On temptation (and jeans)

I’ve gained a few pounds recently. In most periods of my life, this would not affect me too much — we’re talking a small number, very much the kind of tiny fluctuation that happens as you, I don’t know, sweat less when the weather turns cooler — but right now it is cause for a mini-celebration with me and my doctor, because for the last year and a half I’ve been dealing with medical issues that caused drastic weight loss. The fact that my number has crept up on the scale, if ever so slightly, seems to indicate that my insides are working more normally than they were, and I’m happy about it. I must say, it’s also pleasantly subversive in a world-turned-upside-down kind of way to have my doctor get excited that my numbers have gone up. It’s a tiny antidote to the horrible stories we hear about doctors pushing weight loss at all costs.

I also moved apartments recently and am still getting used to the new (shared) washer and dryer. It costs less than my old place (yay!) but the settings are different and you can’t fine-tune the amount of time you run the dryer (boo!).

What do these two random pieces of Sweet Machine-related trivia have to do with anything? Well, I’ll tell you: my jeans are too tight. Not an earth-shattering event or even a surprise: slight weight gain + finicky dryer + stretch jeans = wiggling like Brooke Shields until these jeans go over my thighs. Most of us have had that experience at some point or another, and unless we deliberately bought them too tight a la Brooke Shields, shimmying into tight jeans can cause a major self-esteem derail. There’s nothing quite like too-tight clothes to bring back a flood of memories of other times you’ve felt too fat, or unpretty, or excluded, or unworthy.

I can feel some of those feelings floating back to me. We never fully break free from that kind of cultural programming and personal greatest-hits-of-shame, no matter how fully self-loving and fat-accepting we are. I mean, here I am, knowing that a) my dryer is set too high, b) weight gain is a positive sign in my life right now, and c) I’m still actually thin,* and I still am tempted to berate myself for the size of my thighs. But the great thing is, because of FA, that’s what that shaming voice is now: a temptation, not a mandate. I feel those thoughts trying out my brain, poking at me as I look in the mirror, and I think about whether I want to engage them. Is there any payoff to that temptation? The answer, of course, is no. I know that clearly now, but there was a time in my life — and it wasn’t that long ago — that I didn’t. I thought the answer was “maybe,” that if I gave into the temptation to shame myself, I might magically get thinner through the transitive power of bullshit.** What a knowledge of FA and a commitment to live it in my daily life give me is the certainty that saying “no” to the temptation of self-deprecation — rather than, say, the temptation of salad dressing or those fattening carrots — will be better for me today and tomorrow. Refusing to shame yourself will stop the negativity in the short term and make you stronger in the long term, so that next time your jeans are too tight or your shirt gaps in an odd way, you can say no to shame again.

There’s a whole world that wants you to disappear into nothing, and feeling too big for your clothes is a reminder of that impossibility. But once you are aware that, you can use that very awareness to defuse some of those shaming voices: Fuck it, I don’t want to disappear. And you can’t make me want to.

So as I sit here wiggling around so that my jeans stretch already, I know that the problem here is not me. The problem is not even my jeans, which after all fit perfectly well last month and might one day again. The problem is the cultural forces that work to convince us that the temptation of self-loathing is the only one we can say yes to, the only thing worth indulging in. There are big ways to combat that pressure, which we try to contribute to with discussion and analysis here — but there are lots of small ways, too, and one of them is getting rid of clothes that don’t fit, or, if you’re like me and you’re having some shape fluctuations, getting clothes in a range of sizes and styles so if your jeans are tight today you can put on something else instead.

You may have heard that Oscar Wilde quote “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” Here’s the thing about those witty Wilde quotes: they’re mostly not little bon mots that Oscar Wilde said at a party. They’re little bon mots said at parties by characters in books by Oscar Wilde. The guy who said that delightfully sinful thing about permission? (Spoiler!) Is an amoral man who essentially gives Dorian Gray permission to go on a spree of temptation-yielding that ends in murder. Don’t worry; I’m not going to write a dissertation on morality in Wilde. (Not here, at least!) I’m just saying that there are different kinds of temptation and different ways to respond to it. A lot of energy goes into convincing you that eating a cookie is a wicked temptation that will ruin your life. It’s not.  But that temptation to give in to the cultural mandate of self-loathing and shame? That is, without doubt, one of the bad ones. You can turn that one down every damn time.

*NB: I originally typed, “I’m still actually thing.” Just thought you should know.

