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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Quick Thought About "Dumplin'" the Movie, a personal note

If you haven't watched Netflix's recent movie "Dumplin'", do yourself a favor and do. The most negative feedback I've read is that it's not as good as the book, and movies never are, so I waited to read it until I'd seen the film.

There is a lot to love about it. For me, the lion's share involved the portrayal of female friendships (mostly among high-schoolers). In almost every movie where you have an "outcast" (fat, nerd, jock girl, etc.) and then "normals," one or the other will be framed as basically evil, and one or the other will spend much of the movie plotting revenge or hating the other.

None of that in this movie. The main tension is between the title character and her mom, though there is some cursory idiot teen guy bullying (there are plenty of great guys in the movie, though; the jerks don't get much screen time or character development).

The young women in this movie are kind and supportive of each other. They might disagree, and even argue, but there is an underlying good will that pervades. I feel like this is a much more genuine picture of my experience with girlfriends.

But here is one thing that really struck me about the movie:

One of the story lines (not the main one) is of a male co-worker who is interested in the title character. He is conventionally good-looking, and straight-sized. The main character is also attractive, and is fat.

When it becomes obvious that he likes her and she sees a beauty-queen-type flirting with him, she becomes upset and tells him that they don't work "in the real world." She tells him that he should reasonably be with someone like the pageant staple girl (who, by the way, is an absolutely guileless character; not demonized at all, which, have I mentioned, I LOVE?!).

This was NOT my experience in high school.

I blame my lack of a real high school boyfriend on two things: I was fat (and, really, I wasn't *that* fat). I was not having sex. Maybe also that I'm a dork, but whatever.

I was never flummoxed when a guy liked me. I was always thrown off when a guy DIDN'T. No matter how many times it happened. No matter how consistent it was, and how much self-esteem-damage I had, and how much I hated my body. I was repeatedly crushed and incredulous when a guy in whom I was interested wasn't having it.

I seriously thought, "Do you KNOW me?! I'm super cool, and fun, and funny, and smart, and you'd love hanging out with me!" I might have felt like a flabby monster compared to my closest friends, but I KNEW I could hold my own in terms of personality and having so much to offer a relationship.

I am sure there are plenty of people who feel like Willowdean did: That if you look a certain way, you don't get the "Patriarchy Prizes" (h/t to Virgie Tovar). I'm very sad for those people, and am ready to build a world where this isn't the case. But for me, it never was. I always assumed I was worthy of love and respect and companionship. I'm going to credit my parents for that.

I've still spend a stupid amount of time in my life trying to diminish my body to fit into the ridiculously tiny box considered "desirable" by people who truly don't deserve my efforts. But somehow I've always seen that part of my struggle as separate from the person I am, who deserves good things just as much as my birthday twin, Cameron Diaz.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Blogging is Hard

In case you're wondering: Yes, we're still on the "go to bed at 12:30 AM, wake up after 10 AM" schedule. Which sounds kind of perfect, in terms of sleeping nine hours, but... It makes it difficult for James and me to spend time together, since he has to be in bed in time to get up early enough to miss traffic into his newish job; and it makes blogging a chore because I tend to actually wind down and start heading to sleep before Mal (waking up to tell him it's late enough and I'm turning off the lights). Then in the morning, there is waking up to do, and I try to get my chores done. Then that's just about the time Mal wakes up. Oh, and I watch TV. In fact, I just opened up my tablet, determined to blog, when I saw a video I'd started watching while I made dinner last night, but then got waylaid. I was about to press "play," but knew that would mean zero blogs today. :) So here we are.

Mal watching TV at the fun Disney Jr. play area at Barton Creek Square
First of all, an observation: The other day, it was a little chilly. In the middle of the day, I realized that what I was wearing -- leggings, a long-sleeved under shirt, and a man's button-up that fits kind of like a dress -- was pretty much the exact "outfit" I have on in a picture my mom took of my sister and me coming into my apartment from the store when I was in college.

