YouTube Channel

Celebreight Yourself now has a Youtube channel!

You can also find more of my writing at three great websites: Large in Charge magazine, Fierce, Freethinking Fatties, and More of Me to Love. Links are below.

Monday, November 28, 2011

WTF Moments

The other day, I was at a social gathering making small talk with various people I had never met before. I started chatting with a very nice woman who was friendly, unassuming, and charming. We had been making very nice small talk and she eventually got around to that inevitable question:

Her:  So what do you do for a living?
Me:  I’m a freelance writer and editor. I’m a blogger, actually.
Her:  Oh, what kind of subject matter do you write about?
Me:  Non-fiction, mostly … lots of opinion pieces, movie reviews, stuff like that. Actually my blog is about size acceptance. I want to try to help full figured women with self-esteem and help them feel good about themselves.
Her:  (looking like she’d just seen a rotting corpse on the table)  Oh …

Then she made a beeline for the other side of the room and avoided me for the rest of the day. I was totally perplexed. I should add that this woman was extremely thin, so I don’t know whether her reaction could have possibly been due to her own body issues … but it was so sudden and the change in her demeanor was so obvious that I just thought to myself: WTF?

At the very same gathering, I had another WTF moment. There’s nothing like a social event to spark WTF moments, right? This next exchange was with an outgoing lady who was the type you could tell had no shyness about talking to anyone. Eventually, I ended up beside her at the kitchen table. Our conversation went something like this:

Her:  So you have a daughter?
Me:  Yes.
Her:  Just the one?
Me:  Yes, just one.
Her:  Where do you live?
Me:   In Toronto.
Her:  Oh, you live in Toronto?
Me:  Yes.
Her:  It’s just the two of you, right?
Me:  (pausing, befuddled)  Uh … no, I have a husband.
Her:  (looking surprised) Oh, you have a husband!
Me:  Yes. (thinking yes, I have one of those … WTF.)

I sat there, wondering why she would have assumed it was just me and my daughter. In her defense, I should add that I came to this get-together without my husband, so I suppose she could have assumed I was single because of that. But the surprise in her voice when she said, Oh, you have a husband! was pointed enough to put my ears on edge. Did she think a big girl like me couldn’t possibly be married? Why else would she have asked that specific question? I wasn’t offended … actually, I was quite amused. But I couldn’t help thinking … WTF!

In the grand scheme of my life, these were really harmless, benign little interactions I am so used to by now that they barely register anymore. And these were definitely not rude, ill-mannered people whose intention was to hurt me or treat me badly. I could tell that they were totally unaware of how they had unwittingly revealed something about themselves. It was really just a microscopic example of the kind of assumptions and attitudes that large people face on a daily basis.

I try not to assume that my size is the primary characteristic that everyone notices about me, but when I have exchanges like this, it really makes me wonder … does my personality ever transcend my size? Do people ever just see me as a person and not as a big, threatening blob?

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that not everyone is a superficial twit, but … lemme tell ya … really rewarding conversation is extremely hard to come by these days.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Who Would You Thank?

So many of us, fat and thin, spend way too much time moaning and complaining about what’s wrong in our lives. Let’s spend some time recognizing what’s right. Why don’t we all stand up and officially thank the people who have blessed our lives with their kindness, compassion, understanding, support, and encouragement?

One of the most incredible moments in an actor’s life is standing at the podium on Oscar night, making his or her acceptance speech. Unfortunately, they have a time limit, and have to come up with something eloquent in about two minutes, with a camera on them and about fifty million people watching, and their brains are understandably scrambled with excitement and nervousness. Remember Sally Field’s infamous “You like me! You really like me!” speech? It may have seemed a little bubble-brained, but who could fault her for being so effusive at a moment like that? Her truly grateful self came out for all to see.

If you were getting an award for being a fabulous fat person, who would you thank for helping you become the fabulous fat person you are? Who has made a difference in your life? Who has truly been there for you, given you strength, and encouraged you to ignore the haters? Who assured you that they would always be there for you if you needed them?

