Saturday, December 29, 2012

Paradise Found. Kinda Sorta.

I’m not sure how it happened. Sometime over the last 21 years or so, I went from being an irresponsible teenager who believed the world was her oyster to an overburdened 30-something working mom-of-two who’s just trying to muddle through this life as best she can. I suppose the transition is inevitable. With maturity comes the realization that sometimes ya gotta do the responsible thing even if it’s not your most appealing option.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


I don’t subscribe to doomsday prophecies as a general rule. But with the long-anticipated last day of the Mayan calendar rapidly approaching, I’m starting to get sucked into the hype. It doesn’t help that I’ve become addicted to H2’s Countdown to Armageddon. They thought it would be cute to put on doomsday programming for the first 21 days in December. I wonder if they have anything on the schedule for December 22? I guess I'll find out on Saturday. Or will I? 
Anyway, if you’re reading this, congratulations: you survived the end of the world. Whether you are a human, a zombie, or an alien, you have something to celebrate today – you are alive. And you have electricity. And you have an Internet connection. If there is even a remote possibility that you can score your favorite overpriced drink at Starbucks, you’ve got this life-after-Armageddon thing all figured out. Go you!
Since nobody really knows what time fireballs are supposed to start hurling through the atmosphere on December 21, I am going to schedule this post to go live at 12:01 on December 22. Otherwise, how will we really know we got through it? What good is celebrating your survival if you get obliterated in the middle of your happy dance? We have to keep our wits about us, people.
Anyway, happy Doomsday Survival Day. Now who’s up for cake?

Cake? Anybody seen any cake? Hello?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Processing the Unthinkable

This morning, an armed madman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut and opened fire. In what is being called the second deadliest school shooting in our nation’s history, Adam Lanza massacred 26 innocent people  in cold blood – 20 of whom were children.

Friday, November 30, 2012

An Open Letter to Santa and/or Marketing Executives (Alternative Title: Sassyfats Rages Against the Machine)

Dear Santa:
You bastard. How dare you put such high expectations into the minds of children and then expect their parents to put forth all the effort and expense while you sit back and take all the credit? What the hell kind of operating model is that? You know what, you greedy bastard? I’m gonna eat your cookies this year. Yep, I’m gonna help the girls choose two or three cookies to put out on a plate for you on Christmas Eve – which they do with love and concern for you, dammit!! – and as soon as they go to bed, I’m gonna eat ‘em. The cookies, not the children. You will not see even one crumb on the plate, you two-faced dream stealer!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Of Thanking and of Giving

To get myself into the proper frame of mind this holiday season, I have been participating in the Facebook trend of saying what I am thankful for each day. Some days it’s as simple as being thankful that coffee exists. Other days I bring out the big topics, like being thankful that my husband is alive and my kids are healthy.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cabin Fever - Party of Four

Remember when you were a kid and you'd get the day off school because of a snowstorm or a hurricane or something and you'd get all excited about the possibilities of how awesome your day is gonna be? Do you know why kids all excited like that?


Yesterday, when we learned that we'd be off from school and work because of Hurricane Sandy, there was excitement and jumping up and down and squeals of delight. Now that we've been homebound for a full 24 hours (and the wind and rain are just starting to really whip up - oh goody!!), everybody is bored and grumpy. If the weatherman is right, it's gonna be another 24 hours before it's safe to venture out again. By then, all four humans in my house will each be curled into a ball, rocking back and forth, rubbing our fingers across our lips making that "bulba-beelba-bulba-beelba" noise that lets people know that you have seriously lost your shit.

We've been encouraging the chi'drens to make use of the electronics in the house before the power goes out. They have finally agreed on which game to play on the Wii... and now they're fighting over who is going to win. Miracle Man and I have communicated mostly through clenched teeth for most of the day, and the dog is barking so much you'd think cat-shaped aliens were breaking into the house to steal her food.

The only two beings who are actually calm today are the cats. It's weird, because they've been going nuts the last couple of days. Now that the storm is finally here, they're all like "Yawn. Wind. Rain. Whatevs. Zzzzzzz."

These aren't my cats, but you get the idea.
Since we live near the Chesapeake Bay we keep getting phone calls from concerned family members to let us know we're crazy to still be here. Since we're at least a mile back and uphill from the shoreline, we're fairly sure that it would take a Category Eleventy Million hurricane to put us within reach of the storm surge. Sandy is big, but she's not that bad.

Rest assured, dear reader. We are in far more danger of losing our marbles to cabin fever than of losing our house to this storm. We are prepared for the imminent power outage. We're not entirely happy about all this Frankenstorm crap, but we are safe. May you stay safe wherever you are, too. If you can also manage to stay sane, more power to ya.    

Friday, October 12, 2012

Political Discourse

One of the general rules of polite society is that you don’t discuss religion or politics at the dinner table. In my family of origin, this rule goes straight out the window whenever we get together. I come from a tribe of peoples who enjoy a rousing conversation as a family meal winds down. Our tribal leaders are both retirees who make full use of their cable news outlets of choice – “Lamestream” media for Dear Mama and “Faux News” for Good Ol’ Pops. (Note my attempt to stay neutral…) And when I say they make good use of these networks, I mean they take in enough of the day’s news to emulate the pundits who exist solely to stir the pot. In the morning, they give each other a good pummeling over yesterday’s news while sipping their morning coffee. When they’re not otherwise occupied throughout the day, they stockpile ammunition for the next day’s coffee talk by watching their favorite news programs. They haven’t killed each other yet, so it seems their routine is working for them.

