Love and Loneliness: The Importance of Connection

 

Photo Credit: Ashley Bliss

Photo Credit: Ashley Bliss

A friend of mine sent me this link a while ago: When Loneliness During Parenting Feels Like Too Much. I’ve been struggling with loneliness for the past 6 years, since the birth of my first child. The life of a stay-at-home-parent of a high-needs/special-needs kid is intense. Add to that the lack of a strong in-person support network and no extra cash for things like hiring a babysitter and the intensity of the isolation skyrockets. It wasn’t until this past year that I realized how astoundingly lonely I’ve been all these years, and it wasn’t until I began writing this that I realized that I’ve been struggling with loneliness for most of my life.

I recently read an article entitled The Lethality of Loneliness, by Judith Shulevitz, and it really moved me. Yes, there were parts I didn’t entirely agree with — I have some issues with how the author handled part of the section about motherhood, and her comment on autism was flippant and misplaced. But the core of the article is sound.

Continue reading

The Nuances of Racism

Years ago, I took the dog to the vet. Once we got to the examination room, I informed the vet that I thought the dog might have fleas, but if she did, it was a mild case. He said to me, “Having a mild case of fleas is like being a little bit pregnant. You either have fleas or you don’t.”

More and more, I can’t help but wonder whether racism is like having fleas. You either have it or you don’t. I want to briefly address the differing levels of racism because I think that’s where many many many people get hung up, begin to shut down, and wear blinders. Pardon the analogy, but racism is not a black and white issue. It’s all kinds of nuanced shades of grey (brown?), and this fact gets lost amongst the defensive posturing and divisive, derailing language from people who don’t see themselves as being racist. So let’s begin: Continue reading

Obama: “Trayvon Martin could have been me”

‘Trayvon Martin could have been me,’ Obama tells press corps

From the Toronto Star reporting on a press conference earlier today, Obama finally gives the world a bit more than a written statement about the Trayvon Martin case.

“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” said Obama, not just acknowledging but slaying the elephant in the room.

A gape-jawed White House press corps sat astonished as Obama, himself the product of a biracial family — a black father from Kenya, a white mother from Kansas — described, as never before, what it feels like inside young, black male skin.

Time changes but history doesn’t. And it is “inescapable” that African-Americans will see the scot-free exoneration of Zimmerman in the shooting death of a Skittles-toting Florida teen through the lens of their own collective experience.

“There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me,” said Obama.

I am not Trayvon Martin.

“I am NOT Trayvon Martin. I am Not Troy Davis. And to the middle class, white, socially-concerned activist who wears a shirt emblazoned with those slogans, you are wrong.”

Phenomenal 3-minute piece here from another activist who wants us to recognize our privilege and use it to make things better for everyone.

I Am Not You and You Are Not Me: Why Judgment Of Others’ Bodies Needs To Fall Away

Being able to be real about things is as sexy to me as self-confidence. Reclaiming words is awesome.

“Reclaiming the word fat was the most empowering step in my progress. I stopped using it for insult or degradation and instead replaced it with truth, because the truth is that I am fat, and that’s ok. So now when someone calls me fat, I agree, whereas before I would get embarrassed and emotional.”
— Beth Ditto of Gossip

In his article, The Obesity Era, David Berreby outlines a multitude of factors that can contribute to obesity, from the overly simplistic law of thermodynamics (i.e. put down the fork), to the starvation of previous generations, industrial chemicals like BPA, artificial light, viruses, bacteria, thermoneutral environments that don’t make the body work to maintain homeostasis (air conditioning, for example), differing qualities of calories, and the one which he appears to most favour: the machinations of Capitalism, a theory set forth by Jonathan C. K. Wells. I like this theory because it’s far-reaching, makes sense as it was explained in the article, and also because I’m biased against Capitalism. Heavily so, so to speak.

In reading the comments section (yes, I know! and I did it anyway!), it really brings home the fact that there is no one true cause of anything and that if everybody did the same thing, there would be n results, where n=the number of participants/everybody. By which I mean that an individualized and holistic approach needs to be considered because what works for me isn’t going to work for you. Every body is made differently. We are not robots created in a factory setting, but too many people think and respond as though we were, without taking metabolism, illness, injury, medication, genetics, or overarching societal and economic machinations into account. All that one-size-fits-all approach does is shame people who don’t fit the prescribed norm of what a human body is supposed to look like.

