At 38, I reached the saturation point. The place where I had taken in all the insults and disapproval there was room for in my head and no more would fit. What a great day it was…so freeing.
Here is the story about those final words…the first ever insult about my weight that did not sting. The words were so deeply insulting and ignorant that I saw in them the end of my need to give a damn what any other person thought about my body.
Picture a big social affair, me confident and happy, visiting with everyone, having a great time…until…some ‘well meaning’ man that I barely know, approaches and greets me with an assessing look up and down followed by a big hug and then, the classic backhanded compliment of “You look great! Have you lost weight?”
I answered with words that were dripping with irritation and were designed to end the topic of my size, my body, my business. I told the fellow that I was sure I had NOT lost weight and besides I was happy just the way I was.
He persisted. He told me that if I ever wanted to lose some weight, keep it off and finally discover what a sexy and beautiful woman I COULD be, he would be happy to help me find the right diet and exercise experts to help me.
Yes. Seriously. This. Happened.
The stupefying nerve he displayed was so absolute that the hundreds of “You have such a pretty face if you just lost some weight” comments I had received previous to that moment could not equal this idiot’s assertion that in order to be more, I needed to be less.
He thought he was flattering the fat girl by telling her that if she worked just a little harder at dropping some pounds he would find her really fuckable. He thought he was doing me a favor.
Ah… to be shocked into reason! The intention was to shame me with words disguised as a compliment. I have never flinched since. I have become an expert at one line retorts about how my body, my meal choice, the contents of my grocery cart, my selection of a dress with horizontal stripes, is just not something I am going to allow anyone to comment on.
Maybe it is the confidence I now feel about being exactly who I am that keeps the haters away. I wear the IDGAF as well as I wear the horizontal stripes.
I laid out for you my aha moment. Tell me yours.
I’m really interested in hearing your worst. Bring that hideous shit right out into the daylight and let’s talk about it.
Leave a reply and we can keep the conversation going.
Sharing it is one step away from letting it go.
I thought I would share a fun and easy project with you. Yeah, I know, I write about weighty issues, feelings and shit but I think you will like this so…
A friend of mine, Dawn, often grows more lemon verbena than she can use. Last year when she offered me a bundle I meticulously cleaned the leaves, which you have to dry brush clean because water will wash away the fragrant oil that makes the stuff so potent and fabulous, and I ground up the leaves with cane sugar to freeze for use in shortbread cookies throughout the year. I still have a decent stockpile so I wanted to do something different with this year’s harvest.
I researched online and did not find a recipe using actual leaves, likely because the bits could clog drains, so I looked into infusions and there were a few suggesting infusing into an oil base. So I dove in…
Fresh Lemon Verbena Salt Scrub
2 cups Epsom Salts
2 cups Sea Salt
2 cup Coconut oil
1 Tbsp Jojoba oil
2 cups fresh Lemon Verbena leaves
12 drops lemon essential oil
Inspect your leaves to be certain they are free of any dirt and tiny bugs. Shred them up by hand or grind them in a food processor. (I have a coffee grinder that I use only for herbs) Be sure to get every last bit as the oily residue sticking to the sides of your grinder or food processor is where the real magic is.
Put the ground up paste into a microwave safe dish or a small saucepan. Add the coconut oil and heat until it is melted. Stir the mixture until combined. Leave overnight to meld.
In a large bowl, measure out your salts. You can use just sea salt and double the amount called for omitting the Epsom Salt but I like the health an beauty benefits of magnesium sulfate so I used both.
After the coconut oil has solidified, melt it again and then strain the oil through a piece of linen or an old, clean tea towel to remove the lemon verbena and leave only its essence.
Pour the oil into the bowl with the salts, add your jojoba and essential oils and stir, either with your hands or a spoon. Voila! Super awakening, awesome skin smoothing, magic lemony grime scrubber. I like it for elbows, knees, hands and feet. Give yourself a pedi and then soak in that Epsom goodness. I am putting a jar next to the kitchen sink to scrub off garlic and onion stench. Great in the recipe, peee-eww on the hands. Lemon Verbena to the rescue.
