Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Princess Paradigm

One of my young co-workers is getting married. I listen to her wedding plans and smile. Every woman wants that fairy tale wedding. Sadly, it rarely turns out to be the magical experience we all dreamed about as little girls.

My wedding was a disaster  from start to finish. If I had it to do all over again, I would have said my vows at city hall and used the money to add another week to our amazing, but all too brief European honeymoon. When I look back, it's those days I remember with fondness. Memories of the actual wedding evoke only faint nausea and a lingering sense of dread.

Even those that go off without a hitch are often preceded by months of stress and upheaval. Sometimes it ruins friendships and strains family ties nearly to the breaking point. And beyond. People go into debt for weddings and the stress of such financial wrangling can make what should be a meaningful and joyous life experience, just another budgeting nightmare.

It's such a shame, really.

When did things get so over the top?

My parents' wedding reception was held in the church basement with crepe paper streamers, accordion wedding bells, and silver balloons. I still have them in a plastic bin, along with the guest book, the cake topper and the many cards they received. The church ladies prepared a buffet of finger foods, petit fors and ubiquitous cocktail wieners.  That was the norm in 1965 and it was perfectly lovely. The wedding photos show a very happy and relaxed bride and a smug looking groom.

But now...there are themes and favors and bridal registers and place settings and designer gowns and "destination" weddings and gourmet meals and decor that would put a sultan to shame. It has become such a complicated and profligate undertaking that an entire profession has emerged out of the madness: Wedding Planner.

Why has this happened?

I blame the Princess Paradigm.

Somehow somewhere, the notion has arisen that being treated as a Princess; pampered, idolized with no purpose other than being pampered and idolized, her sole function allowing those beneath her to look upon her and wait upon her with slavish devotion and reverence; to pay homage to her very existence and carry out every whim...is the highest and most desirable plane to which a woman could possibly hope to elevate herself.

You've seen them in the grocery store. I know you have. Tiny little tiara adorned fledgling princesses. They march through the aisles surveying their kingdoms and their subjects; resplendent and regal. The conviction is easy to see - their rule is uncontroverted. It seems harmless enough, I know. Let her wear the tiara, the tutu, the high heels. What does it hurt?

I think it hurts a lot.

The Princess Paradigm is spawning a generation of pampered, entitled, artificial and superficial young women.

Now, there's nothing wrong with loving glamour. I myself was indoctrinated into the world of glamour and beauty at a very young age. I love glitz, I love bling, I love color and fashion and dressing up. I would wear a ball gown to the grocery store if I didn't fear being carted off in a straight jacket. BUT...my mother made sure that we understood it was all in good fun and that our real value lay elsewhere. We learned to value and guard our intelligence, our independence, our integrity our humor and our individuality. Yes, she put our hair in curlers, but she read to us as we sat under the dryer. Yes, she took us to beauty shows, but she took us to art shows as well. And when she could afford it, concerts, plays and productions. She enriched our minds while she painted our faces. It's a gift I never really appreciated until I was older, this insistence of hers on molding us into well rounded women.

There's this thing that my husband used to do when we were first married. He would ask me.."Who's pretty?" and I was supposed to answer, of course..."I am." It drove me nuts. To him it was just a harmless little romantic game. And honestly, it was. But I felt...diminished...by it. I felt foolish and thoroughly discomfited every time he did it. I finally worked up the nerve to tell him so and he was taken aback. He had seen this game played out time and time again in the culture in which he was raised. A culture that is rich and varied, but one that I don't think places much value on rearing the kind of women who grow up to be leaders and visionaries.

The Princess Paradigm. Women are ornamental; beautiful, graceful, but essentially, of little substance beyond their ability to inspire love, lust and devotion. Oh, and have babies.

GROSS.

You would think, with the progress the world has made and the slow, steady, often painful march of feminism across the landscape of our history, such a concept would be growing obsolete. But I don't think it is. I think media and technology has only made it worse.

Look at Kim Kardashian. She is essentially a modern day Princess. She does nothing to earn the celebrity she is afforded, except look beautiful, dress provocatively and cultivate an opulent and indulgent lifestyle, complete with famous, wealthy musician boyfriend. She is paid for appearances. JUST appearances. She doesn't speak, she doesn't carry out humanitarian functions, she doesn't even mingle with the masses. She is simply there to be revered; the Princess Paradigm in full mettle.

