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Oh To Be Small

As long as I can remember, I’ve always thought of myself as “big”. By the time I was 10 or 11 years old, I’d already hit my adult height of 5’4”, which felt so much taller than my peers. I hated being tall – taller than my friends, taller than the boys. As we all know, standing out in any way, particularly when we’re young, feels scary and alienating. I was never teased about my height, but it bothered me. It didn’t help that I was also fat, of course. I was big times two. As an adult, my height is actually on the lower end of average for a woman, so I’m no longer considered tall and haven’t been for most of my life. I still feel big though, because of my body type. The truth is I love the idea of being small. Little. Tiny. Any time I feel that way, I feel happy, delicate, feminine…I hate to say it, but probably more beautiful too. I think what I feel most is precious. Not precious as in pretentious, but precious as in valuable. Because I was bigger than most kids, I was never described as cute, adorable, precious. I wanted to be precious.

When I found this oversized Adirondack chair at Safeway…..well, I think you know why I hopped right in.

Body Positivity Yoga

I recently discovered the Body Positivity Yoga studio located in Maple Ridge, BC. It’s owned and operated by Lisa, who goes by the moniker The Fat Yogini! With a name like that, I HAD to go to her class, and I absolutely loved it. There are other teachers as well, and a number of great classes and workshops offered. Although I was attracted to the fat-positivity, the classes are for people of all shapes and sizes.

I can’t tell you how much I love my time there. Being in a fat-positive, body-positive space for yoga is so liberating and affirming that I truly feel like I am doing something great for both my body and soul. Physical health AND mental health.  I’m all about that.

Check it out: www.bodypositivityyoga.com

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Lisa, The Fat Yogini!

Lisa, The Fat Yogini!

 

 

Guest Outfit Post: Flash

I’m very excited for today’s guest post! My friend Flash and I were talking body acceptance recently and he shared some super interesting thoughts on the body image of the “short, skinny man,” as he identifies.  I asked him to do a guest post and to write about his experience with body image, and he graciously agreed. Thanks so much Flash! (More pics below his written piece)

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There’s a stigma to being a short, skinny man. It is, obviously, not as extreme as the prevalent destructive attitudes toward fat women. Small men aren’t blamed for their size and made to feel guilty, and men’s appearance is, generally, far less socially important than women’s. It’s undeniable, however, that the small man faces a prejudice: he’s less of a man.

Predictably, I felt this stigma most sharply when I was an adolescent, when I was least secure, and when my peers, male and female, tended to have the most simplistic (ie: stupid) ideas about masculinity. Even at that vulnerable time, however, the consequences for me were muted. I was privileged in many other ways and had many other resources to draw upon in forming a confident identity, so being the smallest boy in the class, year after year, never mattered much.

One of the most important of those other resources was having a very socially successful older sister (not successful in the sense of being superficially cool, but, rather, having real friends and being respected and genuinely liked). She consistently affirmed for me my value as a person and as a man (well, man-to-be). One of the ways she did this was buying a cool article of clothing for me once in a while. A groovy shirt chosen by my even groovier sister communicated a clear message: I deserve to feel good about the way I look. Yet another message, which she communicated in subtle ways all the time, is that I’m more than my appearance, and that masculinity is connected to multifaceted other qualities, such as intelligence, humour, and generosity.

The most disturbing and dangerous feature of our ideas about masculinity, one that ramifies in difficult ways for small men, involves violence. Popular and high culture both tell us that a man must be capable of violence. I’ll cite just one example, from the charming film Back to the Future. Young Marty McFly journeys to the past, where he meets his parents as teenagers. With Marty’s help, his father, George, finds the courage to face up to a bully, with violence. His violent act changes his life, as we see when Marty returns to the present to find his father dramatically altered, no longer a cowardly loser, but a confident, successful man. Attempting to solve the bully problem by punching him out is frequently, however, not the best course of action, and for the short skinny man, it’s usually simply unrealistic. If the small man is influenced by this retrograde notion of masculinity, then, he must find some way to compensate, or he needs to accept being less of a man.

