Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2018-05-11

Three Methods I Use to Have an Easier Experience with Life

One of the best things I have ever done for my mental health is to adopt the world view of Pronoia. This is the assumption that everything in the Universe is aligning to my benefit. It’s described as the opposite of paranoia. (The term was coined by Rob Brezny, spelled out in this great and giant book.)

Last weekend when Dara and I were looking at wedding venues near Dollywood in the Smoky Mountains, we realized we have different ways of dealing with potential homophobia. We were originally going to talk on the phone to potential venues about whether they were friendly to host a Queer Wedding. I decided instead to utilize my gut instincts. I find, in general, if I assume people are going to be loving and kind to me, most folks rise to that occasion.

Dara, however, was definitely steeling herself for some potential discrimination.

This is a great example of the dichotomy between paranoia (Dara being afraid we would experience homophobia) and Pronoia (me assuming that people will be kind and loving).

I’m not giving you a blanket idea of how to deal with oppression in general, I’m just offering what works for me as a Queer Fat Femme in a heterosexually centered fatphobic society. I still loudly remark at the end of a movie when heterosexuality is reinforced, I still notice overt oppression against me as a queer fat woman with an exaggerated gender presentation. I see and experience all the ways in which this world is not built for human size diversity.

However, in general, I find when I assume strangers are intending to be loving and kind it makes my experience of living in an oppressive world a lot easier for me.

I acknowledge my White privilege in this. I grew up poor but I learned how to class pass early on and that does affect how I experience the world and overt or covert oppression. People of Color, Black folks, trans and gender non conforming folks, disabled folks, poor folks, older folks and other oppressed people have different experiences than I do.

Pronoia helps me keep my brain decluttered from other people’s judgments. I could spend a lot of time micro analyzing how strangers look at me or if I hear an audible sigh from someone seated next to me on a plane. Most of the time I assume their looks and sounds don’t have anything to do with me or my size. Maybe that’s not true, but probably it is true the majority of the time.

What I’ve noticed is that most people are so concerned with themselves they aren’t thinking about me. And when they are thinking about me or overtly judging or oppressing me, what I think about is how hard it must be in their own head. Because most folks who are pointing a finger have three pointed back at them, and generally those folks have a really nasty, self hating and judgmental internal dialogue.

It doesn’t mean that I’m bulletproof. I still have that coding in my brain that makes me feel conspicuous when I’m standing up in the aisle of an airplane waiting for the flight attendant to move because I can’t really squish around her. I’m reminded sometimes that I’m fat in public when I’m eating, but I’ve long lost the shame around being fat. I don’t think a lot of thin people have the same coding. Some do and if they feel shame around eating in public or standing in the aisle of an airplane worrying about their perceived size—that shame is from Fatphobia. Fatphobia affects everyone, no matter their size, but the oppression lands on the fat people not the thin ones.

We are really excited to have a destination wedding in the Smoky Mountains! We get to share a favorite place of ours with all of our friends and family!

I find it helpful to think of oppression as systemic and not something everyone is intending to promote in their unconscious actions. The wedding coordinators at the venues we were looking at, if they had any hesitation about us as a queer couple or didn’t know how to be “cool” around us about our Gay Wedding, that was a result of systemic oppression. Systemic oppression doesn’t excuse bad behavior or overt oppression but it does help me assume best intentions from people on the ground doing the best they can with what they have.

Engaging in Pronoia helps my mental health. When I assume the world is ultimately a kind place, when I don’t assume people are judging me (or thinking of me at all), when I don’t get caught up in shame and defensiveness, I’m just happier.

This is the type of thinking I hope to impart on all of the small children in my life through my example because they really learn mostly by example. We could use a generation that is exposed to kinder methods of self talk and compassion for self and others.

Here are some things I do that help support my Pronoia:

1. I treat it like a practice.
I lived in NYC for a long time and it taught me how to walk through the world and pay very little attention to how people are reacting to me. I also generally work to stay in a self loving and compassionate place which helps me feel more loving and compassionate towards others and assume they are reflecting that back to me. Pronoia in action.