This has become a cultural phenomena and it is thoroughly beguiling the young women of our generation. Young women are saving for plastic instead of college these days. They're working at menial jobs to afford new boobs, butts and noses.

Can I say it again? GROSS.

My husband and I were discussing this just today. He asked me why it's so important for women to have that perfect fairy tale wedding. The answer is simple. Because a wedding is the perfect opportunity for an ordinary girl to indulge the Princess Paradigm, if only for a day. And sometimes it's the perfect opportunity for a girl who secretly believes such adulation is her due, to bask in it.

I think it's okay to want that one day; one day of perfect sweetness and happiness. One day to focus only on one another and celebrate all the hope and promise of building a life together. One day to look only forward, without the stress of right here and now. One day to love and be loved.

The rest of it is just superfluous garbage, though painstakingly pretty and artfully well coordinated garbage to be sure.

I used to think that I would one day get a do-over of my wedding debacle and it would be all that I dreamed of and more. But you know what? I don't need it. I don't need to be Princess. God, the pressure!

What are Princes taught? To defend and protect, to steward, to govern. To learn and to teach. To effect change. To promote unity. To be a leader and a visionary.

Once I had Princess aspirations. But now, I'd rather be a Prince.

And if I had daughters, I would teach them Princely things.









Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Perfect Is As Perfect Does.

Perfectionism. This seems like a made up thing, doesn't it? A thing just for the sake of having a thing, in an age when every quirk and oddity is a diagnosed condition. We do like our diagnoses. And I think the reason we harbor such fondness for them, is that a diagnosis implies a treatment or a cure. It lends validity and legitimacy to things that would otherwise be shameful.

Perfectionism...it's real alright. I know, because I've suffered from it all my life. My mother says the signs were there when I was just a small child. But she never understood how this would burgeon into such a consuming and pervasive force in my life. Once it became clear, she didn't know how to fix it. Nobody did.

But what, you might ask, could be wrong with wanting to be perfect?

Everything.

Because perfect is impossible.

People have a misconception of what being a perfectionist means. It's not OCD and it's not phobia. It's not about being bugged when pictures don't hang straight or floor tiles aren't properly aligned. Because seriously...who DOESN'T that bug?? It's not about checking and re-checking doors, windows, lights, appliances. I certainly do that, occasionally, because nobody wants to be robbed blind or have their house burned to the ground. But it's a not compulsion. It's not about cleanliness or germs. As the mother of boys, I have an amazingly high tolerance for filth and pestilence. It's not about matching, although to be fair, I do like matching. The synchronicity is appealing to my perfectionist nature, but not essential.

It's about never taking on a challenge because you fear the failure. It's about being far too rigid and unyielding when you do take on a challenge, because you fear that apathy that nearly kept you from even getting started. It's about never being able to enjoy the victories when they do come because you didn't achieve them the right way. It's about not being able to accept or even believe a compliment, because you feel that people don't understand how flawed you really are; if only they knew. It's about being afraid to express a thought or an idea or an opinion because you know, deep down, it's not as good as someone else's thought, idea, or opinion. It's about always knowing your best isn't good enough.

It took a very long time for me to understand what it was about myself that kept me from reaching the potential I was purported to have. Yes, I was that kid. My mother heard it constantly at conferences and evaluations. It was scrawled on my papers; the few I bothered to hand in. She knew it was a thing, and she knew it was astonishingly destructive, but she didn't know what to call it, how to quantify it, or what do to about it. She tried. So hard. But it was just no use.

And then I became a mother, and teachers started saying it to me. Because my own kid....((sigh)). If there is any legacy I would have declined to pass on given a choice, it would be that. Take my fat knees, my freckles, my flat feet, my nearsightedness...anything but that. Not the life long struggle to be perfect. It's so goddamned exhausting.

He's struggling now and he doesn't know why. I didn't either. I had no idea why I didn't just write that paper, complete that project, or for God's sake, raise my hand in class and answer a question. I was smart and capable and I had no idea. Now that I'm 45...I know better. I  know I'm smart, I know I'm capable. I have achieved things, hard things, and that gives me the impetus and the confidence to achieve more. Life has been my best teacher.

But so many years were lost; years I do not want stolen from my son. And yet, I have no idea how to stop the thief.