I didn’t have a lot of emotional support growing up. My parents were old-school, and they focused on work, money, and financial survival. They considered emotions incidental and usually bothersome. I don’t blame them – I know they did the best they could. But I never felt like I could rely on them emotionally. When I was being bullied at school, I always felt pressure from them to just “suck it up” and move on. They had no idea how torturous it was for me. The one person in my family who made me feel safe and understood was (and is) my older brother Glenn. He always took care of me and made sure I had what I needed. When I complained endlessly about how much I hated working a 9-5 job in the corporate world and desperately wanted to further my education (but couldn’t afford to pay for school), he footed the bill. Not to mention just making me feel unmistakably loved all my life. I don’t know what I would have done without him. He is an incredible person and I love him dearly.

The years I spent looking for my lifemate were very lonely and painful. I thought it would never happen. I allowed men to use and disappoint me because at that time I didn’t think I could get any better. Then I met the man who would become my husband and everything changed. I wasn’t used to a man taking me seriously and treating me with respect, and fucked up as it was, I tested his sincerity by putting him through all kinds of shit. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I can see that’s exactly what I was doing. No matter what I did, though, he stuck around. We had our periods of separation – once for as long as a year – but I think we both knew as soon as we set eyes on each other that it was for good. Now when I look at him and think of the 20-plus years we have been together, I just shake my head and smile. Some things are just meant to be, I guess. I love you, sweetie.

And what would life be without a great friend? I mean a truly great friend who you can bare your soul to and are not afraid to look foolish with. One truly influential person in my life is my friend Christine. Strange as it is, her father is my mother’s “long-time companion” and we have known each other for many years. But we didn’t get to know each other really well until our mutual parents got together after my father passed away. We have shared many, many hours talking about life, the necessity of staying focused on the positive, and encouraging each other to reach our full potential. She has inspired me many times and made me feel rejuvenated when I felt nothing but completely depressed. Thank you, Christine. I love you and I am so grateful for your friendship.

What about your list? Who would you put on it, and why?

P.S. For those of you who have come into my life relatively recently (you know who you are), please don't be hurt or miffed that you're not mentioned on this list. It's not a reflection on a lack of value of you as well. I love you too. :) 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Damn, I Wish I'd Said That!

We’ve all had those moments … someone either said or did something really ignorant to us, and we were so shocked that it rendered us temporarily mute. We say nothing, or we mumble something unsatisfactory. Later on, when we think about it, we kick ourselves, thinking: Damn, I wish I’d said that!

I have so many examples of this phenomenon in my life. I’m one of those people who’s pretty articulate on paper (or computer screen), but verbally … not so much. As much ignorant behaviour as I have seen in my life, it still startles me when I witness it. I just can’t fathom man’s inhumanity to man at times, and it leaves me temporarily speechless. There have been a few odd times when I was blessedly sharp-witted and sharp-tongued and managed to deliver an appropriate response, but for the most part, I get tongue-tied.

Here are just a couple of examples of incidents where I wish I would have been more verbally effective:

I was at my doctor’s office for a physical about a year ago. He’s been my doctor for ages, and I’ve never really liked him (you’ll see why). One of the first things he asked me (as usual) was: “What about your weight?” I always feel like I’m on the defensive with him. I said, “I walk every day, and I eat as healthy as possible.” Then he looks at me and says, “You can’t go on like this.” For a moment, I felt like I was an actor in a bad Spanish soap opera. I just sat there mute, feeling chastised. What was even funnier was that after the physical, when he checked my blood pressure, breathing, heart, blood and urine, etc. … everything was fine. I was in perfect health. He’s one of those doctors who thinks that losing weight is the answer to everything.

What I wish I’d said: You know, I’ve been coming to this office for decades, and it’s always the same. You constantly bring up my weight. If I’m so unhealthy, then why did my tests come out normal? Get educated and go to some seminars on treating patients of size. You obviously need some direction.