2. I assume best intentions.
Impact is more important than intent. But in general, the impact of oppression on me is lessened when I can get to the compassion place. It also helps me not notice oppression against me and sometimes that’s just easier for me to exist within. Pronoia is about me living my best and most peaceful life and not about what someone’s intentions actually are.

3. I pray for it.
A very successful real estate agent I met at a conference a couple months ago taught me a practice she does every morning. She visualizes everyone on her path that day working in her favor, even folks she doesn’t know. She then holds gratitude for that. I haven’t started doing it every day but I do it every time I go to the airport because flying while fat is difficult and I can always use people (and spirit guides) working behind the scenes on my behalf.

Oppression leaves a lot of scars, especially when you’ve experienced repeated oppression, hurt and judgment. It can be really hard to move into Pronoia! If it appeals to you, I suggest taking one tiny baby step towards it by using only one of my tips above at a time and slowly incorporating it into your life. Like a couple minutes a day of intentional practice to start, It took me many years to get to where I am now!

The wedding coordinators we met with were a mixed bag. The first one was great, enthusiastic about our wedding but at one point late in the visit, when we asked about having the restrooms be gender neutral, made the effort to reassure us that she believes all people in love who want to make a life commitment should get to. The second place we visited was immediately off my list because it was sold to us differently over the phone than what they deliver for services. But I still didn’t get a real friendly vibe off the proprietor. But maybe he was having indigestion and not about us being homos, I don’t know.

The wedding venue we ultimately selected had both the coordinator and her assistant at our site visit. They never blinked about our queerness, the gender neutral restrooms were an easy yes for them and they are already thinking about beautiful signage. And they were both overtly excited about our wedding plans—we’re really excited to work with them.

This is where we’re going to get hitched!

2016-02-19

LA Week Four: We’re Getting There

Tomorrow marks four weeks since we took possession of our dream house / super quirky rental. I kind of can’t believe that it’s been so long because it has gone by so fast.
guacamolerentMy first batch of guacamole from my first round of gathered avocados from my tree. How much guacamole is included in my rent? I can’t wait to find out! I also am going to get GREAT at making it so if you have a recipe you love (especially if it’s been handed down) please send it to me!

We’ve been so focused on getting the house put together while trying to manage all those new things that affect how you settle in somewhere that it is hard to feel that we’re in LA for real. If you ignore the time of year and weather, which is very special and wonderful, I could be anywhere learning new stuff. Where is the bank? Where is the grocery store? Which grocery store do I supplement Trader Joe’s with? How many times can we go to Home Depot before we become a lesbian cliché, and do I get a pass for a certain period of time after moving? Where is the most ethical/farm to table butcher shop? (The last question still unanswered.)

Dara’s bestie Big T said we need to start doing LA things on purpose. I haven’t been to the beach yet. Or Griffith Park even though we live five minutes away from it. It’s a great idea to carve out time to do the awesome things only LA can offer in order to help us feel more grounded in our new location.

sunset

I feel in awe that we live here, though, every single time I drive down a palm tree lined street I catch my breath. I will even pull over to the side of the road and take a photo or a snapchat. The sunset show is just gorgeous almost every single night, God TV really delivers in a town that manufactures TV for the rest of the world. In Brooklyn, surrounded by six story buildings I couldn’t see the sunset colors at all unless I walked two blocks away to the above-ground LIRR tracks. Here in my neighborhood of ranch style one story homes, all I need to do is look up and around starting at 4:30.

I am also so mesmerized by the glittering hillsides at twilight. Northeast LA has all of these hills that are dotted with cute houses up twisty roads. As the sky turns dark blue they all light up and it is so beautiful.

Our Mercury Retrograde lease signing/landlord accidentally giving us the wrong address thing affected us yet again. Listen, if there’s one thing you should learn from my experience it’s that if you turn on all of your utilities to one address and find out it is incorrect by one digit, just cancel all of them and start fresh. Literally all of them will say “sure we can change the address” when you call them and literally all of them will be wrong.

This time the gas company surprised us by turning off our gas without warning, even though a technician from So Cal Gas had come to the house a week prior, we explained what was going on and he said it was fine we didn’t need to do anything to change the address because it was working in our house. He was wrong and I found out the hard way when I tried to cook cauliflower and the stove wouldn’t turn on.

barbdarabevinOur friend Barb came to visit LA and we had dinner. Also, it gets cold here at night, so we wear warm clothes. The temperature seems to change 30 degrees in a day. Within six months I’ll really understand how layering works in this climate.