**Thanks, Stephen Colbert!

62 thoughts on “On temptation (and jeans)

  1. How relevant in my life right now, SM.
    At the moment, it’s not a matter or resisting temptation toward those “unpretty” thoughts, it’s a matter of marinating in them and trying to keep my head out of the sticky goo long enough to gain some perspective. I don’t think it’s strictly a matter of willpower or discipline, althought that’s part of it, there’s a back and forth between emotion, information, support, normal backsliding, and hopefully, a diminishment of these thoughts over time.
    Thanks for reminding me I’m not alone in needing to resist these kids of temptations.

  2. Yes, always relevant for me too – and nice to be directed to Dani’s piece, thanks. I share the experience of having been several sizes from ‘overweight’ to very, very thin and a praised praised praised dying anorexic [Note from SM: this link has been removed.] (which praise hurt me as much as being ill did).

    These days, my body’s been healthily sitting at its current natural resting point, and mostly I feel good, but the “… cultural forces that work to convince us that the temptation of self-loathing is the only one we can say yes to, the only thing worth indulging in” – yeah. I often imagine it this way: I have a demon on one shoulder whispering ‘starve’ and an angel on the other who throws meatballs at the demon. She has a mean pitching arm.

  3. Slightly related, I realised how far I’d come a couple days ago when I was hanging out with some other college folks that I’d met after the move down to big California, and we were walking and my pants felt a little loose, and without thinking about it I said, “I think my pants are falling down. I hope I’m not losing weight.”

    Now, this sentiment was born entirely out of the fact that I’m a poor college student and don’t have time, money, or resources (read: transport) to go buy new clothes. I just sort of don’t want to be bothered at the moment.

    But it wasn’t until I saw the way that people were gaping at me that I realised how completely bizarre that sentiment must have sounded to anyone else.

    Which is funny, because just six weeks ago, when I was buying the clothing I was wearing as back to school clothes, I had had to fight all sorts of bad thoughts as I tried on various pants and shorts that did not and would never fit, and had to constantly remind myself that this didn’t mean there was anything wrong with me, it just meant that more stores need to start carrying size 16 and remember that some people come in different shapes.

    And I thought, while looking at my associates and realising what I’d said, “Huh. How about that.”

    The dialogues and ideas on this blog have done wonders for me.

  4. It really is surprisingly hard to work out all that bullshit.

    I am contemplating going through my closet, trying on the jeans in it, and getting rid of the will not at all fit ones, and just keeping the slightly too small ones. Cause I do vary downward at times, and one wants to wear pants that fit, damn it. But even thinking about it was rather difficult, and that surprised me. It shouldn’t have, I suppose.

  5. I have the opposite problem right now. I’m in a “down” time, weight-wise- so I’m fitting into clothes that are 1 or 2 sizes smaller than what I usually wear. The problem is that my “normal” jeans, which fit me perfectly a few weeks ago, are now coming off when I step on the hem. (I’m just as frustrated whether I lose or gain weight b/c it means my clothes don’t fit)

    I hope the health things work out, FJ.

  6. My 4-year-old daughter expressed fear that I would vanish – or that she would stop growing UP and instead grow SMALLER – recently, after I was “complimented” on my thinness and weightloss in a public place. While I was in my swimsuit, actually. And one of the things I mentioned in my tear-stained rant at the woman who said she hated me for being thin was that I hated having to buy new clothes.

    She said “But I’d LOVE to buy new clothes.”

    She completely didn’t get it, and I’m still not over it. Perhaps I can find her and eat her. She scared my baby girl.

  7. Thanks, Fat Angie, but it’s me, not FJ. :-)

    Alexandra Lynch, I’ve found extremely liberating every time I’ve done a closet purge like you describe. Getting dressed every day doesn’t have to be a battle with your psyche.

  8. Thanks, Fat Angie, but it’s me, not FJ. :-)

    For some reason I think that Sweet Machine’s icon looks like a Fillyjonk, and to a lesser extent, Fillyjonk’s looks like a Sweet Machine. I don’t know why, but I always think the wrong icon is attached.

  9. I found myself thinking last night, “I hope I don’t lose weight – I want to continue to fit into my pretty new clothes!” I recently discovered the wonder that is Lane Bryant (they do not have stores in Canada but they ship here!) and I love that I fit into the clothes that I bought. I don’t want to go back to the point of squeezing into the largest size that ‘regular’ stores carry.

    Anyway, it was kinda cool to have that thought pop into my head. So backwards from where I used to be.

  10. Theriomorph, I just read that piece of yours that you linked to, and it gave me almost continuous shivers. Y’all should click on over there and read it too.

