Here's the description:
Sisters in Blue tells the story of two young women—one Spanish, one Puebloan—meeting across space and time. Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda, New Mexico’s famous Lady in Blue, is said to have traveled to New Mexico in the seventeenth century. Here Anna M. Nogar and Enrique R. Lamadrid bring her to life, imagining an encounter between a Pueblo woman and Sor María during the nun’s mystical spiritual journeys. Tales of Sor María, who described traveling across the earth and the heavens, have traditionally presented her as an evangelist who helped bring Catholicism to the Pueblos. Instead this book, which includes an essay providing historical context, shows a connection between Sor María and her friend Paf Sheuri. The two women find more similarities than differences in their shared experiences, and what they learn from each other has an impact for centuries to come.Frankly, I'm usually suspicious of books that emphasize similarities amongst people when the history of interactions between these particular peoples is so fraught with horrific and oppressive actions. If I get a copy, I'll be back with a review.
Sunbolt is a fun little novella with a lot of promise, setting up an interesting fantasy world which is (thank goodness!) not an analogue of medieval Europe. It’s just satisfying enough that I got into it and didn’t want it to end, just tantalising enough that I’m sure I’ll be picking up the second book just as soon as I can.
I did feel like it was a book of two halves — before Hitomi meets Val, and after. The turning point of the book reminded me so much of the scene where Sunshine meets Con in Robin McKinley’s Sunshine — in so many ways, from the character attitudes to how it gets resolved, to the way they talk to each other. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it did feel so very similar that I kind of had deja vu.
I like the fact that romance isn’t a huge part of this; there’s some potential, but nothing really concrete. And there’s all kinds of magic; fangs and Lycans and a tanuki-shifter and just — awesome. I want more.
Dear Captain Awkward,
I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and just love it! Your answers and the community here are both awesome. So thanks. My question is really tough and I’m afraid your answer is going to be “there is no actual compromise possible here.” But I’m going to try.
My husband and I were both raised as extremely religious Catholics. When we were dating (courting??) we both agreed that we wanted to have lots of kids, like a dozen, and homeschool them all. Over eight years of marriage, we’ve both changed a lot. We’re both a lot more liberal and our kids are going to public school. After the third kid, we both agreed that we no longer wanted to have any more kids. But, being Catholic, there are only two allowed solutions: NFP (natural family planning, also known as Vatican Roulette), and total abstinence. We did that for a miserable year and a half and then, predictably, got pregnant with our fourth.
I cannot describe how horrible this has all been to me. Four kids is A LOT OF KIDS, especially given that the oldest is only seven. I loathe being pregnant with the fiery heat of a thousand suns. All of them have been high needs. I haven’t slept well since 2009. My husband is exhausted too; he cried like a baby when he found out we were having the fourth and I believe he is still depressed about it four months after she was born.
And I no longer see any point to this punishingly difficult lifestyle since I am no longer Catholic. Between kid 3 and kid 4, I did a lot of studying and am now entirely agnostic. My husband was really upset by my deconversion and mostly prefers not to talk about it at all. He’s become a lot more skeptical about his faith, but he does think it’s true and it worries him to think I might be going to hell. Meanwhile I now think that birth control is definitely the greatest thing since indoor plumbing.
Our birth control method now, given that NFP so obviously does not work, is abstinence. Every couple of weeks my husband can’t stand it anymore so we have non-PIV sex. Only there is zero communication about this. I think his perspective is that, if he’s got to “sin,” at least he’s not going to make it worse by premeditating it. The problem is that it’s obvious both of us want to take it further and I know from experience how hard it is to think clearly when you’re horny. I am terrified that sooner or later we’re going to get pregnant again. I cannot, CANNOT go through pregnancy again; I get the shakes just thinking about it. Meanwhile our sex life is completely screwed up from the NFP and then the whatever-this-is we’re doing now, so that neither of us is really enjoying it that much and we both kinda feel like roommates. It sucks and the thought of doing this till menopause is awful.
