The “No Diet Talk” Rule in Meatspace

meowser-48.jpg  posted by meowser

Fillyjonk’s post about how nice it is to have a group of girlfriends who can talk about clothes and exercise — or hell, anything — without it degenerating into a giant pile of “I have to lose XX pounds” this and “obesity epidemic” that — just made me all kinds of rainy-day sad. Because I don’t have a group of friends like that IRL, and I want one SO MUCH.

OK, I don’t lack friends entirely. Heck, even my XH is friendly with me. We even do stuff sometimes. I have some very nice neighbors and acquaintances. I even have some “real” friends who are just super-busy with other things (caring for sick parents out of town and so forth) who I just don’t get to see that often. And friends scattered throughout the country who I get to see and have fun with when I’m in their town or they’re in mine. But a group of girlfriends in town who I can talk to about anything, who I feel totally safe with, who aren’t going to sandbag every conversation with Fat Bad talk? I can only dream.

Granted, I’m an unusual case even without being an unrepentant fatass. I telecommute and have for most of the 2-1/2 years I’ve lived in Portland. And as it is I am probably severely underemployed for my level of skill, which means that even when I do go out to work I am largely overlooked or thought of as a weirdo (don’t believe it for a minute when you hear that everyone here is eccentric, it’s absolutely false). I also don’t have children, which is the way most women in their 40s seem to bond with other women. Nor do I drink much or smoke pot, which seem to practically be social requirements here if you are not a member of the soccer-mom set, but which just don’t seem to agree with me. Aaaaand to top it all off, I am just discovering that I have Asperger traits, which doesn’t make me dangerous or anything, just somewhat assbackwards socially at times. It doesn’t seem to be any accident that I met my current boyfriend, my XH, and at least one other serious boyfriend through personals ads. People have an easier time, it seems, “getting” me through writing than through speech, eye contact, body language, etc. (I often half-joke that the reason I write is because I can’t talk, but seriously, being able to edit my thoughts before they’re made public, is fahkineleet.)

Which means that I might actually have a more difficult time than most people who want to forge no-diet-talk friendships. It’s entirely possible that I might come across as somewhat of a martinet when I talk about this stuff, because it really is triggering for me. So maybe those of you with better developed social skill sets than mine (that would be most of you, probably) can help me out here. How do you, or have you, made these kinds of close friends who live in town during the course of your adulthood, and/or learned to be more forgiving of people who “aren’t there yet” in terms of size acceptance?

Because truly, this is driving me batty. I keep thinking maybe I need to smoke pot anyway even if it means I forget my name or trip over my own feet for a week afterwards, just so I won’t be rejected as a narc. (If you smoke it, fine; I just don’t want to, or have the smell hanging around my house.) I keep thinking maybe I need to move to Chicago, where so many cool fat people I know reside (probably a more realistic goal than becoming a pothead, actually). But PDX is home of Fat Girl Speaks and yes, a haven for nonconformists even if we don’t necessarily dominate the culture, and in theory it shouldn’t be that difficult for me to cultivate a loving circle of fat-friendly friends. But in practice, it may well be true that I simply don’t know how to broach the subject live and in person without being All Weird About It. So if you know how not to be All Weird About It, or how to be All Weird About It and like it, please do share.

In the meantime, if you’re anywhere near Portland, or plan to be, please do look me up if you have the urge (e-addy is in my “About” tag). I don’t bite, honest, except for actual comestibles.

30 Responses to “The “No Diet Talk” Rule in Meatspace”

  1. fillyjonk Says:

    Aw, I didn’t mean to make you sad! You’re a musician — is there a local open mic scene? Because that’s how I met almost all my local friends. The two I was talking to last night, our boyfriends are in a band together. Cacie, the originator of “To hell with tiny pants,” is a musician, and so’s the somewhat crazier friend I mentioned in the same post.

  2. meowser Says:

    Yeah, there is a local open mic scene. I have barely begun to dip my toe into it, and haven’t performed yet, just sat there silently and took it all in (Aspie, remember? :-P). Maybe I need to stop being such a weenie and actually perform. Gulp.

  3. fillyjonk Says:

    I mean, taking it slow is fine. But around here, at least, performing is what makes people aware of you, and providing and asking for backup is how friendships get formed. I was lucky enough to be able to come into a fairly well-established group via my boyfriend, so I didn’t feel like I had to “prove” myself musically, but I’ve seen other people come in and get absorbed and initially it’s not about social aptitude so much as it is about performance and collaboration.

    We might be an unusual scene in that few of our musicians are offputtingly “cool” — they’re a bunch of scientists, gamers, and Renfest geeks primarily. But I’m not sure that’s unusual at all.

