…A Grown Up Fairy Tale

1981 saw the release of Sharky’s Machine, a Burt Reynolds helmed taut crime thriller. The film is both a love letter to the city of Atlanta and an astute critique of the systemic corruption that held the city hostage for much of the seventies and eighties.

Critic Roger Ebert had this to say:

SHARKY’S MACHINE has a lot of plot, most of it inspired by the original novel by William Diehl. Maybe it has too much plot for a movie that Reynolds has referred to as Dirty Harry Goes to Atlanta. But this is an ambitious film; it’s as if something inside Reynolds was chafing at the insipid roles he was playing in one car-chase movie after another. He doesn’t walk through this movie, and he doesn’t allow himself the cozy little touches that break the mood while they’re letting the audience know how much fun Burt is having. The result of his ambition and restraint is a movie much more interesting than most cop thrillers.

This film came into my life during a very low point and provided both the inspiration and encouragement to chafe at the insipid societally sanctioned roles required of me. And my handle is a loving homage.

That answers question number one.

In The Fantasy of Being Thin Kate closed with the following:

The question is, who do you really want to be, and what are you going to do about it? (Okay, two questions.) The Fantasy of Being Thin is a really convenient excuse for not asking yourself those questions sincerely — and that’s exactly why it’s dangerous. It keeps you from being not only who you are, but who you actually could be, if you worked with what you’ve got. And that person trapped inside you really might be cooler than you are right now.

This was my first entry into the Shapely Prose world and at the time when I read this quote I wasn’t having any of it. I was going through my own TFoBT and I had some damn good reasons why I deserved a “doctor’s note” to be excused from class.

My logic was as follows: Being brown and female were two fixed points of oppression. Being a chunkerbutt wasn’t. So if I could jettison this one oppression in order to lessen (but not entirely relieve) the way in which the other two impacted my life… (wait for it) THINGS WOULD BE SO MUCH BETTER.

Sound familiar?

No matter how you arrange the notes, the song is the same.

Who was this woman to take away my sunshine! My reasoning was certainly legitimate. I had oppressions and examined things through lenses and used “the way in which” and found things problematic. I didn’t need anyone harshing my mellow.

Gimme my weight loss! Give me my moment standing inside one pant leg. Give me my makeover montage set to New Attitude.

I had been on this roller coaster before. I practiced body acceptance, usually when things were going well. It was always amazing how a couple of challenges would send me back to the fantasy. Oddly enough it was through my fiction that I was able to find my way back. I created a character who could only complain about her life if she turned it into a blues song. I spent so much time living with this character that I found myself Bessie Smithing my own woes. It is quite challenging to pout when you’re making harmonica sounds without the benefit of an actual harmonica.

Harmonica sounds led to making complaints in Vader voice, which of course led to actively seeking ways to get out of the body snarking business completely. Talking like Vader gives you a sore throat.

54 thoughts on “…A Grown Up Fairy Tale

  1. Harmonica sounds led to making complaints in Vader voice, which of course led to actively seeking ways to get out of the body snarking business completely. Talking like Vader gives you a sore throat.

    *snort* Hahahaha! Good reason.

  2. Welcome!

    And I really relate to what you said about your own TFoBT. It is so hard to give up the hope, the illusion that you can control what your body looks like, and that if your body “looks better”, your life will be better. (Full disclosure: I still haven’t given up on that illusion. I see the value in doing so, but…. I guess I’m still at that place of, “That makes sense for OTHER people, but I can get thinner, and I’ll be happier, then. But I digress.)

    And your other problems, or the ways in which you are oppressed, suppressed, repressed, they won’t go away, but they’ll be easier to deal with–I SO get that trap.

    So, it is inspiring that you’ve sprung that trap.

    Oh, plus your smart, funny, and I enjoy your writing…just like the other SP laydeez.

  3. Interesting — I’d always connected that chain of logic (“I can’t control anything else in my life, but at least I can control my weight”) with anorexia, but never before with standard dieting. Or with out-of-one’s-own-control societal oppression. Thank you for connecting some dots.

  4. So great to hear this familiar point for so many of us being addressed from a different point of view. Can’t wait to hear more from your perspective.

  5. Whining in a yoda voice also makes your throat hurt, but makes the whining go away faster. Ask me how I know.

    Great to see you here Snarkysmachine, I’m another looking forward to renting that Burt Reynolds movie, and reading your perspective.