  11. Thank you SM. You’re awesome, and so am I.
    I recently cleaned my closet of all of my bulimic clothes, not only because they didn’t fit anymore, but because they served as an everyday reminder of living in a bulimic world where ability to purge trumps ability to enjoy even the most basic things in life. I had one pair of girl’s size 16 pants that I thought was the crowning glory of my life then I finally threw out (though considered setting on fire).
    Still, I’m at the fucking point where tops in straight sizes are generally too small, tops in plus sizes are too big. Clothes in straight stores are generally all based on a size 4/6/S/M and expanded/decreased in ratio to make the bigger/smaller sizes, which is ridic, because my need for chest room and arm room is not the same proportionally as a person who is a size four or six. Women’s clothing SUCKS.

  12. Oy, what a great and true post.

    When I lost weight through a combination of physical and emotional health problems, my gynecologist told me she wanted me drinking three Ensures a day until I gained a few pounds back, and I swear there was a part of me that was glad I had messed up my health because it meant that I had an “excuse” with which to shut down the part of me that kept thinking I needed to be smaller. And of course as the weight came back I freaked out (though, the weight didn’t really come back till my mental health did, so I was better equipped to handle said freakouts). There are still day when I feel awful (undescriptive word, but y’all know what I mean) that I weigh 5 more pounds than I did in the 7th grade. I like to phrase it in explicitly those terms because it makes me realize how completely insane it is to feel that way.

    Also: WORD to all the people complaining about how people cannot comprehend how losing weight could be a bad thing ever. I keep trying to write something but this phenomenon enrages me so much I just want to punch something, so instead I will leave you all with the story of the asshole I used to ride the bus with who when he ran into me after two years, after weight lost due to stress and business and health problems and, yeah, minor eating problems I didn’t want to admit to at the time, told me I looked good because I’d gotten in shape. I am generally a person of no regrets but one big one is that I was too stunned and too polite to say what I should have said, which is: FUCK YOU, YOU STUPID FUCKFACE.

    Also: what erin said: re: the piece Theriomorph linked to. Amazing, brilliant, it made me feel so angry and so sad but at the very least a little less alone. Thank you so much, Theriomorph. Y’all should really go click, though I feel it is fair to warn you by the end I was crying like a baby (in a good way, for me, but if that’s not good for where you’re at right now, maybe be a little careful).

  13. I am still struggling to reach the point where I can not give into that temptation, but I’m getting much better! The other night after eating enough to make me uncomfortably full out of frustration completely unrelated to my body (another bad habit i’m working on breaking!) i was panicking about all the new clothes I just bought would fit the next day. After a little while of feeling bad for myself and freaked out, I had to make myself sit down and write out really basic statements like “I will not wake up tomorrow a completely different size. Even if I did, I would not be a failure. I will work harder at honoring my body and only eating things that nourish me and make me feel good.”

    I’m having many more days where I feel like i just get it. And then i have days like that where i need to be hit over the head with some positive thinking!

  14. Purely practical comment: have you tried hanging your jeans to dry, rather than using the dryer? This also causes less wear on the fabric so the inner thighs don’t get holey quite as quickly. I basically never dry my jeans in the dryer, unless they are too big.

  15. That’s the advice the woman who works in the denim department of one of my favorite department stores gave me: don’t ever dry your jeans all the way, either hang them to dry or take them out while still somewhat damp and let them air dry. She said that if you let the dryer dry them all the way, they will be overdried and they will shrink.

    This happened to me about a year ago, when we got one of the new fancypants dryers with a sensor. “Normal dry” means “dessicate”. I was all panicked when one of my favorite pairs of jeans suddenly stopped fitting – oh noes, TEH FATZ! Until I realized they were also an inch shorter than they’d been before, and while my waist fluctuates somewhat, my long bones stopped growing at least 20 years ago and I was not getting taller. The dryer did a number on quite a few pieces of clothing before we figured out what was going on.

  16. Yeah, I sometimes dry my jeans to shrink them (or make them soft, because it’s no fun to put on line-dried jeans for the first time – cardboard legs!), especially if I’ve stretched out the waist. But if the length fit in the first place (unlikely these days. Pants are soooooo long!!), any drying very quickly makes them too short, IME. Luckily most of my pants are a bit too long because I’m too lazy to get them tailored, so I can shrink away!

  17. Thank you, I really needed that now as I’m pulling out fall clothes I haven’t worn in awhile, and of course are not loose and breezy like summer clothes.

    TropicalChrome, I cannot even tell you how many times that’s happened to me! It took years for me to realize the extra shortness was related to the extra tightness.

