This Human of New York

by Brittany on July 17, 2014

in Chubby Girl

HONY

See this guy right there? That’s my dad.

“Are you lonely?”

“It’s been a lifetime of loneliness. I decided early on that I better get used to it. I go to movies by myself. If the movie theater is completely empty, I’m even happier. I learned early on that if I wanted to go to restaurants, I better learn to go by myself. One benefit to being big is that people don’t bother you. I’m shocked that you came up to me. Nobody’s ever done that. When I started to go to therapy, it took me several sessions before I even spoke a word. I’d just sit there and cry. And honestly, you caught me on a tough day. I was sitting here feeling really bad about myself. Because I went to the doctor today, and I was sure that I’d lost weight. But I’d gained some.”

Alright, he’s not really my dad, but he could be. Maybe that’s why I’ve read this one thousand times since yesterday. Maybe that why I’ve cried in random moments of the night thinking about him. Maybe that’s why I absent mindedly opened up my laptop and priced tickets to New York with no real purpose other than finding this man and siting quietly beside him in a movie theater, sharing a popcorn, as friends do.  I can’t tell what hurts more, the pain I feel for this lonely man, or the guilt I feel for the amount of compassion I’m blindly giving a man that I sometimes don’t offer my own father out of frustration.

As Andy and I reread the entry and the comments that ensued on Humans of New York’s Facebook page, he looked at me surprised and said, “wow, I was expecting this guy to get skewed, but most of these comments are amazing. How the hell is that happening?”

“This is why everyone should try to be kind to one another, you never know what a person is going through, I hope he finds some happiness.”

“This breaks my heart. What does it say about ourselves as a society.”

“I admit I sometimes judged fat people. But I won’t anymore. This really touched me.”

After laughing to myself thinking, welcome to my fucking uphill battle, man. I gave him the explanation that myself, and every person working beside me in the body positive movement, are striving to have understood. He is a human, not an obese man.

What moments like this do is give a face and a heart to the person society would otherwise be mocking. It’s harder to shame someone you know. Andy was shocked by those comments because we aren’t used to plus size just people being people. We aren’t used to assuming that their loneliness comes with hurt and that their days aren’t consumed with thoughts of food or laziness. Everything we know about plus size people is wrong.

As I continue to scroll down my timeline, fulfilled and happy like Scrooge on Christmas morning high on human spirit and kindness, I am reminded that the battle is still there. A woman in short shorts mocked for what’s spilling out the back. A blurry photo secretly shot of a curvy woman at the beach in a bikini, I mean, what she thinking, right? When friends share some horrible viral photo of a person, and I interject telling them that I weigh the exact same, and yeah, probably own those leopard leggings, their response is always, “well I don’t mean you…”

But they do mean me. I am no better or worse than the person in those photos. The media takes the humanity right out of plus size people. On the news our heads are blurred or cut off. In mocking Facebook photos passed around we’re made into almost a cartoonish joke. In fashion, we’re rarely ever seen just whispered about like unseen Sasquatches against the comforting glow of beautiful photoshopped people. Recently, a friend shared with me a photo that was circulating online by Chicago Bear’s fans featuring a plus size girl whose breasts were covered in cheese slices, the joke being that she was trying out to be a cheerleader for the Green Bay Packers.

Now, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers rivalry is a very real thing, and if you followed the news last year, you’d know the weapon of smack-tacking choice is mocking the looks and weight of Packer’s cheerleaders. I get it, football rivalries are intense. I went to Ohio State. I can barely look up north without dry-heaving and mumbling curse words under my breath. But seeing this girl paraded virally around as a giant joke ( none of the commentary was kind), all I wanted to comment was… this is my cousin.

Alright she’s not, I’ve never met her, though who knows? I watched Cindy Crawford find out she was related to an Italian King on some TLC genealogy show once, so really, I can’t rule out that we’re not related. But she’s somebody’s cousin. Hell, she could be your cousin. The point is, this photo has over 5700 shares and none of them are met with compassion.

“Hey, she obviously posed for this picture, so she’s asking for it.”

Yeah, that’s bullshit. We never ask for it. Trust me, I know more than anyone how much it sucks to have your photo stolen and circulated without your permission. So yeah, she did pose for this photo. Maybe she sent it to her boyfriend. Maybe they broke up and he shared it with a friend who uploaded it to a revenge porn site. Maybe her laptop was stolen at school and a group of mean girls posted it up online and it went viral.

Or maybe it doesn’t matter why she took it because we’re fucking women and we don’t need to justify what we do with our bodies, or the cheese we put on them. We have empathy for an unknown man because he shared that he has a capacity for pain and loneliness, and we skewer a girl because we assume she has none.

Compassion and respect is not exclusive to the pretty or the likable. It is to be doled out equally and without prejudice to weight or looks or money.

Now, when I see photos like these, my response isn’t shame on you for posting this, it’s “that’s my dad,” “that’s my cousin,” or “that’s me.”

Because if we let this continue, it very well could be.

 

{ 30 comments }

Group Therapy

by Brittany on July 14, 2014

in Marriage

“8 and three dashes.”

