Category Archives: Personal

Whole30: Day 1 or There is Garbage in Everything

Well, folks, I’m back from a lovely trip visiting friends down in Georgia and, just as I said I would, I ate a whole lot of stuff that is verboten during the Whole30 challenge.  For instance, yesterday I had a bowl of Lucky Charms and then a bunch of Oreos for “breakfast”.  I put that in quotation marks since I didn’t get out of bed until 12:30pm or something.  And also, Oreos don’t count as breakfast if you don’t put them into a bowl and pour milk over them Cookie Crisp style.  I was dipping them into milk…in a glass…so, clearly it was a snack.

whole30_dos

Somehow I misinterpreted when we were going to arrive back home yesterday and, since we walked in the door after 10pm, there was no way I was going grocery shopping.  As such, I didn’t want to fail at the challenge before I even started, so I decided to stop at the store on the way into work for some compliant rations.  It was then I learned how tricky getting compliant stuff might actually be.

I started out in the produce section.  That was easy, obviously, since I was just buying some fruit and veggies to snack on and make salads with.  I was impressed looking around the surrounding area how little I could even look at.  Luckily for me, after a weekend of indulgence, the last thing I wanted was crap and though I was hungry I wasn’t drawn to the bread or bakery items.

Unfortunately, if I only purchased fruit and vegetables, I likely would want to die by noon, so I went off in search of other categories.  Readily available protein was my first order of business.  I was limited today because I needed to get stuff that didn’t need to be cooked or particularly prepared.  Generally, lunch meats are out because they’re all preserved and/or cured, which often means added sugar and certain “banned” preservatives (sulfites, mostly).  I didn’t find any already hard-boiled eggs, and my other usual go-to alternative to meat protein sources aren’t allowed (soy milk and peanut butter).

My first idea was to find some raw cashews.  The Shoprite didn’t have any of those and all the roasted ones I initially saw were all roasted in vegetable or soybean oil (which are things I’m supposed to avoid).  Finally I found some dry roasted cashews that only listed cashews as an ingredient. Next I had the idea that canned chicken or tuna was a good call.  I assumed when they said “packed in water”, that was it.  As I found out, all the canned chicken contained sulfites and soy and some other crap.  “OK, fine,” I thought, “tuna will be champion.” Well, nope. Every major brand of canned tuna contained sulfites and soy also.  I finally found a brand that didn’t.  It was, of course, more expensive than the others but whatever.  It’s a 30 day “caring about things that I probably don’t have to actually care about” extravaganza.

Why am I so callous about that?  Well, I have theories about what things make me feel lousy.  My hypothesis is that carbs found in grains do the most damage to me feeling full of energy.  In the past, I have felt best when I have had a more protein-centric diet.  I am, however, interested to see if any of these other categories of food also tends to make me sluggish.  And, as I said, I get headaches a lot and though they are not usually severe, they get in my way.

The Whole30 program has a certain amount of ridiculousness to it and I call bullshit on some of their claims.  However, the underlying nutrition ideas aren’t bad ones.  Basically, my biggest goal in this is to teach my body to crave healthier sources of nutrients/energy when it needs something.

So, so far so good.  The first day is not the hardest when you’re doing stuff like this.  Although, I woke up with a headache and felt like garbage until I had a lunch time salad.  As soon as I had some tuna and simple veggies (with olive oil and coconut vinegar), I felt a lot better.  Having some melon and pineapple helped too.  It’s moments like this that remind me why I keep coming back to experiments like the Whole30.  I feel honestly better when I eat in a way resembling this.

It’s just that I really like cheese and creamy mashed potatoes and crusty French bread.  And wine.  But my hope is that I can treat those things as once in a while indulgences for special occasions and feel good, healthy, and energetic the rest of the time by making better choices for myself.

Tonight I’m heading to Wegmans where they have all the fancy things and I will have time to look at things more carefully.  I’m going to get some coconut oil because coconuts are apparently the super food of compliance for this thing?  I haven’t played with that before so new horizons!  I found some recipes I want to try that make big batches (like slow-cooked beef tips in green Thai curry…YUM).  I’m also going to rediscover the wonderful world of frozen vegetables because sometimes you just want to eat a bag of steamed broccoli (and frozen veggies are great additions to meals like the Thai curry).

So, I’m still in the excitement “I Can Do This” phase of this little experiment.  Hopefully that will last more than a day or a week.

Toilets: 1; Gina: 0

The toilets in the women’s bathroom of my place of business have a chronic issue where the chain connecting the flushing lever to the whatever the hell that thing is called that allows for flushing comes disconnected.  It’s so bad that a coworker and I periodically have to fix the problem with a plastic coated paper clip.

I am no stranger to the task of fixing this issue.  Seemingly, we are the only two who bother.  I’m assuming the people who don’t attempt to fix it think that the maintenance department does, but HAHA jokes on them.  The maintenance department doesn’t even bother with the paper clip trick.  They just say, “Oh, the chain is disconnected,” and reconnect it.  I tell them, “Um, no, the chain is insufficient and the hook sucks.” Blank stare. “Wut?”  So in the mean time, we MacGyver the thing into submission.

macgyver

So I went into the bathroom to do bathroom things and upon attempting to flush the toilet, I found that it was once again off the chain.  Incidentally, I also noticed that whoever had gone to the bathroom before me decided to leave their business in there and not attempt to do anything about the ailing flusher.  I am picturing doing a Whodunit kind of interrogation of the lab women to figure out the culprit in as dramatic a way as possible.  But that will have to wait, as I do not yet have the right hat to wear for the performance.

While I grumbled about whatever person left their leavings for me to deal with, I took the lid off the tank and went to the usual work of bending the paper clip and reconnecting the thing.  While I did this, I pulled up the cylinder thing which resulted in the toilet flushing.  While I was futzing, I hit the filler tube that is connected on the top of the cylinder thing.  It came loose (a thing I didn’t know could happen so easily) and began shooting water everywhere.  First I was struck squarely in the face with toilet tank water and then the tube went haywire like a whackyarmedinflatabletubeman spraying water all over my hair, shirt, walls and floor.

whacky inflatable tube man

After being kind of confused as to what the fuck was going on, I managed to plug the tube back in.  There I stood in the stall, glasses dripping with water.  I started laughing as I wandered out to the sink area to take my glasses off and dab myself dry with scratchy paper towels.  I then went back to the toilet and finished fixing the flusher, because I finish what I start, yo.

I walked into the lab looking vaguely like a proverbial drowned rat and I regaled all with the tale of the toilet tube that threatened to destroy me.  If I was a Wicked Witch resident of Oz.

I decided that this was pretty much the signal that I should just go home before the next appliance decides to come after me.  My money’s on the Keurig.

evil keurig

And…scene.