I tell him. I prostrate myself on the dais of parental martyrdom. Which means, I admit to not being perfect, if there is any chance of saving him. I catalogue my regrets, my failures, my shame. I suggest a lot of things; things I should have done and had and known. Therapy, medication, HELP in whatever guise it is offered. It doesn't matter. It's a force that can't be reasoned with. He knows, but he doesn't know and he's utterly powerless, as was I.

So I have to sit back and let life teach him as it did me. And hope he learns those hard lessons a lot faster than I did.

Those of you pushing your kids to be perfect?

Don't.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Backward Yet Forward

In September 2009, I posted on Facebook that "I have decided that I want to become a MILF and shall henceforth commit myself fully to that end." Or something to that effect.

I was being flip, but there was sincere sentiment behind my words. I was very unhappy with how I looked and felt. The following week I found out that some weird symptoms I had been experiencing were due to three small strokes and the resultant damage to my brain. I also learned that my blood pressure was 170/120. And then I realized it was time to put those flippant words into action. And I did. I lost 75 pounds. I became a Zumba instructor and later, a Weight Watchers leader. To say that the journey (hackneyed word, but it cannot be described as anything but) changed my life is a gargantuan understatement.

And I resolved never to go back. I would NOT be one of those people who finds themselves back at Weight Watchers five years later, shamefaced and chagrined. Would. Not.

Five years after I started, I have gained 17lbs. They won't come off. And more is creeping slowly back on, despite my best efforts. Something is wrong, but I don't know what, and I don't know how to fix it. Despite severing ties with WW in December of 2013, I have maintained my active, healthy lifestyle. A looser version of it to be sure, but nothing like the sloth and excess of my pre-Weight Watchers life. I might allow myself a Skinny Caramel latte from Starbuck's two or three times a week instead of just one. I might allow myself one teaspoon of real butter on my fat free air popped popcorn. I might allow myself that second glass of wine with my baked salmon and grilled veggies while out to dinner with friends. I might even split a decadent dessert with my husband now and then.

Before leaving Weight Watchers, I would never have considered doing any of those things. And it had a profound impact on my life, one that was not wholly positive as you might think.

For our 20th anniversary, husband planned a beautiful, romantic getaway to a local winery. There was a tour, wine tasting, champagne and chocolates waiting for me in the suite, an amazing breakfast buffet with fresh crepes, waffles, beignets and pancakes...

All I could think about was calories.

When we arrived on Friday evening, we sat down to a lovely dinner in a restaurant so fraught with ambiance I almost believed we were in real French bistro. Husband suggested ordering a cheese tray. I declined. He suggested the stuffed mushrooms. I declined. He grew frustrated but held his tongue until I began to agonize over the entree. Then he said, "Baby, do you just want to go home?" I got his meaning. He had a whole weekend planned out for us and if I was going to obsess over everything that went into my mouth, the enjoyment would be lost - for both of us.

I realized that I was letting my fear of gaining weight control me. I began to worry that I might be on my way to a full fledged eating disorder. So I quit Weight Watchers and I resolved that I would be healthy, but not obsessive. I would allow myself those indulgences and not let the guilt overwhelm me. And I think I've done a good job. I exercise every day. I eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. I avoid processed foods and hidden sugars (It's everywhere you know). I gave up soda; regular and diet. I try to get as many healthy fats into my diet as possible.

I should be maintaining quite easily. Even on the days that I enjoy a little treat, I burn more calories than I consume, no doubt. I have a retail job and I am on my feet most of the day. In addition, I power walk around 20 miles each week, or do other forms of cardio such as Kickboxing or Step Aerobics. I do strength training 3-4 times a week. When I am at home, I make a conscious effort to be moving. I do get my butt time in of course. But I try not to let it make up the bulk of my leisure time.

And yet, the pounds are creeping back on. Slowly but surely, 17 pounds has found it's way back and believe me when I say that on a short girl, it looks and feels easily double that. I don't like how I look, I don't like how I feel. It takes noticeably more effort to get through each workout. I am more tired. My knees hurt more. Worst of all, my skinny jeans are telling me that my backside has expanded.

But I'm a determined person and I can fix this if I just give it a good effort!! Right? If the old strategies don't work, try new. Try paleo, low carb, no carb, clean eating, virgin eating, raw, juiced and extruded. Surely something will ignite that process of loss once again! Right?

Wrong.

