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Role Models
I've always had difficulty with how answer this question. I always fidgeted and fussed trying to come up with some profound and literary name of reference... some shining exemplar of a human who I could model my actions towards. In fact, for me, my role models are ordinary people during my day: my roommate who ran a slice of pizza over to a recently widowed man, the woman who drives down my alley every few days to throw handfuls of dry food to the feral and forgotten cats, the people who pass you buy and are the first to smile, the guy who I saw help a blind man across the street. All these gorgeous moments of human magnificence are my role models reminding me to stay Awake. Alive. and Connected.
Distinguishing Characteristics
That red headed girl in your class who keeps raising her hand in class and getting on your nerves? Yeah... that's probably me. I recently found my 2nd grade progress report and in the teacher's notes it stated that "Jenna certainly is opinionated." It wasn't until...yeah for real... about 2 years ago did I realize that that was not a compliment. I still take it as one, though!
Fashion Style
I loves me some fashion oh aye that I do. I cannot just wear a slack and shirt combo and you almost never ever ever catch me in jeans and a t shirt thats just not how I jellyroll... I need patterns, belts, layers! Skirts, dresses... I dont pack "clothes" honey, I pack ensembles. Boring is so OUT!

Posts by Jenna:

Maura Kelly come to my house and eat what I eat. Live what I live.

Dear Maura Kelly,

Boy, did you surely open a huge can of Whoop Ass and have inflamed a whole world of backlash when you decided to write an article in Marie Claire where you basically state that fat people:

“So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.”

As I have seen your comments page grow from one to now 98 and counting… and people stalking you on facebook and basically heaping a whole lifetime’s worth of just rage right onto your very head and calling for the end of your career… I cant help but begin thinking about my brothers and sisters in the Human Rights Movement and how in times of deep division, misunderstanding and miseducation these were the times we need to invite rather than attack, draw in instead of pull away.I think about those stories of courage where in the US African Americans opened their homes to Whites so that the white people could see for themselves what nonsense, utter misinformed trash, they had been thinking about a people they actually knew very little about.

So to that end, Maura Kelly, I invite you to my home. Please come with my peaceful intentions and bring your objective journalistic training. We will have an exercise in education and understanding. For the week you will no doubt be off work, please come to my home a 2 hour train ride away. You will eat what I eat. You will partake in the physical activity I partake in: bite for bite, step for step during my normal weekly routine. While you are here relaxing from what is a firestorm for any person, please feel free to read my books on Rethinking Thin and and Health At Every Size, among others.I guarantee that after that week you will come away with a drastically reoriented idea of fat people, size, acceptance, health and humanity.

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
Carl Jung

Note to Women: Please Think About Something Other Than Dieting to Talk About!

why is it when you get a room of 3 or more women the discussion almost invariably turns to food, dieting, body shaming? It drives me insane. If I were a man and I saw this vapid, shallow conversation women often participate in I would conclude that one half of my species does not have a lot to offer in the brains department.

In fact, now that Ive opted out of diet talk and body shaming language there are times when I feel like an outcast of my gender. I no longer commiserate with or enter in conversations about good food vs bad, restricting, joining fucking weight watchers; I no longer nod in approval at these hopeless attempts nor do I praise for “successes”. In most groups of women I feel that my withholding from joining this womanly team building experiences and pipe up my own body and food issues means that I am somehow less of a woman;  less feminine  that I don’t join in what is now sadly, quintessentially a female diversion, we don’t talk about the weather anymore, we talk about what we shouldn’t be eating…. how. fucking. sad.