 

What is a human body supposed to look like?

This made me cry: real women by Hanne Blank, someone whose writing I was introduced to over a decade ago. I haven’t really kept up with her, but I have pretty much always loved what she has written. It was the part where she said, Real women are fat.  And thin.  And both, and neither, and otherwise.  Doesn’t make them any less real. It was the ‘both’ part that did it. If you’ve read other posts of mine, you may have noted that I’m ‘pear-shaped’. My top is more slight than my bottom. My life from the point at which my hips lurched out to either side — and I swear that’s what they did, it happened so fast. I only got to wear those awesome batik parachute pants twice because I suddenly couldn’t fit them over my hips, and I was absolutely devastated. Yeah, that’s right. Parachute pants. Batik. Devastated. I’m still a bit upset about it, to be honest. — From that point forward, I felt very much like a person from one of those books of people, the pages of which are bisected at the person’s waist, and you can mix and match jeans with blouse with skirt with male with female with suit top with pyjama pants with overalls, etc. I’m two different people, top to bottom, bisected at the waist. An extra small on top and a medium on the bottom. And prior to pregnancy, there was a 12″ difference between my waist and my hips.

Hanne continues:

There is a phrase I wish I could engrave upon the hearts of every single person, everywhere in the world, and it is this sentence which comes from the genius lips of the grand and eloquent Mr. Glenn Marla:

There is no wrong way to have a body.

 

I’m going to say it again because it’s important: There is no wrong way to have a body.

And if your moral compass points in any way, shape, or form to equality, you need to get this through your thick skull and stop with the “real women are like such-and-so” crap.

You are not the authority on what “real” human beings are, and who qualifies as “real” and on what basis.  All human beings are real.

Yes, I know you’re tired of feeling disenfranchised.  It is a tiresome and loathsome thing to be and to feel.  But the tit-for-tat disenfranchisement of others is not going to solve that problem.  Solidarity has to start somewhere and it might as well be with you and me.

This, my friends, is a thing of beauty. And you know what else? So’s your body. It is a thing of beauty and it is real and it’s what a human body is supposed to look like.

And just as there are plenty of ways we fat-shame, there are ways we thin-shame, too. Being 5’1″, I’ve been relegated to the category of tiny and cute, or at least that’s how it appears people think of me as being. I’m also about 120-ish* lbs and my ribs show across my chest. I’m thin and have a difficult time putting on weight and an easy time losing it. I often don’t feel like I’m ‘qualified’ to talk about fat acceptance because of these things — because I’m on the outside. *(I don’t have a scale, or rest assured, I’d have the exact number for you. Why don’t I have a scale? Because I have two young boys with poor impulse control who will bounce on it until it breaks. That’s why.)

Thin-shaming vs following Wheaton’s Law: How Not To Be A Dick To Your Skinny Friends by Beulah Devaney via xoJane.

 

There is no wrong way to have a body

The body you have and/or the body you are working toward having, is a good and worthy body. And you are whatever gender you say you are. And if you identify as a man, then you’re a real man. And if you identify as a woman, then you’re a real woman. This graphic says it best:

people are people whatever their parts

Don’t even get me started on radical feminist transphobia. OMFG. And yes, I am an ardent feminist because I believe that women are equal to men. And I believe that women who were born with penises are still women. Exclusionary bullshit always feels bad. Do humanity a favour and quit being so insecure about yourselves, ok? Same goes for all the insecure men who’ve sexually assaulted… well… anyone because they feel the need to prove themselves more manly and more powerful than cis-women, trans-women, and trans-men. Give the world a break, folks. No one needs your bullshit. Save it for therapy, k? In the meantime, this about sums it up as to how simple it is:  Continue reading

Brainwashed

A friend of mine posted the following on facebook yesterday:

 

Dustin Hoffman on playing a woman in Tootsie (1982):

“If I was going to be a woman, I would want to be as beautiful as possible. And they said to me, ‘Uh, that’s as beautiful as we can get you.’ And I went home and started crying to my wife, and I said, ‘I have to make this picture.’ And she said, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Because I think I’m an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen, and I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill, physically, the demands that we’re brought up to think that women have to have in order for us to ask them out.’ She says, ‘What are you saying?’ and I said, ‘There’s too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.’ It was not what it felt like to be a woman. It was what it felt like to be someone that people didn’t respect, for the wrong reasons. I know it’s a comedy. But comedy’s a serious business.”

