Weekend Double Length Feature: Happy Third Anniversary of being a Non-Smoker, to me!

Well, this one is long, hence it being my weekend double-feature post. I worked on it all day, trying to get it right, edited and ready to go for the weekend. It meanders, here and there, but it stays pretty much on topic, reminiscent of a slightly drunk person walking that yellow line for a field sobriety test, I suppose. I won't always post as in-depth on this issue, but I will revisit it. It's one of my inner daemons, after all, and a Girl's got to keep fighting them off all the time, hasn't she?

Please enjoy your weekend, with, or without, my scribbles. Laugh, sing, dance, read, sit in silence, whatever it is you love to do! Just enjoy it!
Trigger warning: this post contains body-issues. I have them. Most people do, and I'm going to unpack them, at least in so much as I can handle it. We'll see how far this goes. I am going to be brutally honest, even if it's ugly and mean and nasty and cruel to myself. Believe me when I say I'm not looking for compliments or comfort. I'm just explaining the inner workings of me... sometimes it's a shitty dark place in here.

January 2009, the end of January, right about the 20th, I can't remember the exact day at the moment, and I'm too lazy to go get my journal and see what it says, I quit smoking. I had smoked more or less since I was about sixteen, and been around it my entire life. Like I said before, my mother smokes like a chimney. Seeing her without a lit cigarette in her hand means she's indoors (at some one's house, who doesn't smoke) or she's sleeping. I'd say she could be eating, too, but she is an anorexic, and so doesn't really eat much.

Three years, smoke free! That's exciting to me. I was telling my Love on Wednesday night as I cut his hair, that I was still so proud of myself. If you've never been addicted to anything (other than say coffee) than it's very hard to explain what it’s like to stop using whatever it is. I will try, though, as I think it's very relevant.

I read a short story by Stephen King,* and in it the protagonist's wife leaves him. So, his life has gone to shit anyway, he quits smoking. Boom, cold turkey! The story, written in the first person details a typical King situation full of mayhem, and I think humour. But one thing really stuck out to me, the gent, speaking to the reader says that he was in a fog of not-smoking, so busy being a Not Smoker to do anything else. His every thought, every everything was wrapped in the state of Not Smoking.

That's exactly how I felt for a week, or so. Exactly. I was so busy not-smoking that I couldn't think, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn't taste my food. Not a damned thing. I was Busy, dammit! Can't you see I'm Not Smoking here!

The research I did, to pass the time, to make those minutes that masqueraded as hours and days go by told me I'd have time dilation problems as my brain re-wired itself; told me I'd have sleep difficulties and probably get sick (they call it “smoker's flu”). But I persevered. I wanted to badly to beat back those daemons that had control of me, that addiction that I had been fighting to break for what seemed like centuries by that time.

I had quit smoking about six, eight times the entire year before, and at least twice in 2007, but January 2009 I beat that motherfucker to death and it felt so good! I was officially an ex-smoker.

That's not to say that I didn't crave them, or occasionally want one so bad I could have chewed through a brick wall for one. But I didn't. I just didn't.

Part of me didn't want to go through the withdrawal again. It was pretty horrible. I described it to my dear friend, as trying to learn to breathe all over again. I felt like the air was thicker, like it was heavier, maybe I needed gills to get this shit in and out of my lungs! I needed to learn how to breathe again while I hurt everywhere. Even my hair hurt. My god-damned eyelashes hurt!

Smoking speeds up your metabolism, and although mine is not slow, it was super fast then. I don't eat a lot, right about 1500-1800 calories a day, depending on the day, and I try to be moderately active (although I usually only succeed at being sorta moderately active. I've decided to pick up some running shoes here soon and take up jogging again, but that's for another time). What I didn't count on is my body slowing down, going back to a normal metabolism. I didn't count on putting on twenty pounds.

It didn't happen all at once, it happened over about eight months. I worked hard to eat and exercise and fight the cravings that I still occasionally had; I didn't get the munchies like a lot of people get when they stop smoking, either. I just kinda gained weight. <shrug> A doctor told me later that my body was getting me where it needed me to be. That didn't help much.

