Monday, March 31, 2014

From the Archive: Public Fatness

"From the Archive" is a series of posts that I wrote on past, no-longer-updated blogs that I feel are good enough to need a new home.

This post was originally written in June 2012.

So, I hear all the time about fat people being subjected to harassment and ridicule for daring to be out among the general population. For some reason, it hadn't really happened to me (as an adult, let's not get into childhood bullies). OK, once a guy told me I needed to exercise more, but it was a cheap comeback because I yelled at him for riding his bike on the pedestrian path on the Manhattan Bridge. I'd never experienced an unprovoked attack until today.

See this guy? I was standing on the F train today, with my dad, headed to Coney Island for the Mermaid Parade (my dad was headed elsewhere). I had my earphones in, enjoying some quality time with most recent SFH album, when my dad pointed to this guy and said "I think he'd trying to tell you something." So I took out my earphones and looked over. The guy made a little running motion, then mouthed "one hour, every morning."

It clicked that he was telling me I needed to exercise more. So, loudly, I said "Are you telling me I'm fat?" Obviously, I am, and I know that, but I thought that would catch the attention of more people around us. My dad was like, "Is that really what he said?" So I (still loudly) said "He's telling me I need to go running every morning."

So I turned to the guy and said (yes, still loudly, and well enunciated) "That's none of your business." He got a little flustered and apologetic, but I continued, "You don't just make comments on random strangers' bodies."

At that point we arrived at the stop where my dad was getting off, and after I said goodbye to him I moved to another part of the car. But I also took this picture, because people who harass others on the subway don't deserve anonymity. If I knew this guy's name I'd say it. I'd tag it and post it everywhere, so whenever someone Googled him this came up. But I don't know his name, so all I have is a picture.

It's just another reminder that if you dare to be fat in public -- especially if you are a woman -- your body is not yours. There are people who think that because you are out of the norm, you should hear their opinion and "suggestions" for your body and your life. Because they assume they can tell how you live based solely on how much adipose tissue resides on your body. Of course, this happened in a city that wants to legislate away fat through arbitrary things like soda and bake sale bans.

Luckily, I am very confident in my body -- the one I've been living in for 28 30 years. I know that I am fat. I know my lifestyle, my health, my limits. I am not going to share any of that, because it's no one's business but mine. But because I am content with myself, I look back at this incident horrified at this guy's gall, but not feeling any worse about myself. If I were more sensitive about my appearance, this might have ruined my day. I hope he's never done that to anyone who might really suffer a blow to their self-esteem from it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dissertations, Employment, and Other Terrifying Things

"I live in the present and am confident in the future."

I wrote that mantra in a notebook three times this morning, trying to make myself believe it. The only reason I stopped at three is because I didn't want to venture into "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy" territory; really, I need to write and think it a million times in a desperate attempt to internalize the message.

Recently, my therapist suggested I try affirmations to boost my confidence and self-esteem. She said that I could look in books or online for ideas if nothing original came to mind, and indeed, I pulled the one above off of some random website on the first page of results when you Google "affirmations."

I have trouble thinking about the future. Supposedly this is a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder, which I never would have associated with myself because I never considered the years of struggling with depression and anxiety as PTSD until my shrink referred to them as such. I think it's common to associate PTSD with people who have survived events like war or assault, but traumas can be anything. Mine comes from having been bullied as a child, which still has an effect on my daily life even though it occurred 20 years ago. It's liberating to have this frame of reference for my issues, like they exist for a reason, and not because I'm broken or defective, which is how I've often felt in the past.

Planning has always been tough for me. The last time I had a concrete answer to "what do you want to be when you grow up?" was when I was about 5, and I think I wanted to be a ballerina-slash-veterinarian, or maybe a mermaid (actually I'd still kind of like to be a mermaid). Most of my college friends had some sort of dream and a plan to go with it. I cycled through four majors, and only landed on the one I finally graduated with -- psychology -- because I couldn't change again without delaying graduation. When I was working on my master's degree, I never had an answer to the question of what I wanted to do when I was out of school. Most of my classmates had something, but even half-formed, cobbled-together plans eluded me, and it always made me feel like I was missing out. I thought maybe it was a lack of passion for the field (journalism), but there are aspects that I love, and I still couldn't envision my future.

Now I'm working on a doctorate, and I do feel passionate about the field (information studies), but there are still questions I can't answer. I don't really have a reply when people ask why I chose my program -- I did so on a whim, as I tend to do when making major life decisions because I simply cannot see beyond what sounds good in the moment. I also am unable to tell you what I plan to do with the degree. Sure, I'd be comfortable in academia, but I could probably be happy in some other area.

When I try to envision myself in 5 or 10 years, I see nothing. It's a big black wall. I just recently, within the past couple of weeks, made a tentative plan for the rest of my coursework. If I can get everything worked out and take classes this summer, I should finish with classes a year from now, and take my comprehensive exam in fall 2015. Being able to say that is enormous progress, because last semester a professor asked when we were each planning to take the comps and I was the only one who hemmed and hawed and didn't have even a vague idea. I also decided on a broad topic for my dissertation so I can take the correct electives. Again, progress.

My whole existence is walls, or at least it feels that way. There's the black wall of my future. There's another, all around me, that prevents me from letting people in, making friendships and relationships really hard. It's time to knock them down. I think there are a few cracks in the black wall in front of me, but the other needs to go as well. I just need to make sure the whole building doesn't crumble as I do it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Little Indulgences

Little Indulgences

Sometimes you need to treat yourself even when you're low on cash. This is a good time to go prowling for drugstore cosmetics or fast fashion jewelry. A nice new red lipstick or fun Forever 21 necklace can really make you feel great even if you can't actually afford it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sell Out With Me Oh Yeah

As an angsty teenage punk rocker, I learned that one of the worst things you could do was sell out. It meant you had no soul, that you only cared about money and not your ~*~*art*~*~ or whatever.

I'm not sure exactly how I was defining the phrase, or where the line was that you crossed to become a sell-out, though. Was anyone who made decent money doing something a sell-out, or was it only if you compromised yourself for it? Where did natural changes that come with age and maturity factor in?

I was a teenager, so I didn't really have answers.

What I knew was that selling out was bad. It made you an awful person who only cared about money, etc.

What I know now is that I really, really want to sell out.

Maybe it's age, maybe it's time spent not being able to pay my own rent or have any luxuries, but I no longer feel the need to live in poverty to prove anything. I want to have my own life with rent and food and pets and nice things.

I'm working on a PhD. Hopefully that will lead to a job that pays well. I am not ashamed to have that as my goal. A nice, comfortable life is important, and there's nothing wrong with seeking it.