Friday, September 28, 2012

An Open Letter to Nikki Sixx

Dear Mr. Sixx,
Can I call you Nikki? I feel like I already know you so well, even though you will probably never even know I exist. That’s OK, that’s how the fan/star relationship works. I’m cool with it.
I’ve been a Motley Crue fan since I was but a teenage Sassyfats. Young, impressionable, and drawn to rebellion. More accurately, I was drawn to the idea of rebellion. I was way too timid to actually do anything that would get me in trouble. In fact, I can only think of two incidents in my entire teenage years where I felt like I was capable of being a real badass, and both of them happened when I was 14. That was all I needed to get all the badassery out of my system. Incidentally, it was the same year chronicled in your book, The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star. Had you and I actually met at the time, you either would have blown me off because I was, in all honesty, way more of a dweeb than I would have admitted back then. Or you would have drawn me into your web of corruption just for funzies. Either outcome would have destroyed me, so it’s a good thing I never made it backstage. No offense.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ermahgerd!! Erm Ern Wershingtern!! (Unexpected Subtitle: Brace Yourselves. Sassyfats Gets Thoughtful for a Moment)

I couldn't resist
Today I began my new assignment in D.C. The location I'm in is the very one I left to work in the 'burbs 11 years ago. People have asked me why I've chosen to work so far away from my little house on the not-quite-Bayfront. Well, it's simple:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sassyfats and the Great Discouragement

It's been awhile since I've posted anything about my rigorous workout routine. For awhile there I was alternating spin classes with strength training routines. Back in the good old days, those hard workouts gave me a twofold benefit: increased health/fitness, and decreased stress/anxiety. Or maybe that's a fourfold benefit. Math was never my subject. Anyhoo, somewhere along the way when I was workin' it with all I had, I reached a point where I was in more pain than I was willing to live with. Since seeing my doctor for my wonkybackism, I've been going to physical therapy so I can eventually see a day were I can get out of bed without whimpering.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sassyfats Goes to Washington

Remember a couple of months ago when I was all like, I can’t stand this waiting any more I just want answers but nope I can’t tell you guys what this is all about? Here’s a link to refresh your memory.
I’m finally in a place where I can spill the beans. In my normal, everyday life I am a mild mannered documentation weenie for a Large Corporation. Pretty much all the jobs available at Large Corporation in my geographic location involve government (or “gubment,” if you will) contracting. Any of you who have lived the life of a gubment contractor know that when one project comes to an end, you have to scramble like hell to find another project to avoid unemployment. It’s never fun, but it’s all part of the circle of life. (Or maybe it’s one circle of hell Dante forgot to write about. I’m not entirely sure.)  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Holy Religious Education, Batman! You Want Me to Do WHAT???

Since their tender Pre-K years, El and Em have enjoyed going to Faith Formation classes at our church. (For you old-school Catholics, Faith Formation = CCD. For you Protestants, Faith Formation = Sunday School. For you of non-Christian upbringing, apply the analogous term of your understanding and we’ll call it a day.) The chid’rens eagerly carry their little folders to class, they learn some Catholic stuff, and then they happily emerge from the Religious Education building and proudly show us whatever religious artsy-craftsy thingy they made that day. They ask us if we can go straight to the Dairy Freeze across the street from the church, then they get all pouty and defiant when we inform them we are going to Mass before we even discuss lunch plans, you should have eaten your breakfast like we told you to, now is your chance to pee because we will NOT let you go during Mass, and don’t you roll your eyes at me, Young Ladies!
Every. Single. Week.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Lower Back is an Asshole (And Other Tangentially Related Crap)

(Miracle Man thinks people might see this title and think I’ve had some sort of unfortunate rerouting of my internal workings. Rest assured I have not. Carry on.)
I’ve had on-again, off-again back pain for most of my adult life. I’ve usually been able to write it off – maybe I bent wrong or picked up something that was too heavy or not been careful enough in a recent workout. But lately the pain has been more on-again than off-again, seriously putting a crimp in my lifestyle. So I finally broke down and saw my doctor.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

And That’s Why We Have Something Called "Indoors"

In the far recesses of my long-ago memory, I fondly remember camping with my family. I was a wee little Sassyfat in those days, not even a big sister yet. We camped at the beach and in the mountains, and the activities always involved stuff like hiking and fishing. To this day, the musty aroma of tent canvas and pungent aroma of bug spray always make me smile. I loved camping – when I was too little to be expected to carry stuff, help pitch tents, cook anything, or clean up the campsite. When I was just a tiny little tagalong whose only job was to stay within sight of my parents, camping was a whole lot of fun.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When Mid 20th Century Absurdist Theater Makes Perfect Sense

Wayyyyy back in my days as an English major, one of my favorite plays I was forcedto had the opportunity to study was Waiting for GodotFor the uninitiated: It’s pronounced “GUH-doe,” not “GO-DOT,” as I firmly believed for the first half of the semester before the class started discussing it. Anywho, Didi and Gogo are two friends who are anxiously awaiting the arrival of some dude named Godot. The whole play is about the act of waiting, which is a frustrating and futile act. I could go in to a full literary analysis at this point, but that’s not what this post is about. Besides, I’m too lazy to go study the play again. The whole reason I’m bringing it up here is because ever since my long-past days of believing the ability to write critical literary essays would get me somewhere in life (haha), Godot always leaps to mind whenever I am in a prolonged state of waiting.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Rainy Day

Like many families with young chi’drens, the Sweet Family Sassyfats is constantly on the go. Even when our schedule is clear, we’ll load El and Em into the car and find somewhere to go, just for the sake of keeping busy. Which is why we were recently stymied by a very rainy Saturday. The rain fell steadily throughout the day, and not one of us could think of an adventure that would be worth dodging raindrops to get to the car. For the first time in a long time, we just stayed home – all day long.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cut to the Bone

Over the last few years, Miracle Man and I have gotten really good at cutting out unnecessary expenses. Our days of frivolity are far behind us, and we are living the frugal life. We've given up a good 90 percent of the little luxuries we used to take for granted, like going out to eat. In actual restaurants. Where people greet you at the door, show you where to sit, and serve you food. On real plates, y'all. Sure, we still hit places like Subway once or twice a week (when we're feeling wealthy), but long gone are the days when we would go to an actual restaurant several times a week. Miracle Man has gotten to be quite the little chef, and I take leftovers to work so that I don't have to spend extra money buying lunch. Which is smart, because "extra" money is not a creature I have seen in quite some time.

