Thursday, June 28, 2012

Weighty Issues

The first time she criticized my weight, I was 104 pounds. It seems weird that I would remember the exact number, but it’s not something you forget – the first time the one person who is supposed to see you only in the best light looks at you with disdain. It was the beginning of my long struggle with my weight. Not physically – I stayed thin for many more years – more than ten. It wasn’t until after I met my husband and stopped working two jobs and going to school and started cooking gourmet meals and eating at nice restaurants that the extra pounds found their new home on me. But mentally – emotionally, my issues surrounding weight and food started right there, in my living room, when my mom was disgusted that I was 104 pounds, but my friend Kelli was only 103.

Suddenly, she was aware of every inch of me, every pound, and every morsel of food that crossed my lips. She turned me into a closet eater - figuratively, as I snuck around with my friends to the local pizza shop, or diligently searched the car for McDonald’s sesame seeds before returning it, and literally, as I hid food in my closet, to be eaten away from her judging eyes.

In those days, I never really believed her accusations that I was fat, but I knew she believed them, and that was enough. I avoided getting undressed in front of her, I sat on the couch or in the car with a pillow or my purse in my lap to hide what I knew she perceived as my bulging thighs.

I became a liar. I lied about what I ate, answering salad to every (inevitable) inquiry. I ate salad for lunch, salad for dinner, always salad. Afterwards, I spent years hating salad – not really hating salad, but the idea of salad – no matter how much I really liked it, I refused to have it as a meal. hated myself for lying (I hate liars and I am terrible at it), but self-preservation was key. There were too many Christmases with a huge pile of new clothes bought a size too small because she “though I was on a diet.” There were too many screaming matches as I was trying to leave the house for school in the morning, because I was “too fat to wear that” (usually the clothes she herself bought me and said looked good). There were too many threats that we "wouldn't go on vacation if I didn't lose five pounds by Friday." There were too many humiliating meetings with the majorette captains or sponsors, begging them to bend the rules and allow me to march in that night’s game or parade, despite the fact that I didn’t wear the required sweatsuit (size extra small) – after all, it was white and everyone knows white makes you look fat – she couldn’t allow me to leave the house looking that way. So I lied.

Even as I got older and started obviously gaining weight, I lied. I was an adult, living away from home, and still she controlled me. I reported all the “salads” I ate. I cut the tags out of my clothes before I went home to visit, because “they were itchy,” (but I assured her, they were a size eight. Or ten. Or twelve. Whatever size was one or two smaller than the tags in the garbage truly said).

Over the years, I lost and gained what feels like a million pounds. The first time I joined weight watchers, I easily (I was in my 20s) got down to a size four. I looked great. I felt great. Until I didn’t. I was proud of myself and I liked the way I looked. But then I noticed how much better my relationship with her got and it made me mad. Instead of appreciating the positive change, I felt ripped apart. It was more clear than ever that her love was conditional. It would have been easier to accept that she just didn’t like me. But it turned out that she didn’t like fat me. After years of calling me fat, I became fat, and suddenly skinny me was OK to love. And it pissed me off, because the “me” in fat me and skinny me was the same. I was still me – still a kind, loving, companionate, sensitive person – only in a different package.

It’s not as if I literally said “screw it, if she can’t love me fat, then I don’t want her to love me at all,” (after all – I liked being skinny and I wasn’t kidding anyone – I wanted her to love me), but that’s where I ended up. A little part of me kept testing the hypothesis, always hoping that it would change – that I would feel worthy even though I wasn’t skinny. But again and again, that hypothesis failed. For the next 17 years, I lost weight and then gained it back, each time gaining a little more than the last, until I almost couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror. Until I started avoiding mirrors completely. As they left me feeling sad and sick. Look through my photos from the past 6 or 7 years and you’ll be hard pressed to find many of me. What a horrible way to live – what a terrible legacy to leave my kids. Memories of a mom who hated herself and no photos to remember the person they loved and who loved them the most.

And that right there – not my own feelings, definitely not her opinion, but the love I have for my children is what has motivated me to try again. To succeed. Never again will I let myself go down that path. Never again will I look in the mirror and cringe. Never again will I refuse a photo of me with my children. I won’t let diabetes or heart disease or hypertension ruin my children’s lives. I am making a change in my life and in theirs. I am proud of myself and they are proud of me. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve come a long way already and I plan to succeed.  I look in the mirror and there I am – the me I remember – the me who disappeared under the weighty issues – and I like what I see.

