Good Fatties, Bad Fatties, and why I keep talking about fat.

In the last week or so a very compelling hashtag emerged on Twitter, #notyourgoodfatty. The goal of #notyourgoodfatty was a space where “bad” fat people could share their rebellious experience. I am of the firm opinion that when  non-normatively bodied person loves their body and celebrates it, it is a political act. The people of #notyourgoodfatty did so with exuberance. We discussed wearing what we want (#fatkini), eating in public, enjoying food, enjoying physical exercise for fun and not weight loss, having sex, being sexual without shame, and generally celebrating, loving and caring for ourselves. It was inspiring and truly beautiful.

The notion of “good fatties” and “bad fatties” is a relatively new concept, for a long time all fat people were “bad” and that was that. Now there are “bad fatties,” which is more like “Oh, you bad girl, eating that cake! ;)” and “good fatties,” which is more like, “you’re having a salad and working out! You go girl!” Neither bad or good fatties are truly bad or good. There are inherent problems with both. Good fat people run the risk of feeling tied to their weight loss, feeling as if their value is determined by their ability to lose weight, and often these impulses can take away from quality of life. Bad fat people have to contend with the potential health risks, disapproval from society, and not “fitting in” or trying to. It’s a complex issue, and most people will fall somewhere in the middle, some things we do will be good, and some will be bad. Balance is crucial. 

I believe that fat people have the right to be fat, and that if they don’t want to lose weight, or dress to flatter, or cover up at all, that’s amazing. I find many fat bodies lovely, beautiful, exuberant. (Goodness knows I’m crazy about my own.) I don’t really care about the health of my fellow fat people, I only care about my own health. I may be an anomaly here, as I also think people should be allowed to smoke their cigarettes without being made to feel like monsters. I see “caring about someone’s health” in order to tell them how to live as a shitty and oppressive thing to do, and one that masks fatphobia behind false altruism. Ultimately, I believe that whatever body you’re in is beautiful and should make you happy. I also believe that if you’re unhappy in your body, it is your responsibility to identify that and change it, with or without help, in whichever direction. 

Many people on Twitter did not agree with, or feel positive about the bad fatties having such voice, and trolls and naysayers began to post in droves. The posts were hurtful, discriminatory, bullying, and personified what I dislike about the Internet. A space where people can be rude, cruel, hurtful and not care about the consequences of their behavior. The battle raged (and rages) between “fat haters” and “fat apologists”, “the healthy” and “the sick” and so on. Debates about whether dieting works, whether fat people cost the state too much money, whether they’re gross, lazy, slobby, mentally or physically ill dominated the scene. Many powerful fat voices emerged, both men and women, of various ages and various races. Many of them were health care professionals, nutritionists, and really knew what they were talking about (often proponents of HAES (Health At Every Size). The backlash was similarly diverse, a blend of genders, races, ages, and also a mixture of hateful thin people with former fat people, and fitness professionals. 

What is and was most interesting for me about this space is two-fold:

Firstly, both of these sets of voices ended up shouting into a vacuum. The people who need to hear what bad fatties have to say are sad fatties. Fat people who are suffering with diets, struggling to lose weight, and feeling emotional and psychological hurt as a result, these are the people that need the powerful, self-love rhetoric of #notyourgoodfatty. People who want to learn to love themselves, and find their own health. Similarly, people with fat children (you know, it sucks being the fat child to normal parents, I would know.) and fat family who need to understand how their loved ones love themselves. 

On the other hand, the people the opposition need to reach with their thoughts on excuses, and “living life”, “not eating yourselves to death” etc are the fat people ready to make a change. The unhappy fat people who want to be told to let go of their “excuses,” the people who do not want to live of the edges of society, and want to be the healthy they’ve always imagined. The fat people who have had health problems emerge, or who genuinely want to lose weight. Not being they hate being fat, but because they’re on the other side of the system. I believe the narratives of former fat people are some of the powerful, wonderful things one can engage with during a weight-loss process.

I saw both these sets of voices being wasted and only causing more unhappiness and frustration. 