I wonder what these women think about me, when I am silent. I am no longer a good girl, no longer partaking in self loathing and hate no longer making food and eating a main component of my conversation (unless its couched in positive terms). When I opt out of conversations and sit or stand there silently while the women all chime in, I wonder how they perceive me; is it the knee jerk reaction of viewing me as a hopeless fatty? lazy? a loser? A woman who has “given up and let herself go?”
Sometimes I get enraged I want to just shake these women and tell them, “Do you know how shallow and ridiculous you sound? Do you think men sit around talking about this stupid shit? Cant you find something more interesting to talk about (oh I don’t know, global warming, stock options)I don’t know ANYTHING else to bond with your fellow women other than the size and shape of your bodies?”
Its so infuriating to know what I know now but feel completely impotent with questions about what to do what to say or how to share how harmful this is and how incredibly harmful it is to them…. and to me. Talk like this (and in this instance it was in a classroom that is filled with only women a graduate level course for chrissakes so I am in effect an unwilling witness to this weekly conversation) how can I tell them in what ways this talk triggers me in such bad ways. It is like I am in a permanent post traumatic stress syndrome running from a life of somehow failing to be what the world wants women to be, what this culture “values”.

And after the talk I started to think thoughts which were rolling downhill fast. I am “getting up there” in age and in fact am at this point where the talk from others about “when am I going to settle down and get married” have pretty much stopped. It is something I am working through and a strange place to find myself suddenly the last person I know who is reasonably not crazy or antisocial yet never married. It makes me wonder at times what is wrong with ME……so anyway after these conversations above and we begin the lecture I notice on every woman’s hand… all the ones near my age I see big wedding bands, engagement bands, children talk and I wonder (caught myself actually) is it because I am fat that I don’t have someone and they do? Am I an unloveable person, a rejection, a blight upon society? In the past these thoughts would have fired at will but today I caught this line of thinking in time to stop it. So I guess in this way, there is a small victory.
I wish these women really really knew -how these words hurt them and others around them. Every sentence is a knife cutting one more line on this poor body already full of scars. Most of the time I come off very competent and sure in my speech and actions laughing off the pain, which person who grew up fat hasn’t an array of defenses of self preservation? On the exterior we laugh it off with a quip and continue on our way but the interior winces at another sprung leak and finds a way to keep the boat from capsizing. Some days…. sigh…some days its just like that.

post script:

And after I wrote this feeling very very… bereft. I went to www.postsecret and this was one of the “secrets” , it gave me joy, and restored me.

a little fat activism makes a girl go BOOM!

Hi there my fatabulous friends :)

Today has me smiling and a need to write off a quick post about my latest and greatest fat activism :) I get migraine headaches and have learned that acupuncture takes care of them like nobodies business so I am a regular patient at a local Community Acupuncture clinic that works on a sliding scale and works to be accessible to all who need it regardless of income… a very cool thing. After your session in a big communal room you can sit in the anteroom area drink some herbal tea and browse the book selection. On one wall is a community announcements board which includes things like intuitive readings, eco-conscious living workshops and the like. I was buzzing on my natural post-needle relaxed state when I saw an advertisement which stopped me dead in my tracks, it was for a new local yoga/gym outfit and the flyers had big quotes screaming “Shake (OFF) what your mama gave ya” and if that was not bad enough the flyer next to it said, “I wanna rock right now! (I gotta big butt I cant wait to slim down)”.

Now that second one? Does not even make any sense unless I am missing a cultural reference here. But right below it was a comments box so I took the time to pen down a note like this, ” I love your clinic! However I feel oppressed by the comments re above. I work for body acceptance and Health At Every Size and find comments above to be unsafe and body shaming which hurts men and particularly women. As a clinic which works to promote an atmosphere of social justice please have these removed.”

I am marvelling at myself…and I do like what I see yes indeedy. A few short months ago I would have looked at that and responded with a head nod and some shameful thought about my body and putting myself down. A few short months ago these signs would have kicked off a guilt-feed fest about how I have not been going to the gym and those nachos I ate the other day; just a heaping helping of self flagellation. In short, I would have swallowed those horrible hateful, ugly comments but today the new and improved me sees those and fights the fuck back.  I am no longer swallowing the lies and now I am actively working to change the message for everyone. I deserve a gold star, people!

I will probably go back to the clinic in a week or so and I will update you on the progress. Let us hope real free thinking humans like they advert are actually working there. In fact now that I think about it maybe I should pen a letter to the actual gym… you think it will be received well….ha ha ha!!!  Fatty thighs crossed!

