Friday Semi-Fluff: Letters to Santa


This Christmas, the Pennsylvania Medical Society is asking children to ease up on the milk and cookies for Santa Claus. That way, his ample waistline won’t be further widened by the 787.5 million calories he would otherwise consume in that state alone.

No, see, I get that large chunks of this are written with a knowing wink to the adults. I get that this is somebody’s/bodies’ unsuccessful attempt at whimsy with a moral. I get it. But I also live in a house with two young PBS watchers. So when I see this:

The poll is part of the society’s annual campaign to highlight a Christmas tradition as a way to teach a health lesson to those who don’t park reindeer on the roof.

…it strikes a familiar chord. Yes, God forbid we have a situation involving BOTH children AND food that doesn’t teach a dad-blame HEALTH LESSON. Because that strategy — teaching children to associate tasty bites of food with shaming, moralizing lectures — has clearly proven SO successful to human happiness that we can’t afford to suspend it even for one stinking second during a holiday celebration.

“The average person gains 1.4 pounds per year, one pound of which is often gained over the holidays because of overeating,” said Pennsylvania Medical Society President James Goodyear, MD. “There’s no better time than right now to adopt the Santa Snack Plan — to help Santa and yourself not only on Dec. 24, but also all year.”

The Santa Snack Plan is a way to cut down Santa’s (and your) unhealthy eating, such as the strategy modeled by the small percentage of Pennsylvanians who said they would leave carrots, apple slices and celery sticks for St. Nick.

Yeah, ‘kay. Couple things. First, let’s note that it’s weird to call something the “Santa Snack Plan” when part of your whole pearls-clutching point is that the traditional and widely-favored Santa snacks are OMGBADFOODS! You might consider calling it the “Opposite of Santa Snacks Snack Plan” or the “We Can’t Stop Moralizing About Food Even One Evening A Year Snack Plan” or the “We’re Stuck At Home Having Snacks Because We’re So Obnoxious and Ungracious Nobody Will Have Us Over For Christmas Dinner For Fear of Being Lectured At Snack Plan.” Possibilities abound.

Second, uhhh, I’m pretty sure kids – especially any demographic that might, conceivably, Look To Santa As A Role Model For Their Own Eating Habits – are supposed to gain quite a bit more than 1.4 pounds a year. Whence the panic, O Pennsylvania Medical Society?

Third, I’m trying to figure out what the children’s thought processes are imagined to be, such that this particular health lesson is called for. Once a year, some kids in some parts of the world leave cookies and milk out for Santa Claus. So the thinking is that kids love Santa, and Santa eats cookies, and therefore… kids will eat cookies cookies nothing but cookies until they puke and gain 1.4 pounds a year and get fat and become our national shame and drain health care dollars and die?

Right, well, is that before or after they go back in time, become Anatolian bishops, give lots of stuff to the poor, die, get canonized by the Catholic and Orthodox churches, have a feast day named for them, hang out for a few centuries, get coopted by Coca-Cola, move to the North Pole, hire elves, raise reindeer, and start making and delivering Wiis for all the children of the land? I mean, if Santa’s eating cookies is such an OVERWHELMINGLY TEMPTING EXAMPLE that children are POWERLESS TO RESIST HIM?

Or is the idea that parents leave the cookies out and then eat them, which is totally NOT OKAY because even in a season of celebration, the very worst thing you can be is a fat fat fatty fat cookie eater, a setter of bad examples for the children, who’s getting fatter by the year? A whole 1.4 pounds fatter!

They’re. Just. Cookies. Sheesh, people took notice when Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster felt the need to clarify that cookies are a “sometimes food.” But MOTHER OF PEARL, special once-a-year holiday things are the very SOMETIMESIEST of sometimes foods. But no. Sorry. Not even then, and not even for Santa.

(And say, incidentally, you know what makes yummy apple slices and refreshing carrot sticks* completely suck? When they’re given to you as a consolation prize along with a lecture about exercising unfailing control over what you eat, for the rest of your life, without taking a break, lest you eat the ohhh-soooo-tempting COOKIES that are not for YOU!)

So here’s your Friday Fluff assignment, Shapelings. Write an over-the-top joy-sucking, earnest, moralizing, Grinchy note to Santa to leave out with your lack of cookies. Here’s mine.

Dear Santa: Suck it. You’re fat. Here are some wafer thin ass-wipe flavored mints, letters from all your exes listing your flaws and failures in excruciating detail, and a self-improvement handbook. Also, some coupons for things you don’t like, and a box of tooth whitener. I hope you hate yourself enough, because the children of the world see you as a role model, you dirtbag. Please leave my stuff under the tree and get the hell out of my house. Love, A Sarah.

(Readers of other faiths or none should feel free to address their letters accordingly. Just make sure they suck all the joy out of an ordinarily joyful experience.)

*-Sorry, but I do not care for raw celery sticks, ever.