Secondly, I am not a bad fatty, so I felt like a usurper speaking for them, with them. I felt like I’d done something wrong when I started working out vigorously, or when I want to lose weight. I realized this was a problem, both these positions where firmly demanding each person be one way or the other. It felt like there was a strong, “with us or against us” attitude. Now, I know I’m not a bad fatty, but I’m also not a good fatty, sometimes I eat things I shouldn’t sure, but it’s more than that. It’s that while I’m changing my body, I’m not solely in love with the “thin person” (I don’t think this person exists) I’ll eventually be, I don’t have to hate being fat to want to be different. I felt as if I was forced to think of my desire to change as repulsion, dissatisfaction. This is simply not the case. 

I realize that the whole concept is more complicated, my experience with my body is more complicated. While I may workout everyday and eat carefully, and on most days really relish each inch and pound of weight loss, it doesn’t mean I don’t like my fat body. I live under no illusions that my fat body might not be as healthy as it could be, but that doesn’t mean I hate it. Similarly, not hating my body doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy losing weight. Do I like my less fat self more than my fat self? Not really. I feel pretty equal (and great) about both. A lot of people will tell me this is an obvious lie, why would I try and change my body if I didn’t dislike it? Because I can, because I’m vain and I want to shop at J.Crew?

That might be all there is to it. 

 

Fat Girl In The Gym

So, I started going to the gym in February. February 8th, to be specific. I had never so much as set foot in a gym before (my ‘working out’ had always been confined to my apartment, or the basement gym of an apartment block where I could go at 3am and never be seen.)

I decided to go to the gym for three major reasons:

1. The two people I spend most of my time with (my roommate and my significant otter) go to the gym regularly. Really regularly. Everyday, every second day, twice a day. They do very serious things at the gym and they seem to really enjoy it.
2. I went to the doctor, and I got on one of those cannot-tell-a-lie digital scales, and the results were…significant. (More about this later.)
3. I committed myself in 2014 to taking control of my life. More budgeting, less driving, more writing, and more self-care. The gym seemed to fall into that.

Once upon a time in 2009, I went to the doctor (for birth control, the only reason I could ever truly justify visiting a doctor back then.) and got on the digital scale, and weighed in at approximately 412lbs. Now, it is no joke when you’re told you weigh over 400lbs. You want to crawl into a hole and die. I decided then to lose weight, and I did. I told myself that if I lost weight I would be prettier and happier. I used Weight Watchers (totally works, lots of fun), all sorts of funny diets, half-hearted juice cleanses, some very hesitant working out – 2 or 3 times a week, and a lot of shaming. I shamed myself, and welcomed shaming from other people. I generally made myself miserable. BUT I lost like 95lbs (at my most, those last 25lbs yo-yo’d a lot.) So, by that measure – I totally won.

However, when I was confronted with major life change and crisis, I couldn’t sustain my frenetic eating habits and lost the grip. I kept promising I’d get back to it, but didn’t really get around to it. Now for a moment of real honestly: I didn’t get around to it because I got into a new relationship with someone who didn’t fetishize my fatness, but didn’t shame it either. Eventually after a couple months of this grievous lack of shaming, I realized I was too happy to bust my ass losing weight that I didn’t mind having, and apparently no one else minded either.

It’s easy to lose weight when I’m miserable, it’s harder when I’m happy.

However, when I got on the scale in February and it said 396lbs, I thought, “well, shit. I’m 28 now, and things feel fine now. But how long will that last?” I decided that I would order workout clothes and go to the gym the very next day. I also decided that if I liked the gym, I’d keep going, and maybe think about my food more, and see if I could lose some weight. I realized it didn’t need to be lots of weight, and it might not budge at all (ol’ metabolism isn’t what it used to be, it takes me three days to recover from a mild hangover.) I also realized that it wasn’t going to make me happier, or prettier. (In fact the only tangible result I would expect would be crossing back over the “visibility line” where a fat girl goes from being sexually invisible, to being an object of sexual fixation. This is SUCH an awkward experience.) I also had the realization that I gained 70-some lbs because I was happy, because I’m dating someone who fails to appropriately shame my body. Hardly seems like a thing to cry over. (Also, failed to notice said weight gain. WOW.)

