Loud-mouthed liberal feminist. Anarchist knitter. Tequila-drinking artsy-smartsy fat chick. Bluesy folk-rock singer-songwriter. Rebel with too many causes. Quirky eclectic pagan poet. Paradoxical intuitive smartass. Sarcastic brainiac insomniac. You know, for starters.

3.27.2008

Shaking the unshakeable.

So, moving is kicking my ass. My entire body is covered in bruises, and I feel like I've been pummelled to within an inch of my life. There are muscles whining at me about how overworked and underpaid they are, that I never knew I'd hired in the first place. My body is quite displeased with me, to say the least. What's really interesting about the mental process coming up for me is how it's bringing up some thoughts about how I'm - dammit - older than I was last time I did this, and apparently almost-30 really *is* older than 24, and all that crap I used to laugh at about how "your body changes" maybe isn't total crap...and some residual anger over that stupid broken tailbone and the way my back will probably never be whole and pain-free again ever....but even more thoughts wondering about how some of this ache and pain and whatever might be caused by the fact that I'm fat.

Maybe this seems like a "duh" thing to some people, but in my entire life, I've never really had that thought. I didn't think it when I started getting an obnoxiously painful bunion in middle school (though I didn't know what it was at the time, and am kind of horrified now that I do know) and had to sit out in gym class (oh, darn, no dodgeball). I didn't think it when I broke my foot at 19, right before I started a job stocking shelves that required me to run up and down ladders all day carrying boxes of motor oil and headlights and tires, where I would come home and just lay in bed trying to resist the urge to cut off the damn foot because it hurt so much from overuse. I didn't think it when I finally found out that what I thought was heartburn was actually gall stones, when I had to have my gall bladder removed at 22 (three years ahead of my dad's 25!). I didn't think it when I broke my tailbone four years ago and spent several months bare-assed on the chiropractor's table, or even in the ensuing eighteen months where pain became a dull roar that colored every waking moment.

I've been a very lucky fat person. My parents never forced me to diet, and when I do remember them bringing up my weight, it was never in a "it's gonna kill you" way, mostly just a "I wish you'd play a sport or something; get your nose out of a book!" kinda way. I did get "you have such a pretty face" from some grandparents every now and then, but I really don't remember much harping on my weight or weirdness about food (other than my dad's "clean your plate" rule, which isn't that weird to me). I actually only remember being teased (mildly) one time, in high school (by a freshman who I proceeded to intimidate with implied threats of violence such that he never spoke to me again). I caught way more guff for being the "smart girl" than for being the "fat girl." (Which isn't to say that I don't think people thought of me that way, or talked about me that way behind my back - I'm sure they did. I never heard it, though, so I never cared.) In fact, I can remember my freshman year, as someone who'd just moved to the school a month prior, the "popular" girls begged me to join the Homecoming powder puff football team...I'm guessing because I was big and looked mean? (To be fair, I did and do kick ASS on a football field.)

I'm also lucky in terms of opportunities - my fatness hasn't kept me out of a great job, hasn't stopped me from having relationships (yay for serial monogamy!), hasn't prevented me from getting appropriate medical treatment (I've never had a doctor tell me to lose weight instead of treating me, thank all the gods), hasn't prevented me from getting great apartments or eating in fabulous restaurants or dressing the way I want to or engaging in all kinds of awesome extracurriculars. I'm very lucky in the way I've been able to navigate life while maintaining a positive self image, and seizing the chances I've stumbled into without really considering if or how my fat might affect things.

So, yeah, most of my life has been damn good in terms of how my fat and I have moved through the world. I've rejected marketing bullshit, often spoken up when I encountered people trying to blame this or that on fatness, and generally been very comfy in my skin. I have mostly pollyanna'd my way along, and was overjoyed when I stumbled into the fat rights movement (originally in 2002, and more concretely as the Fatosphere has sprung up and now COFRA!); it resonated with my belief that being fat wasn't a barrier to anything, and that fat people ought to claim their power and rock just as hard as non-fat people.