The small man stigma that was never very important to me has faded into utter triviality as I’ve aged. People do tend to get smarter as they grow up, it seems. I still sometimes encounter men needing to assert themselves with violence in order to prove something to themselves. It’s very easy to walk away.

The hat: faux Panama, purchased at a small town market in France, made from cellulose rather than the traditional (and far superior) straw Panama made in Ecuador. The sunglasses: top bar style, made in Italy. The shirt: fine featherwale corduroy, 100% cotton, with lined cuffs and shoulder yoke, designed in France, made in Morocco. The belt: unlined leather with square brass heel-roller buckle, made in Canada. The pants: flat front 100% cotton chinos with slash pockets, made in Egypt. The socks: wool-nylon blend German yarn, four-needle technique, with ribbed cuffs, boutique designed and made in Kamloops, BC. The watch: vintage 1953 mechanical, original brass expanding band, made in the USA. The shoes: single strap monks with brass buckle, made in Italy. The model posing with me: stunning (made in Canada). I haven’t mentioned the brands, and I don’t wear clothing with visible logos. That doesn’t amount to much in the way of  resistance to corporate control, but it makes me feel better. Cheers, Flash

The hat: faux Panama, purchased at a small town market in France, made from cellulose rather than the traditional (and far superior) straw Panama made in Ecuador.
The sunglasses: top bar style, made in Italy.
The shirt: fine featherwale corduroy, 100% cotton, with lined cuffs and shoulder yoke, designed in France, made in Morocco.
The belt: unlined leather with square brass heel-roller buckle, made in Canada.
The pants: flat front 100% cotton chinos with slash pockets, made in Egypt.
The socks: wool-nylon blend German yarn, four-needle technique, with ribbed cuffs, boutique designed and made in Kamloops, BC.
The watch: vintage 1953 mechanical, original brass expanding band, made in the USA.
The shoes: single strap monks with brass buckle, made in Italy.
The model posing with me: stunning (made in Canada).
I haven’t mentioned the brands, and I don’t wear clothing with visible logos. That doesn’t amount to much in the way of resistance to corporate control, but it makes me feel better.
Cheers,
Flash

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The Dream

I had a vivid dream the other night. I was standing in a small room with three young fashion models. The room was on one of the top floors of a skyscraper, and one whole side of the building was missing. It was just open, like a doll house, and you could literally walk to the edge of the floor and peer down at the street below. The models and I didn’t seem to think it was unusual. At the point I first remember the dream, I was in the middle of a discussion with the models. I was looking at them and saying “but you do eat right? I mean, you eat don’t you?” I was almost begging them, pleading with them to reassure me. For some reason, I felt I needed to know that there were people in the world who were naturally very tall and thin, and who didn’t starve themselves. I needed to know that there was no reason to feel resentful, or sad, or depressed about the fashion industry, that fashion models were just born that way, and that was cool. Two of the models looked at me and nodded “Oh yeah, we eat” they said. They seemed convincing and I believed them. I could feel a wave of relief come over me, but then I looked at the third model. She was an unhappy looking girl with big eyes and long, dark hair. “No, I don’t eat” she said smugly, as though this was obvious and the question was ridiculous. My heart sank. Her words crushed me, yet I knew she was the only one in the room telling me the truth. The two other girls looked down, shamefully, confirming their previous lie. It was at that moment that I realized I was holding a butterscotch pudding in my hand. And a spoon. I looked down at it. My back was facing the open side of the building and as I looked down at my pudding, I felt a sense of acceptance, an acceptance of the bitter truth. I contemplated stepping off the side of the building, and just as I had ruled it out as a horrible and terrifying idea, I opened the pudding, readied my spoon, and gently stepped off the edge of the building, back first. As my foot left the edge of the building I dug into my pudding, determined to enjoy as much as I could before I hit the ground. Simultaneously, I was observing my surroundings whizzing past me and wondering how long I had. I shoveled the pudding in, enjoying every bite and musing at the fact that my fall was lasting longer than I had anticipated. I had no idea how long such a fall would feel, and it seemed like I had a few more seconds than I had anticipated. As the seconds passed, I knew the ground was nearing and I wondered if I would feel any pain. I convinced myself that death would be too quick and too sudden and that I would feel nothing. Just at the moment where I expected to hit the ground, my dream changed, and I started to fly.