Whole30 Challenge: Autumn is Coming

Today marks one week to go before I begin the Whole30 challenge.  In true American style, that means that I have been eating all kinds of stuff I won’t be able to eat for 30 days.  Basically, give me all the cheese, grains, and (to a lesser extent) wine!  GIVE IT.

Wes and I are visiting some people that we met at Atlanta Poly Weekend a few months ago this weekend, hence why I decided that September 2nd would be the day to start this whole thing.  We’re going to a beer festival for goodness’ sake.  Basically it would either be unrealistic or torture to try and do this while in Georgia.  Of course, this also means that the withdrawal portion of the challenge (that first week where your body is all “YO, I usually have a much easier time getting sugars and energy from you.  What gives???  EAT A CANDY BAR FOLLOWED BY CAKE AND A LOAF OF BREAD WITH ALL THE BUTTER ON IT.”) all the harder as I have been eating all that crap and will be coming off a weekend where I simply don’t care what I’m eating.

But like I said, Autumn is coming and the game will be afoot:

game_of_thrones

I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions lately with this impending challenge.  I notice that I am always primed to make “new year resolutions” in September, and this year is no different.  September is, for kids who went to school in my area (and many other areas in the US), when the new school year starts so for me September always marked a new year in general.  By the time January rolls around, I have been dealing with the new year for a few months and the first of January is pretty arbitrary.  I don’t have any goals in January that I haven’t already been working on since September.

And I realized that of course I found out about the Whole30 when September was right around the corner.  When Autumn is starting to approach, I always start to feel inspired to make some more changes to improve my happiness and health. I have been pretty consistent about doing that (and sticking to that) for the last few years, so it would appear that the time is right to move on to a new set of goals.  Finding out what eating well means for me and what kinds of exercise I can actually motivate myself to do consistently are two very worthwhile goals!

As with most things like this, I will be approaching it as scientifically as possible.  I know that there will be some psychosomatic stuff going on.  I’m going to journal everyday about how I’m feeling , what I’m eating, and all that (not on here…who on Earth would want to hear about that?! I’m sure someone, but I can’t be expected to wittily talk about headaches and the lack of cheese for 30 days straight, you know?) and then at the end see if I can pinpoint trends.  I’ll be reading a lot about how human bodies best absorb various types of nutrients (in what forms and why) and about the gut, which if you didn’t know, is pretty fascinating.  Everyone’s gut is populated by completely different bacteria, which seems to be why there is no wonder diet for humans as a whole.  Our guts are as diverse as our genetics!

So, I am hopeful that I will be able to pull this off, especially since Wes will be doing it with me.  I hope I actually learn something about my body that I didn’t know yet.  And hopefully the headaches and lethargy will be a thing of the past soon!

The Whole30 Challenge: Wherin I Decide to Voluntarily Give Up Cheese…but only for 30 days

We got pizza for lunch today as a celebratory thing at work. I find it hilarious that I am still getting rewarded with pizza parties this late into my life. That used to be the go-to reward for a job well done in elementary school, and now also, seemingly, in the chemical industry. The pizza party promise still has sway. Why?

Because pizza is delicious. That’s why. And free pizza is even better. Duh.

Despite the fact that I had only two small slices, I am feeling like crap now after eating it. This is generally the case with celebratory pizza these days. I usually feel like crap because free pizza makes you think you should eat another slice because free pizza. I often do and that third slice usually attempts to pull me in a malaise laden coma. Today I exercised some restraint, but alas, it’s not only overeating that leads to blechitude. It is, of course, also all the grease, empty carbs, and whatever is in pepperoni (lots of things that end in -ate I bet).

A couple of days ago I was scrolling through my newsfeed and someone mentioned the Whole30 challenge. I hadn’t heard of this, but the meal photo posted with the comment looked to die for, so I wanted to find out.

As you can see in the link, it’s a 30 day challenge designed to help you “reset” your body by completely cutting out whole categories of food that are known to cause health issues if you have a sensitivity to them. It’s very similar to other low carb diets, has a lot in common with the FODMAPS diet, paleo, and all that. For an entire 30 days, you do not eat grains of any kind, added sugar or artificial sweetener of any kind, soy, dairy, legumes, or alcohol. The idea is that you cut everything like that out and monitor how you feel. After the 30 days, you start reintroducing each category back in slowly to see what makes you feel worse (if anything).

What I like about it is that it’s something that you do for 30 days and I like that it is more restrictive because of the time frame. I don’t do well with cheat days. For me, cheat days mean that I’m not really committed…and I act like it. Of course, if I were going to be eating this restrictively forever, I would want to be able to have some of the things I love that aren’t “allowed” now and again. But for 30 days, I want to try to actually achieve the goal; to have the discipline to only eat stuff that I know is good for me.

The past couple of years have been spent getting well mentally. I feel better emotionally than I have ever in my life, so this has all been a win. However, the downside of feeling so much better is that I have little tolerance for when I don’t feel great. Now, when I have emotional stuff, I now handle it much MUCH better than I used to and it doesn’t get me down for extended periods of time and I am learning to give myself a break when things upset me because, well, this is the world and things are going to upset me. What I want to figure out now though is how to feel at my physical best.

A couple of months ago, I had a bunch of blood work done to try and figure out why I was so tired so often. I had a track record (and one that was getting worse as time wore on) of falling asleep while watching anything on television or at movies at the theater…anything passive. I could live with that, other than the aggravation of wasting money to see movies or plays that I would pass out during. But it was getting so bad that I had incredible trouble driving for more than a half hour at night…and sometimes during the day. My eyes were exhausted and my eyelids ridiculously heavy and I was often in danger of dozing off at the wheel. It was getting scary and it was the main reason I went to the doc. The results of the blood work came back saying that my cholesterol was a little high and my vitamin D levels were pretty low. Low vitamin D levels are pretty standard for a fair-skinned individual like me since I don’t tend to go out in the sun for longer periods of time without sunblock (and sunblock inhibits the skin’s absorption of the UV energy the body requires to synthesize vitamin D). I was prescribed vitamin D SUPER PILLS that I was supposed to take once a week for 12 weeks (and then start a daily supplement).

I’ll be honest. I was skeptical. But I just took my 11th pill today and I am happy to say that over the last several weeks, I have not been worried at all about driving as I have been able to stay alert for much longer without a problem AND I tend to stay awake through tv shows and movies now, unless I’m already really tired…then vitamin D ain’t gonna do shit. BUT it’s nice to know that I can stay engaged and awake for things I need and want to and I am sort of amazed that it was such a simple fix. This kind of thing has been a problem for me for years and it never occurred to me that it was a vitamin deficiency.
So, since that was such an easy fix, I want to see what else I can do to shake off some other recurring symptoms I deal with. For one thing, I get headaches a lot. This could still be because of the Zoloft, but it could certainly be high blood sugar and a whole host of other things contributing to them. I am also still lethargic a lot, despite my improved alertness from vitamin D. I want to see if there is something I am eating on a regular basis that is zapping my energy.

