Friday, March 25, 2005

Martyr Yourself For Christian America!

Become a martyr for America, chiklits!

Paul Campos connects the dots. Cause none of these dumb media fuckers is willing to do it:

As I write these words, Terri Schiavo is being starved to death because she was once a chubby little girl.

Almost everyone has heard about how, 15 years ago, Schiavo's heart stopped for several minutes, causing massive brain damage that left her severely disabled.

What very few people are aware of, because it has gone largely unreported, is that Terri's heart stopped as a consequence of an eating disorder.

Terri was a chubby child, in a culture that tells children, and especially girls, that not being thin is both a disease and moral failing. And our children get the message: fully half of all 9- to 11-year-old girls either are or have been on a diet.

Terri was one of these children. She spent much of her childhood and adolescence dieting, in a desperate effort to deal with having the "wrong" kind of body. Like most dieters, her weight fluctuated a great deal, but she was unable to remain thin.

Eventually, according to evidence introduced at the trial following her collapse, she started forcing herself to vomit after meals. This, combined with a regimen of 15 glasses of iced tea per day, made her thin and "beautiful." (More than 200 articles have commented on Terri's beauty. Almost none of these mention her eating disorder).

On the night she collapsed, Terri had just eaten dinner. She went into the bathroom and forced herself to vomit. Apparently, the chemical imbalance brought on by her bulimia stopped her heart.

I find the irony of this situation deeply, deeply sickening.

I went out to lunch today, this being a Friday, and sat at a table across from two men and two women. They appeared to be work colleagues. The men were average-looking, 30ish, on the overweight side, looked like they could pass for, say, computer programmers, so I thought they were quite good-boy nice looking, but MTV would call them boring couch potatoes and Queer Eye would have a field day. They ate cups of soup and cheeseburgers and fries and talked in loud voices about work.

The women, at first glance, looked and acted much younger. Their hair was straightened, bleached. The one closest to me had that perfect bronze tan. They were both about a size four, though the tan one looked like she was aiming for a 2. They ordered salads, and spent their time waiting for those salads... talking about food.

The tan one salivated over the dessert menu, said something like, "I haven't had chocolate sauce in two years."

The other one, not so classically MTV-girlish, with more of a midwest softness to her face and complexion, said, "Don't you ever treat yourself?"

"No," Barbie said.

"Not even once?"


Barbie was little and very slender, wearing a short-sleeved dress shirt I wouldn't dare wear in public, and had just enough defined arm muscle to be considered hot.

And, the thing was, looking at Barbie, that's what I was thinking: she's the way I'm supposed to look, the way women are supposed to look. Thin, tan, straightened, dyed-blond hair, those pert features, the flawless-appearing complexion. It wasn't that she was beautiful: there was nothing behind her look to make her beautiful, no amazing wit or cute laugh or witty turn of phrase or particularly striking feature. The thing with encouraging all women to look like a certain "type" is that eventually they'll look that way, and it'll take so much time and energy to cultivate that "type" that they're not exactly going to have a lot of time for an internal spiritual journey that makes them really interesting people. Mostly, they're just going to talk a lot about diet and excercise and what they can't eat this week.

When the food came, Barbie scarfed down her salad like she was starving: and, likely, she was. Most women don't look like Barbie into their thirties without being very hungry as a result.

I had ordered a burger, no fries, coleslaw on the side, and an iced tea. I've learned to balance out my hunger: if I really want a burger, I'll eat a burger, I just won't have the crap I don't want, which is usually the fries, and that cuts the calorie count pretty neatly.

And eating that way will keep me at what I consider a reasonable size, in reasonable health, but I will never, ever, look like Barbie.


Not even if I ate salmon ceasers and started getting that dull-eyed hungry look that supermodels carry around.

But oh, God, sitting there next to Barbie, I felt so guilty for eating my cheeseburger. What must everyone think of me, scarfing down my burger for lunch? Had I no shame? I could see everyone turning to look at me, thinking, "Look at that fat girl scarfing down that cheeseburger! Grotesque! Look at that fat woman, eating! A woman, eating, in a restaurant! How revolting! Has she no respect for herself?!"

I wanted to curl up and die.

And that's what a lot of women feel like: we'd rather die than be fat. We'd die to be thin for a decade, just give me a decade of hotness! Please! Please! I'll starve! I don't care!

Careful what you wish for.

Yea. I've had nights like that.

I used to think it must be a pretty neat thing, to be thin and beautiful. And, in fact, it has its perks. You get better jobs, people treat you more respectfully, treat you like you're important.

But you know, if you're doing it the way most women are doing it, you're also going to be weaker, and stupider (try doing complex math equations while suffering from extreme hunger and fatigue caused by overexercise), and ultimately, you're risking your life for a pound of flesh, for a beauty ideal.

