Body Shaming

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Saw the beautiful Tess Holliday on television this morning, a large size model with her cover on Self Magazine, the first digital issue.  I couldn’t find a picture of her that I was sure of being open source, so I have used one of my pictures for this post.

This picture was taken in 2012, during the last Christmas I spent with my folks.  I was also at my highest weight.  Sure, I knew my weight, but my family is pretty well trained not to say anything about.  The highest complement anyone in my family can give is, “You look so good!  Have you lost weight?”

I realized long ago, that it was the first half of the comment that was real, because gain or lose I knew the second half had nothing to do with factual perception.  If I was happy, I looked good, very consistently. There have been other comments.

At Disney World some ignorant teen girls were giggling at the fat people who had the nerve to get their picture taken at the entrance.  I turned to them and said, “Don’t you worry.  They will even take your picture. You don’t look so bad.”

From the time I got married, my weight has fluctuated up and down over the years.  The trend was always upward.  Even though I knew it was happening, I never felt FAT.  My weight was little more than a number.  I knew there were health issues of being over-weight, but I never felt ugly, or unlovable.  In fact, I thought I was about average.  I accepted myself.  I was comfortable in my own skin.

When my parents died, I was looking at all their old pictures.  I saw in those pictures how I had grown over the years.  Seeing it all at once like that, I wanted to lose weight.  I knew the health benefits included lower cholesterol, less trauma to my knees and feet.  From those pictures I picked a goal.

In that picture, I liked the way I looked, and I remembered how at that weight, how I felt very fat.  Every family member, except my husband, told me how fat I was.  In fact, at that weight a family member told me I was so fat, that my husband can’t possibly love me, because of the way I looked.  If I thought otherwise, she continued, I was fooling myself.

My first attempt at weight loss after the death of my parents involved a drug used to treat seizures.  A drug with lots of cautions, and would create difficulties for a doctor trying to treat just about anything.  Plus, going off it created a rebound effect.

I am now in my second attempt at weight loss, without drugs, with healthy eating and exercise.  After 10 pounds, my knees knew the difference.  I have now lost about 25 pounds.  It has not been a smooth journey, but kind of up and down, with the trend continuing down.

I agree with Self Editor Carolyn Kylstra, who wrote: You don’t know how healthy or unhealthy a person is just by looking at them, you don’t know what their health goals and priorities are, and you don’t know what they’ve already done or are planning to do for their health going forward. And moreover, you should know that concern trolling—using a person’s perceived health to justify making them feel bad about themselves—isn’t just counterproductive, it’s abusive.

 

Apperances

It drives me nuts.  The beautiful girls, you know them, tall with long straight hair and not an ounce over-weight, standing before the mirror in a cluster keeping everyone else away.  I’m not talking about a quick swipe of powder across the nose and a re-freshening of lipstick.  No.  Nothing but a full tease out session and complete application of their face over their already flawless skin.  Primp, primp PRIMP!

Of course these girls are not only the prettiest girls in class, but the most sociable.  There they stand monopolizing the mirror, laughing and joking, and totally involved with each other.  They never even notice that others are quietly waiting their turn.  That I am waiting my turn.  Total oblivion.

I’m not tall, my hair is short, and as the new girl in school, I am so painfully shy.  I am not allowed to wear makeup, and now that I think about it, maybe they aren’t either.  Why do full face makeup in the john, if you are actually allowed to wear makeup?  I am so annoyed.  Selfish is how I see them.  They can’t share the mirror.  Do they think they are ugly?  Nobody else does.  They certainly get all the boy’s attention.

Okay, not all the attention is the good kind.  Much of the attention is a little handsy.  A pat on the butt, a quick feel of breast.  The girls laugh it off.  I glare!  Touch me and die!  It isn’t an issue, no-one tries.  An arm slips about a waist, “I’ve got my lab partner,” he exclaims, giving her a squeeze and hauling her giggling to “their” station.

What’s a girl to do?  “You are so uptight!  Loosen up.”  Jerk!

My lab partner is another girl.  Together we take our station.  Our first experiment is about the displacement of liquid.  Someone bumps against our table sliding a book into our vessel and spills the liquid.  “We need to refill our vessel,” I tell the teacher.

Our teacher, a man, laughs.  “No refills.  You are only in this class, because it’s required.  No-one expects you to actually learn anything.  You are women.  A woman’s  brain is smaller than a mans.  Your only going to get married and have babies.”  My first assignment, and I have an F.  What am I going to do.  I am going to be in so much trouble.