Nothing I do is working. Nothing I have learned is true anymore. My body, which once responded so well to the manipulation I was putting it through, is rebelling. It's as though it has decided to regain what it has lost, all my efforts be damned. It's amazingly disheartening, because nobody believes that there isn't SOME reason for your lack of results; for the slow, inexorable gains. They believe you must be secretly scarfing ice cream after everyone has gone to bed, or pilfering the french fries and pizza crusts off your kids' plates, or secreting away to the drive through for a bacon burger after Jazzercise class.

The only people who believe me are those who have been there. And they are legion. The weight loss forums, Facebook pages, support groups and message boards are rife with them. People as baffled and disheartened as I am, people equally determined not to be that person who lost it and then gained it all back. People just as disciplined and focused and committed as I am. People who, like me, are getting fat again.

There is a well known makeup guru on YouTube who has lost 125 lbs. She is fully committed to a healthy, active lifestyle. And yet, she too has experienced the puzzling reversal. She is gaining weight and can't get it off. Look at poor Oprah. Winona Judd. Kirsty Alley. Delta Burke. Marie Osmond. Jonah Hill. Seth Rogen. Look at all the Biggest Loser contestants who ended up just as big or bigger than they were to begin with. Even people who have undergone gastric bypass and are physically unable to overeat, gain weight back. Is every single one of those people just making excuses? Did they simply give up and get lazy, complacent, apathetic? No. They got frustrated and disheartened and confused when the effort they were putting in was all for nothing.

I think like me, if they knew what to fix, they would fix it. They certainly have the financial means to do anything necessary. And yet, they are still fat. So what is it? Is it some biological needle in a haystack? Something we just haven't learned about the way the body reacts to deprivation, famine, stress? Some genetic switch we haven't learned to flip? Some evolutionary failsafe we have yet to discover? Or is it our food; laden with chemicals, preservatives and derivatives that is somehow short circuiting our bodies' ability to regulate and respond in a logical way to the much touted "calories in calories out" formula?

I have my suspicions, but I don't really know. I don't think even the experts know. If they did, we would not be facing the pervasive and overwhelming obesity epidemic that we are today. And it's spreading to other countries in which obesity was practically unheard of until recently.

What I know is this: I will keep trying. I will exercise and I will eat healthy and I will try not to let the skinny in my jeans be the barometer of my well being or self-esteem. I will try to appreciate being healthy and strong for the sake of being healthy and strong.

Goddamn it's hard. But it's hard to be sick and unhealthy too.

I also know that clean wholesome food and physical activity are medicine. I can count on one hand the number of colds I've had in the last five years. My migraines, once debilitating, are much diminished, both in frequency and severity. My body is strong and fit, even if my butt is too big. I can rise out of my chair without scooting my ass to the edge and pushing up with my arms. I can carry in all the groceries without huffing and puffing. I can climb a flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath. I can arm wrestle my 15 year old son and while I can't win, I can actually make him work to beat me. Small things, yes, but a powerful reminder that I'd rather be strong and fat than weak and skinny.

So...healthy for healthy's sake. I guess that's the way it has to be. Now, I'm going to go pitch my scale in the garbage.

For real.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

No Pithy Title, Just An Age Old Debate

I am currently engaged in a debate with a Christian gentleman that arose over the current World Vision flap.

(Yes, I knew better, but I couldn't help myself this time.)

 In a nutshell, World Vision, a Christian organization that does humanitarian work all over the world, announced that it would now permit gay Christians who were in legal same sex marriages to be employed by their organization. They asserted that the "Very narrow policy change should not be viewed as a compromise of Christian values, but a symbol of Christian unity."

I kinda liked that, even if it wasn't the huge leap forward in acceptance and tolerance that the world needs. Look, they're a faith based organization and as such, they are obligated to uphold Christian tenets as part of their mission statement. I get that. BUT...they made an effort to acknowledge and embrace the evolving definition of marriage in today's world, and embrace those in non-traditional marriages as worthy and valued employees. It was a small thing, but a thing I could respect.

Unfortunately, the Christian community responded with outrage and threats to pull funding and sponsorships all over the world. What it really amounted to was an epic tantrum.

Forty-eight hours later, the decision was reversed. The statement issued said that "Rather than creating more unity [among Christians], we created more division, and that was not the intent," said Stearns. "Our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake and we believe that [World Vision supporters] helped us to see that with more clarity … and we're asking you to forgive us for that mistake."

