Through the eyes of Ruby?

29 10 2008

Today, I was puttering around my usual internet haunts, and saw a discussion thread about a new show on the Style Network: Ruby. This woman is really quite beautiful, with an attractive smile and Southern twang to her voice. She’s also almost 500 pounds. Actually, I think it’s 487, but the TV spots say 500 for sensationalism. At first, I was almost happy– could it really be that there is a television show about the life of a fat woman? A show which illustrates the dimensions of her personality? Her daily struggles to fit into society like a thin person might? I kept reading. It turns out that this show is going to chronicle her “weight loss journey” to become, in her words, “skinny.” Is it so much to ask that we could have a fat woman be the center of a television show who is NOT trying to lose weight? Showcasing a secure, self-loving fat woman (or man) in a lead or romantic role (especially with a thin partner) will always be “controversial” until someone bites the bullet and just produces something. Unfortunately, I am barring independent films from what I’m saying– as well as they may mean, independent films simply are not going to reach the masses of the world like a major production might.

I went to the official website for this show (link above), and started watching the previews and nosing around. Even if the main plot centers around her weight loss, should the show bring light to her inner workings and struggles, the show would do some good. The videos were hard to watch, and the “Getting Healthy” and “Living Large” were problematic in places as well.

Starting off with the videos: all three I watched featured that cheesy, piano-y, “inspirational” music. Not only does this set the stage for an ugly ducking-to-swan-like story, but it also creates a sense of pity for Ruby. She’s shown as being quite active, though– there are clips of her dancing and going to the gym, and also walking her dogs. Ruby’s voice is played over the music, saying various things that, frankly, made me very sad.

“I want someone to tell me I’m beautiful.”

“I can’t even cross my legs.”

“He said, ‘I want to marry you, all you have to do is lose weight.’

The first quote is depressing. Surely, many fat people have felt this way. Perhaps I am fortunate to have found the communities I’m involved in at such an early age (I became involved in the SA/FA movement at 15), but Ruby appears to be at least in her 30s. Has no one told her she’s beautiful? If that is the case, it’s incredibly saddening. She IS beautiful. I’m envious of her looks and smile, even just from the images I’ve seen of her just now. As for the second quote, well, a lot of people can’t cross their legs. I know I can’t, and I never could. Even when I was very young and on the swim team (and pretty skinny, looking back), I could never cross my legs. My leg muscles were too developed. Assuming I got down to a “normal” BMI, odds are I would still be unable. I know a lot of people who are not ever going to be able to cross their legs. It’s a shame that this action has become a symbol of femininity, when, much like other symbols, it’s unattainable for some/many/the majority of women.

Of all three quotes, though, the last is the worst. Ruby talks about a man who wanted to marry her. He tells her he will if she loses weight, and eventually leaves her. She says, in the video, that she realized she really loved him after he left, and that if she couldn’t lose weight for him/true love, then something really MUST be wrong with her. This really highlights the critical issues with females, the media and what we do to ourselves. Something is wrong with YOU because someone ELSE could not accept and love YOU for YOU? How is that your fault? Moreover, how could you love someone who would leave you because you were unwilling to change yourself? Women do this to themselves far more than men. Where are the women who are brave enough to realize that the fault does not lie with them? It would be wonderful to see women who don’t succumb to the guilt society heaps on this gender. At any rate, it becomes obvious Ruby has some self-confidence issues through this segment.

The “Getting Healthy” section also shows problems. I’ll start by saying I’m not in any way against weight loss: people need to own their bodies and be responsible and healthy. However, this is not tied to weight alone. This section focuses pretty much only on fat loss, though. “Setting Goals” talks on and on about setting “realistic” ten-pound goals. It’s really a shame. There was nothing to be found about other types of goals: jogging for an hour without stopping, being able to scale four flights of stairs without getting winded– things that show improved cardiac health. The video clips had cleverly placed sound bites of doctors telling Ruby that she was headed for strokes, loss of vision, loss of leg function, etc. Nothing had been said about her having or being pre-Diabetes, so I infer that she’s getting the usual no-no speech from a practitioner. Of course, that won’t really be known for sure until the show is aired. The only part of the dieting section that I was impressed with was the five-week sample menu that Ruby is supposedly consuming. I actually got hungry reading some of the items! Unfortunately, it’s pre-packaged food from a Jenny Craig-like diet center. Personally, I’d rather cook the stuff myself. A lot of it would be amazing when freshly prepared.