Secondarily, I want to see if I can address the 20 lbs. of weight I have put on over the last year or so. In general, I’m not too concerned with my weight other than the fact that it’s getting more difficult to buy clothes (and many pieces of clothing I currently own don’t fit me at all anymore). I think I generally look fine and am trying to not care about it aesthetically (though on difficult days, it does bother me, but it always passes). What I am concerned with, again, is the general lethargy I feel and if this challenge shows me both what causes that AND what has me holding onto this weight, AWESOME.

So, with all that being said:

I will be embarking on the Whole30 challenge starting on September 2nd. I picked that day because September is pretty clear of stressful obligations or holidays or other happenings. It seems like a good month to focus on how I’m eating and actually be successful with the challenge.

 In addition to the Whole30 challenge, I am going to be committing to an exercise schedule and prioritize exercise for the first time in my life. In the past it has always been my way to find other things (usually things to take care of other people) to prioritize over my wellness and I am looking to learn to break some major habits during the 30 days.
I’m writing about it here as a way to have some public accountability and also because some readers might be interested in doing this kind of thing too! Wes is going to do it with me, so I have a buddy. But the more the merrier! I’m planning on generally updating how I’m doing with it, sharing interesting new recipes I find, and more likely than not, I’ll be talking a lot of chemistry of the body because it’s fascinating.

As for my last week and a half of freedom before I do this thing, I am going to spend time enjoying wine and cheese while I still can!

Beware The Kirkeslahger Effect

The Kirkeslahger (KER-kuh-slah-ger) Effect: the situation wherein a bad experience with a dating partner lowers our standards such that a subsequent dating partner seems extraordinary by comparison, even though the new partner is doing only the bare minimum.

The contrast principle is a psychological phenomenon whereby we tend not to make absolute judgments, but instead judge based on comparison with something similar:

When we make judgments, evaluating how good a dress or person is, we don’t make absolute judgments. The way we judge pretty much anything is in comparison with something else. When we say someone is smart or talkative, we actually mean they are smarter or more talkative than other people. (Note the ‘-er’ at the end of the adjective and the ‘more’ — these are sure signs of contrastive words).

The squares are all actually the same color! Contrast makes fools of us all.

This happens in a dating context all of the time. The Kirkeslahger Effect is named after one of Gina’s former partners who had terrible communication skills. He wouldn’t answer texts for days. he would make plans, then disappear and be unable to confirm with, only to cancel at the last minute (or just not show up). He so lowered Gina’s expectations for new partners that she was blown away when her next partner was able to display basic communication skills.

The Kirkeslahger Effect can be cute, but it can also be dangerous. That partner of Gina’s who benefitted from it (the one who seemed really impressive) ended up being abusive. It’s important to understand that the Kirkeslahger Effect gives us a skewed interpretation of our dating partners. When it’s paired with NRE, it’s almost impossible to make an objective evaluation of new partners. We should do all we can to correct for it (or at least be aware of it).

Helpful strategies may or may not include (depending on your preferences, resources, and situation):

  • enlisting the help of other partners or friends who may be able to take a more objective look. Even the process of trying to articulate what you like about your new partner may be helpful in maintaining some objectivity.
  • instituting a waiting period before making any long-term plans with a new partner (like NRE, the Kirkeslahger Effect weakens with time).
  • making a list of what you actually consider important about a person and comparing it to what you know about your new partner (I actually find this incredibly helpful).
  • asking for reinforcement (from other partners, friends, family, etc.) that your former partner’s behavior was unacceptable and not normal.
  • as is almost always helpful, developing a strong sense of self-worth.
  • pretty much all of this advice for dealing with NRE.

Naming Names.

So this is a post about publicly naming your abuser, which sadly, is an area I know a bit about.

When I was in college I dated an abusive guy who used to do things like shove me into walls, push me out of bed while I was sleeping, and break my things and throw them on the lawn. The list of things he did to me was long, and I stayed because I thought he understood me in a way no one else could…and also because I was afraid of what would happen to me if I left. I mean that both in the sense of what he would do, and then also where I would end up. He cut me off from my friends so effectively that by the time we were over, I had no where to go but back to my parents. And that was a less than ideal situation for me. But one night he woke me up at 4am to inform me that he hacked into my online journal, a journal only three people besides me had access to, and read all the things I wrote about him. He also informed me that he looked through all my stuff, trying to find evidence that I was cheating on him. For the record, I was not. But he had cheated on me. Repeatedly, and over a period of months. That afternoon, I moved out while he was at work. He then proceeded to stalk me for several months, prompting me to call the cops on him. He showed up at both of my jobs, and at my parents house in the middle of the night.

I’ve outted him as an abuser more than once over the years. Because I’m concerned for other women. I told his close friends, many of whom were also my close friends, what he put me through. I told them…tell other women who show an interest in him. Don’t try to protect my privacy, protect them from having to go through what I went through.

He was bipolar, and he showed time and again that he wasn’t interested in getting better. He was interested in doing what it took to get away with mistreating and controlling me. With testing the line. When I finally left him once and for all he tried EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK to get me to come back. I moved across the country, in part to get away from that town, but mostly so he couldn’t find me and manipulate me anymore. He was an expert at finding and exploiting my weaknesses and I was only just beginning build the skills I needed to avoid abuse.

I learned a lot of valuable lessons from that experience. One of those lessons is that manipulative people often come clean about their deeds! Kind of. They’ll preemptively share what they’ve done so they can control the narrative. “Yeah, I want you to know, I used to fly into rages and mistreat my ex. But let me tell you all the stress I was under. I mean, I’m really the victim here. And it‘s not like that anymore. I‘ve worked very hard to control my anger.” Or maybe they just say something vague like, “I just drive the people I love away…I don’t know why I do it. I guess, it was my childhood.”

He told me what he did to his ex. He told his next two girlfriends what he did to me. But I know when he told me about his ex he wasn’t being honest. He twisted the truth. For example, he told me he got angry with her once because she was cheating on him. She never cheated on him. That part of the story was a fabrication. And I know she was telling me the truth because her version of the story made way more sense than his did and she had friends i trusted verify her version of events.

Years later, I witnessed an abusive altercation between my best friend and her husband. She had told me about his anger before, but I think either she in her telling of it or me in my imagining of it had downplayed it, because I had no idea that’s what she meant.

Some time passed, and they eventually split (thank god) and she was telling her story on her online journal, and I seem to recall someone she knew personally acting as if they didn’t believe her interpretation of events, so I was like, oh no. I was there. I’ve seen it.