Pussies.

Sorry, that was ignoble. But it's just so infuriating, because now they have reinforced the belief that if Christians just stomp their feet enough, they can force their antiquated ideals down the throats of the entire world. They can't. But World Vision has unwittingly given them a small taste of power that will feed that ideal and sustain the momentum of bigotry and discrimination for a very long time.

It  makes me crazy pissed off.

Anyway, the crux of the debate between this gentleman and me came down to choice. You've heard that one before right? Gay people choose to be gay? It's patently ridiculous. I asked him, as I always do when someone expresses this opinion, if he chose to be heterosexual. And as always happens, he ignored this question. Because to admit that he did not, is to admit that sexuality as a whole is not a choice. And that would unravel his entire argument that homosexuality is a sin because it's practitioners are willfully choosing to engage in an activity that is forbidden in the Bible.

See....their entire argument hinges on choice. They like to compare homosexuality to other "immoral" things like adultery and drug use and all sorts of unsavory behavior, which also infuriates me because those things are not innate behavior (with the possible exception of Pedophilia) but conscious choices. Now, nobody chooses to be a drug addict, but they do make the choice to take that first hit, that first pill, that first toke. Silly, silly argument, UNLESS you posit that being gay is a choice.

I want to tell you a little story.

When my youngest son was three years old, we were in the grocery store. Well...more than just the once really, but this is a story about that one particular time. He was installed in the front seat of the cart, happily zooming his matchbox car back and forth along the cart handle while I debated the various nutritional merits of cereal. Into the aisle swept a beautiful woman, with long blonde hair, bright red lips, sky high heels, skintight jeans, and enormous gravity defying breasts that would make angels weep, prominently displayed in a low cut halter top.

The kid dropped his car and his jaw and I swear his eyes did that cartoon bug out thing. ((AH-OOOH-GAH)) As she sashayed past us trailing a cloud of something floriental, he turned to watch her until his head was nearly backwards on his neck. Only the fact that his legs were imprisoned in the seat prevented him from watching her until she was completely out of sight.

He said reverently..."PREEEETTY MAMA."

Indeed.

My point? Stone cold heterosexual.

Did he choose that? No. He had no conscious awareness of sexuality. And yet, there it was, asserting itself. At three years old.

One of my best friends in high school was gay. He told me once that he knew he was gay when he was five years old. And he knew it was wrong. He tried very hard not to be gay. I knew him during the trying not to be gay time and the time after that. He says he was happier when he was lying. Afterwards, his parents wept, his Priest attempted to exorcise him and his peers shunned him. It's not hard to understand or accept that nobody would choose that, unless one is being consciously ignorant of that fact. And that, I'm sorry to say, is what Christianity promotes; conscious ignorance.

This demonstrates once again, how Christianity divides people.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. There are wonderful Christian people out there. Indeed, in this particular debate, I met yet another and I'm glad that at least that one good thing arose out of it. It's not the people, it's the premise. I wholeheartedly believe people are inherently good, kind and tolerant. The premise of Christianity teaches them to judge, exclude and hate.

I hope one day to see Christianity abolished. Maybe the benign tenets will survive while the malignant ones are left to the pages of history books. And like the Holocaust we'll look back on it and wonder how such a thing could have happened. And we'll resolve not to let it happen again.

ADDENDUM: Interesting thing about this post: I shared this link on my FB feed as I usually do. And instead of the debate arising over the gay/sin thing, it became focused on my statement about abolishing Christianity. I got called a bully and accused of being as intolerant as the Christians I have criticized. So let me just say this, once again - My intolerance of your intolerance is not intolerance.






Monday, March 24, 2014

How To Not Suck At Getting Skinny

I want to share some tips about weight loss today, for two reasons.

First, I need to recommit myself to some of my healthy habits. I've maintained many, but a few I've let slip. And second, a sweet friend is beginning her journey and though I can't take the steps for her, I'd like to help her along in any small way I can. I won't tag her, she knows who she is.