For most of my life, I've skirted the edges of poverty, typically in the lower middle class. For that same time, I've also thought that it would be nice to have enough money that I could dress a little "better." Well, here we are with enough so-called "disposable" income that I could upgrade my wardrobe if I wanted to. And I DO purchase clothing that is more comfortable and better-made than I used to. But apparently having a little bit of cash in your pocket does not give you style, and so I'm pretty much always going to look like an out-of-touch stay-home cheapskate mom... because I am.

Similarly, we realized some caulking was coming up onto our dishes from INSIDE the dishwasher. At first, I thought I was pulling out some nasty stringy cheese, but realized, no... it was literally caulk. A brief internet research junket showed that it's dangerous to use any kind of sealant inside a dishwasher if it isn't aquarium sealant and therefore safe for animals (like humans). This was obviously the stuff you pipe around your bathtub.

Since the dishwasher was original to the house, built in 2007, we decided to get a new dishwasher. The first year we lived here, when we had the house warranty, we had someone come out about 4 times for various problems, and it's vibrated loudly through two cycles ever since then, but mostly worked.

We'll probably have to replace our refrigerator soon, too, and I've been eyeing these lovely candy apple red appliances. James did some research, but after he bought some Black Friday electronics, turned the dishwasher selection over to me. I found a couple of beautiful red ones. Both Smeg and Big Chill make them. And the morning I sat down to order, I ended up buying a Cyber Monday deal on a slate one (like the other appliances we have) from The Home Depot because I couldn't justify doubling the cost of a dishwasher just for it to be red. So that's how my brain works.

Mal seems to have even MORE energy than ever right now. We're going on a little trip next week, just the two of us, and I'm looking forward to getting and keeping him out for a while. He is loving being out. Wednesday, we went to south Austin to celebrate the Brownie girls' birthdays. Then we went to the mall because he loves Barton's play area (pictured above) but I can't justify driving down there just to visit the mall. After that, and being stuck in rush hour 360 traffic for 45 minutes, he wanted to play at Little Land. We closed that place down, then went to the McD's play area where he played with other kids for an hour and a half.

Yesterday, we met one of his friends at Chick-fil-A, then when they had to leave, we went to McD's AGAIN and he played there for a couple of hours.

Today, he's wanting to go to IKEA, where I can get 1.5 hours of child care for free! So it sounds great to me!

I was not premature in celebrating the end of "deedees." It's been a month since that post, and we're definitely done. The week after I wrote it was difficult. He remembered it, and wanted to go back. I didn't want to actively stop, but since we had, it was easier to say, "I'm sorry; it's too late." He cried himself pretty much to sleep a couple of nights. But he was fine. Yesterday, he was upset about a lot of things and said, for the first time in probably three weeks: "I'm not special anymore because I don't have deedees!" He has no idea how "special" nursing for four years is!

I've mentioned becoming a much more laid-back parent over the years. It might appear like "permissive parenting," but it's actually intentional and often difficult; I'm not just sitting back and letting my kid do whatever he wants because I'm lazy (which I can be, but that's not my overall parenting strategy). It's more about my trying to have empathy with where my kid is, and not allowing my pride or perceived authority be offended because how we interact doesn't look the way an authoritarian model looks. But it's so bizarre and sweet at times.

Yesterday, Malcolm was very frustrated because he had already eaten one of the Trader Joe's chocolate ornaments off of our tree. I don't control what he eats in general, but since the ornaments are for the whole family and not just him, I'm limiting him to one per day. He was furious, and kept saying that he was going to take another. I told him he was not going to do that. He yelled, "I am so angry with you right now!" I told him I was sorry he was mad, and I walked past him to see if he'd let me pick him up. He did.

I sat on the couch, and he nuzzled into my neck, crying and saying, "I'm just so mad at you!" while I said, "I'm so so sorry you are angry" and rocked with him. He eventually calmed down, and it seems so healthy to me to be able both to be mad at someone AND to receive comfort from them. 

