Fat Girl, Judging

It all starts when she walks into the cardio room.

Her leg muscles shimmy in unnaturally trapezoidal shapes, soft-edged only enough to be more irritatingly cute. For a moment I only noticed that she has the kind of thigh gap teen magazines weep over, but then I see she is also only about 5 foot.

And the (internal) litany begins.

“What are you, 16?* Sure it’s easy to look like that when you’ve only been eating solid food for like a decade.** We’ll see when you’re 30 and have a real life.***”

*At 16 I was skinnier, too. **I still was not tiny at 16. ***In fact, I never saw the inside of a gym until my late 20s, and I still don’t have a real life…

But you get the picture. When a girl comes into the gym who has clearly been using it well, I resent that. Why are they there? They already are perfect, and surely if they look that good it’s easier for them. The gym is for me, the fat kid!

“See, I have other priorities in life besides how I look.”

What a hypocrite. The only reason you are in a gym is because you hate being pudgy.

I mean, there’s another side of me chirping back– “Isn’t it sad that she’s being forced to fit the mold of female beauty? That having gym toned muscles is how modern people try to attain a natural form we’d have if we lived more active lives and ate fewer refined foods?”

And yet another part chimes in, “I wonder if she’s insecure, and that’s why she’s working so hard to look perfect.”

(A better question: how many women exist who are not insecure about how they look? Especially at 16? {She was probably older than that, I am exaggerating.})

The worst part is that I know my judgment is just part of the vicious cycle of women judging others’ use of time and resources. And I don’t philosophically agree with the ugly things my mind is saying.

It’s OK for me to be in the gym because I’ve let myself go, but I get to judge girls who have maintained their musculature, or maybe (heaven forbid) enjoy exercising?

I want to protect myself from the internal judgment I feel, so I turn it outward. I congratulate myself on running a paltry few minutes when she gets off the treadmill after a light walk, though I know it’s either because she was warming up, or because it’s a light day.

“Or because you’re so obnoxious to watch running, hefting all that deadweight around, she wants to wait until you leave.”

See, it’s so much easier to think in snappy one-liners that push away my discomfort with someone else’s success. With being where I don’t feel like I should be, because I don’t love being here or even look like I’ve been going there at all.

But this isn’t license to judge. And my confession here is also a reminder–body positivity can’t actually live in the same space as shaming others.

Ugh, this stuff is hard.

Taking Cheer from Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick’s Day! A day holy to people wearing shades of green that make redheads LOOK green, and equating Irish heritage with being alcoholics numbing the pain of monocropping potatoes for the British Empire.

You can tell I’m Irish-American because my sense of humor is a little bitter.

But actually, I’d like to raise a metaphorical glass to the historical Patrick. There was a man who turned a dark time of his life into a calling, a passion.

And there was a time of history where the ending of one empire, the end of the world for many I am sure, sent out the seeds of a new civilization. One, in its own ways, as barbaric and cruel as any of the great empires. The one I feel perched at the very edge of.

The saving of ancient literature in Irish monasteries, with love and passion, mattered dearly. Do you think the men copying manuscripts hour after hour knew their own historical significance?

I doubt it. I hope they get to see it from their vantage point now.

I have often in my lifetime (with typical inherited pessimism tinged with arrogance) been sure I would see the fall of my own civilization. Recently I’m thinking the time-line looks uglier than I thought.

But maybe writing, and working on my passion, might matter.

So again, a toast to Patrick, who is apparently the patron saint of nothing BUT Ireland. Maybe he would have liked to be the patron of memoir or those beehive monastic cells or something.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul

says the ancient text (translated) attributed to him.


Unexpected Love Stories – The Wide-Berth Buick

I had to drive my brother’s Prius back to the house for him today.

It made me ask myself: Do I become a Person Who Drives A Prius merely by the act of doing so? Is it inherent? Is it forced upon me by the fact that it handles like a wind-up, and has the rear visibility of a Hot Wheels?

But I digress.

I don’t really like driving Toyota cars (I have a crush on an old Toyota truck model, but have never driven it, so withholding judgment). Partly because they all feel a little bit like driving a toy car. Even my mom’s previous FJ Cruiser SUV. Maybe particularly my mom’s FJ Cruiser SUV?

It is about like what a Barbie car would be, and it was even a very loud color, so as it was refusing to accelerate above kid-safe speeds on the on-ramp I could at least hope to be given wide berth as a child driver.


It’s mainly because I’m spoiled. I learned to drive in several cars, but I actually became a driver in a big old boat-like Buick.

I never would have guessed it would become something I was fond of, even as I heard people talk about their first cars. It’s a grandpa car. Literally, there is a CarMax commercial that makes fun of my car for being a boat, as a kid is trying to learn to parallel park.

Parking the thing is a beast (the Durango my mom has now feels like the easiest thing in the world, and it’s not technically smaller) –and I’ve met a few too many curbs along the way.

It’s also always ridden smooth and heavy. It likes to go 70 or 80, as it gets some good momentum and airflow, totally the best car for interstate driving.

I drove while I was still impressionable, and now it’s the standard by which I feel other cars.

I think it’s a goner.

I said goodbye to it a while ago, when my sister drove it off to a different state–I felt at that point that I might see it again, but needed to not count on it. When she said she was bringing it back home, I was so happy I told everyone in the same breath as I told them she was visiting.

After about 6 months of jumping from car to car (including my mom’s own transition) I was astonished to find myself not even realizing I was in a car and driving.

(I WAS paying attention, so don’t fret, it just felt natural.)

And then the little shimmy-under-the-hood started to get pretty pronounced. We have one more run into the mechanic to try together, and then I’ll be letting it go again.

I don’t know what will be my next fits-like-a-glove car. I’m probably not getting a new one anytime soon and will be car-hopping for a while.

Hopefully my perfect car is NOT a grandpa-boat car, but something a little more zippy, like a Beetle.

Or maybe I’ll get used to driving tin-cans.