Friday Fun: Re-Connecting With Old Friends

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🙂

I set up a profile on Classmates.com years ago, not too long after it was first up and running.  Honestly, I don’t check it all that often, and it’s sometimes 6 months to a year before I bother.  And I haven’t done much to my profile other than correcting the childrens’ ages when it needs it.

But even though I hardly ever touch it, it has enabled me to re-conncect with old friends.  There’s Jennifer, whom I was close to in junior high, and just the other day my Jessie contacted me.

Jessie and I were part of a larger group of friends in high school.  There were the two of us, Beth (who is also Number One Daughter’s godmother), Jenny, Lyssa, Brigid, Carol, and Sue (there were a lot of other girls [this was an all-girls Catholic high school] that we were all friendly with, but that was our “core group”).  Beth was my best best friend (think back to high school, and you’ll remember what that means 😉 ), but out of all the rest of them, I’d say Jessie was the one I was second closest to.  I think it might have had something to do with feeling like outsiders – Jessie was actually born in Italy, then moved to Mexico as a child, and then to the US as a teen (her father was some big wig at some company that moved him around the world).  So she was used to the outsider feeling.  I had just transferred to that school my junior year – after having already attended 3 different high schools.  So, while we never discussed it in that context, in looking back I can honestly say that feeling like outsiders probably had something to do with why we connected.

But now that I think about it, there was one other thing that we both shared that the others didn’t – at least not to the extent Jessie and I did.

We were both fat.

Beth and Jennifer were probably both in the “overweight” category, and the rest of them were all in the “normal” to downright “skinny” categories.  Jessie and I were the only two that could honestly be called fat.  I moreso than her, granted.  But yeah.  Both fat.

We were lucky, though.  For one thing, we weren’t the only fat girls in school.  And at that school?  I honestly can’t remember somebody being bullied or harassed simply because of their weight.  Not that it was never said, but the snide comments I do remember went something like “She’s _____ and ________ and ______…. oh, and she’s fat.”  It was always an afterthought, not someone’s principal reason for disliking somebody.

The two years I spent at that school were the happiest of what I consider my “childhood” – everything before the age of 18.  I had already gone through a lot of turmoil – abuse and the aftermath of that, depression, multiple suicide attempts, hospitalization, lived in a group home for troubled kids for a year and a half – and I had just come home for good a few months before starting at this school.  I had gotten a lot of counseling while living in that group home – both individual and “family” counseling with my grandmother – and I was finally feeling “right” for the first time in my life.

I really didn’t want to transfer schools.  I had been relatively happy at the school I had attended the year before, and just didn’t want to have to change again.  Four schools in less than three years?  Can you blame me for not wanting to change again?

But as much as I hated to admit it, it was a good school.  I was given chances I’m not sure I would have had at the previous school – such as taking honors (college level) classes (English and History).  The faculty – nuns included (well, most of them) were… well, nice is the only word I can think of right now.  Some of them were obviously more strict than others, but they were all approachable.  A good majority of the teachers there (at that time, anyway) were the kind of teachers that previous students would come back to visit… just because.

And, as you can see from what I wrote about my group of friends, I definitely did not have a shortage of them.  Yet another reason why I look back on those two years as the happiest I’d ever been as a minor.  I’ve always been able to make friends, but that was the first time I was ever part of such a large group.  (My grandmother wasn’t too happy about the phone bills, though! 😉 )

But, as often happens after high school, we kind of scattered after graduation.  Beth moved to California with her mother.  Jessie, Brigid, and Jenny went off to different colleges.  Lyssa and I had a bit of a falling-out and simply never spoke again.  Carol lived at home, but she lived all the way on the other side of Chicago and we just didn’t get the chance to see each other much.  Sue was put in a nursing home by her family (she was dyslexic and just a little slow, and I personally believe that putting her in a nursing home was a nasty, abusive move on her family’s part; but I saw them treat her like shit with my own eyes, and part of me really isn’t surprised).

I had a baby.  Number One Daughter.

While I know it’s normal for high school friends to drift apart after graduation, I know that my having had Number One Daughter contributed to that, too.  I was simply living a different kind of life than my friends were – they were working and/or going to college, and I was raising a baby and looking for work (it took me quite some time to find a job after having her, no doubt due to my lack of experience and age).  But I digress.