A call to So Cal Gas yielded an appointment to turn it on two weeks out. Dara bringing it up the chain of command (“Can I speak to your supervisor”) got us a week earlier, but it still meant a week of no hot water, cooking gas or heat. So Cal Gas is responsible for this huge natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, every day NPR in LA is talking about it, and I don’t think customer service or their public image is their first priority. Their negligence is literally making people sick and displaced from their homes.

This experience was a great reminder to me about how self care really helps no matter what happens. I had just gotten back from going to a $20 Korean day spa, soaking in a hot tub and sitting in therapeutic saunas. It’s the easiest way for me to go from stressed to mellow. (Victoria Mucha and I would go monthly last Winter to the $55 Korean day spa and it really helped my seasonal depression.) So when the whole gas company thing happened, I said “It’s cool, Big T lives six minutes away we can shower there, we can go visit Grandmother, we’ll just keep eating from the microwave…” It was the opposite of how I would have reacted the day before, when I probably would have started sobbing and overreacting to yet another set-back in this move.

Going into a move, especially cross country, you know it’s a hassle and it’s one of the top five stressful life events. But I guess as a Capricorn I wanted to know HOW it was going to be stressful so that I could somehow game the system and outsmart the stressfulness and mitigate it. I would say I managed to make it 30% less stressful through that method but there was just so much I didn’t think about. (If I had thousands of bucks to throw at it I probably could have mitigated 70% of the stress.)

thinkharderGrandmother has had this in her garage for years, I keep thinking about it when things frustrate me with inefficiency. (I’m such a Capricorn.) I can think of ways it is harder. So at least, even if shit isn’t as easy as it can be it could be worse. This is way better than going down my efficiency/perfectionism thought spiral!

I didn’t realize how much extra time gets lost to the process of moving. I was watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills the other day and Kyle is getting a closet put into one of her spare rooms. The closet designer referenced her co-star Lisa Vanderpump’s closet (it’s very enviable for many reasons). “You know, she has everything at arm’s reach. She can get dressed very fast.” And that’s a good example for ideal home organization in general. Once you have everything put away in an orderly manner you can do everything else in your life swiftly, a stitch in time saves nine if you will. But when you’re constantly looking for that one thing you need it takes up a lot of time. Even though my upstairs attic closet rennovation is still underway and my clothing is still mostly boxed up, I spent 30 minutes sorting everything I’ve been traveling with into separate bags so I could find things easier. If all my dresses are in one place, my leggings in another, my pajamas in another, my these can get dusty and disgusting working on the house clothes, etc… I can at least get dressed quickly.

I had no idea how long it takes to establish a kitchen! I love to cook, but I’ve been slowly becoming better and better over time and gathering equipment. I find cooking really great self care on so many levels. Cooking is a spiritual act for me, I like to put on a spiritual thought leader or a sermon of some sort and listen while I cook. I meditate while cooking. Cooking nourishing food for me and my loved ones also is good for our bodies, and sometimes I’ll put reiki energy into food. It’s also great stress relief and grief management for me when I have feelings, especially baking. It is really hard for me being on the road and not being able to cook, it was the thing I was most looking forward to doing when moved in.

I’ve unpacked all of the kitchen boxes we can find (I am certain we are missing one–the inventory from our moving truck was complete, so it must be mislabeled and not unpacked yet) and there are still some items missing. Also, I didn’t move my whole spice cabinet because of my desire to “only have shit that sparks joy” and not “waste money moving” stuff that wasn’t good enough. This is theoretically great, however, to cook something that would normally be a no-brainer-I-have-all-that-stuff-on-hand, I have to do an inventory of the spice rack and, whatever at least Trader Joe’s is only 6 minutes away and has a parking lot. I had no idea how much I use bone broth on the regular and I cannot wait until we get that butcher situation figured out.

daratoiletJust trying to change the toilet seat took up a lot of time for Dara, trying to deal with the rusted out nuts holding on the old one. A still unresolved project.