If I do say so myself, I have a decent ass and perky tits, with some killer cleavage, and finally am mostly hourglass shaped, so at least it all jumped into the right spots. 37-30-40 are pretty damned nice measurements, if I do say so myself.

I had been underweight before, but I felt OK. See, I was raised that you stay super thin and trim and that's what makes you lovable. Ruler-Shaped arm-candy for everyone! I went from 130 at 5'8 to 150.

Good Goddess, I can't believe I'm admitting this in public! Fuck me sideways!

Yes, I weigh a hundred and fifty pounds. That's 68 kilos. There, I said it again.

I feel like a whale sometimes. I feel like a big fat giraff-opotomus. That's the child of a giraffe and a hippo. See, I'm four inches taller than most women, closer to six or eight for average down here, and have always felt like a giraffe. Too tall, too gangly, very ugly and not at all sexy. Sexy is 5'4, titties out to here! Sexy is not a tall, skinny woman with a B cup and little waist. I was too small and too tall. I will never fit into what is considered to be good, or right, or excellent or perfect or desirable for a women to be. It's physically impossible for me to do so, and has been since I was about 13, and grew to my adult height.

In 2008 a friend of mine, and her husband, flew up to Michigan to drive back with my Love and I as we moved our things out here. I had not seen her in a little over ten years. My mother was driving me and my Dad to despair, terrorising me, threatening him. I had not eaten properly in months. I was sick, exhausted and terrified she would show up with the cops and try to throw me out. The first thing my friend said to me was, “Oh, My God! You're so skinny! You look so good!” Before I could even ask, “How was the flight? Do you want a cup of coffee? Tea?” Before I could get her into the damned front door! Right there in the drive she says this.

I saw my sister three days later when we stopped at her place in Texas on our way through. She was meeting my Love for the first time. She said, “He makes you happy, you look so good!” Then she paused and told me, “You need to take better care of yourself, because otherwise, you look like shit!” And I did!

When I was eighteen I went into the Army (the story of why is for another time). I weighed a grand total of 140 after Basic, and was greatly lacking fat (I lost so much weight the first two weeks I was there my period stopped and they put my on special diet to gain it back!). You run around like a maniac for eight weeks and tell me you've got any fat left! Shit. The first thing my Mother said to me when I found her after the graduation ceremony-- remember, I haven't seen her in two months-- “Oh, you've gained weight!”

Three women, three comments about my looks, and only one wasn't hateful or hurtful. One was concerned after my health. One, well, she's terrible problems with her weight now, so maybe it was a back-handed complement. The third one, though... my mother meant exactly that. She didn't mean, “Damn, you've toned the fuck up! Lookit you, GI Jane and shit!” Which I had. I was really buff! That ten pounds I'd gained was all muscle, which she noticed when she hugged me. “Oh, you're solid huh?” No, ma, I'm all fat and flabby and they passed my ass because of the cute little gap in my teeth. Fuck! (For those of you who never saw it, I got it fixed later)

That's one of the best ways I can illustrate the relationship I was given, taught, brainwashed into, with my body and that fucking bathroom scale. In addition to society constantly telling me I wasn't enough because I don't look like the sexiest woman in Hollywood, or in a magazine, or whatever. (Lemme see, who's the sexiest woman this year: Hmmm, according to Esquire magazine, last year it was Minka Kelly. I have no idea who this girl is, or what makes her special. I don't think she is particularly pretty at all; she's pretty plain. She looks like a cookie-cutter brunette to me. But then they don't pay me the big bucks to write that shit, either.)

Another illustration isn't about me, but I watched it play out over several years.

My sister was diagnosed with childhood epilepsy when she was 8-ish. I say childhood because she's sense grown out of it. She hasn't been on medication for a long time now, thankfully. But, as a kid, and into our teen years she was on a couple different meds. The one that worked the best for controlling her seizures was Depakote (Valproic Acid, I looked up the other name for ya). [they were called petite-mals then, I don't know what they'd be called now with the changes in seizure disorder terminology.]