  18. This will sound very silly, but here it goes anyway.

    The tight-jeans-after-washing thing is the only thing that still really bothers me about being fat. It’s dumb, and I know that my jeans fit me will — I should, after spending over a year first finding, then saving up for them — but that first moment of putting them on after a wash is hellacious.

    So I cheat. When I do laundry, I pull my jeans straight out of the dryer and straight up my legs. Each pair (of which I have… two, right now, so it’s not like this takes forever), each time. I wear one pair as I fold the shirts from that load, and the other pair (if I washed them simultaneously) as I fold the underwear or kid clothes or whatever. And then I take them off, fold them, stick them in my drawer and forget about it.

    When I go to put them on for real, hey, no problem! I feel better, the jeans go on like a dream, and presto: I am a sexy mama. For some reason, when I put them on straight out of the dryer and they’re tight I can brush it off — “Oh, duh, they’re tight, they just came out of the dryer!” I can’t do that if I wait a day or two and then wear them, even though the cause of the tightness is the same. So, cheating. And then getting on with my day.

  19. (Thanks, erin and Isabel – painful to write, important to put up anyway, and the responses have meant a lot to me.)

    “Oh, duh, they’re tight, they just came out of the dryer!” I like it. Sometimes I take my jeans out a few minutes before everything else and put them on vaguely damp for a few. However, I live on a mountain in Vermont where last winter my thermometer exploded when it dipped under 40 below, so this is really only an option in the warmer seasons, because buttsicles suck.

  20. Thank you, Theriomorph, so much for writing that piece on your blog.

    I was so surprised when I read that you’re 5’2″, but that at 115 pounds you were very ill. I’m 5’2″ and very healthy at 115; it’s the middle of my natural range (my sister got very concerned about my health one summer when I weighed 105). Just goes to show that even people of the same height aren’t necessarily healthy at the same weight.

  21. I’ve long lived by Wilde’s “yield to temptation” quote. The thing about it as it applies to the cultural pressure, the temptation, to give in to negative self-thought re: body size, is that yielding to that will NEVER satisfy you. That sort of temptation is emptiness. Emptiness.

    It does not satiate or fill or pleasure or satisfy or draw together or create. It destroys, and it only destroys. No matter how often you yield to it, you can’t get rid of it. You cannot. Because it doesn’t fill. All it does is hollow out and make more room for itself, like some horrible parasite.

    Part of the delight in yielding to temptation, to having that “sinful” cookie or wank or fling with a 20-year-old or whatever, is in knowing that you are smart enough to take the wonderful thing that others are passing over as wrong and naughty. That’s a great pleasure, indeed.

    Yielding to the temptation to hate yourself is like a tree yielding to the weight of ice. It’s not in defiance of anything. It’s bending under something that IS genuinely as destructive and awful as double-chocolate cookies and long, slow kissing with a boy ten years your junior are supposed to be, but aren’t.

    You’re right. That sort of “temptation” is something we can live without.

    (I love Dorian Gray, by the way. Found out today Ben Barnes is playing Dorian in the 2009 remake, and am now in spasms of glee. Sorry for the OT, but . . . damn. That’s the kind of double-chocolate kiss-me-harder tempting, tempting, tempting boy I’m talking about kissing up there.)

  22. I’m seriously thinking about buying mens’ jeans now.
    ‘Cause, you know, they don’t do that fucking stupid tiny-thigh thing that womens’ jeans do.
    So I reckon if I get mens’ jeans that fit round my waist, then my thighs will be fine, since nobody expects men to want to emphasise their legs (shame!). And I’ll get bigger pockets. Hurrah!

  23. Stupendousness, seriously – so much variation. For me, there’s a clear cut-off point under which I start eating my own muscle and losing strength and bone density – and it’s higher than it ‘should’ be for someone of my height, according to the NIH folks. Others my height really are fit and strong and well much lighter. I had to figure out where that line is on my own, and work toward staying above it, you know?

    Anyway, enough threadjack – thanks for the warmth, everyone.

    Yielding to the temptation to hate yourself is like a tree yielding to the weight of ice. It’s not in defiance of anything. It’s bending under something that IS genuinely … destructive

    That’s some powerful language and image, Haamah Darling. Thanks.

  24. My 4-year-old daughter expressed fear that I would vanish – or that she would stop growing UP and instead grow SMALLER – recently, after I was “complimented” on my thinness and weightloss in a public place.

    Ailbhe, I saw you mention this in another thread, but I was a little confused about the context there. That is so heartbreaking.

