Back fat remix

(Because there was more to say about my sixteen year old body, apparently. Whatever, I ain’t questioning the muse.)

When I was sixteenish, I lost a significant amount of weight. I didn’t do it on purpose, and I didn’t notice until a classmate made a big to-do about telling me to turn to the side and then proclaiming “Ah! Where’s Arwyn? It’s like she disappeared!” (I did not thank him.) I weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 100lb less than I do now (I don’t know my current weight, and only vaguely knew it then). I’m supposed to pine for that weight, that body, because I was sixteen and svelte and sexy, or something.

Except I was also getting migraines multiple times per week.

Except I was still “too fat”, still mocked and attacked in the halls, still told by my entire culture I was ugly and lazy and unfit merely by existing.

Except I was so anemic I couldn’t walk a mile, much less run it, not because I was “out of shape” but because my muscles were suffocating, demanding oxygen I couldn’t give to them because my red blood cells were too small or nonexistent.

Except I lost that weight by accidentally not eating, by having nothing but three giant Mountain Dews at school (thanks defunding of public schools, for making overpriced undernourishing vending machines the only way for our district to buy textbooks), near passing out in Drama after classes, eating whatever I could find as soon as I got home, barely eating at dinner an hour later because I was still stuffed (my stomach too-small from nearly 24 hours with nothing but liquids), and doing it all again the next day.

And this is the body I’m supposed to be nostalgic for, am supposed to think was “better” than the fatter, flappier, floppier, fitter one I have now? This is the body people call “healthier” just because it had less mass?

I have more pains now, and less energy, it’s true. But that’s aging (and an old roller coaster injury and endless parenting) doing its work on me, and is to some extent inevitable. I also have more skills, and fewer mood swings. Less anemia, and a broader palate. Two children, and an amazing lifemate. Fewer hang-ups, and more orgasms. More strength, and less fear of asking for help. Less self-hatred, and more compassion for that small, hurting, hurtful voice inside that calls me ugly. I have hands that soothe and heal, legs that take me wherever I ask them to, arms that carry my children no matter how big they get, a brain that’s clever and mostly kind, and scars from skin that’s stretched to protect me when I felt I would burst from the crazy, when my meds fucked me up, when I made two babies, when I fed two children, when I learned to run, when I relearned to walk, when I lived and lived and lived.

My body was never “perfect”, never acceptable by my society’s standards. My breasts grew in pointing down, my skin scarred silver stripes just from becoming a teen, and I have always, always been called fat in one form or another. I learned so early I had a choice of how to feel, give in to labels of “freak” and attack myself, or say “fuck you” to the entire flawed and too often fatal system. The idea we have to love our bodies, no matter the pain or difficulties they come with, is as oppressive as the one that says we can’t because we are “imperfect” for whatever of ten thousand supposed reasons, but we can, we CAN, if we choose, if we want — and for me, for fat and finally healing me, it feels revolutionary.

And even better, it feels fabulous.

Flappy arms and back folds and I don’t mind

Why would I buy the lie I could look like I did at 16 when I’m 30? Like I do at 30 when I’m 50?

Bodies change. I have carried two babies, breastfed two children, gone crazy and come back, gone to hell and physical therapy, burned, birthed, loved, lived, changed how I ate and moved and carried myself through it all. I will never look the way I did at 16 (hot) again; I will no longer look the way I do now at 30 (hot) in ten years, twenty (probably still hot, but maybe I won’t care anymore).

There was nothing I did then that I could replicate now to have the body I did at 16; I was, simply, 16. I could do what I did then, stay up all night and sleep in and not eat until dinner and have sex five times in a day and flirt and flirt and fight and flirt and I still won’t look like me then, not even if, for a short time, I weigh like me then. Like a teenager. Like someone who doesn’t know better, hasn’t learned better, doesn’t care for herself better.

And that’s fine. It’s fine. It’s all fine, and it will be fine, and I have no obligation (though every permission) to love or even tolerate any part of me, but I find little point in believing the delusion I can be as I was, either.

Maybe you see that as fatalist, defeatist. I see it as radical acceptance, of who I am, how I am, when I am. I could waste my energy trying to be who I am not anymore, I could. Or — what a miraculous word — I could be who I am now, fully and freely, spend my energy figuring that out, fleshing out the possibilities of me-now.

I choose me.

Postpartum periods

I’m on vacation with my family, both the one I was born into and the one I birthed, and I am bleeding. Vulva Baby is ten months; with the Boychick I had fourteen, a difference that might not seem hugely significant until faced directly with that half-year difference. I have with me one menstrual sponge — “just in case”, proving either precognition or paranoia — and not so much as a preemie cloth diaper else. I am surviving on simple tasks and stolen Tylenol.

So regale me please, in these my days of need, with tales of YOUR first postpartum periods. How quickly did your menstrual cycle return? Were you expecting it or were you surprised — pleasantly or otherwise? Were you across the continent from your pads and place and pieces of comfort? Did it return and bring with it body dysphoria? Do you long for the perfection of uterine transplants so you can discover their joy (or not) for yourself?

Tell me your stories, that I can curl around them like a too-hot rice pack, soothing and slightly too much at once, and so be comforted.

Eating Local

Originally published at Feeding My Boychick

I live in Portland, land of organic vegan locavore ironic bacon hipsterism. Located in the (stolen and colonized) Willamette valley, one of the most fertile pieces of land on the continent (despite many greedy people having done their level best to destroy it), eating local here is downright easy. About the only things we can’t grow are tropical fruits, coffee, and hard wheat, and nevermind because we still import, roast, and mill those locally. It’s absurdly easy, if also absurdly expensive, to buy only foods grown, produced, slaughtered, or processed within 100 miles of here, either in a market or grocer or even dining out at a locally-owned restaurant. And this is great.