It wasn't all roses, though. Suddenly, I was being exposed to other people's experiences of being fat that were not as positive as mine was. I was hearing about asshole doctors, mean schoolyard bullies, diet-inflicting parents, eating disorders, and the crises of confidence that are epidemic among so many fat people who have been bombarded with negative messages for so long they've almost given up resisting. I'd heard this kind of stuff before, from my sister, from friends...but not with the sheer volume that I see it within the movement - from so many different perspectives and backgrounds and experiences. It was a little overwhelming to me, and my Cancer Moon empathy made it really easy to just break my heart with the injustice, and truly feel just how lucky I have been and continue to be. (It also pissed me off and continues to piss me off and motivates me to work for change! What a fucking tragedy that so many people spend so much time hating themselves, when they could be using their talents and making the world a better place?!?!)

Unfortunately, though, I've noticed a really unfortunate side effect. The past couple days, as I've been aching and my muscles and bones and back and shoulders have been threatening to go on strike, I've started wondering if it's because I'm fat. Couldn't be that heavy lifting isn't something I do often, and is rough on people with office jobs, no matter their body size or fitness level. Couldn't be that I'm clumsy and have caught the edges of boxes on doorframes and bashed myself into walls and tripped and dropped stuff and slipped on the awesome early-Midwest-spring SNOW that showed up just in time for me to be carrying my every possession all over hell and creation. Couldn't be that I broke my tailbone four years ago, and it has never really healed and gets painful *anytime* I overexert my back muscles doing anything. Couldn't be that I have barely had a decent night's sleep in weeks, grata the stress of moving and dealing with landlords and family stuff and being a normal person with drama and turmoil and stuff. Couldn't be that I've been sleeping on a mattress that was wreaking havoc on my back every night, and extensive yoga only *sometimes* worked all that out. Couldn't be any of that, must be the fat.

I'm feeling really conflicted about this reaction. Part of me feels betrayed by my own damned subconscious - how could it absorb that shit in the relatively short time I've been exposed to the horror stories? How could I lose my unshakeable underlying belief that I am in relatively good health - that walking a couple miles a day and eating well and all the other various things I do to treat my body with love and respect are, in fact, good things and that fat is not a reflection of poor treatment of my body, but just another way my body is *my* body - just like my shit-brown (with some gray - GAH!!) hair, plain brown eyes, imperfect skin, crooked teeth, big feet, round booty, and that funky toenail I inherited from my dad that splits in two if I don't keep it trimmed really short. It's just a facet of my physical self, which is just as outside-the-norm as my non-physical self - truth in advertising and stuff.

Part of me is also wrestling with the terrifying idea that maybe I'm NOT as comfy with my fat as I think I am. Maybe I have absorbed all those messages I thought I'd missed over the years ("but you're killing your joints!!"). Maybe, despite how lucky I feel I've been, despite how comfy in my skin I am, despite how generally happy I am with the life I've made in this body and what it can do....maybe I'm somehow deluding myself. Mmmmm...I love a juicy mental clusterfuck like that.

Experiences like this really bring home for me just how critical body acceptance is, in terms of social justice, mental health, and the well being of the general population. Something is wrong when an intelligent, rational, relatively self-aware, reasonable human being is having such intense conflict between logical reality and emotional experience. Something is wrong, even when it's me having that kind of conflict.

2 comments:

Sarah S said...

Tari! Oh my god. It's Sarah and Di from Conclave! We just saw your photo on mygayestlook! Crazy its a small world after all shit. We're sending in a picture of the two of us to the site too. Because Jay Leno is not funny AT ALL.

We're actually looking at some jobs in the Chicago area so maybe we could hook up some time and have loud bitchy feminist knitting.

Good luck with your moving!

Tari said...

Seriously, I so can't believe Jay Leno. What an ass.

For real, though, small world. You guys should totally come to Chicago! We can rock some hard-core loud bitchy feminist knitting!!!