming is. If someone doesn’t like the color of my hair, or the cut of my dress, and they decide to tell me so, I’m not being shamed. Ok, maybe the person who feels the need to share things like that isn’t being very nice or polite (if I didn’t ask for their opinion), but that doesn’t make them hateful, or abusive, provided that there is no malice or harmful intent in the delivery. My mother once told me, after seeing a picture of me in an outfit I felt pretty cute in, that I looked like a marshmallow and should never wear that particular shirt ever again. Did I feel bad? Sure. Were my feelings hurt? For a moment or two, yes. Did she say it to be malicious or to shame me? No; of course not. (I never did wear that top again…)

Back to the main topic…

Watching that video was my first exposure to this person, the original poster. She apparently sells herself as something of a comedienne, and from what I gather from things I’ve read on social media, she has had her funny moments but she is known for her “no-holds-barred” attitude when it comes to things she doesn’t like – including people she doesn’t like. I suppose in some world, you could consider her video satire. Satire, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is a way of using humor to show someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc.; humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc. In my opinion, the only person who looked foolish or weak was her. Her diatribe showed that it is she who has the bad quality of hate in her heart, and the weakness to insist on spewing it to the masses. But, because humor is in the ear of the listener/eye of the beholder, I’m sure that some people did find it funny. Just like some people find racial slurs, the use of the word “retard,” and playing “spin the kitty” with a stainless steel bowl on a linoleum floor “funny.” However, there are a lot of people who didn’t find her video funny, or even satirical for that matter. I am one of those people.

The reasons why I didn’t find humor in her rant may differ from the reasons of others. I find faux-concern the worst form of condescension. Don’t tell me that you’re concerned for my health; bitch, you don’t know me. Why would you give a shit about my health? Just like the family on the airplane in her story. She didn’t know them personally, so why would she have a stake in their health and well-being? She doesn’t. She was inconvenienced so she decided to make it about their health (*ahem*, let’s be honest, their appearance). I wonder if it had been a family of athletically built Catholics (totally making this up for illustrative purposes here…) who insisted on being seated first because of their religious beliefs, and if the child was invading her personal space with his bulging biceps, would she have written a rant about religious people, or muscular people? I can’t answer that, so I’ll leave it for you all to ponder.

The darker side of these things, like her video, can happen because YouTube (and any social media for that matter) is available to virtually anyone with access to the internet. This includes people who may already have extremely low self-esteem. Not to mention that “fat” is a very fluid term; it means something different to every single person. How many teenage girls (maybe even yourself, when you were younger…or even now) love their body? When I was 16, I weighed 121 pounds, and I thought I was fat, because that was my perception at the time. So, if someone who is already feeling awful about the way their body looks, and perhaps doesn’t have the self-confidence to ignore skewed messages like that video, they may decide to take unhealthy measures to stop being “fat.” I wonder how she would feel if she discovered that someone developed an eating disorder as a direct result of watching her video. Would she be glad that they were losing weight, regardless of the method? Or if her video was viewed by someone already at their lowest; and that was the final thing that pushed them over the edge to commit suicide. Would she be thankful that there was one less fatty in the world?

In my own version of fat acceptance and body love, I am not asking anyone to be fat, advocating obesity or unhealthy choices, or for everyone to love the way my body looks. All I ask is that I be granted the same respect and human rights as anyone else. I believe that is the basis for all fat acceptance and body love activism. Not to “make the world fat” or force people to say that fat bodies are beautiful and should be revered. As a fat woman, I am very aware of the health concerns that can result from being fat. I see my doctor annually, and the results of those visits are the business of me and my doctor alone. I do not owe an explanation of my health to anyone, nor do I feel compelled to provide one. And if I choose to practice body love by way of increased activity and healthy choices at the supermarket, a lifestyle change that may or may not result in weight loss, those are choices I make to love the only body I'll every have. Just like I do not require anyone else to comment on my current shape/ability/weight/lifestyle, I do not require anyone’s congratulations, commendations, or high-fives if I lose weight or make healthy choices.

Get this….my body is my business. Not anyone else’s. My choices do not impact your life nor do they infringe on your choices and beliefs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….if you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother (or substitute any other unconditionally loved family member or friend), then don’t say it to a complete stranger (or an entire cross-section of complete strangers).

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