All and all, the show makes me nervous. I want to think it will do some good– maybe show people that being fat is not quite the horror many make it out to be. Will Ruby have difficulty losing weight? It does say in her “About Me” that she has been fat as long as she can remember. And I guess, if it came down to it, I’d rather see this than MTV’s Model Makers.





Uh-Oh! Bed Bath & Beyond knows women can’t control themselves!

28 10 2008

This morning, I went out front to grab the mail. The only thing in there was this week’s Bed Bath & Beyond circular. Seeing as I am still without employment, I took an idle and semi-uninterested glance at the cover. Immediately, I felt shock and disgust course through my system.

Let’s break it down. You’ve got three pictures of beautifully plated and prepared foods in chafing dishes and on a tiered dessert plate: turkey breast with sparingly drizzled gravy and whole cranberries, meatballs (or stuffing? It’s hard to tell), asparagus and carrots (one with a small amount of cheese and onions, the other with onions and…squash rind or something), and finally, mini cheesecakes, some kind of chocolate cream poof, and petits fours. These three panels each read “yumm,” each panel with one more “m” in the word than the last. The fourth panel is a pair of women’s feet on a digital scale, which reads “UH-OH.” The added text reads “…YIKES!”

Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this? First, of COURSE it will be a woman on the scale. On occasion I will see males used in weight-related jokes or schemes, but nine times out of ten, it’s a woman. Let’s rewind a second and look at most of the food. Lean turkey (breast). Carrots. Cranberries, Asparagus. This is healthy food. Yes, there is some cheese and gravy present, but the amount shown wouldn’t even reach the bottom of the chafing dish. Yes, I think we can all agree that there’s nothing reduced-calorie about the desserts, but they are also seemingly small in size. Even having one of each variety is not going to result in a catastrophic weight gain. And even if you do gain five pounds, is “YIKES” appropriate? Seriously? Your world is not going to crumble.

This circular’s cover reminds me of magazines like Woman’s Day: a picture of a beautiful cake on the front, with the headline, “LOSE 23 POUNDS WITH POWER WALKING!” Translation: make a cake for your family while you eat celery and work out every day. Or the Special K ad where a mother and child are icing a cake. The mother goes to lick some cake batter from her finger, and then a voice comes on: “you’re about to undo your whole day.” With a lick of cake batter, really? Oh yes, puffed rice flakes with tiny bricks of vegetable oil and chocolate flavoring is really on par with cake batter. That’ll DEFINITELY get rid of your craving.

It’s sickening how often women around food is correlated with some kind of lack of control. Women are bad drivers, women are too emotional, women can’t have a normal relationship with food. NATURALLY, if a woman is around a dessert plate, she will eat ALL of the items, resulting in a weight gain (shown on her shiny new digital scale) that will surely end her life. The reality is that a plate of the food shown on this circular would not greatly affect one’s weight. And then, at the notion it MIGHT cause one’s weight to increase, negative imagery is used. ‘Cuz, y’know, God forbid. You might get the Diabeetus.





Finally, Maine.

2 10 2008

My life has, at last, reached a point where things have calmed down enough such that I may write about these past two (wow!) months. Here I sit, having just consumed a toasted peanut butter/fluff sandwich, having a pile of Sunchips and sipping some Cherry Coke Zero. I almost don’t know where to start– I did not think a 688 mile move to Central/Eastern Maine would be so complex. I had expected to have a job and apartment by Labor Day. Looking back, that was a foolish expectation; we didn’t even get into the apartment I found until September 2nd. So, I suppose I’ll start at the beginning.

I left midday on August 2nd for Rhode Island. My car was packed so full of stuff that there was almost not enough room for me. It actually affected the gas economy. I did a healthy amount of crying– I actually liked living in Buffalo. I have roots there. Had I been moving somewhere like Boston, a familiar place, I would have been more calm. I still find it slightly insane that I packed up and left for a place I had never been. Anyway, on the Thruway, things got a little funky. My camera bleached it out, but I saw the most serious storm clouds around Syracuse. Rain started flooding down. I had to pull off of the road on several occasions. The rain dissipated some time in Western Mass, and I made record time from the state line to my exit (10A)– about an hour and ten. Maybe that’s a strange thing to include, but when you consider it’s about 93 miles from Lee to Worcester and there are always backups, I was pleased.