Package in plastic jars for people like me who cannot be trusted with glass in the shower. If you package it in glass jars I would recommend NOT taking that jar into the shower. Maybe spoon out a little into a plastic dish to take in with you. Another caution…the oils that benefit your skin and make this stuff so great to use will leave the shower floor hella slippery so hold onto something as well as use a good cleaner before the next poor sap gets into the shower.
My thanks to Dawn Craghead for the Lemon Verbena and Humboldt Herbals for the Jojoba and essential oils and the nice little blue plastic jars they carry for klutzes like me.
Why is it considered good manners to conceal someone’s bad behavior?
I’ve seen a topic circulate on social media: If you wore a warning label instead of a name tag what would it say? I guess you can put “Outspoken” on mine.
I have been called that plenty of times in my life. Sometimes by people who admire my ability to advocate for myself and sometimes by people who want to shut me up because my honesty threatens their own carefully curated world view.
For the record, I don’t see myself as outspoken, just…spoken.
When I was a small child and my grandmother read me The Emperor’s New Clothes it provided a meaningful life lesson. The little boy at the parade who pointed a finger and announced that the emperor was naked served as a great example to me. What in the hell was wrong with the rest of those fools??? I too would have just said it: Dude, you’re naked and while that’s fine and I don’t need you to be clothed, the fact is you are naked, everyone sees it, you are fooling nobody but yourself and I’m gonna tell you because apparently nobody else will.
I have never seen any good come from polite silence and so, I say it: from unabashed compliments, admissions of my own flaws, gushing affection, to hard truths about life as I see them, my dislike for a selfish person specifically, my intolerance of bullies generally, my desire for you to s.t.f.u. about your bullshit opinion regarding my life and what you think I might or might not need to be doing to live/look/eat/worship/vote like you.
I won’t sit on a board or committee or at a family dinner table and watch some selfish s.o.b. manipulate the group, mock an innocent, undermine good will, bully behind a smile. I won’t stay quiet about it. I won’t ever try to speak your mind for you but I damned well will speak mine. And if you think it’s rude I would counter that it is necessary. Maya Angelou is quoted as saying:”You teach people how to treat you” and I’ll teach you that if you intend to be mean and selfish you will find no safe harbor in my company.
So, call me out for being the cage shaker, call me outspoken and make me a name tag. I’ll wear it.
Father’s Day has always been a difficult day for me as I had no father. Instead I had some stranger who lived many states away, who long ago participated in a story book wedding with my mother. I only knew that because I had seen the pictures in the bottom drawer of her bedroom bureau. During this marriage he had contributed sperm to produce three children that he promptly abandoned for his gum smacking, hot pants wearing secretary. After leaving my mother and their three daughters his further contribution to us was court ordered child support checks and birthday cards, when he remembered.
I was 8 months old when he abandoned us. When the divorce was final and he moved across town in Tucson from where we lived, but never bothered to visit us, my mother moved us to California. She moved far away both to spare herself from seeing him and his tacky new wife gallivant around town together but also to provide her daughters a legitimate reason why he never came around to see us.
My early childhood was pretty text book I think. I was well cared for, healthy, happy. It is when I entered elementary school that I noticed my life was different than most of the other kids. I had two parental units: my mother and my grandmother, as my grandmother had moved in with us to help my mother with the considerable task of raising three children while working full time as a teacher, but it became glaringly obvious to me, for the first time, that I did not have a father. I would see these dads at school, dads who bent down to kiss the tops of their children’s heads as they dropped them off for the day, dads who came to Back to School Night whereas mine was a stranger appearing in a few old photographs. Seeing fathers on a daily basis made it clear to me that somewhere out there was a man who had LEFT me. That made me different. I was less than any kid who had a mom and a dad because I had been left by someone who was supposed to love and care for me. My father had blithely left me and never looked back.
From this point forward the topic of fathers, and Father’s Day in particular, were a source of real pain for me. The Father-Daughter dances I could not attend, Hallmark commercials for Father’s Day cards, any kid being taught how to do anything by their father; ride a bike, swim, fish, you name it, became a tiny seed of sadness in me. I did not imagine “him” as I had no memory of him but I did imagine that I would feel more whole if he had not left us all.