I want to go on birth control. He doesn’t even want to discuss it. He told me some time ago that if I did go on birth control, he’d continue to feel obligated to never have sex again because contracepted sex is a sin. I don’t want to do something unilaterally if it truly would upset him, but on the other hand I feel like his religion will make it impossible for him ever to agree to it, even if he WERE okay with it, because that would implicate him in the “sin.” So I can’t find out how he really feels about it. And then there’s the money issue … we don’t have insurance and all the really effective birth control methods are pretty expensive. With his cooperation we could easily save up the money for it in a couple of months, but since I’m a full-time carer for the kids, I don’t have much in the way of my own separate money. And it’s not like a couple thousand dollars are sitting around in the bank right now for me to just take and use … even if I would feel okay unilaterally spending that amount of money, given that normally all major purchases have to be okayed by both of us. And I have almost no one in my life who isn’t fanatically Catholic, certainly no one I could call on to drive me home from getting my tubes tied.
What, dear Captain, would you do? Can you help me come up with a script for “seriously, we need to actually TALK about what we’re doing and your Catholic guilt and denial are not helping”? I have been quietly waiting for the past two years or so for him to come around, but he hasn’t, and I feel our disastrous fourth pregnancy is my fault for agreeing to rely on the broken fire escape that is NFP instead of going behind his back and somehow getting an IUD. Yet I still hesitate to make such a big decision unilaterally; I’m equally scared to tell him (and face his hurt feelings) or not tell him (and have a big whopping secret looming over my head). And of course there are the practical issues.
Thanks for reading my lengthy novel,
Offred (Just Kidding) (Mostly)
Hi “Offred” (No Joke!):
When spouses don’t agree about birth control…the person with the greatest pregnancy risk gets to use birth control if they want to. If you were my friend and you wanted an IUD and your husband didn’t want you to have an IUD, I’d have you at that appointment today*, so I’m not sure that asking what I would do is the most helpful thing for you. Still, I’m really glad you wrote, so, hi!
This shouldn’t a surprise, but I’m firmly in the “Can the Pope get pregnant? No? Could any of the men who have ever been responsible for deciding and promulgating this doctrine (i.e. the literal Patriarchy) get pregnant? Mostly…not…(though I’m sure a few transgender men were in the historical mix, thanks for nothing, fellas)? Can your husband get pregnant? Really unlikely? Do any of these people live in your body? Then their opinions about this are not the most important opinions” camp.
This doctrine in particular is one of the reasons I personally broke with the church. I respect people’s right to make their own reproductive decisions and their right to factor religious faith into those decisions. I also believe those rights stop at the borders of your own body, so I don’t respect the way this doctrine has made life harder for countless women and people who can get pregnant, and I don’t respect the Church’s political activism around making contraception harder to access. If you wanted a nuanced, neutral, “Well, religious doctrine is super important too, so, tread carefully!” answer, I’m 100% not your lady.
The good news is, enough Catholic families (I’ve seen numbers as high as 98% of sexually active practicing Catholic women have used contraception) are going to church and then also quietly going to the doctor and locking their birth control stuff down that I’d bet *someone* in your community would drive you wherever you needed to go (and/or trade off rides in the future). They’re just being quiet about it the way you are being quiet about it because they don’t want to wake the Patriarchy. The “everyone else does it” argument probably isn’t going to convince your husband, but I think it might help you to remind yourself that facts and precedent are on your side.
You are the only adult in your family who can get pregnant. To me, that makes you the only decider about whether you want to be pregnant and what steps and trade-offs you are willing to make to prevent pregnancy. The teachings of your husband’s church and his worries about sin and his hurt feelings do not outweigh your human right to make this decision for yourself or obligate you to keep gestating an Adorable Gift From The Vatican! every couple of years. You can love your kids without wanting more of them. You can love God without wanting more kids. You can love your husband and still draw a line about this. He can have unsettled feelings about this, but you have a right to bodily autonomy and a right make your own decisions about your own ethics and religious beliefs.