  4. Rachel Says:

    I know what you mean, fatfu. And I feel much the same way.

    I’ve never been one to have a group of friends, outside the geek boy clique I hung around in high school, who all went separate ways after graduation. My best friend throughout high school and for a few years afterward broke up our friendship when she realized she had a crush on me, moved away, and although we’ve recently reunited, the friendship now consists mostly of MySpace greetings. The fact that she has a child and an impending child doesn’t help things, either. My other best friend has children, and lives about an hour away, which relegates our friendship, too, to emails and blog postings. My closest friend now is my husband, who technically doesn’t count as a girlfriend, and my sister, who is now more interested in partying with kids her age than with me, her older, boring, non-drinking sister.

    Most of the people I do know, I know from classes or from work. But that’s not to say we hang out after work or class. Plus, between work and school, I don’t have time to hang out with anyone, really.

    I used to think there was something wrong with me that would explain why I’ve never had many friends. I wondered if I am just too unlikable, too weird, too opinionated, too selfish. I am friendly with a lot of people, and have lots of acquaintances, but I rarely become close friends with anyone. I used to blame this on my weight – that maybe I was just too fat to have friends. But, as I found out after I lost weight, fatness has nothing to do with it.

    Based on the Think Tank, Chicago does indeed seem to be a mecca for cool fat people. I’d move, too, but it’s too damn cold there.

  5. meowser Says:

    Thanks, Rachel — just for the record, though, it was my post, not Fu’s. (See? No wonder I can’t make friends, I’m always correcting people!) Given the number of people who say they don’t have many confidantes according to national surveys, there may be more of us than we imagine. People are just crazy busy, it seems, unless they are like me and have gone out of their way not to be crazy busy.

  6. art3mis Says:

    I know this is probably going to sound lame, but are there any local clubs or community activities you would be interested in? It’s a bit of a crapshoot, but I’ve met some pretty cool people that way, and bonus, I already know that they’re interested in at least one thing I’m interested in. I find it works better if you go in with low expectations, so that if you do meet a potential friend, it’s a bonus, and in the meantime you’re enjoying the common activity. For example, we have a sci-fi book club at work (I know, total geeks) and I really enjoy the people there, and am now close friends with one of them. I took an ice-skating class once, and no one there talked to anyone, and that was it (but I learned some cool moves). It’s hit and miss, but better than nothing. There are other people out there trying to connect too.

  7. Paul Says:

    Meowzer, this is a great post and I’m looking forward to the discussion it brings forth. Bringing the “no diet” rule into real life seems exceedingly difficult and is.

  8. Rachel Says:

    Sorry Meowser! Maybe you two need avatars. I never even notice the byline.

  9. sweetmachine Says:

    Meowser, no one knew who was posting at SP until we started using icons — don’t feel bad!

    This one’s a tough one for me; I don’t really have any advice. I make casual friends reasonably easily, but as for people I hang out with a lot and feel close to? I usually only have one (in meatspace, that is) at a time. I honestly don’t know how to go about seeking that kind of friend, because for me it’s usually a matter of just clicking with someone pretty early on — which is entirely based on luck. Sorry, I don’t mean to be nattering on about myself! I just wanted to pop in and say that even for people without some of the isolating factors you’ve mentioned, it can be really hard to make friends you trust.

  10. meowser Says:

    I thought I did have an avatar (it’s my cat’s face, which you can see at my first comment above), but I don’t know how to get it to “stick” to my blogposts. Any WordPress experts out there?

  11. withoutscene Says:

    My situation is so similar to yours, Rachel, that it’s funny. I have lived here three years and am just now starting to have friends that I talk to and doing things with more regularly outside of school (is it something about academia?) or general groups, let alone friends who are women or women who don’t participate in diet talk. My best friend also got kind of weird and moved away (she had moved here with me), and we are just starting to reconcile. My other best friends live 2 1/2 hours away, as does my family. My boyfriend, who moved here to be with me, is who I hang out with most of the time. My best male friend, other than the bf, just started a “weight loss challenge,” and he is generally emotionally unavailable. I have one girlfriend here I’m starting to get close to who seems to understand my perspective, and she’s from school. There is even a woman from Fatshionista who lives in my town; we converse on LJ, but we have never met. I think we are both afraid we won’t click IRL and it will ruin the camaraderie we do have.
    I tend to think people don’t like me, and perhaps that’s part of the problem with me getting to know people. I feel like it takes awhile for people to “get” me, if they ever do. Honestly, I don’t often even think to call people to do things because generally I’ve gotten used to not having anyone to call. If anyone figures out the secret to meeting and befriending other odd, weird, quirky people (who preferably are also body positive), let me know.

  12. bbrugger Says:

    I’m down in Corvallis, if you ever have reason to be out this way I would totally meet up and honor the no-diet-talk rule. I’m on my way out of town for the holiday week (to the land of eeek, dial up only) but will try to shoot you an email when I get back.

    Tonight I momentarily confused a waiter by telling him I didn’t want the side of fries with my meal.

    “Are you being good?”

    “Nope, it’s tactical. I already know which dessert I want and I’m planning my assault.”

    He kind of blinked at me, and then went on.

    Diet talk really is like conversational kudzu, if you let it in the damn stuff gets everywhere and can overwhelm everything.

  13. meowser Says:

    “I’m planning my assault.” HAHAHAHAHAHA! I’d probably have said, “I already ate a bathtub full of fries today, I’m sick of them,” but yours is better. And yeah, I’d make the trip to Corvallis, you betcha. Enjoy your holiday and talk to you when you get back!

  14. byrneout Says:

    “Are you being good?”

    Honey, when I’m being good, you’ll know it.

    [No. He doesn't deserve that. But it's fun to think about.]

  15. nuckingfutz Says:

    Meowser, I don’t have any advice for you, but as I said over at SP, I know how you feel.

    It’s weird, though – because before we moved here, I had friends coming out of my guzunga (my mom’s word, don’tcha love it? :) ). I could be standing in line at the bank and start talking to someone and make a friend. Not here, though. I can talk to people, sure… but actually making a friendship out of it? Ain’t happenin’. I don’t know why, really. Sometimes I seriously wonder if it isn’t my nationality (there’s an innate hatred of all things American here, even if they’re not even American [lots of things get attributed to us that we didn't even start, like Halloween for example]). Whatever the reason, I’m like you. I have one friend, and that’s it. When I do get to go out, I’m usually with her and her family – who, I should say, are a bunch of great people, but it would be nice to have more than ONE friend in the world.

    I should say, though, that I like art3mis’s idea. Even if you didn’t make any friends (although of course I’d be hoping you did), you’d get out and get to do something fun! :D

  16. Pam Says:

    I’m struck by your post because I have a son with some Aspergers characteristics and because someone asked me recently a question about how friendships should work and I said I didn’t know. What has helped me most is various ways in which people make a commitment to spend time together to talk about spiritual things. I had a group at work once, and we were from very diferent traditions. If you are not religious but not strongly opposed to anything like religion try the Unitarians–they tend to be a place to meet interesting people who care about more than being rich and thin. I trained as a spiritual director (http://www.shalem.org/extension_programs/spiritual_guidance) and that gives me a structured way to have deep friendships.

  17. deeleigh Says:

    Here are some ideas for dealing with diet / exercise talk:

    1. Steer the conversation in a HAES direction: “Don’t you think that how you feel is so much more important than the number on the scale?”
    2. Start a debate about dieting.
    3. Roll your eyes and change the subject, saying that you’re really bored with that type of conversation and/or that you’re not into dieting.
    4. Act supportive in a really condescending way: “Oh, well I hope that works out for you.” If they try to recruit you, just say “I don’t diet.” If they say “It’s not a diet – it’s a healthy lfestyle,” say “I’ve worked on nutrition/fitness quite a bit and am happy with the results.”

    After a while, people will not raise the topic in front of you anymore, because what you have to say about it makes them uncomfortable.

  18. littlem Says:

    Open mic. Yup.

    Perform.

    *nods sagely*

    You all have coffeehouses in Portland. I saw “Rock Star”. :D

    Or, perhaps less terrifying, you could do press or promotions or sound or remixes for some of your other friends that perform.

    Or join a book club if you like to read.

    I think one of the reasons we females do “fat/diet talk” is to have something common to bond over (in addition to kids if we have them). So I think, at core, it’s about having something else to bond over and discuss.

  19. Naomi Says:

    Yeah…I think littlem may be right, that diet talk may be seen as a simple way to bond, at least by some people. It doesn’t come up among my friends, who are generally body-positive, and we tend to talk about knitting and recipes and science and books and various other things. (A few of my friends have intentionally lost weight/stopped gaining weight, but it was either just not talked about or explained as not having money to buy new clothes if their current clothes stopped fitting.) I feel really lucky.

  20. Autumn Says:

    I’ve had a lot of luck with “semi-conversions” among my friends. I make the friend first based on how they treat me. As in, if someone diets themselves that is doable, but someone who would comment on my food intake? Death. Bye bye.