Later, we reached a compromise of sorts in which I let him finish off his advent calendar, because that WAS his, and while I sliced onions for dinner, he ran over to show me his "ultra rare" finds, like a chocolate wreath or stockings or Santa. He kept saying, "I love doing this! I can't stop!" He enjoyed himself so much, and the calendar was for his enjoyment, so I'm glad he was able to have at it. We have a wooden advent calendar we can still use daily. It's not quite as tempting.

Oh, Mal wasn't as thrilled when he said he wanted another calendar and I told him Trader Joe's is out of them. I bought them in the middle of November because they're $1 and I know how they fly off the shelves. Ehh, life lesson, I suppose.

Here's a picture my dad took of Mal on the trampoline at the Brownies'.
We got our 23 and Me results back, and James has a much more broad base of ancestry than I do. We'll go into some of the results later, but it was a lot of fun to do. One thing it does if you want it to is it finds people who are likely your family. For both of us, it founds cousins we already know. So that was pretty cool.

We have a special project coming up that is part D's Christmas present, part a thing for the whole family. We're all looking forward to it, and I can't wait to share that, either!

Time to watch that video (hopefully) before Mal wakes up! Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Christmas came early! (kind of)

I should have taken pictures of the whole thing, but I didn't.

This year, James and I decided to give each other something a little different for Christmas: genetic testing! Woo hoo!

The packets came in the mail yesterday, and we should have results by the holidays. It says not to eat or drink 30 minutes before, well, it's gross, but... spitting into the vial. And I didn't. However, the last thing I'd eaten, about an hour or so before that, was a red Airhead. So my sample is decidedly pink, and it'll be interesting to see whether that makes a difference or not.

I didn't notice until I'd produced enough to pool, and then I wasn't sure whether I could empty and rinse the tube out, so... I sent it in with my best wishes, and time will tell.

Incidentally, the paperwork said it most people could fill the vial in about six minutes. It took me half an hour. Another thing I read said it took this lady's male friend 4.5 spits. It took me like 20. It took James under 3 minutes, and his spit was super bubbly! Weird! And gross, I know. But you read this blog, and you get what you pay for.

So, you have to sign some permissions and acknowledgements, including opting in to receive three medical reports that they say professional organizations recommend you DON'T receive: namely late-onset Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and I forget the third. However, we both opted into those because we're not worriers and because the knowledge will just be a tool in our arsenal if, thirty years down the road, we need it.

This was interesting to me:

"There may be some consequences of using 23andMe Services that you haven't considered.

"You may discover things about yourself and/or your family members that may be upsetting or cause anxiety and that you may not have the ability to control or change.
"You may discover relatives who were previously unknown to you, or may learn that someone you thought you were related to is not your biological relative."

Dad and Mom, is there anything you want to tell me?

More updates as we get 'em!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Super Sensitive, but Super Sweet

D was fairly easy-going as a little one. Puberty brought on some stuff, but it's a lot easier to deal with a verbal child in distress than one who can't speak (although it still took me a couple of years to really plug into what was happening).

You may remember (I SURELY DO) that Mal just cried for 4+ hours every day for the first 4+ months of his life. They kept asking me when I wanted to rejoin some volunteer stuff I was doing, because once a newborn isn't a newborn anymore, you expect that they don't "need" as much. I never went back because Mal never stopped needing.

He wants so much. He feels SO MUCH. He has so many opinions. He isn't super open to alternative ideas. He's, frankly, exhausting but I'm very grateful I came upon gentle parenting as he was born. If I'd tried parenting him the "I'm-not-taking-no-nonsense" way in which I parented D, I can't imagine what would have happened.

As Mal has gotten older, it's both easier and more frustrating to deal with his moods. On the one hand, we know what he wants. On the other hand, sometimes he wants things that aren't even physically possible, and he cannot understand that we're telling him the absolute truth; there IS no way to do it, and an hour of cajoling, asking more politely, crying, and whining won't change things.