You say that this issue has been on the table for two years while you wait for him to come around. (Not incidentally, that’s two years during which you had an unplanned pregnancy that made you miserable). If you wanted to give him one more chance to “come around,” here’s a possible script:
“Husband, I don’t want to get pregnant again, and I want to be able to have sex with you without that risk, so I am going to get an IUD** as soon as possible. I’ve done some research and the device and insertion will cost $X, so we need to start putting $Y aside from the household budget to pay for it. Until that’s handled, I don’t want to have any penetrative sex. I know you are uncomfortable with this decision, but this is the right decision for me and I need you to be on my team right now.“
He’ll have some stuff to say and maybe some weird feelings about it. You can get the IUD anyway.
Things might get really weird between you for a little while.You can get the IUD anyway.
He may try refuse to help pay for it. You can get the IUD anyway. Planned Parenthood and other organizations offer free or sliding-scale birth control. In searching for “free birth control” I also found this clinic locator. Chicago has this absolute treasure of a sliding-scale women’s health center, maybe there is something like this near you? Incidentally, one partner using finances to control another’s medical decisions or refusing to pay for the other’s medical care is not okay.
Your follow-up script can be “I’ve prayed about it, I’ve thought about it, and I need to do this to take care of myself. If you are uncomfortable, I understand, I’ve really tried to respect that and to give church-approved methods a chance, but it’s not working for me and my mind is made up.”
Warning: He may try (out of guilt, a desire for control, a desire for The Last Word, who knows) to keep having penetrative sex with you while you save up. THAT IS NOT OKAY. It is also the reason that you need the IUD. If you think this might happen, it’s also an argument for unilaterally and quietly taking care of it on your own. It sucks to keep secrets in a marriage and I understand why you don’t want to. I also think that unreasonable people who don’t give you a safe way to tell them the truth don’t get to be outraged if you choose to quietly prioritize your own safety.
Your husband doesn’t really want more children. He also does not want to commit to only non-penetrative sex forever (Exhibit: Baby #4). He doesn’t want to “sin” by using contraception, but he’s not the one who is going to get pregnant. Does he want to be scot-free of this particular “sin” so badly that he’s willing to risk your health, your life, your economic well-being (Four kids under 8 and no health insurance for you?? How did y’all pay for your pregnancy and delivery? None of my business, really, but that sounds REALLY, EPICLY HARD!!!???!!!)? Is he willing to risk the trust and closeness of your marriage to get what he wants?
There is a compromise possible here, it’s called: “You get the medical care you want and need, and he agrees to handle his complicated feelings about that without making them (literally) your problem to carry.”
Look at it this way: You getting an IUD inserted doesn’t obligate him to have sex with you. If penetrative sex with a woman on birth control is really and truly too much of a sin for him to even contemplate, then he has the option of continuing with the non-penetrative kind of sex once you are on birth control so that his conscience will be 100% clear. Does that sound like a deeply unrealistic path for him? YES, OF COURSE IT DOES THAT’S WHY YOU HAVE THIS PROBLEM (AND A FOURTH BABY).
If he can’t be on your team about this, I do not think you are a bad person or a bad wife if you quietly take care of yourself around this and present him with a fait accompli. You don’t need his permission. Family money is your money, too. Ideally spouses would make these kinds of decisions together, but when the chips are down, the person with the pregnancy risk gets to make the final call.
Jennifer Women’s Rights Are Human Rights, Abortion Is Necessary Healthcare, and Planned Parenthood Is A National Treasure Captain Awkward Leigh Peepas
*If you live in or near Chicago, email me?
**Substitute whatever birth control method you and your doctor choose, including tubal ligation.
Moderation Notes: I do not want to moderate a discussion about this today. If the Letter Writer wants community input or to find a local-to-her-ride-to-the-clinic, the forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com might be a good place for that discussion.
I found that there’s actually a link-up for posts basically like my ‘what are you reading Wednesday’ posts, which I transplanted from Dreamwidth way back. So that’s how I’ll do these Wednesday updates from now on! The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and this shall save me from Grammarly shouting at me about the former grammar of these posts.
Check out the WWW Wednesdays linkup!
What are you currently reading?
The Deeper Genome, by John Parrington. So far it’s very good at explaining the basics and how things were discovered, although this is not information I personally need, all things considered! I’m looking forward to the later chapters, which complicate matters beyond the central dogma.