One of the first things I remember was that she put about ten pounds on. We three were all skinny kids-- so her getting plump stands out in my mind. She didn't grow and then “skinny-out” as we called it, though, she stayed plump. Perfectly hour-glass shaped at 14, my sister had, I thought, curves to die for! Here I was, flat as a board, and my sister was sexy as hell! And no seizures to boot! Outstanding, right? She wasn't over weight, she was probably at the top of her BMI (but we all know how worthless that number is). The doctors never told her to lose anything; she was just perfectly proportioned, and I thought lovely.

My mother had other ideas, though. My sister is two inches taller than I am. Our mother is 5'2. Our mother never weighs more than 100 pounds. Not ever. She will starve herself, and go days without eating, living on coffee (black, thank you very much) and Misty Light 120's to stay at that weight. She harped on my sister about how much she ate, when she ate, what she ate. Was she exercising in PE? What did she weigh again? What size were those jeans? Did she really need yet another bra?! Wasn't being a 34 DDD big enough?! (As though my sister could sit her tits down for a talk about how they were just the right size and could they please not grow any more. I mean, what the fuck is that shit?!)

She started buying Slim-Fast for my sister. Those nasty tins of it that you shake up. My sister would take one to school and that'd be her lunch every day, after one for breakfast at home, with ice. Now, a 14-15 year old kid is growing, right? Did it never occur to anyone besides me that putting your 14 year old daughter on Slim-Fast was a good way to mess up her growth? My sister lived on 1200 calories a day, for years [yes it's possible to live on only 1200, but you'll be constantly hungry, have very low energy and your body will start to devour itself].

She also developed an ugly relationship with food and her body. When she was in her twenties she was diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder and borderline anorexia (the only way to be truly diagnosed with anorexia just about guarantees you'll be put in hospital. She's not quite that bad.) Her hair is thin, her bones are brittle, and she looks ten or fifteen years older than I am. When she was willing to take her antidepressants and seek help she was getting better. She stopped when she realised that she put on five pounds, and was actually getting physically healthier. I don't know why.

After she had been seizure free for some time, they weaned her off her medication. She lost weight almost instantly, going from looking vibrant and healthy, to being a shadow of herself. She hovers around 120 to this day, and looks sick.

My mother had an old style stationary bicycle. I never saw her ride it, not until I was almost 30. It sat there, gathering dust. See, women did not exercise. We stretched, or something that could be considered half-assed Yoga. We walked, and occasionally took a hike or bike ride-- when on vacation as part of sightseeing. But Women Do NOT Sweat and we do not have muscles, other then the barely-there bump of our biceps.

In order to be a Real Woman ™ one must be a Lady ®. Ladies are poised, always well dressed, smell like a million bucks and always always always wear a full face of make-up. From foundation and concealer to loose powder on top, liner, pencils, inks, shadow and lipstick. One must have the perfect mask and costume of fashionable clothing (Yes, dear, even if the colour and cut don't suit you.)

In order to be a Lady ® we must be graceful. That means skinny, thin, slim and never never bulgy. So, any bulges must be gotten rid of. (I don't care how. I don't care if that's your hip-bone sticking out! Get rid of it! It shouldn't be there, I mean what do you think, you need it to walk or something? Please. You have to be smooth and shapely.) Spanx were a god-send to her. I admit, I've never owned any, those things scare the shit out of me, they look like mediaeval torture devices, and I'd rather put on a corset, thanks. At least the corset is sexy.

Being raised by this woman means that I never understood that women get lumpy. We get soft and round and curvy. We get a little bloaty and sometimes we feel like girraf-opotomuses. I never understood that not being perfectly flat and skinny with huge breasts was impossible.

