For the last year and change, I’ve been on a serious mission to lose some weight. I spent most of my teens and early twenties never having to worry about how much I ate or how much exercise I got, and by my late twenties, that started to catch up with me. It didn’t help that I went from having a job where I basically got three or four hours of walking in every day, to the much more sedentary office/car worklife that I have now.
Before landisdad & I got married, I decided to do Jenny Craig, in order to lose some weight, and that worked, but I got pregnant pretty soon after we got back from the honeymoon. I never lost all the baby weight I gained with the Bee, and after the Potato was born, I routinely topped the scales at over 200 lbs. I wasn’t very happy about it—as a younger woman, I was fairly accustomed to male (and some female) attention, and I missed that. But I wasn’t so miserable that I wanted to do very much about it.
Last year, around June, I started having a lot of lower back pain. I sort of decided (without the benefit of medical advice) that it was due to the excess weight I was carrying around, and I decided that it was time to do something about it. So I downloaded a free app from loseit.com, and created a weight-loss program for myself. It basically works the same way as Weight Watchers, or other diet systems—you track your caloric intake and add in any exercise you do—and every week, as you lose a pound or however much, you get a slightly smaller caloric allotment.
It works great for me, because I am a data-driven, competitive person. I like numbers, and I like being able to see the direct impact, every day, of my food choices. One of the things that it made me immediately recognize was how many calories are in ridiculous numbers of salads in chain restaurants, due to the dressing and other non-vegetable ingredients. It also gave me an instant reward for exercise—hey–I can eat 150 more calories today—which is something that I personally find very motivating. The other great thing about it, from my perspective, is that there are no ‘bad’ foods. I can eat a piece of cake, or whatever—I just have to make corresponding choices at some other point in the week that balance it out.
So far, I’ve lost over 40 pounds, which is still short of my goal of 60, but it’s a lot of progress. (I’ve also gotten rid of the back pain—but that did eventually require a doctor’s visit and a month of physical therapy, because what I had is sciatica—the moral of this story being, don’t diagnose yourself.)
People have started treating me differently. I’m treating myself differently—I had to get a whole new wardrobe, and for the first time in a long time, I bought a bunch of skirts, and some skinny pants. I dress up more—I’m not trying to hide in a uniform of a loose t-shirt and jeans or capris the way that I used to do.
I’m not a big proselytizer by any means—but if you lose 40 pounds, it’s noticeable, and people will ask you how you did it. I tend not to talk about it a lot—after all, I could have just as easily failed at this diet—and I don’t think that I have any more will-power or whatever than other people do—I just managed to find a system that reinforced my desire to change in a way that works for my crazy brain, it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. And I also don’t really want to talk about weight loss in a way that is at all judgmental, either in a positive or negative direction, really. There’s enough crap in our culture causing us to overeat, and move less, and feel bad about the way we look—and I don’t have any interest at all in feeding anyone else’s anxiety about herself. People will occasionally make nervous comments when they’re having a meal with me about how I’m “being good” and they should “be good like me,” which just make me very uncomfortable. I’m not interested in judging anyone else’s food intake (well, with the exception of my own children’s, but that’s a different thing altogether).
But yesterday I had a slightly odd experience where two of my co-workers started telling me that I had lost enough weight and I should stop. I was a little shocked, frankly, that they thought it was anyone’s business but my own what I weighed. I’m not in any danger of anorexia, or an eating disorder. The two of them had clearly been talking about me, though, and come to some conclusion about how I look, and that just pissed me off. Part of me wanted to say, “hey, back off, this is really my business,” but because they were being “nice” about it, I didn’t feel like I could (plus, they are two people that I have to work very closely with). The other part of me just said, “yeah, I appreciate your input,” which is probably just a different way of saying the first thing.
And then they kept going. It was extremely awkward, and I finally had to walk away to end the conversation, and I drove home from that meeting just recapping, over and over in my head, the many, equally rude things that I could’ve said in return, but didn’t.
Some days, it’s hard to stay shiny.
If you’re holding on to the belief that we currently live in a post-racial America, you should stop reading this post.
Still with me? Good.
I love a book that teaches me something new, and Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (Thomas J. Sugrue) did just that. The concept of ‘hate strikes’—moments where, due to racial desegregation, white workers walked off the job en masse—for example. I also like to learn that academics have coined terms for things that I’ve experienced, but never had a name for—’spatial mismatch,’ for the phenomenon of jobs being created in suburbs that are isolated from public transit, and therefore difficult for inner-city residents to attain.
Sugrue has written a sweeping history of the struggle against pervasive discrimination in northern cities and suburbs. An understudied topic in American history, to be sure—most histories of the civil rights movement focus on the struggle for African American freedom in the South, and most of us can remember images of the non-violent activism of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his many allies, white and black. I found it fascinating to read about equally-compelling efforts in the North, especially the campaigns for jobs (“Don’t Shop Where You Can’t Work”) and housing.