I toss my aborted report into the trash.  What else can I do.  Day after day of this.  God I hate school.  My headache starts as I leave my block, and gets worse as I get closer to school.  I run a comb through my hair, since I can’t get near the mirror, and go through the same routine again.  One failing paper after another.  “Oh look.  Proof girls should not be in a science class.  All of these girls have F’s.”  The boys laugh.

If I had been facing the class, instead of the board, I might have seen the few boys just sitting quietly, but of course I don’t.

My headache fades as I get closer to home.  The steady steam of F’s is a problem for another day.

One Small Point of Light

The flame of a candle is one small point of light.  One standard candle is estimated to give off 12.5 lumens.  One candle shines brightly in a dark space, but doesn’t reveal much about that space.  Each candle added increases the light, until every dark corner is illuminated.

There is a darkness that is being brought to the light from a surprising source, the political arena.  Being brought to light is something women everywhere have to deal with, from the most progressive societies to the most socially repressive.

I am not going to try to make a judgement on the political firestorm, because it seems that everyone has already decided the importance of the language or possible reality of the sexually aggressive, bullying actions.  I do want to do is share my experience with men.

I know many wonderful men.  My husband, my father, uncles, brother, sons, cousins, many men I went to school with, and many men I worked with are all wonderful, respectful men.  However not all men are respectful.

At age 12, greeting my uncle with a kiss after not seeing him for a long time, he made it clear that such actions were “asking for it ” and would deserve anything that happened. Our relationship was never the same again.  After this I avoided not only this uncle, but men in general.

In Junior High School, a boy grabbed me roughly, and I couldn’t get away.  Every boy in the school let him know this behavior was not going to be tolerated.

Sitting in a high school English class, a couple of boys were putting their hands down the blouses of some of the girls.  Everyone was laughing, even most of the girls.  If they came near me, not only would I clock them, but so would my marine boyfriend, his friends and every other male I called friend.

At age 18, I was talking to a fellow student about my brother studying Judo.  My brother, several of his friends, my sister’s boyfriend,  were all black belts.  The man I was talking to said, “A man would have to be crazy to mess with you!”  It was at that moment that I realized how important it was to be under the protection of the men in my life.

At age 19, two weeks after getting married,  a man I had known for several months offered me a soda while waiting for my ride.  I thought I knew this person, but found myself in a sexual situation that I was lucky to talk my way out of.  Exactly the type of situation my Mother had warned me to never get myself into.

The next day he grabbed me, and wanted to press his case, telling me how I should be complimented by his attention.  I informed him that my uncle was the head of the radiology department in the hospital where he was a resident, and if he ever came near me again, I would report his behavior and he would be out of the hospital.

I had more than one husband of a woman friend “make a pass,” and I have had to give up long term friendships with women when their husbands would not take no for an answer.

I’ve had to work with men who described their exploits and considered themselves a gift to women.  They could not believe any woman would be serious about not wanting his attentions.  These were men I had to be careful to avoid being alone with in the workplace, but they “did the job.”

Why complain?  Nobody would do anything.  It was just something women had to put up with.  Men were the sexual aggressors, and women should be complimented.  But no means NO!   At best, we would warn each other of the danger.

Sexual aggression must be stopped by men.  Only men can stop the locker room bragging.  Only men can keep these aggressors in line, but only if they care about their wives, mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, and other women they know and work with.

Fierce Fighter

After a day of struggling to deal with insurance issues, requiring many hours on the phone, and financial issues, requiring even more hours on the phone, I at last get to find the word of the day is fierce!  I feel I’ve been fiercely fighting all day, and maybe I’ve gotten everything set in order.  We will see.  Transitions can be difficult, and sometimes you just have to keep going until you make it through to the other side.

There is no question I am a fighter.  I fight for the underdog. I fight for what is right.  I fight for what I want.  I fight for my family.  I fight for my man.  I think it would be safe to say that any one of us would do the same.  So this isn’t a post about what I fight fiercely for, but about when I learned to be a fighter.

Unfortunately this story really is about a fight.  (Modern parents may have come up with a less physical method of dealing with such things.)

I was six-years-old, and a neighbor girl, also six, would hit me and run off, crossing the street which I was not allowed to cross.  She was a bully.  I had no doubt that I was as fast and as strong as this other girl, and if I caught her maybe I could prove it.