    After that, I bring up various news stories and explain my problem with them. It was sort of scary doing this at first, feeling like my closest old friends might reject me. But even the most diet-embroiled ones have started drifting my way—and they don’t ever engage me in anything more diet-talky than “I lost weight” or “I gained weight” and leave it at that. They’ve learned I don’t think it’s an important feat.

    Best of luck!

  21. zack Says:

    With all of the articles written daily about the difficulty of finding right sized clothing there are at least 4000 Big and Tall Men’s or Plus Sized Women’s clothing stores right here in the USA. There are also hundreds of online clothing merchants for large people. Sure, sometimes you have to try on a couple dozen pair of jeans to find one that comes close but at least you know how they are going to fit before you leave the store. Some stores will even make a computer template of your shape and make clothes guaranteed to fit. So all things considered, you should be able to find clothing that fits appropriately.
    So who is addressing all of the other products and accessories that can make the impossible/possible and the uncomfortable/enjoyable? How many products have you seen with the usable weight capacity clearly marked on the box? Products that help you live a full and satisfying life at whatever weight and size you might happen to be? Products that cater to heavier weight capacities and are built Ford Truck Tough!
    Try the MySizeUSA.com web site. Not only do they sell products for Big Beautiful Women and Big Handsome Men they also have a Big Kids category. Ironically many of these Big Kids products are also right sized for adults to encourage a little fun family home night competition.
    So if you are tired of plodding through endless malls where you already know that portable beach chairs, bicycles, and pretty much everything else will be built for someone other than you, than give MySizeUSA.com a try. Besides, you won’t have to try anything on in a micro sized dressing room also built for someone other than you.

  22. Meowser Says:

    Interesting information, Zack, but not really relevant to the topic at hand. I’m leaving it up, though, as part of a general plea to you and everyone else to please email the site administrators about fat-related sites and articles you’d like to see discussed here, rather than posting about them. Thanks!

  23. vesta44 Says:

    He’s been posting the same thing on a lot of the blogs I read. I see it as an advertisement, and think it’s pretty rude to copy and paste the exact same thing to a lot of blogs without asking if it’s okay. If I like the site and think it’s worthwhile for others to look at, I’ll link to it, but I would like to be asked first (he hasn’t posted on my blog, but I have comment moderation enabled, so that may have stopped him, since I would have to approve the post before it shows up). I noticed when you click on his name, it takes you to the website, so there’s no way to contact him, other than through the website itself.

  24. kateharding Says:

    First, administrative things:

    1) Zack is definitely a spammer. I deleted the same comment the other day. Which is sad, since the site he’s plugging might actually be cool, if I didn’t hate spammers.

    2) We add the icons to each post every time (which is why mine go up with no photo half the time, until I remember). You can either link to a tiny picture and left justify it, which will make the text wrap, or use the following table (courtesy of fillyjonk), only with angle brackets instead of square:
    [table width="75" border="0" align="left" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="0"]
    [tr][td]
    [img src="LINK TO IMAGE HERE"]
    [/td][/tr]
    [/table]

    Now, on to the important question…

    I’m going to ask Shapelings to give you more input than you’re getting here, and I wish I had more to offer myself. Want to do an MFA in writing? ‘Cause the vast majority of the good friends I’ve made in the last few years came from Vermont College — the low-residency format is actually great for making close friends, counterintuitive though it may seem, because you’re stuck in this instantly intimate, summer campy environment for 10 days at a time. In a normal program, it might take you months to figure out who you want to hang out with, but in that pressure cooker, everybody seemed to sort it out in, like, two days. (And I can’t think of anyone who didn’t make friends in that environment.) 2 and a half years after graduation, those are still some of my closest friends, including ones who don’t live in Chicago. And as a bonus, diet talk was never bad because we were all too busy talking about our obsession with writing — and since I’ve “come out” as a fat activist, all of my friends from there have been incredibly cool with it.

    Now, “get an MFA” is obviously tongue-in-cheek advice, but there are ideas you could extrapolate from that. The key elements are a group of like-minded people and a closed environment. There just aren’t many opportunities for adults to have that experience, and I can’t even tell you how different it is from trying to make friends in the day-to-day. So, like, could you volunteer to help get the 2008 Fat Girl Speaks together, maybe? Get involved with a community theatre project? Something like that?

