Category Archives: Body Image

MAN EXPLAINS SWIMMING POOL TO ME AND I EXPLAIN THINGS BACK

We’ve had this exact same conversation before.
He stops me at the end of a lap, interrupts
my rhythm, smiles, explains what the black lines are for
on the bottom of the pool. “That’s the guide for laps,”
he says. The first time he told me this
I started to explain my side of things
but he repeated himself, once again pointing
at the bottom of the pool. I demurred to his preference.
But not today. Today I said, “Yes,
I know that, but when they have the lanes set up
so wide like this, there’s room for three across
and I prefer the middle so I don’t drift and bump
and scrape my hands on the lane markers.” I smiled.
He smiled. And said again what the black lines are for
and that since there were only two of us, I could
move over. “Yes, I could,” I said, “but we are
cooperating fine so far. We haven’t bumped yet.”
He literally harrumphed, “Pretty close,” he said.
“Well,” I said, “I only have a lap
or two to go.” And pushed off with a splash.
Never mind that usually there are three
in those wide lanes. And never mind the lane
to our left had one swimmer on one side. So he
could have gone away and left me alone.
We were following different sets of unwritten rules.
He couldn’t know that one of mine is don’t
even think of messing with my time in the pool.
Don’t throw me off. Don’t slow me down. Just don’t.

_____

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My happy place. For the noon swim time, they divide this into three wide lanes instead of six single lanes.

 ______
And then I began another poem about swimming–will work on this more at some point….

In the pool I’m graceful, strong, and sleek, and fast,
at least compared to how I am on land.
I’m pushing all my thoughts out of my head.
In the pool, I’m more a body than a mind.

______
It occurs to me what my husband always says when I talk about manspreading, that I’m as guilty of it as anyone. He’s pretty right–that I am pretty confident about claiming my space.

Also, this guy was being relatively polite in his tone, but it occurs to me he didn’t actually say anything like, “Would you mind moving over?” He really didn’t say he wanted me to move over until I said, “Yes, I know that’s what the lines are for. I like being in the middle.”

Do you suppose he’s written a blog about me????????

But I don’t need a magical t-shirt

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I was at a fun concert the other night & one of the musicians was hawking t-shirts and said, “they’ll make you look 15 years younger and 15 pounds thinner.” I thought and then said outloud, “But I don’t care about either of those things.” In that moment it was 100% true.

What an interesting journey I’m on. The Health at Every Size book has certainly helped.

Time to Get Weird

Having spent a fair bit of my life trying to fit
in spaces not designed for me, I’m now,
at 52,proclaiming fuck that shit—
I’ll squeeze in if I want or I will go
all rogue and say no thank you when the nurse
says “can we get your weight?” I swear I felt
like fucking Che Guevara. Own my mess
is one of my mottos. What I haven’t dealt
with yet I’ll either tackle or accept.
And if my tackling’s super slow, that’s also fine.
I now proclaim my life a modest success
chock-full of laughs. I’d rather be funny than right.
Ars longa, vita brevis, tempis fugit.
It’s time to write it all down before I forget.

_____
Happy Birthday to me!

We’ll see how well I hold to this resolution, but I am trying to accept my slow tackling. Acceptance–that’s the word from now until the end of the year. I picked a word for the year in January, momentum. Still a good word. Still aiming for that. But acceptance now, too.

Part of the fun of birthdays in this social-media-age is the flood of messages on Facebook. I’m trying (not always possible, thanks Facebook) to say thanks to all of them, and take a moment as I do to really be thankful for that person’s presence in my life. Some of them are very much from my past, so I try to think about that time for a moment.

This poem has Latin, which I won’t apologize for–people who don’t know it can Google, right?

And profanity–also won’t apologize for that, either.

It’s kind of a listing of mottos–the Latin ones, own my mess, my life a modest success, I’d rather be funny that right. It’s a middle-age indulgence, I think, the choosing and listing of mottos.

I thought of “I’d rather be funny than right” while I was driving and almost had to pull over because it made me laugh pretty hard. It’s just true.

My Mom often finds pink and yellow birthday paper for me because although neither one is my favorite color, the two of them together are my favorite color combination.
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Allure

Before the play I watched her sit, posed, on a rock,
one knee bent up, near her chin. She was covered just so
modestly with what can only be called a frock,
one bright red shoe dangling from a pedicured toe.
Let me say more about her fabulous dress
which I got to observe going down the hill after
the play. Sheer and sleeveless, white, a mess
of summer flowers painted on the skirt.
Everything looked expensive and just exactly right.
I haven’t mentioned yet how old she was.
Seventy-something I’m guessing, which is why
it wasn’t a surprise to see her favoring her knees
as we made our way to the parking lot and why
I can’t get the way I saw her first out of my mind.

______

 

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These are my red shoes. Not hers. Still.

 

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I saw her before and after seeing The Unexpected Man at the Touchstone @ American Players Theatre (which is wonderful and which you should go see and which I will write about more if I can think of anything to say other than “perfect”) so of course I couldn’t possibly say anything to this woman about any of this.

The End of the World Will Be So Pretty

“I can feel St. Elmo’s fire burning in me”

some 80s band

Fallout will make the sunsets stunning
someone told me and I believe it,
just like pollution from St. Louis once
turned the sky above the American Bottoms pink
to contrast nicely with the deep dark green
of the Cahokia Mounds.