Mom watch this occur day after day.  I’d go home crying, I’d tell Mom the entire story, and she would tell me to stand up for myself.  Mom did not call the other girl’s mother.  Mom did ask why I didn’t go after the other girl and hit her back. Once Mom heard my dilemma, she gave me permission to carefully cross the street.

The next day, my nemesis walked up to me and struck!  She ran across the street, and stood there taunting me.  I ran after her, stopping at the street, looking both ways, walking across the street, while she yelled that she was going to tell my Mom, with me walking right up to her.

“Go ahead,” I told her, “Mom told me I could cross the street to hit you back!”  I swung with all the force my little six-year-old arm was capable of and hit her, and hit her again.  Finally she got over her shock and instead of fighting back, she ran.  She ran with me hitting her over and over again, and I only stopped when I found I had run into her house to hit her one last time.  All the fury of weeks of being hit, and unable to do anything about it, ended in one fierce display of my personal power.

No one ever hit me, or hurt me, with impunity ever again.  I’ve never had to fight like this again, but neither am I afraid of a fight.

 

Stop Vice

Ever been told you don’t have enough vices?  It certainly would not be said by anyone who knows you.  Someone who knows you, will know your vices.  Unless, maybe there is some goal in mind.  A goal such as getting you to do something you would not be inclined to do. Or perhaps you have been told you have no vice in a sarcastic way, making you feel guilty about standing firm in not participating with them in their chosen vice, a blatant manipulation. In some cases this could be called bullying.

Maybe getting all made up like a painted woman isn’t your vice, but why should others try to make you feel bad about your natural beauty?  Maybe you don’t drink, or at least not to excess, but others uncomfortable with sobriety try to shame or guilt you into joining them.  Maybe you don’t swear and curse, but someone begs you to just drop the f-bomb, please!

Others naturally want you to be just like them, so they know they are accepted.  When you follow a different path, others can feel judged.  Not everyone has the strength to oppose such peer pressure.

Perhaps, like me, you have succumbed to peer pressure and done some things you aren’t proud of.  Maybe fitting in, keeping peace, playing along took you on a path you did not expect and did not like.  Maybe you lost yourself.

In my younger years, I allowed others to guilt, shame, and mock me into partying.  Now I am talking about the 70’s.  Sexual, drugs, and rock n roll.  There was always booze, always a crowd to urge the next thing on you, wearing down resistance.  There was always someone with a reasonable argument about why everything was okay.  “Chill out, be cool, relax.  Stop being so tense!  We’re all friends.  Would we let anything bad happen?”

Bad did happen.  I lost my way.  I’d broken with my faith.  I’d rejected the values I was raised with.  As a young mother, my marriage was in shambles!   Alone and crying one night, I came to a conclusion.  I would reclaim myself.  I would change my mind, and turn around, and leave all the people behind who did not support my chosen lifestyle.  I was not certain Hubby would be coming with me on my new path, but I never wavered.

Now you know something about me that I rarely share.  I don’t indulge in drunkenness, because I know where it will lead.  I don’t risk flirtatious encounters that try to pretend to be innocent, because I protect the faith of my marriage.

I’m not a prude, although many think I am.  I have sworn and cursed, and I let the bird fly regularly, but not to please another.  My biggest vice these days is chocolate.  I mean CHOCOLATE, chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup, and a chocolate bar on the side.  This is a vice I can live with.

Bullying Reaches New Lows

The tricking of a handicap young man into taking the ice bucket challenge by classmates in Bay Village, Ohio, and being doused with urine and feces takes bullying to a new low.

The young man involved wants nothing more than a little acceptance and belonging from his classmates. Instead of abuse, simple tolerance would have been enough. The ability to have some empathy, to put themselves into the shoes of another person and imagine how the other person might feel would have prevented this abuse of this young man.

I would like nothing more than to launch a full-scale assault on the young men who performed this loathsome act, but after some research I learned that bullies are often abused, bullied, damaged children themselves. Living in a nice neighborhood, in an attractive home, with all the things, does not mean a child is getting everything he or she needs. Children are taught empathy by seeing it in action. By seeing empathy expressed toward others, and by seeing empathy expressed toward them children learn to apply empathy in their lives.

The children who committed this foal act may see empathy as something for losers, rather than simple human kindness in action. Fortunately, empathy can be taught, even to teens, as long as they are willing to imagine things from the other persons perspective.

Bullying is a complicated problem, and there is no easy fix. For information on what you can do to prevent bullying visit: http://www.stopbullying.gov

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