National Coming Out Day

For everyone who found it easy, for those who struggled, for those who did it in fits and starts, and for those who haven’t, happy  National Coming Out Day.

I’m so happy to live in a world where being queer is often a non-issue. But let’s not kid ourselves. It has been hard and for many it still is. Today matters. Visibility matters.

The Boot Is the Thing

I have in my possession the greatest pair of boots ever made. They’re 8-eyelet Dr. Martens and they are covered in a pastel pink rainbow of pure glitter. Here is a photo of the actual boots that I actually own.

You’re welcome for having seen them.

I saw them through the store window and I was immobilized with glee. As I walked in the store, I was telling my friends, “I’m an adult.” The salesperson who helped me said, “I heard you say you’re an adult, but a lot of people have these! They’re not just for kids.” I replied, “oh, you misunderstood. I meant that I’m an adult with an income and I can buy these boots if I want to.” I’ve never had less buyer’s remorse.

As I was trying them on, Love leaned over and whispered, “wedding boots?” I laughed at the time, but I swear I have been planning our entire wedding around an aesthetic that can support my wearing these boots. (boots → I should grow my hair longer → long puffy dress → maybe not a quiet Quaker wedding → consider an urban venue → brunch crawl → party feel → public vows → etc.)

These boots are my due north. They’re my little sparkly heart, heat-sealed and stitched onto an AirWair™ sole. I’ve written two posts today. The other is about the constant doubt that comes with being a non-traditional bride. This one’s about the upside.

How To Be Fat But Act Like a Regular Human: Wedding Edition

I think being engaged is basic-ing me up a bit.

I think it does this to most of us. I’ve dedicated a non-insignificant portion of my life to rallying against the supposition that I have to be married to be whole, good enough, normal. But as I begin planning our wedding, I have said the following things to my partner (and meant them):  ⇐ accidental punctuation frown that fits

  • We can get married in a church. Yes, I know we don’t want to. But we can. Maybe we should?
  • I want to grow out my hair.
  • I should quit my job in reproductive health. Yes, I know they’re wrong and I’m right, but wouldn’t it be easier?
  • Baby, we’ve discussed this. Wedding dress. Taco bar. Wedding Dress. Taco bar. [[shakes head]]
  • and not to my partner, but many times to myself: I should go on a diet.

Now, I can admit that this is all ridiculous. But as I told my person with tears in my eyes, it wasn’t easy for them coming out in a conservative family in the south, and now I want us to be unquestionably appropriate. I want them all to stop and think hey, they’re just like us, and what a happy perfect couple, maybe I’ve been an ass. These are people who are kind to me, so it’s not about evening my own score. I want vindication for the memory of the heartbroken seventeen-year-old version of my partner who lived through that.

All wrapped up in this, as in most everything about me, is my fat identity. If I’m thinner, won’t I love myself more? If I’m thinner, won’t I be more appropriate and less objectionable? Won’t I fit into small spaces and polite society? Won’t I make my partner proud? Won’t I be beautiful?

I’ve kept traditional body expectations at bay in part by keeping traditional roles at arm’s length. So here I am, face to face with one of the most conventional roles women can experience, and it scares the shit out of me. I don’t know how to begin to frame the word “bride” as a part of who I am, and when I think about how to align that with fatness, I get overwhelmed and stop trying.

I have this image in my mind of a slightly poofy white dress with pink accents, an updo with pink streaks, and my new pink glitter rainbow Doc Martens. Punk princess fat bride style with a huge grin. It’s a great fantasy, but I don’t know how I could possibly be strong enough to make it through an appointment at some [[shudder]] bridal store. I can’t conceive of coming out with my self-esteem in one piece after they put too-small dresses around my fat body, pillowing out where my small breasts are, held up with binder clips, and tied together in the back with elastic for the parts that won’t fit over my wide, round tummy. I’ll be in tatters.

The message will be clear: I am not normal. Fatness is not normal, and within fatness, my shape is not normal. I do not fit.

Where are the fat feminist discount bridal boutiques? Can you point toward the queer part of Pinterest? Who has written a guidebook for manners and behavior with the given understanding that gender is a social construct? How can I build a social event to celebrate in our communities, but also nurture the private and sacred nature of our love? And how will I ever, ever, ever go dress shopping?

Instead, I stay focused on the idea that I get to marry the greatest person I’ve ever known. They’re perfect. (Objectively true, and on the internet, so proven fact.) I’ve thrown myself into venue research. I’m making appointments, tracking prices and policies, building an aesthetic and a budget and a dream of something that we’ll call ours. But I can feel a panic on the edges of my body, pushing in past my soft edges. Being a bride is for the beautiful, it says, and fat women are not beautiful.