C., I wish you all the very best and I want you to believe you can do this.
So here they are in no particular order:
1. Start small. You can't change everything overnight. Trying to do so will just make you pissy. And when you feel pissy, you do not make good choices. And when you do not make good choices, you regret it. You know what's at the bottom of that deep dark rabbit hole of regret? Cake.
2. Don't fling yourself to the bottom of the stairs. My perfectionism frustrated my Leader to death. I was good at being perfect...to a point. I could be perfect for days, sometimes even weeks on end. But eventually, because nobody can be perfect all the time, I would slip. And once I slipped, and the day wasn't perfect any more, it became a free for all. Finally she said to me..."Christina..look...if you were going down a flight of stairs, and you tripped and missed a few steps...would you then FLING yourself to the bottom?" For some reason that made sense to me. I still struggle with it, but I'm aware and I can fight the urge to fling. 
3. It's okay to do it because you want to wear skinny jeans.
4. It's okay to do it because you want to stop taking high blood pressure medicine.
5. It's okay to do it because you don't want to worry about what your ass looks like when you're bent over naked in front of your husband/significant other/booty call.
6. It's okay to take a break. Say you're best friend is getting married and you're the maid of honor. Eat the wedding cake, drink the champaign, and fuck the calories. Or the best man. The point is, have fun.
7. But don't let it last too long. Monday is not a magic day upon which you will suddenly find a wellspring of inspiration, motivation and willpower. Either is the day after your birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Summer Solstice, President's Day, Cinco De Mayo, Mardi Gras, Dragon Con, Comic Con or any of the related Cons. It's hard every day, so have your fun, and then move on.
8. Be honest with yourself. "Emotional eating" is often just girl code for idontgiveafuckitis. If you're eating a big honking Chimichanga smothered in guacamole and sour cream  because you want a big honking Chimichanga smothered in guacamole and sour cream....don't label it. Just own it and move on.
9. That said, know your triggers and avoid them. Look, it's pretty simple.... don't go to NutellaCon and then wonder why you gained five pounds that week.
10. Forgive yourself. Easy concept, difficult execution. You're not horrible person because you ate a carb. You ate a carb because they're fucking delicious and you're only human. Deal with it and move on.
11. Move your body. It sucks at first. But you will get stronger. And that doesn't suck at all. Being strong and feeling like you could outrun a Zombie and/or stave it's head in with one kick if the need ever arose....is the antithesis of suck. Seriously, this is what I tell myself when I just don't want to move. "Christina, You do NOT want to be the weak one they try to separate from the herd."
12. But don't try to run a mile the first day. Don't try to run the first day. Don't do anything that will cause onlookers to take our their phones and then wait, poised and ready, should they need to dial 911. This happened to me. The first time I tried to walk a mile, I ended up red faced, sweating profusely, gasping like a fish out of water, and periodically shaking my fist at the sky. People were disconcerted. Start small, progress slowly, and don't disconcert people.
13. Find something you love. You're not going to walk five miles on the treadmill every single day if it makes you feel like a hamster on a wheel. Do something that makes you feel like you want to get laid afterwards.
12. Don't look at this as a means to an end. It's not. This is a lifestyle change. You don't do this until you're skinny and then go back to gorging yourself on all the shit that got you fat in the first place. You know what that gets you? Fat plus ten.
13. Realize this will change you. Not just your body, but your mind as well. Weight loss is not just about getting smaller, it's about getting bigger too. You learn many truths about yourself; some beautiful and affirming, some ugly and unsettling. Both will help you grow as you shrink.
I think that's it. I hope it helps. Pass it on if you like.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

An Unfortunate Harvest

I'm working at ladies' retail clothing store these days. It was just to earn a little extra cash and give me something to do while I figure out what I want to do.

I was dreading it, truth be told. I've worked retail many times off and on throughout my life. I always found it absolutely torturous; long hours, low pay, and mindless work. To my surprise, I actually enjoy this job. Yes, my feet usually hurt like nobody's business after a shift, but in the smaller setting with more upscale merchandise, and thus, a slightly more upscale customer, it's not quite as mind numbing.

Of course I run into rude people now and then. That's true of every job. And occasionally, someone pees in a dressing room or leaves a soiled sanitary napkin. But as a Mom, I'm pretty hardened to that sort of thing. When the pee incident happened, my co-workers all shrieked with dismay when I got down on my hands and knees to sniff the suspicious looking puddle on the dressing room floor. But when a child has puked into your bare hands, a little pee seems fairly harmless.