Yesterday, I managed to read three books, so I’ll just stick to those. First off, I finished Waking Gods, by Sylvain Neuvel. It’s the second book in a series, and it has a cruel, cruel ending. I need to know what happens next. I was initially leery of the format, but it actually really worked (for me, anyway).
Secondly, I read The Worm at the Core, by Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski (I hope I typed that correctly). It’s an examination of the role of death in how humans live, and I found it really fascinating (and not at all depressing; if anything, the opposite). I have a generally spiritual-ish background heavy on the arts, but I’m going into science and finding that I have difficulty seeing where a ‘soul’ could fit in. This book shows how important that struggle is for all humans — so at least I know I’m not alone in not being sure, and perhaps not liking the conclusions I’m coming to.
Thirdly, I read Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth, which features hippo-herding (and feral hippos) in the US. It’s alternate history based on a suggestion that was once seriously made, to raise hippos for meat. It has a non-binary-gendered hero called Hero, who has a romance with the main character, and this made me pretty happy — quite apart from the awesome hippos. Rosa the stealth hippo might be my favourite.
What do you think you’ll read next?
Ugh, I have no idea. I just got to my parents’ where a stack of books I’ve ordered over the past couple of months was awaiting me. I’ve got some fiction I’ve been meaning to read for ages, like Laura Lam’s False Hearts… but also non-fiction I’ve been hankering after, like Robert Weinberg’s One Renegade Cell. And then there’s a bunch of books awaiting review, too. I don’t know! I’ll probably go on instinct.
Before you go, psst: if you want more frequent updates on what I’m currently reading, you can find me on Litsy as shanaqui! It’s kind of like Twitter or Instagram, but all books all the time.
If you have a solid grounding in science already, particularly biology, this is probably going to be accessible for you — but if not, you might struggle a little. It starts off alright, but it gets quite dense in places, and if you’re not super-interested, you’ll probably get bogged down. That said, to me it was fascinating, and generated testable hypotheses about how early life could have functioned.
I still disagree with Nick Lane on some points, like the dismissiveness with which he treats “junk” DNA. But he covers a lot of interesting stuff about endosymbiosis, mitochondria, the way mitochondria work with the host cell, how the differences between bacteria and archaea arose… It’s a wide-ranging book, and it’s hard to summarise everything that he touches on.
He also makes some pretty bold predictions about life elsewhere in the universe — that it will work in pretty much the same way as it does on Earth. I don’t disagree with what he says here.
So all in all, a worthwhile read, but bring your thinking cap if you’re not a biologist.
I wouldn’t have thought of this as a one-note joke until I read the author’s note at the end, but it’s true that’s what it is in some ways. Think Redwall, but instead of saccharine sweet mice in an abbey and wise old badgers and the clear distinction between vermin and civilised beasts, everyone is perfectly capable of being dangerous. Yes, even a mole. These animals are pretty much just humans in animal guise, with all our foibles and tendencies to violence.
It’s also an entertaining story. It’s a fast read, and it basically reminds me of Joe Abercrombie’s work. I’m not sure it’d stand up to a reread, but it works on the first read as a tidy little novella, well-paced and well put together. It just misses out on four stars for me because I don’t think I’d revisit, even though I had fun.
Maybe avoid it if you don’t enjoy gore and you’re precious about your memories of Redwall, though.
This week’s theme is a summer TBR freebie. I don’t do beach reads, as a rule, and I don’t accept the whole idea of guilty pleasures. But here’s some books I’m planning to read over this summer!
A rather random selection, I hear you say? Yep.
So what’re you gonna be reading?
Edited to Add: WE DID IT! YOU DID IT!
Ads will be turned off June 1 and stay off as long as Patreon funding stays at current levels. THANK YOU.
Hello friends! Some kind folks have sent me messages like this this week:
Hi Captain,This isn’t exactly a question, but more of a problem with your site. I know that you have ads to support things and whatever, but recently, video ads have been pulling me down the screen, and no matter how much I try to scroll back up, it keeps pulling me down to the ads, so it becomes difficult to near-impossible to actually read your posts. I don’t know if this is something you can fix, but I thought you should be aware that this happens, and I didn’t know how else to let you know. I didn’t want to derail the comments section with technical difficulties. Thanks, and have a great week!