 

Another mutual friend posted this video today on the same thing — it’s a slightly different version of the same story and well worth watching, particularly for the last line, which is different from the above:

 

This is what I’ve been saying — there are so many beautiful people in this world and it has zero to do with their physical appearance and everything to do with who they are as people and how we feel around them. We get so caught up in trying to look a certain way or fretting that we don’t or can’t look a certain way that we forget that it’s the inner work that matters. We get so caught up in focusing only on how a person looks that we forget that there’s an actual, multi-dimensional person living inside that body, with feelings and opinions and everything!

Society brainwashes all of us to only look for or to only be Manic Pixie Dream Girls and when we don’t find them/can’t be them, so many of us are beset with an overbearing disappointment, jadedness, and/or shame that we carry around with us and let colour the rest of our interactions. It takes a certain amount of bravery to break out of that. Here’s one woman’s journey: I Was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Likewise, when women break out of that or never really go for that in the first place, there, too, can be an enormous fog of disappointment, jadedness, and bitterness that we’re consumed with because it seriously narrows the playing field, so many men having been brainwashed. And yes, I know I’m taking a heteronormative approach here. I also know that despite being queer but living most of my life on the outskirts of the queer community, I still haven’t really witnessed the same level of “physical beauty = prize” as an overarching theme within the general queer-female community.

I can only hope that Dustin Hoffman changed how he interacted with women after working on this film. I applaud his sensitivity. I can only hope that every person who has read or listened to his words has been able to see women with new eyes.

And I can’t help but wonder whether het-/bi-women do the same to men — overlook them because of their appearance. Are women as equally brainwashed as men? I’d like to think that we’re more forgiving, but is that just a stereotype, too? I think this may end up veering into Nice Guy territory, so I’ll cut it short here.

It ain’t the shell that counts, folks.

Weighty Matters

I was just rereading this article on Ways We Body Shame Without Knowing It, which I linked to in a previous post and I realized there was a point made that I had wanted to write about.

 

6. Congratulating People for Losing Weight
You don’t know a person’s circumstances. Maybe she lost weight because of an illness. You also don’t know if she’ll gain the weight back (about 95 percent of people do), in which case earlier praise might feel like criticism. If someone points out that a person has lost weight, consider adding something like, “You’ve always been beautiful. I’m happy if you are happy.” But if a person doesn’t mention her weight loss, then you shouldn’t mention it either. Think of something else you can compliment.

 

Now, I gained a LOT of weight when I was pregnant with my first son: I was 72lbs heavier than when I started. I ate what I wanted to eat and didn’t worry a bit about weight gain — I only monitored how fast I was putting it on because if there was a sudden and large gain in weight, it could point to gestational diabetes. I didn’t have that. The weight gain started early and was quite steady.

A few days before I went into labour, I was 195lbs and a towering 5’1″. And no, I wasn’t polyhydramnios, either: a few days postpartum, when all the excess fluids suddenly leak out of the body, where you wake up and fully 1/4-1/2 of your pillow is drenched in drool and sweat (motherhood is so glamourous!), I’d only lost 12 pounds and 8.5 of that was baby. Typical weight loss with poly is 25+lbs with just the birth, so it was primarily just fat that I’d put on. That was in 2007. Without trying, I’d lost all but 10-15lbs by the time I got pregnant with my second son in 2009. During that pregnancy, I’d gained about 50lbs or so: all baby and fat. I grow good sized babies (8lbs, 8oz and 9lbs, 1oz), too.

Last summer, I went through a weird mental spell and was hypomanic for a few days on two separate occasions. Over the course of about 4 days, I barely slept and I barely ate — just enough to almost keep at bay the nausea from low blood sugar. I never fully recovered my appetite. Over the course of the following few months,

I ended up losing about 15 lbs because I just stopped eating. This is, like, the worst way to lose weight.

Don’t do this, please, if you can help it. And no one stopped to ask about that before they fell all over themselves to congratulate me on how great I looked. This is all kinds of shitty. Wanna know why?