  25. Rachel, I wouldn’t count on that (re: men’s jeans). I’ve never tried men’s jeans but I wear men’s coveralls and while men’s pants aren’t built to be tight through the legs, they also aren’t built to accomodate a woman’s curves. So if you have full hips and thighs, I suspect you’ll be better off looking for relaxed fit woman’s pants.

  26. Two hilarious trolls in the mod queue for this post: One said that my line about sweating less was stupid even for an “obesity enthusiast.” And they call us humorless! The other person, also winning at reading comprehension, suggested that if I just have discipline, I can finally get thinner. Oh thank heavens!

  27. Kate: I’m still really upset about it. My kid is four, and she’s always going to be a big girl, even if she’s slim-to-normal, whatever the fuck THAT is, because she’s destined to be a six-foot-tall-and-strong-with-it woman. And I’m kind of upset that I got upset when this woman said “Look at that – don’t you hate her – she’s thin” or whatever it was (definitely hate) and then argued with me about it. On the other other hand (now up to about twelve hands) I could have let my kid think it’s normal to talk about being thin and getting thinner as though that’s the only thing which matters.

    It’s complicated by having children of two different sizes and shapes – one is a 98th centile Viking and the other is a 25th centile petite elfin type (we have lovely examples of both in other generations so we know whereof we speak) and I can’t bear the idea of one being The Big One and the other being The Feminine One, which is both plausible and terrifying.

    And I, at a UK size 6-8, was The Big Sturdy One in a family of petite elfin types, too. Help, the world is screwed up and I’m upset about it.

  28. I can attest to the fact that clothes are a much simpler matter when you’re a heavy man. I have noticed that the K-Mart where I shop has a “big men’s” section but not a “big women’s” section. No doubt it’s the same deal at Target and Evilmart (AKA Walmart).

    I was thinking about fat prejudice and acceptance the other day, and it seems to me there is one thing propping up fat prejudice that’s going to be very hard to dig out and pull away: In a class-based heirarchical society, everybody needs a class of people to denigrate in order to feel superior and less bitter about their own perceived failures in life. Now that racism has lost its social acceptability (despite the fact that it’s alive and well) and homophobia is thought to be tres gauche in more enlightened circles, that leaves us to hate for all the bitter, angry, unhappy people there are out there. And the Al Bundys of this world will be damned if they’ll give up the last class of people to whom they are allowed by mainstream society to feel superior! (Kind of a “Duh Truck” delivery there, but one that bears occasional re-delivery so that it will be fresh in mind for dealing with all those bitter losers who cling to fat prejudice.)

  29. Naamah Darling, I was thinking the same thing about the Wilde quote. I feel very sure that Lord Henry would not approve of yielding to the temptation to hate yourself–not because it’s self-destructive, but because it’s boring. The kind of temptation he’s talking about is the thrilling kind, laced with intense pleasure and intense fear, not exhaustion and surrender. Lord Henry–I am positive–doesn’t want you to diet.

  30. I love this topict! This year I have been working on breaking my habit as a “juster.”

    You know, to say “just” in describing yourself and your life. Like on the phone you say, “it’s just me.” And my number one change – when someone asks you what you do with your days, reply with just “I’m a stay-at-home mom.”

    Becoming aware of the negative thoughts and words is a first step, but to cut them off at the pass and extinguish them is another.

    Please give some compliments to yourself today, doggone it! Al Franken would be proud. And I’ll remember not to put my jeans in the dryer too.

  31. I can’t think of a single Wilde character who’d approve of dieting. My namesake is daft enough, but even she would probably condemn it as Vanity.

    My favourite Wilde food quote goes something like:
    Jack: How you can sit there calmly eating muffins at a time like this?
    Alegernon: Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would get on my cuffs.

  32. Loveandlight, the thing is, no matter how you frame it, the “last acceptable form of prejudice” thing is really problematic. So much so that it’s in our comments policy.

    While it is indeed more common to hear a vicious fat joke than a vicious racist joke on TV these days, for instance, that doesn’t mean fat prejudice is more acceptable–it means certain manifestations of it are more acceptable in certain places. But to suggest that this somehow means fat people have it harder overall than any other oppressed/marginalized group is flat-out fucking wrong and insulting. We don’t. We have it different. In many ways, we have it better. And those of us who belong to more than one oppressed/marginalized group have different forms of prejudice coming at them from all sides.

    I realize you’re trying to limit your sample to “enlightened circles,” but as we see again and again and again, people who consider themselves “enlightened” often perpetuate various forms of prejudice, including but not limited to fatphobia.