Those instances are fairly rare. Most of the time, I have a good time putting outfits together for my clients and we chat about lots of interesting stuff. Several days ago a woman came in looking haggard and frazzled. I asked her if I could help her and she declined. But after a while she confessed she had to attend a funeral but couldn't even think what she might need. She was catching a plane in just a few hours. I put together two outfits for her complete with accessories. She bought everything I suggested and thanked me profusely as she paid. It was a small thing, but I was glad I could help her in some way. I'm not giving anybody a new heart or even helping them lose weight...but it isn't always a meaningless job.

So as I said, I meet some interesting folks. There is one lady who comes in often. She's short, blonde, and quite plump. She is very friendly and outgoing. Our store does not really make clothing for a woman of her size, but she always takes an armload into the dressing room. Often, she buys only jewelry, because, as she said, "It always fits." She's a very nice lady and we often chat for several minutes after business is concluded and she has her packages in hand. I had the niggling feeling that I knew her from somewhere. Most likely, it was Weight Watchers, but it's a delicate thing to broach with someone. It's not like asking them if you might know them from Pee Wee Soccer.

Yesterday, as I was helping her in the dressing room, I finally said..."I feel like I know you from somewhere besides here. Have we met somewhere else?" She cocked her head like a little blonde bird, and said, "Maybe. Where do you go to church?"

In the past I would have lied. I would have said, "Well, we're between churches right now" or "We don't currently have a home church." This often backfired spectacularly as it resulted in emphatic and sometimes relentless invitations to try their church. For this reason and many others, I have resolved to be honest when people ask me questions about my spirituality. So I was. I said, "I don't go to church."

I could see it in her eyes. They remained open, but something in them closed. Her face, though it remained impassible, lost some of the friendly animation I was used to. She opened her mouth but nothing came out. I know she weighing the possibility of asking me...WHY? When the first question someone asks you in such a situation is where you go to church, it's a good bet that they spend a great deal of time at church and doing church related activities. This gal was no casual Christian.

"Well....." she said slowly, "My kids go to Mr. Paran."  (local Christian school)

"Mhmmm" I said.

"I work in the administration office there."

"Mmmhmm." I said again.

She stopped talking and just looked at me.

"So maybe just the grocery store then." I said.

"Yeah, probably." she said.

Then she turned her back on me and walked off. She did not wait for me to follow her to the cash register as she usually did. There was no superfluous chit chat at the door once the transaction was complete. She simply paid and left.

I know what you're thinking. That means nothing! Maybe she suddenly realized she left the iron on. Maybe she had a vision that someone she loved was about to walk in front of a train. Maybe she had to fart.

It wasn't any of those things. Bigotry isn't always ostentatious. In fact I think that most often, bigotry is very subtle. So subtle that most people would say..."Well that doesn't mean anything! There could be a million reason for that!  And there could. But there aren't. As someone who has been on the receiving end of such more times than I can count, I assure you, I know when I am being judged and I know when someone has deemed me unworthy, even if their personal mores prevent them from pointing an accusing finger at me and shouting "HERETIC! BLASPHEMER!"

It made me a little sad, but I'm used to it. And what I've come to realize is that it's not her fault. Somebody taught her that I am less. When she was just a small and impressionable child, someone planted that seed and then cultivated it for years upon years, until it was as much a part of her as her love of the color blue or her fondness for chocolate.

It isn't a conscious thing, this judgment. I don't think most judgment is. None of us want to be judgmental, do we? And yet we are, because of seeds sown in our own gardens. I judge people who don't use proper grammar and are poor spellers. Why? Because my mother was very adamant that we, her three girls, speak and write well. Her indoctrination of us was purposeful and quite ruthless. So I can't not judge, though I do try.

So I will still give her the best customer service I can. I will still be unreservedly friendly to her...IF she continues to seek me out. But she won't. How do I know?

I'm an Atheist living in the Bible Belt. That's how.






Friday, March 14, 2014

FAT

Nothing profound or heavy in this post, but what I have to say today is too long for Facebook and the collective ADD that reigns there. And I do think what I have to say is important, because obesity in our country has become epidemic and so many people are at a loss as to how to fix it. So I'm putting it here.

Before: 232.4 lbs.
Some of you know I became a Weight Watchers leader in 2011. I left their employ in January 2014, for many reason that I won't go into here. BUT...since then, I've been experimenting with my diet a little. Weight Watchers, although they do put a lot of emphasis on fruits and vegetables and whole foods,  is very focused on low fat. I can't argue with the results...I lost 75lbs.