Because I was pretty happy with how I looked before the weight loss and then, suddenly, I was tiny again. I had finally felt much closer to the sort of body I think of myself as having and then, for whatever reason, I lost it all. I will likely have to wait until I’m menopausal to gain any bit of weight because that appears to be the trajectory of my genetic makeup. And yeah, I’m kinda looking forward to it, to be perfectly honest. I’ve always felt a little dysphoric in my body, and for the most part, have always felt bigger than I physically am. Maybe it’s my personality…

But really, it’s also shitty because they were basically saying I didn’t look as good with a few extra pounds on my frame. And you know what? Fuck. That. Noise. I looked just fine, thank you very much. I’d already made peace with my arm flab and the junk in my trunk. Not having my ribs show on my décolletage? Awesome. And now, ribs. Which is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It’s just different from how I think of myself.

Case in point: Several weeks ago, I was having chest pains that were upsetting enough that I decided to go to the emergency room. If you know me, you know it must have been significant because I typically stay the hell away from hospitals, but that’s a whole other set of topics. Anyway, they couldn’t find anything, but I bring this up because while the doctor was talking to me, she called me ‘thin’. It took me by surprise because in my head, I’m still in the same body I was in before I suddenly dropped a bunch of weight. “I’m thin?” “Yes. You are.” Remembering that the outlines of my ribs now show in places, I replied confusedly, “…Oh, I guess I am…”

Honestly, though, I was seriously astounded at all the compliments I got, and during the onslaught, only one person bothered to ask how I felt. I admitted to being scared because I didn’t know why I’d lost my appetite nor whether I’d keep losing weight and revert to being underweight like I was in my early 20s. I really didn’t want that to happen. I found it disconcerting and said as much. That weight-loss was not something about which I wanted congratulations, but because of our heinous societal norms, we automatically default to thinking thinner is better. It’s not. It well and truly isn’t: I have four beautiful friends who are rail-thin. In the past, they have worked so hard to put on weight and their metabolism just refuses to do any such thing. Now, they work just to maintain and not lose anymore. I listen to them and I learn. They are not “lucky” to be so thin, as society would have us believe. Neither are they less womanly for being so thin (so none of this Real Woman crap, either, people — which I write in full awareness of having participated in that mode of thinking for many years). My friends are striving to maintain their health. They are working towards body acceptance just like many of the rest of us, no matter our size.

Another gorgeous friend of mine has been working to lose weight and she’s been successful. She’s made posts about it, feeling happy and satisfied. That’s what I focused my comment on — how happy she appeared in her photos and that I was glad she was happy. That’s the thing that matters — whether you’re happy with how you feel in your body. If you’re not, then the only thing I can say is that it’s worth exploring why you feel unhappy — would you feel sheer relief if society wasn’t cramming a different body type down your throat, and you felt fully accepted in your current birthday suit? What if cup-size didn’t matter? What if waist circumference didn’t matter? What if upper arm or ankle circumference didn’t matter? What if hip-to-waist ratio didn’t matter? What if clothing size didn’t matter? What if weight loss or weight gain didn’t matter as long as you felt healthy and your body was working well enough?

We don’t get to choose what our bodies look like (for the most part), but we get to choose how we relate to them.

I’m learning that it wouldn’t be right to tell you to love your body. That’s your personal journey. I can only speak for what I’m doing, which is working on being at home in mine. It’s what I want for myself because I’m tired of looking at my reflection and critiquing it all, feeling like I’m coming up lacking some integral quality to being beautiful. I’m not. I don’t lack anything and what I do have doesn’t diminish. There is nothing about my body that makes me unpretty. There is nothing about your body that makes you unpretty. I’m beautiful as I am, and I believe you are, too, even if you don’t think so. The thing is, contrary to nearly all the messages marketers and media put forth, it’s not really the look or size of bodies that matters. It’s how we feel inside them and how others feel around us. Those are what count. And this is what we lose sight of if we’re congratulating someone on changing their body without checking in with them to see how they feel about it. Keep your sights on target for what really counts. It’s not clothing size or numbers on a scale. It’s not quantity or lack thereof. It’s quality of existence and recognition thereof.