This, I know, is bullshit and yet I feel it in my bones. This is poison, yet I drop it in my morning coffee.

Excuse me, I have to go make some spreadsheets.

The Lurking Gender Conditioning that Could

It’s been a month, dear reader, since I posted. I proposed marriage to my partner.

And they said yes.

And I forgot they were supposed to answer at all so that surprised me.

And it was wonderful.

And the moon covered the sun so they both could see.

And my heart is very full.

Please do me the honor of taking me at my word when I say that I’m very, very happy to be marrying the love of my life. But there were also a handful of difficult moments in the wake of our engagement, and I intend to shake some sunlight into them with this post.

We’re both women in my relationship, so the gender dynamics barely occurred to me as I was planning. After all, I wasn’t a woman proposing to a man, and if I were, who really cares about that stuff anyway? But norms are complicated. Proposing to my partner unearthed some subtle gender conditioning I didn’t even know I had.

I was never the type to imagine my future wedding. I didn’t while away sunny afternoons thinking about my dream proposal, and I wasn’t expecting to be so shocked that I was the proposer and not the proposee. As it happens, without my knowledge or consent, I had been prepped throughout the course of my life to accept, rather than give, a proposal.

The most startling reaction I had was that after I proposed, I couldn’t bear to be congratulated by the friends and acquaintances who were nearby. I kept whispering to my love that I felt like I had made a scene. As many feminists have said more eloquently than I can, women are taught to fear taking up too much space. In the moments after our proposal when I floated back to Earth, I transformed into a giant. Every word I said seemed to echo, and I felt like I had a hot spotlight burning me. My brain was already screaming that this experience wasn’t correct. I wasn’t allowed to play this role, and certainly not in public. It wasn’t until we were home together much later that evening that I was able to pick at the knot my defenses had made of me. We watched a romantic comedy about two older lesbians on a rambling road trip to get married, and I sobbed until my eyes ached.

We couldn’t let go of each other’s hands to walk into our offices the next day. At least I couldn’t. I had to rip myself apart from them. The being-engaged was easy. The telling people was unexpectedly difficult.

I soon became very sensitive about our rings. They’re perfect and they’re exactly what my person needed. They want to wear a simple, single band after we’re married, so I bought us both for-now rings, plain sterling bands that look like tiny strings tied around our fingers. After colleagues and acquaintances started to realize we were engaged, I became shifty and defensive about their plainness and their moderate price. A few people made this worse. When I told them the news, they looked at my finger and then quickly looked away.

They were supposed to say “ohh, so sparkly, tell me everything about the proposal,” and I was supposed to wave my hand against the light and gush. That’s how this works, says my repugnantly stubborn engaged-person-lizard-brain. As it happens, politely averting your eyes is a quick and simple way to make your conversation partner feel ashamed. No one intended this. We just don’t have the words. I didn’t have the words either. It was all of us.

We all lost the script.

I’ll tell you what we both loved — watching people tremor with a tiny shock at the news that it was me who asked this question. My person is not femme. They use they/them and she/her pronouns. They’re perfect, and I don’t need them to be any more labeled than they are, but if they decide to identify any differently, I’m here to support that. Me, I like glitter. I have a hot pink streak hiding under my bangs, and I wear polka-dot party dresses when I feel sassy. So every single person we know assumed they would propose to me. Proposing to them created a delicious microscopic rift in societal expectation. We peer through it and remember that neither of us are men and these traditions and expectations can fuck right off. It’s glorious, really.

In the end, this was an interesting reminder that all of this takes work. Gender conditioning seeped into my mind, insidious, like a slow flood from a dripping faucet. But we have to see it in order to fight it. Dismantling heteronormativity, gender conditioning, white privilege, sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism, and transphobia means staring yourself down and forcing yourself to admit what you had been thinking.

Ok. Let’s do this.

Totality

Someday, if conventional wisdom holds true, we’re bound to hit a bumpy spot.

Things won’t always go as we’ve planned them.

But every day with you is a brand new kind of wonderful.

I know we’ll always solve our problems together.

You make me better, more confident and grounded.

I like to think I help you see a glimpse of the blinding brilliance that you are.

I love you in your totality.