Also when you move without shit that sparks joy, and none of your dishes spark joy you have to spend time thrifting for the right dishes. We now have three Pier One plates from Goodwill. Still no pyrex casserole dishes. We’re getting there.

That’s the overall theme of the move right now. We’re getting there.

We haven’t joined a gym yet, so last Friday we went to this park near our house along the LA River that has exercise equipment outside. We wondered why no one was there at 11:30AM and the answer is because it is really hot at noon in LA and not a great time to exercise. Learning these lessons is part of acclimating to a new place and environment I guess.

sparksjoytangerinesThis new bowl sparks joy! It matches our tile backsplash and holds tangerines from my aunt’s house for delicious snacks. Got it at a yard sale for fifty cents!!

The furniture my mom sent us from her house finally arrived on Sunday, so we had the two steps forward, one step back experience that seems to be par for the course about moving. Finally we have a sofa, it makes such a difference to feel physically comfortable when you’re resting (my high heel shoe chairs are gorgeous and good for sitting at a party but not when you’re physically wiped and just need to kick it). However, now we have a huge pile of stuff we have to tetris to fit in the house (the boxes had to move to make room for furniture, so much is in a staging area waiting for my upstairs closet to be ready), and a couple pieces turned out way bigger than they looked on text photos so we need to sell them.

grandmotherdinnerOn our trip cross country we were supposed to spend a few days with Grandmother and it ended up only being a few hours because of how quickly we got our house, so going back to visit her was a priority.

We went to visit my Grandmother in Palm Springs this week, to experiment about whether we could go there to work during the day and hang out with her on our off times. Since both Dara and I are virtual workers, we can work wherever we can be uninterrupted, make tea and have strong wifi. Anyway, it turns out that it’s hard to work at Grandmother’s and we need to work more on setting up timing and boundaries around that but it’s all a learning process. By the way, Grandmother hates having wifi, she thinks it’s too vulnerable, but she has it because my mom rightfully insisted on her getting it. It’s a team effort introducing her to technology.

workingfromhomeHer backyard is gorgeous, so it is a delight to work out there.

I am getting to know her better and that feels pretty amazing. To get to know people better who you have known your entire life is surreal but awesome. She has been feeling sick so she is crabby, which is true for me, too, having been so stressed. Capricorn vs Capricorn can either be a really great collaboration of ideas or it can be deeply head butting, and Grandmother can be way more of a know it all than I ever realized. Usually she is very open minded but it’s a dance to figure out how to disagree with her in a way that opens her mind up about something new and when everyone is crabby it’s harder to have that dance. As I learn more about compassion and unconditional love I’m able to accept imperfect interactions with love, and take what I like and leave the rest.

developingmeditationchairPretty stoked about my favorite armchair for meditation being in a corner with a morning sunbeam.

During one of my cooking spiritual experiences this week (using my Ninja 3-in-1 system because of no cooking gas) I heard the following quote from a Course in Miracles:

“We should be grateful for all situations that make us most uncomfortable because without them we could not know there is something unhealed in us.”

I’m sitting with that this week. Knowing that things are uncomfortable because they are new. That I can reflect on my progress and that I can be proud of myself for putting myself in this uncomfortable, stressful, sometimes painful process of moving because I know I am opening myself up to new opportunities. I have no idea what LA has in store for me, but I’m really looking forward to easing into feeling comfortable here, exploring what makes it unique and wonderful and opening up room for the Goddess to surprise and delight me.

louisehaycalendarFrom my Louise Hay I Can Do It daily calendar.

2015-11-25

How I Use A Positive Outlook as an Activist to Cope When the World Seems Terrible

Yesterday my therapist said something pretty surprising to me. “I saw this Barbara Walters special with Donald Trump. I can’t believe she would give him that level of publicity, and I am so sad that he is going to win the presidency.”

My therapist is a pretty positive person and generally very supportive of my positive outlook on life, so her certainty of the fate of a Trump presidency was shocking to me.

That sentiment, that resigned idea that the world is a terrible place, is hard to avoid right now. It’s hard to stay resilient against that idea. The terror attacks on Paris and Beirut. The media and social portrayal of support for Paris but ignoring Beirut, reminding us how the media devalues brown bodies.

