What Does Health Care Reform Really Mean to American Fatasses? Part 2: Working Us To Death

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Part 1 is here. (And everyone who commented on that post, thank you so much, it was great to read your stories. And if you haven’t left a comment yet and want to, feel free.)

Last year, Sara Robinson posted two articles, both of which I highly recommend, on “mythbusting Canadian health care” for the site Ourfuture.org. Robinson, who has dual citizenship in Canada and the U.S. and currently lives in British Columbia, spoke of her experiences in both systems in part I; in part II, she shoots down what she considers to be the most pernicious “free marketeer” myths surrounding both Canadian and other forms of universal health care. There’s plenty of great stuff there, but there’s one passage in the first article that particularly struck me, when she was talking about Canada’s attitudes towards health versus America’s:

[T]here’s a somewhat larger awareness that stress leads to big-ticket illnesses — and a somewhat lower cultural tolerance for employers who put people in high-stress situations. Nobody wants to pick up the tab for their greed.

It got me thinking. How many health problems (of both body and mind) in this country stem from the fact that we work people to fucking death here? Because really, we do. Other than a lucky few with relatively cushy jobs, we work people to fucking death. Pretty much literally. And proudly. And anyone who can’t, or won’t, be worked to death is more or less just stood out at the curb with the broken highchairs.

Not, of course, that you have to have a full-time job (or, yikes, more than one, as many Americans must to pay for just the basics) to be worked to death. Full-time parents get worked to death — no highballs and bonbons here, you’d better be stuffing your child’s brain with learning and nurturing every damn second, or risk being royally snubbed. Ditto caregivers who are expected to be there for free to care for seriously ailing partners or family members, in addition to everything else they have to do to survive. People with disabilities get worked to death too, what with second shift for the sick and all.

Oh, and if you have a partial disability, rather than one that prevents you from working at all, you get virtually nothing but sneers for being lazy and wanting people to take care of you. It can’t possibly have anything to do with using up your spoons (or, if your disability has to do with brain function, colored spoons). No no no. If you can do something sometimes, you must be able to do it all the time, or you are a big faker! You know no one will believe you, much less give you any aid. So you try, and you try, and you try try try and try, and you still can’t make it through even half of the sixteen-hour action-packed day after day after day that’s expected of you as an American. Faker.

It’s even more festive when your particular disability doesn’t allow you to get a job with benefits OR qualify for free or reduced-cost health care, and therefore you don’t even know exactly what your disability is, much less how to manage it — only that you can’t hack it like you see everyone else doing. The only way you “deserve” health care in America is to be ready, willing, and able to be worked to death. Right now. And forever, or at least until nobody wants to employ your aging worn-out ass any longer.

That’s what happened to both of my in-laws when I was married. My FIL had a job for decades as a postal carrier, schlepping bags of mail over hill and dale, until his knees gave out for good. Did he ever have the nads to complain? Are you kidding? He thought he had it made, right up until the day when getting up for a glass of water became excruciating. My MIL had a government job that called for oodles of overtime; in theory she could have refused — or even retired, once she hit 65 — but didn’t dare. She did the OT, then rushed home to care for her sick husband, who was in the hospital every blasted week, it seemed, as a result of a septic illness that cost him 100 pounds in six months. Then she keeled over of a heart attack.

Was she, an aging fat woman, a big old drain on the health care system? Well, let’s put it this way. When the coroner first came out, he couldn’t put a cause of death on her certificate because she hadn’t received enough medical attention for anyone to know what was wrong with her. I had seen her lipid panel recently, though, and it was hella nasty (her brother had had a quadruple bypass at about the same age she was then, and both her parents had died young of heart attacks).

And she was out of breath just walking 50 feet on flat ground to her car. I begged her to go to the damn doctor. She said no, the last time she went all they did was tell her to lose weight and it would go away. My protestations that most fat people, even her age, don’t get out of breath walking to their cars unless something is really wrong with their lungs — and that therefore, her doctor’s answer was unacceptable — went unheeded. I even offered to go with her and make sure she got the attention she needed. Still no. She couldn’t. Her office needed her. Her husband needed her. Soon, though, there would be no “her” for anyone to need, and she just did not see it coming.