Monday, July 2, 2012

When Inner Voices Collide

Anyone who has read this blog for awhile knows that I am on a quest to make my body and mind healthy and strong. As part of that quest, I’ve adopted the Health at Every Size mentality that says poor self-image isn’t healthy, and I’ma treat my body right whether it shrinks or not. As such, I stay away from scales because they are a great big honkin’ trigger object for me. Even though people ask me almost every day how much I’ve lost, I have not been tempted to find out. I just smile and tell people I avoid scales because they make me crazy.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Escaping the Every Dayishness of Life

Remember a week ago when I was all like, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL!!! I CAN HANDLE ANYTHING THAT COMES MY WAY!!! WEEEE-HOOOO!!! Yeah, forget all that. It wore off. I’m back to wonky-wheeled off-kilterishness. Such are the ups and downs of a bona fide whackadoodle.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sassyfats vs. the Existential Crisis

I've been in kind of a funk lately. Not a full-blown depression, thank God, but more of a slight off-kilterishness. You know that cart in the grocery store with the one wonky wheel? You can maneuver it through the store and get your shopping done, taking refuge in fleeting moments of joy as you notice that Oreos and dish soap are on sale. But it takes some extra effort to shove the cart down the aisles in a straight enough motion to keep the cart from crashing into fellow shoppers and displays of stacked soup cans. Well I've been shoving my wonky-wheeled self through the grocery store of life lately, making it through each day with a vague sense of exhausted frustration.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mother Sassyfats and the Uncomfortable Truths

This spring has been jammed full of kid-related events. Between birthday parties, Girl Scout events, and class field trips, I’ve spent more time with the 10-below crowd than ever before. It was during El’s 10th birthday party recently that I arrived at two uncomfortable truths about myself. I’m stepping forward to reveal these deep, dark secrets because I suspect I’m not the only parent with these horrible burdens on my shoulders. We, the parents, need to bond together and support each other, because we have a lot more of these trying years to wade through.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sassyfats Rides Again!

Remember back when I took my first spin class? That was the day that I learned the true meaning of the phrase, “Mah biscuits are burnin’!!” I vowed that despite the pain, I would do it again. Yeah, that was a while back. Turns out I was a wee bit hesitant to get back in that torture device saddle after all. Well after a good bit of peer pressure from Miracle Man and his group of gym friends, I FINALLY made it back for my second class. And, lo and behold, my third.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

They Can't All Be Winners (UPDATED)

Previously, on Sweet Sassyfats, I wrote about how my unhealthy obsession with Ghost Adventures has expanded my musical horizons. When Zak Bagans first announced that he was doing vocals for a new Lords of Acid song I was beyond psyched. Lords of Acid had its heyday in the 90s, but I somehow missed them back in the day. Probably because I was deep into my Alternative Rock phase, listening almost exclusively to whatever was playing on HFS. The heavily electronic acid music wave owed its success to the rave scene. Remember raves? Yeah, me neither. I never went to one. Hence my ignorance regarding Lords of Acid. But my loyal adherence to clicking on the various and sundry YouTube links that Zak posts on Twitter finally introduced me to this band. Better late than never, I suppose.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

So How Much Have You Lost?

Since beginning my commitment to Health at Every Size about a year ago, I've gone through a noticeable transformation. As my overall health has improved, my body has shrunken some along the way. Also, as my energy level continues to rise, my overall demeanor has improved. I’ve always been able to force a smile or fake my way through cheerfulness long enough to make water cooler small talk before returning to the dark recesses of my innermost thoughts (think Eeyore, but with lots more cussing), but now that I’m fueling my body with healthy foods a good 80% of the time and exercising regularly, I’m having more moments of genuine cheerfulness. (Don’t worry, I still have routine bouts of crippling depression/anxiety and will always be fluent in Sarcasm. I’m still me, gosh darn it!)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What Would You Do?

This evening, Miracle Man and I took Em out for ice cream after dropping El off at Girl Scouts. In the parking lot of our local Rita's, we witnessed an altercation between two very large adults and their very small preschool aged daughter. The little girl had taken off across the parking lot, looking behind her and giggling the whole time.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ineffective Evangelization (Alternate Title: Why I’m Glad I No Longer Work In Retail)

On a recent sunny Wednesday, I stopped in at my local CVS to load up on healthy Easter treats like chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. Because for some reason that I am certain is based on sound theology, the resurrection of our Lord and Savior calls for spiked blood sugar and tooth decay. 

As I made my way to the checkout counter,  I heard a woman demand to know why her coupon was not valid and who, exactly, the cashier thought she was by saying otherwise. The irate customer was not shy about heaping verbal abuse upon the cashier’s head. The cashier, clearly a veteran, countered Irate Customer’s venom with apologies for inconvenience and assurances that her hands were tied. Irate Customer just kept getting louder and using harsher words until Veteran Cashier finally said, “Ma’am, it’s my job to uphold store policy, not to take abuse from people like you. Maybe the manager can help you.”
Don't take nuthin' offa NOBODY!!
Irate Customer, clearly unsatisfied with the Veteran Cashier’s attempt to end the confrontation, shouted profanities at Veteran Cashier and a second cashier who had arrived on the scene. The second cashier was young and clearly bewildered by Irate Customer. Veteran Cashier ignored the tirade and rang up customers with polite smiles and cheerful suggestions that they have a great day. Naturally, Irate Customer got even more pissed off.

I wish I could say that the other customers and I banded together to physically remove Irate Customer from the store. Instead, we all avoided eye contact like the plague and tried to make it look like we didn’t notice that Irate Customer was even there. (“Oh, there’s a confrontation going on two feet in front of me? I had no idea! I was just so engrossed in admiring the ceiling tile!”) After all, her mental stability was questionable, and you never really know who’s packin’ these days.

When the manager finally made it to the counter, he calmly explained why the store was unable to give Irate Customer the discount she so passionately sought. The manager and cashiers were as polite and professional as they could be under the circumstances, but they stood their ground. Finally, Irate Customer bellowed her exit line as she stormed out of the store:

Y’all [rhymes with glass bowls] need to get your [rhymes with glasses] some [rhymes with brutha truckin’] Jesus up in this [rhymes with brutha  truckin’] place!!!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am all about reaching out to Jesus when in need. Praise the Lord and all that good churchy stuff. Nonetheless, I could not help but feel that Irate Customer was rather disinterested in the retail staff’s eternal salvation. Call me old fashioned, but it seems like if you really do believe that people need Jesus in their lives (or at their drugstore checkout counters), you might not cuss quite so much when making prayer suggestions. If there is one thing that turns people off to the Good News more than a group of evangelists knocking on their door to discuss salvation, it's being shouted down and cussed out by someone who claims to promote the Christian way.

But that’s just my humble opinion.

When it was my turn, Veteran Cashier and I shared a hearty laugh over Irate Customer’s behavior (After she had left, of course.) I had worked in that very same store in my teens and had suffered similar abuse at the hands of many a customer of questionable sanity. Twenty years ago, I would have had to bite back hot tears and try not to cry when confronted by such a customer. These days, my skin is a lot thicker and my tolerance for bovine feces is a lot lower, so I would probably be able to laugh it off. 

That said, witnessing Irate Customer’s tantrum reminded me to be joyfully grateful for the frustrations I face in my present job as a professional grammar cop. Even on my worst days, I don’t have to put up with crap like that. And for that, there's only one thing to say:

On that note, have a blessed Easter weekend!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

An Open Letter to Oil Tycoons

Dear Oil Tycoons,
I hope I have addressed you properly. I’m not entirely sure you still go by the title of “tycoon”; in fact, I can’t even write the word without hearing the voice of a World War II newsreel reporter in my head. I would be heartbroken to learn I have offended you by using an antiquated salutation. Please let me know if I should call you something else. Like Asshole “Your Highness.” Or Greedy Bastard “Your Excellency.” Or “Dude.” Whatever it is you go by these days.  
That said, I was cursing your very existence thinking about you just this morning. There I stood at my local filling station, watching my bank account dwindle feeding my unpretentious Saturn ION, thinking about money. Since I was in the act of purchasing the end product of all your hard work, I started thinking about YOUR money. And how much of it you probably have. I’m sure you have stabbed many backs worked very hard to build your obscene well-deserved wealth, and I seriously resent would never, ever begrudge you your success.
But back to this morning. Did you know that common folk have to fill up their own gas tanks? I know – crazy, right? We actually drive ourselves to the gas station, get out of the car, pay for the gas, and operate the pump. You should ask your chauffeur about it sometime; I’m sure he’d love to push you off a cliff tell you all about it.
I’ve pumped gas enough times not to have to think too hard about the steps involved, so my mind is free to wander. I know you don’t give a shit care deeply about your consumer base, so I thought I might grab you by the lapels and shake you violently step forward to share a lighthearted anecdote about this morning’s musings. You know, to shame you publicly help you realize the extent of your bloodletting keep your finger on the pulse of the people you’re screwing over your customers.
This morning, as I stood there watching the digits next to “Total” move at warp speed, my train of thought went something like this: “Wait. Is the pump counting by 10s? How is the ‘Total’ moving so much faster than the ‘Gallons'? Are you freaking KIDDING me?!?!?!” Then I thought, “I wonder if I’ll have enough left over to buy milk AND bread.” (You know. For my kids. Did you know those little rascals insist on eating every single day? Several times a day? Ask your nanny about it sometime. I’m sure she’d love to push you out of an airplane tell you all about it. I digress…) Then it occurred to me, “If I don’t fill up the tank all the way I won’t have enough gas to last until payday. Then I won’t be able to get to work.”
Isn’t that hysterical? It’s totally Reader’s Digest material. I mean, not only was I standing there worried about making my salary stretch the full length of the pay cycle, but I was also attempting to do math in my head!! I mean, can you imagine standing there on a chilly April morning, counting on your fingers and worrying that you might not be able to buy gas AND a few basic necessities for your children? Of course not. You’re too busy counting all your damn money.
What a HOOT!
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Not my problem Sassyfats, you should just work harder so you can be rich like me.” Again, I want to punch you in the balls repeatedly don’t want to offend you by suggesting that you are totally effing clueless would be anything less than absolutely correct in your assumption that I just haven’t worked hard enough to reach your level of financial security. The truth is, I did what this popular 1990s poster vaguely suggested I do:
I don't see any Saturns in there.
I went to college like a good girl. After college, I took a good job at a good company to which I have been loyal for 15 years. I work hard and they pay me relatively well. But you know what? I still haven’t figured out how to get from “Mid-level Documentation Hack” to “Oil Tycoon.” In fact, I haven’t even figured out how to get from “Mid-level Documentation Hack” to “Chief Bottle Washer”  without sacrificing the precious little time I get to spend with my young children and disabled spouse every day. Of course, you probably give wealth accumulation a higher priority than family bonding, so you wouldn’t understand my predicament. Asshole. If you have any suggestions on work-life balance, please let me know.
It is possible – and this might be a crazy idea, but just hear me out – that if your salary were not so effing astronomical just a teensy bit lower, the millions of Americans who are NOT oil tycoons would not be totally effing broke so concerned about gas prices. Prices might actually be a little lower, and we would actually be able to breathe a little bit. Not that you care. And for that, we would consider resisting the urge to burn you in effigy be ever so grateful. Not that you care. Just a little food for thought.    
Die, You Greedy Bastards

Friday, March 30, 2012

You Look Marvelous! (Yes. I’m talking to YOU!)