The fact that Obama wants to let in only 10,000 Syrian refugees (and the amount of displaced Syrians is in the millions). Yet the House voting to block Syrian refugees even though refugees in the US are vetted for years and it would be extremely difficult to actually get away with terrorism as a refugee in this country.

The last few weeks have been jarring with the amount of hatred, fear, lack of humanity that is making the news. But at the same time, we’re in a time of deep unrest and outrage. I think it’s tantamount to the sentiment that you have to see the dirt in order to clean your house. I think we’re seeing the dirt.

My world view is not for everyone. If anyone out there would rather give up, see the world as a terrible place and resign themselves to the Trump presidency and live in fear, I think that is totally fine. But for me, I need to stay positive to stay alive, and I’m going to stay alive, so I can keep encouraging people to love themselves.

My therapist talked about moving to Canada. I remember many folks talked about moving North when George W. Bush was running for president and I don’t know that many people who actually did.

But that’s not my ethic. I’m not going to run away. I’m going to stay put, stay present, stay outraged and stay loving. I am going to believe for the best in people, I am going to believe that Trump will not win the presidency, and I am going to believe in the inherent good of the world so long as people like me stay compassionate and positive. And, let’s be honest, being president is a lot of work and I don’t actually believe he’s interested in doing the work.

Tomorrow in the US we celebrate Thanksgiving. Last night I was trying to think of ways to acknowledge at the meal I will be attending that the holiday ignores the mass genocide of the Native Americans with whom White settlers were supposed to be making peace, while still being socially appropriate. I think that comes from maybe leading a grace that names it, honoring those who died outrageous and unfair deaths, the legacy of colonialism that continues to affect Native Americans and other POC in this country. It comes from feeling genuine gratitude for what we have, and vowing to use what we have to uplift people affected by that legacy.

I leave this with a quote from Grace Lee Boggs, an incredible activist who lived to be 100 years old and passed away on October 5, 2015. Her tenacity and positive outlook resonates with me, and inspires me to continue to use my belief that we can continue to do better and do our work on an individual level to affect the higher good. (I highly recommend renting the documentary about her life and work, American Revolutionary: The Evolution Of Grace Lee Boggs.)

gracel-lee-boggs_robin_hollandPhoto of Grace Lee Boggs by Robin Holland.

“Love isn’t just something you feel. It’s something you do every day when you go out and pick up the papers and bottles scattered the night before on the corner, when you stop and talk to a neighbor, when you argue passionately for what you believe in with whoever will listen, when you call a friend to see how they’re doing, when you write a letter to the newspaper, when you give a speech and give ’em hell, when you never stop believing that we can all be more than we are. In other words, Love isn’t about what we did yesterday; it’s about what we do today tomorrow and the day after.” – Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution

2014-03-28

Healing Emotional Wounds: April Astrology Self Development with Empowering Astrology

april_woo

I don’t know about you but this Winter I’ve felt like I’m running through mollasses about 80% of the time. Everything feels really hard and even the smallest things have been setting me off. It’s hard to tell what’s the circumstances of my life and what’s something bigger. Have you been noticing that folks are really grumpy, angry, frustrated at each other? Even driving to a coffee shop one day I noticed there was significantly more honking and aggression (though NYC is never free of annoyed drivers). It was bad enough that I just turned around and went home!

I feel grateful sometimes, when things are hard for me, to know that things are hard astrologically. If you have even a glimmer of faith in the universe positioning us to have specific challenges as part of our life journeys, it can feel like a relief to realize “It’s not just me.”

So, with grand triumph that we got through the past week/month/season, I present April’s astrological forecast from Katie at Empowering Astrology, with self-development exercises from me. I include some journaling exercises to take note of what’s going on with you to help heal your deep emotional wounds. I also talked about how I learned to have compassion, which Katie says is the trait that will help us the most during these rough times. There’s also a ritual to acknowledge a significant material loss you’ve had.

I hope these exercises help, I hope the astrological forecast of “Shit’s hard for everyone right now,” helps, and I hope you’re able to lean into your struggles from a place of hope instead of fear. That’s what I’m trying to do.