BUT, sadly, it's no longer working for me and keeping the weight off has been a real struggle. Thirteen pounds appeared without explanation and I could not get it off. I was on weight probation constantly. That's one of the reasons I tendered my resignation. I found myself falling into some extreme behaviors in order to stay within the two pound range stipulated by my employment contract. I actually became concerned that those behaviors could develop into a full blown eating disorder.

So I've been focusing on putting GOOD fats back into my diet, and focusing on cutting out sugar. Also, I've decided to stop using food substitutes and diet products. For example, I no longer buy processed protein bars and smoothies, which I once relied upon heavily. Instead I eat nuts or cheese or a hard boiled egg. To get good fats into my diet, I've been eating avocados, olive oil, nuts, nut butters, eggs, seeds, beans, and full fat dairy products. I did away with the "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" and started using...ACTUAL BUTTER again.

All of those things were high in points on the Weight Watchers plan, and thus, people avoided them. People were eschewing healthy, delicious, vitamin and anti-oxidant packed foods in favor of low fat food facsimiles!! That was a problem for me. And there we have another reason I decided to leave my job, much as I loved it. My evolving personal philosophy about food and nutrition was no longer in line with theirs.

So anyway, when I made the shift, I won't lie...it was scary. We've been indoctrinated with the idea that ALL fat is bad, but interestingly enough, obesity rates started to rise about the same time that the low fat craze hit. I don't think it's a coincidence. I do think we should have noticed long before obesity became such a pervasive and widespread problem. Fat is not the enemy. Sugar is. And it took almost five years for me to realize that not eating fat was entirely counterproductive to my goals.

Now that I am eating fat again, I see the results in a number of ways. Is the weight falling off of me? No. I'm no longer extremely obese, so the losses will never be huge for me. But I am losing. I am MUCH more satisfied after my meals and I do not feel the need to snack as much. I'm not constantly thinking about food. And when the hunger does hit, it's just a little niggling. Not the sudden and terrifying plunger into devastating hunger wherein I would commit homicide for a hamburger. Do you know that feeling? I get it when I eat a bagel or a bowl of cereal. An hour later, I would mug a little old lady if she had a steak in her purse. Why? Because of the metabolic response to sugar; the spike, the crash, the murderous hunger. So the fact that I no longer experience that on a daily basis is pretty significant. And believe it or not, the difference in my hair and skin is pretty remarkable. I think I look younger. I know that sounds weird, but I don't think I'm imagining it.

This healthy lifestyle thing has been such an evolution in thinking for me. I had absolutely no idea how to eat healthy when I started. I thought I was giving my family healthy balanced meals because I was providing a vegetable, a starch and a protein. Never mind that they were highly processed, loaded with chemicals and sodium and swimming in butter, gravy or sauce (sometimes all three), and usually served with an abundance of bread or rolls on the side. And when I did wake up and realize I had to change my ways, it became all about low fat, low sugar, convenient diet foods and food substitutes. Because that's what I was being taught, not just by Weight Watchers, but the media, the food industry, even doctors and nutritionists!

I really do think our food is killing us and making us fat. The additives and chemicals are completely circumventing our bodies' natural metabolic processes and causing us to get fatter and fatter even though we think we're eating healthy. When people say they don't understand why they are getting fat, it isn't denial or excuse making. They really are mystified. I am not a nutritionist, but I think I know now more than most people about how to eat healthy. And I found a lot of that information on my own, with a little guidance. It can be done.

AFTER: Certified Zumba Instructor
It's hard to know where to start sometimes. But just start. Five years ago, I thought Hamburger Helper, canned green beans and yeast rolls was a healthy well balanced dinner. I'm a little chagrined to admit how much Hamburger Helper we ate. Now and again, I buy a box, just for a treat. You can't deny that it tastes damned good!! But it's an indulgence now, not a staple. And now, I no longer break into a cold sweat at the thought of exceeding my daily allotment of fat and/or calories (reason number three I quit Weight Watchers).

If I'm being completely honest, it's not just about nutrition. I like being able to slip into a pair of jeans or a short skirt and not worry about sucking in my gut. I like wearing a clingy t-shirt without worrying that my muffin top and back fat are on display. I like walking past a shop window and not being horrified by my reflection. I like looking good. I like feeling strong. I like the whole ball of wax and I am determined to keep it.

So the fat (in my diet) stays. Who knew?