The Best Part About the Apocalypse

Last week, I was rejected. It has happened before and it will happen again. This is a major pitfall of always trying to be brave enough for the next thing: sometimes the next thing doesn’t choose you. I’m lucky, because when I get rejected, I still get to go home to my amazing person and my adorable cat and dog, and I know I’m loved. But there’s a hole in my heart every time — a sucking absence in my self-worth that grows hungrier with every no thank you. I hear, “but you were amazing, and can we please stay in touch” as “you will never be the best one out of many.”

Luckily, I had plans with R to distress some costumes. I sent her a text.

It’s going to be cathartic to destroy fabric after this week. She wrote back right away.

That’s what’s best about the apocalypse.

The first night that I met R, Love’s best friend from their teen years, I was invited for taco night. I made bean dip, heavy with refried beans (which Love and R hate), onions (which R hates), and olives (which Love hates). They both swear to this day that it was delicious anyway. Before I went over to R (and C and E and A)’s house, I scrubbed the sides of the baking dish feverishly, thinking they’ll never approve of me if they know my baking dish has all of this baked-in kitchen grease on the handles. I found out later that R cleaned her living room with a similar paranoid fervor.

As it turns out, none of that was necessary; Love’s friends and I adored each other immediately. They’re really such impressive, smart, funny, nice people and somehow they managed to see the magic in me quickly, even though I was nervous and strange. Plus, they had probably noticed that New Girlfriend (me) was something special to Not Love Yet (Love) so maybe let’s just see how this goes. But it’s also because Love and Love’s people (our people now) are such wondrous nerds. Nerd culture is kind and welcoming, and doesn’t rush to judge (though it will eventually analyze and cite its sources). 

I’ll be going to my fourth Dragon Con this fall. At the first one, I walked on a Courtland Street sidewalk with Love as they explained how it feels to be their particular type of introvert, and how that pressure falls away in this crowd. I watch strangers and loved ones in this crowded, stinky paradise every year as they let their pressures fall away so they can walk confidently in the world. It always makes me cry at least once. We’re all nervous and strange together, and it builds a sort of palpable community strength.

I want to tell you that after years of wandering in the humdrum existence of not-quite-right, I found my calling as a Nerd of The Highest Order. I want to want to wear a dragon necklace. I want to want to play dystopian Candy Land D&D — I really like the shiny dice. I want to make a joke at this point about being nerd-adjacent or a #fakenerdgirl so that you, dear reader, will know that I know. But since wonders never cease, it seems I can find a home in this community while partially involved.

Which brings us back to last weekend’s costume crafting.

I’ll be dressing as a post-apocalyptic Scarlet Witch. My pink pants distressed nicely, but my red cape needs a lot more work to look old and worn. I cut my thumb badly while slashing holes in it, and my compatriots quickly jumped up to tend my wounds and encourage me to bleed on my costume for that authentic post-apocalypse feel. I had a little emotion storm at one point because I’ve been ultra-aware of feeling fat in my costume. Last year my bulging tummy in my She-Hulk suit made me uncomfortable, so I want to feel sexy and empowered this year. I’m trying to head off my crisis of confidence at the pass so I can feel, just for a day, like a damn superhero.

We’ll wake up early to get dressed in our room, standing on towels and trash bags to cover ourselves with filth in the dawn. I’ll walk in the parade with Love, R, and 6-10 other friends dressed as post-apocalyptic superheroes, some of whom I only see on this day each year. At least once, a little boy Ironman will look up at our post-apocalyptic Ironman and squeal with glee. Afterwards, we’ll pose for a few photos and then eat submarine sandwiches, accidentally wiping the makeup dirt from our faces with our napkins. We’ll be silly and hyper and we won’t have any use for feeling self-conscious. We’ll grin at each other and recount the cute kids we saw along the route. It’s not because I will feel confident that I love these people and these strange nerdy traditions. It’s because of these people, and these strange, nerdy traditions that I will be strong enough to be confident.

This. You, friends. You’re what’s best about the apocalypse.

Countlessness

Like most fat women, I have quantified my body — and especially the food I put in it — endlessly. I have hated and loved the numbers, signing my power over to a broken math.

pounds

calories

points

steps

sizes

As I type these words, I feel them in the depths of me, like a soft chant.  poundscaloriespointsstepssizes poundscaloriespointsstepssizes … They whisper a promise to release me from their power, unraveling a spell that’s bound with sweat, blood, vomit, and decades of trying to be less.

