Back in July, I did something completely normal; I wore a two-piece bathing suit. I started this blog a few weeks earlier because I didn’t want to start with that post. I thought it would move mountains. I wanted to exist Before because I thought the experience would make me new After. I found what I started to write at the time:
Yesterday, I wore a bikini on the beach for the first time in my life. Yes, it was high-waisted enough to feel safe for me. Yes, I have been planning this for months. No, actually, it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t feel free for the first time in my life, I felt like me with 4-6 inches of belly showing. I’m glad I did it,
Yes, I stopped in midsentence.
Now as 2017 shuffles off to good-fucking-riddance I find myself beset on all sides by weight loss schemes. The great all-seeing eye of retargeting knows that I’m getting married and is specifically showing me options to lose weight for my wedding. This insult cuts into me, excavating my most private fears, and pouring cold acid down my hopeful thoughts.
The worst part, though? The worst part is that I don’t know what I want. Yesterday I bravely lifted my double chin and told my co-workers, “joke’s on them. I’ve already bought my wedding dress and it’s a size 22.” I meant it, at least mostly. But there was a flicker of a moment after I said it when my armor fell. I saw them shift on their feet and avoid eye contact. It was infinitesimal, but it was there.
I left work at lunch and drove to the mountains with my love. A few of our favorite people joined us and last night, as the temperature dipped just into freezing, we sat in a hot tub under a misty, starry sky and I watched my big belly float to the surface in my bikini. I drank cold beer and slipped my neck under the water for warmth. I laughed to wake the moon.
So, I’m not perfect. I don’t always reject the subjugation of my body that is perpetrated upon me. But I wore a fucking bikini, and I know what it means.
I acknowledge that the consistent and brutal mental and physical attacks that fat bodies suffer are part of a larger system of oppression, which is only more cruel to people of color and gender-nonconforming people. I know that I am an imperfect warrior in this battle. I know that non-compliance is otherness with teeth.
Every moment that I let my love caress the roll of fat on my side, every red lipstick and too-tight dress. Every mini-skirt, every day without spanx, I am defiant. Sometimes I feel as if I’m slipping under the waves, but at least I’ll be wearing a bikini and a grin that says, “fuck you, I sure fucking am.”
“I think it’s best that we don’t talk about politics, because I consider your candidate to be a scourge on humanity.”
“I think I like my new boss’s intersectional style, but I am concerned about how solid he is on understanding that limiting abortion access is a human rights violation.”
“The wedding planning has been great. When we get stressed out, we just have to stop for a while and have hot lesbian sex to remind us what it’s all about.”
“The gender binary exists to make people like you feel comfortable. I like you, but let’s get over that, shall we?”
“If we were paying attention, we’d all be vegan.”
“Anyone who still thinks climate change isn’t real is an asshole.”
“We give the most money to Planned Parenthood, of course, but we also donate to ACLU, NPR, and local LGBTQ+ organizations. We’re donating to HRC, but considering a reduction because they’re just more aligned with the mainstream/ white/ cisgender/ male culture.”
“You know, I started watching Say Yes to the Dress, but it was reinforcing so many heteronormative and size-biased ideals that I had to stop.”
“Fat bodies can be just as healthy as smaller bodies, and doctor bias really needs to be addressed.”
A switch has flipped. I watched a clearly addictive made for Netflix holiday film, and before I could say feliz navidad, the very blood in my veins transformed to red and green glitter. I haven’t been able to stop watching romantic, mostly-made-for-television holiday movies. From this unexplored and eerily consistent genre, I have learned a few things about the meaning of Christmas, and I’ve also learned, quite frankly, that Hillary Duff has a sister named Haylie and she is the Beyonce of whatever this is. It seems that there are a LOT of these, and I can’t stop watching them; I just finished one. I’m watching one now.
This may be the most heteronormative type of movie that I know about. Christmas Romance, or Chrismance, as I’ve just decided to call it, leans heavily on gender roles to drive the plot forward. For example, a man will arrive on a snowmobile to rescue a figure skater without chains on her tires, or a woman will bake Christmas cookies to learn how to care for people (and yes, these are both examples from movies I’ve watched in the last 24 hours). There is also a stunning lack of ethnic diversity in most Chrismances, especially in the made-for-tv offerings.
Chrismanticism also hinges on a knows / doesn’t know what’s really important dichotomy. Someone is always out of touch, spoiled, hurt by a past love, afraid to live life to the fullest, etc. Maybe this is what grabs me by the jingle bells about this whole mess: I’m always both of those things, always afraid but with the best intentions. Always spreading cheer and trembling with hesitation.
Or perhaps it’s the colors. Chrismances shimmer with open doorways that lead into warm glowing holiday parties and jewel-bright green scarves and deep red wines. Every home is a mansion and every Christmas dinner has room for more around the table. Every trip out of town is bucolic and every sunset will open your heart. Every snowfall makes you stay longer in the beautiful inn, just long enough to fall in love.
My breath quivers like a bowl full of jelly as each (too-straight and too-white and too-wealthy) couple gets that sad, sweet glimmer of hope in their eyes when they realize that they’re standing in front of the person they love. Well, bury me with a stake of holly through my heart, because this is killing me with kindness, y’all. I want to savor the sweet fear of every missed opportunity, every moment before that final happy-ending kiss.
And when that kiss comes, tears prickle from my eyes as I feel my happiness overflowing. I am a glittering star atop the tree, a cup of spiced cider in my own belly. I commune with these goofy, underproduced and badly acted movies and I rise above the snowy rooftops like the final pan shot, becoming a twinkling star in a sky full of other twinkling stars. I’m a part of “real America,” and there is always room for one more at my table.
So anyway, that’s why I haven’t been going out much.