  33. Oh, I agree that Lord Henry doesn’t want you to diet! I just have a problem in general with how quotes are ascribed to “Wilde” or to “Shakespeare” without people acknowledging that, you know, the character who said it was evil. This happens way more often with Shakespeare (and I think it’s highly debatable whether Lord Henry is evil as such), but still.

  34. I’m sorry y’all, I am not approving trolls but I can’t resist sharing their wisdom with you. The latest says, Did you ever consider….normal diet and exercise might make you…normal size? Reading comprehension!

  35. losing weight because you’re sick is scary. a few years ago i intentionally lost about 45 pounds. then i stopped dieting and the weight still kept falling off. i lost about another 45 pounds while consuming between 3000-5000 calories a day.

    when i realized what was happening i mentioned it to some friends. many simply said that i was lucky and shouldn’t question it, or offered suggestions like “your metabolism must have just kicked in!” my body burned up all of my fat, and started breaking down my muscles. i was weak, but skinny. and i got a tremendous amount of compliments on how i looked.

    it was only when people started seeing my bones that the looks turned from admiration into concern. and it was only when i couldn’t walk that i finally went to a doctor. *^_^*

    anywho, once i got on medication my weight just shot back up. for the first 20 pounds i was thrilled. for the next 70 pounds… not so thrilled. surprise surprise, i’m back at my original PRE-DIET weight. thanks to your website (and a few others) i’m learning more about how my body works. but damn… i admit, it’s hard to let go of those memories of being super-tiny and getting showered with compliments. it’s hard to let go even though super-tiny meant deathly-ill for me. that’s sad.

    but yeah, my closet is full of clothes that don’t fit me. i thinned out some of them, but i still have a LOT of clothes that don’t fit. 90 pounds covers a wide range of sizes. i need to go through and pull out what i can’t wear, but it’s still painful. it’s weird to feel that healthy weight gain somehow makes me less valuable as a human being.

  36. I must admit that “obesity enthusiast” has a ring to it.

    Theriomorph, that piece was powerful. I sat shaking in my chair the whole time I read it. Thank you for sharing it.

    I’ve only really dieted once in my life. I did have a period of losing weight through illness when I had mono one summer and didn’t have the energy to eat, and then when I finally began to recover from the mono, my gallbladder threw a fit and had to come out. I lost thirty-three pounds in about six weeks, dropping from a 22 to a 16. My hair was stringy, I was even paler than usual, and I was so weak it took me ages to take a shower, but people kept saying how good I looked. That made me so angry, but I felt I had no way to fight it. Shouldn’t I want to lose weight at any cost, was the implication. I’m still angry about it and it’s been ten years.

  37. Shouldn’t I want to lose weight at any cost, was the implication. I’m still angry about it and it’s been ten years.

    Mm-hmm. There’s a deep-rooted and very resilient expectation in our society that if you do the diet and exercise thing and stop losing weight at a certain point significantly above your conventional-wisdom maximum ideal weight, then you are supposed to keep cutting back on food and increasing exercise until you are starving half to death and doing calisthenics in your sleep. It’s not often phrased exactly that way (and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone were to chime in and say, “Oh yes it’s often phrased that way, I hear it all the time!”), but this assumption really does have the status of Holy Writ.

    Maybe I’m just an old softy, but I say we give the reading-comprehension-challenged trolls one more chance.

  38. Hey, Sweet Machine- I am happy to hear that you are doing well. I think that you mentioned in a post a while back that you couldn’t drink coffee…I hope you continue to get better and that your coffee drinking ability returns!

  39. Yup, big yay, Sweet Machine!

    Interesting incident at a wedding this weekend: the bride’s mom fell on her ass rather painfully. I said something to her about doing that constantly, at which point a guy friend (that I know meant it positively) said something to the extent of yeah, but you have a big butt, so it doesn’t hurt as much.
    *blink*
    *blink* *blink*
    I replied that yes, it is very useful that way.

    In that second before I responded, my options flashed through my brain; deny it? Yell and smack him? Die of embarrasment right there? Tempting, yes, and what I would have done pre-FA. But my butt is indeed big and that’s not a bad thing, and it does provide very nice protection against my clumsiness. I would have felt bad if I had publicly denied my ass Peter-style. :)

  40. NaamahDarling: BEN BARNES IS SO FREAKING HOT.

    Ahem. Um.

    Seconding the line-drying advice. And I finally tossed a bunch of clothes that no longer fit me – some of that stuff is from high school, which wasn’t as long ago for me as it was for some of you here because I am a baby, but it definitely didn’t fit anymore – and it was really good for my brain.