Another incident that comes to mind occurred a couple of years ago, when me and my family went on a trip to New York City. My husband wanted to go see Yankee Stadium (he’s a die-hard Yankee fan), and my daughter and I were not interested. We decided that me and my daughter would go to the Metropolitan Museum and meet him in a couple of hours. We took the subway and got off, needing to find our way to Fifth avenue. I wasn’t sure which way to go when we were on the street, and I spotted a couple of ladies sitting on a bench a few feet away from us. One was old, the other young. They looked like a mother and daughter. I went over to them and very politely said, “Hello ladies, how are you? Could you please tell me how to get to Fifth avenue?" They looked at me, and the older one in particular looked at me like I was an alien. They pointed in a certain direction and then the older one said, “It’s pretty far,” in this warning tone of voice. “No problem, we don’t mind walking,” I said. Then she said, with this disapproving look on her face, “It’ll do you good.” I was fucking furious, and it was on the tip of my tongue to really let her have it with a few cuss words, but my daughter was with me, so I just turned around and left. My daughter knew something about the encounter was not right and looked up at me, saying, “What did she say, mommy?” I just brushed it off, saying nothing, but then she said, “That was rude!” I just said, “C’mon, let’s go,” and tried to act like it didn’t bother me … but inside I was fuming, and it bothered me for quite awhile afterward.

What I wish I’d said: Did you hear me ask for your opinion on my health? No … I asked for directions. You are one rude bitch.

Since starting this blog, I’ve become more comfortable with defending myself and others against ignorant and rude people, and I’ve become much more articulate and outspoken than I used to be. Still, I do have those moments when I wish my brain wouldn’t hit pause and be able to instantly deliver all the great responses I have in my mental arsenal. It’s still a work in progress, though.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Letter to My Younger Self

Last week, I watched a great video by fabulous fat girl Virgie Tovar. In her video, she talked about what she’d say to her young fat self from her current fat self, with all the knowledge and experience she’d acquired along the way. She urged us fellow fat girls to write our own letters as well, and I think it’s a great idea.

Here’s mine. (I've used photos to illustrate certain periods, and I'm sure you'll notice in at least a couple of them that I certainly didn't look fat ... but I can guarantee you that I always FELT fat, and that my weight was always an issue.)

Dear Gaby (everyone used to call me Gaby when I was younger, and my best friends still do),                
I know you think that life is nothing but shit and that you will never find love, success, or happiness, but girl … wait until you see what happens. When you grow up, you will find love, success, and happiness. They may not come from the places you expect, and they will not come at the whisk of a fairy godmother’s wand, but they will happen, and you will find that your suffering and strife makes them even sweeter.

You will find the love you crave. Some of it will be paired with pain and disappointment, but the true love you find will be unquestionable. You will do stupid things but you will learn from them. You will go through a period where partying, drinking, and drugs seem like part of your identity, but actually it's just a natural rite of passage and a coping mechanism. The only way you were able to feel comfortable around other people most of the time was to be drunk and wasted out of your mind, but it was also a hell of a lot of fun (unless you were painfully hungover) and you won't regret a moment of it. You will have great and not-so-great sex with not-great men. You will meet men who use you for their own purposes, but even though they think they're getting off easy, you're always fully aware that you're allowing them to use you, and that you regard this simply as a romantic crap shoot. 

Through much trial and error, you will finally meet a man who surprises and amazes you with his goodness and uniqueness. You will make a baby together. You will marry him. You will give birth (in a mere 5 hours!) to the most beautiful little girl in the world. She will delight you with her spirit, sense of humour, and uncanny similarity of character.

You will amaze yourself with your bravery, guts, and tenacity. You will amaze others with your achievements and accolades, and be extremely amused and gratified at the astounded looks on their faces. You will become a writer whose readers tell you how much your words inspire them. You will represent others like you and you will do it with style, grace, and rock and roll.

You carry yourself with pride, dignity, and class. Even the most loud-mouthed fools will have to bend the knee to your undeniable intelligence and self-respect. Despite your disappointment and disgust with much of the world, you  will always have a sense of awe for it. The desire to express this awe sparks much creativity and makes you feel part of a global artistic family, and you experiment with and express yourself through photography. You will look back on your life and smile, and think of the perfect sense it all makes, for you would not be the woman I am now if I had not been the girl you were then. I love you, baby. Rock on.

From the 46-year-old you

What's even cooler than writing this letter to my younger self is realizing that 20, 30, or even 40 years from now, my older self can write the same type of letter to my middle-aged self, telling me what I've learned and the great things that have happened to me since!

I urge you all to write your own letters to your younger selves. Not only is it enlightening and fun, it really makes you look at the big picture and put all the puzzle pieces together. Life is not that big a mystery. We don't become who we are for some inexplicable reason. Every single thing that has happened to you has brought you where you are now. It's pretty awesome, when you really think about it.