From the time I was a wee little Sassyfat, I’ve been told I have a pretty face. Isn’t that a nice thing for someone to say? Wouldn’t that fill you with warm fuzzy feelings and increased self-confidence? Unfortunately, as any tried and true fatty can tell you, the Pretty Face Comment (PFC) misses its mark. Big time. 
When you tell someone she has a pretty face, what she hears is what remains unsaid: “Golly, if only the rest of you weren’t so gosh darned fat!!” Growing up, I usually got the PFC as an afterthought from some adult who had just puked praise and worship upon Sweet Little Sister’s golden head. (“What a beautiful little girl!! Look at those big blue eyes!! She’s gonna be a real heartbreaker when she grows up!! She should be model!! [quick glance at me] Oh, and you have a pretty face, Hun.” Um, thanks?) Instead of swelling with pride over my pretty face, I would suck in my gut and pull in my shoulders and generally try to shrink myself down enough to be a beautiful, magazine-cover-worthy future heartbreaker, too. Didn’t work.
As a child I lacked the insight and confidence to say, “Lady, I am a flabstastic diva and you will address me as such!” Instead, I believed what society reinforced every time I turned around: I was the problem. My body composition was incorrect, and it was all my fault for being gluttonous, lazy, and stupid. The truth is, I ate what my underweight siblings ate; oftentimes less so that I could not be so darn fat any more. Moreover, I was as active as they were. Our parents sent us outside to play and I ran around with the sibs and our friends, riding my bike for miles almost every day for years. But out of four children, I was the only fat one. So obviously, it was all my fault.
Incidentally, I’m also the only one with blue-green eyes – Sweet Little Sister’s are pure blue, Elder and Younger Brothers’ are pure green – and I’m the only one who can’t get a tan. But those physical traits are considered genetic. The fat thing, well, that can’t possibly be genetic. Obviously it’s an outward sign of my seriously flawed character. 
Pfft. Whatevs.
Of course my parents tried to address the problem. My pediatrician put me on a diet at the age of four because I had outpaced the growth charts. My mom didn’t even know I was overweight until the doctor pointed at the chart. Not because she’s unobservant, but because I didn’t look significantly chubbier than the other four-year-olds in my preschool class. Never mind that I was also taller; the doctor wanted to nip my fattitude in the bud. So he gave Dear Mama a diet plan for me to follow (all I remember is celery) and wished us both the best of luck.   

Ever since that fateful well visit, I’ve either been diligently observing a diet or cheating on one. Food has never been simple fuel for me; it has always been cause for thoughtful calculation and self-praise or a tool for rebellion and self-flagellation. Whether patting myself on the head for eating something “good” (and ignoring the lingering hunger in my tummy), or beating myself up for eating something “bad” (and ignoring the painful over-fullness in my tummy), I have had an emotionally difficult relationship with food and my body for 34 years. I have only been alive for 38 years. So I’ve had plenty of time to get really good at being screwed up in the head.

Define "normal"
The problem with traditional dieting is not just its emotional toll. There is also a significant physical toll. When you restrict your caloric intake too far, your body lacks the nutrients it needs to function properly. Too much calorie restriction also makes your metabolism all wonky. Your body thinks there’s a famine, so it slows its processes down to burn fewer calories. (It hasn’t read the same magazines that you have. It does not give a shit about appearance. It just wants to survive.) As soon as you go off your diet, your body says “OH THANK GOD!!!!” and it holds onto every last calorie you put into your mouth so it will be ready for the next famine. Any weight you have lost is most likely fat AND muscle, and the weight you will most likely gain back will be all fat. Not only will you look bigger (fat takes up more space than muscle), but you will also be less healthy.
But Sassyfats, you say. Why on earth would you gain it back in the first place? Have you no self control??
Oh, dear sweet reader of thin privilege. It’s not that simple. Did you know that weight loss has a 95% failure rate over five years? Yes, ninety-five percent. If you had a 95% chance of dying in a plane crash today, would you insist on booking a flight? If the answer is a resounding "NO," how would you feel if everyone around you insisted that you book that flight no matter the odds, on the off chance you might make your destination? What if they told you that over and over again, day in and day out, by way of TV, radio, magazines, thoughtless comments, shouted insults, and heartfelt discussions? Would you be instilled with confidence, or frustrated that nobody understands you?   
Here in Fatland, not only do we have society telling us we need to roll the dice over and over again, but there is also a SIXTY BILLION DOLLAR A YEAR diet industry that bases its very success on the knowledge that you will need to come back to them again and again. If their products actually worked, they would go out of business. So their operating model is to steal your self esteem and then sell it back to you. For profit. With a product that is practically guaranteed NOT to deliver the results you seek. Their highly educated (and highly paid) marketing geniuses line their pockets by reinforcing the societal belief that fat is ugly, and ugly fat people are obligated to keep on trying to lose weight so that everyone else doesn’t have to keep looking at our disgusting bodies. And then the world will magically be a better place when we all meet our goal weight! Yay, rainbows and unicorns!
Yeah, kinda like that.
But Sassyfats, you say. What about health reasons for losing weight? We don’t want to get The Diabeeeeeetus!

Oh, dear sweet reader of thin privilege. It’s not that simple. First of all, research results have been incorrectly reported time and time again. While there is a correlation between obesity and diabetes, not one study has proven that obesity causes diabetes. Do you know what has been found? The single biggest factor in whether you’ll get The Diabeetus is your family’s history. Know what else has been found? Diabetes can actually be triggered by weight cycling (AKA yo-yo dieting). Know what else? There are a heckuva lot of thin people walking around with diabetes for years before they’re diagnosed because their doctors are using weight, not bloodwork, as the primary indicator of health.
Do you know what makes you healthy? Healthy behaviors (among a variety of other factors, like genetics, age, and environment).
Do you know what makes you unhealthy? Unhealthy behaviors (among a variety of other factors, like genetics, age, and environment).
Do you know what makes you thin? Your body type (among a variety of other factors, like genetics, age, and environment).
Do you know what doesn't make you thin? Self-loathing. Period.
So what’s all this got to do with looking marvelous? We live in a society that puts a LOT of value in outward appearance. Our society believes that only one body type is worthy of praise. Those of us whose bodies do not adhere to the chosen body type are shamed, ridiculed, and outcast. We receive a steady stream of messages every day that we are ugly, lazy, stupid, and worthless. We also receive a steady stream of messages every day that we have chosen to be ugly, lazy, stupid, and worthless, and we therefore deserve to be shamed, ridiculed, and outcast.
You know what? That’s a whole lot of bullshit right there, y’all. And I’m tired of hearing it. The more we can embrace the idea that bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the more we are free to see the beauty in each other. And the more we see the beauty in each other, the more we are free to see the beauty in ourselves. If we stop hating our bodies, we will be better motivated to treat our bodies with the care and respect they deserve – healthy behaviors for a healthier body, whatever size that body may be. And that my friends, is truly beautiful. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Respect Among the Stacks

If you’ve ever spent any time perusing the fatosphere, you’ve come across the term “fat shaming.” Fat shaming is the practice of making negative assumptions about people’s health, lifestyle, and very character because of their size, then telling them what awful, lazy, stupid, selfish, ugly people they are. 