I should have known it wasn't possible, because my mother constantly complained about being flat chested, at least until she left my Dad and got a boob job (now they sit to high and large that she can't run or she'll give herself black eyes!) I also remember her commenting that I didn't have a “Barnes butt”... that'd be the ass that's most common on her side of the family, the wide hipped, flat ass thing that's very common amongst white women in the US. I've always had what I call a “tear drop” ass. Yes, if I bend over, I can make a valentine heart with my butt. It's kinda cool, really. I can (and have) stop traffic with it. It's very nice, if I do say so myself! [My Love will be so proud when he gets to this bit, he's been telling me this forever now.]

Being told day after day, in word or action, that I was too tall and therefore too fat did a terrible thing to my self-esteem.
Did I know that being half-a-foot taller than her meant I'd automatically have to weigh at least thirty pounds more in order to be healthy? Sure, intellectually, I knew that. Logic doesn't mean shit when you're emotionally beat down, though, does it?

Did I know that my in-seam (34” for those of you keeping track at home) was longer than her entire leg, hip to heel? Sure, but that didn't mean I didn't feel overly large and gangly.

See, I wasn't, am not and never will be, dainty. That's what she wanted. In order for me to be a real women, a true lady, I had to be dainty. Teeny, Tiny, Precious, Dainty, with a capital D.

Dainty is not 5'8.
Dainty is not 42inch long legs, from hip to heel.
Dainty is not an arm span of almost 6 feet.
Dainty doesn't wear size 8.5 shoe, even if it is Narrow (for the record, average for American women is 8.5 wide).
Dainty doesn't wear a size 9 or 11 long jeans/trousers, or medium shirts. (I wear a size 9 or 10 dress, or an 8 skirt, women's sizes are weird, the average American woman wears a 14)**
Dainty has no opinions or thoughts that are deeper than dinner parties and smiling vapidly.
Dainty is a perfectly feminine sculpture.

I am not dainty. Callista Gingrich has made herself dainty... if you need a visual reference point.

However, as I've grown I've started fighting back against that programming. I can celebrate being myself, even on the days when I feel like I'm 10 feet tall and weight 15 tonnes and no one would ever find me pretty ever again.
I know that I am many things, many wonderful, admirable things.
I am a woman comfortable in her skin, pale, silky and freckled as it is.
I am tall and proud and beautiful.
I have a thick mane of glorious coppery blonde hair that curls and tangles like vines down my back and over my shoulders.
I have huge blue eyes, the colour of the sky at twilight, golden sunbursts shooting from my pupils.
I have curvy, round hips that beg to be held, grabbed and handled, and enough of a belly to make belly dancing a pleasure.
I have a lower back curve to die for and legs that go on forever!
I have these huge ideas and thoughts and a laugh that bubbles out at the most inappropriate times!
I'm androgynous sometimes, not a perfectly feminine bone in my body.
Dainty is not a perfectly shaped Valentine-ass or a little waist nipping in before rounding up to proud breasts.

I guess it's a good thing I'm not dainty after all, isn't it.

I go back and forth, like most women.

Sometimes I know I'm the sexiest woman alive, and no one can stop my ego as it goes before me shouting, “Make Way, Make Way! Were comes Perfection!”

Sometimes I know I'll never be pretty in any conventional way and I'm OK with that. My face isn't perfectly symmetrical, and I'm not a tanned blonde woman (can't tan, freckle instead, and burn nastily!)

Sometimes, instead of being OK with my quirky face, and lovely body, I let the peanut gallery in my head get the better of me. Those days I am a giraff-opotomus, I'm fat, ugly, undesirable and completely moronic for even thinking I might be anything other than disposable.

You have one too, I know you do. Everyone does.

We have these inner voices, everything we've internalised about ourselves and our world. Everything good we've been told about ourselves, how smart, funny, creative, wonderful, amazing, sexy, personable, dedicated, hard-working, wise and talented, Just Look At How Completely Perfect You Are! Everything celebrating the wonderfulness that is you!