Denim Rage

Ok…. Alert!  Alert!

this is a bitch session so know that you are forewarned:

After a long lifetime of almost never finding jeans that fit… I am a classic apple shape with a stomach, slight waist but a smaller butt, thighs, hips and legs… last night I pulled out my Torrid jeans and was in a fit (Torrid… seriously… not everything has to be fucking low rise!) because while everything fits everywhere else I spill out which is really uncomfortable to have your stomach being cut literally in half by unforgiving denim. But almost all my jeans are like this… it is a very very rare jean (I have found exactly TWO in five years) that WONT do this to me. (oh and please let us not consider MATRON Central jeans which are at waist but look like they were made for the citizens of Frumpville). It is really frustrating to the point where I no longer wear jeans or any non stretchy pants anymore. I wear mostly skirts, dresses, stretchy pants when I can find them. *sniff* I want a decent pair of jeans I feel good in.. I feel like a weird pariah unable to find pants that fit … is that so much to ask? Apparently… it is.

When I used to live in Asia while I had women chase me out of stores in their broken English “NO LARGE SIZE” as if I would infect them with my largeness and I felt like a big sasquatch in China at the very least I could afford to pay very cheap tailors to hand make pants for me from scratch cut to my measurements. Here in the US (I don’t know about OZ) but tailoring is very expensive… to just hem a pair of pants it is 10-15 dollars… to make pants from scratch? Try 60-80 for denim. And anyway, to find a pair of pants that fit in the waist means to have the rest of the seat and leg completely altered… its not even worth it at that point.

So this morning I started perusing the internet only to find this “helpful” article about wearing jeans for apple shaped figures….  apparently my real and only option is to buy maternity jeans…. MATERNITY JEANS with the elastic waist… or elastic “band” encircling my apple-ness….YEAH MY BOYFRIEND IS GONNA LOOOOVE THAT. As I do my sexy dance only to see me in a maternity jean… As an apple my only choice…. Is to compare myself to a pregnant woman.

Seriously…. Seriously? FUCK THAT.  I am not pregnant. In this world of countless countless capatilistic choices… seriously world is that best you can do? Again re my old post: The Wrong Kind of Fat… there we have it… poor little applets.

Rant over. Thank you for listening.

My Phat Philosophical Philandering

Being new to the FA movement I’ve come to realize that I have not reached what I thought would be a peaceful conclusion. I thought that I had finally reached the summit of what was the climb of my life only to see that this mountain is only the first of a whole chain of them stretching out to the horizon. I’ve just begun this journey. What I used to accept as the truth (I am fat because I: am lazy, lacking in will, gluttonous, etc) there by being like other women who are  pinching, proding themselves whilst talking about the endless hunger of dieting, a famine of the mind, as long as I bought into that I would be accepted even as I was the flotsam of failed attempts washed up on the shore of constant striving.

But now that I have awakened to see the illogical fallacies around me, as I struggle to truly be free, I am coming to other questions and wonder if they are part of “my process”. For example, an old friend of mine facebooked me and out of the blue proceeds to tell me she is a health coach who has herself lost 45 pounds and, “15 to go yay me!’ and wants me to help promote her new job to my friends.

Now, how do I handle this? Do I simply ignore the note? If I do that then what is my role in the FA movement and what does it mean if I stand silent? Do I simply work on myself to the exclusion of interfacing with greater society about the conclusions I have reached? Do I send her a note in response and if so how can I tell her that I think the very thing she is so excited about is a lie? And it is not only her, what do I do with the nameless masses around me who make countless statements and opinions where hate is tossed in as easily as one requests a coffee? Do I attempt to insert my FA mind set? And if so, will I lose friends or even hurt them in the process? If I tell them what I believe will their opinion of me change?