  6. It’s nice to see a new face! I too am looking forward to a new perspective.

    hehe, chunkerbutt. My new favorite word. And I so agree with TFoBT. I resisted it for a lot of years even after intellectually embracing fat acceptance. Once I just gave up stressing about it things got better in all the ways I thought I had to “get thin” to have. I started to feel better mentally. I started to enjoy doing things. I started to laugh more. I became MUCH less depressed. Giving up the fantasy isn’t giving up anything – it’s liberating. It’s reclaiming your authentic self.

  7. I will be checking out that film. I’d never heard of it before.
    Also, I am very glad to see you will be doing a regular thing here. I just got a chance to check out your own blog the other day. Very cool shit.

  8. Hey, lurker here to say I really like your post (using a Vader voice when complaining, that is something I would like to try) and congrats, snarkysmachine on joining SP! I’m really excited to see what else you post here!!

  9. Excellent first post, Snarky. I like your style, and I look forward to more (you know, whenever you happen to feel like writing them. Wouldn’t want to sound like one of the OMG-write-more-of-what-I-want-dammit people.)

  10. encouragement to chafe at the insipid societally sanctioned roles required of me.

    Yeah, society and everyone else.

    I’d always connected that chain of logic (“I can’t control anything else in my life, but at least I can control my weight”) with anorexia, but never before with standard dieting.

    That’s why I think, with the greatest of respect, that anorexics and their supporters, made a mistake to divorce anorexia from dieting. I thought so at the time, instinctively, but it’s only when I found out just what the hell, weight loss dieting actually is, did I make the connection consciously.

    I think this ‘syndrome’ is exactly why Oprah and Kirsty.

  11. I had oppressions and examined things through lenses and used “the way in which” and found things problematic.

    Heee!!

    Welcome to SP, snarkysmachine – I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  12. Hehe…chunkerbutt is a new one to me…

    I totally understand the control line of thinking. I’ve had several therapists tell me that they think one of the reasons I’m so preoccupied with my weight is because I’m able to control almost everything else in my life. Weight is the thing where “trying really hard” doesn’t get me the end result I want and it’s frustrating. It’s also reality.

  13. The logic of “I can control my weightand thus my life” is the same.
    The difference is, if you are severly malnourishe becuase of annorexia, people realize that starving yourself is not healthy, and they tell you that no, controling your weight does not actually help you be happier. In fact, they go out of your way to show you things you can do to accept yourself and be happy with yourself the way you are.
    When you are overweight, it’s not an eating disorder, it’s dieting. You’re (finally) taking care of yourself! And when you are thin, you will be so much happier! It will give you back control of your life!

    It is astounding that so many people see nothing questionable in the fact that the same thing- trying to lose weight, by whatever means- is seen as dangerous for some and as something to encourage in others. That the result of trying to controle your weight is assumed to give youaccess to everything that will make you happy when you are overweight, but people will tell you it is impossible to gain happyness through weight loss when you are underweight. Talk about mixed messages.

  14. What my rambling was trying to get:

    Dieting is the socially encouraged form of annorexia. Which is a very scary thought. And also explains so much.

  15. Who was this woman to take away my sunshine!

    You know, when I read FoBT, it was a lightbulb moment for me. I’d been exposed to FA years before and had already taken some tentative steps on my own. I know a number of Shapelings for whom that essay was their first real ka-pow moment at SP as well. It just summed up my life and came to me when I was ready to hear it. To me it was a “let the sun shine in” moment – liberation.

    I’ve shown a lot of people that essay and a few of them have the same “Woah!” reaction. But a lot of them, far more than I expected, had that hostile “How dare you take my hope away!” reaction. I had no idea what to say to those people, because it seemed like they knew perfectly well that they were engaged in a futile struggle, that they were substituting trying to control their weight with getting other things in their lives under control, or they were using weight as a shield to avoid living like I had been, but they wanted to stay there rather than move on. I was and still am not entirely sure how to handle that reaction.

    DRST

  16. That’s really interesting. I just kind of made that connection with your post, Snarky’s Machine. Now that I think about it, I’ve seen lots of ads for weight loss products that have some variation of “take back your life/take control of your life,” etc. It does seem that even “standard” dieting and weight loss are linked to control.

    I’m especially interested in this because my life right now is all about food control. Ever since I learned I had IBS I’ve had to monitor what I eat, when I eat it, and to what extent I eat it. Yes, I’ve lost weight, but I haven’t felt like I’ve “taken back my life.” Paradoxically, I’ve felt like I’ve given up my life, or at least a great chunk of it.

