The Playground Pecking Order

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I've had a recent experience which has really shaken me up and brought back a lot of drama and stuff that I thought I had vanquished in adolescence.  Yeah right.  We all like to believe that we've exorcised our demons until they come screaming out at us and bite off our heads.  And for an extra special grownup bonus, I've been allowed to see this drama from both sides.

Let me explain.  I am involved with various groups and companies in my life.  My experience with one of these left me feeling bitter, resentful, deeply hurt and very, very angry.  I'm not talking about little feelings here.  I'm talking about deep, depressing, stay up all night and can't sleep kind of hurt.  I'm talking about the kind of hurt that makes me lash out at those closest to me.  Which led me to ask myself, "What is going on here?  Why is this hurt this big?  Why do these people and this situation matter SO much to me?"

Eventually, in the middle of the night, it came to me.  I was back in the cafeteria being told I couldn't sit at the lunch table with the cool kids.  I was back on the playground being excluded from the fun because I wasn't one of the "in crowd".  And as a 43-year-old woman, I was pissed off.

I carefully evaluated the situation to see if I was making it up.  And I realized that no, I wasn't.  Rules applied differently depending on whether or not you were one of the cool kids.  If you were one of the inner circle, you were trusted and complimented and if your feelings were hurt, the cool kids rallied around you.  If you weren't one of the cool kids, you were dangerously "other".  Sure, you could be used--everybody needs minions--but not trusted.  What's more, the leadership of the group at large were no longer the same as the leadership of the clique.  The "in-group" began reflexively trying to protect it's supremacy against the outside leadership and the conflict began to tear the group apart.

I had my first "aha" moment.  I was amazed that all these years later, I could get so freaked out because I was picked last for dodge ball.  But you know what?  There was more to it than that.  I realized that in my desire for acceptance from this group, I was willing to work incredibly hard.  I gave and gave of myself in the hope that they would accept me and decide I could join the cool kids.  But here's the thing.  It didn't work when I was a kid, and it didn't work now.  And being excluded hurt all the more, because I had tried so hard.

At nearly the same time, there was a ripple in the size acceptance movement.  Many of you know about the amazing and awesome I Stand campaign created by Marilyn Wann.  Although the facebook program was totally open and anyone could join, some people objected to the campaign saying it wasn't inclusive enough of groups that are often underrepresented in the size acceptance movement.  My first reaction was, "Don't they know how awesome this thing was?  Why are they fighting something that makes things better for people of size?"

And then, last night, I had my second major "aha" moment.  I had been following a thread about this issue on facebook and a commenter said it brilliantly.  "In a movement where many of us have found acceptance for the first time, it is troubling that some of us still haven't found it."  And that's when I realized just how easy it is to slip into the role of one of the "cool kids" myself.  My first instinct when being called on privilege was to deny that it referred to me.  And I might have stayed in that wonderful little cocoon of denial had I not just recently been the one on the edge of the playground with nobody to play with me.  Granted I only got a very small taste of what those disenfranchised by the size acceptance movement were experiencing, but I can tell you, it didn't taste good.

So here's what I'm learning here:

1.  It's not fun to be in the "out" crowd.  No matter how old you are, it hurts when you don't feel included.
2.  Working harder is not likely to make those in the "in crowd" accept you more.
3.  Those in the inner circle may be blissfully unaware that there is an inner circle and they are in it.  They aren't doing it on purpose.  They are just quietly enjoying their privilege.
4.  I need to learn to recognize when I am feeling left out and that it hurts.  Then I need go find somewhere to belong or start my own darn group.
5.  Recognize that I have felt left out in the past, it can be very tempting to create my own special cliques.  It feels good to be the top dog for a change, but I we really want to soothe my hurt feelings by hurting someone else?

My dear chicklettes, this is a VERY long post.  But I've done a lot of learnin' that I mean to share.  So I'm headed out to the playground to look around the edges to find somebody to play with.  Hope you do too.

The Fat Chick

Independence Hall--A Declaration of Body Independence

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Fat Chick in front of Independence Hall

So on my recent trip to Philadelphia, I saw Independence Hall.  Besides being a gorgeous building, this was a site where some pretty amazingly radical things happened.  For one, the Constitution was created here.  For another, the Declaration of Independence was both written and signed here.  This along with an excellent blog post by ASDAH Secretary, Fall Ferguson, JD, MA.

All of this together got me thinking about the notion of body independence and how our current national obsession with the size and situation of bodies is so very antithetical to the ideas the founding fathers scribbled down in this building.  And being the type of person who will follow an idea to its furthest reaches, beyond all reason, and with a preemptive request for forgiveness from our founding fathers, I've decided to lay out a draft of a

Declaration of Body Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all bodies are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

My body is my own to care for in whatever way I wish.   No one has the right to tell me what to eat or how to move.  If I want a cookie, I shall have one.  If I want broccoli, I shall have it.  I shall boogie down with my bad self, or not as I choose.