Now, for the driving point of this post: How is the gym (Gold’s Gym in Courthouse, Arlington) for a fat girl?

To be quite frank, it’s fantastic. It’s great fun. The day I got there, everyone was really nice to me, and not in a condescending way, or a relieved way, or the way I imagine people are in Evangelical churches, but in an honest kind of way. They made clear they were happy I was there, and they seemed excited because I was excited. They didn’t issue me any tedious warnings, or make me commit to promises I didn’t intend to keep. They simply showed me around, told me I would get a free session with a trainer, and sent me on my merry way.

I’ve been almost every day, sometimes twice a day depending on what sort of day it is. I generally work out for 60 or 90 minutes, I walk (I nearly broke into a run yesterday, my legs said “yes,” and my brain said, “cool it, you’re not ready.”), I bike, I have training sessions with an awesome, attentive, highly capable personal trainer, and complete her weight workouts three times a week. All in all it comes down to about 90 minutes of weight training, and 5.5 hours of cardio a week. It’s not easy, and it’s not “getting easier” because every time I do it, I make it harder for myself, constantly attempting to beat my last day, or personal best, and I keep rigorous records (the spreadsheets are at least 30% of the fun.)

Now, this may seem rather rose-tinted and idealistic, but remember, I am a fat person. A real, live fat person. The gym is in Arlington. Fancy-pants Arlington.

The people in Arlington are not known for their fatness, but rather their public jogging, trips to Whole Foods, and general sveltness. I workout alongside all these slim, trim Arlingtonians. In the evenings, most people in the gym are my age – runners, lifters, joggers, cross-fitters, men and women. During the work hours, 10-4, there are more older people, stay-at-home moms, people recovering from surgeries, or accidents, fat people. The folks who work in the gym treat everyone exactly the same, they are helpful, supportive, cheerful, and present (should someone need advice, or should I fall and snap my fat ankle).

I say this with total honesty, I never feel put-upon, or alienated by these far thinner, far fitter people. They see me, they see me in my pink sneakers, and my leggings (yep, I wear leggings to the gym and everywhere else. Want to get comfy with your body, ladies? Wear leggings) and my fat. They know that some of the things they do could damn near kill me, and I do less in my whole work out right now than they might do for a warm up, but that doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to be there, it doesn’t make my fitness goals or my hard work any less admirable. In fact, I’m sure the people who see me there every day feel no animosity toward me at all, why would they?

I’m not interfering with their workouts, my walking or biking doesn’t stop their workout. They don’t know why I’m doing this, or where I come from, and I don’t know anything about them. I have no idea how the guy lifting a lot of weight did before he could do that, or what that girl who is sprinting like crazy’s life is like. And I don’t feel like they’re judging me, because I’m not judging them. I don’t think they don’t have anything better to do, or that they lack real intellectual pursuits, or that they are shallow, empty, or stupid. Most importantly, I don’t assume that they hate me, or find me gross, or would make fun of me because I’m fat. I don’t go into the gym with that attitude, and so I get to bounce out with the same enthusiastic glow as the sprinter, and the lifter (but not the same self-important air as the cross-fitters) because I  know why I’m there, and I find that environment to be encouraging, exciting, full of potential, and promise. 

So next time you’re fat (or even less fat) in a gym and feel put-upon, take a second and think about the assumptions you’re making about the people you think are judging you. 

 

PS. I’ve lost 16lbs!

PPS. Trust me, the moment someone makes a shitty comment to me in a gym, I will have no hesitations about putting them in their place, because guess what, I paid to be there too.

And then there were three…

“They’re here!” I exclaimed, as I saw a woman with two exuberant black and tan puppies on leads pass the glass doors of the PetCo in Alexandria. Marianne and I had been looking into the puppy adoption play area at the store, watching three portly beagle puppies jostle in their cage, wondering if perhaps a beagle was what we were actually looking for. The next thing we knew we were practically under two large-footed, floppy-eared German Shepherd mix puppies, Chunk and Brooke. Their foster mom, Uma, from Pet Rescue Alliance told us about their mother, a full German Shepherd as far as anyone could tell, and their absentee father. Perhaps he was a Labrador, but they couldn’t tell for sure. She described Chunk as adventurous, independent, playful, and confident and his little sister, Brooke as being sweet, affectionate, a little less confident, and a little smarter.

It was love at first puppy. Marianne and I had begun the conversation about whether we wanted to get a dog several months ago. We had discussed sizes (large), breeds (GSDs? Bernease Mountain Dogs? Standard Poodles? Golden Retrievers?), puppies or grown ups, rescue or breeder? We sat at our kitchen table and day dreamed about droving dogs, herding dogs, dogs to snuggle with, dogs to take on runs. We pestered our landlady for permission, and polled all our dog-owning friends. But nothing could compare to the 25 minutes we spent meeting Brooke and Chunk. We drove home from the PetCo in a puppy daze. The words, “Just let me know which one you want” ringing in our ears.

We called the next morning, and then spent three days waiting to hear back about whether we could get little Brooke. We decided on her because of the need to get a more trainable, more demure puppy. (Don’t get me wrong, her brother is a handsome, beautiful dog – and he’s up for adoption still!) It also seemed to make more sense to add a little girl to such a girly apartment. The day she arrived she was excited, overwhelmed, but sweet, and not at all nervous. We immediately initiated her new name, Darcy. An Irish girl’s name, meaning “dark-haired,” perfect for her. The first evening she began meeting our closest friends, playing and snuggling. She eventually fell asleep in Marianne’s lap while we watched TV. (Darcy is a floor dog, as she’ll probably be about 60lbs+, we spend a lot of time on the floor with her.) She didn’t cry her first night, and didn’t wet the bed. Early the next morning she frolicked in the snow, and we began house training. She immediately fell in love with her pink Bunny and preferred to be able to see both of us.

Just one week later, the apartment is filled with the tell-tale squeaks of various snakes, alligators, tennis balls, and elephants our baby has slain. In just one week, she’s met children, other dogs, family members, and friends. She loves people, and people love her. She knows how to sit, and pretty well how to stay. She fetches well, and is a very trusting little girl. Marianne serves as her training, Imagedisciplinary figure, instituting rules, and developing an uncanny sense of when she needs to go outside. I spend more time snapping dozens of pictures of her, and fishing things out of her mouth, also cleaning up puddles. We spend a lot of time snuggling her, cuddling her, and playing with her. It’s hard to get anything done when there’s a puppy in the apartment. She’ll fall asleep in our laps, as soft and floppy as can be. She lets her toes be petted, and doesn’t object when either of her paranoid mommies reaches into her mouth to find a bit of gravel or mulch she’s decided to eat. She likes chasing snowballs, and is learning to like the elevator. She wants to be friends with everyone she meets. When she met Sookie, the corgi, she decided she had a new best friend. Adoring and affectionate, she’s a good listener but an enthusiastic player.

Every time one or both of us leave the apartment, it’s a little difficult. She sits patiently in her crate, and doesn’t behave poorly, but she’s more than ready for snuggles whens she emerges. She gives great puppy kisses, and is pushing her luck less and less on the couch. She’s infiltrated all your Facebook timelines, and Instagram feeds (you can, if you want, see more of little Darcy at my Instagram, if you want to see less of her, I suggest you reevaluate our friendship.) Saying goodnight to her is a little difficult, I’m sure she just curls up with Bunny and passes out, but I think we both know that if we were alone, we’d have a huge bed dog in no time.

Getting a puppy is a big decision, every second of every day she’s learning. Good manners, good habits, good behaviors, where her boundaries are, where her indulgences are. Darcy is learning that in the evenings, Marianne will sit on the floor and she will curl up on her lap (curl up, sprawl out, it’s all cute.) She’s learning when we’re both sitting at the kitchen table, that the place to be is sleeping on our feet. She learning that she can come into my bedroom and follow me around, but that she’ll inevitably have to leave again. Darcy is learning that I’ll let her get away with leaping onto the couch to kiss when she comes in from a walk, but Marianne won’t. That Marianne will take longer walks, no matter how cold is it, and I’ll encourage her to pee quickly.

ImageShe’s learning we don’t get mad when she has accidents, but that we’ll pay attention when she signals she needs to go outside. That fetching and releasing the ball is good, and so is playing tug of war for her end of the moose toy. Gentle play is important, and so is rough play. Having her here lets us know that her little life, every moment of it, is up to us. It’s our responsibility to make sure this little girl is not only healthy, and comfortable, but smart. That she’s not bored, and that she meets her potential. So far she’s proving to be a very smart little dog (even when she careens into a door, swings into the bar, or becomes irritated with the dog in the mirror who refuses to play) but it’s up to us to make her a wonderful dog to be around.

Cemeteries and Bird Photographs.

I stood as still as I could, raising the phone up to my eye level. I tapped on the screen to make it focus on the little brown bird in front of me. He looked at me, looked up at the grey sky and seemed to wait patiently for me to snap a series of photographs of him. Then the bus came, I got on the bus and I went to work.

Sometimes using Google Maps makes me feel like a ghost. I stood outside the front gates of Highgate Cemetery in London, I then walked slowly around the perimeter. I couldn’t go into the gates, but I walked around the edge, looking in through the thicket at the gravestones. I walked the entire way around. I felt like a ghost, tracing my way around the perimeter, invisible and unable to go inside.

There was an overgrown cemetery in the town I grew up in, in Lusaka. It was in a neighborhood across town from where I lived. The Aylmer May Cemetery, in Rhodes Park. I was obsessed with it as a child. The cemetery had been opened in 1922, closed in 1958 and by the time I was a child had been closed and fallen into disrepair. It has now been reopened, and since 1999 has been undergoing renovations and repairs. However, when I was a little girl the gravestones were cracked, tumbling and the entire place was overgrown. There was a little chapel at the entrance with broken strained glass windows and crumbling bricks. It was unassuming, the kind of place you could drive past everyday and never really notice, but from the first time we found it on a drive, I was in love. Love at first sight.

My mother would take me on long drives in her sky blue Nissan Sentra when I was a kid, 6, or 7, we’d drive through the unfamiliar streets of Lusaka, “following the rain,” turning in whatever direction moved us closer to the menacing dark grey clouds that perpetually hovered over the skyline in the humid summer months.  On afternoons where there was nothing to do, we would look for rain, and use it as a way for my mother to learn the meandering and usually unmarked roads. To this day, she’s uncannily good at drawing little maps of Lusaka, and directing people through neighborhoods.

We stopped the car, and got out. We picked to the edge of the broken fence. There wasn’t anyone there, and so we poked around a bit. My mother would diligently remind me not to tread on people’s graves, we would stop and read the gravestones and work out how old people were, or how long they’d been dead. I loved how derelict it was, how dark, overgrown, and frankly, creepy. We went back many times, I’d beg on rainy afternoons to go. Sometimes we’d chat to people – the man who half-heartedly swept around the graves, or someone passing by, we’d take grave-rubbings. Running our crayons over the white paper, capturing record of the etched words.

I was almost sad as a teenager when I realized my beloved cemetery was being fixed up. It’s important to preserve these sorts of spaces, but there is something about the charm and power of the overgrown cemetery that captures the imagination. Visiting Highgate in London had much the same effect, I loved it. I loved the stale, cool air, the endless shade, and the cracked stones. I loved the moisture and decay as if it crawled out of the ground, the darkness and the mystery. Not in a I-want-to-wear-black-and-lounge-around-on-tombstones sort of way, but more in a sense of feeling all the intensity and impressiveness of burial ritual, of the dead as they sleep forever. I liked sitting quietly, and listening to the noises old, quiet places make. I liked visiting it today, even as an apparition myself. It made me want to explore Washington’s cemeteries. To find out if there’s a dank, overgrown patch of ground, with aging stones for me to explore, here, closer to home.

What does anything have to do with the bird I took photographs of today? I don’t know, I don’t know if it has anything to do with the daydreams about cemeteries that followed. But I do know that I photographed a bird, and then has a ghostly visit to a ghostly place.

Film: American Hustle

You know when there’s an actor that you simply cannot resist? It doesn’t matter what good or bad movies they make, or what awards or accolades they recieve, or what batshit crazy things they do and you see in the media, you simply love them and will see whatever film they’re in, no matter what. Beyond that, you’ll go into films with the warm fuzzies, and a sense that it MUST be a good movie because, duh, so-and-so is in it! When you come out of their movies, you feel renewed – they are just so great. Yeah. Well, that person is Christian Bale for me.

I will go and see any Christian Bale movie, I’ve seen all the Christian Bale movies, and I’ve loved pretty much every single one. (“Reign of Fire?” you say. I say, “yes, I love it.” “Harsh Times?” you say. I say, “Duh.”) Of course, I am aware that some of his movies are better than others, bigger than others, etc. But he’s always amazing. I, like many women of my generation, “fell” for Christian Bale in “Newsies,” carried a torch through “Little Women,” and was ushered disturbingly into puberty by “American Psycho.” Emotional and sexual scarring aside he remains, in my opinion, one of the most gifted actors alive today, and sometimes his Batman voice narrates my dreams (about Patrick Bateman.)

However, this is  not an epic about how great Christian Bale’s nose is, or his beard is, or how psychotic his crazy shout is. Though, I should inform you I was once deeply involved with  man who looked astonishingly like a bearded Christian Bale. I often wonder if that’s why I was involved with him. I shit you not.

This is about “American Hustle.”

“American Hustle” is a movie with a really upstanding cast of really good looking people looking less good looking than usual. Bradley Cooper has a troublesome hairdo, Amy Adams looks tired, Jennifer Lawrence looks intentionally older than she is, Jeremy Renner has an even more ridiculous hairdo, and Christian Bale is not only fat, but also bald. I thought this would be pretty off-putting, but everyone manages to maintain their sex appeal (less so Cooper, except for this one scene when Adams is sitting on a counter, and another when they’re in a bathroom stall. Actually never mind, they all retain sexiness.) It’s also a movie that seems like it’s going to get terrifically complicated. I imagine anything about hustling must do, it seems like a complicated verb, to hustle. However, this is a film where everyone seems to be who they said they were in the beginning and performs their roles in the narrative true-to-form. I kept expecting someone to make a 180, for some seemingly good-guy to go rotten (I’m looking at you, Jeremy Renner) or for a wormy character to turn out to have a heart of gold, or maybe even someone stupid to turn out to be a fucking genius. Don’t hold your breath, everyone is who they say they are. This makes what would be a really complicated film a very easy film to follow, and in some ways, a peculiar romance.

The story revolves around a faultlessly charming conman, Irving (Christian Bale) who meets a cunning and beautiful young woman, Sydney (Amy Adams) at a pool party (where she’s wearing a macramé swimsuit, and it is awesome.) and they develop a fast and furious affair. She then goes into business with him when he reveals the full scope of his less than legit means of employment. Turns out she’s totally brilliant at conning people out of money, and they fall ever more in love. It’s then revealed that Irving has a wife so young and so hot that the fact that he even thought to have sex with Sydney makes no sense at all, except that they are a true love match and his wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) though gorgeous, is really not the girl for him. She has a child who he adopted and though his family life is troubled, he’s committed to it. Sydney is willing to accept this, probably because despite the fact that he’s dense about the middle and has an “elaborate comb-over” he’s still Christian Bale, wait, I mean, he’s still someone she feels a profound connection to.

However, in the midst of all this balancing and conning and falling in love, they manage to get busted, by an incredibly inexperienced though oddly well-funded FBI agent, Richie (Bradley Cooper). Let me be clear here, I hate this character. This is a film without clean antagonists, and without a sense of where good guys stop and bad guys start (Irving is actually really similar to Nick Miller’s conman dad, Walt, on “New Girl.” Irving’s cute kid will probably grow up to be Nick, “not a healthy adult,” but a good guy. Sidenote: go watch “New Girl”.) The bane of Richie’s existence is having to answer to his stodgy but very wise boss, played unironically by Louis CK, so you could say there’s nothing wrong with his life and he’s just a bit of a wet blanket. He and Sydney predictably get involved with each other as he holds the she and Irving hostage, giving them the option to buy their way out of prison by exposing four other major conmen. Sydney tells Irving she’s playing a part of their sake, but we as viewers, like the characters around her, get lost in her charade. Amy Adams is a great actress playing a great actress. It’s cool.

Richie, apart from being a bit of a prat, also has a dowdy fiance, and lives with his similarly dowdy Catholic mother. He gets really swept up in all the intrigue, glamour, and velvet suits of conning in the 70s, and also gets seriously swept up by Sydney’s physics-defying silk blouses (the budget for fashion tape in this film was probably 100′s of dollars). Being the sort of prat who can’t tell when he’s got a good thing going, he pushes the other two characters to dizzying heights, and they plan a con which would inculcate the cheerful, well-loved, badly-styled Major of Camden, NJ. Carmine (Jeremy Renner) is a loving Italian-American family man and, like everyone else, is just as he seems. In addition to Carmine, the con involves a make-believe Sheik, an a whole lot of political types. It’s complicated, and I still really want to talk about meaningless stuff  like what Jennifer Lawrence wore.

One of the best things about “American Hustle” is how stylistically interesting the 1970s were. Whenever I see films set in the 70s, I feel like there’s no way it actually looked like that, but it did. People really did wear bell-bottoms, and velvet suits, and macramé, and really big hair. This film does not disappoint for people looking for righteous examples of shirts open to the waist, dresses covered in sequins, long sharp nails. What is perhaps most visually important is Jennifer Lawrence. While she doesn’t look quite as serious or fresh-faced as we may be used to, with piles of teased blonde hair up on her head, glossy pink lips, and the aforementioned red nails, she’s stunning. There’s also a scene with a big party where she wears a silver, sparkly dress which will make you revaluate everything you think about women and dresses, and probably your expectations of both.

Honesty, you could go and see the movie just to see the silver dress, also a moment early on where she’s wearing a tight white shirt, and calls her wayward husband to bed with her. That’s not true, you should watch the film because it’s a visual masterpiece, beautiful, and moving.

Also, Christian Bale is in it.

(And he’s really sexy, despite the comb-over, and the fatness, and because of the velvet. Hmmm, love a man in wide-lapelled velvet.)

 

2013: A Retrospective

I will come clean, 2013 was not a banner year for me. It went by very quickly, but it was very tiring. 2013 seems to have been my first year of adulthood, one where I tried (and failed) to stay on top of my finances, one where I turned 28 and was, for the first time, confronted with the very brief nature of life, in a big way. That said, I’m glad this year is over, and while much of it has been difficult, I’ve also learned a lot, and grew emotionally. So, in summation, here are the life lessons I learned in 2013:

1. Life is too short to be afraid. Whether it’s being afraid of saying what you feel, or the consequences of your choices, either you’re doing it, or you aren’t. But there’s no sense in being afraid of it.

2. Don’t assume everything is ok. It’s not. You might be able to fall asleep at night telling yourself it’ll all be okay, or that nothing is really wrong. You’re lying to yourself, find out if it’s ok. Find out how to make it right.

3. When in doubt: paint. My roommate and I painted our apartment in 2013, and it has made life significantly more pleasurable and beautiful.

4. Let go of your FOMO. If they didn’t invite you, they don’t wanna hang out with you, and you’re probably better off.

5. Accept that you can’t please everyone. To the people I failed to please in 2013, I am sorry. To the people for whom I was an antagonist in 2013, at least I was thorough.

6. Take your medicine, literal and figurative. (All of you.)

7. Stop worrying about what films you did or didn’t watch, or what books you did or didn’t read.  I wasn’t given this magnificent brain to use it to keep up with everyone else’s taste.

8. When someone tells you they’re in love with you, and you feel it too, just do it. Ignore all the naysayers, all of your emotional scars, let go of your misgivings. I don’t care how crazy it looks, for fuck’s sake, you’re in love, you’ll figure it out.

9. Wear whatever you want. Those hot pink  short-shorts? Yeah, they’ll be back next summer. And these hemlines ain’t getting longer, folks.

10. Make peace with your body. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

11. Take pleasure in little, simple things. (Ok, so this isn’t new. I’ve always done this, but I swear taking pleasure in gummy bears, sparkly earrings, neatly arranged books, and an active imaginary world keep even my darkest days bright.)

 

Apartment 300

I came home from work today, I buzzed into the front lobby of a building in Arlington, one of the counties next door to Washington D.C. I live in North Arlington, amid pleasant if not unremarkable urban landscape. There are streets with bars and restaurants, shops and offices, and then neighborhoods full of homes that easily would fetch over a million dollars, with colorful Christmas decor going up, and colorful front doors. This opens out into apartment blocks. These were the blocks and houses that once made up the relatively modest neighborhood beyond the Federal Government, “Washington’s Bedroom.” I happen to live in one such block of flats. It’s a relatively large building overflowing with midcentury style. Many of the residents have lived in the building either since its construction in the early 1960s , or very near then. It has a bright awning with the address scrawled on it, and the name of the building in lettering nearby. Each apartment has a balcony, a small bit of Northern Virginia air to call their own. Behind the building is a parking lot, and a patch of grass where the many canine residents poop and play. D0uble layers of front doors open up on a modest, very impeccably clean front lobby. On one way hangs a garish piece of hotel-style “art” and on the other are the postboxes. The carpeting in the building is a treasure. I suspect it was replaced in the mid-to-late 1970s as it is magnificent in its garishness. The doors are all neat and beige.

My apartment is at the end of the third floor corridor. It was a family home when it was first purchased. With a galley kitchen, built-in book shelves, a large living room, hall closet, two bedrooms, and a Mamie Eisenhower pink bathroom, as well as the aforementioned balcony there is plenty of space. It then became a lease. I don’t know who lived her before my roommate and the roommate who lived with her when she first moved in.

The apartment has a beige carpet we’re eventually going to rip up, furniture from various places, a smallish TV. There’s also a plant eaking onto life, and in one corner there are packed bookshelves to the ceiling. The living area is organized into a small living room, a little reading space, and a dining room. The apartment is dove gray all through the living room, most of the furniture has a country, beach house kind of feel. With navy blue, turquoise, grey, and yellow dominating the color scheme. There are cushions on the couch, books and DVDs on the shelf , decorative items, a set of curtains which were painstakingly selected. There is even a table light, and a DIY tape Devil’s Trap a la “Supernatural” on the ceiling over the front door.

The bathroom is one of the best parts of the apartment. With all its original fixtures and tiles it remains relatively unchanged since the building was constructed. The tiles are pale pink, the bathtub is low, while the sink has that classic mid-century marble with a little wooden cabinet beneath, the medicine cabinet is also wooden. The shower curtain, carpet, and knobs are different. Decorative knobs from Anthropologie and the carpet and curtain come from Target. We picked out items to flattered our little old school bathroom.

You may be wondering why I’m telling you this about the place where I live. I moved into the apartment in Spring 2012 after a nasty experience with some rather gnarly bedbugs. I had been moving from hotels, sleeping on the floor, I was stressed and effectively homeless. I found the apartment on Craigslist and moved in with almost nothing. I slept on a futon from Ikea for the first 10 months, with a peculiar assortment of objects around it. It was some of the most difficult time of my life, and the little apartment served as a real haven. It was a safe space.

Nearly 2 years later, I walked in the front door today and felt like I was at home. Not a place I might move away from, not somewhere temporary. Somewhere I genuinely consider home. I plopped down my purse, poured a glass of water, sat on the couch and thought, this is a great place to live. It’s difficult to imagine that I would’t eventually leave this pleasant little home, but as someone already far from home, it’s important to come back to something everyday and feel belonging.