The shit storm that followed was unbelievable. My credibility as a witness came into question. There were people who didn’t believe us! And I was there! I saw it with my own eyes! And here I was defending myself against accusations like, “I’m really supposed to believe you find him threatening? I think you‘re lying about all of this.” Yes! He’s a scary motherfucker when he’s mad.

And that was the first time I got a whole heaping load of shit for “naming names.” Like, how dare I drag this guy’s name through the mud. Because I witnessed him abuse my best friend. I never expected to get called out for publicly speaking up about what I saw that day. I guess with my ex, he was pretty open with his dude friends about his mistreatment of me and they thought he was kind of a jerk already. In this case, the guy did a pretty good job of making people believe he was an all around nice guy. I mean, I believed it. I was shocked by what I witnessed. But it still happened and I felt I HAD to speak up. She’s telling the truth! I vouch for her!

I still carry that experience around with me because some people really couldn’t believe it, and they viciously attacked us as if we were the assholes.

But it didn’t really matter because I knew I was telling the truth, and I knew people needed to hear it, even if they didn’t like it. I didn’t feel guilty because it might make things uncomfortable for this guy because HE DID THOSE THINGS. He put himself in that position with his actions. He didn’t deserve an expectation of privacy for abusing his wife in their own home where most people couldn’t see. Fuck him.

So fast forward to recently and I was actually on the other end of this. I started dating Wes and I found out one of his ex’s is friends with the best friend from the previous story. She was like hey, just so you know, my friend has some terrible things to say about that guy you just started dating, do you want me to tell you what I’ve heard?

And I take that kind of shit VERY seriously. So I was like, oh wow, yes. Please tell me. You know, I don’t want to find out months down the road that the guy I’m dating is secretly horrible and really good at hiding it. I’m not interested in wasting my time on shitty people.

So she gave me her version of events, and I sat back and looked for red flags. I looked really hard. And I have to say, I’m pretty good at spotting red flags at this point.

And I didn’t see them. So I debated what to do next. And I don’t remember exactly how it came about, but I ended up just confronting him. Like hey, your ex contacted me and said all these things about you, what’s the deal?

Then he told me about his ex. And Gina and Jessie confirmed everything. And their version of events was well flushed out and didn’t add up with said ex’s version of events. And even within her own story, not taking into account anyone else’s version, things didn’t add up. Like her time table conflicted with itself and that meant one of two things she said probably wasn’t true.

I seriously had nothing to back up her story. That was over five months ago, and that’s still the case. I’ve now been with Wes much longer than that ex was and things are going really well.

So, I’ve been on both sides of this. In fact, with my abusive ex from the first story, people warned me about him and I didn’t want to hear it. Because he fed me his version of events and I didn’t know better. I just believed him because he seemed sincere. But the evidence was there, smacking me in the face. When I finally listened, I was like oh yeah, that makes way more sense than what he was telling me. I’m such a fool.

In this case, I thoroughly investigated the information given to me and found it rang false. And that’s fine! I’m not upset she contacted me. I’d rather someone say something. I want to know if someone has had a bad experience with the person I’m dating so I can be on the lookout for trouble.

In this case, I think the person just…was weird about certain things, and misread events, and didn’t have the best communication skills. Whatever the deal was, I haven’t come across the same issues.

But yeah, fast forward to now. And we’ve had Shaun vaguely telling his version of events on his blog for months. With lots of passive-aggressive digs at Wes. And we have Gina who finally came out and told a more specific (and still very generous) version of events, and we have an anonymous commenter angry with us for naming names. And another person on facebook who thinks that it’s not okay to speak ill of exes. And what we have here feels pretty similar to the situation I experienced with my best friend where all I did was say what happened, what I saw with my own eyeballs, and suddenly I was the asshole. For outing an abuser. For telling people what happened.

I believe Gina. I think everyone believes Gina. So what’s the problem here? That abusive people have a right to privacy? That you shouldn’t openly speak ill of anyone even if you’re just accurately recounting events?

There‘s a saying by Anne Lamott that goes “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

We don’t owe anyone our silence. If they treat us badly, we have the right to say what happened because it happened TO US. If it makes them look bad that’s not our problem.

I think there’s only one thing you really need to ask yourself before writing something on the internet and that‘s “Is this true?”

Public Service Announcement

We live in a culture of intimidation and silence. As an American woman, I have been conditioned to accept that my voice has no power, that good women keep their mouths shut, that I mustn’t tell the truth publicly about who has harmed me. To speak up is to rock the boat and is a threat to our culture as we know it.

I say good riddance to that culture. It is a coward’s culture and one that serves no one but those who seek to harm, manipulate, and take from those of us who are vulnerable, caring, loving, and generous. I will not apologize for my vulnerability. I will not apologize for caring for and loving people with all of my heart. I will not apologize for giving everything that I have to give. And I will not feel guilty for publicly calling out those who hurt me by taking advantage of my kind nature. To allow myself to be shamed into silence is to endorse the culture that empowers hurtful people.

Anonymous commenting on this blog is no longer active. If you choose to come on here to attack me, you must let me know who you are so that I can avoid contact with you in the future. Why on Earth would you want to have anything to do with Wes or me when you clearly think so lowly of us both. To come onto that blog post and inject your venom into it was an unwarranted attack on me and drips of cowardice and intent to harm. People of this ilk are not welcome in this space, nor are they welcome in my life.

Those of us who are privileged enough to be able to speak without fear will do so, not just for ourselves but for those who do not yet have a voice. I will not bow down to cultural pressures to be quiet and polite to those who seek to keep us under thumbs.

In short, I have fucking had it and I am putting vindictive cowards on god damn notice.

For the Record

Hi. I know I’m late to the blogging party here at the brand spanking new Living Within Reason.  I’ve wanted to write, but honestly, the types of things I usually write about have proven to be painful and difficult to get through.  The truth is that is has been an extremely tumultuous several months and whenever I’ve attempted to write about anything other than the reason for the tumult, I have hit a wall of anger and sadness.

I deeply dislike feeling hatred and anger towards people.  It does not make me feel powerful or inspired or motivated.  When I get into a pit of anger I have no energy to get out.  It is not where I want to be.  In the past I used to climb out of these places by blaming myself for everything that has been done to me.  “If I were better, stronger, smarter, it wouldn’t have happened”.  But this is the most egotistical thing I could think.  How could I truly believe that I would be impressive enough, good enough, worth enough to another person to make them be impressive enough, good enough, and worth enough to me?  That’s not how people work.  We are who we are.  Yes, we can change, but we can’t do it for anyone but ourselves.  That was something I had to learn for myself and it was something I had to accept about others. Still, even atheists can be the victim of faith when we desperately want to believe that someone will come through for us.