  41. I’m thrilled to come back from my weekend and read this post. I spent the weekend at my parents, which makes me uncomfortable on so many levels. One of which is that I’ve learned, in my time away from my parents’ house, I hated my body because of their mentality, especially my mother’s. First strike, she had all these pants for me to try on…they didn’t fit. And she said, well you can always lose weight. I simply said NO. Then, she went on to tell me about a wedding where there were “heavy girls” in sleevless gowns and how she leaned over to my brother and whispered, that’s why some people should just not wear sleeveless gowns. I flipped out and said, really what does it matter, it’s just skin, and it’s really none of your business, and just because you’re not small should mean your clothing selection is limited. She said, but really it should limit what you wear. I lost it. She REALLY pissed me off, and at that point I wanted to be done with the visit. And then, I just had to go to my brother’s bathroom and weigh myself, just to add insult to injury…with jeans on, I now weigh 300 lbs. I couldn’t help but feel disappointment. That’s 70 lbs in one year. I felt regression at its best.

  42. SM – Slightly off-topic, but I’m completely with you on the annoyance of people conflating things writers said with things their characters said.

    The worst one is the “All men are rapists…” quote from ‘The Women’s Room’ by Marilyn French. I’ve seen it pulled out to argue that all feminists are EVIL MAN HATERS. Despite the fact that it’s said by a character who’s continually seen as radical and extreme, and who has just gone through several traumatic events at the hands of men.

    (Rach- There’s also the fact that you’re probably too short for men’s jeans.)

  43. iheartchocolate – I am so sorry your mother is like that. Really, really sorry.

    Also I’m really proud of you for talking back to her, even if she didn’t listen to what you were saying.

  44. Dear goddess–I’m so happy to have found this post! I was JUST walking back from the gym, bemoaning the state of my jeans wardrobe and the recent 5 pounds I’ve gained, listening to the voices in my head go through a stupid argument of “no lunch for you” vs. “just buy another pair of jeans, you always gain 5 pounds in the fall and lose it in the spring.” Despite my feminism and the fact that I’ve been struggling with these issues now for a good 2 decades, I find it frighteningly easy to fall into the trap of feeling terrible about myself when the jeans won’t zip as easily as they did a month ago, nevermind the fact that I know thi kind of energy completely eviscerates one’s happiness, creativity, life force, etc. So thank you for writing this! Big lunch and new jeans it is!

  45. Congrats on your weight gain, SM. That still feels like a weird thing to say, but if it’s a sign that your health is improving, then it is indeed something to be congratulated. (To clarify, not that it would be a bad thing for anyone else, just neutral.)

    And I just really want to thank you all for being here. Commenters included. Shapely Prose and the brilliant people who read it are like an oasis of sanity I can visit after I read some shit on a forum like “Fat people secretly love the abuse, it gives them an excuse to eat another three buckets of KFC.” I think I used up most of my Sanity Watchers points on that comment alone. But SP is always a “free” blog on Sanity Watchers. Even on the rare occasions that I might disagree with something that’s said, nobody is being outright abusive to any person or group.

    To get back on topic; I saw a few comments on men’s jeans. They can in fact be awesome, if you have the shape for them. For some reason, men’s jeans have more butt room, but they also have a waist measurement that’s nearly the same as the hip, so if you have a smaller waist, it will gap on you. If you’re good at alterations, you can take the waist in, and they’ll work like a charm. I don’t always have the inclination to alter them, though. I wish they would sell women’s jeans the way they do men’s, with a waist and length measurement. I’d love to be able to pick out a 32″ inseam, for example, because I’m right at the point where “regular” length is a little short, and “tall” is a little too long.

  46. Yay for pounds after sickies!

    wish they would sell women’s jeans the way they do men’s, with a waist and length measurement.

    Yeah, me too, or even a hip/inseam or something.

    We had an odd experience on Sat. Went to buy daughter, age 11, some jeans. She’s a gymnast and built short and stocky… big big thighs and propel her… umm… to great heights! :-)

    She still doesn’t have hips (and she will, she’s built like me, and I’m a major pear), so we were able to find her her beloved boy Levis, size 18: 29/29, iirc. This took all of 10 minutes, two to find the size, 8 to find two pairs with different dye intensity.

    My dh is pretty cool about all this but then suggests we look in the girl’s dept for girl jeans. I sorta make a face, but I figure his mother and my sister have been getting to him, so I agree.