I don’t remember exactly when the last time I saw/spoke to/heard from Jessie was, but I know it was sometime in 1995.  Number One Daughter was a baby, and I had driven over to Jessie’s house to visit her and show Number One Daughter off.

Shortly after that, my life turned back into a roller coaster for a while, and I lost contact with all of my friends.

I had managed to get back in contact with Carol shortly before moving here to the UK, but I never did manage to find any of the others.

So after thirteen years, during which time I would periodically search for my friends and give up after having no luck, to have Jessie contact me out of the blue like that…

I screamed.  I mean literally.  Out loud.

The kids came running.  Obviously when they saw me bouncing in my chair, laughing like a madwoman, and saying “Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod” over and over again, they just stood there and stared at me.  (Shiiiiiiiiiit… like they’re “normal.”  Hahahaha…HA!)

I haven’t gotten a chance to write her back yet, just because I’ve been busy the last couple of days, but I can’t tell you how happy I am that one of my best friends in the whole world (and yes, I still consider her that, even after 13 years of no contact) has kind of stumbled her way back into my life.  I just wish I could hug her in person.  🙂

Have you had an experience like that?  Please share… I’m on an emotional high this week, and I’d like to keep it going as long as possible.  🙂

Want to preach FA? Get drunk!

I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing….

Done?

Okay then.

Here’s the thing: as I said in the comments on my last post, I’m not very good at articulating my FA stance to people I know and love, let alone total strangers.  Hubby is the only one that really knows how involved I am in FA, and as a naturally thin person, there are a lot of things that he just doesn’t get.  What he does know is that since finding FA, my confidence has soared, I have begun accepting myself, and my self-loathing (the one thing about me that he really didn’t like) has all but disappeared.  (It still rears its ugly head every once in a while, but not very often, thank FSM.)

Well, I went out drinking last night.  The second time in 2 weeks, but only my 3rd time this year (I don’t go out much, obviously).  I had run into my best friend May’s sister Carol, her daughter Gemma, and her son’s girlfriend Debbie when I was on my way back from Number One Daughter’s school on Tuesday.  They invited me out, and when I mentioned it to Hubby, he was all “go ahead!”  So… I did.  🙂

One thing you need to understand, though: May’s family – even her extended family – are like my second family.  Shit, Little Miss Naughty calls Carol “Auntie Carol”.  When they were younger, The Little Chatterbox and LMN kept getting confused, thinking that May was their aunt and her children were their cousins, so what did that make Carol and Gemma and the rest of them?  They’re only now getting to the point where they understand that no, they’re not REALLY family, they’re just REALLY good friends to us.

So the relationship between us and them is… complicated, sometimes confusing, but altogether a good one.

Well, as we were making our way between one nightclub and another, talk between Gemma, myself, and Gemma’s cousin (can’t for the life of me remember her name right now; she doesn’t go out with us all that often) turned to body image.  Carol’s diabetic and so is Gemma, and Gemma related to me the horror of a doctor’s appointment.  It was the usual fatty horror: you’re going to die if you don’t lose weight; you’re going to have a heart attack by the age of 23 because you’re too fat; etc, etc, etc.  I looked at her and told her “BULLSHIT!”  I was just drunk enough that I could say what I was thinking without worrying about the consequences.

At a UK size 12 (US 10-ish), Gemma is not only NOT fat, but she’s smaller than the “average British woman” (which, IIRC, is a UK 14).  Her cousin?  Even smaller, at a UK 8-10.  And yet they were both talking about how they need to lose weight.  I looked at both of them and let them have it, from both barrels.

Oh, I wasn’t nasty.  I wasn’t all “shut up you skinny bitch”.  I simply told them that this “obesity epidemic” bullshit is just that – bullshit.  I told them that not only do they not need to lose weight, but they need to stop thinking in terms of “dieting” and “good food/bad food”.  I asked Gemma, “if you had never been told that fat was bad or disgusting, or any of the thousands of horrible things people like to say about fat people, would you have still wanted to lose weight?” (At one time, she was a lot bigger than she is now, at a size 18/20 – basically, the same size I am right now.  She has lost weight and managed to keep it off for now.  Either she hasn’t hit the 5 year mark yet, or maybe she was meant to be this size.  You know, set-point.)  Her answer?  “No!  I was fat and happy!  I didn’t care what size I was, until that doctor scared me into losing weight.”  How many fat people are there in the world that know exactly how Gemma felt?  A hell of a lot, I’m sure.