“What?”

“8 and three… yes three dashes.”

I hold three fingers up into the air as Andy and my brother Adam stare at me from the table saw positioned on the deck.

“8 and three dashes.” I yell at them again from the center of the dining room.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Andy screamed, bringing his dirty hand up to squeeze the bridge of his nose. An annoying thing he does when he’s exhausted with me.

“I’d like to remind you both, you asked me for help. I was perfectly fine on my own working on laundry in the bedroom.”

So I don’t know how to read a tape measure. Who knew it was one of the three things you learn in school that would be applicable to real life. Also, as an aside, if you want to test the limits of your marriage, remodel your home DIY style even though you have zero marketable construction skills.

The next morning my phone rang. My neck recoiled in horror as I reached for my phone on the coffee table.

“Hey B, it’s Laura, want to meet me at the park for a run?”

“I can’t, my neck is killing me. I slept on the couch last night.”

“Like, you passed out on the couch?”

“No, I slept here on purpose. With my pillow and blanket and everything. Just like they do on television shows when the mom and dad fight.”

“What?”

“I can’t read a tape measure and Andy was a dick about it. It was a political statement.”

“Oh sweetie, that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”

“I know.”

I need to get out of the habit of taking my stress out on my marriage, but I feel like I only do it because I know it can take it. Which is probably a selfish and obnoxious thing to do. I like to think, oh Andy understands. He gets that I’m stressed and that I slept on the couch, not because I don’t love him, but because I needed some sort of physical act to release all the shit currently mosh pitting in my head at the moment. Some people punch walls or scream into abysses to fancy indie soundtracks. Would Andy prefer my stress release happen while balancing naked on his dick in a bed somewhere? Probably, but he doesn’t get to pick. So, I slept on a couch watching sad movies on Netflix crying and blowing my nose on his work polo, and considered that act of defiance enough.

These last four weeks have been horrible. My mother is recovering from rotator cuff surgery. So I am now working at home (in a construction zone) with four kids, one of whom has only one arm and is going through menopause. Of the four people in my care each day, I’m only allowed to legally drug one of them with percoset. Being a financial caretaker is one thing. It’s a point of pride, something I have worked hard to be able to do for my parents. Being a physical caretaker is a whole other animal. The parental role reversal is a mindfuck. It’s like I needed to act like a spoiled 15 year old just to remind myself I was still capable of it.

“But I’m the kid in this scenario!?”

If this was a sitcom, that’d be my catchphrase. Like “You got it, dude” or “Lucy you got some ‘splaining to do,” I’d scream it into the phone after pushing end and a man in a booth somewhere would cue the laugh track. It’d be on t-shirts and mugs.

But still, #AndyBrittany4ever has definitely taken a bruising this summer, and valid excuses or not, it sucks and not something you ever want to admit out loud, especially when it’s mostly probably your own fault because you have piss poor stress coping mechanisms. But weirdly, fighting and being mad about stuff (both stuff Andy knows about and the stuff I’m arguing with him secretly about in my head) has opened me up to a completely under-appreciated form of friendship… couples friends.

And really, that is what this post is about. Hard to tell from that hot mess of an intro up there, but yeah, we have amazing couples friends. Girlfriends are awesome, and while I don’t have a ton of them, I cherish the few truly close ones I have. But, and maybe this is just me, I am always worried about admitting the things you can’t take back. I see it on social media all the time. People venting about their relationships in status updates, and it terrifies me.

I’ll always know your husband called you fat or that your wife keyed your car because you told us on Facebook and even though you deleted it and are totally fine and made-up right now, I still remember the post and the 400 likes it got. Plus you cross-posted it to Google+ so me- and the 9 billion creepy dudes who hang out on there and ask to see women’s boobs in unpunctuated and poorly structured sentences- totally read it there, also. 

I treat girlfriends with that apprehension sometimes. I am worried about saying too much, and then never being able to take it back because loyalty sometimes clouds the stakes. Like, I want to vent about a fight I am having, and I need you to forget about that last crazy thing I told you about because it’s irrelevant. Do I remember the previous crazy thing? Of course I remember it. I’m a woman. I fight over decades old shit all the time but I really need you, as a friend, to not be biased right now about this new totally separate thing. 

Sometimes what helps is not venting at all, but surrounding yourself with the kind of person you want to be in a relationship. Enter, couples friends. Andy and I are downright spoiled by the caliber of relationships we surround ourselves with.

Our Couples

We are all at different points in our lives, with different goals and lifestyles, and yet Andy and I love these people (and many more not pictured above) so fiercely for their ability to constantly remind us how to love each other, how to fight, and how to love each other all over again. They are like mirrors reflecting our marriage back at us, showing us the moments that make us strip down and jump each other in the car, and the moments that make us cringe and apologize to each other a million times. They aren’t filling our heads with platitudes and exit strategies. They are both cheering us on and calling us on our shit, because they’ve been there, they’re exhausted, and they love us enough to do it.

It’s equal parts friendship and group therapy, but with better beer and lower co-pays.

 

{ 20 comments }

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