It’s also interesting to read, in the final chapters, his analysis of why whitefolks in the US have such different perspectives on things like affirmative action and welfare reform than African Americans do, even though progress has been made. Hint–the continued prevalence of white-only, or mostly-white suburbs and schools, and the correlating lack of understanding of the devastation of federal disinvestment from our central cities has something to do with it.
We’re back from our vacation, and now there are long hot weeks of summer to get through. The kids are back in camp, the garden is weedy as hell because it’s too hot to weed, and we’re spending most weekends at the pool, trying to stay cool.
What have you found to do this year to get through the summer doldrums?
When I moved from elementary to middle school, I changed best friends. The best friend that I had in elementary school was going to Catholic school for middle school, and despite the fact that we lived across the street from each other, our lack of social time at school was enough to break us up.
The best friend that I had for most of middle school, Kitty, was the youngest child of much older parents. She had several older brothers and sisters, but they were all grown and out of the house, and I think that her parents were very tired and had pretty much given up on parenting. She had the entire second floor of their house to herself—her mother couldn’t climb stairs, and her dad just didn’t seem interested in going up there.
She had great clothes—Jordache jeans that I was highly envious of, because my mom would never buy them. She was thin and pretty, and had the kind of early-adolescent body that could stop traffic. I slept over at her house all the time, and we would sneak out after her parents were asleep and guys would come by to talk to her—high school boys with cars, and some guys who were even older. I saw her do coke when we were both something like 12, which is also when she started having sex.
I was too much of a goody-goody then to do anything like that, but I went along with her because I was worried that something would happen. And I’m not going to lie—I thought maybe if I hung out with her, then some cute high school boy would notice me, too.
We drifted apart in eighth grade, and then she ended up going to the Vo-Tech, while I went to the regular high school. I had a new crowd of friends who were geeky theater people like me, and I didn’t see her much any more—even though she lived around the corner. I lost touch with her totally when I moved in with my dad, three towns away.
Now, I’m going to flash forward thirty years.
Right after spring break ended, two new girls joined the Bee’s class. We heard a fair amount about both of them from the Bee for a while, and then it became clear that the Bee was becoming very friendly with the Artiste. She talked about how much she liked this new girl’s fashion sense, and how she was really standing out in the class.
I didn’t notice much about her at the time, except for the fact that she had a pink wash in her hair—but hey, who doesn’t dye their hair pink once in a while.
At graduation, the Artiste showed up looking like she had been dressed by Lady Gaga. She was wearing five-inch stilettos and a dress that was cut waaaaay down in front–which is a kind of strange look on an undeveloped eleven-year-old. Landisdad commented that it looked like she was going clubbing.
Later that day, I chaperoned the pool party, and I noticed (because she was wearing a bikini) that she has a pierced belly button. WTF? I said something to the Bee about it being the kind of thing I expect to see on older girls, and then kind of dropped it (though I did mention it to landisdad).
We ran into the Artiste at the pool again last weekend, and she and the Bee were hanging out with the Bee’s best friend, the Peony. They all splashed around and had the kind of conversations that girls going into middle school have. Or so I thought. Until at lunch the next day, the Bee told us that the Artiste is going to get a tattoo next year.
I said something like, “she can’t get a tattoo, she’s not old enough.” And the Bee said, “no, the tattoo place already thinks she’s fourteen, because her mom told her to lie to them, so next year they’ll think she’s fifteen and she can get a tattoo.” Landisdad and I looked at each other in horror and I said, “well, I don’t want to say anything bad about the Artiste’s mom, since I’ve never even met her, but I think that it’s not a great idea for a parent to tell their kid to lie so that they can break the law.” Landisdad added, “we think it’s okay to break the law in some circumstances—like when it’s being unfairly applied to one group of people—but you should be willing to take the punishment for breaking the law, and admit to what you’re doing—not just break a law you don’t like for your own personal advantage.”
The Bee agreed, and said, “I know, and she wants to get a tongue piercing too! And did you know some people get penis piercings?”
I put my poker face on, and said, “yes, I do know that,” and did not add, “and by the way, I’m pretty sure I was at least 21 before I ever heard of that.”
I may not know the Artiste’s mother, but I fucking hate her now, and the Bee is never, ever going to sleep over there.
but for the rest of you, you really ought to be following @cecilseaskull (aka the writer Cecil Castellucci). Her YA novels, graphic & otherwise, are among my favorite things, and really probably deserve a post of their own. But that’s not what this is about.
For the past day-and-change, she’s been writing a short story via Twitter posts. It is teh awesome.
(insert fangirl squeeing)
You can also follow her on her blog (while I’m pimping, might as well go whole hog).