Now granted, we didn’t go into a whole lot of detail, but I was glad that I had the chance to say something to both of them, and also glad that I was drunk enough that I didn’t worry about what they were going to think.  These people are my friends, they love me for the person I am – even if they don’t agree with me, they’re going to at least listen to what I have to say and not make me feel bad for having the convictions I do.  It’s silly of me to even worry about it, but worry about it I do.  When I’m sober.

I definitely was NOT sober.

And in this case?  I think that was a GOOD thing!  😀

When losing weight really isn’t a good thing. At all.

My best friend has leukemia.  She was diagnosed on New Year’s Day and started treatment a week later.  She is a big woman – not just fat, but tall and very big-boned.  Even if she were thin, she’d still be a big woman.  She’s very similar in size and shape to this actress – although just a bit shorter (every time I watch The Boondock Saints, I can’t help thinking how much they seem alike to me).

At first, treatment seemed to be going well.  She wasn’t even having any adverse effects from the chemo.  She felt fine enough that she didn’t even give up her weekly clubbing ritual.  But in the last few months, things seem to have taken a downward spiral.

In late March/early April (can’t remember exactly), she was told that she only had 3 months to live.  (And she keeps talking about having internal cancer – of course it’s internal.  It’s not skin cancer!  But I think she might be confusing the words ‘terminal’ with ‘internal.’  As much as I love her, I have to admit that this woman’s vocabulary isn’t much farther than a 5th-grade level.)  I don’t think that’s quite accurate, as that would mean she’s supposed to be at death’s door right now (and she most definitely is not), but I can see that the cancer is definitely taking its toll on her.

She’s lost hair (and shaved the rest of it off), she’s weak, she’s been put on steroids, has been bleeding from places you normally don’t bleed from (and we’re not talking anything like her Aunt Flo – that’s all I’m saying), and now she’s been diagnosed with diabetes, which she told me the doctors said is likely caused by the steroids.

And she’s wasting away.  Now, being a large woman already, she’s nowhere near skeletal, but as her doctors pointed out, they don’t want her losing any weight at all right now.  It means her system is getting weaker and making it just that much harder to fight the disease.

And yet she seems to be almost happy about losing that weight.  Which strikes me as odd, because in the 5 years I’ve known her, she never seemed to be the kind of person with the internal fat hatred that a lot of us fatties do have.  Almost every time I see her, she tells me that she’s lost even more weight – and it’s not so much what she says as how she says it.  Kind of an “I might be dying but at least I’ll die thin” tone of voice.

And it makes me uncomfortable.  I think I would be uncomfortable with it even if I’d never heard of FA or any of the ideas surrounding it.  But having been immersed in it for quite a few months and reading pretty much anything I could find, it makes me uber-uncomfortable.  Because I know what she doesn’t: losing the weight in this way is so far from a good thing they’re not even in the same universe.

When she says something like that to me, instead of congratulating her (which I might have done, pre-FA), I ask how she feels.  How she’s feeling physically, and how she’s feeling emotionally.  Because while she might have a big family (4 kids and 4 grandchildren of her own as well as 5 or 6 sisters [I can’t remember exactly how many right now] and her parents), none of them seem all that concerned about how she’s feeling.  They care that she’s got cancer and they want her to get better, but they seem to forget that she’s a whole human being, not just a body that’s riddled with cancer cells.  And I won’t even start on how her kids treat her.  I’ll be typing all fucking night.

But it puts me in a precarious position.  She’s my best friend – hell, my only friend right now (at least in my day-to-day life, that is; I still have friends back home with whom I’m still in contact, but it’s not the same).  She’s quite likely dying, and yet she seems happy that she’s ‘finally’ going to lose weight.  Funny, that word.  Final.  Because it will be final.  As in The. End.