Oh, Sassyfats! That's terrible! I'm glad I've never done such an awful thing!

Unfortunately, most people are so subtle about it they don’t even know they’re doing it. Have you ever laughed at a fat joke? Have you ever demanded to know, “Do these jeans make me look fat?” Have you ever lost weight, then posted your “before” picture on your refrigerator as a deterrent to gaining that weight back? Then yes, you are familiar with fat shaming. Don’t beat yourself up too bad about it; it’s so socially acceptable that most people don’t even realize it’s an issue.

Then there are people who view fat shaming as a sport. Not content with being subtle, these people will let you know in a loud and public fashion that they don’t like you. Some will shout you down in a crowded mall. (Yes, that happens.) Still others linger on the Internet to troll health, fitness, and weight related websites and leave comments that would make any decent person’s blood boil. If you want to Google "weight loss articles" and check it out for yourself, go ahead. I'll wait. 

Scary, isn't it? If you’ve been significantly fat for any amount of time, chances are you’ve felt the sting of such vitriol. Welcome to my world.

Since most fat people are all too familiar with how it feels to be ridiculed in public by people who don’t even know them, many of my kind are reluctant to engage in a variety of certain activities in front of other people. We've tried before, we’ve been hurt, and we’ve decided we’d like to avoid getting bullied again. One such activity is public exercise. (Emphasis on the word “public.” Plenty of fatties love to exercise - without witnesses.)

Anyone who has ever started a workout regimen for the first time, or restarted after a prolonged lapse, knows how much extra motivation you need just to do the basics. (I’m talking to you too, skinny people. Don’t act like you’ve never dragged ass. Mmm-hmm.) Not only is it hard as hell to work up the energy to exercise a body that’s not used to it, but it’s also humiliating as hell to move your body in unfamiliar ways and work up a sweat in front of people who are likely to judge you harshly because of your size. Paradoxically, the judgy people are the very same people who are likely to tell you that weight loss is easy – just stop shoving potato chips in your mouth (nom, nom, nom!) and get up off your couch every once in awhile so you could be as skinny as they have always been. But for the love of all that is holy, puh-leaze don’t exercise in front of them, because they don’t want to see your disgusting body.
Because we all wear ridiculous headbands
and look sad when we have to move.
Having been a lifelong fatty, I can identify with the inclination to avoid public exercise. You already feel like a blob, and you've had to give yourself a hearty pep talk just to go for a simple walk. Just at that point in your walk when your energy level goes up and you feel all proud of yourself for doing something healthy (Yay, endorphin rush!), some anonymous douchebag drives by in his car and screams, “FAAAAAAAAAAAAAT BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITCH!!!!!”

NEWSFLASH: This type of commentary is not helpful. To anyone. Sure, Douchey McDoucherson gets the momentary thrill of humiliating a total stranger before going back to his sad, lonely life. That’s got to count as a positive. But when you’re on the receiving end of such commentary, it makes you feel pretty much worthless. It makes you want to disappear. It makes you want to go back home and hide from the McDouchersons of the world. And if you’re like me, it makes you want to drown your sorrows in a pint of Ben & Jerry's. BREAKING UPDATE TO NEWSFLASH: Making me feel like crap will not make me skinny.
You don't say!
Fortunately, my many years of being a fatty – coupled with many years of therapy and the discovery of the Fat Acceptance movement – have allowed me to grow a thick enough skin (oh, is that what all these rolls are?) so that I’m not as afraid of public ridicule as I used to be. I've finally reached a point where I refuse to give the McDouchersons of the world rent-free space in my head. I don’t internalize the negativity as much as I used to. Yes, it still bugs me. It just doesn't consume me any more. Ergo, I can live my life out in the open and avoid becoming an 800-lb shut-in. Yay, me.

Since I’ve mostly gotten over my fear of looking stupid in public, I’ve been able to enjoy going to the gym more than ever before. But until recently, there was still a part of the gym that I did not want to go anywhere near: the hard-core side. See, when you walk in the front door to my gym, you turn right to go to the classrooms and the smoothie bar. You turn left to go to the warehouse-sized space that houses all the equipment. The right side of the room has all the cardio machines, spiffy-looking, idiot-proof weight machines, and your average suburban gym dweller – soccer moms, retirees, mid-life crisisers, etc. 

Home Sweet Home
The left side has all the free weights, scary looking no-frills weight machines that take some know-how to operate, and big muscular dudes. You know the ones – they wear sleeveless shirts to show off their ripped biceps and walk with their arms held out from their sides because their muscles are so tight they can’t reach their own waists.
Seriously, Dude. Put a shirt on.
For many years I stayed on the safe side of the gym with all the soccer moms and retirees. I figured if they judged me harshly, they would at least be quiet about it. They might go tell their friends later, “Wow, you should have seen how fat this woman at the gym was. I think I’ll skip that second glass of wine so I don’t end up like her!” But at least they wouldn't fat-shame me to my face. 

I was afraid to go to the hard-core side of the gym because I figured the body builders would point and laugh. (Leftover impression of jocks from high school are hard to shake. Them scars run deep.) But early in my relationship with my trainer Holloway, he led me straight into the dragon’s lair and said, “Your monthly dues give you access to the whole gym. You belong over here just as much as these guys do.”

What I thought inside my head: Do what, now? You want me to come over here with these dudes – and their college-age groupies with their hair all did up and their chests all jutted out so as to showcase their perky boobies – and exercise?!?!?!? Have you bumped your head????

What I actually said: Um. Ok.

Holloway, not one to waste time or show a whole lot of mercy, got me working right away. He had me sit down on a weight bench near the middle of the hard-core area. Then he had me stand right back up again. And sit down. And stand up. Over and over again, practicing for my debut as a whackamole stunt double. And, oh here. Lift this medicine ball over your head and slam it on the floor as hard as you can when you stand up. (Huff. Puff. Grunt. WHAMO!!!! Huff. Puff. Grunt. WHAMO!!!!) If you’ve never been party to such an activity, let me enlighten you: it draws attention. My cover was totally blown. I was exposed. Vulnerable. Easy prey.