And today's a good day to decide if you're interested in martyring yourself for Christan America and the MTV beauty machine.

We've got a great example of the end result.

13 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I went to the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore today. They currently have an exhibit on women's health and one of the centerpieces of the exhibit was on how thinness and beauty are linked in our culture. They had these amazing little broze sculptures of women of all ages and sizes (but mostly over 30 and mostly fat), and it was lovely to see women who looked like me represented, and represented as something beautiful. Opposite that was a wass with images of the backs of women of different sizes, from thin to fat, with a Barbie doll. The second time I went into that area to look at the scupltures again, there was a large group of people, and the teenagers were busy laughing at the pictures of the fat women on the wall. I'm afraid I yelled at them. And it felt good.  

Posted by Natalie

Anonymous said...

I have been That Girl Eating the Cheeseburger; I, too, have had nights like that.

You've written my voice, along with your own.


Posted by Summer

Anonymous said...

First of all, I adore cheeseburgers. Our relationship is longstanding, I feel that there is a strong mutual commitment, and I'm not going to throw that away for a salad.

I just wish more women valued our bodies not based on how they look, but based on what they can do. Somehow, it means more to me when I push myself well beyond what I think I am capable of physically then when I look particularly good in a skirt.

I just think its unfortunate that so few women have had that experience, because except for the elite athletes, we just aren't encouraged to train that hard when we play. And that's a darn shame.  

Posted by Ismone

Anonymous said...

Be it resolved:

1.) Being able to live is better than being afraid of living, or having so many limitations that normal life seems impossible. Here the vast majority here is voting against the Barbie type as a lifestyle they actually 'live'.

2.) Developing a sense of your place in the world, a 'world view', your intelligence, skills, and knowledge will always be more valuable in the end that the unobtainable perfection of the body. But yes, that end may come a very long time from now.

3.) As a side bet wisdom, age and treachery beats youth, inexperience and beauty usually at better than 5:3 odds. But alas this is in the long run again too.

4.) The way of all flesh is downwards and outwards, or as Red Green is always fond of telling us, 'Hey we're all in this together'.

5.) If you're feeling especially fed up or unusually cruel, always carry a small stash of tootsie rolls, and drop 1 of them on the unsuspecting mark. If need be smile and laugh as you go saying 'I thought you might need that later'. And She might. Works wonders for small recalcitrant and noisy children too.

6.) Find and cultivate people who appreciate you for who you are and how you look now. They'll be a bit more forgiving when we all go to hell in the future. 

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

excellent post! --thanks 

Posted by alphabitch

Anonymous said...

Your post is the first mention I've seen of Terri Schiavo's eating disorder. I, too, have been the fat woman eating the cheeseburger, and while I would like to weigh less for my health (I'm in the "morbidly obese" category), I have no desire to look like Barbie. Thanks for putting this in perspective. (And thanks to Professor B for linking to your blog, which I was hitherto unaware of.) 

Posted by Insomniact

Anonymous said...

I live in a suburb of Dallas, where unhappy size 0 bleached blondes with perfect manicures and shoes that cost more than my house abound. Good post. 

Posted by bluesmama

Anonymous said...

It is remarkable that in such an egregiously over-covered event that this critical issue never comes up. But I think it tells us a lot... 

Posted by Scott Lemieux

Anonymous said...

I'm never the girl with the cheesburger, but if you see someone eat a full meal and then order the double fudge chocolate cake with two scoops of ice cream (one vanilla, one coffee) and covered in whip cream - that's me. I'm 5'6", a size 10, and I look damn good in a skirt.  

Posted by Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Yea, there's apparently an article or two now running in Newsweek  that make more of the eating disorder issue. 

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

Right on. I found your blog through a friend's link and damn right. More people should think like you. 

Posted by Alejandra

TS said...

Nice Blog!!!   I thought I'd tell you about a site that will let give you places where
you can make extra cash! I made over $800 last month. Not bad for not doing much. Just put in your
zip code and up will pop up a list of places that are available. I live in a small area and found quite

MIG said...

The passive aggressive dislike of very slender women that I'm feeling here is very disturbing to me. How does being a size 0 equal unhappiness with the rest of life? How does having the time and energy to work out to that level of fitness equate to not having time and energy to develop intellect and spirituality as well? Maybe a thin, in-shape woman is involved in exercise because she likes the competition and enjoys the sport, not to burn calories. Not to mention women with thyroid problems. I know, we've all heard how so many chubby women have a thyroid problem, so we shouldn't judge just based on looks, wah, but shouldn't it work the opposite way for women whose thyroids keep them unnaturally thin?

All I can tell you is if some jerk tries to drop me a tootsie roll, they can shove it along with my masters degree and my racing flats. 

Posted by MIG