And part of me wants to slap her upside the head and tell her to Wake. The. Fuck. Up!!  But on the other hand, a part of me wants to hug her and reassure her that everything’s going to be okay.  But I try to take what I see as the middle ground.  Not commenting on the weight loss itself, but the effects of that loss.  On her as a whole person, a whole human being.  And I hope I’m making the right decision.  If she does die on us, I don’t want to be sitting there kicking myself for saying the wrong thing or not saying something I should have.

But it’s hard.  It’s really fucking hard.  I never know if I’m making the right decision.  I guess the only consolation I have is that I’m trying to be the best friend I possibly can be, regardless of whether I’m doing it right or not.  I’m trying.

Apparently Hubby’s Friends are Size-Positive, too.

I was relating to The Hubster the story about the Olsen twins and their Starbucks Debacle.  He didn’t understand the big deal about it until I turned it around for him.

“What if, say, you and I were out to dinner, and I ordered… ice cream… for a dessert?  And the waitress brought me a bowl of fruit instead, telling me that I needed to lose a few pounds?”

That clicked for him.  He finally ‘got it’ once I put it to him like that.  I never realized before how size-positive he truly was until I really started talking to him about the kind of stuff I’m finding throughout the Fatosphere.

He then told me the story of something that happened when he and his best friend were out at a club.  Apparently this emaciated whip of a woman kept hitting on him.  (Hubby’s best friend is married to his childhood sweetheart – they’ve been together since they were 15 years old.)  Best Friend kept telling the woman he wasn’t interested, but she kept coming back for more.  Eventually, Best Friend got an idea to get through to her.  She came back again and the conversation went like this:

Best Friend: You know what, I’ve changed my mind.  I think I’d like to buy you dinner.
Emaciated Whip of a Woman: I knew it!  You want to f**k me, don’t you?
BF: No, I just want to feed you.  You look like you need to eat!

Of course, EWOAW didn’t take kindly to that remark and finally left BF alone.  And while I realize it’s probably not the nicest example of being a size-positive person (snark much?), The Hubster and I continued to talk.  And I learned some things.

I was always afraid of what his friends would think of me when they finally met me (we’d been married for 4 years before we moved here, and the last time they’d seen him was before he even met me in person for the first time).  I was very much in my self-loathing phase, and feared that when they met me, they would see only fat.  I was astounded to realize that they were very kind people (a far cry to the “American Bitch” comments I’d heard about before*) and they seemed to completely accept me without any reservation whatsoever.

The Hubster told me that he and his friends were never “into” this stick-thin boy-body version of “beauty.”  Best Friend’s wife is very thin, but there’s no way in hell she’s even remotely close to this “size 0 ideal.”  And none of his other friends has ever said anything disparaging about me or my size (I was concerned that they would reserve all their comments for him alone, but it turns out they’ve never said anything).

I don’t know why I found this so surprising.  After all, as The Hubster himself said, he’s always preferred “larger women.”  So if that’s been the case, I’m sure his ex-girlfriends were probably larger women, too.  (I have to admit that I’ve always had images in my head of thin beautiful women hanging on his arm, though.)  And if his friends were going to have a problem with it, they would have had one long before I ever came into the picture.

I’ve been surrounded by size-positive people and didn’t even know it.

Sometimes my own stupidity astounds me.

* – Back before we had ever even met in person, The Hubster was proudly telling everyone he knew that he was traveling to America to marry me.  His friends were understandably upset at this, especially considering that they have all been friends since the age of 3.  They would try to talk him out of it, asking him “Why would you want to go there and marry some American Bitch?”  And I have to admit that him telling me that colored my perception of them just a tiny little bit.  Is it any wonder I feared meeting them for the first time?  After all, I AM the American Bitch.  But now I can see that it was said mainly out of their own fear and sadness at losing The Hubster as a friend.

Giving Thanks

Seeing as it’s Thanksgiving, and I’m an American… even though I’m not doing anything at all to celebrate the holiday today (you know… ‘cuz I live in England and all), I thought it would be a good idea to think of some things I’m thankful for.  Given the mood I’ve been in today, I think it would be good self-therapy.