Thank you for alerting me! I am also running into this – every time I post a new entry, it wants to show me a video ad before I can read my own stuff that I just wrote on my own website. RUDE.
This is unacceptable behavior, and I know it’s made me click the back button when I’m reading other sites.
Unfortunately, I alone cannot fix this – I am not the one controlling the ad placement or how they behave and I haven’t been able to successfully screencap anything. I will alert WordPress.com, but you can also help me.
- Screencap the issue if you can.
- Describe and report the issue here (ad support) or here (WordPress.com support).
- Those links are also good if you ever see something offensive. Which ads display for you are targeted regionally and using cookies, so I won’t necessarily ever see what you see.
- If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, please let me know immediately. We are one of the most-read blogs on the platform and that should count for something.
Personally I find that as the ads get more intrusive and take up more screen real estate, the financial reward for letting WordPress stick them all over the site has seriously diminished and the way that ad revenue is reported and delivered has gotten less transparent and less frequent. I do depend on revenue from the site, but that doesn’t have to be AD revenue. In other words, if my Patreon goes over $2000/month this summer, I’ll turn them off in a heartbeat and keep them off as long as we stay above that threshhold. We’re so close!
My problem is one that I imagine is very, very common, but I’ll start with a little background on my specific situation.
I recently started going to therapy for some pretty serious self esteem issues that had led to me isolating myself for a long time. Up until this year I hadn’t been to a non-family social event – including just one-on-one hangs – in over five years (and even before that it was pretty rare).I’ve made a lot of progress over the last few months; I have a few good friends that I can go out with and all in all, I have learned how to get better about relentlessly judging myself during and after every social interaction.
But even after all this (successful!) work, there’s one aspect that I just can’t seem to crack, even with my wonderful therapist, which is the possibility of a romantic relationship. It has been ten years since my last relationship (I’m in my early30s) and I haven’t been on so much as a date since then. While I was in my hermit state I vacillated between “I don’t really want a partner anyway” (a big fat lie) and “You’re not worth a relationship.” Basically the idea of being involved with someone in a romantic way seemed to be something that just wasn’t in the cards for me, ever. I always pictured myself alone.
Now, though, that I’ve started being around people socially, it’s starting to seem…not so insane. Like maybe it’s not out of the realm of possibility anymore, at least not when I think about it in an abstract way. But when it comes to a practical way – joining a dating site, talking to guys at social events, whatever – I can’t seem to break that bubble of “Why even bother? Who would want to be with you?” Even just writing this part of the letter made me feel embarrassed and silly.
There’s one important thing at play here that I haven’t mentioned yet: I’m fat. [details of weight redacted by Captain Awkward, per the site policies] I just can’t stop thinking of my weight (and looks in general, to a lesser extent) as my #1 defining characteristic.
It’s pretty easy to draw a straight line directly from media portrayals to my issues in this area. A fat girl talking about sex is almost always a punch line, a character for everyone else to make “ew, gross” faces about. Despite intellectually knowing better, I’ve internalized this message. For instance, occasionally I’ll use Tinder when I’m bored or feeling optimistic about the future (but mostly bored), and one time I ran across a co-worker. What should have been a “haha isn’t this awkward” moment sent me into a complete meltdown. I was *mortified* that this co-worker might think that…I don’t know, that I thought someone would be attracted to me? It was ages (like, literally a year and a half) before I could be around this extremely nice co-worker without wanting to crawl under the table and die. I couldn’t even talk to him.
So that’s basically where I am. This feeling that, no matter how funny or kind or interesting I am inside, it doesn’t even matter because my outside is so unappealing. I get so sad thinking about how no one will ever look at me and think, “Oh, she’s pretty, I’d like to get to know her”.
How can I start to escape the “overweight=unfuckable, unfuckable=unlovable” cycle?
-Want To Make The Rockin’ World Go ‘Round (She)
Dear Rockin’ World,
It sounds like your weight gain in recent years has become a “load-bearing repository” for the massive social anxiety you’ve been dealing with. In other words, it’s become the big “unsolvable” problem that you can displace anxiety onto and blame for current unhappiness. Maybe reframing it that way can help you tackle it with your therapist? (Thank you, Letter Writer #963, that is such an excellent concept).