Over the last few months I have mentioned to a couple of friends about  my transformation and the responses I got were guarded skepticism at best, polite disagreement or just changing the subject altogether. Not once was the response, “How interesting please tell me more.” And while I can quote and fling reams of data which support my choice it is met with crossed arms, slight head shakes and stiffening jaw lines.

Its with some saddness that the joy and relief I feel at getting off the rollar coaster and loving myself as I am is truly lonley here in my real world, away from the comfort of like minds on the internet. I truly wish my friends and family would join me here but instead of getting warm hands to pull up into my new world view I find resistance, disagreement, disgust even.

Ever see that move, What Dreams May Come? In that movie, the husband played by Robin Williams goes to heaven while his wife goes to hell but in this movie hell is a place of one’s own making, built out of one’s illusions and negative thoughts. The husband makes it his mission to try to convince his wife to change her point of view in order to save her. I guess this analogy is like the FA movement. We have come to a place where we find some measure of peace but it is often a lonley meadow. We watch our loved ones continue to hate themselves or others or keep trying to use a tool like dieting that always fails in the end. How can we bring these people lost within false illusions to the place where they may find acceptance and understanding? Is it our job to even try?

Sigh… I do not know the answer hence the mountain range I must continue to navigate… endless challenges for ourselves and for our fundamental beliefs as to our responsibility to others. So I place this question in your hands: what would you do and what are you doing, if anything, to advocate for the FA movement to intimate friends and family. The unawakened ones?

Aye, Indeed me Peasant stock is a boon!

This past weekend I high’ed my way to the local Renaissance Faire which is a US phenomenon started in the 70’s by a Californian Historical group and has now grown to seasonal celebrations of debauchery throughout the country. People dress up in historic clothing, pick a “character” to play for the day if they wish and play amidst Renaissance plays, music, dances, drinking, jousting, flirting and a merry time to be had by all.

I LOVE Ren Faires… love love love them! I love the chivalry and risqué humor I love the clothes and most of all preening bird that I am… I LOVE dressing up in my Ren Faire outfit. It is a style of clothing which celebrated the feminine curve and it’s the ONE place on EARTH besides western Africa and the Pacific Islands where a saucy wench like me will trump a modern day “thinly acceptable” gal in the come hither scale for sure.

See… I’m not hating on my thin and skinny sisters I really am not. However when all my life all I’ve ever heard is that I should be like you, kill myself, starve myself hate myself until I am like you… well this is one place, a magical mystical place in time, where you should be LIKE ME. AHHHH YEAAAHHH ladies.. be just. Like. Me. Cause my bosoms  brings all the Sires to the yard.

Whenever I dress up in my costume I am told that I should have been “born” in that time I fit the look so well. I have men fighting for my favors as I gallivant in my clashing colors of autumnal harvest. I feel beautiful, delicious, envied… mostly it feels good to be envied (I won’t lie) as my whole life was one where every girl would whine whilst being so thin they literally live on the verge of being 2nd dimensional “Do I look FAT in this?” As if what I am is their worst nightmare… the thing to be avoided at all costs even to the point of dying.

Ladies and Goodly Gents… if you can do not walk but hop skip and jump to your nearest Ren Faire, put on that lovely wenches dress (or studly livery) and enjoy being in a place where you are not only acceptable YOU ARE THE IDEAL. Being in a place where the beauty standards are culturally different allows us to see what a cultural construct it is… this whole stoopid body business by which we hang our very worth on. If we had lived a mere 150 years prior would we feel this way? Should we allow culture in all its relativistic depravity decide for us how our bodies should look and how we feel about them?

Nay… I say NAY! Good Folk! For thou art bountiful like a laden table after a long hard winter, bouncing like girl’s curls or grapes on the vine, yeah indeed thou art the essence of abundance and mirth, wellness and hale living. Thou art the ideal.

The Wrong Kind of Fat

I am apple shaped. I have thin arms, legs, butt and head but have never owned this thing called “a waist” I guess it’s in there somewhere along with my hip bones I am still walking upright so I assume they are functioning without much conscious notice by me.