So here goes:

  • I’m thankful for my husband.  He is not perfect by any means, but he has a good heart and means well.  As I’ve said to a friend before, “he’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for me.”  And that is absolutely true.  We have our problems, but he is the love of my life, and the last 8 years of my life have been even better all because he’s been a part of it.
  • I’m thankful for my children.  Even though there are days when I’d literally like to kill one or all of them, being their mother has taught me so many things.  My oldest, S, has taught me more about patience and unconditional love than I could have learned in a lifetime had she not been in it.  Being the mother of a special-needs child is indeed special, and I can honestly say that despite her difficulties, I have way more good times with her than bad (although her increasing ability to communicate with others has a lot to do with that, but I’m thankful for that too; life was more frustrating for BOTH of us before she started learning to tell us things, even if they are in her own way).  C, the next one down from S, has taught me how to communicate with my children, and is the most helpful 10-year old one could possibly know.  L, my first actual biological child with The Hubster, reminds me that children need direction, discipline, AND LOVE – Every. Single. Day.  She’s the one that won’t let me go down to the corner shop without a “huggie,” and would happily lay by my side every minute of the day.  My youngest, yet another C… well, she’s teaching me new things every day.  Mostly about how to count to 10 and not kill the little brat discipline her in an appropriate manner.  *sigh*  She’s 5.  She’ll grow out if it, right?  Right.  (I hope I’m right! 😆 )
  • I’m thankful for my biological mother (you’ll understand why I specified ‘biological’ in a minute).  Despite the fact that we were estranged for over 13 years (and I had even begun to wonder if she was even still alive!), we have developed a wonderful relationship, and I know that when there’s a problem I can go to her.  When The Hubster had an affair 3 years ago, she was the first person I spoke to about it, and she was a key component in our being able to work through our problems and repair our marriage despite what he’d done.  If I didn’t have her to talk to, to cry to, and to ask advice from, I don’t know what would have happened.  I will forever be grateful to her for that, but it’s just another indication of the kind of relationship we’ve been able to create despite the fact that I’d only ever lived with her for maybe 4 or 5 years of my life in total.
  • I’m thankful for my grandmother, whom I call mother.  And that was my choice, not a demand from her.  By the time I was 11, I realized that my biological mother would never be able to be a ‘real’ mother to me (and I have to point out that I didn’t have any malice about that thought, it just was what it was; I realized that I didn’t really know everything about the dynamics of my family – especially where my biological parents were concerned – so I just accepted my situation as it was: my grandmother was raising me, in essence being my mother, and therefore had earned the title), so I chose to start calling her by the title of ‘mother’ or ‘mom’ or the awful ‘ma’.  (Although she doesn’t hate ‘ma’ – her NICKNAME is ‘Ma Bell’ [Bell being my maiden name].)  She took me in when I was 18 months old, raised me until the age of 5 – at which time a horrible motorcycle accident left her unable to physically take care of me – and then again from the age of 8 until I moved out the first time at 19 (I was one of those ‘revolving door’ young adults – I moved back ‘home’ more times than I care to admit).  My childhood wasn’t the greatest – she and I didn’t get along that well – but she didn’t have to do what she did.  She did it anyway.  And now that we don’t live together anymore, we have a much better relationship than we ever had (the fact that I’m 7,000 miles away might have something to do with that 😉 ).
  • I’m thankful for my extended family.  We’re about as dysfunctional as you can get, but I can honestly say that I know my family has meant well at all times for me.  And I do have some wonderful memories of huuuuuuuuuuuuge family get-togethers – memories I just wish I could create for my own children, but that’s not possible.
  • I’m thankful for all of my friends – past and present.  Some people (Sheryl) have stuck around through thick and thin over the years.  Some others (Keesha) were only in my life a short time, but made a lasting impact.  Some others (May) are recent additions, but that doesn’t make them any less important.  In some ways, friends are more important than even family are.
  • I’m thankful for my health.  I could be healthier – and I’m working on becoming so – but considering the choices I’ve made in my past, I could be a hell of a lot worse.  So I’m thankful that I am as healthy as I am.

Actually, now that I’m getting into this, I realize that I could be here all day (who knew I had so much to be thankful for? 😀 ), so I think I’ll just stop now.  But the ones above are the most important thanks givings I could possibly come up with.

Happy Thanksgiving to all you Americans, and Happy Thursday to everybody who isn’t.  Just because you’re not an American doesn’t mean you can be thankful.  Right?  😀