He has a thing he does now where he will say, for instance, "I want to go to the Disney Outlet." "We can't because I have to take the car into the shop since the 'check engine' light is on. If we drive it too much, it might break." "I like the car being broken." "No, you don't. It means you can't go ANYWHERE any time."

"Don't be rough like that or you'll break your mirror." "I like broken mirrors." 

"I like to scare the cat."

"I like you being sick."

"I like not being nice."


I know it's just his way to steamroll what we just told him is the barrier, but, guhh, you can't reason with someone who... can't reason. And it is taxing.

In as much as it is possible, I try to accommodate Mal's requests. If he asks for baked potatoes and I make them, then he says, "I wanted broccoli!" I will make broccoli. Whatever. He'll eventually eat both.

And there are times when I genuinely cannot help him out. Those happen frequently enough, I typically don't dig my heels in if I don't have to.

To that end... we have recently decided to take a break from hanging out with a child Mal always is excited to play with, but who delights in upsetting him. I acknowledge that my child is easily upset and dramatic. That's something he will hopefully mature out of. In the same respect, this other child will hopefully mature out of purposefully pushing Mal's buttons.

Every time we get together, within ten minutes, the other child is telling Mal something he can't do (and this child has no right to tell Mal what to do, but Mal takes it seriously and then tattles to me that this other person just told him he can't whatever) or that this child doesn't like Mal anymore and doesn't want to be his friend, or teasing him with "You can't" play with a toy or have my snack, when Mal hasn't asked for either, but then being told "Here's this cool thing you don't have access to!" upsets Mal.

It's just draining, and I deal with it enough with Mal alone. I don't need someone antagonizing and stoking the fires.


Last night, Mal looked SO tired. He'd looked fatigued most of the day. By about 8:30, I had pulled out the trundle bed and was snuggling in with some new blankets we just bought to deal with the fact that our house is drafty. We played for 45 minutes or so, then Mal said he was ready to watch TV. Great. It was plugged in 3 feet from where he was. He didn't want to get it.

He hopped into bed with me and covered up, saying his legs were tired and he couldn't get the computer, but that I (still further away) needed to. I said I was not getting up.

For literally 45 minutes, he cried, begged, opened the closet door so a light would shine in my eyes, got up and grabbed something that was right next to his computer, and was generally a mess. Like I said, I usually will try to keep things easy-peasy, but this night, I was just not going to do it. I wasn't unkind. I wasn't harsh. I chatted with him about other things. But when he fell back into that, "I need YOU to get me my computer!" again, I just laid down.

At one point, James came into the room to chat, and Mal said, "No, Daddy! I don't want YOU to get my computer! I want Mommy to get it! I don't want you or me to get it! MOMMY!"

James went to the store, and when he got back, Mal was still on about my getting his computer. At 9:48, he sat up, eyes rimmed with purple, and cried, "I just love you so much!" He buried his head into my neck. He was snoring in 15 seconds.

THAT KID, guys. 

It's the earliest he's gone to sleep in weeks, so it was a nice chance for James and me to catch up.

Today's been easier than yesterday. Then again, at 5:15 PM, the night is still young...

PS One time recently, when Mal was aggressively demanding something, I asked him, "Can you say 'Mummy, *I* want an Oompa-Loompa! Get *me* an Oompa-Loompa!'" He did, and it was HYSTERICAL.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The End of an Era

International Breastfeeding Awareness Month is in August. When it rolled around in 2015, I was both pleased I was still breastfeeding after almost a year, and tired... of breastfeeding. I was unable to nurse D at all because of a tongue-tie (and my unwillingness to mechanically intervene to address the tie) and especially since Mal was so so fussy his first couple of years, was pleased to have this tool at my disposal this round. Not to mention the savings we must have realized (or not realized, but sustained) not having to purchase formula. We did buy a few bottles, but by 4 months, I'd thrown them out. Mal has drunk one 4-ounce bottle in his whole life. Otherwise, it was all me.

I was more along the lines of "whatever" in 2016 when Breastfeeding Awareness Month rolled around and we were still going at it. I mean, the World Health Organization recommends feeding for at least 2 and up to 7 years, based on several criteria. Mostly, I wanted it to be Mal's choice to stop when he was ready, and at two years old, he was definitely not ready.