Our culture brutally hates fat people, and that’s not going away any time soon. So, your struggle is real. You can’t control whether a particular person will find you attractive, whether a total stranger will decide to police your food in the lunch line today, whether your doctor will decide that your [actual illness or injury] can be magically solved if you lost a few pounds, or the death-by-a-thousand cuts of weaponized fatphobia and fat hatred in the world. But that doesn’t mean that you are necessarily doomed to an unhappy or lonely life, or to feeling this way about your body forever. The struggle is real, but you don’t have to struggle alone, and it doesn’t have to feel this hard forever.
Here are some resources that help me with body acceptance. They might help you?
Shapely Prose (not active as a commenting community or being updated by the site owner, but the archive is a treasure trove of writing). Start with The Fantasy Of Being Thin, which refutes the idea that a happy life is something you can have “someday, when you’re thin enough to deserve it.” Also check out the FAQ to help refute common tropes and concern-trolling arguments that fat-shamers throw out all the time. The site’s creator, Kate Harding, also wrote a book with the awesome Marianne Kirby. This blog probably wouldn’t exist without Kate, Sweet Machine, FillyJonk, Dear Aunt Fattie, and the other babes of Shapely Prose, so, thank you.
Hanne Blank’s Big Big Love and The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide To Exercise (And Other Incendiary Acts). Overall thesis: Love and sex and exercise are there for you, should work for you (to make you feel good) and you deserve the best of all of those things and should never have to accept less.
Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD and the HAES community. Want to see some peer-reviewed scientific research about approaches to nutrition and exercise that actually improve health outcomes for people? Overall thesis: Study participants who learned to eat in a way that felt right to them and move their bodies in a way that was fun and sustainable to them without the stated goal or pressure of weight loss had better health outcomes than similar groups who exercised and restricted calories with the goal of losing weight. You can also check out The Fat Nutritionist.
Wear Your Voice, especially Dear Virgie‘s advice column and their Style Crush archives. The Establishment also has some great work here. Save Ijeoma Oluo’s piece You Don’t Have To Love Your Body for a rainy day when you’re just not feeling it. Worth noting: The connection between fat acceptance, fat activism, and unapologetic intersectional feminism is not a coincidence, y’all.
Retrain Your Eye
You’re absolutely right that media and popular culture don’t show enough images of fat women, and that when they do we’re all holding our breath waiting for either the punchline or the moment when a fat woman “doesn’t know she’s sexy” until heterosexual love magically teaches her about her own self-worth. (barf emoji) Your anger at that is a good sign that your self-preservation and bullshit-detecting skills are working.
If you can’t yet see the beauty in your own body or in other fat bodies, that’s okay, but it doesn’t have to stay that way forever. We’re surrounded by stylish, aspirational images of thin women, but we can also look at beautiful, stylish, aspirational images that celebrate lots of different kinds of bodies. Three of my personal favorite fat-shion sites right now are: Gabifresh, Lu zhiet an (I bought this dress after seeing it there and even though we have very different bodies it looks AWESOME), and Garner Style. One reason I really like Marianne Kirby (in addition to her rad glasses and shoe collection and generally excellent writing and witty human kindness) is that we’re the same height and roughly the same dress size so if something looks good on her it will probably look good on me. As you scout out plus-size fashion blogs, if you find someone with a similar body shape and style vibe looking awesome, that can be a jolt to your self-esteem…even as it shocks your wallet.
Here are some other things you can try and control:
- Practice saying only nice things about your own body. If that’s too hard at first:
- Take note of how often you find yourself saying mean things about your body. Can you interrupt the behavior?
- What cool thing can your body do? Did it carry you all over the place today? Did it get some really good sleep last night?
- Think about who is watching & listening when you say mean things about your body. Your “uncomfortable and embarrassed” weight is someone else’s aspiration.