The Dark Days of Fashion

The fashion industry confuses me. They say that fashion design is art, and I believe them wholeheartedly. But what I don’t understand is how a form of art can be so narrow-minded.

When I think about art, I think about imagination, innovation, and creativity. I think of artists as people who push boundaries, are curious, and who ask questions.  I also think about art as being a reflection of life. Sometimes that reflection might be raw and real, or sometimes it’ll be crazy and fanciful. What I don’t think about when it comes to art is it being all…..one note. Fashion design is all one note to me because it’s all about one body type.

I understand that in designers’ collections the clothes are often unique and different, but the people wearing them are SO the same.  All very tall and very thin and very beautiful, by conventional standards (their standards, I guess).  And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with that body type, but I’m always left wondering “Where is the imagination and innovation and creativity? Where is the reflection of the diversity of life?” I mean, I thought this was art!

To me, designing for only one body type is like painting on only one canvass, a canvass that’s always the same size and always the same dimensions. And I wonder, as artists, don’t fashion designers ever get curious about what their art might look like on a larger canvass? Or a smaller one? Or, fuck, doesn’t anyone ever want to just get out the spray paint and paint on the nearest brick wall? I mean, why not really push the boundaries? It seems to me that designers are interested in extremes when it comes to body size, but why only one extreme? What about the other extreme? What about the in-between? And why are they all doing the same thing???

Now, I realize that there are plus-size designers out there, and the more I learn about plus size fashion, the more I get to know them, and love them. But they feel really few and far between, and their work definitely doesn’t make an appearance in my everyday life, like I wish it would.

The thing is, I don’t understand why anyone hasn’t started to really challenge the status quo in design. If designers set the trends, then can’t they do whatever the hell they want? People don’t have to like it, but if people are never exposed to anything different, then how can they decide?

Yep, I feel like it’s the dark days of fashion, people. I guess it’s up to us to show them the light.

Fat Lady Climbs Mountain

I did the Grouse Grind today for the first time. For those of you who don’t live in British Columbia, Canada, the Grind is a grueling 1.8 mile hike straight up a mountain.  It consists of 2,830 stairs and is known as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” To put this in perspective, I’ve never used a “man-made” stairmaster.

But I do exercise. Daily.  I feel like as a fat woman, people might assume that I don’t exercise. I imagine they think that if I did (hard enough and regularly enough) I wouldn’t be fat.  That’s not my experience.  Unhealthy dieting makes me lose weight. Exercise doesn’t. It just makes me feel good.

I decided to do the Grouse Grind because I’d heard a lot about it and, honestly, I was curious. People talk about how hard and horrible it is (“You think you’re going to die and then you realize you’re only at the ¼ mark!”), so it’s not that I really wanted to do it, but I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Also, I’m always looking for new, interesting life experiences.  So I committed to climb.

The funny thing is, I surprised myself. Instead of hating it and wanting to die like I expected, I actually enjoyed it. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was hard! But it was also exhilarating and beautiful. And, most importantly, I set my own pace and I did it my way. If I wanted to go really slow, I did. If I wanted to stop and rest, I did. I didn’t let the pressure of other hikers zooming past me influence my enjoyment of the experience, or my view of myself.  I listened to my body and I let it make the decisions.

For most of my life, exercise has been a dirty word. It meant dieting. It meant weight loss. It meant judgment.  But now that I’ve thrown that out the window and decided to exercise my way, at my own pace, for my own reasons, it’s started to take on a whole new meaning. Surprisingly, joy.