When I went to meet the resident pediatrician in early 2017, after we'd moved into our new house, he asked what kind of milk Mal was drinking. I told him and he said, "Oh, well, you can stop that any time. We definitely don't want to see that in a 3-year-old or especially a 4-year-old!" So I didn't go back to that doctor, even though I liked him.

Without a good reason, I wasn't going to force Mal to stop nursing. Even though I was way over it.

After he turned 3, Mal only nursed when he was going to bed or waking up, or when he was really, really upset or tired. And the reality is that before Mal was about three and a half, he'd never gone to sleep without nursing, unless he was in motion in a vehicle or stroller. I tried several things, but nothing else ever worked.

Breastfeeding Awareness Months 2017 and 2018 rolled by, and I didn't really notice. I was well aware. I was also pretty much dried up. I had a little milk left on one side, but Mal was clearly nursing solely for comfort. And, once again, though I was getting pretty sick of it, I didn't have that nursing aversion where women report their skin crawling and their wanting to punch something. I just started cutting it off after a minute or so.

Also, people who say that once a child is getting the majority of their sustenance from food and are just nursing for comfort so shut them off... Do they have that attitude about everything that brings their child comfort? "Oh, come on. You don't NEED this doll to go to sleep. It's a bunch of cotton stuffed into a rag that was sewn together. You just want it for comfort, ya big baby." I couldn't do it.

I was waiting to get to a point where the pain (physical discomfort, embarrassment, etc.) outweighed the benefits (easier bedtime, continued bonding, etc.). But it turns out, I didn't really have to.

As of now, it's been one week since "deedees." I think, friends, that I can call it: We're done!

Mal has asked a couple of times, but it was a good 4 days before he thought of it. And when he's asked, I've said, "Not right now, but let's snuggle" and he might persist a little, but eventually happily moves on.

I'm glad we didn't have to do it through nights of crying and begging. I'm glad I didn't have to lie to him about how he's so big, it doesn't "work" anymore. I'm glad I didn't shame him about being too big. I'm glad I didn't manipulate it, except to limit the time for my own sanity. I'm glad it sort of ebbed out because the time was right.

Someone asked me if I would miss it. Maybe some day. Like 15 years from now. Maybe. It's hard to imagine missing it, honestly. Maybe it's too soon to be sentimental about it. Right now, I'm just happy and relieved. I mean, I'm happy it's over, but I'm also happy for all of the reasons I detailed above. I feel like we did it well and ended gently.

If you've used any of the methods I described above, I'm not judging you. I get it. It's tough! It's weird that it was literally feast or famine, too. Might have been nice to do 2 years with each kid instead.

Another thing that has happened over the past 6 monthsish is that Mal is actually sleeping through the night. I mean, he doesn't go to sleep until 12:30 AM, but once he's asleep, he only wakes up like all of us do, mumbling a bit, turning over, asking for a blanket, going right back to sleep. That's huge. I really thought it would never happen. I mean, I understand it generally *does* happen, but not all kids ever actually sleep through well. I firmly believed we'd be one of those families. I'm grateful I appear to have been wrong.

Finally, a year after ditching diapers in the daytime, we're totally done with them! Mal will have the occasional overnight accident, as all children do, but during the transition, he surprised me. I'd often think, "He went to sleep so early; there's no way!" and would sneak a pull-up onto him; then he'd be dry in the morning, but immediately use the restroom upon waking.

So lots of cool developments!

I genuinely thought that when Daylight Saving ended this weekend, we'd get a reprieve from the 12:30 bedtime. Sleeping 11:30 to 9 seemed a lot better than 12:30 to 10, just because 1) I am DEAD by 12:30, and 2) stuff starts by 10 and we only sporadically make it to things like church and story time at the library. But, no. He absorbed that extra hour like it was nothing, so by the next day, he was right back on the clock.