I haven’t written about any of this because I thought it was my responsibility to spare people the truth.  Yes, it is my truth, but I have trustworthy witnesses to much of it and I have an impeccable memory.  I began to doubt my truth after a while because I was being gaslighted and patronized on the regular, but I was able to rally my strength to not forget.  Before, I didn’t have the self respect to speak up for myself, to demand good treatment, to accept that the behaviors that made me uncomfortable were unhealthy and not just a figment of my mental illness.  That person is not who I am anymore and I wish for my side of the story to be written, mostly for posterity, in clear, direct terms.

Near the end, Shaun and I were having a heated discussion that was mostly about Wes, because of course it was.  At the end, pretty much everything he talked about was how much a selfish, abusive jerk Wes was and how dare I expect more from him when I let Wes get away with everything.  He saw he and Wes as equivalent mental cases.  He was incorrect.  When I would tell him that he was incorrect, he would explain to me that I have sacred spaces in my mind that I protect from attack.  One of these spaces is dedicated to Wes.  Another is dedicated to believing that I have worked very hard to shatter my emotional walls and grow as a person and that I have exceptional perspective on the world around me.  He called them sacred.  I called them ideals I was willing to fight for.  When Shaun met me, I was unwilling to fight for anything, certainly nothing that would improve my life at the possible slight cost to others.  In the end, winning the argument with the person I am today is not so easy.

But the most enlightening thing that came out of that conversation was our different views on trust.  Shaun stated that he and I don’t look at trust the same way.  He said that I based trust on what people do and that his concept of trust was about what he thought the other person was underneath it all.  In short, trust for me was an evidence based belief and his was a faith-based belief.  As a scientist, and a generally rational human being, I will continue to base my ability to trust people on the things that they do, thanks.  Otherwise, I will just keep letting myself be open season for emotional abusers and that is not who I am.  Not anymore.

I met Shaun a few months after I had been raped.  He was kind and gentle with me and seemed to hold consent in very high regard.  That is what I needed at the time from a new sexual partner.  Because he gave me those things, I instantly trusted him.  This was a mistake.

A couple of months into our relationship, he put me in a position to have sex without a condom.  I did it because I knew it would make him happy.  That was mostly why I had sex back then.  Afterwards, I felt terrible about it because it was, like, the one rule Wes and I had about our other relationships. Obviously, I had to tell Wes and Jessie as soon as I got home because obviously.  The rule was that we used condoms until we discussed it with our other partners and made sure they were comfortable with that.  It wasn’t even a thing that was off the table.  We just had to treat our other partners like autonomous beings with their own rights and boundaries and health.

Wes was upset, understandably.  But we made it through and Shaun and went back to using condoms.  I beat myself up a lot for having done that.  I felt unworthy of being polyamorous.  I felt unworthy of anything.  But that was pretty much the person I was back then.  I wouldn’t even call the rape a rape (or even an assault) at that point because I figured it was my fault and I deserved it for going up to his room in the first place.  I was in denial about my trauma. I would both do whatever another person wanted and hate myself for it.

After a few months, Shaun was frustrated about having to use condoms and argued with me about it.  I was terrified that having to use them would make Shaun not want to be with me anymore.  I was also still feeling like a piece of trash for having given Wes a reason not to trust me.  Wes was over it by then, but I wouldn’t forgive myself.  Still, I couldn’t stand to have Shaun unhappy, so I talked to Wes about it and got the go ahead.  But I asked that he not finish inside me because I had a lot of fear about that left over from my mom and her teenage pregnancy stories.  It was a boundary and I thought it was a relatively reasonable one.

After a few more months, Shaun was unsatisfied with having to pull out.  He was frustrated and wanted me to get rid of that particular boundary.  Again, I was afraid that he would stop wanting me if I was unwilling to sacrifice my own comfort and boundaries for his pleasure.  I thought that this was a reasonable line of thought.  I didn’t want to but I felt that I had to get over it for his sake.  So again, I talked to Wes about it and we agreed that it was something that was OK to do.  I didn’t tell Wes that I was feeling pressured and anxious.  I didn’t tell Wes a lot of things.

Admittedly, now I am glad that I was able to become comfortable with it.  So I suppose I should be grateful for the kick in the ass, but what I have learned is that I am allowed to do things at my own pace and on my own terms.  I don’t live for other people anymore.

There were a lot of things that happened after that which I added to my “Reasons to Maybe Not Trust Shaun Completely” list.  But they aren’t all that important.  Mostly it was that I couldn’t trust him to treat me as though I was important when there were other women around whom he wanted to flirt/have sex with.  I often felt overlooked or in the way.  After one particular incident where he got mad at me for not leaving him alone with a very good friend of mine (so that he could ask her if she was into him), I got into the habit of asking him before every social gathering whether I should stay away from him.  I was constantly worried about being a problem. I was also constantly worried about being replaced.  I didn’t feel this way about Wes.  That is because he and I worked very hard to get to a place where we knew that neither of these things were things that were going to happen.  I did not have enough evidence from Shaun to feel secure in that.

In addition, Shaun suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder.  I admit that I thought I could handle it, but ultimately I could not.  When they moved in, I cleaned incessantly hoping that it would be clean enough for him (and that he wouldn’t complain to me about Wes and Jessie’s messiness).  My anxiety about us all living together, compounded by work and family trouble, got to such an unmanageable degree that I sought out antidepressants.  I knew that Wes, Shaun, and Ginny had issues with each other, but I thought it would work itself out.  That was a mistake.  Treatment helped but I was still always on edge about the cleanliness of the house.  In addition, I was always on edge about the dynamic between Wes, Shaun, and Ginny.  I was also always on edge about interrupting him when he was playing a computer game or writing something because sometimes it was OK to do so and sometimes he would snap at me.  Basically, I was always on edge and didn’t feel like my home (with my name on the deed) was my own for the entire year that they lived with us.  I tried very hard to make it comfortable, to let myself get used to it, to enjoy it, but I could not relax.  I upped my Zoloft dose and started seeing a wonderful therapist.

That combination speeded up my development into the person I am today.  After several sessions, I was starting to really feel a sense of my own self worth.  I began to feel and know that I am worth the best treatment, appropriate salary for services rendered, and the right to live my life as I saw fit.  This was pretty strange for me because instead of feeling guilt about people treating me like crap, I started to feel anger. “No, I didn’t deserve this and this is not my fault.  You are just an asshole.”  That kind of thing.

Sometime last year, Shaun started seeing someone new and he was head over heels very quickly. I liked her but had my usual anxieties.  On the surface though, Shaun was doing everything right to make me feel comfortable and supportive.  For the most part anyway.  I didn’t really appreciate the loud sex at 2am, but I bought earplugs to try and not be an asshole about it.  But yes, I trusted that Shaun had the health of my relationship with him linked into his new relationship.