    Nothing at ALL in the girl’s dept. Everything had legs cut for Very Skinny Girls. And she’s not built that way. We went over to the misses section, and the pair that we found that finally fit her thigh fell down over her waist and hips. Sigh…

    Dh then persuaded that we should go with boy jeans, we left… but not without my feeling slighly sick. Because I know where in for trouble and heartache when boy jeans no longer fit. Right now, she’s just 11, confident in her body, its abilities etc, proud -rightly so- of her strength, but I’m pretty sure there will come a time when she’ll just wish she was built “normally”, like “everyone else” and she’ll feel miserable. I’ll try to be there, but I’m not looking forward to the alienation.

  47. OT: There was an interesting thread over at Vagina Pagina on livejournal a couple days ago:

    How do you respond when someone says something intentionally or unintentionally hurtful about your size?

    A few sanity watchers issues with some of the comments (had to restrain myself from pointing a few of the commenters to “Diets Don’t Work”) but mostly it’s a refreshing commentary on women as a group recognizing that commenting and judging someone by weight – whatever it is – is wrong and unhealthy. Esp. cheering to me since that isn’t an FA blog, just woman-centric (given the name, that’s probably obvious ;)

    DRST

  48. @Leila ::a hug for you and your little gymnast.:: One thing she does have going in her favor for body confidence is the fact that she does a sport–that’s a good self-esteem boost that shows the awesome things her body’s capable of. Complimenting her hard work and skill might help reinforce that.

    If she is ever upset about not being able to wear girls’ jeans, maybe explain that because some girls aren’t serious athletes, they don’t have the leg muscles she does, so jeans aren’t made for that. In other words, it’s not her that’s “off” or “wrong,” it’s the clothes. And bodies come in lots of shapes and sizes, but clothing companies kind of guess at what they think will sell the best, and they end up fitting a lot of people badly.

    Side Rant – I truly wish that women’s clothing, like guys’, would use real measurements. I am deeply jealous that my husband can buy pants that fit without even trying them on. Whereas I have 12s and 14s that fit, and 12s and 14s that are too tight. WTF. Why the heck not have women’s jeans sized by waist/hips/inseam? Just waist/inseam like men’s sizes wouldn’t work, since there’s too much variability in the hips/butt region. My current pet peeve with jeans is that they fit my hips and thighs or my waist, but not both.

  49. DRST, that’s an interesting post, though I avoided reading the comments. Not really worth it. But I’m kind of glad to hear someone else say they hate the word “skinny.” It’s an awful word.

  50. Last time I went to the doctor’s office, I let them weigh me because I was curious. I was close enough to some arbitrary barrier number that I found myself thinking for weeks afterwards, if I could only lose a couple more pounds, I’d be under that arbitrary barrier number again. I drove myself crazy. Finally I said “enough!” and for the most part I’ve stopped thinking about it. Until yesterday, when I put on a dress that I haven’t worn for a while and noticed it was loose. And I again thought about that arbitrary barrier number and wondered if I’d gone under it and thought about weighing myself and started to drive myself crazy again.

    I’m 47 years old, I’ve been fat almost my whole life, and for the past couple of years I’ve been pretty okay with being fat. But damn, it can seriously still sneak up on you sometimes.

  51. Oo oo inseams! Can I complain about those, too?

    I’m in between “regular” and “short” inseams. But a lot of clothing lines change more than just the inseam between those categories. So if size x regular is too long for me, but x-1 regular is too small, in theory I should be able to go to size x short. But they tend to be almost as small as x-1 regulars. So basically I end up getting pants that are too long because at least they more or less stay up. And then I should get them all tailored, but I never have done that, because I’m too lazy/busy. So instead my pants stay too long. It helps with the risk of shrinkage/shortening with washing, at least…

  52. Lynne, I’m in between short and regular too! Super annoying. The height-guessing might not go as well with me as I have shortish legs, but might as well try…are you aaaalmost 5’5?

  53. but as we see again and again and again, people who consider themselves “enlightened” often perpetuate various forms of prejudice, including but not limited to fatphobia.

    I would probably realize that if I were getting out and having interaction with other people more often. Too bad this condition probably won’t be the case any time soon.

  54. killedbyllamas and Lynne, I’m almost 5’5 and between short and reg too! Reg is long enough to step on, short is short enough to see socks. ARRGHH.

    I hate clothes. You know, they would make so much more money if they’d make clothes fun to buy. (IE- that fit.)

  55. Theriomorph’s link in the 2nd comment now goes to a truly horrid (definite PTSD trigger material) porn site – any way to take that out?

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