I Can Be Reasoned With

I’ve been thinking about Stupak, and compromises, and patriarchal religious groups inserting themselves into the legislative process. I’d like to propose an alternative compromise to Stupak and the others currently in the legislative mix. No, it’s not perfect; but I think it speaks to the perceived needs of some of the anti-choice power brokers in the debate. Plus, it’s short! Only two stipulations with two corollaries. (And no, I have no idea what format bills usually follow. This is a blog post. Work with me.) Ready? I propose:

1. No abortions of pretend children.

Because you know who is really easy to love? Pretend children! They can be anyone you want them to be! That pretend boy can be the son you never had – who, manning up enough to stifle his tears, says at your funeral: “Everything important in life I learned from my father!” That pretend girl can be the daughter you might have taken to the daddy-daughter dance, where she would have worn a clean white frilly frock and looked up at you adoringly, pleading, “Twirl me again, Daddy. Please?”

I think we can all agree that pretend children – those who have no concrete existence whatsoever, but who, as hypotheticals, obligingly receive adult projections about childhood – should not be aborted. Heck, a pretend child is always safe, affordable, desired, and convenient. A pretend child shows up on your terms. And when you’re tired of a pretend child, he or she is whisked off to become someone else’s problem. Awesome! Who but a tar-hearted monster could want to get rid of a pretend child before she even has a chance to twirl in her pretty frock?


Corollary to 1: Actual human fetuses are not the same things as pretend children. (Hell, actual children are not the same thing as pretend children, but that’s a whole ‘nuther post.) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Democrats For Life, etc.: do you see the difference? Actual fetuses are particular and concrete, do not exist in ways unthreatening to the woman in whose body they live, do not lend themselves to easy moral absolutes, and do not yet at this point want to twirl with you at any daddy-daughter dance. Whatever else we end up talking about, can we PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE FREAKING begin by agreeing on this, please? Do you need me to explain it again? No? FANTIDDLYASTIC. THANKS. COMMON GROUND IS A BEAUTIFUL THING.

2. The Best Caregivers for Pretend Children are Pretend Mothers

It’s not easy being nothing more than a projection of someone else’s wishes, and pretend children have got to be taught how to do it, from… their pretend mothers!

Pretend mothers bond with their pretend children in ways you and I cannot understand, but can only observe with rapt piety. Is that pretend baby boy hungry or thirsty or tired? Ask his pretend mother; she will know. (Well, I mean, not know-know, obviously. It’s not as though she has a unique set of circumstances requiring constant prudent judgment, let alone set of specific skills that are a credit to her. I just mean that she will know, in the same mystical and precious way that the apple tree “knows” when it’s spring or a lamp “knows” how to give light. Things do what they’re designed by someone else to do, you get me?)

She’s hard to spot – the pretend mother, I mean – because she takes up so little space. Or perhaps I should say she takes up just enough space to remind us that good mothers don’t take up too much space. Occasionally we’ll catch a glimpse of her, yielding and compliant; suffering even the worst indignities with a shrug, a good attitude, and heroic self-sacrifice for which she never asks for credit. “Little old me?” she asks, smiling demurely and looking at the floor, revealing the lines around her eyes that have come from years of smiling beatifically. “Oh, heavens. It was nothing.”

And in fact it was nothing because – being pretend – she doesn’t actually need social support, or an income, or to be assigned work that bears some relation to her unique interests and skills, or recognition for that work, or the ability to exercise any control over her own circumstances. She doesn’t even really exist! You gotta love that about her!


Corollary to 2: Actual human women are not and never will be pretend mothers. Pretend mothers don’t exist. Actual human women are actual humans, whether or not they have children. Religious anti-choice conservatives, are you prepared to say otherwise and see what that gets you in terms of political capital? No? GREAT. FINE. AWESOME. I ASSUME THAT WE AGREE. THANK YOU.

I think we are making real progress.

Happy Birthday, A Sarah!

It’s our newest co-blogger’s birthday, and she just moved to a town where she doesn’t know anyone to celebrate with. So let’s make the Shapeling party count: I want champagne and baby donuts flowing freely (inasmuch as donuts can flow), links to puppy pictures, limericks and revised song lyrics in our girl’s honor, chair-dancing, and all manner of rowdy behavior you’ll regret tomorrow.

And of course, the most important ingredient of any good fatty party: TWO WHOLE CAKES.


Happy birthday, lady!

P.S. For your birthday, I might even get you a masthead with your name and picture on it, but don’t hold your breath.

An Urgent Message To Shapely Prose Readers

Your attention, please. From Fox News’ Neil Cavuto (won’t dignify it with a link), by way of Talking Points Memo, by way of Jezebel:

Michael Karolchyk — who started the Denver Anti-Gym for the purpose of “getting clients in shape for sex;” who included in said gym an extra-special super-secret sauna for clients below a certain BMI; who idolizes Holden Caulfield (*snicker*… oops, sorry. (*snicker*…SORRY! I’M SORRY!)); who thought it appropriate to wear a “no chubbies” slogan t-shirt when appearing on national television; whose gym was shut down for not paying its taxes; who thereafter couldn’t quite muster the business savvy not to leave his clients’ documents (including credit card numbers) in a dumpster; and who giggles involuntarily if you walk up to him and say “boobies!”* — does not think Regina Benjamin should be the surgeon general.

I knew you’d want to know, so that you could adjust your opinions on the matter accordingly.