  17. Rosemary Riveter, thank you for the best mental image of all time!

    I’ve had pretty good luck with introducing people to the Fantasy of Being Thin, even if they’re still not down with other aspects of FA or HAES. Even if they still think that long term weight loss is achievable, they at least can agree that you are the same person at any weight, and nothing will fundamentally change about you personally.

  18. Meems said:

    “Weight is the thing where ‘trying really hard’ doesn’t get me the end result I want and it’s frustrating. It’s also reality.”

    Wow. I’ve been feeling exactly this for years, but I believed it was my personal failing that try as I might, I could not lose weight, as opposed to the reality that my body size is not within my control. My weight is my weight for many different reasons-NOT because I’m sitting on the couch rubbing lard into my pores to absorb even more fat (Favorite quote from a Shapeling-don’t remember who).

    Anyway, this is a lightbulb moment. Thank you.

  19. When I finally stopped dieiting after 30 years of horrible failure, my mother actually said, “You can’t just give up!”

    Really? Watch me. Sheesh.

    Also, I can’t stop singing “Chunkerbutt” to the tune of Paul McCartney’s “Coming Up.”

  20. Stopping dieting once and for all should be rewarded by Stephen Fry as “Jeeves” serving you champagne and fine cakes from a silver tray whilst saying, “I believe you may have your life back now, M’lady.”

  21. DRST, the Stages of Change Model might be something that interests you. It’s generally used with people treating those with addictions, and I guess you could call dieting an addiction.

    People in “precontemplation” (engaging in destructive behaviors but not thinking about changing them) and sometimes “contemplation” (engaging in destructive behaviors and beginning to think about changing them) are generally those who get most defensive about their behaviors. In addition to the techniques suggested in that link, one technique I’ve also heard is asking, “And how’s that working for you?” (Preferably not in a Dr.-Phil-confrontational way, but in a I-really-want-to-know way.) But I like the way the link encourages validating feelings, acknowledging that maybe they’re not ready to change yet, and leaving open the door in case they want to come back to you later when they are ready for change.

    (That link was just found via a Google search, by the way. I’m sure there are other resources out there with more info, too.)

  22. I haven’t watched Sharky’s Machine for years but I remember liking it a lot.

    I just realized I won’t be able to use the initials SM around here anymore. SM could be Sweet Machine or it could be Snarky’s Machine.

  23. I was dealing with the TFoBT in quite a different way. I know there are several other Asians commenting so I think I’m not the only one who was being held up to the standards of my culture. Which is ironic for me, because Filipinos (at least the -American ones) are notorious about pushing food on you at functions. Even fatties like me. Not only was I struggling with the image of my culture, I was fighting my genetic make-up and ironically, I inherited this fat ass from my Filipino side! How’s that for a Fantasy?

  24. “the inspiration and encouragement to chafe at the insipid societally sanctioned roles required of me”

    SNM, with your permission, I think I’m putting this on my wall.

    In, say, fuschia.

  25. Welcome!

    And I hope you didn’t give up entirely on the Vader voice when you let go the FoBT! Because Vader complaints are awesome!

    Vader, glaring at microwave diet meal: I FIND YOUR LACK OF TASTE DISTURBING.

  26. Sniper said: |I can’t stop singing “Chunkerbutt” to the tune of Paul McCartney’s “Coming Up.”|

    Since I don’t know that tune, that comment sent me straight to … don’t know if it’s the Supremes or the Pointer Sisters …. “I’m chunkerbutt! I want the world to know, I got to let it show … I”m chunkerbutt!”

    Welcome snarkys!

  27. Welcome to SP, and I want to say I look forward to hearing even more of what you have to say. As a fellow brown, female, chunkerbutt, I’ve sat on the Axis of Oppression and it is so tiresome.

    I’ve also been indulging, lately, in a little FoBT, because I recently saw my (white) recently de-chunkerbutted ex being cozy with a (white) non-chunkerbutt girl, and it sent me into an emotional tailspin of rejection and insecurity.

    But I’ve backed away from that, and am going to keep focusing on doing what I’ve been doing: finding an exercise/sport that I love, because I am happier when I’m active, but am not willing to force myself to do something just because it’s meant to be healthy. It’s hard.

  28. “I’m chunkerbutt! I want the world to know, I got to let it show … I”m chunkerbutt!”

    OH MY HOLY FUCK YES

  29. My mom gave up dieting for her 40th birthday after too many years of TFoBT. She decided she liked food too much to keep depriving herself. Her weight hasn’t fluctuated much in the nearly 20 years since, instead of alternately fat mom, skinny mom, fat mom again as the family photos show. Unfortunately I was already 17 by then and had already internalized TFoBT. My sister was only nine though, and I don’t think she has ever dieted. She has always been comfortable with her size. I’m a little sad that I didn’t get the same benefit.