Every time I looked up I expected to see the indiginous peoples of the weight stacks staring, eyes wide and mouths agape. I kept expecting to see them nudging each other and trading amused glances. I kept expecting to hear snickers (the laughter, not the candy bar) and rude comments. I expected scorn, ridicule, and cruel amusement. On the outside, I was working my patootie off and trying to look tough. On the inside, I was bracing myself for the onslaught and hoping I wouldn’t cry like a little girl in front of my tormenters when it came.

But you know what? The onslaught never came. Sure, I saw some guys staring when I first got over there. There was not ridicule in their eyes, but something more akin to puzzlement. (What’s a fat chick doing over here? Shouldn’t she be at McDonald’s or something? Oops, I forgot to flex for a second!) But once I got down to business, they went back to theirs. Nobody pointed. Nobodoy laughed. Nobody sounded an alarm that there was a fatty at the weight stacks. (Red Alert! Fatty at the weight stacks! Get your cell phone cameras out and prepare to enterain the Internet!)

To my surprised relief, the big muscular guys just got on with their routine of picking heavy things up and putting them back down. Then I realized something: by walking me over there and then stating out loud that I belonged, Holloway had given me an all-access pass to a world that was previously forbidden. I was on the hard-core side of the gym, and it was OK.

Now when I walk over there, I do so without fear. Head up, shoulders back, mind on whatever masochistic thing I’m about to inflict on myself. When I see people I recognize, I meet their gaze and nod in salutation. They nod back and then go on about their business. When I see new people looking at me with that familiar look of puzzlement, I meet their gaze and nod in salutation, and then I go on about my business even if they’re still trying to figure out why I’m not actively shoving french fries into my mouth by the fistful. (nom, nom, nom!)

When I work out, I work hard. I do not whine. I do not complain. I do not give something a half-assed attempt and then stop after two reps. I keep at it until I get the hang of it. I huff. I puff. I sweat. My face turns an alarming (yet lovely) shade of red. And when I finish a set of something particularly difficult, I sometimes let out an involuntary, “Hooooo!” as I set down the weights. (Cleansing breath. Inhale… hold… and Hoooo!) I’m not worried about who may be watching. Screw ‘em, I gots work ta do. And by going about my work with even the illusion of confidence, I get what every person on this planet deserves – respect.

I invite the fatties of the world to join me in living out loud, so to speak. The less we hide, and the more we get out there and do stuff (whatever your chosen “stuff” may be), the more society will realize that we’re no less worthy of respect than anyone else. I’m not saying it’s easy. But it is a worthwhile pursuit.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Two Days at the Theater: Third Graders vs. Kindergarteners

From this post's title, you might think I attended a two-day event in which third graders and kindergartners engaged in a bloody cage fight for dominance (and bragging rights, bro) as rowdy spectators placed their bids. You would be sadly mistaken. Seriously, why spend good money on that when I get to see a third grader and kindergartner try to beat the snot out of each other every day in my living room? (The third grader has a size advantage and rudimentary martial arts skills, but the kindergartner fights dirty. No match is over until the dog is howling and both opponents are crying. Anyone who gets blood on the carpet is grounded. House rules.)  
No, I did not attend a show in which children competed against one another in any capacity. But what I did do was take a couple of days off from my day job as a grammar cop to chaperone two field trips. Check me out, I’m just like a real mom! Although both trips were to The Theater (you have to say it like this, “thee-ah-tah”), the experiences were quite different. What struck me was the level of complexity between the two plays, and how well the producers of both plays – and the educators who coordinated the trips – knew their target audiences.
Daughter1’s class, comprising that sophisticated age group of 8- and 9-year-olds <roll eyes here>, saw On the Wings of Ikarus Jackson at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater in Washington, DC. Alluding to the character from ancient Greek mythology, Ikarus tells the ageless tale of overcoming the ridicule of your peers to take pride in the traits that make you stand out from the crowd. A timely message for kids quickly approaching an age where being branded as “different” can make your life a waking nightmare. Take it from me, the shy fat kid.  
As one would expect from the Kennedy Center, the production quality was top-notch and the actors were undoubtedly professional. To prepare the children for this dose of high culture, the school taught the children a little bit about the play in the days leading up to the trip. They learned the basic plot and talked about the main characters. In addition to learning some literary elements of the play, they also learned basic theater etiquette: dress nicely (they looked adorable), arrive on time, stay seated during the play, and be quiet. The play was only an hour long, which was just about as long as the kids could refrain from shooting spit balls at each other and telling fart jokes. A good time was had by all. 

Daughter1 and BFF at the Kennedy Center
Daughter2's class, comprising that wiggly age of 5- and 6-year-olds, saw Laugh, Laugh, Laugh at Maryland Hall in Annapolis. This performance consisted of four or five comedy sketches geared toward little ones. There was not a cohesive moral to the stories, as the show was designed to entertain the crowd. Performers dressed in simple but bright costumes, made exaggerated facial expressions, and punctuated their punchlines with broad hand gestures and dance steps. There was singing, dancing, clapping, and - be still my heart - the liberal use of jazz hands during one energetic soft shoe routine. Since audience participation was encouraged, I did not have to shush any of my young charges even once during the hour-long performance. A good time was had by all.

Daughter2 at Maryland Hall
I'll be honest, I dreaded both trips based on my "success" as a chaperone on Daughter2's pumpkin patch trip in the fall. But I'm glad I got over my damn self and went on both theater trips. It was fun sitting next to Daughter1 in a real play and discussing the characters and themes afterward. It was equally fun sitting next to Daughter2 and hearing her giggle throughout the Laugh, Laugh, Laugh performance. Who knows how highly these events will rank in their overall life memories. But I hope they store these trips somewhere in their "fond" memory collection. I know I have.     

Friday, March 2, 2012

I DO Believe In Spooks!