Anna N. at Jezebel reports:

Karolchyk says (based, again, on the scientific method of Watching Video Footage) that Benjamin is “lazy” and makes “poor food choices.” He asks if we’d want “the head of the Fed Reserve to be a guy in a cardboard box” or “Michael Jackson’s doctor” as the head of the DEA.

Folks, the comically un-self-aware man-child who is so desperate to feel young and vital that he appears to have willfully resisted outgrowing his years as a middle school bully is right. The mantle of authority is a privilege. Not everyone can enjoy a visible public platform from which to spout his or her opinions on stuff. That kind of space should be given only to those whose personal circumstances show them to be, not only thoughtful and of unimpeachable judgement… but also prosperous, lucky, and in the fickle general public’s good graces.

Thank you to Fox News, and Michael Karolchyk, for this reminder.

*-Astute readers may wonder how I know this. As a matter of fact, I know this because I have magic boobie-giggler vision: I can look at men and magically discern whether they snicker at the mention of boobies. This is a superpower akin to Karolchyk’s super-power of being able to look at people and magically discern how healthy they are. You call it pulling stuff out of one’s ass; Karolchyk and Fox and I call it penetrating insight. Potato, potahto.

Dainty Little Bites: Discuss.

So the fellas and I are packing up and moving several states away this week — on Friday or Saturday, depending on how packing and loading up the truck goes — and as a result I have no dadgummed clue where my copy of Susan Bordo’s Unbearable Weight is. It may be in the garage (appropriately off-the-floor and well-cared-for, I hasten to add; for I am not a hater of books, and I would wither if any of the awesome Shapeling librarians or librarians-to-be gave me the hairy eyeball) or it may be in a pile of somethings, or under something, or in with the cookbooks, I’m just not sure.

If I had access to the book, I would here post something intelligent and pertinent about the Dainty Little Bite — that culturally-approved way for women to have appetites. Because I’ve been thinking a lot about appetites, as I expect most of you have noticed; and I’ve been thinking lately about the Dainty Little Bite in particular. And I would love to rehash what Susan Bordo has already said, and use an excerpt as conversation fodder. (Note to Susan Bordo, if you’re reading: You are my fantasy Famous Shapeling. I love to imagine that you read here. I like to think that that’s actually entirely possible, and that one day we’ll discover that you’re a regular commenter here with a wickedly clever little alias that you chose so that you could help collaborate on some of the more ribald contributions that the SP community has made to humanity over the years… the parodies, the Douchehoundings, etc. But a friend of mine from college has now gone and ACTUALLY STUDIED WITH YOU in grad school, and she tells me that in her opinion you’d have no qualms about commenting here under your own name, because you’re fearless like that. Sigh. Reality, why must you get in the way of all my cherished fantasies?!)

But, as established, the book is not handy. So here are my off-the-cuff thoughts and questions about the Dainty Little Bite. First, it really has cognates in other appetites, no? (I’m just thinking for example of all those advertisements, mostly ones directed at heterosexual doods… where a woman is pictured with the product, the camera angle is from above and looking down on her, she’s looking up playfully — childishly let seductively — and her mouth is half-open. Isn’t that kind of the Dainty Little Bite of sexual appetite? Or have I got it all backwards and inside-out?)

Related to that: is it just me, or is the Dainty Little Bite not basically a shorthand for “I have just enough desire to indulge my appetites when you would find it titillating and/or useful, but not enough desire to spur me to set my own terms”?

And third, how is the Dainty Little Bite situated by whiteness and by middle class identity? Having seen the racist and classist ways in which virtuous eating functions among white middle-class people* I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s thoroughly situated by whiteness and middle class anxiety/internalized superiority. But I’m a white straight cis middle-class chick. For me, the DLB goes all the way down, so far that I can’t see where it starts and where it stops.

All these may be obvious, and all may have been stated better (BY SUSAN BORDO, PROBABLY, which is why I wish I could put my hands on the damn book). Anyway, may we talk about it? (I feel a twinge of guilt here for not having, you know, a strong and assertive thesis statement — “In this blog post, I shall argue that…” etc. — but honestly, I’d more like to know what you all think. Plus, I’m in the middle of a move, and I’m rather pleasantly surprised I can put together sentences at all beyond “The thus-and-such goes in the this-or-that.”)

Sooo, discuss! (Please? And thanks.)

*-Recently someone cold-called one of my husband’s colleagues and asked him if their church group could bring “fresh fruits and vegetables” to their neighborhood in the “inner city.” He was like, “How did you get this idea? Do you know anyone in our neighborhood? Did anyone call you and ask for your gracious help?” No no no, they just heard from other white crunchy virtuous eaters, and saw on the teevee, that there were poor people of color in the inner city who were miserable wretches in need of produce. So they decided to help. Without being asked. Which straightaway reminded me of the clip from Sesame Street where some kids are just eating their lunches, minding their own business, and are interrupted by the obnoxious and intrusive Captain Vegetable… who bursts in and sings “It is I, Captain Vegetable! With my carrots! And my celery!” Ah, Sesame Street. Always so ahead of its day. I think I’m going to start humming this now anytime someone starts plotting to save the world from types of eating which they find icky-poo.

Fat Faith?