Click here for the PDF for this month!

2014-01-24

Five Ways to Begin to Love Your Body Right Now

In my interview with Amy McDonald at the Happy Healthy Lesbian Telesummit, she asked me for five tips people can employ to love their body more right now. I wanted to write these up and share them with readers who didn’t get a chance to hear the interview and for new readers who want to remember them from the interview. (If you missed the interview and want to listen to it–along with several other incredible talks with lesbian and queer folks talking about money, love, bodies, nutrition, travel, it’s available as a download. Click here to view more details.)

You don’t have to wait to have a good relationship with your body. Not after you lose weight or start going back to the gym or get a lover. Whatever space you’re in with it, you can start making peace right now.

1. Remember that you are not alone.

Everyone has a hard time with their body at some point or another. My friend Glenn Marla says, “There’s no wrong way to have a body.” And everyone can do better at loving their bodies right where they are at.

We’re in a society that commodifies insecurity–it serves the billion dollar beauty and diet industries if we hate ourselves so we buy all of their stuff. If you could really solve your own body hatred by buying something it would totally work but it doesn’t.

Even the most ardent body positive activist has “bad fat days,” and the struggle with our very human bodies is part of being human.

2. Be honest about your yucky feelings.

I am a big believer in naming our hard feelings and getting them out of ourselves. It helps expell shame. So if you feel complicated about a body part, be honest about it.

An exercise I’m a big fan of for a body part you feel complicated about is to talk to it. First, touch it, softly. If this were my stomach I’d rest my hands on it. Then I would talk to it. “Hey stomach, I’m feeling really complicated about you. X, Y and Z are making me feel really hard today.” Then, after you name the hard feelings, start thanking it for what it does do for you. “I know I feel complicated about you today, but I want to tell you thank you for being a soft place for my dog to rest, filling out my dresses, being a great canvass for a tattoo, etc…”

rp_7611841844_73be89d6d6.jpgFrom a Rebel Cupcake a couple of years ago. I felt sooooo complicated about that outfit.

3. Take excellent care of yourself.

When you don’t feel good about your body it is really hard to have the motivation to take care of it. Self care is really important for mental, physical, emotional and spiritual help, though, and it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle, negatively and positively. The more you don’t take care of your body the more you start hating it and the reverse is true, too.

Once you start taking care of your body by doing things like getting enough sleep or learning intuitive eating, it starts helping you feel more comfortable in your body.

It’s taken me years to learn how to take care of myself and I’m still learning. I just said to Jacqueline the other day, “I’m 35 years old and I just realized that I absolutely need to eat lunch within a couple hours of breakfast. As soon as I leave the house I end up in this spiraling vortex of not being able to get the food I need and I get hangry and want to kill someone.” It is so weird because my logic brain is just like, “I shouldn’t be hungry yet,” except that I actually usually get hungry and should just pay attention to my body.

Is there something for your body you could do to take good care of it today? Like an extra hour of sleep? A long bath or shower? Self care stretches time, according to Kelli Jean Drinkwater, and it really goes a long way.

rp_6051297793_7ca8fb97d1.jpgEveryone has a body! With the Miracle Whips.

4. Get value-neutral about your body.

I heard a spiritual thought leader say that the body was just a vessel for the soul. I have found that idea very helpful in coming to terms with my body changing when I don’t ask it to. It’s similar to the sentiment I expressed about How to be a Good Ally to Fat People Who Appear to Have Lost Weight. It’s just a body, in a different form.

Sometimes our bodies are doing things that frustrate us, as in a period of lessened mobility, or sometimes our bodies may feel absolutely great. Being really attached to one kind of outcome or another is a vicious cycle of not enough or worry about things changing. Weight naturally fluctuates a little bit, skin gets saggy when it gets older. It just changes, but it doesn’t have to change how much unconditional love you have for your body.

Part of learning to be body positive for me was learning my body was not my worth. The acceptance of your body without judgment is really powerful. It takes baby steps but repeating mantras of, “It’s just my body.”