At her funeral, right around what would have been her 67th birthday, I cannot tell you how many people came up to me and said, “I had no idea she was under that much stress. If I did, I’d have offered to help her, maybe I could have watched her husband for her while she went to a movie or did something for herself. But she never said anything. She just smiled and pretended everything was fine.”

And these were people who had health coverage. Pretty danged decent health coverage, near as I could tell. But they were victims of the workaholic culture. Just keep pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing. Don’t let anyone know you’re breaking down even if you are. Do not whine, and do not foist any “drama” on people. (Except, of course, for the people closest to you or those beneath you at work, who you can feel free to take out your frustrations on. At which point they, too, will have to find a human dumping ground for their frustrations, and on and on and on.)

Then, of course, there are migrant workers, who live an average of 49 years — sacrificing almost three decades compared to “normal” lifespan to bring us the endless bags of veggies and fruits we demand to keep our middle-class bodies all healthy and stuff. Parasite, meet host. I swear, the next snotty yuppie who has the guff to go on and on in my presence about how “those people” (i.e. people who have the gall to earn less than $50,000 a year) Eat Soooo Much Junk is gonna get a fair trade banana stuck in hir ear. Which sie will have to go to an emergency room to remove, and thanks to down-triaging will have to sit there in the waiting room with a banana in hir ear for five hours while everyone else points and laughs. Especially migrant workers’ kids.

Then there was the matter of my having to leave a job because my officemate insisted on coming to work with every bug known to upright simians, even when everyone begged her to stay home. She said she couldn’t afford to stay home sick, even though we worked for the same company and got the same benefits and I knew nobody was allowed to cash out sick leave. This job was in a hospital complex, mind you, where we shared elevators with the patients, many of whom were little kids, or adults who were severely immune compromised. Catching a virus that seemed like nothing to her could have killed one of them. She knew. She did not care. She was convinced no one could do without her for even a day or two, that taking off work would put her in the poorhouse, and no exposure to reality would convince her otherwise. Work work work work work.

We hear all the time about lazy, lazy people — especially fatties! — who won’t get off their butts and do anything for themselves. Sure, they exist, but I think they’re pretty rare compared to all the people who are just trashed from all their responsibilities. Even the people I know with good jobs and money, especially if they have kids, they’re just wiped out nowadays. They’re in all kinds of pain. They need a four-week nap just to reset themselves, and they won’t ever get it. And the people with bad jobs and even less money are even more wiped out, by orders of magnitude.

And as Sara Robinson notes, doctors in America get worked to death too:

My doctor in California worked a 70-hour week: 35 hours seeing patients, and another 35 hours on the phone arguing with insurance companies. My Canadian doctor, on the other hand, works a 35-hour week, period. She files her invoices online, and the vast majority are simply paid — quietly, quickly, and without hassle.

Do we have it in us to change? I mean, I’m sure there are plenty of workaholics and super-double-busies in other countries too, but how many countries are there where a 35-hour a week job, with retirement at age 65, won’t ipso facto be enough to cover basic expenses? How many countries are there where, as Sara Robinson mentions, people are “working 60-hour weeks trying to hold onto a job that gives them insurance,” and therefore don’t have enough time to give their elderly relatives the attention they need? How many countries are there where people are expected to spend so much time in their cars, fuming in endless traffic jams, to get themselves and their kids where they’re going? I’m sure a lot of those people would love to live in more “walkable” communities, closer to their jobs, but we’ve made them such a scarce commodity that only the affluent can afford them.

Furthermore, in a country where being chronically sleep deprived and stressed out to the breaking point is the norm, and where fat people have the extra added stress of knowing that their bodies don’t measure up, and trying and trying and trying and failing over decades to force their weights down, getting fatter and sicker with every failure, and knowing that they will pay and pay and pay in every single area of life for falling short, how can we isolate fat alone as an independent cause of illness? If we concerned ourselves a lot less with people’s weights and a lot more with their stress levels, we’d probably all be a lot healthier, both physically and mentally. And then maybe the people who did get sick wouldn’t get so much resentment heaped upon them for “doing it to themselves.”

I got your health care cost containment and “preventative care” right here, Mr. President. Dare we all dream?