First off: Remember this one?? For those that don’t want to click through and read it all again: that was the one where I snarked at a guy who, based on his understanding of Catholic theology, opposed marriage equality by (among other things) comparing homosexuality to obesity. His basis for the comparison was that both indicate “disordered appetites.” (Because human beings are “ordered” to reproduce with the opposite sex, just like they’re “ordered” not to eat truckloads of deep-friend lardballs with mayonnaise every day. Which is the only way people become obese, natch.)

The fish-in-a-barrel moment was when he asked incredulously whether anyone SERIOUSLY believed that OBESE people deserved “special” civil rights, by which he seemed to mean the right to be obese. Or something. It wasn’t always clear.

Okay, well, I’ve sat with my resultant mocking screed for a while now, and… you know what? I can really see why it struck some as anti-Catholic. My little vignette at the beginning about the odious priest was, in particular, gratuitous. And I’m sorry. By way of context: I forgot that not everyone can magically discern that I in fact once became Catholic at some personal cost, having been taken by a number of things about Catholicism — its mystical and contemplative traditions, its healthy numbers of peace activists, and its age. And just a few years later I left, because I felt very hurt and let down by the church, such that I could no longer believe it was anything like what I’d thought it was when I’d first become Catholic. Point is, although I knew I was writing as a grumbling estranged family member, I can see how it would have seemed like I was an outsider taking cheap shots.

I think I also knew it was my first real time out, and I was trying to bring extra snark, because I wanted to prove myself.

Anyway, as an attempt to make amends… and as a special gift to those Shapelings who are self-identified religion and theology dorks and have requested a theological post… I’d like to go out on a limb and share some of my own (not-especially-snarky) reflections. I mean, this Fournier fellow took something of a risk, putting his thoughts about sexual and gastronomical appetites out there for the whole world to see. And I just aimed my cannon and fired at him, without offering much in return or taking many risks of my own.

So what follows are some ways that I think about FA intersecting with my spiritual life. My goal isn’t to bring everyone around to my own way of articulating faith (yeesh…. no!) but rather just to see whether this is a conversation to be had, and whether there are other Shapelings who see fat acceptance as a spiritual thing. I write in a Christian idiom because… well, at this point in my life there would be no other honest way for me, personally, to write. The Christian community, for good and ill, formed who I am spiritually and furnished the symbols with which I think. But my idiom isn’t the only idiom, let alone the master idiom, and I really don’t want to seem like I’m proselytizing. Let’s bring all our faith lives, or lack thereof, and talk about what they might have to do with FA, or not, is what I’m saying.

Okay, so. One of the reasons I grudgingly remain a Christian, is because of a particular story that Christianity tells about bodies. Now, I hardly need to point out that not all the stories Christianity has told about bodies are good ones. A lot of them are crap. Maybe most of them; I don’t have an exhaustive understanding of Christian stories about bodies, but of the ones I come across, most are terrible. But there is, I think, a strand of the Christian tradition that is very body-affirming. For example: You might not know this, but there’s actually good reason for viewing the notion of a “soul” going to “heaven” as an interloper in the Christian tradition. Well, maybe “interloper” is too strong. But many theologians would say that, at best, it’s a belief that’s become an unhelpful distraction simply by being so focused upon. (Like, it actually doesn’t say in the historical canonical creeds that Christians’ souls will go to heaven when they die; it says only that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and then ascended into heaven, where he’s hanging out until he comes again.) (Er, I’m paraphrasing.)

Arguably, the FAR more consistent and long-established Christian belief about life after death is EXACTLY NOT that some immaterial vapor of selfhood will go into a happy place in the sky. Rather, it’s that our bodies will be resurrected and perfected.

Aieee! Perfect bodies. I’ve gone to church since I was a wee tot, and have now made a job of it — and yet when I hear about bodies being “perfected,” what springs to mind is not the Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead. No, it’s diets. It’s bikini season. Clear complexion products and spray tan and so forth. I fill with dread and anxiety and self-loathing.

But in the Christian theological sense, “perfected bodies” means mostly that our bodies won’t be in pain or die again. (Well, you have people like St. Augustine who also specified that everyone would be 33 years old in the resurrection, but that’s sort of an academic point.) More interesting than what the bodies won’t be, is what they will be, according to this particular flight of the Christian imagination. Namely, they will be ours. Recognizably. They will be physical bodies, the same ones we have now, just… transformed, somehow. They’ll be even more what they are now, more alive, more there. Their longings and yearnings will be fulfilled and satisfied. The delightful tangibility and vulnerability that comes with being fleshy won’t go away, but it won’t any longer be an occasion for danger and harm. It has even been speculated by at least one Christian theologian (and yes those are weasel words, and no I can’t remember who said it but I swear it’s in my seminary notes!) that our perfected bodies will retain their scars. The reasoning was that it makes sense that anything which testifies to suffering’s having been overcome will be preserved.