But with the milestones we're erecting, I have to focus on the good stuff. There is plenty of it. Even running on fumes at 10 AM.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Birthday wishes and a bit of looking back

Happy birthday, D!

I won't say the trite things like "I can't believe you're 17" or "It all happened so fast," mostly because I CAN believe it, and it happened in exactly 17 years. I've been uploading pictures to the cloud from old back-up thumb drives, and have relived so much of your life through visual memories in the past few days. And I have some thoughts. (surprise, surprise)

Man, I've loved being your mom. Most of my best memories involve you, even if you don't remember them yourself. The pictures bear out those times. But they also testify quietly to some things you CAN'T see in the pictures. Every parent, every person, has things in their life that they would like to go back and tweak. I don't spend too much time worrying about those things. But there are several overreaching aspects of your childhood, and of being your mom, that I regret significantly and wish I had not done/could undo/had done better. They are:

1) Authoritarian parenting. I didn't ever think about whether there was another way when you were a kid. It was all I'd been exposed to, and so it was easy to fall into that. And when telling you what to do didn't work, I would tell you what to do again... either LOUDER or just with more words. Over and over again. And I hate that. I desperately wish that when you'd been born, I'd seen our relationship as more of a partnership than a top-down enterprise. I always tried to respect your opinion and personhood, but it was always with the idea that I was in charge. I am sorry. I'm sorry it took me until you were a teenager to realize that there was another way. 

2) Lack of empathy when you were genuinely in need. There have been times in your life when I've been incredibly impatient with you when you expressed exhaustion and frustration at times that were inconvenient to me. When I look back on them, I can think of only a few reasons I reacted in such an ugly manner.

The first is that, when I've recognized that you absolutely COULD do something (like math when you were 6, or riding a bike a few miles when you were 11), I thought pushing you to complete it using whatever means necessary would eventually help you see that you were capable, too. How stupid. That doesn't work for me; why would I think it would work for someone else?

The second is that, in some situations when you were ready just to give up, I didn't have an out or know what else to do. So I reacted in my own stress and inability to your stress and inability.

The final one is that, in times when I've been extremely needy and requiring the most support, I have found that same need in others to be ugly. So maybe I was kind of mad that you needed emotional support when I didn't feel like I had any to spare? 

Regardless, I'm so sorry. I wish I'd stopped everything every time and sat with you to figure out a way we could work it out together. The "reasons" I've thought of aren't an excuse, and I regret it deeply.

3) Related to the above, but encompassing a lot more: I wish that the day I filed for divorce, I'd started the habit of waking up every morning and looking at myself in the mirror and reminding myself, "You're the adult. You're doing what you need to do. Your feelings will save for later; take care of D's." I was so focused on my own hurt for a good year and a half after the divorce that I was not at all as attentive to your moods and needs as I should have been. I wish I'd left the church after the first meeting with the elders; that failed reconciliation process sucked so much energy and joy that I could have focused on you. I wish I'd not tried to maintain any extra-familial relationships that required energy and were draining. In general, I'd never want to live any of my life over, but if I could go back to that time and do it over, knowing what I know now, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I failed you on so many occasions.

Those things said, I hope you know or someday will realize that I have always wanted you to be happy and have made conscious decisions at the time that I believed would be to your benefit. Even when I was wrong.

There was one time when you were about 5, and it was a gorgeous fall day, and you'd dressed up like you were going to a party, but we weren't going anywhere special. Instead, we went outside, and you were crunching around in the leaves and chasing butterflies. I sat down on the driveway because it was warm, having been in the sun all day. I thought, "This is a magical moment." Everything slowed down. I didn't have a camera, and knew I'd have to carefully remember everything  exactly as it was. You were happy and free and I absolutely relished those moments of your childhood.

Another favorite was driving all over Texoma with you, doing mystery shops, listening to audio books and eating French fries and trying on clothes. You were such a great companion; I never could have done those things if you hadn't been game. (I'll never forget coming back to the car after a revealed shop at the Burger King near Love Field when you told me, "Dumbledore is dead." I felt like a different person the whole drive home.)