5. Stop negative talk about other people’s bodies.

I absolutely love the expression, “When you point your finger you have three pointing back at yourself.” I have had to do a lot of work to stop judging other people’s bodies. When I hear myself begin to judge I stop and I change it to noticing. It’s a subtle difference but it does actually work. “I’m noticing that that person has amazing boobs. I’m noticing that that other person is very thin.”

We are conditioned in our diet/scarcity/commodified insecurity culture to judge other people’s bodies but that is actually not our job. So if I work to stop buying into that in my own head, and externally with my friends and family, I’m doing the work to change the culture I see as so damaging. I believe that change begins with me and I want to do my work to make the world more loving of all bodies.

I also think that we are our own worst critics. Whenever someone spends the time to say something really hateful I wonder what they are saying to themselves, alone, when no one is around. People who are terrible critics of other bodies are saying nastier things to themselves.

And the good news is as you get more value-neutral, compassionate and understanding about other people’s bodies it really helps to become compassionate about yours.

2013-10-04

How to be a Good Ally to Fat People Who Appear to Have Lost Weight

Our culture normalizes talking about bodies all the time. There is especially a lot of value placed on weight gain or loss. Turn on a television and just listen to diet chatter. It’s pervasive, obnoxious and well-meaning individuals perpetuate it in our personal lives all the time.

I like to create an environment in my life that is about substance over small talk, where compliments are genuine and weight is value-neutral.

“Oh, but Bevin,” you may be saying. “I really mean it as a compliment when I notice you’ve lost weight!”

But, well-intentioned friend, just because you’re well-intentioned doesn’t mean what you say doesn’t have a harmful impact. Weight loss doesn’t mean I look good. I believe I look good at all of my weights–all bodies are good bodies. And I know your perception of me might have changed because you are socialized to believe smaller is better, but I would like to gently invite you to do something different with your nonpliments of “You look so good!” when someone has lost weight.

It’s also important to remember that the well-intentioned friends come in all shapes and sizes, fat, thin and in between.

1274444_542297499183133_96805117_o.jpg
Photo by Amos Mac.

1. How about don’t talk about it?

I strongly subscribe to the philosophy that my body is nobody’s business but my own. If I want to talk about it with someone, I will and I do.

I completely understand the inclination to ask questions about an obvious change. I am a naturally inquisitive person. My friends call me the Queer Oprah because of my tendency to really like to get into the meat of people’s stories. As I’ve learned how to become a more sensitive and compassionate person I have had to learn that sometimes you just don’t ask and you stay in the dark. It feels kind of impossible to not be nosy about it but I do it anyway because it’s not my business.

Also, what if you’re wrong? A friend of mine just said she gets asked all the time if she lost weight when she puts her hair down!

Being nosy and being inquisitive are natural things that I am still working on curtailing. But I think it’s worth it to do the work to be sensitive because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I want my friends to feel like they can be their most vibrant and awesome selves around me.

IMG_5021.JPG
Super cute picture of me and Sarah Jenny from the Yes Ma’am archives.

2. Wait for the person to bring it up.

Have you ever noticed that lots of straight people will out themselves to you within about ten minutes of conversation? Sometimes as short as two. Straight people in a heteropatriarchy are reaffirmed all the time about how great, normal and important their straightness is. Therefore, they have likely not had the experience of having to hide or code their sexuality to people. They don’t really play the “pronoun” game and affirm their heterosexuality without thinking about it.

The same is true for lots of people who have lost weight. In a diet-obsessed culture, it is super normalized that weight loss is a good thing. People who are excited about their weight-loss will probably bring it up because it is normalized to talk about people’s bodies whether that is right or wrong. So let it happen if it will organically.

People don’t stop to think about whether or not weight loss might be a sign of someone’s increased health or not. I know many people who have had cancer that lost a lot of weight rapidly. Candye Kane (an amazing blues singer) said on stage once, “I don’t recommend the cancer diet.”

100_5909
Candye Kane by XRaySPX. Buy Candye’s cds! They’re great!

Maybe just ask them what’s going on in their life and talk to them organically. The core questions you have about them may just come to light. But, again, their body is none of your business unless they bring it up.

If they do bring up their weight loss in a positive manner, you can do the work of someone working in solidarity with fat people by saying, “I think you look great at any weight, but I’m really glad you feel good in your body right now.”