    Fortunately I have this great site, but you all know how hard it is. Even when you’re in the advanced fat acceptance stage, TFoBT is strong and tenacious. But then I remember the time that most of the women in my workplace started Weight Watchers together, I lasted less than two weeks. Sometime before the second weigh-in, I decided that I just didn’t hate myself enough to do it. And that was before I discovered this site and the rest of the fatosphere.

  30. Yay! So glad You’re here in the mix!
    My movie avatar, so to speak, is Toshiro Mifune’s character in Yojimbo and Sanjuro. I so admire the way he steps outside convention to solve problems. And he’s perfectly willing to get up in someone’s face to tell them to stop the bullshit. I’ve got a still of him in that role scratching his scraggly face whilst thinking and I like to do that myself although minus scraggles

  31. It is astounding that so many people see nothing questionable in the fact that the same thing- trying to lose weight, by whatever means-is seen as dangerous for some and as something to encourage in others.

    The thing is, they’re labouring under the FoBT/anorexic ideation too. It has similar effects on you whether you succumb to anorexia or not. It is the control thing Meems mentioned that keeps us dieting, that is the thing most similar to ‘addiction’, or dependency.

    We’ve all caught the same affliction-us and the rest of society because it’s from the same source. The difference is in our own circumstance and our body’s response to have we act on it. That’s what differenciates anorexic ideation from anorexia proper.

    Anorexics have been trying to convey some of these things to us, but the disconnect between dieting and anorexia, and our attention on the physical results of starvation, meant we were not quite able to communicate with each other.

  32. And I hope you didn’t give up entirely on the Vader voice when you let go the FoBT! Because Vader complaints are awesome!

    I’ve taken to singing songs in Vader voice. My current favorite being Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night”.

    But Vader’s more of a song stylist, like Johnny Cash. He talks his songs!

  33. @ wriggles

    Sounds like you’ve got the start of a really strong essay there. ;-) I’m intrigued by your framing and I’d like to read more.

  34. Welcome welcome welcome!

    I like “chunkerbutt” because it sounds like the kind of loving endearment I would use for my kids. It’s actually quite close to what I say to my son when I’m snuggling on him. “Look at these chunky thighs!” I <3 them, they're adorable. So… why wouldn't "chunkerbutt" be the same? I can say it TO MYSELF!! *brain esplodey!*

    Ok, it's probably sick and twisted and I'm gonna screw my kids up for life. I also taught my younger one that he's cute. "Are you cute?" "YEAH! I'm COOT!" (This is also not mentioning that I sing Decemberists songs to him to put him to sleep. Leslie Ann Levine, being about a dead baby, is PROBABLY not an image that will comfort him when he actually understands what the song is about, but for now, it's a song I can comfortably sing and it's adorable when he "sings" with me.)

    End of long-winded and meandering comment!

  35. The Darth Vader voice is my new favorite thing ever. I plan to start using it immediately and I would also like to relate the following tale and recommendation:

    During a particularly difficult time in my life, when everything was shitty, and everyone was telling me to “cheer up” and “be positive” I wrote WWDVD for “What Would Darth Vader Do” on the inside of my wrist everyday (this was at the height of the WWJD fad so no one bothered me about it, probably figuring I was stupid). Then whenever something went wrong or someone was pissing me off (which was always), I would think “Hmmm, well what WOULD Darth Vader do?” and immediately answer with “CHOKE SOMEONE WITH HIS MIND!” Try it. I swear, instant mood lifter.

    Plus it is helpful in relationships. Sometimes when my husband is complaining or otherwise annoying the hell out of me I’ll look at him really intently until he stops and says “you’re choking me with your mind, aren’t you?” Then we both laugh.

  36. I am just popping back here to say that after I read this, I totally put Sharky’s Machine on my Netflix list and we watched it tonight.

    Damn, you’re right. That’s a really well-done movie. I can see how it would be really personally powerful if you found it at exactly the right time. I want to watch it again, because there was so much going on I am sure I missed a lot.

    I love it when the things we need come to us. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it makes such a difference.

    There’s absolutely no comparison between the two movies either thematically or in terms of quality, but A Knight’s Tale was that movie for me. It gave me totally painless happiness during a time when I was having panic attacks that lasted for hours, oh god the SUCK, and it gave me hope that I could change my stars. It’s hard for me to watch now on account of how I still sort of cry every time I hear Heath Ledger laugh, but I’m through and well past the worst, when I needed it most.

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