- Practice saying only nice things about other people’s bodies. When you see strangers out in public, try a little mental exercise where you wish only good things at them and look for things to compliment instead of criticize. Stop looking at people, yourself included, as a compendium of “problem areas” to be “minimized.”
- When people around you devolve into body-hate or body-snark, stop them. You can fight against the idea that women have to talk about food as “sinful” or engage in ritual self-shaming as a bonding exercise.
- Try out self-portraiture as self-care. Normalize your own face and your own body for yourself over time. Read about this here.
- When you’ve got more confidence, pay it forward. Share articles about fat acceptance or gorgeous images of fat folks. Tell the fat people in your life that they look great. Delete or shut down body-policing comments from family or Facebook friends. Be the person who shuts down diet-talk at lunch with co-workers.
Even with all the resources I’ve read and all the work I’ve done over the years, I will never lie to you and tell you that I feel 100% glowingly happy with my own fat body all the time, every day. I will never lie to you and tell you that being fat in a culture that hates fat people doesn’t affect my self-image, my interactions with people, my physical comfort (ugh, airplane seats), my economic situation, or my health ( new doctor anxiety, anyone? “Hello, new physician, I see that I will have to remind you that I am a human being, AGAIN.“). I will never tell you that I didn’t sometimes accept shitty sex and a shitty substitute for love because I didn’t think I deserved anything better. I will never lie and say that being happily coupled-up doesn’t make this all easier for me right now than it does for someone who is unhappily single, or that I don’t have an easier time of things being white, cis-gendered, and hourglass-shaped. I’m not going to pretend this blog or this post is the most radical or progressive or forward-thinking or political manifesto that needs to happen for fat acceptance; it’s a start, only a start.
Here’s what gets me through:
- This is the only body I’ve got. I can fight with it or I can make peace with it. I choose, mostly, to make peace.
- My life is happening now, not someday. I let go of the fantasy of being thin and stopped waiting for someday.
- I found community and great people who inspired me and who taught me how to love myself better (See all the many links above, and let’s pour one out for LiveJournal’s fatshionista community). When I can, I try to pay that forward.
- I did the work of retraining my eye and doing what I could not to make the world worse for other people (by body-snarking, picking apart celebrity images, talking about diets).
- I set and enforce a lot of boundaries with people who cannot be trusted to help me feel good about my body. There are some people who are not in my life anymore, or who are “small doses” people, because of this.
- When I get down on myself, I try to imagine what I would say to a friend who was feeling this way. I hear my former (great) therapist’s voice a lot: “Could you try to be a little bit gentle with yourself around this?“
- I give it time, and many fits and starts. When I fall off the body-acceptance wagon, I have a process for getting back on. Sometimes that has to be enough.
Bonus practices, since you’re thinking about dating, specifically:
When I had my best/most happy/least sucky run of online dating after many years of trial and error, here are some things that helped me weed out the jerks and prioritize the cool people:
- I used realistic photos that showed my body size in my dating profile and unapologetically self-identified as fat. Just say no to using only “flattering” face pics and then putting yourself through the dread of being “outed” as fat on the first date!
- I only responded to people whose photos I liked. I didn’t try to talk myself into being attracted to someone if I didn’t like how they looked. Some people don’t like to fuck fat women, that’s cool! I wasn’t looking to fuck smokers or dudes with ponytails, and that is my personal subjective choice that I get to make. We’re both allowed to scroll on by, or “swipe left” as the kids these days are saying.
- Any dude who made any weird comment about my size, either fetishizing it or “You’re not that fat” or “Um, exactly how fat are you?” or “You’re fatter than women I’m usually attracted to but you’re so cool I gotta make an exception” got a “Hey, thanks but no thanks.”
- “I like fat chicks, they try harder” = BLOCKED WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.
- Anyone who said “So you are some kind of feminist, huh?” = BLIZZOCKED.
- Ditto for guys who listed 10,000 super-cool books and bands and movies and artists they liked that were all created by and for white men. You just don’t happen to like any art by women? That’s cool, you continue to like whatever books you currently like, and I, a woman artist and writer, will continue to prioritize dudes who like some art by women.