It began in adolescence. The first time I joined the well-known healthy eating plan, I went to the classrooms above my youth group church and learned to count starch servings (these were the food pyramid days). I was surrounded by older women, and I was afraid to speak about it in school. We had cardboard guides and small binders. 2 milk, 3 fruit, 1 protein. It’s much more complex now, powered by research and metadata, but somehow I’m still the girl who is too fat too young, too broke, and too ashamed to be here.

pounds

calories

points

steps

sizes

inches

bmi

What would happen if I made the rules? +3 KatePoints for walking the dog in the sunshine. +1 KatePoint for eating a pear. +4 KatePoints for asking for help. +3 for potato salad that tastes fresh and filling. No points for self-doubt. +5 for writing. +1 for rubbing my feet. +2 for rubbing theirs. I’ve been humming a thought in my mind today, a sweet melody of freedom.

I want to quantify my kindness, my wholesome, nurtured self. I want to remind myself a hundred times a day that it’s alright to take up space. I want to be weightless.

I’m going to count my fucking blessings.

Just Worried About You, and Other Poisons

Recently I went to the doctor, and despite my protestations he spoke with me for a few minutes about a well-known healthy eating plan that could help me lose weight. Today, my thumb seems to have some sort of stress injury and my stomach is… well if the internet can be trusted, I have a bleeding stomach ulcer, but I haven’t been back to the doctor. I’m a grown woman (and kind of a badass) so when I tell you that it’s nearly impossible to overcome fat bias and fear to discuss my body with strangers, please take me at my word.

In 2013, I joined that very same well-known healthy eating program. I lost 83 lb of fat from my body, without starving or depriving myself, but eventually I gained it back. The ghost of that time lives in my bones now. It wraps itself around my ankles and tugs at me until it bruises my flesh. It’s on my mind every minute. I’m quick to anger when I can’t keep up or when my knees ache. I sweat profusely when others seem dewey and comfortable, and it makes me want to scream.

The size 10 version of me got to see the world as a “normal” person sees it, and I’m here to tell you, y’all are fucked up. The way we perceive fat bodies — and make fat bodies our business — is criminal.

Fat women are told what to do constantly. We are made to feel inconsequential and also too large to fit in the room. We are taught that we are disgusting, undesirable, and weak. We are reviled and ridiculed, often through third party sources like ad campaigns and “jokes.” We are told — if not every day then every week — that others are just concerned for us. They’re just worried about us and our unhealthy habits. They just want us to be happy, while wielding the weaponry of our unhappiness. If we were truly worried about fat women and our habits, we would react the same way when thin women eat french fries in public, dare to wear form-fitting clothing, or visit the doctor for any reason. I must say this, because somehow we still don’t believe fat women, and somehow this still needs to be said.

The most startling difference in my size 10 life was that men looked at me. On the street, in the workplace, and everywhere I went, men looked at me. It was like shedding an invisibility cloak and stepping out into the sunshine. It wasn’t always sexual, but it was this gift of notice that drew me in. I was also afraid. In every glance I felt a looming threat to my safety, because I was reminded of all of the times when men had encroached upon my body. I had less natural physical strength, and the spotlight of non-invisibility meant I could no longer hide in plain sight.

I won’t tell you that people stopped feeling emboldened to comment on my body. As men started to see me, women started to engage with me differently. Some women, especially queer women, automatically rejected me as other. I remember wondering about my place on the Kinsey scale (a solid 3 for a long time, I made the happy choice to own the term lesbian years ago, and now feel like more of a 5). The male gaze is intoxicating, even while it debases us. I was single at the time, and I found myself asking hairdressers to make me “look more gay” and wearing large rainbow accessories to try and fill the perception gap my traditional body shape caused.

Other women, especially straight women, reacted as if to a threat, responding to a primal drive that tells us the male gaze is a finite resource to be rationed. As I shed sizes 24, 22, 20, and 18, my acquaintances were proud of me. But when my body became smaller than theirs, they objected; they stopped me in my tracks to tell me now maybe I was too thin, I should quit losing weight, they’re just worried about me. To be clear, I wasn’t, I didn’t need to, and they thought they were.

Women’s bodily autonomy is not guaranteed. We have to fight for what is given to men. We do this every day and we do it whether we share my views or disagree with them. We do battle for the right to choose our food, our clothing, and of course, our reproductive futures. We attack the concept of beauty as pale, blonde, and thin, but with every blast, we only chip away at it. It’s worth noting that my struggle, which sometimes threatens to swallow me whole, is nothing compared to the challenges faced by People of Color, trans people, non-binary people, and people with disabilities.

I believe that the first step is to own my story. Everything I write has been written before, but today is my turn. When I put language to the crimes laid upon my bodily autonomy in the name of compassion, I take some power back from those who would rob me of mine.

I do what I want.