    Finally, as others have said, open mic nights are definitely a good idea. Whether you perform or not isn’t even an issue — what works is that you keep going back religiously. Many of Al’s friends in Minneapolis (including the one who introduced us) center around a jazz club he used to go to every Tuesday night, without fail, for years. (Not for an open mic, just to hear music and drink.) Now, the owners, doorman, bartenders and cocktail waitresses are like family to him. And it really IS like family; a bunch of people of different ages and backgrounds who just love him because… he’s part of the group. Which just happened because he showed up, and kept showing up. My boy’s got some Aspie tendencies himself, and he’s as likely to sit at the bar checking e-mail on his phone as he is to talk to people, but between doing their website for them and just being there every damn week, he became as much a part of things as the employees, who are all like family to the owners (which might also be a crucial part of this scenario). And when he said he was moving to Chicago to be with some girl, only a couple months after we met, those were the people who got protective and tried to talk some sense into him — which I appreciate, though I also appreciate that they failed. :) (And now they’ve totally embraced me, too.)

    If I have any other thoughts, I’ll put ‘em on my blog.

  25. Meowser Says:

    Wow, everyone here has great ideas and thoughts! Thanks so much! I will definitely be exploring the open mic scene here more and seeing which ones I feel most at home at.

    N.B. Stacy Bias says the next Fat Girl Speaks will be 2009.

  26. Gina Says:

    Well, I’m into sci-fi stuff, paganism, and poly, all of which are fairly open communities and fat accepting. Unfortunately, on the east coast (I live in CA now), you really have to hunt for the good communities. I find that the people I meet in the communities of interest are more interested in talking about other things rather than their weight loss regimes.

  27. AnnieMcPhee Says:

    Good luck, Meowser; I’m a recluse really. My husband and I are happier alone or alone together. I make some friends at work, and last week was really nice – I worked with an awesome fat woman who does not bother about dieting except in relation to her diabetes, and another woman who was older than me – 60 – who smokes and acknowledges being rather sickly. So there was no pressure there to diet or necessity to be “healthy” to be accepted. They just took me as I was. I’m on the night shift now with a woman who thinks she is “disgusting” because she “has to – HAS TO” lose weight for her son’s wedding, and I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with that, but I’ve managed to tell her not to feel bad about failing on diets before, because 98% of them fail. She said it wasn’t an option this time, as she HAS TO lose the weight. Whatever.

    At my last job I had one close friend who did ask a lot of questions about my weight – but she was an Indonesian immigrant and she honestly meant no harm at all by it; she was trying to be close to me, and I’m not embarrassed, so I just answered her questions when she’d ask them. She ended up able to open up to me about her truly awful life situation right now, and she desperately needed that – if I’d been touchy about the weight, she wouldn’t have been able to unburden herself. So try to realize where people are coming from and sympathize with them, even if they don’t understand yet.

    I don’t participate in diet talk, and will just say “Ok, that’s it for me then, I’m out of this one” if it comes up. Then go do something else. If they get curious I’ll explain it all to them.

    Ok, except for the woman across the street – I send her desserts and nice things I make sometimes, and she just LOVES it. She was an instant friend because we moved into my husband’s childhood home and he’s known her all his life. Came to find out she’s a WW member, and she enjoys her meetings, but doesn’t do the diet most of the time. They usually exchange recipes there, she said. Heh. At any rate, she’s not a WW evangelist, and she’s really sweet – it’s a social network for her, and since she just lost her daughter last year, she needs the company. So I would never say anything to her – but I will keep sending her good things :) (By the way, this is one reason the term “feeder” threw me for a loop – I had thought it was that you like to feed people, which I do. It’s a form of kindness. Never knew it was associated with a fetish. Eek!)

    Meowser, I would ask one thing – are you genuinely unhappy being somewhat more solitary than some people, or are you just sick of people talking diets all the time? I wouldn’t know what to do with a group of friends – I really do prefer to stay home or just go somewhere with my husband, somewhere quiet. But I was always a loner to a degree.

  28. meowser Says:

    Meowser, I would ask one thing – are you genuinely unhappy being somewhat more solitary than some people, or are you just sick of people talking diets all the time?

    Oh, I think it’s a little of column A and a little of column B. I don’t really mind going places alone or just hanging out with C. But I also don’t want to be completely dependent on C. for support and fun. I don’t particularly need a rip-roaring social life, but a few people to hang with a couple of times a month might be nice.

    I probably will start going to open mikes fairly soon. The weather here has been a serious deterrent and I’ve had a flareup of a low back problem besides, but I actually went to a monthly songwriters’ group meeting recently and had a good time and my ass didn’t hurt too badly afterwards, so maybe I’m over that, uh, hump.

  29. littlem Says:

    “I probably will start going to open mikes fairly soon.”

    “N.B. Stacy Bias says the next Fat Girl Speaks will be 2009.”

    So … ???

    (Yes, I nag. I am a Virgo. This is what we do.)

  30. meowser Says:

    Heh. I’ve checked and there’s no FGS 2009 on the schedule just yet. So maybe I’ve got some time to get my voice in shape.


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