And what’s one image in the Christian tradition that has consistently been used to describe this new, redeemed, embodied life that awaits? Obviously not immaterial souls becoming harp-playing angels on clouds. Nope nope nope. A feast. A feast, where nobody is left out and everybody has enough. A feast where – if I may extend the image in a manner I think is faithful to it – there are no good foods and bad foods… no popular table and no nerds table… no foods that look gorgeous on the plate but are the result of cruel and world-killing technology… no need to make eating into a locus for control in the hopes of finally, finally being worthy of love. Just a beautiful, intimate, abundant, joyful, and peaceful meal with your close circle of friends. Except that the circle is extended to every creature, and the Holy One is sitting with us at the table too.

Okay, so that’s one very ancient and long-standing Christian image for what awaits: a feast. Want to know another? A “wedding night,” but understood as sexual encounter between two as-yet-unconsummated lovers who have been waiting, yearning for each other so much they’re practically driven crazy by desire. And now they FINALLY know that the desire is mutual, and they FINALLY get to be alone together and touch each other, erase all the distance between each other, and thank heaven the wait is over because IT’S BEEN DRIVING THEM CRAZY NOW TURN OFF THE LIGHT ALREADY!

Please, just for a second, put out of your mind everything you’ve heard about purity balls (tee hee) and True Love Waits and staying “pure” until marriage, and just… you know, think about that kind of longing. Er, I trust some people here know the feeling? *pointed look*

Now, proviso time: Goodness gracious, have those images EVER been turned into weapons. The wedding night one, in particular, has been HORRIBLE for women. One might almost guess that its main use has been to equate “God” with “male” with “savior” with “(sexual) agent”… and “creation” with “female” with “saved” with “passive” with “pure receptacle for Him.” It’s a vile and death-dealing construct, and I wish it weren’t there. Well, then why is it there? Why do these nearly-universal embodied longings — which are used to say something important about the purpose of all creation — end up being a cause of division and exclusion?

Ah, that’s where I see the whole “ordered appetite” thing come in. And, you know, I can *almost* cut my tradition some slack here. I mean, if you’re saying that both gastronomical hunger and its fulfillment, and sexual longing and its fulfillment, reveal something about the very goal of the whole cosmos… well, suddenly, it seems pretty important to put in a bunch of provisos about how there are right and wrong ways for those appetites to be ordered. Because we don’t want to say that just EVERYthing that someone might theoretically do sexually, or EVERYthing you do related to your meals, is redemptive and good. A meal can be the occasion of exclusion and harm, even accidentally. So can sex. So can a bunch of other embodied longings.

Well, better make a whole bunch of rules to make sure that people only do the right things with their appetites, and not the wrong things, right?

Uhhh, sure, go ahead. Make a list of ordered and disordered appetites. And rules. And good people and bad people. And good bodies and bad bodies. Knock yourself out. EXCEPT REMEMBER THAT a big horking part of the Judeo-Christian narrative has to do with the guardians of “order” always being tempted to use that order to shore up their own power. And meanwhile – at least as I read the Christian Bible, but I’m not alone – God has pretty consistently cast God’s lot with those who’ve been othered by the authorities of the day.

Seriously, that’s like, um, kind of the whole freaking plot of the Bible, over and over and over and over and over again. The guardians of order say, with some plausible reason, “These are the conditions necessary for God to find favor with people!” And then God says, “Aww, nice try, mates, and I can totally see how you got there… but turns out I’m not so simple. ‘Scuse me a sec… Hey, you outcasts over there! Come join the party!”

I trust I don’t need to draw you a map of how I connect all that to FA. And I should wrap this up, but I can’t write about this without mentioning a memory that I shall cherish for as long as my memory functions. It illustrates everything I’ve just been trying, in fits and starts, to describe.

In the early ‘aughties I lived in a sort of pacifist anarchist Christian commune. One of the things we did — in addition to dumpster-diving, protesting war, and gardening — was provide a place for families with children who needed somewhere to stay. (At the time, in the city where I lived, most regular shelters and agencies wouldn’t place parents and children together.) One young woman, a high school student, stayed with us for more than a year. She’d been kicked out of her house when she got pregnant and decided to proceed with the pregnancy.

One day – when she was getting near her due date – she and the baby’s father announced they would be getting married. “WHAT!? CONGRATULATIONS!” we exclaimed. “WHEN?!” Whereupon this woman said somewhat dejectedly that they’d just get it taken care of the next day, because it’s not like they’d have any family who’d want to come.

At this point the matriarch of the community BEGGED her to let them try and give her a beautiful wedding. The bride happily said yes. And what I saw come together in the next twenty-four hours… I just don’t know how to describe it except that it felt like God was a sprightly and eccentric auntie throwing a wedding for her favorite niece. Somehow the news spread throughout the whole neighborhood. Little things just came together. For instance, the next morning my friend Christy and I found gorgeous entire bouquets of fresh flowers in the dumpster behind a florist, which we used to decorate the basement chapel. The intentional community down the street baked a wedding cake using, for the toppers, boy and girl chocolate Easter bunnies that they happened to have gotten on clearance. One of the other moms in the house worked as a caterer, and she made piles and piles of pupusas and heaps of black beans. Other neighbors brought chicken and I don’t even remember what else. A very psychologically troubled friend of ours who had some musical gifts sang “Danny Boy” as a solo. The preacher from the storefront church half a block away offered to do the ceremony. And the eighty-five-year-old grandfather who lived up the street — the sort who’d sit on his front porch in all but the worst weather so he could greet everyone as they passed – asked the bride if he could give her away.