One night, about 3 months after they had started dating, we were coming home from a burlesque show.  He was acting kind of weird.  I asked him what was up and he said he didn’t want to tell me.  I pushed the issue because he clearly wasn’t ok.  He then told me that he had been having sex with this new person without a condom for weeks and hadn’t discussed it with anyone.  I was furious and heartbroken.  I truly had believed that he would have learned at least a little something from the experience that he and I had gone through early in our relationship.  I didn’t for a second think he would do something like that and do it for weeks without saying so much as a word.  He told me that he had been afraid to tell me because he knew I would be upset and also he had been so happy with this other person that he didn’t want to do anything to mess it up.  He was regretful seemingly that night and for a few days after that but in seeing some email exchanges he’s had with a dear friend, it would appear that he’s rewriting history now.  Now he says that it wasn’t a thing he thought was important or that had been a rule that needed to be discussed.  I trust my memory of events better, as they are burned into my mind.  I still get upset thinking about that night sometimes.

After that, I didn’t know what to do.  I was desperately trying to make it work but my trust in him was completely broken.  It didn’t help that he became often callous about it all, insinuating that I shouldn’t be upset about stuff like that (and that I’m upset because society has the wrong values).  I felt like I had to remind him every other day of the severity of this trespass and he would meet me back there but then forget later, it seemed.  I started to feel insane, like I didn’t know up from down.  We were in trouble and I had no idea how to fix it.

A week or so later, his new girlfriend told her boyfriend about the condomless sex and he was not happy about it.  It seemed that Shaun’s relationship with her was in jeopardy because of it.  Because I was there, he was getting emotional support from me about that, even though I was completely furious with him about the same thing.  I tried, but ultimately I couldn’t take that he was calling the boyfriend unevolved for having such an issue with it.  I called Shaun out on it and he got mad, snapped at me, and stormed off.  Wes and Jessie got home to find me balled up on the couch sobbing. I went over to gauge whether he was in a place where we could have a non-abusive conversation.  I believed him when he said we could.  He then snapped at me that Wes is abusive and if I’m going to be upset with him then I should be upset with Wes too.  This broke me and I went back over to Wes and told him what he had said.  Wes went to Shaun and asked what makes him abusive and Shaun yelled at him to get the fuck away from him or he will break Wes’ nose.  Wes came back and we decided to go upstairs because there was nothing left to say and Shaun started screaming at the top of his lungs and threw dining room chairs around.  I was terrified.  Jessie, the brave woman she is, went down and talked him down.

Things were bad.  I didn’t know what to do anymore.  We ended up having a housewide conversation about all of this and Shaun and Ginny told Wes that they thought he was abusive to them.  This was in response to us being afraid of the violent rage attack of the night before and the fact that I had been generally afraid of emotional attacks from Shaun for months.  Ginny said that Shaun hits her where she is strong and hits me where I am weak.  I didn’t have the wherewithal to say that using the word ‘hits’ in that sentence speaks volumes about the truth of my feelings.

The next day, after a lot of deep thought and sadness, I knew that our living “experiment” had failed and that it could not continue.  I wrote an email to the family saying as much and asked them to move out as soon as they could. The tensions between Wes, Shaun, and Ginny were insurmountable and I was simply afraid for my own safety and also questioned my ability to continually make healthy decisions for myself.

A mutual friend had found a house in Philly and Ginny and Shaun agreed to take a room in it.  Tensions in the house were at an all time high and it was decided that they would move out in 2 weeks.  I thought Shaun and I could make it and try to start over without the stress of sharing a house.  I was desperately clinging to the relationship hoping that it could turn into something healthy. I wanted all of it to have been worth the time and effort and pain I had gone through.  I couldn’t let it fail.

But within those two weeks, Shaun continued to pursue new relationships and bring them to the house for dates and loud, intrusive sex.  The last week he was there, he made a date with a new friend of ours (who had not previously been poly).  On the Monday that he had the date with this person, he informed me, on my way to therapy of all places, that he had made a date with yet another “hot off the presses sort of poly person who wasn’t poly a several months ago” friend.  And I admit that this completely broke me.  I showed up to therapy in tears knowing that it couldn’t be saved.  I just couldn’t deal with being the welcoming wonderful metamour for these people knowing how he had hurt me (multiple times in multiple ways) and knowing how scary he can be.  I already didn’t trust him with me.  I didn’t trust him with others and I couldn’t be a part of it anymore.  I came home that night and broke it off.

I cried myself to sleep that night knowing it was the right decision but letting myself believe that the failure was my burden to bear. For the next week I was utterly terrified to be in the house with them alone.  I was scared to come home from work.  I was scared to not leave the house on the weekend.  I was convinced that he would lash out at me or at Wes.  I was kept safe and secure by people who love me.  I am very, very lucky.

There’s so much more to say, more characters to add, more evidence to share, but it’s not really important.  I wanted to tell my story.  I’m tired of being quiet.  I’m tired of feeling crazy.  I needed to get this out there.  I need to move on from all of this.  I silenced myself online to spare people this, but this is for me.

A couple of weeks after the breakup when they were living in their new home, Shaun started turning his sights again on Wes, writing passive aggressive blog posts aimed at him.  It became clear quickly that the breakup no longer had anything to with me.  I was a passing character in it, the regrettably lost prize in a war between good and evil (apparently).  Wes is the villain and I am gone because of his villainy.

So here it is.  These are the things that happened.  I know that I am not crazy.  I know what happened and how it all made me feel. I know that I am right.  And most importantly, I know that I am worth so much more than all of this.

This is behind me now.  I am cutting all ties that can be reasonably cut and am choosing to grow from this instead of shrivel.

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great. You have no power over me.”Image

Some Stupid Stuff that has Happened to Me in the Last Few Months

“Oh, well, I’m just waiting for my opportunity to spritz Gina with this hose!” he quipped.

I raised an eyebrow, looked straight at him, and then continued what I was doing.

“Gina? You’re really dour.”

“Dour…” I said. My eyebrow had not descended from its skeptical position.

“Dour!”

“I’m dour?”

“Yes!”

“I’m not 85, if that’s what you’re saying. Also, get the hell out of my lab, thanks.”

“You don’t have to be old to be dour.”

I walked away, smirking to myself because I, like, read blogs and live life as a woman in America, and of course my inability to find this dude funny labels me as a dour woman.