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What Does Health Care Reform Really Mean to American Fatasses? Part One In A Series

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

I would like to start a dialogue here about the potential impact of the health care reforms being discussed in the United States and what they might mean for fat people. And in the interest of not having one post that goes on for three months that only two people will read (sorry Rachel, I did my best!), I’m breaking it into multi-parts. My readers from outside the U.S., I hope you’ll stick around, because I would very much like your input on this.

I’m getting very concerned that the “our health care system is fine, shut up and quit whining because everyone hates government-run health care” crowd is taking over this discussion, without a whole lot of input from people who have actually experienced government-run health care, in all its myriad forms. It’s not all the same, you know. Even within the same country it’s not all the same. (What a concept, huh?)

Please note that I’m not specifically calling out Sandy here; I am to the left of her on this issue, but JFS is far from the only place I’ve run into anti-universal health care memes. They’re everywhere. Insurance companies are spending barrels of cash — OUR cash, that they’ve raked in through our premiums over the years — to fight any kind of real public option, much less actual single-payer delivery. I personally don’t see single-payer coming to America any time soon (it’s not even on the table right now), so it’s not like they’d be out of business. You’d think they would like to have a system in America similar to that of France or Germany — where, in a nutshell, government-run care covers the basics and various forms of private insurance cover the rest. The insurance companies wouldn’t have to get dinged $200 here and $200 there for dinky-shit things like Pap smears and bringing 5-year-olds to the emergency room after hours to get antibiotics for ear infections. (I’ll be examining the “let them eat emergency rooms” theme in a later post.) And people would still want their policies for when they needed more than basics.

But I suppose insurance companies in France and Germany don’t rake in the billionaire executive and shareholder bonanzas that we have here. One thing I’ve managed to figure out over the years is this: Once people get used to living the high life, they don’t give it up without a fight. And we, as a society, have given them the message over the years that it’s just fine to hang on to all that through any means necessary. If it means they get to pull shit like rescission — canceling people’s policies on technicalities because they’ve become too high maintenance for the insurance company’s taste — hey, it’s all good. If it means people become not just uninsurable but actually unemployable because of a serious illness — feh, who cares about those luz0rs? (I broke my Great Orange Satan boycott to read that story, and it was totally worth it; if you’d rather not give them the clicks, it’s also here. But do read it, and if you still think people being umbilically dependent on their jobs for their health care is a fine thing, tell me why you think something similar couldn’t possibly happen to you, or to whoever carries your policy.)

Is that what people are really being told by the insurance companies and their corporate-media toadies to be afraid of? That the super-rich health-care profiteers will cease to live like kings and have to live like mere TV starlets instead?

What, after all, was that anti-UHC ad that made the rounds the other day — the one where the Canadian woman who’d been down-triaged for surgery for a noncancerous but still dangerous brain cyst and had to come to America to get treated — all about? Now, granted, someone probably fucked up badly triaging her and if so, they deserved to get sacked immediately for their fuckup. (Of course, it’s not like insurance companies in America don’t fuck up things like that every day on purpose, but never mind.)

But that’s not really the issue here. She wasn’t making a comparison between Ontario health care (Canada’s UHC is run by individual provinces) and private American insurance. She didn’t have private American insurance. She plunked down US$100,000 in cash to have that operation done. The kind of money, IOW, that most Americans can’t possibly beg, borrow, or steal, much less just access from their personal checking accounts, to pay for an operation. All her story proves is that if you can whip out a checkbook that’s padded generously enough, you can buy anything you want. That’s not news. Is that what they are telling us to fear, fear, fear — that we won’t be able to play front-cutsies in line by slapping a big wad of cash on some hospital administrator’s desk? It’s hard to imagine an America where personal money will buy no influence over health-care priorities whatsoever, but it’s harder still to imagine an America where nearly everyone who thinks they’re going to be that rich someday actually gets there.

And as for the spectre of rationing, we are already rationing health care in America. We ration based on ability to pay — not as in less wealthy people get less, but as in less wealthy people, especially those between jobs, get NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING (unless they are indigent enough to qualify for Medicaid or their state’s equivalent, and increasingly, not even then). We ration based on preexisting conditions that have become the equivalent of insurance-company cooties-for-life.