It was both a feast, and a wedding night. And to me, it was a very scripturally-appropriate foretaste of the future of justice and peace that I try to work for. But I’ve often reflected how it satisfied exactly nobody’s rules for proper behavior or ordered appetites. Nobody. Certainly not wedding experts. Certainly not most religious people, who would have frowned on the bride (and perhaps only her) for having sex. Not the young woman’s family, who were angry she proceeded with the pregnancy. Not the vegans in our community, because of the chicken. I mean, they handled it with good humor and everything; I’m just saying if *they* had been in charge there probably wouldn’t have been chicken, you know? The wedding probably wouldn’t even have satisfied the government, seeing as how the groom didn’t speak English, couldn’t understand a word the preacher said, and didn’t actually repeat any vows. Hell, as a feminist I wasn’t thrilled in principle that she was being given away!

Didn’t matter. There was some power that had gone out ahead of us, ahead of all our rules, and brought us together in a place of peace… in a way that none of us could have anticipated. It was a gift *precisely* *because* it didn’t just spring up out of our fastidious adherence to rules.

Well, that’s my take, anyway. It’s also a long way of telling how I eventually found my spot in a liberal Christianity where a love of embodied life (in its lumpiest and bumpiest and earthiest sense) is at the heart of my faith… a Christianity that expects God to be especially at work in the lives of people with the “wrong” kinds of bodies, who have or are believed to have the “wrong” kinds of yearnings, longings, appetites.

Is anyone still reading? Do other Shapelings see spirituality and FA as informing each other? Or if you don’t believe in a deity or multiple deities, how (if at all) do you articulate your source of ultimate hope that sustains your work? I want to make sure I’m setting that up in a way that won’t lead to debate.

Friday Fluff: The Shapely Manor

Does anyone remember the episode of Family Ties where Elise and Stephen Keaton go out of town and leave Alex in charge? And he turns the place into a cozy little B&B called Keaton Manor, and rents out rooms?

Yeah, so the other SP bloggers are living it up in Minneapolis this weekend, leaving me in charge. WOOOOOOO! My sisters Mallory and Jennifer will be cleaning up your rooms and cooking you comically bad breakfasts, while I will be taking your money!

No, not really. But it provided me a handy way of mentioning two things:

1. Y’all, I’m it for the weekend, AFAIK, and I’m new; so go easy. I’ve got a very long and theological post in the works, but I think I shall save it for tomorrow, because we’ve had lots of posts today and I don’t wish to overwhelm. (Edited Saturday PM to add: I’m SORRY, I’m SO sorry, but it will be Sunday. I just keep obsessing and editing. It’s just such a fraught topic, so personal to me yet so prone to giving offense, and I already gave offense once before… blah blah, anyway, if I don’t put it up by tomorrow night then give me grief for it because that will mean I’m really obsessing way too much. ) And if you need something you can email me at teenageradiostar at gmail.


2. Let’s talk about cozy interiors! (Er, the connection was that B&B’s often have cozy interiors. Was that clear?)

See, we are moving to a new city in two weeks, and our new home (while not fancypants) is nicer than our current home, in that the new home has wood floors and granite (I think?) countertops and solid doors and whatnot.

What it lacks is color and quirk and personality. Not that I fault the previous owners for that because when your house is on the market that’s precisely what you’re supposed to do — make everything look generic and neutral. But once we arrive, we are getting down to bidness in terms of adding color and quirk. But most of all we want to be welcoming; we want there to be people coming over, playing, eating, relaxing, connecting, etc.

So anyway, what does the SP collective consciousness say in terms of making a house/apartment a home? How do you make a space welcoming, and what does that mean to you? What are some rooms and homes that you’ve loved? If you want to go all Derrida and talk about whether violence is inherent in “hospitality,” go to it! If that’s not fluffy enough for a Friday, another burning question I have is how we all feel about orange kitchens. (Specifically orange kitchens with black countertops? Too Halloweeny?)

What say you?

You think you have self-esteem? That’s so cute, you poor thing.

Sweet Machine noticed this otherwise-okay article from the New York Times. She commented, “This article is not so bad… But the ‘what about your heeeeeealth’ caveat is even more ridiculous than usual.”

Indeed, check it out:

But others point to serious health consequences of being overweight. Andrea Marks, a specialist in adolescent medicine in Manhattan, suspects that “the vast majority of overweight girls are not so happy.” Apparent self-acceptance, she added, may be a cover for defiance or resignation.

Okay, I don’t really know who Andrea Marks is. Google tells me she is on the faculty at Mount Sinai, has co-authored a book called Health Teens, Body and Soul, and previously wrote a column called “Ask Dr. Marks” for CosmoGirl. More to the point, I don’t know if she was quoted correctly — which can be difficult, I’ll grant. So I’ll hold off on lambasting her, personally, and try just to look at this as a phenomenon.

Let’s say you’re a fat adolescent girl – or hell, ANY adolescent girl in any sort of western capitalist milieu – and you manage, somehow, to hold onto your self-esteem and like your own body, despite all the shit that our culture hurls at adolescent girls. You even think you might like to dress, or eat, or look, or sing, or dance, or date, or not date, or talk to adults, or [insert your own activities here] in a way that pleases you.