Except.

I also live in Portland, one of the whitest cities in the country with one of the worst track records of gentrification. And much of this push for “local” and “sustainable” is coming from relatively new, relatively wealthy, overwhelmingly white consumers and business owners, not from the communities of color who have eked out spaces for themselves here for decades. I see them, small business owners themselves, pushed out of business by white people who’d rather shop at a national name than someplace run by a person of a different color whose fluent English the monolinguists can’t understand, and now replaced by white people who spurn the corporate giants for “local” businesses that have been here for SO LONG — since the mid-aughts! — owned and frequented largely by other white people able to pay higher prices and higher rents and higher mortgages.

So here’s my choice: I can buy dinner from a locally-owned restaurant that’s been here for decades and uses conventional produce and imported noodles and factory farmed meats frequented by the people of color who have lived here for decades, or I can buy it from the three year old place that uses local and organic and fresh everything and is all the rage among the white people who have lived here for three years.

Or I can buy groceries from the locally-owned store that’s twice as expensive (but everything is homegrown!), or the budget Safeway that’s served the neighborhood for decades. I can support the brand-new co-op that sells organic produce, or the Asian market that sells unmarked, unknown-to-me veggies.

It’s not that I disagree with the small-business, locally-owned ethos nor the entirely logical reasons to support the same. But the fact remains that when my neighborhood (which I, middle class white woman with my young family, just moved into) started gentrifying, in classic Portland style, all the new mostly-white people said “we want local shops — let’s start some!” and didn’t ask their neighbors where to buy veggies, where they ate out, who owned and shopped at and was employed at the run-down supermarket. We didn’t move in to this imperfect neighborhood and ask “what’s being done to improve the place we now live, what’s important to our neighbors, and how can we help without taking over?” We moved in and assumed nothing of value was here and we needed to replace it all with trendy, “local” businesses and eateries (never diners!) and then we patted ourselves on the back for being so damn sustainable, so morally superior, doing something good while we bought our organic fair trade latte from the queer artist barista with all the body modifications.

But it’s culture. It’s all culture. We want to shop and eat and be seen at places that feel like ours, that reflect us, that tell others about who we consider ourselves to be and who we want to be. And that’s not wrong, not really. But it’s also what the people who lived here first, who we pushed out to the margins before we decide to take that over too, also want. And the conversation we need to have isn’t local-small-good versus corporate-giant-evil. It’s whose local? Whose good? Who was here first, whose voices have long been marginalized, whose foods are exoticized and whose normalized, who’s making the decisions about what’s valued and what the neighborhood needs?

Those are questions I need to consider as well, no less than “was this peach sprayed, is this asparagus local, is there MSG in this?” It’s not as easy a conversation, nuanced instead of ideologic, complicated instead of obvious. But it’s important. Because “community” isn’t a nebulous concept, it’s the family next door we never talk to, the people who walk up my street to get to the free clinic, the guy who runs the convenience store two blocks away. And the health and sustainability of food isn’t just how it affects and nourishes my family, but how it affects the people who grow it, the people who harvest it, the people who sell it, the people who cook and serve and clean up after it. Only considering part of that system isn’t sustainable; it’s selfish in the extreme.

(Note: I use “we” throughout not as writer-and reader, not to assume the “they” I speak of is not also you, but as writer-and-agent, as indication of my own guilt and reminder to myself of membership in the offending groups. I’m still searching for less alienating phrasing; please forgive any implications of exclusion.)

Dear RMB

Dear Raising My Boychick,

I’ve been cheating on you.

It’s not you, though, it’s me, really. I’m too tired, too time poor, too unable to write long pieces in short bursts in the five minutes at a time I have most days.

(OK, it’s a little bit you, too: you’re just too good. I’ve built you up over the years into something beautiful — if I may say so — something hard to live up to, and some days hard to live with.)

So I started playing around. Just a bit, at first, just for fun, very nearly on a dare, almost just to see what would happen. And, well, I didn’t mean it to, but things got a little serious.

Not a lot, though. One of the things I love about this, let’s say “side project”, is I don’t have to be too serious. There are a lot of quickies.

And, not that I don’t still love you, but this “side project” really gets me, and doesn’t mind that my interests are a bit different, what with the baby around. I keep wanting to talk about food, and you, well, you’ve never given me the feeling that’s something you’re into. Sure, I can bring it up every once in a while, and you’ll let me natter on, but, I get the feeling that you’re sitting there thinking “I hope she doesn’t expect me to be like one of those blogs.”

I don’t want to leave you, though! You’re still my first love, my one true blog, but I hardly have time to sit down with you these days, and, don’t hate me, but your phone interface is… a little clunky. I’d rather just sit and think by myself than bother, sorry to say.

I really think that if you’ll spend some time with the “side project”, you’ll see how much you have in common, really, and how you two can fit together in my life. We all care about gender and social justice, about bodies and parenting, about finding our way out of kyriarchy. You and I, we’re just about all that through the lens of raising the kids, of surviving as a queer fat crazy woman with children. So let’s keep doing that.

But I’ll also be spending time thinking and talking and caring about food and surviving in a rather more daily-need sort of way with Feeding My Boychick. She’s made me so happy in our brief time together.

I hope you’ll forgive me, and that we can grow stronger together through this. I’m sure when we get a chance to sit down and think it through, we can figure out how all three of us can live together in joy.

Your blogger,
Arwyn