As an apple in a pear-world it dawned on me that there is fat… then there is more “acceptable kinds” of fat and in even most art that DOES have larger models they overwhelmingly display the pear shape. Not only that but we have all heard how apple shaped people have a higher rate of heart disease, cancer, Dr. Oz smiles and explains that mortality has everything to do with waist circumference, that men overwhelmingly prefer pear shaped women, women’s clothes which are all made for a pear shape forcing us applets to go up one size for a waist that fits but then get the pants taken in at the seat and the legs…

In fact, didn’t you know? Satan will personally drag apple shaped people to hell himself… you know the list goes on….

So for years I felt like I was the wrong kind of fat. I envied my pear shape friends who weighed more than I did but “carried it better”. In a world where the fatties are scrambling to find worth… us applets are at the bottom of the barrel. (Yes pun intended I couldn’t help it!)

I felt that way until I went to Latin America and noticed both to my intense relief as well as surprise from the new attention I was getting from men that… for native American women… the apple shape IS the norm! I was staring at luscious bodies that looked like mine all over the damn place and you know what? We are some hot bitches!

I have a native Grandmother and my great Grandmother before her lived on a reservation. I look at my own Mother to see the apple shape I have been bequeathed to me; a shape which is not the European norm, but it is the norm of a people of which I am proud to say I am related to. Then I came to realize that the ideation of the pear shape and the vilification of the apple shape have more to do with Western Imperialistic-narrowly defined beauty structures.

So in the same way that “blonde, blue eyes, tall, narrow nose, wide eyes” denote a western sense of the beauty aesthetic so too is the pear the ideal over the apple. It has been forced upon society and that unconscious undesirability has led to the poor applets bring told that they will die sooner, they will get sicker, they are less worthy of clothes that fit their shape, and they are not good enough to be the Muse.

When I look at northern native American and Latin American art though… I do see my shape and can see in it the beauty for what it is. Empowering my applet shape is also empowering body-diversity even when it is an insidious racism buried so deep no one notices it anymore.

Making an Honest Woman Out Of Me

Acceptance…. It’s a word that I’ve been rolling around in my mouth lately like a wine I’m trying to size up. With greater clarity I’ve come to realize that the word Acceptance can often mean a static state: something that has been achieved, a dimension residing in, an issue worked though. At this point I am in a state of Fat… Accepting… because I have not yet reached that perfect state of being this Promised Land … a place of Zen-like enlightenment.

I have to admit that I still struggle… when I open a magazine to see no one like me I say to myself, “I am accepting you little Mama.” When I hear some maladjusted and ignorant person pop off a body hate statement I must negate that power with a charm of my own, “Regardless of these words of poison, the flinging of self hatred and abuse, I am accepting you, Jenna.” It is a present-filled space that is dynamic in its movement, a prayer to be repeated, and a mantra to repeat.

Acceptance as that word means to me personally (as a fat woman relating to her body) would imply that I am “making do” with a less than an ideal situation. When the love of your life asks you to marry him or her… do we say, “Yes I accept you”?

Hell no… we cry out YES YES and YES! We swear: I do, I will, I promise.

So tonight I am going home and I am going to marry my body. I will light some pumpkin spice candles, buy myself a bouquet of flowers, dress up in my most luxuriant outfit and I will say:

I, Jenna, take you my luscious body to be no other than yourself, in all the ways life may find us, tending you in sickness and rejoicing with you in health, as long as we both shall live to love.

And once I have dedicated my life to loving me I will celebrate with fancy champagne and a lovely cake.
How does that sound? Would you like to be invited to the Wedding? It would be very nice if you could come, dress as you will and bring the booze!

Like any successfully married couple there is a realization that accepting is not a static state but one that must be renewed every day and through life’s myriad challenges, a commitment to turn to again and again and the will to work through the hard patches, for better or worse.
The society which wishes that I loathe myself…like evil buzzards gunning for a divorce… will not win. Jenna it’s me and you, baby, and hopefully “with” the world rather than against; but if not? So be it, too.

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