We always have a choice: love vs fear

Little reminders like this are always timely:

Morcheeba – Fear And Love – Big Calm (1998)

We always have a choice
Or at least I think we do
We can always use our voice
I thought this to be true
We can live in fear
Or extend our selves to love
We can fall below
Or lift our selves above
Fear can stop you loving
Love can stop your fear
Fear can stop you loving
But it’s not always that clear
I always try so hard
To share my self around
But now I’m closing up again
Drilling through the ground
Fear can stop you loving
Love can stop your fear
Fear can stop you loving
But it’s not always that clear
I’d love to give my self away
But I find it hard to trust
I’ve got no map to find my way
Amongst these clouds of dust
Fear can stop you loving
Love can stop your fear
Fear can stop you loving
Love can stop your fear
Fear can stop you loving
Love can stop your fear
Fear can stop you loving
But it’s not always that clear X4

Glad to be back home or, Wow, Racism!

I spent last week in the States, where I spent the first 23 years of my life. This trip was the first time I’d been back by myself. Prior to that, I’d always brought someone else with me. It’s a radically different experience going somewhere by myself than it is with someone. I’m able to be with my reactions and responses a lot more. I don’t spend any energy working to help create a certain experience for someone else.

It was eye-opening.

Let’s take the example of the Paula Deen thing that’s happening. For context: Prior to my coming to the States last week, I had no idea who this woman was. I haven’t had a TV in years and don’t really care about network television or cable programming. Additionally, I am actively anti-racist. I work to be an ally. I pay attention to situations where my white privilege gets me things that it doesn’t get a person of colour.

Every single person who I questioned about the Paula Deen case told me this:

20+ years ago, she said the N-word and now she’s being sued by a white person for being a racist. Can you believe it?

And then there’d be rhetoric defending her. I suppose it would be important to note that each person I spoke with on the matter was/is white.

I took them at their word, which was, in retrospect, quite naive. I now respond: Aw, hell no.

Why the change in my response? Because I actually read a little on the matter and learned more about what’s going on. Read the following for what’s really going on.

The Paula Deen Incident: you should know all that’s being alleged before defending her

Defending Paula Deen: what the national reaction can teach us about race

 

Yesterday, I was in Port Credit, Mississauga. Mississauga, New Market, and Brampton are the top three most multicultural cities in the world. They’re part of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Yesterday was July 1st, Canada Day.

Hazel McCallion, the 92-year-old Mayor of Mississauga. She's held that office since 1978. Photo Credit: Angela Warner

92-year-old Mayor Hazel McCallion has held office since 1978.
Photo Credit: Angela Warner

Photo Credit: Angela Warner

A little bit of Africa
Photo Credit: Angela Warner

Photo Credit: Angela Warner

Philippine Heritage Band
Photo Credit: Angela Warner

Philippine Heritage Band Photo Credit: Angela Warner

Philippine Heritage Band
Photo Credit: Angela Warner

St. Andrews Pipes and Drums Photo Credit: Angela Warner

St. Andrews Pipes and Drums
Photo Credit: Angela Warner

Welcome to Port Credit Photo Credit: Angela Warner

Welcome to Port Credit
Photo Credit: Angela Warner

South Asia Photo Credit: Angela Warner

South Asia
Photo Credit: Angela Warner

And there was the Mississauga Chinese Arts Organization performing, which I took a video of. Youtube is being difficult and won’t let me upload the video, nor will WordPress.

Technical difficulties aside, I’m so thrilled to see such diversity. On one float, there was a man on a platform talking about diversity instead of assimilation, and truly, that’s where it’s at. Believing someone is inferior because of their skin tone is seriously one of the most ridiculous things we humans have come up with in our global cultural legacy. I find it absolutely bizarre.

While I was visiting the States, I felt the divide between white people and people of colour so much more pronouncedly than I ever feel it in Toronto. I distinctly recall thinking, “Oh yeah, there really is this divide in the way white people perceive people of colour. I remember thinking this way. Thinking about Them, as though they’re Different from Us. The Great Othering.”

I don’t feel that divide so much anymore. People really are just people. We all want to have fulfilling lives. We all want to feel loved and useful and relevant. We all want to have the means to pay our bills on time. If more of us acted like we’re really all on the same team, fewer of us would be defending Paula Deen. And, more importantly, even fewer of us would be acting like her.