Also, all of those day trips into Dallas to visit the art museum, or the zoos, or Sharkarosa Ranch. I hope you are glad we homeschooled. I feel like I had a chance to live another childhood of wonder and exploration because of it. 

I have always loved spending time with you. As you've matured and come into your own, I don't wistfully wish for those times back; I'm just extremely grateful to have had them. It's been a blessing to watch you grow up. I will miss you in a few years when you set off into your own solo adventure.

I love you. I hope you have a great 18th year. 


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Dear 15-year-old me...

Hey, you. I know you're upset right now. Your first experience with a boyfriend just ended, and you're disappointed. I'm sorry. It really does suck. But before you start high school and before you begin a journey that will eat up so much of the next three decades of your life, I want to intervene. I want to assure you that there is another way. And, mostly, I want you to understand how much you can accomplish if you are willing to try to throw off the false messages with which our culture has been bombarding you since the day you were born.

I know something about you that maybe no one else knows. You hate your body. You feel monstrous and huge, completely "other" from even your closest friends. When you sit on the floor, cross-legged, reading notes at a sleepover, you notice how the flesh on your friend's leg doesn't round up at the calves like yours does. You see another friend wearing clothes that you think would look like a clown costume on you, and you're jealous that she can get away with picking anything from the thrift store shelves and it will look nice. You stand in front of your parents' vanity mirror and extend your belly as far as it will go. "I hate you," you tell yourself. "You're disgusting."

That, you will learn, many, MANY years from now, is called "internalized fatphobia." You have bought into the idea that fat people are lazy and gross. You are neither. Your self-talk is making it worse. First of all, isn't true; your future self will look at pictures of you at this time and be shocked at how someone so beautiful could feel so ugly. Secondly, even if it were true that you were exceptionally corpulent, science will bear out that genetics and puberty are the culprits and not your lack of motivation or appreciation of good food or any moral failure on your own part.

But every time you reinforce to yourself the message that you are somehow "less" because you do not meet some arbitrary standard of beauty, you make life worse for yourself.

You do not owe thinness to anyone. Not even yourself. You have believed a lie, and you will waste so much time and emotional energy powering this machine. Please don't. Please try to find the better way.

You don't realize it, but every time you indulge in self-hating fatphobia, you also make life worse for other women. Every time you judge yourself, you judge them, too. Either they're "thinner" than you and therefore an object of envy and resentment, or they're "fatter" than you and a source of judgmental feelings of relief and maybe even superiority.

Other women are not your competition. You don't have competition. This isn't a race or a game to be won. Living that way is isolating. Other women are your comrades. Don't you see how damaging this is to you all? You should all be on the same side. You should be about dismantling this world view, not continuing to prop it up.

Let me give this to you straight: Purposeful weight loss (through dieting and/or exercise) does not work in the long-term. Science has borne this out time and time again. Any program or study that promises or shows weight-loss only follows participants for two years. Within 5 years, 95% of people who lose weight have gained most if not all of it back. I'd cite multiple sources, but you do not have the internet like we do yet. Trust me, the future is great in this regard. You'll have access to so much information and so much validation. I just wish you could believe me in 1987.

Not only does purposeful weight loss not work, it backfires. Your body's metabolism slows down when you lose weight, and it stays slower. This means that the ultra-low-fat diet you will engage in from the time you're 20 until you're 23 will affect your ability to manage weight for the rest of your life. And again when you're 30 and lose weight "healthier." And 33. Every time, it will be harder. Every time, it will require more work. Every time, you'll have to expend more energy to work out and eat fewer and fewer calories. And you'll always gain it back. Always. Even when you keep it off for almost 7 years.

Health-wise, weight cycling like this puts a huge burden on your cardiovascular system. And repeated dieting interferes with your ability to listen to your body's hunger and satiety signals. It will further separate you from your social contacts, when you don't allow yourself to eat after a certain time of day, or when you check out of a conversation early because you cannot miss a workout or terror will ensue.