I suppose this guy has been building the Dour Case for a while now. He’s been working here for a few months and has consistently given me a reason to not want to talk to him or find him funny.
Things this dude has said to me:

– Oh, you’ve only be married for 2 years? Have you got him trained yet?
– 2 years, huh? He’s probably still crawling at your feet, heh heh. That’ll change.
– “I think that the world has only gotten better for women. Not men. What do you think, Gina?” “It’s about damn time?” “What??? What would your husband say to that?” “He’d agree.” “Oh man, you DO have him trained.”
– You can cook? Oh, your husband is a lucky man.

This doesn’t even include the time he saw my shelf of knick knacks in my cubical and, upon seeing the geisha doll that was given to me by a supplier, asked me, “What, are you some kind of closet Chinese person?” I don’t really know what that means and decided against saying something like, “No, but I’m totes a communist.” That would have riled him up, for sure!

But yeah, I’m pretty dour. I’m so fucking serious all the time! Why can’t I just accept that this jackass is trying to build a rapport with me based on sexist assumptions and mindless joshing?!?

Several years ago, we all had to go to a sensitivity seminar. The HR person talked a bit about not hitting on coworkers and such, but the video we had to watch was pretty much all about not making fun or making assumptions about Asians. It was the weirdest thing ever. Apparently everyone in the video office kept asking this Asian man what he thought of the new kung fu moving that came out and he was PISSED. Given what I learned at the seminar, I totally could have reported the dude for getting on my case for being a closet Chinese person. MISSED OPPORTUNITY.

Anyway, a day before this guy made the “the world is getting better only for women comment”, I had a ridiculous phone call with a different coworker that left me so revolted and feeling oddly violated that I wrote him a direct email about how we don’t have a familiar relationship and that if he can’t speak to me professionally, then he shouldn’t speak to me. It was one of the best emails I’ve ever written and it cited everything he said. I copied HR.

I got called into HR the next day to go over the events that I very clearly and concisely outlined in my email. Before getting into the nitty gritty, I was reprimanded for writing to him directly because it was too aggressive and confrontational. I said that I understood what she was saying, but that I meant to be assertive and confrontational because I’ve been putting up with this garbage for almost 10 years here. “Yeah, but you shouldn’t.” Um…sure. I will never do it again?

After the meeting I came back wanting to hurt people and was informed about how the world is getting better for women and not men. I nearly turned to violence but cursed instead.
A week later I had a follow up meeting with the HR person about the other employee’s side of the story. He claimed he hadn’t said any of the things that I said he did (even though I wrote the email 5 minutes after our conversation). Why would I make up statements like this:
– Man, you have a nice, pretty voice. Nothing like the mean, mean person you were to me before.
– Ah, you must have your husband trained…or chained up in the basement. Har har har.

And some other stuff.

What is it with dudes thinking that women have their men trained? Why is this an ever present trope? In explaining to the HR person why I find this nauseating, I cited that Wes and I have a pretty egalitarian relationship.

“What? I’m sorry…what does egalitarian mean?”

“…equal.”

“Oh, well good for you. I don’t believe that relationships can be equal, but great.

So, um, yeah, that’s just a smattering of why I haven’t been writing much lately. There’s a lot going on. But I thought I would dip my toe back in with a semi-coherent piece about being a woman with a boy career.

And today I get called dour for finding some dude unimpressive in his choice of humor. Sure. The thing is that now that I have reported something, I know that it is worth it to report things? So…watch the fuck out. 33 year old Gina is a little more bad ass than 23 year old Gina.

Like, a lot more.

The Fat Kid, 1994-2013

When I was in 5th grade, I found out that I was fat. I was cast to play Santa Clause in the school Christmas play, Some kid, I don’t remember who, said something to the effect of “heh, you won’t even need any stuffing.” It wasn’t until that moment that I learned to be ashamed of my body. Before then, I didn’t really think about it. But at that moment, it was revealed to me that my body was ugly and unpleasant. That was the moment where I changed from being able to watch “Stand By Me” unaffected to flinching every time Jerry O’Connell got referred to as “the fat kid.” That was the moment where I stopped wanting to take my shirt off at the beach.

Being “the fat kid” makes life difficult in a lot of ways, but none so much as dating. I’ve been interested in girls since first grade, and probably before that. Dating in elementary school is just weird, so I don’t really count that. I even had a girlfriend in 5th grade. It seems like a ridiculous thing, to have a girlfriend in 5th grade. I don’t think we even kissed, but it because very important to me later. She and I didn’t particularly interact after we dated, and I can’t even begin to remember how or why we broke up, but I it meant a lot to me all through middle school that someone was willing to give me that kind of attention.

Middle school (6th-8th grade, in my district) was a near-constant stream of rejection. I watched my classmates form romantic connections and hold hands in the hallways. I would hear stories of experiments with adolescent sexuality. Girls would express interest in my friends. I would look around, and clearly see what all of these people had in common – no fatties. The point was driven home by social rejection in other ways, most notably a regular outpouring of teasing for my weight, my fat ass, my “tits.”

Remember how I said that my 5th grade girlfriend ended up being important to me? That’s this part of the story. That “relationship” was probably the only thing that kept me from feeling like a complete loser throughout middle school. As with most adolescent boys, I was obsessed with girls, not only because I had strange new desires, but also because I wanted to be a person with a girlfriend. Somewhere along the line, I internalized the idea that having a girlfriend was the most important thing a person could do to be worthwhile. The longer I spent single, the more pathetic I felt. The only thing staving off complete despair was the fact that I had a girlfriend and one point in my life, so clearly I wasn’t completely worthless to girls.

Except, really, I always knew I wasn’t completely worthless to girls. Girls liked me. I had a number of female friends, and I tended to get along well with girls in general. There was only one part of me that was worthless to girls – my body. No matter how much of a connection I formed with a girl, she would be repulsed at the idea of touching me on any level beyond a friendly hug. My body was disgusting to girls. Sometimes, they would tell me so. Most of the time, they would give me one of those so-called “polite” rejections, e.g. “I just don’t feel that way about you,” or “I don’t have time to date right now,” or “I’m busy on [every evening you ask me out].” Until Mandy.

met Mandy in 9th grade. Well, back up. I met Mandy in 7th grade and thought she was really cute, but she disappeared over the summer. I next saw her again once I got to high school (turns out she skipped a grade). Mandy changed everything. Mandy liked me. Mandy like-liked me. She was beautiful, and smart, and fun, and soft, and amazing to touch, and she. liked. me. Naturally, I had no idea what to do. We dated for over a month before I would even kiss her. But I did kiss her, and she kissed me, and we didn’t stop kissing each other for two months. I, being 15 years old, made some poor decisions, and Mandy left me in July of that year, but I never believed that it was because of my body.

After Mandy, I didn’t date again for almost six years. Oh, I went out with girls. But they would make it clear that we were not on a “date.” As before, girls still liked me, just not my body. In the latter half of high school, I started developing real, deep feelings for girls. I started getting emotionally close with people, even intimate. But none of that changed the fact that my gross, fat body was undesirable at best and repulsive at worst. And every year, I got fatter.