- Anyone who wanted me to do a lot of emotional labor up front – like, we’ve been on one date, why are you constantly g-chatting me about your family issues, or sending me texts that just say “Hey…” like I’m supposed to entertain you…just…no.
- People who started their message with picking a “playful” argument or correcting me.”Your Hulk-ku was hilarious, but actually to be a real haiku it would have to be…..” Don’t know about you, but I find mansplainers completely unfuckable.
- People who were pushy about wanting sex but not good at making plans or communicating = NOPE. (Casual sex has its place and I have had my glorious share of strictly physical encounters, but a guy who couldn’t text me back about whether we’re having drinks tonight after all in a timely fashion was not sending me encouraging messages about how fun sex would be).
- Boring dudes who didn’t seem like they were interested in anything. “I’m looking for a partner-in-crime.” “I like to live life to the fullest.” “On a typical Friday night I’d be…hanging out.” “My mom says I’m funny.” My dude, even my enemies concede that I’m funny sometimes. These gentlemen were no doubt very nice and plenty interesting and someone will really like them, but we were not for each other. I needed “Big Weirdo seeks Big Weirdo for talking about Weird Stuff.“
- If the prospect of spending an hour with someone wasn’t as fun as if I’d spent the time with friends or alone, I didn’t go on a second date with that person. And if dating started to bum me out or take too much energy or feel like a chore, I took a break from it to focus on hobbies/work/school/art/friends/family/
all the many vectors of love and companionship in my life.
You, a woman who is fatter than she’d like to be, can be picky. You don’t have to respond to everyone who writes to you. You can prioritize “shallow” things like attraction when making decisions about who to write back to or meet. And you are never obligated to put up with shitty treatment from some dude who thinks he’s granting you some giant favor by “overcoming” your body size to be with you. Weed That Guy out of your dating pool as soon as you possibly can.
I bet you’re pretty darn nice to look at! I bet lots of people see you and think that they’d like to get to know you. That doesn’t mean you fit the dominant beauty standard or that any person or people in particular will like the way you look or that your feelings about yourself are automatically invalid, but there are lots and lots and lots of ways to be nice looking. Lots of ways.
I bet your coworker was also embarrassed about the Tinder thing, but not because of not being attracted to you or not thinking you had a right to be there, just, it’s awkward to get mutual visual confirmation that a coworker is on Tinder. Your coworker was also taking a “Hey, I think maybe someone would be attracted to me?” risk.
I bet that if you can retrain your eye, find some solidarity, go slow, be gentle with yourself, and be picky, you’re gonna have a great life. At any size. At every size.
Sending you all the love and baby donuts, my lovely.
- What I’m hoping will happen with this discussion: People who have made some peace with their bodies will recommend resources and practices that work for them in maintaining body acceptance in a hostile world.
- Do not, under any circumstances, give the Letter Writer weight loss advice if you wish to keep commenting here.
- Do not tell us your weight, your size, your diet, your personal exercise regime, “healthy” recipes you eat. If you simply must talk about that stuff, behold, the rest of the internet lies open, ready and waiting to absorb this information.
- Clothing sizes are tricky. “The dress in this photo is size ____/that site has clothes that go up to size ___” is useful information. “I am a size ____/I used be a size ___/I want to be a size ___” is not okay.
- “Well, you may be fat, but at least you’re not disabled.” NO. NOT OKAY.
- “Some people/I personally am attracted to fat folks!” Okay? That can be good and true information, like, there is a ton of data that suggests that fat people are not doomed to die alone. Exhibit A:
But that doesn’t negate either the cultural messages or the Letter Writer’s feelings, so, make sure your encouraging comment doesn’t sound like a Note From A Boner.
Thank you in advance.
Edited To Add: I started reading fat acceptance and fatshion blogs 10 years ago, so the resources that come to my mind as ones that helped me reflect that. There are beautiful and active communities on Tumblr and Instagram and Twitter and elsewhere online still doing this work. If you are one of these wonderful people, self-promotion and self-linking in comments is a-ok. All I ask is that if your blog *does* mention specific weights other stuff that is not allowed in our site policies, please tell us so people can make an informed choice, for example: “I put my actual weight in all my posts so people can get a realistic idea of what that means, visually.”