Rhode Island was the logical place to stop for me: I had not seen my boyfriend in almost two months, it would give me a chance to grab some of Kevin’s stuff to take to Maine with me, and driving the last leg of the road to Maine would have killed me. I didn’t know that at the time, though. More on that later. Anyway, I got to Coventry at around 6:30– again, excellent time, especially with the rain. The following morning, we went fishing out of Narragansett on a flounder trip. I love it down there— it’s as beautiful as Cape Cod, if not moreso. I hadn’t been out on the water since I moved from Massachusetts in 2004, so it was really wonderful. It was sunny and warm and smelled like ocean (well, duh). I caught a fish as well, though it was a few inches short of keeper status.

The morning of the 4th, I packed up what little I had unpacked in Rhode Island and set off for Maine, at last. I was excited on some levels. The trip seemed easy enough– stay on 95 until Portland, Maine, and then take 295 until it ands and just merge back onto 95 until my exit. I figured it was going to be about five hours. The trip was smooth sailing up through Boston, really…the driving on 95 around Boston is hairy enough to keep you entertained. I just stuck in the left most lane the whole time. North of Boston, it dragged a little as there isn’t much going on there. New Hampshire was incredibly unfortunate. The tolls were backed up about a half of a mile, so I got stuck sitting there, stopped, for a good 40 minutes. HOWEVER. It didn’t get truly awful until the northern leg of 295 in Maine, and then the stretch between Augusta and Bangor. I had been warned by my mother, who had arrived the day before, about this piece of road. I did not heed her warning, though. “It’ll be fine,” I thought, “it’s like 88 miles. That’s like Falmouth to Boston almost.”

No.

This was the worst driving I have ever experienced. I can only assume this piece of road is paralleled only by places like South Dakota and Utah and Wyoming. Every now and again, I’d think, “Oh! It has to have been at least 40 minutes. I must be 30 miles from Bangor now!” And then came the mileage sign: BANGOR, 63. Sigh. This cycle repeated itself every ten minutes or so. I finally pulled into the hotel in my tiny new town of residence, relieved to think I was done with that drive for a while. I was so very wrong, but again, I’ll get to that.

I was surprised at the amount of neglect on many of the buildings in Orono, which I later learned is just how it is here. The university is the biggest thing here, bringing 11,000 undergrads each year. What do undergrads do? TRASH RENTALS. So, I sucked in a breath and got to looking for a suitable place. This turned out to be quite hard– the big apartment rush is in April, and so in early August, the pickin’ be slim. I called a few places up to take a gander, and it was…shall we say, unsuitable. After a few days, I got a call from one of the local landlords I had spoken to. He told me a new property was opening up at the end of the month, and so I made an appointment to see it.

The location was amazing. Right behind Main Street, within walking distance of all the restaurants in town. The only problem was that it, like many others, had seen better days. I agreed to take it anyway. I called Kevin to let him know I found a place (he wasn’t coming up until he got back from his family vacation in Cancun.) Even currently, we’re still working on the apartment. Someday, after I paint it, I will actually take pictures. Anyhow, the apartment would not be ready until September 1st. This presented a problem: I couldn’t go all the way back to Buffalo, and I could not stay with Kevin’s parents for three weeks. So, I did what most people might do: I called my best friend of fourteen years, who still lives on Cape Cod.

So, I headed down for the Cape. This was marking my third drive to/from Southeastern New England since I left Buffalo. So far, we got Buffalo to Maine, and then there was one trip back down to Rhode Island to grab the bed and some furniture, and now, down to the Cape. I was terribly sick of 95 between Bangor and Augusta. This is where the story gets interesting, I promise.

It felt good to be on Cape, and to see my best friend, and to be able to go to Boston easily. Kevin and I made plans to meet up with his friends in Boston on August 19th, which we did. He took the T up from Providence and I from Middleboro. The day was great; I don’t think it could have been better in any way. After meeting up at South Station, we went to Allston to have an early dinner and drinks with a very good friend of mine at the Sunset Grill & Tap. On a side note, if you are ever in the Boston area, look this place up. It’s probably one of my favorite places to go for food and beer, period. After dinner, Kevin and I went to one of his friend’s place in Cambridge. This place had the most amazing view. We all then went down to this tiiiiiny little bar called The Plough & Stars I had never been to this place, but again, a great place. It was really beautiful inside– the service was good, the prices reasonable and they played quiet indie rock a la old Modest Mouse. I’d honestly go back just to soak in the gorgeous interior. That night, driving back to Cape Cod, I had a calm, peaceful feeling I hadn’t felt in a while. I had just had a wonderful day, and the next morning Kevin was driving out to spend the day on the Cape with me. Since we met, I’d been trying to get him Down Cape. Things were going well.