By 2002, my freshmen year of college, I was 275 pounds, and my body-shame was at an all-time high. I was a 19-year-old virgin and hadn’t kissed a girl since 1997. I would fall in love with any woman who even looked in my direction. My shame was so great that I felt unable to turn away any attention, even if it wasn’t the kind I wanted. I let myself be used as not much more than an emotional sounding board. I had a drunken makeout with someone whose name I didn’t even know at a party and I looked at it like I’d just been awarded a Nobel Prize. Hey! A girl who was near-falling-down drunk could stand to touch me! It was pathetic. By the time I went home for the summer, I was convinced that college was going to be a lot like high school.

The Fat Kid, 2000

The Fat Kid, 2000

Mandy saved me again. She randomly came into the record store where I worked that summer. It had been four years since we dated, but she was as attractive to me as ever, probably moreso, since I was now convinced that nobody else would ever be interested in my stupid, fat body. The situation was a complete mess. She was going to school in Pittsburgh, and she had a boyfriend that she would break up with, and then get back together with in the course of a week. But I didn’t care. I wanted her so badly, and we finally had awkward sex in the front seat of my Oldsmobile 98, ducking to make sure nobody on the not-10-feet-away sidewalk could see us. It didn’t matter to me how awkward it was. It wasn’t the sensation that was important. It was the status. I wasn’t a virgin any longer. I wasn’t a total loser. I wasn’t undesirable. This person desired me. She desired me so much that she was willing to massively complicate her relationship situation to be with me.

The Fat Kid, 2001

The Fat Kid, 2001

Unsurprisingly, the situation went to hell within a few months. I visited her in Pittsburgh a few times, and those are some of my fondest memories of that entire time period. She made me feel amazing, and sexy, and she reminded me that not everyone saw my big belly or my fat face as revolting.

Sadly, and to my shame, I didn’t do the same thing for her. While all I wanted was someone to take an interest in my body and my sexuality, she was all-too-familiar with such things. Her life had been a mirror image of mine, and she was convinced that her body and her sexuality were her only assets. While the relationship did wonders for my self-esteem, I suspect it did the opposite for hers. In retrospect, I used her as a self-esteem booster and a status object. I think she just wanted to be valued, and didn’t know how to say “no.” She tried to tell me, and I didn’t listen. Mandy, if you’re reading this, thank you, and I’m sorry.

The Fat Kid, 2002

The Fat Kid, 2002

Around that time, I tried the Atkins diet. It was in vogue at the time, and it was the first time that I tried any kind of rigid diet. It worked amazingly well. I lost 10 pounds in a week. 5 pounds the following week. Another 5 pounds in the next two weeks, for a total of 20 pounds in a month. Eating bacon. I was still 250 pounds, but I felt great. My clothes fit looser, and when I looked in the mirror, I looked thinner! I decided to keep it going, and signed up for Weight Watchers (I figured Atkins would give me a heart attack if I actually kept it up). Over the next year, I lost about 40 more pounds. The need for smaller pants gave me indescribable joy.

Spring 2003 was when I got to know Gina, and fell for her almost immediately. This, also, was a mess. She had a boyfriend at the time, and we were all in a 6-person show together. This was not new to me. By this point, I was used to having unrequited feelings for “taken” women. Even with my new smaller size, I was still “obese” according to my handy BMI calculator, and didn’t harbor any illusions that my body looked good to anyone but me.

It’s a long story, mostly involving me being too desperate to give up and Gina not wanting to admit her feelings. BUT it all worked out, and we’ll be celebrating 10 years together this January.

The Fat Kid, 2005

The Fat Kid, 2005

My body image issues got better after that, but they still weren’t great. I still saw my body as unattractive, but actually having a girlfriend, especially one as great as Gina, was helpful.

Wanting to feel wanted while in a monogamous relationship is a strange thing. Up to that point, I always wanted to be wanted for practical reasons – I hated being single, and I wanted somebody to be with. Now, I was with somebody, and didn’t need to impress anyone but her – but I still wanted to. I still wanted to be wanted, not for any practical reason, just for how it made me feel. Or, more accurately, how not being wanted made me feel. Being wanted by one person was great, but I still didn’t feel attractive, and I still didn’t like what I saw when I looked in the mirror.

The Fat Kid, 2009

The Fat Kid, 2009

It wasn’t until Gina & I opened our relationship, and I lost another 30 pounds, that I started actually feeling good about my body. My first relationship after opening up was kind of a disaster. I was still feeling vulnerable due to my body issues, and she represented all the girls I couldn’t “get” when I was younger. She was skinny, outgoing, popular, and every guy I knew wanted to be with her. When she kissed me, I felt like the coolest kid in school, like I’d never felt before. She was also self-absorbed, inconsiderate, and within a handful of weeks, her attraction to me waned, and she started seeing a much skinnier guy. Like I said, kind of a disaster, but she meant a lot to me at the time.

The Fat Kid, 2011

The Fat Kid, 2011

In February of 2010, I started dieting again. March 27, 2010, was a big day for me. That morning, I weighed myself, and the scale came out to 201.5 pounds. That number might not mean a lot to you, but it meant everything to me. For my height, weighing less than 202 pounds moved me from “obese” to “overweight” on the BMI scale. I honestly never thought I would get there. It felt great. Over the next year, I lost another 25 pounds, and bottomed out at about 175.

More than the weight loss, my body image was improved by joining okcupid. On okcupid, I could meet women who actually found me attractive, and who were ok (or even enthusiastic) about dating a married man. I stopped being able to count on one hand all of the women I ever knew who found me attractive. I started seeing real evidence that my body and my sexuality were not generally looked at as disgusting and repulsive. Women appreciated my body. I even met women who didn’t seem to like me that much, but were still interested in my body. It was surreal at first.

Since then, things have gotten much better. I’ve gained back about 30 of the pounds I lost. I’m not happy about it, but I no longer believe that I need to be thin in order to be attractive. I’ve also stopped viewing women as status objects that I can use to prove to myself how not-hideous I am. Because my insecurities are under control, I’m able to connect with people on a much deeper level. It still hurts when people tell me that my body holds no value to them, but it’s bearable. I love Gina more than I ever did, and I have an amazing fiancee who can’t get enough of me. I’m performing in a burlesque show (and yes, I take my clothes off).

This week is weight stigma awareness week. This morning, I weighed 208 pounds. I’ve eaten 1,397 calories today. My pants fit a little tight. The buttons on my shirt are pulling a bit. I have a lot of love in my life. So it goes.

The Fat Kid, 2013

The Fat Kid, 2013