And yes, we ration on the basis of weight. We do that in four ways: By denying fat people insurance coverage entirely or tacking surcharges on it so prohibitive as to make it unaffordable; by rendering fat people (especially over age 40) essentially unhireable because employers are increasingly unwilling to take a chance on our supposedly high-maintenance bodies; by scaring fat people away from doctors’ offices through flat-out abusive behavior; and by doctors telling us that the treatment we want will be withheld unless we slim down. (I’ll go more into the subject of rationing in a future post too.)

Now, given all that, do I think things could be a lot worse? Do I think it’s possible that what passes for health care reform in America could wind up being a total boondoggle, nothing more than a bailout for the insurance companies with no improvement in delivery of care? Do I think it’s possible it could lead to the government sticking its nose in our private lives where it doesn’t belong? Sure. I don’t believe “doing something” is automatically better than doing nothing. You can fuck up anything by underfunding and mismanagement and just plain old greed and corruption, whether the funding is public or private or a mix of both.

And here’s where my non-U.S. correspondents come in. I want you to give it to me straight, even if you think it’s not what I want to read. If you have experience with both U.S. and non-U.S. health care — as Deeleigh talked about here and here, and thanks, Deeleigh — that’s even better. I want you to tell me what you like and don’t like about your health care. I want you to tell me whether you think the relief of financial stress from not having to pay directly for care is offset by the stress of your tax burden and other quality of life measures.

And I want you to tell me if you’ve ever been denied care because you were fat. By that I’m not so much talking about the doctor being a giant dickcheese to you because of your weight, but actually denying you a procedure or other treatment you wanted until you lost X number of pounds (or, heavens forfend, got WLS). If you’d like to post anonymously, that’s fine. I won’t out you. You can also email your responses to me and I can post them without attribution if you would prefer that.

I’d also like to hear from you if you’ve experienced an American-based public health system — Medicare, Medicaid, VA, a state-run system, anything like that — and the same questions apply.

I’m also interested in hearing from health-care professionals everywhere on their specific experiences with this. Have you ever not been able to get a treatment approved for someone that you thought they really needed because of problems with a public provider?

And if this post inspires you to do a post on your own blog instead of posting in comments here, great! Feel free to drop links if they’re relevant to the topic.

Please note: I’m well aware that the discussion on this topic could get a bit heated, and I don’t expect an echo chamber where everyone just nods and agrees with me. I want real information based on real experience (not rumor), and I really, really want us to stick strictly to the exchange of ideas and exploration of issues. I’m telling myself this at least as much as I’m telling any of you reading this, but please let’s all stay away from things like flaming, personal insults, and ad-homs. (I especially do not want this to become a forum for Sandy-bashing, and Sandy, if you’re reading this, I hope you will participate in the discussion.) I work odd hours and sleep during much of the day and can’t be on this thread for much of the day (and if you are a first-time poster and your post doesn’t show up for a few hours, that could be why), but I will edit or remove any inappropriate material as soon as I get to it. Thanks.

Does It Really Cost To Employ My Fat Ass? Or Does It Pay? (And Who Cares?)

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I’m going to run with the ball I picked up at Lara Frater’s place about the CDC’s new clue-allergic LEAN Works program.

Lara says:

This new program is wrong on some many levels.
1. It’s discriminatory. Are jobs going to weigh people or demand intimate information from their personal life? Programs like this don’t encourage healthiness, they encourage companies to fire fat employees regardless of their health.
2. It’s filled with factual errors as well as lack of information. Many “Facts” have footnote numbers next to them, but I have yet to find those notes in the materials. The $117 billion “obesity” cost has always been a shaky number.
3. It encourages disordered eating. Healthy fat people may take it upon themselves to lose weight when they don’t really need too.

Those are good ones. I’d like to add a couple more to that list:

4. Inasfar as a fat person might have physical or mental health problems (remember, the latter go towards health care costs too!), it’s incredibly short-sighted to assume that said physical or mental health problems in a fat person are caused directly by their fat, or that weight loss — should that person go through the ordeal of trying to lose a great deal of weight and succeed — would result in a reduction in health care usage during time of employment by that person. (If, let’s say, I get to quit seeing an endocrinologist but wind up needing a psychiatrist instead, how is that a reduction in expense?) Which leads me right into number 5.