Apparently such girls exist. I was not one. But thankfully, blessedly, they are there — evidently in numbers large enough to have their “apparent self-acceptance” be a phenomenon that gets a nod from experts.

Except… wait, no they’re not! Turns out they’re only pretending. Because either the paper of record, or an expert in adolescent medicine, or both, can’t quite wrap their heads around the idea of a fat adolescent girl who likes herself. “That’s cute, dearie,” they say, patting you on the head in response to your adorable little act where you stand up for yourself, “but you can’t REALLY think you’re worth anything, and deep down inside you know this. That veneer of confidence is really just defiance and resignation.”

OH GEE YOU THINK? Bravely defiant to smarmy condescending attitudes like the ones displayed in the article, perhaps? Stoically resigned to the fact that there’s not a lot an adolescent girl can do to change the fact that most dominant discourses describe her primarily in terms of her defects? WHY YES I THINK SO TOO.

But, pray tell, how are those two attitudes — that’s “defiance” and “resignation;” as opposed, one assumes, to “compliance” and “lack of interest in buying self-improvement products — incompatible with the very same adolescent girl thinking, “Hey, I really kick ass!”

(Hint: They actually are NOT incompatible! In fact, they may be correlated. Also, you don’t bury survivors, and the surgeon was actually the child’s MOTHER. Mind-blowing.)

Keith Fournier, Man Who Pronounces

A charming Roman Catholic priest once said, to a female friend of mine preparing for ordained ministry, “Seeing a woman give a sermon is like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs. You’re so amazed she’s doing it, you don’t really stop to think about whether she’s doing it well.”

Ho-HO, chaps! Amirite? It’s funny because WOMEN AREN’T REALLY PEOPLE AND ALSO THEY’RE KIND OF STUPID, geddit?

Well, in the same vein, I’d like to offer this observation: Seeing a man with an inflated sense of entitlement pronounce authoritatively as though he’s considered all the available evidence that the universe has to offer – when in fact it’s clear that he’s only considered the evidence proffered by other Men Who Pronounce — is like seeing dogs make friends with each other by sniffing butts. It’s so commonplace and unsurprising, you don’t stop to think, “Now, how does THAT convey pertinent information?”

Why do I mention this? No reason, really. Say! On a completely unrelated note: Here’s an essay by Deacon Keith Fournier. He thinks that people with “disordered appetites” shouldn’t get special “civil rights.” Or, well, he grudgingly acknowledges that they have rights because they’re humans with “dignity,: but still, he thinks it’s really important that they be made to know how disordered they are by, um… not having rights. That is to say, they shouldn’t be discriminated against, they just shouldn’t get to do the things that other, presumably more “well-ordered” people can do. Oh, also, he thinks that the Catholic Church will have its definition of marriage that’s essentially independent of what governments say about marriage… and this is why it’s really, really important for Catholics to oppose government-sanctioned marriage equality, even in instances where marriage equality is the majority will of the governed.

Confused yet? Well, your nose may not be as finely honed as Deacon Keith Fournier’s. There are many elements of this essay that offend me as a religious scholar and as a person who likes a good logical argument. I’m resisting the urge to get sidelined into a theological discussion of Natural Law, though, because I want to draw y’all’s attention to a point far more pertinent to the fatosphere: Deacon Keith Fournier knows that being gay is disordered, because being gay is a lot like being fat, and everyone totally knows that fatness is disordered:

Some maintain that same sex attraction is a genetic predisposition. This is disputed. Even if it were the case, that does not give homosexual activity any special status. Should we really give disordered appetites civil rights status under the law? Let’s consider an absurd example. I have struggled most of my life with fighting obesity. I am on the “winning end” lately, but just give me another Holiday! A very good argument can be made that obesity also has a genetic predisposition. However, I will fight it my whole life because it is unhealthy. It is a disordered appetite. Should we as a Nation decide that fat people have a civil right to be fat?

HA HA HA HA! What an absurd example! Fat people having the civil right to be fat! Ahhh… *wipes eye* … Deacon, you’re such a card.

Should those who insist that they resist that “genetic predisposition” to overeat be called Fata-phobic?

Um… with the exception of the adorably clueless capitalization and extra “a” in “Fata-phobic”… I’m going to go with yes?

Here, Deek, let me spot you a few clues:

First, yeah, about those “disordered appetites.” I don’t know how to tell you this. You know what other things have been counted as disordered appetites in the Christian tradition? The relentless pursuit of wealth at all costs. Seeking physical pleasure over spiritual union with God. Putting an exaggerated emphasis upon physical appearance. Now, assuming you think it’s worthile to talk about “orderedness” and “disorderedness” in this kind of detached and context-disregarding way (which I don’t) — come on, you don’t think those things frame a lot of our contemporary constructions of heterosexuality and/or thinness… oops sorry I mean “health”? So who else doesn’t get civil rights now that you, Keith Fournier, speaking for the Roman Catholic Church, find them disordered?