In early childhood, my only interaction with him came on Father’s Days, during the rare years that he was at home when we called him. On that Sunday, while families were picnicking and barbequing and celebrating together, my mom would dutifully assemble me and my sisters around the three phones in the house and hand one of us his phone number and we would hear his voice for the one and only time in the year, a voice my sisters had some memory of where I had none. This virtual stranger explained that he only had a minute because he and “the family,” comprised of his second wife, her two sons and later their two sons, “the family” had plans. “Thanks so much for calling girls; we’ll be in touch soon.” But we weren’t. Just annually on Father’s Day and always initiated by my mother. Hollow. Empty. Sickening.
My sisters dealt with the loss of our father differently than I did. The eldest sister was 6 or 7 at the time that he left. She took it hard and she felt unlovable and unworthy, after all how could he have left her if she had been anything special? My middle sister seemed determined to defend him, and once we finally saw him in person (we were 17, 14, 11 the first time he made arrangements to visit us) this middle sister sainted him and quickly threw over our mother in favor of this Disneyland Dad and I hated her for it. I was simply skeptical. He had left us and moved on to another family. What kind of person abandons their own flesh and blood? What kind of man does that? How crappy must a person be to justify this? This skepticism naturally impeded the possibility of any bonding. Add to that, he wasn’t particularly likeable: arrogant, superior, and inept with conversation that wasn’t about him and his accomplishments or acquisitions. The fact that this selfish, narcissistic man went into politics should came as no surprise to anyone.
My feelings toward him and towards myself shifted focus on this first visit. I stopped feeling that I had lost something by not having a father in my life all those years and I started hating myself a little bit for anything I might have inherited from him. Half my genes had come from this asshole. I inherited his fair skin, square hands and blocky torso but… Jeezus, what else might I have inherited? I weeded out characteristics with fury. I would apply myself to being nothing like this man who was so morally bankrupt that he could do what he had done. I wanted nothing from him and loathed, until fully removed by me, in me, anything we might have in common. I could do nothing about the physical attributes I had gotten from him but I did quietly hate them and earnestly hide them as though people might recognize these features as signs that I came from his shitty, selfish stock. I wished that I could graft on the hands from my grandmother and my mother’s dark skin so I could erase him completely.
His legacy is painfully obvious. His daughters have all struggled with self-worth or self-loathing. Relationships have presented challenges for each of us. One sought approval from the wrong men, ok, ANY man. One romanticized our father’s flawed character and picked assholes that treated her with the same disregard he did but she makes it her job to defend them anyway. I have never used romantic relationships to work out my “daddy issues” because I never really had daddy issues. I had no idea what having a father might have been like. I had “Me issues.” I applied myself fervently to being nothing like him. I was so terrified that something in my genes would make me selfish, devoid of a sense of responsibility to others that I relentlessly policed myself. Blithe spirits, me-me-me people were cast off as soon as that characteristic reared its ugly head. I didn’t want that influence and I hated those people for being like him. If a person showed me a tendency toward selfishness, a propensity to fish and cut bait, I cut bait first. I wanted, and still want, nothing to do with people who are disloyal or selfish. Neither of those characteristics is fixable. Just ask my mom.
I have come to terms with being made up of 50% genes I’d rather not have. It is impractical to hate half of yourself long term. In all likelihood I made myself a better person because of the effort I put into not being like him. I looked for things in myself that I had inherited from my maternal relatives that I respected and I nurtured those traits instead. My dedication to my family is total and I came to value loyalty in a way I’m not certain everyone else understands.
As for Father’s Day, I still wince a little at those Hallmark commercials but I have celebrated 18 Father’s Days with my husband who also understands dedication to family. He daily contributes to our children’s lives and he has never missed a milestone. Our kids may resent having inheriting a few of his less than perfect characteristics (mine too) but they are accepted with a wink and they are nothing that fills them with shame.
I have healed myself to some degree through parenting. I give of myself every chance I get and I reap the rewards two fold. I will always harbor some hate for my father. He is dead now and I was unable to feel grief when he died and unwilling to feel guilty about that. It is unlikely that my children even know my father’s full name. His branch on the family tree has been erased which is the legacy her deserves. Father’s Day for them will be a day of laughter and barbeques and baseball games, just as it should be.