Wow, She Really Loves You

When Love and I were first together — not the beginning, but the good, spiritually-fulfilling, we-just-said-i-love-you-and-no-one-has-ever-meant-it-more, commercials-make-me-cry part — people kept commenting about how they looked at me.

We would be spending time with friends, and Love would go grab a beer or some other such banality, and the friend would look at me, eyebrows just raised, and say, “wow, she *really* loves you.”

I was defensive. “I really love her, too.” I mean, here we were, making love stories more poignant (yw, planet) and helping the flowers bloom, so yes, we loved each other in an equally significant, planetarily important way. Obviously.

Fast forward a few years to last month. We adopted a rescue dog in February, which brought about an era of beloved chaos. Love was terrified of the responsibility at first, but I knew the adjustment of the first few weeks would pass and our current state of adorable, furry bliss would take over. They have predictably become the far better dog guardian over time. I take our dog on 20 minute walks; Love takes her on epic urban hikes and comes home bright-eyed. In February, Love’s heart was at capacity and growing rapidly every day, but now they’re strong enough to love us all. They fuss over the dog’s well-being and squirrel bloodlust, forcing us into unnecessary vet visits and an infuriatingly helpful daily routine. By comparison, I try to trick doggo into warming up my feet by sitting on them.

Love is quiet, introverted, and subtle in expression. When we were first together — the actual beginning — I couldn’t tell if they liked me or if they were enjoying themself or if they would rather just go home and read Twitter. It was a divine mystery behind a polite (gorgeous) face. Eventually I learned to see what I call their microexpressions. It may just be a slightly widened eye to you, but I now I see plain as day that they’re thinking OMG I’M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND BECAUSE THAT IS THE CUTEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN; WHEEEEEEE.

When they look at this dog, especially when they don’t know I’m looking, I see our lives in fast forward. Picture a small round face with a slightly lifted chin, soft hopeful eyes, a tiny smile that’s only in the middle of the lips and not at all for show. It’s the look of someone who may just cry. It’s the look of a heart churning. It’s a look that doesn’t blink at commitment or compromise because you’re already intertwined and there is no excavating you from their heart. I think it’s what my friends saw back then. They *really* love us.

Thank you, lucky stars.

Fat and Sassy

My mom has at her disposal a bouquet of uncomfortably specific hillbilly phrases. While someday in the future I hope to spend an entire post extolling the virtues of “tapdancin’ and fartin’” and its finer descriptive qualities, today is Fat and Sassy’s day, and fat and sassy shall rule it.

Fat and sassy is a mood, or rather a state of being. Like most of my emotions, fat and sassy can best be understood through food, though food is not a requirement. Imagine you’ve just made and devoured a big dish of salty pinto beans (since we’re talking about my hillbilly roots) with ketchup on top. You’re proud, satisfied, and more than a little puffed up on your accomplishments. Your belly is out and that doesn’t bother you. You are, in that moment, fat and sassy. Now remove the food from the scenario. You’ve just finished painting your bathroom pink and your houseguest seems happy for you and a bit jealous, and you can’t help but to swing your ample hips and strut your fat and sassy self around.

Fat and sassy is round and happy. It doesn’t have to be fat, but it damn sure feels good that way. If fat and sassy danced, it would start with a toe tap and a grin. If it was watermelon, it would have a dash of salt that inexplicably makes it sweeter. It’s me, in my finest moments, and I’m it.

This blog has been in my soul for some time. Writing about my life as an unapologetic fat feminist is what I can never stop doing and what I refuse to start. It’s an identity I hold close while I push it hard until it’s a safe arm’s length away. I am, at is happens, full of contradictions. I contain multitudes. They’re here somewhere under layers of soft belly that I have often wished I could cut off — savage and final. I don’t always want to destroy my fat. Sometimes I want to cultivate it. Sometimes I bop it about like a round rubber ball or fall asleep with it cradled in my hands. Mostly, I just want to love it always the way I love it when I forget to remember to hate myself.

This tiny corner of the internet will be safe for fat acceptance. It will be safe for body love and bravery and poetry and pride and shame. It will also be a safe place for weight loss when it needs to be. I won’t be a part of a war waged between fat acceptance and weight loss because we all know that dichotomy is reductive. But this is not a weight loss blog and it is not a safe space for the phrase Goal Digger.

I am a goofy sap who meows loudly along to pop songs, a train wreck whose grief overpowers her from time to time, a caretaker who pushes food-shaped love onto all who know her, a font of determination who is always itching to give up. So that. This will probably contain some of that. Welcome to the party.