When Sweet Sassyfats was a wee towheaded ankle biter, the Sweet Family Sassyfats moved into a four-bedroom cape cod house on a quiet suburban street. We had a big fenced-in backyard and a whole herd of neighborhood children with whom Elder Bro and I could run. We had been living in a small apartment in a questionable neighborhood, so Dear Mama and Good Ol’ Pops were more than happy to uproot us chid’rens to transport us to this sleepy little community.
What my parents did not know, however, was that the house was not altogether vacant the day we moved in. <cue the creepy organ music>
I cannot remember ever not knowing my childhood home was haunted. I remember routinely hearing the distinct sound of footsteps going across my parents’ room overhead while the whole family – including the dog – would sit in the living room and exchange startled looks. There were times I would see shadow figures dart across the wall, gone before I could get anyone’s attention. One time I even saw a mist figure materialize and walk across my parents’ bedroom. When alone in my room, I would sometimes hear someone whisper my name in my ear, and I frequently felt like I was being watched.
For most of my life I have had a distinct picture in my head of an older man with thinning grey hair and dark-rimmed glasses. He wore jogging attire, complete with terrycloth headband and wristbands. (It was the late 70s, if that matters.) He looked like a nice man, very grandfatherly. By the age of 5, I was convinced that Mr. Whositsface had died of a sudden heart attack in my bedroom shortly after going for a run. I do not know where I got that particular idea, so I have decided to go on the assumption that he somehow communicated the information to me. And even though he looked like a nice man in my mind’s eye, I did not like him hangin’ around my room. I slept with my bedroom light on, my door wide open, and the hall light on until I was in middle school. Cowering under my covers was normal nighttime behavior for me. Leaving my bed at night to walk three steps down the hall to the bathroom was an exercise in courage, right up through the day I left for college.     
Speaking of college, picture it: Boston, 1991. I was a fresh-faced new arrival at Berklee College of Music, ready to show the music industry how it was done, son! (Not sure whether to laugh or cry at my youthful naivete. Le Sigh.) My dorm assignment was in a building that had once been a hotel. The old building had been badly damaged in a fire decades before my arrival. The creep-out factor was higher than many of the students, so naturally the ghost stories started on move-in day. I ignored them. Happy to have left Mr. Whositsface behind, I didn’t have time for spooky stuff in my new life. I stubbornly decided that the people who told of strange happenings in their rooms were just making stuff up so they’d have a cool story to tell.
That is, until the day the spirits decided to give me a cool story to tell. <where’s that organ music?>
I was alone in my room one day practicing my keyboard (Rule violation! No instruments allowed in the rooms! I know. I was such a rebel.) To be more accurate, I was alone in my room’s walk-in closet (must have been a nice hotel). I started to feel like I was being watched. As the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, I told myself I was imagining things and kept practicing. Then the wire hangers on the rod behind me started to rattle. Again, I brushed it off. Could have been caused by the vibration of someone walking by in the hallway, right?
Ignoring my attempts to ignore it, the faint rattling gave way to a scraping noise, like a hanger slowly and purposefully sliding back and forth on the rod. I screwed up just enough courage to turn around and look – and the sound stopped. But the hangers were still swinging like someone had just touched them. Whatever wanted my attention got it, but it did not try to engage me any further. Which is good, because I didn’t want to be known as the girl who ran up and down the hallway that one time, waiving her arms in the air and screaming something about, “There’s a ghost in my closet and I done peed myself!!” I was socially awkward enough as it was, I didn’t want people to know think I was batshit crazy.  
"Yeah, man. I was there, man.
That girl was like, nuts, man!"
My dorm ghost would make its presence known every so often. It was a benign presence, albeit a mischievous one. Sometimes you would just feel like you were being watched. Other times you'd feel a little whoosh of air behind or beside you, like someone had just walked by. Still other times, items would go missing in the room. You’d tear the room apart looking for your keys, only to find them sitting in plain sight exactly were you’d started your hunt five minutes before. One of my roommates named our unseen domestic partner Herbie, because it’s weird not to have a name for the invisible force that messes with you just for funzies. We coexisted with Herbie and hoped he/she/it wouldn’t kill us in our sleep.

Fast-forward a little more to the year 1997. I was a fresh-faced young bride getting settled in my new husband’s old townhouse. He’d been living there about two years by the time we got married, so I’d already had plenty of time to get acquainted with the spirits that lingered there. They stayed silent most of the time and were easy to tolerate. Every so often they would knock on a wall or tap you on the shoulder. But the instances were few and far between, and just barely perceptible. What bothered me the most about the spirits in the townhouse was not being able to shake the idea that they were in that house because their lives had abruptly and violently ended there.
Not long after Miracle Man bought the house, he learned that it had previously been the neighborhood crack house/brothel. (One-stop shopping is convenient no matter what you’re in the market for!) We heard rumors of a suicide and a possible murder. I never investigated the claims, but would not be surprised to find some kernels of truth in the rumors. I was sad for the spirits trapped in that house. They weren’t evil or harmful, they were just plain lost. All I could do was pray for their peace and hope that they would someday move into the light.
As I have matured over the years, instead of leaving childhood fantasies of ghosts and goblins behind I have only become more steadfast in my certainty that ghosts are never too far away. But the paranormal doesn’t scare me like it used to. I have only had experiences with benign presences who have not meant me harm. At times I have even had experiences with loving presences who just stopped by to check on me. I’m not into seances or Ouija boards or anything like that; when you open the door between the physical and spiritual worlds you can’t control what comes through. I’ve seen enough horror movies and watched enough episodes of Ghost Adventures to know that some seriously bad shit can go down when you’re not careful.
When my kids ask me if ghosts exist, I neither confirm nor deny their suspicions. I don't want to outright lie to them and say “no.” Nor do I want to open up a frank discussion on the paranormal with my young children; then they'd never go to sleep at night.  My answer is always the same: "What do you think?" They both say there's no such thing a ghosts. I'll go with that for now. I see no reason to be all like, “Why yes, my darlings. There are ghosts, and some are evil AND WILL EAT YOUR FACE OFF IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!!!! Here, watch this instead of iCarly tonight. You want to snuggle with your clown doll?”
Nighty-night, Children!
And on that note, I will bid you, gentle reader, a good night. If you hear anything go bump in the night, don't freak out. Just tell Mr. Whositsface I said Hi, pull the covers over your head, and continue on with your sweet, sweet dreams. <and organ music crescendos... then fades to silence> Mwa-ha-haaaa