5. If you want everyone to have “perfect” numbers in everything, it’s going to cost you. “Perfect” numbers, inasfar as they’re even possible to create in someone who doesn’t replicate them naturally, usually mean pills. Pills require lab work. Multiple pills require even more lab work and multiple doctor visits — often from specialists, who are even more expensive than general practitioners — to monitor efficacy and safety. “Successful” dieting, when it does happen, often requires multiple medication adjustments and the addition of even more pills to suppress appetite. And the pills themselves are not without risk, either. Insulin sensitizers and statins and antihypertensives and appetite suppressing agents have side effects. Sometimes really freaking HUGE side effects. And if said weight loss plan involves taking people off their “fattening” antidepressants and neuroleptics, then what? Monkeying with everyone’s brain and body chemistry to get them slimmed down as much as possible, and with gorgeous blood pressure and blood sugar and lipid panel right up to the 65th-birthday sendoff? Is. Going. To. Be. Ex. Pen. Sive. Don’t kid yourselves, CDC, and don’t kid employers, either. If I’m going to monkey with my brain and body chemistry, I don’t want some bean-counting yutz at my company with no fucking medical degree overruling my doctors’ agreements with me about what I “should” be taking. They don’t know what they’re getting themselves into if they go that route. (Fortunately, my company hasn’t, and I doubt they will, for reasons I will elucidate below.)

6. And also inasfar as a fat person might have physical or mental health problems…hmm, let’s see, what’s that toothy monster hiding in the bushes? Oh, hello…it’s STRESS. Nice teeth ya got there. Now, what could possibly cause a fat person to be stressed out? Certainly not the relentless pressure from all corners since they were single-digit ages to slim down and being told they aren’t really hungry, that a few lettuce leaves and celery stalks would fill their stomachs just fine and if they craved anything more than that, they were just being greedy and selfish. Certainly not being overworked and underpaid for decades because they couldn’t fit into an Armani suit. Certainly not being refused friends and lovers and apartments and educations and pretty much anything else a person could be refused, just because they didn’t burn calories as fast as their peers did. Certainly not their own children being embarrassed to be seen with them and their spouses calling them ugly and either threatening to leave or just flat out dumping them for no other reason but weight. Certainly not their own families of origin constantly criticizing them for their greedy appetites. Noooo, that doesn’t take a toll on people’s physical or mental health at all. Nobody ever needs serious medical attention because of stuff like that. Yeah. Ha. Ha ha ha. (And speaking of “Ha ha ha,” how is it the Blanche DuBoises of the world are the ones who “need” psychiatrists, while the Stanley Kowalskis just go right on screwing around with people with no conscience?)

Oh, and 7. DIETS DON’T WORK. They didn’t work in 1909, and they don’t work now. A diet actually working, without any further toll in physical or mental health to the dieter, is a fluke. “Fluke” does not mean “never ever happens,” but it does mean “don’t hold your breath.” And guess what — the CDC’s own data indicate that only 2% of Americans in the “normal” BMI range were “obese” 10 years earlier, and that includes people who lost weight without trying. Do they not even hear themselves?

It’s always fascinating to see people who don’t actually have to work for a living (that is, have their schedules completely governed by an employer with very limited flexibility) snotting off on the alleged costliness of those of us who do. Let me tell you something. Our employers, for the most part, are getting us cheap. Really. Most of us have at-will employment — that is, they can let us go any time they feel like it and not have to tell us why. You can’t even prove weight-based discrimination (or for that matter, any other kind) if nobody actually says to you, “Go home and take your undesirable-for-this-reason ass with you.” And they get away with underpaying us, too, because they know that for many of us, our opportunities are limited, especially once we get up over 40. (Anyone care to compare the relative health-care expenses of affluent thin people and affluent fatasses, versus nonaffluent thin and fat? No? My ears, they hurt from the cricket noises.)