This is what losing 18.2 pounds does to your face:

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Putting All That Drama to Good Use

CLO Academy Annie Camp was a HUGE success

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Irresponsible Reporting and Blaming the Victim

There was a news story this week about a male teacher who was arrested for having sex with a 15 year old female student. He was a teacher from another school hired to help produce the spring musical. This happened in my school district. It happens everywhere and it’s just as upsetting, but when it’s right in your own back yard, it seems to hit a little harder. Maybe it’s because you know the victim. I mean – even if you don’t actually know who the victim is, it’s a small town, and a small school, and you have son the same age, so whoever she is – you know her.

Honestly, I don’t think I would want to know who she is. If there’s anything that this girl deserves, it’s privacy. But I think we all know that privacy is probably the last thing she will get. It’s a small town. People gossip and this is good, juicy, scandalous gossip for those who thrive on this type of thing. I knew as soon as I heard the news story that I would end up pissed off at more than just the sick asshole that did this. And sure enough, I was right.

First, I saw the very brief story in the paper. But soon afterward, I saw a version on wpxi’s website which gave more information. WAY more information. In fact, they gave enough information to identify the victim. I won’t share that information here, but suffice it to say, people from the area knew who she was immediately after reading the article, and even those not from the area wouldn’t need more than a few minutes and some wifi to figure it out. WPXI has never been my favorite of the local news (they’re fond of the shock value non-stories, like “what’s lurking in your lunchmeat” or “Look what germs we found in your bathroom”), but this is downright irresponsible. Some states can and will restrict the media from releasing information on sexual assault victims – particularly minors. But in Pennsylvania, the only official policy is to “urge the news media to use restraint” in revealing the identity or address of child victims.

This is a bullshit, cop-out policy. This is a big part of why so many sexual assaults go unreported. People – especially those who have gone through a horrible experience like sexual assault – don’t want to be put in the spotlight. But despite the lack of a law restricting them from doing so, WPXI should be more responsible, more compassionate than to give out any identifying information.  The thing is – they got it wrong. The person identified by their information was not the actual victim. But it doesn’t let them off the hook, because now there is ANOTHER family that had been caused trauma by their irresponsibility. Several people tweeted them directly and more sent emails (I did both) asking about their policies, but of course, they’ve not replied. They’re probably too busy checking out local board of health restaurant ratings and getting lab results on our kitchen sponges.

Then, of course, the finger-pointing starts. I have seen grown women on facebook talking about how the girl is equally to blame, because she is old enough to know better (apparently this was a consensual thing). Fuck that noise. Let me give you a list of reasons why these people can go fuck themselves:

1.       Legally, whether she consented or not, she is unable to consent. She is younger than the age of consent. So even if she begged for it – she did not consent.

2.      When one person is in a position of power – especially one that allows them to have a reward of some sort to offer (in this case, roles in a performance) – the entire concept of consent goes out the window. Even if he didn’t say, “Sleep with me and I’ll reward you,” it is always implied. This is why even in colleges, relationships between teachers and (of age) students are not allowed. Even without the explicit statement of coercion, she may have felt coerced.

3.       It may have been (technically, not legally) “consensual,” but have you ever met a 15 year old girl? Fifteen year old girls may half-ass their homework or half-ass cleaning their room, but the one thing that 15 year old girls do NOT half-ass is love. I have been a 15 year old girl and I speak the truth. At that age, they are in the absolute height of love fever. They want more than anything to be loved. They want to be seen, not as a child, but as an adult. They will do anything to live out their dreams of romance and fairy tale happily ever after. Have you ever known a 15 year old girl who says she “likes” her boyfriend? Or “likes” whatever pop star is on top at the moment? Or “likes” her best friend? No – teenage girls LOVE. They LOVE their boyfriends and LOVE their friends and LOVE One Direction and LOVE their new lip gloss and OMG LOVE rompers and flip flops and puppies and the beach and on and on and on. Love is what is important to a teenage girl. So maybe she thought she loved him. Maybe she believed he loved her. When it comes to love, a fifteen year old is like a toddler. You don’t leave a plate of cookies in front of your unattended 3 year old and tell them not to eat them. Just the same, you can’t put a plateful of love – especially grown-up love – in front of a 15 year old and expect her to walk away.

4.     Finally, the most important one. Regardless of anything else – He is a teacher (and an adult). She is a student (and a child). PERIOD. I don’t care if she stripped naked in front of him and begged him to have sex with her – it is HIS responsibility as a teacher, as an adult, as a fucking human being to not act on it.

So to the gossipers, and the finger pointers, and the dumbass reporters: Think about what you are saying and doing – it could happen to your daughter or sister or best friend. How would you feel if the tables were turned?

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