Second… dude, YES, the “Nation” should indeed decide “that fat people have a civil right to be fat[.]” People do indeed have a civil right to simply BE in ways that might make others feel icky-poo or scared or grumpy or oddly titillated or resigned or sad at no longer being in the majority. Even you grudgingly acknowledge that the people who give you that ookie feeling shouldn’t exactly be discriminated against:

Disordered appetites – and the actions engaged in by those who give into them – simply should not be called civil rights. Certainly, those who succumb to them should be treated with the human dignity that they deserve and not be discriminated against.

Great! Yes! You go right along thinking that gays and fatties are disordered, and LGBT folks and obeses will go right on enjoying equal protection under the law. Fine! Wonderful! You won’t get an invitation to Pride Week or the Fatosphere feed, and deathfats and gays won’t get an invitation to your Bible Study. Sounds like a fine plan that will work out well for all concerned.

What? Oh, you’re still not happy?

However, that is because they are human not because of their behavior! Homosexual sexual acts are simply homosexual sexual acts. Our bodies do not lie, they speak the language written within their constitution and confirmed in the Natural Law which binds us all.

Ahhhh, special rights. SPECIAL! Now I see. You’re not worried about gays and fatties having rights, you’re worried about them having special rights! You’re worried that they didn’t bring enough of their special gay and fat rights to share with the whole class!

Specifically, you seem very worried about that “special” right — which I’m sure you have never enjoyed yourself — NOT to have your identity judged legally and bindingly “disordered,” according to one particular religious account of “the language written within [its] constitution and confirmed in the Natural Law which binds us all.”



Happy now?

But then, presumably — since you’re standing so bravely against “special” rights for one class of people — you’re totally cool with sharing your special perks and privileges of maleness with everyone else, right?

Because I have a friend who can preach one hell of a sermon. What Sunday works for you?

(Edited to add: Shapeling Sarah rightly takes issue with my characterizing Fournier as “speaking for the Catholic church.” Let me try to make a distinction that I should have made originally: I do think that in the essay he presents himself as offering what the Catholic Church has always taught. He also is a deacon, which is an officially-sanctioned position of leadership in a congregation. But he is NOT a spokesperson for the Vatican, the US Council of Catholic Bishops, or other official decision-making bodies of Roman Catholicism, and it is overstating it to say that he’s “speaking for the Catholic church.”)

Friday Fluff: The Fatosphere’s Got Talent

DAVID HASSELHOFF: So this is your first time on the show, A Sarah. What are you going to do for us?

A SARAH: Well, um, I’m actually singing a song parody that I wrote by request for this occasion.

(All three judges look pained)

PIERS MORGAN: You say it’s a song parody?


DAVID HASSELHOFF: And of what song is it a parody?

A SARAH: “Rubber Duckie” from Sesame Street. (long pause) And, um, my version is called “Sloppy Mommy.”

SHARON OSBOURNE: “Sloppy…. Mommy?”

(All three judges look even more pained. Audience snickers.)

DAVID HASSELHOFF: (sighs) Okay, let’s hear what you’ve got.

(Music begins)

Sloppy mommy, you’re someone
Of whom stylish folks make fun
But, sloppy mommy, I’m awfully fond of you…

‘Cause, sloppy mommy, there’s no chance
That big tees and yoga pants
Will get ruined by spit-up or snot or poo!

Oh, every day when you feel bad for not preening
Just think of what you’re saving on beauty crap and drycleaning…


NICK CANNON: Judges? Your thoughts?

PIERS MORGAN: I’ll start. Where to begin? I mean, look, it’s clear that you got your ideas for this whole setup – the America’s Got Talent Spoof AND the “Rubber Duckie” spoof — from other people: Kate Harding in the first instance, and Miss Prism in the second.

(audience boos)

SHARON OSBOURNE: I agree. And what’s more, I don’t even think you watch this show. I think you had to go on YouTube and Wikipedia just to get up to speed on who the judges even are and how this show works. You don’t even know the order in which we three usually talk. Plus, where’s your picture? You could have put your monster in until your icon’s ready. Learn to internet!

(audience makes obscene gestures)

DAVID HASSELHOFF: Absolutely. Furthermore, it’s clear that you had us cut you off quickly because you hadn’t gotten very far into the Rubber Duckie parody, and couldn’t think of a good rhyme for “drycleaning.”

SHARON OSBOURNE: Now, on that note, David – I do give A Sarah credit for being meta in this section; but that will only take you so far in the blogging business.

(audience boos and throws rotting produce, shoes, and anvils. A Sarah exits the stage.)

NICK CANNON: Well, it looks like A Sarah won’t be winning any million dollars. Fortunately, the Fatosphere’s got loads of other talent and cultural savvy. Up next, we’ll be seeing M. Leblanc, who blogs over at Bitch Ph.D. Her new Cover Fridays feature has audiences there oohing and aahing over her mad mixing skillz.

After that, we’ve got Tari, who has, sources say, been doing some recording recently AND JUST HAD A BIRTHDAY LAST WEEK!

Shapelings, do you have someone you’d like to see on “The Fatosphere’s Got Talent”? Someone with talent in art, music, writing, etc. Or are you yourself an undiscovered talent in the Fatosphere? Text your nominations by linking to them/yourself in the comments!