And unfortunately everything we've ever internalised about how awful we are, clumsy, stupid, assholish, pathetic, foolish, ugly, tone-deaf, untalented, stiff, insensitive, Not Good Enough! Lacking, always lacking. Never good enough for anyone, or anything. Might as well accept that now.

Yeah, the Peanut Gallery. Most of the voices echo my mother. I wanted nothing more than to make her happy. I couldn't. So I internalised that, too. I disappointed her. So when I'm at my worst, I remember all the ugly things she said to me, or around me. I remember that not being that dainty, perfectly feminine sculpture without feelings makes me less.

I let her make me less in my own eyes.

This blog entry has meandered from me not smoking, to gaining twenty pounds, to admitting I let some woman who disowned me make me feel like a loser.

And yet here I sit, in my lovely house, at my computer, books everywhere, with a peevish cat on my lap purring hard enough I can hear her over my music. Neko, my Love's cat, is picky, spoiled and hates everyone and everything-- except him and me. Here she sits, purring, staking her spot, “Nyah nyah, this one's mine, too,” she says to Willy, the big fluffy owl-cat, and Boo, the dopey silly cat.

I sit here, in my house, listening to Caramell (Thanks Pandora!) chewing on a cinnamon Altoid, and thinking I need to dump this cat off so I can get some more tea. Wrapped in a beautiful grey sweater than I don't wear nearly often enough, knowing that the Love of my life will walk in the door in about three minutes (literally) and my kids will follow shortly and will my house with happy laughter and excited “This is what we did today” chatter.

Here I sit, and damned if I don't feel pretty good about myself.
So let me close this overly long and hideously personal blog with a little note:

Mother, if you find this, and as you clutch your pearls in denial:
Peanut Gallery, you, down in front, shut up and listen a moment, will ya?
Inner Voices Tormenting Anyone Else About How They Look-- yeah, you there, shut your hole:
Society at Large Who Thinks They Can Tell Other People How To Look, including those ass-holes who read GQ and think it's real, or call themselves “Pick Up Artists”:

To Whom It May Concern:
Fuck you! Go to Hell, you sick sons of bitches!
I am perfect in and of myself!
So is everyone else.
We don't need your approval, your acceptance would be kinda nice, but it's neither requested nor required.
We're complete in ourselves, and we don't care if we don't look like you wanted us to.
Fuck you.

Even on our worst days, we're better off than you could ever be! We are complete. So, we'll fight with ourselves over the impossible standards that are in front of us, but we'll win.

Because we know, we're worthy.

And you, well, you're an illusion. A memory, a fever dream.

Dreams go away when you wake.
So I'm going to wake up,

    *It's in Everything's Eventual, a collection of short stories, published in 2002; the story is called “Lunch at the Gotham CafĂ©”. The paperback version I have came out just before that film “1408”, about the hotel room, and as that story's in here, that's also on the cover.
    **The average numbers I used, I found online, or through my work at JC Penney's years ago in the shoe department! This isn't intended to call anyone out on their sizes, average, smaller or bigger. I mean it as comparison for me! If we were standing next to each other, you'd be smaller, prettier, smarter, sexier, everything better than me, regardless of what your numbers said. That's just the way I work, the way I punish myself for being different.
    Digging for numbers of averages, this is what I found:
    “The average starlet is wearing a size 2 or 4 which is the sample size designers are making presently. Today, the average American woman is 5’4″, has a waist size of 34-35 inches and weighs between 140-150 lbs, with a dress size of 12-14.” (emphasis added) 


  1. I have had body issues most of my life. I never loved my body, even when I weighed 125 pounds (which for me is way too thin.). But recently I have worked on not only losing weight, which I was doing for health and not vanity, but also on becoming more active and healthy. I have more pounds to lose before the doctors stop worrying about my health, but right now I am starting to feel good about my body. I am appreciating the curves and folds and trying hard to see the sexy bitch I am and not the years of programming to be something I am not. It's definitely not easy but it sounds like you are around the same place I am. Kinda not giving a flying fuck what anyone else has to say, but the ones we love and "love" on a daily basis.


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