Those mound-dwellers had it all
but they don’t have what we have,
so much potential as wasted as
the best chocolate-chip cookie in the world
chewed four times and spit out
by someone with different body issues
than I have, having never wasted a cookie,
never not once in my whole life,
unless you count as waste that whole
eating more calories than you burn thing,
in which case I waste food all the time,
but I don’t count that way and I wish you wouldn’t.
 
If only self-loathing could contour
my shape! If only rumination paid off
in dollars and not cortisol!
If only the strange map of cracking
in the front left panel of my Ford
could show me the way to solvency.

Are all the mustards invasive?
The splash of yellow I see in fields now,
and Dame’s Rockets everywhere—
it’s hard to hate them
with their bright mauvey pink bouncing
in the breeze that is somehow not
strong enough to discourage mosquitoes.

Reconciliation comes before repair,
at least I think it does, and so I try
to love what’s here and who I am
and the massive disasters around me
and trust I will know what to fix when
it’s time to fix and until such time
as fixing is all I care about, I will just let
the fact that I am a large woman make me feel the same way
a bad song from the 80s can make me
happy, just happy, just really happy.

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Remarkable

 

Something remarkable happened today—
I looked in the mirror and I liked how I looked.
(I was wearing a swimming suit, by the way.)

There’s something you should know—how very much I weigh,
and the fact that my back is fused and strange and crooked.
Something remarkable happened today

in the locker room mirror. I thought, “Hey–
nice hip.” (The right one sticks out and I had it stuck.)
I was wearing my bright blue one-piece, by the way,

the one that inspired a very fit man last month to say
“New suit, looks good.” I mostly just said thanks,
which means another remarkable thing happened that day.

I didn’t make excuses. I didn’t say
I’m sorry I’m not leaner. I didn’t choke
for wearing a swimming suit. By the way,

I thought my entire body looked okay.
For me to think that—it’s like lightning struck.
Something remarkable happened today.
I was wearing a swimming suit, by the way.

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Something I (Seriously) Don’t Have Any More Time For

Worrying about whether or not people are making fun of me behind my back and I just don’t hear them.

“Pictures of People Who Mock Me” is provocative. It’s a much-read article from Salon.com, a daring idea for a series of photos, and it stuck in my imagination, so I would say it met at least some of the author’s/photographer’s goals. It bothered me, though, in two ways I’m not sure she intended.

My first GENIUS and BRILLIANT and INCREDIBLY WISE response was to think, “OH MY GOD. People probably make fun of me for being fat and I just don’t notice because I am a.)oblivious and b.)not just fat but also hard of hearing.”

That surely wasn’t the intent. That first response didn’t last very long. I just don’t have time to wonder, at least not for very long, if anyone’s response to me has anything to do with how much I weigh.

It occurs to me, of course. Today in the pool, I got there early enough to snag the lane I wanted. Another woman got there just a little later. Typically, people waiting on a lane sit on a bench by the pool. She sat on the side, straddling a lane marker, kicking her legs gently. She wasn’t right next to me, but close by. It occurred to me she might be trying to get those of us in the pool to hurry it up. It occurred to me she might look at me and think she deserved the lane more than me because she was in better shape. It then occurred to me that maybe she just wanted to make sure she was first in line because she really, really wanted to get her laps in. Whatever she was doing probably had absolutely nothing to do with my size, my fitness level, with me at all.

But I swam one more lap than I had planned just to make sure I wasn’t ceding my place in the pool out of insecurity on my part. (And on the off chance she was trying to be intimidating.)

Second, I’m doing lots and lots of difficult, ongoing, hard work in my own head about shame. Did I mention it’s difficult? Everything Brene Brown ever wrote helps me. The people who did indeed mock Haley Morris-Cafeiro were wrong to do it. Mean to do it. If they saw themselves as shaming her in order to motivate her, they were mean and wrong and totally not up on the research that shows shame is not a good motivator for change (cf: everything Brene Brown ever wrote).

But since shame makes everything worse, not better, it made me uncomfortable to watch the photographer shame the shamers.

And then also, I had a whole train of thought about weight and body image and how we stake our place on the planet:

Engine of this train thought: it’s all about attitude. If you believe you’re beautiful and if you’re confident, you pull yourself past anyone who is making fun of you IF they bother to make fun of the Big-Ass Engine Who Could.

Coal car for the Big-Ass Engine Who Could: it’s all about energy. If you’re busy and you got places to go and things to do, people will have a hard time catching up to you to make faces behind your back. And you really don’t have time to spend on people who can’t be bothered to criticize you to your face. Probably don’t have time for people who CAN be bothered to make fun of you to your face.

Freight Car for the Big-Ass Engine Who Could: people who walk around mocking others have a bigger problem that whomever they are mocking. We all have issues. Baggage. Freight. Mocking others is one really ineffective way to deal with our own stuff.

Caboose: Beyonce.

Queen Latifah. Adele. I mean, seriously. It’s not about the pounds.

I know fat-shaming is real. I know it’s a problem. I also know someone who wants to shame has only one part of the equation. If I refuse to be shamed, all the fat-shaming in the world will fall flat. (Not that I’m resilient enough to resist all of it, in all the world. But don’t try to get me out the pool before I’m ready.)

I’m larger than I’d like to be. I’m working on it. I’m not sure reading/looking at “Pictures of People Who Mock Me” helped me, but it’s not her job to help me. It’s mine, and I’m doing it, and in regard to this article, I’ve done it.

And now I’m done.

Besides. Why would I spend any more moments at all on any of the above when I could be hanging out with our new kitten?

Vanessa Quivertail

Vanessa Quivertail