You're not going to believe this, but this is the most important thing: The best thing you can do for yourself at 15 is to rid yourself of the fatphobic attitudes the culture has given you, and then work on helping everyone else do it, too.

This is actually easier, and much more fulfilling, than hating and berating yourself. It's more productive than engaging in a mental and physical illness to make your body more appealing to yourself and others.

So... what if you do it? What if you manage to chip away at every lie you've ever believed about yourself and your body and decide to dedicate your energy to things like pursuing your passions? There is a two-pronged problem here, and you'll have addressed only one.

The second part is that, yeah, pretty much everyone in our culture has co-opted bigotry toward fat people. This will include men in whom you are interested, and who you want to be interested in you.

I wish you could just forget about dating for the next ten years, but I know you won't, so maybe you'll just take this to heart:

If any man claims to care about you but shows disdain toward your body, HE DOES NOT LOVE YOU. Love is not conditional. He might like your personality. He might find you humorous or think you have a beautiful face or feel like you might make a good partner. However, ultimately, he is selfish and foolish.

Your body is not a shell that holds you. Your body IS you. You are your body. Everything you do -- sleeping, talking, walking, laughing, watching a movie, singing -- EVERYTHING you do is enabled by your amazing body. It's not a shirt you can change to please someone else (though, for what it's worth, if someone doesn't like your shirt and thinks he can tell you to change it, he's probably not great for you, either).

If someone shows disdain for your body, END THE RELATIONSHIP. That might sound drastic, but it is absolutely necessary. There is no getting around or over it. If someone's feelings of affection for you are predicated on your body looking a certain way, that is not unconditional love, and you need to remove yourself from it.

I heard a podcast once (kind of like a radio program) where a woman was saying that she'd realized something about a man she was living with when she was engaging in disordered eating and exercise: He was probably the only person who knew how unraveled her life was, and not only did he not stop it, he encouraged her. He encouraged a woman he alleged to love to continually sacrifice her pleasure and ease (by passing up food she liked, by spending hours doing work-outs she hated, etc.) because her thinness was social currency to him. To put a finer point on it: He shows up with a hottie on his arm, and it make him look like a big deal. So she's doing all of this horrible labor just for him to glean the benefits. That's definitely not love. It's dysfunctional.

And if any man says, "I can't help it; I'm just not attracted to bigger women," then whatever. Good luck to him. He is a bigot, and you don't need that kind of person in your life.

Not at all incidentally, you, too, have that bigotry. It is death, and you need to cut it out immediately. Everyone, including yourself, yes, but EVERY SINGLE PERSON, deserves respect and the freedom to move and exist in the world without harassment regardless of how they look, of their size, of their abilities, of their health, or of anything. Every single person deserves to eat what they want, go where they want, wear what they want, and be who they are without anyone else's opinions being foisted on them. You have to take your thoughts captive and excise them. The phrase, "Do they even own a mirror?" should die on the vine long before it becomes a conscious thought. No one should do this to you. You cannot do it to others. Or yourself.

I'm writing you because I don't want you to look around at the great life you have 30 years from now and wonder how much further along you might be if you could trade those 300,000+ minutes (that's more than half a year!) you spent working out and the countless hours you meal-planned and obsessed over what you were going to eat, and how many calories it had, and how much fat, and when was your next free day, and how many candy corn could you manage in one day when you otherwise ate only dry spinach for doing something that would have made your life or the world at large a better place.

You will get to this place of freedom. It will be a hard-won battle, and, actually, it will be ongoing, as some of these dogmas die more slowly than others. But if you could just start on it now instead of after your second divorce (*wince* I KNOW), you could save yourself a lot of heartache and wasted time.

I know you don't cuss. I wish, just a little bit, that you did. Because instead of responding with silent and hidden hurt when someone judges you as unworthy due to your body type, I really wish you could just happily respond, "F*(4 that" and get on with your life without a second thought. Before you're middle-aged.

In retrospect,
46-year-old me