They want to replace us all with thin people to save money? Good luck with that. Thin people are going to demand higher salaries and turn over faster voluntarily, and training new people is costly. And thin, young, conventionally attractive, well educated, currently able people aren’t going to accept nearly as much shit from management as fatties (and older people, and PWD, and people with less education) do. Why should they? They can go somewhere else if they don’t get respect where they are. And “desirable” employees have babies and get sick and need to see psychiatrists, too — so, so much for the low-maintenance thing. Humans are expensive, even extremely compliant ones. I’m sure they’d all love to have an all-robotic work force if they could, only they’d still have to have people around to fix the robots. So inconvenient.

In my particular line of work, being hired remotely and working remotely, without your boss ever laying eyes on you, is industry standard. My company alone has thousands of remote employees, and there are multiple others like it. There’s a reason they don’t install “cams” on all our computers and survey all our activities night and day — it would cost too much. Can you imagine? Having to babysit thousands of working adults around the clock (it’s also a 24/7/365 line of work), every single day? It would be ridiculous. I’m sure they’d love to know what we’re all up to when we’re on the clock. I’m sure they’d love to know about the quick sex we’re having and the chin hairs we’re tweezing and what unsavory political activities we might be participating in, and why we think we can eat Frosted Mini-Wheats with a spoon and type at the same time…but it’s easier for them not to know. It’s not easy to find people who can do what we do with the required speed and accuracy. Two years of experience is usually necessary to land a job like this, and believe me, you want that experience, because you’re going to be paid by the line and that means being able to make out mumble-mouthed diction and fuzzy cell-phone-speaker transmission and sixties that sound like fifties even on a noise-cancelling headset without having to look up every other word, or you’re not going to be paid even minimum wage.

It’s probably not much of a stretch — even without having met a single one of my fellow remote employees ever — to assume that my line of work employs a lot of old people, a lot of fat people, and a lot of people with disabilities, in various combinations of the three. Because thin young hipsters, for the most part, don’t want these jobs. They don’t pay enough. They make you work weekends and holidays. There’s no prestige. And it’s not the most interesting work, frankly, it’s very repetitive. Yeah, but I can stick my finger into any orifice I want, any time I want, and nobody will know! I’m allowed naps! I say gooshy things to my pets, the same thing every single night, and they can sit in my lap while I work! Oh yeah…and my boss doesn’t have to know about every single little piddly-shit health issue I might have either, unless it keeps me from doing my job. Having a shit attack or a crying jag? No problem. Nobody has to know. It’s a beautiful thing.

If they don’t care if I fart, I can only imagine what a pain in the ass it would be for them to have to monitor all our farts, and whatever else is going on in our bodies and brains, to Save Health Care Money. If the CDC brainiacs want me to use up less health care, physical AND mental, what they need to do is build a time machine that will go back forty-cough years, and tell everyone I ever came in contact with that I’m fucking autistic and they should let up on me, and also that I have PCOS and that’s why I’m so hungry and hairy. Also, HIPAA violations anyone? It’s currently illegal in America for your company or anyone else to go nosing around in your medical records without your permission. My company is in the health care business. They know that. I’m pretty well convinced that that’s another reason they’re not going there. Know what else is expensive? Lawsuits.

I may complain about my job, but I think I’m healthier in this job than I would be if I had to work in an office. Getting to decide for myself when I need a break, instead of my employer unilaterally making that decision, makes me healthier. Not having to disclose my autism unless I choose to do so (I haven’t had much luck hiding the fact that I’m “different” otherwise) makes me healthier. Getting to have home-cooked food for virtually every meal, and so does eating it when I’m hungry, not when the clock says it’s time. All those things are tremendous stress reducers. For someone who’s not in a chattering-class occupation, I get treated pretty well. I’ve had other jobs and know it could be much, much worse. And yes, I’m a big fatty fatass who goes to therapy every other week and the psychiatrist every few months and just had a big problem with my back and leg requiring physical therapy. Think that’s expensive? Imagine what deliberately setting out to drive me bonkers might cost.

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No Food for Me, Please — I’ve Just Been in a Car Wreck

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Today I did something I’ve never done before in my life. I crashed a Zipcar.