I have the right to compassionate, competent and equitable health care.  This includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual care.  Whenever any Form of Medicine becomes destructive of these ends, it is my right to alter or abolish it and institute a new form of medical care--seeking a form that will seem most likely to effect my Safety and Happiness.

I have the right to look the way I look.  I may wear tiny prints or vertical stripes.  I may expose my fleshy arms as I embrace my freedom.  Fashion shall dictate no law that keeps me from dressing and expressing myself as I darn well please.

I am endowed with the unalienable Right to walk down the street unmolested by individuals (well-meaning or not) wishing to ply me with "cures" purported to change the size of my body to meet their ideal.

I am allowed to create my own definition of health and seek it (or not) as I see fit.

When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce me under the absolute Despotism of size oppression, it is my right, it is my duty, to throw off such Forces, and to provide new Guards for my future happiness.

So, my little chicklettes, cast off the chains of oppression!  Launch a body revolution!  Viva la resistance!

The Fat Chick 

Getting Ready for Swimsuit Season

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

 Now that we're through the resolution craze of New Years and the thwarted crazy expectations of Valentine's Day (alas no Lexus with a giant red bow on top for ME) we're headed towards the insanity of the media telling us to "get ready for swimsuit season".  Seriously.  They're talking to us months in advance because "preparing for swimsuit season" is mediaspeak for getting a body that meets societal expectations about how it should look in a swimsuit.  Meaning tall, blonde, white, tanned and thin, thin, thin. 

According to many in the media landscape, getting ready for swimsuit season needs to start months in advance, while it's still snowing  in many parts of the country.  This is because getting ready for swimsuit season requires a lot of preparation.  Like THIS GUY who suggests putting on your suit from last year and standing in front of a full-length mirror and also stepping on a scale.  His regimen includes joining a gym, lifting barbells in front of the TV and walking around in skimpy gym wear so you aren't accidentally, blissfully unaware of just how awful you look.

Here's the thing, in my book you can get ready for swimsuit season in about 2 minutes.  Just follow these simple steps:
1.  Put on a swimsuit.

Well, I guess it's just one step.  So for all you procrastinator chicklettes out there, worry not.  In my book, you've got quite a while before you need to worry about "getting ready for swimsuit season."

The Fat Chick

Heavenly Bodies: The Joy of Being a Rock Star!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

This past weekend, I did my new "Divaluscious" workout (honoring the academy awards) at the Operation Fitness Expo at the Century City Mall near Beverly Hills, CA.  I was so very lucky and honored to have some very, very special women with me from NAAFA-LA including Coral, Julianne, Anita and Terry.  We all donned our feather boas, big blingy sparkly rings and strutted on to the stage.  We boogied down to some great size-positive tunes and rocked the crowd of several hundred people that were hanging about.  Perhaps the best part is for minutes after we finished, brightly colored feathers continued to swirl about in the breeze like a super-awesome technicolor snow.  Yup, we were so powerful we changed the WEATHER.  That's just the way we roll.  The event producer called the next day to say how much he loved watching us.  "You guys were ROCK STARS!" he exclaimed.

I have to admit, being referred to as a "Rock Star" feels pretty darn good.  I mean compared to all of the other things I've been called in the past few weeks, rock star is one that I'll take.  But it struck me what an amazing contrast this posed to the recently released (and subsequently unreleased, soon to be re-released) Habit Heroes exhibit at Disney's Epcot Center in Florida.  This exhibit was designed to help kids learn healthy habits by highlighting healthy heroes like "Will Power" and "Callie Stenics".  Unfortunately they also highlight some bad guys like, "Sweet Tooth" and "Lead Bottom" and "The Snacker" (pictures below) who look an awful lot like terrible caricatures of fat people in our country.  Amidst the epic poo storm of controversy over the potential for this exhibit to shame and harm children of all sizes, Disney has closed the exhibit and the accompanying website for "retooling".  (Which is Disney speak for rethinking the exhibit while the studio marketing folks retool their resumes).

Which leads us all back to the rock star thing.  Why can't we make healthy role models for kids who don't look like SI Swimsuit Models?  Why can't the health role models for kids be as diverse as, you know, the kids?  How can we help ALL kids feel like rock stars?  I humbly submit that there are some answers in the picture below:

This picture shows the NAAFA-LA girls strutting their stuff in all their boaed and bejeweled glory right along with some thin people.  Up front and center, you've got a little kid dancing along.  And what message is this kid learning?  That fat people are sad and should stay home and hide until they get skinny?  That fat people never exercise?  That fat people and thin people are different species from one another?  Nope!  She's learning that people of all sizes have the right and the ability to get out and shake their stuff!

This is why we women of ALL sizes need to let our inner rock stars shine through.  Not just because it feels awesome.  (And it CAN feel awesome!)  But because it gives kids of all sizes some REAL healthy heroes to admire and emulate.

So my dear chicklettes, I implore you.  Get yourself some bling, some righteous tunes, and go shake it like the rock star you are!

The Fat Chick