3. Mention a general compliment that is more neutral.

If you really want to compliment someone because you genuinely think they look good, there are lots of things about someone’s appearance you can go for. Instead of mentioning weight loss thing, if you want to compliment someone you can go for something else. “Your hair looks great!” “I love this outfit!” There are a bunch of different ways to express positivity to someone that don’t take into account weight loss and reinforce that weight loss is the only way to look good.

I can see friends who come at me when I’ve lost weight sort of looking for a way to talk about my appearance without going down the wrong road because they know I loved myself X number of pounds ago and they don’t want to bury themselves in the wrong kind of compliment.

4. “You seem particularly present tonight. I don’t know what it is, but you just seem extra YOU today. I love it!”

If you must say something to the person, I suggest the foregoing. Kris Ford gave me this quote.

Kris Ford
Kris!
I think it’s really great! What a remarkable way to get to the essence of what your weight loss compliment is really about. When we stop to think about what we really mean when we’re talking to people we might be able to clearly communicate without hurting them.

5. Absolutely don’t ask someone what they’re doing.

Omigod, my family is so into this discussion. I zone out when I start to hear diet talk, Weight Watchers, walking the track, whatever new thing they’re doing. I truly believe in health at every size and will totally pipe into discussions of fitness, feeling good in your body and other things from an all bodies are good bodies perspective. But I have heard “What are you doing??” question so many times and I just absolutely hate it.

Again, often folks will offer it if they want to. But in general the “what you’re doing” question is such a standard thing people think is okay to ask but it’s actually really personal! I have a super close friend I asked this question of because I genuinely had no idea how she had lost weight and wondered. But I’m close enough to her that when she dropped that it was an eating disorder it was a safe(r) space to talk about it. I also learned from that moment to tread even a little more lightly with that stuff, to open those kinds of conversations with gentle warnings or open slowly. Because people who are just hanging out or going about their life maybe don’t want to just talk about their traumas out of the blue because you want to comment on their bodies.

Kris fatkini
Another picture of Kris because I couldn’t choose. Hot fatkini!!

I struggle with what to say to people when they comment about changes to my weight. True fact about me–I tend to be an emotional non-eater. If I am going through a rough time I will likely lose some weight. I lost sixty pounds when my fiance left me and every time someone commented on my weight I would say, “Bad break-up.” I would kind of grumpily respond to a nonpliment with snark.

I don’t always want to do that, but I really leave it up to how I am feeling in that moment. Sometimes I go with, “I think I look great at any size.” Often, especially if it is a friend or loved one, I go with a very long explanation of what lead to my recent weight loss so that they understand what I’m going through, that it’s been a real struggle and that the weight loss is a byproduct of a larger initiative to resolve a chronic condition I have.

Sometimes, I just respond to weight loss nonpliments graciously because it’s not worth the fight. I learned to respond to compliments I didn’t agree with back when I was still self-hating. I would do things like respond to compliments with, “Oh, I don’t look good I still have x,y,z wrong with me.” And I replaced that with a simple, “Thank you,” until I was ready to really hear and absorb good things about myself.

A friend told me once, “Hi skinny,” in response to weight loss. My response was, “Um, I don’t identify as skinny.” Because anytime I’ve ever lost weight in my life (as someone who has a lifetime of fat experience) I have always been fat.

IMG_0872.jpg
Miss Mary Wanna dressed as a pizza. Photo by Gizelle Peters.

And, in the case of my beloved Grandmother, I accept her compliments graciously and deeply appreciate when my mom pipes in with, “But we love you at any size.” Because sometimes it’s not worth the fight. But it is amazing to have my mom acting in solidarity with my politics and values around all bodies being good bodies at any size. This was not always the case, but working with her in love, respect and compassion through the last twelve years of my participation in body liberation activism, has actually been really rewarding.

I’ve also blogged about being a good ally to your fat lover as part of my Fat Sex Week series.

***
allbodiesaregoodbodies2lights2.jpg
Get this tote bag for a $40 contribution to my fundraiser! I’m fundraising to sustain QueerFatFemme.com and my art projects! Please consider supporting with a gift subscription (and getting some great prizes) if you have been touched by this site!

Powered by WordPress