Yep. Six years — first with Flexcar, then with Zipcar after Zipcar ate Flexcar — and not so much as a scrape until now. (My last accident of any kind was in 2002, and both cars were barely nicked. I wouldn’t even have bothered to report my own damage if the other person hadn’t reported hers.) Pretty miraculous, especially considering that most people who have been in the car with me think I’m kinda the Terror of Colorado Boulevard. (Although that’s more out of ineptitude than recklessness — I won’t even fiddle with the radio with the car in motion, let alone do that plus pluck my eyebrow hairs, eat chicken parmesan with a knife and fork, and text five people simultaneously like so many people seem to be able to do every day of their lives without ever getting into a wreck.) I guess my luck was going to run out sometime.

Nobody was injured, nobody was totaled, nobody was drinking, neither of us even had a passenger. It was such a boring accident even the cops didn’t bother to come out, even though Zipcar duly made me call them to file a report. Basically, depending on how you looked at it, either someone clipped me on the driver’s side fender or I T-boned her while I was coming out of a parking space on a major street and she was about to make a right. I guess it’s up to the insurance compan(y)(ies) to decide which. *I* don’t even know, frankly, it all happened so fast, but I’m not going to be shocked out of my gourd if I’m found at fault, since I’m the one who did the T-boning. She got a dent, metal only, on the passenger side of her pickup, while I mauled my — or, I should say, Zipcar’s — fender of my/their Subaru Impreza wagon. (Nice little car, really. If I was ever going to buy one, I might consider that one. But first I’d have to decide if I’m ever going to drive again, which…well, ask me again in a week, okay?)

When I finally got home, with frozen cat food and Indian takeout and brain drugs in hand, I had a decision to make: Alcohol or Klonopin? I don’t use a whole lot of either one (as drinkie-poos and dextroamphetamine don’t exactly mix, I save the former for my weekly stimulant holidays), but I soon decided that while alcohol might be more fun, Klonopin was in my med stash exactly for situations like this. And when I say Klonopin, I mean like one-sixteenth of a Klonopin. One-eighth will put me to sleep. I am not kidding. I filled this scrip in August and have maybe used half the bottle, and might get around to using the rest before it expires. Benzos, like pretty much every depressant (alcohol included), render me almost entirely useless.

One thing I didn’t want to do a whole lot of? Was eat. Even with some very tasty chicken tikka masala in the house at dinnertime. Yeah, some fatty *I* am. Aren’t we all supposed to be Eating Our Feelings night and day? Not that I think it would be terrible if I did respond to stress that way; I can think of worse things to do after a car wreck than sticking your head into a vat of hot fudge. (Well, okay, room temperature fudge. Literally hot fudge might sting the scalp a little.) Some people go home after car wrecks and kick their pets around. Or scream at everybody in the house. Or deliberately break expensive appliances. Or even worse.

Not me. And I didn’t even want the fudge, or anything I else could swallow, for that matter. You know what I wanted? I wanted my yarn.

Yeah, I’ve got this crochet project that’s more ambitious than any I’ve ever done before, and it’s taking me twice as long as any other creature with opposable thumbs would take to complete it, because I keep messing up and having to frog my entire last row. Because I often crochet as a stress reducer, and as such I sometimes have attention farts. Which isn’t so bad if I’m making my usual endless series of granny squares, but this is a little more intricate than that. And I just got in a car wreck and I want to get back to where I was before I noticed my last goober and had to pull out a week’s worth of stitches, give me my damn yarnies! Let me make endless double-crochet stitches until I’m not agitated any more, and then maybe I can get some work done.

It’s interesting to think about this instinctive response to stress, because just last night I was thinking about the circles I used to run around with, the hyper-new-age 12-steppers who equate white sugar with crack cocaine. (In fairness, though, I’ve also known plenty of perfectly down-to-earth 12-steppers who have absolutely no truck with that sort of goofgassery.) I remember one woman we went out in a group with once being completely lethal to my boyfriend, which I didn’t find out about until he told me later, and I still don’t know — and won’t ever get to ask her — if it was because of my boyfriend, or because I, a fatass who dared to eat bread, made with white flour and everything, had the temerity to actually have a boyfriend, being a drug addict and all. I wondered what would happen if I ever met up with any of them again, if they’d note that I was fatter than ever and thus continuing to flick my chin at God by consuming carbs. How do I know I wouldn’t get and stay thin by cutting out all white flour and white sugar and white rice? Have I ever tried it? Well, no, because I’ve kind of gotten attached to the idea of not having to extract my poop out of my ass with a long tweezer. And also, because I like many foods made with those ingredients, and I don’t want to give them up unless medically required to do so. I personally think God (gods) can handle that about me.