So it seemed.

The next morning, Kevin and I set out for the Wellfleet Flea Market, which is about two hours from Falmouth, aka my home base when it comes to the Cape. We took a stop for breakfast on the Mashpee/Barnstable line at Persy’s Place. Post amazing breakfast, I hopped on 6 and made for Wellfleet, making note of the gridlocked traffic going the other way. After the Orleans rotary, traffic crawled to a halt. This was a random Wednesday morning– while it was tourist season, in all my eleven years living there, I had never seen traffic like this outside of Memorial or Labor Day. So, we crawled along with all the Connecticut and Jersey plates, eagerly motoring into the Wellfleet Drive In once we got there. It was a pleasant morning at the market; I found some cute knick nacks and whatnot. In what I thought was my endless wisdom, I told Kevin we’d have to go to Truro some other time– there was no movement in the traffic facing that direction.

After a surprisingly lengthy stop at the Bird Watcher’s General Store (I got my book signed!), I figured, “Why not take 6A down to Hyannis and avoid all that crap on 6?” I’m so smart. So, so, so smart. We’re driving along, having a nice little experience: 6A is a very scenic, tree-lined route with lots of quaint business and whatever. So, a large, white minivan is waiting to take a left turn from the opposite direction. She’s got more that enough room to do it. I don’t even have to brake. The speed limit’s only 35, and I’m going 37. She’s got loads of room!

She stops mid-turn, her rear half hanging out onto 6A.

I brake.

ABS kicks in, nullifying my brake-slamming.

I make it down to about 11 MPH before I SLAM INTO HER BACK PASSENGER SIDE.

After a moment of looking at Kevin (who is staring at me blankly, in a state of shock), I say, “welp,” and hit my flashers. The driver comes up to me and is like, “Oh my God, are you guys ok?” I told her we were, and made sure they were alright. I drove my car off of the road onto the side road the woman was turning onto, and got out to inspect the damage.

So, it started hemhorraging the coolant I just paid 50 bucks to have put in. The lady calls the Brewster Police while I call Geico. Long story short, the police fined the woman (who had stopped to turn around or something– damn tourists) and lectured her about how she was at fault and I was completely innocent. They towed my car and gave me and Kevin a ride to the station.

I spent three hours on the phone with Geico, Mid Cape Ford, my mother, and the place my car was towed to. Finally, I called a Thrifty in Orleans and got a rental car. Kevin stayed in Falmouth with me for the night. The whole day, I was almost alarmingly calm, enough that several people commented on it. I filled out my accident report and whatever. The accident happened at 1:04p, and I didn’t leave the Brewster Police until 4:30. I got my car towed to Mid Cape Ford, and managed to get to all the places I needed to before they closed. The following day, I went up to Hyannis to see how long it was going to take for my car to be fixed, hoping it would be done by Sunday, the day I was scheduled to leave. The guy working on my car (a total sweetheart who remembered me from my time at Cape Cod Community College) told me it would be two weeks at least.

I flipped out internally. In two weeks it would be Labor Day. What was I going to do with no car? Kevin took me back to Rhode Island with him. We drove up to Maine together, with my poor car imprisoned on Cape Cod. By this time, I’d been living out of hotels and places that were not my own for almost a full month. I was mentally exhausted. Couple that with the stress of the car, and you have crying jags and sleepless nights.

But, I pressed on. For two weeks in Maine, I was reliant on Kevin’s car. We went down to Boston for Labor Day, where I learned my car was postponed. They found out that, in addition to the smashed radiator, my fuel pump was shot. I ended up not getting my car back until mid September.

Back to the actual move, I don’t think there are actual words that can describe how good it felt to be back in a space that was mine. We still don’t have any chairs or a kitchen table, but I’m back to feeling normal. We’re talking about present day now. My car is back, my cat is here, and the apartment is almost finished. I just need a job, but this post is getting ridiculously long, so I’ll save that for later.

I’ll end this with a picture of Kevin throwing rocks at Menahunt Beach in Falmouth: