here’s how it ends

In a hospital cafeteria last week, an old man stood ahead of me in line for oatmeal. He reminded me of my dad, except he couldn’t use his hands very well. Oatmeal was getting everywhere and he looked embarrassed yet friendly, so I asked if he was at the hospital for physical therapy.

He said no. His daughter had died upstairs that morning of anorexia.

He was alone and so was I, so we ate together. Straightening his sugar packets in a careful pile, he told me about his daughter, who’d been my age – such a happy baby; such a bright girl – but when she was 15 she got funny about food and exercise; her weight; they spent a small fortune on rehab and counselors and some days she seemed better but other days worse.

Days became years. She wore people out.  He finally let her go, to do what she was going to do. He was sad but not surprised. He needed to go back to her apartment and go through her things for Goodwill.

“When she died,” he said, “it was like watching a fish drown in air.”

This is why I use my small sphere to fight what I fight: Because it really could have gone either way for me. You think thigh gap is some new thing the Internet invented? Thigh gap is ancient; thigh gap and bikini bridges and drink this chalky shit instead of food and here is what a woman must do to please The Great Eye are eternal because woman-hating is eternal. Thigh gap is a spot of necrotizing fasciitis in my psychic tissue where the blood supply got cut off in 1987 like it did for this old man’s daughter and the only difference is mine happens to be contained.

I want us to be clear on what the current culture does to women – even if we don’t read the magazines or watch the shows or visit the sites. It’s like secondhand smoke. It clings.

It’s why I don’t play the game, but I watch it every day. It’s a lucrative game for a lot of people, and it comes to us in friendly guises like “health” and “fitspiration” to encourage us to play; to mentally buy in. The game can be hot and compelling – can feel like you’re winning, even – but here’s how it ends: A sad old man eats a bowl of oatmeal in a hospital cafeteria and tells a stranger how he used to carry you on his shoulders in the swimming pool; how you used to laugh so easy.

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smart-things link roundup

While I find the words for some of my own experiences this winter, please enjoy the following roundup of lesbian/feminist/fitness/political brilliance.

Scold’s bridle by glosswitch

“Right now I’m done with the female social code that commands me to express shame at myself, assume good faith in cruel people and deny my own qualities just so that my presence isn’t too disruptive.

This abuse is because I am a woman, not because I am a white woman. I do not believe reverse racism exists, whereas misogyny clearly does. However, this abuse does need to be placed in the context of “white feminism” – after all, it’s a phrase I used in my tweet – because it’s related to the shorthand people use for a particular type of perceived female privilege (as though privilege is not a shifting, intersecting thing that everyone with access to twitter enjoys in different ways, but a line you cross which makes you less credible, less capable of experiencing pain and less capable of acting in good faith).”

Woman-hating by any other name… by Meghan Murphy

“It seems as though we are expected to divulge every single horrific trauma we’ve experienced, every personal moment of oppression or abuse, every single problem/illness/addiction/struggle we might have faced or currently be facing, publicly and via bullhorn, before we are acknowledged as credible or worthy of a voice. Without this outpouring of every-single-horror it is assumed we’ve experienced nothing but diamonds and champagne. Do I need to tattoo “working-class” on my forehead in order to avoid being called “rich” or “classist?” Because I don’t want to. Women shouldn’t have to tell the entire world every gory detail of their stories in order to have a voice. Many women are not in a position to do this, even if they wanted to.”

Check Your Privilege: Rise of the Post New-Left by Steve D’Arcy

“If a handful of time-travelling activists from our own era were somehow transported into a leftist political meeting in 1970, would they even be able to make themselves understood?”

Making Sense of Modern Fitness by Kat Whitfield

“I too enjoy doing tricep extensions with 2lb weights while looking contemplative.”

Found this through my other favorite, Fit and Feminist. Let Kat make you laugh as you navigate the bullshit-infested waters of today’s body-dysmorphic diet-and-fitness zeitgeist. She’s written a free ebook, but if you only have time for one post, make it her takedown of a certain kind of fitspo on Pinterest.

roses– how the purity culture taught me to be abused by Samantha Field (if you have an evangelical/conservative background, or know women who do, or are seeking understanding, Samantha Field’s Defeating the Dragons is the one of the best blogs there is):

“…the modesty/purity/virginity culture, especially in more conservative areas, is one of the main reasons why Christian young women stay in abusive relationships.”

…and An Open Letter to the White Woman Who Felt Bad for Me at Yoga by Maya Rupert (policy director, National Center of Lesbian Rights): is the sharpest and most compassionate of many responses to a bad personal essay on xojane:

“The problem is that at some point you got the impression that you — in all your ‘skinny, white girl’-ness — was the ideal. And that I would, if given the choice, choose to look like you.

And that didn’t happen because your yoga class doesn’t have enough black instructors or even because you seem uncomfortable around black women.

It happened because we live in a society steeped in a system of patriarchy so strong and so insidious that we learned from a young age and have it confirmed daily that you and I can’t both be happy with who we are. Because, if in order for Cinderella to be beautiful her stepsisters had to be ugly, and if in order to compliment Jennifer Lawrence we have to insult Anne Hathaway, then in order for you to be content in your whiteness, I have to despair in my blackness, and in order for you to be at peace in your body, I have to suffocate in mine.”

Back soon.