But that belief can get a little lonely. I’m not sure most of them would buy the white sugar=crack equation if there weren’t safety in numbers. That’s where the fat=food addict=eating to quash feelings auto-assumption comes from too, you know. Numbers. Unless you were born a recalcitrant weirdo, like me, nobody really wants to be all that special, it’s too much work. You can and should stand out, but you’d better not stick out, and you’d also better know exactly where that line is. I think when I was younger, I did think of myself as a comfort eater. Why not? It’s easier that way. Everybody knows that people are more likely to break down and confess to anything if nobody believes them that they didn’t do it, right? Also, when you’ve declared yourself to have a strict calorie limit and YOU MUST NOT EXCEED THAT EVER PIGGY, caving in and eating anything that isn’t a celery-stick hologram is liable to make you label yourself “compulsive.” Well, of course I was. I kept doing it, restricting, expecting my appetite to somehow magically require only X many calories or X many points just because some piece of paper said so. It was like keeping myself up for 48 hours and locking myself in a room with a king-sized bed and then expecting not to go sleepy-bye just because I “shouldn’t.” So given all that, did I ever eat when I was upset or agitated? Maybe a few times. But not nearly as often as I was chastising myself for doing, and what “nervous nibbling” I did do, when I thought about it, really wasn’t a whole lot of food.

The point is, when I quit dieting, that went away. Which is something I could have just said up top and saved you 1300-plus words to comb through. But writing’s another thing I do to relieve stress. And it must have worked, because now I’m hungry. But I just found myself saying, “Are you sure? Do you really need to eat?” Yeah…I kind of do.

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OK, D00d Nation, THIS Is What I Want From You

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Pursuant to the “fat women are only useful inasfar as I find them fuckable” BS that Marianne takes on with such aplomb here, I would like to add to that theme. And this goes double for all the “butbutbut you can’t MAKE me find you attractive!!eleventyone!” d00ds of D00d Nation too (or is that t00?).

I honestly do not give one falling space turd about whether you personally find me attractive or not. I’m set there, thanks. If you want to hold out for a woman aged 21 to 23, between 5’4″ and 5’6″ tall, with waist-length naturally red hair, weighing no more and no less than 120 pounds, with exactly five freckles on each butt cheek, and none on the face, and you would much rather spend your spooge allowance spanking it into a washcloth thinking about your fantasy babe rather than getting it on with me or any other real-life human standing before you…that is absolutely fine. It. Does. Not. Matter. To. Me. At all.

Here is what I do care about, and passionately. I care very much about how you treat my boyfriend.

If you are a stranger, what are you thinking when you see him with me? Are you thinking about what must be wrong with him that he has to “settle” for someone like me? Do you think I must be his pity date and that he’s just too much of a wimp to let me go, or that I must “have something” on him that prevents him from leaving? Or that I’m just a fast fuck and that he couldn’t possibly like me, because you think no “normal” man who digs women possibly could? Would you ever be rude to him because of me?

If you are his peer, do you refuse to really be friends with him because he’s with me? Or refuse to invite us over to the house or out to a meal (when you’d happily invite just him) because you think the sight of us together would gross everyone out, including you?

If you are his boss, do you refuse to promote him because his partner (me) isn’t enough of a trophy for you? Do you regard him as being less intelligent and less capable than he is because of me? Would you refuse to hire him if you knew he had a fat woman for a partner?

And in any of those situations, if he did or said something to piss you off, would a cheap shot at his partner’s body habitus and/or his liking of it be one of the first things to jump out of your mouth?

If you can answer “absolutely, positively not, never ever” to every single one of those questions, and really mean it, we’re cool.

And if you can’t…why on earth not? Does everyone’s taste have to match yours, or it’s “wrong”?