My Fat

For the past few weeks I have been participating in a weight loss challenge through my gym, the South Yuba Club, in Grass Valley and Nevada City. The challenge has been fun and the people at the gym have been supportive and great. I haven’t really said much about it except for some alluding hashtags on my Instagram account with pictures of salads and fresh food. Truthfully, I feel like the whole weight-loss culture is annoying.

I applaud people who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle. I understand the culture. Since I have been going to the gym a lot lately, I totally get it. It feels good to make good choices. But the constant social media updates are annoying. They range from, “I took a wonderful walk today” (Not bad.) to “I’ve lost 40 pounds with Vegal Life and YOU CAN TOO!” (Excruciating.)

I have an acquaintance on Facebook who has lost a lot of weight in the past year. If there is anything else going on in her life, I have no idea. She hasn’t posted about anything else. The only thing she cares about is how much weight she has lost and how many half marathons she plans to run. I no longer know anything about her except that she has lost weight.

One month ago, I was the fattest that I had ever been. But, honestly, I’m also the happiest I’ve ever been. It turns out that the two are completely mutually exclusive. I’m happily married. I have a great job. My family is healthy and happy. I have lots of hobbies and friends and things to do. I love my garden and my cats. I feel good when I get up in the morning.

My weight has fluctuated my entire adult life. When I was in the 6th grade, I was one of the chubby kids. By the time I hit the 8th grade, I was one of the popular girls. Since I turned 22, my weight has ranged from 125 pounds to 216 pounds and everywhere in between. I’m now 34 years old. When I graduated college when I was 24, I weighed 200 pounds. By the time I hit 26, I was in the best shape of my life and climbed Mt. Whitney in a day. By 2009 I was working an office job and had gained 40 pounds. In 2010, I started jogging and got back down to 135 pounds and was running 3 miles each day and riding my bike to work. Then I moved to a small town with no sidewalks or trails and I gained weight again.

Me, fours years ago, when I weighed 135 pounds.

Me, fours years ago, when I weighed 135 pounds.

Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can be difficult. For me, the weight-loss culture is almost as annoying as the fat-shaming culture.

In the past decade, my weight has fluctuated enough to know, with no equivocation, that people treat me differently when I’m fat. When I’m overweight, people question my intelligence, my judgment, and my input. I don’t get invited to places as much when I’m overweight. My IQ, my innovation and my capability doesn’t change with my body size but the respect I receive definitely changes. And it’s excruciating.

And that’s why I want to lose weight.

Valentines Day 2015

My spouse and I kinda suck at Valentine’s Day. I honestly can’t remember what we did last year. This year, our original plan was to have dinner at a swanky private super club with a nationally-renown chef. We were going to go out and do something fun and celebratory. We were late getting tickets and the event sold out. Our second plan was to go see the Met Opera piped into our local movie theater. When we got up this morning, we decided to pack a few snacks, skip the opera, and go take a hike.

It has been delightfully (terribly?) warm in California these days. My wife and I drove about 20 minutes from our home and bounced around the grassy, spring air at Bridgeport and the South Yuba River State Park, stopping to photograph every wildflower and bumblebee that flew by. We read a Parks’ Guide brochure about the Maidu and Kneebone family and ate handfuls of almonds and carrots. We sat along the sunny side of the river and splashed our fingers against the cold and rushing current, watching the water burst against the river rocks. I got a little sunburnt. We made friends with other hiker’s dogs.

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It was a typical day on the Yuba. That is to say, it was so fucking beautiful that I stopped questioning the existence of God.

After hiking around and noticing the bees and the butterflies, we decided to go to the nursery and get a few new plants for our garden. We grabbed a cup of mediocre coffee on our way and then picked up some Thyme for ground cover and three Daphne bushes for the side of our house. (If you have smelled a beautiful, strong, lemony smell in your neighborhood recently, it is either citrus blossom or Daphne. Daphne is heavenly this time of year and so worth planting.) After the nursery, we went to the grocery store and bought rice, grass-fed ground beef, butter lettuce and a few bags of frozen berries. Since we weren’t going out for dinner, we decided to barbeque at home.

We spent the afternoon pulling weeds and planting flowers in our garden at home. We don’t have a weed whacker so we cut the small patch of grass with scissors. We have Tulips and Daffodils coming out of the ground but they haven’t yet bloomed and we wanted to add a little color.

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Our cats were quite happy to oblige our whim and spent the afternoon padding around the garden chasing little flying bugs. My wife added some Scotch Moss to her Bonsai pots. We put a radio station on a mix called, “classic love affair” and listened to Etta James and Lena Horne sing love songs. We both got bit by a few mosquitoes.

For dinner, my wife put together patties of ground beef mixed with ground pork, chopped fennel, seasoned salt, and oregano. We slow-cooked the meat on the grill and ate the patties wrapped in butter lettuce. It was simple but it was perfect. I didn’t burn the meat. Later, I even threw a chicken breast on the grill for lunches later this week.

Right now we are sitting on our porch. I’m writing this blog. My wife is posting pictures from today’s adventures on Instagram and reading the book I bought her yesterday

Earlier, she looked at me and said, “I love how we slowed down today. I wish we could do this every day.”

I honestly can’t remember a better Valentine’s Day. Today was nothing special. Except that it was everything special. We didn’t go out to dinner. We didn’t make a big production. We didn’t plan a complicated dinner. We just played it by ear. We stayed in town. We hung out at home. I’ve never been more in love. And it was perfect.

50 Shades of Black and White

A response to Miriam Grossman’s Open Letter to Young People About 50 Shades of Grey:

As someone who lives in a loving, committed relationship which, up until very recently, was seen as obscene or perverse and, in some places in the world today, is still punishable by death, I am incredibly weary when people, especially medical professionals, begin making blanket statements about what is and is not “healthy,” “normal,” or “appropriate” for young people or adults in consensual relationships.

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I am an out lesbian with a wife. I’m still fairly young. Every time I introduce my spouse to someone new and say, “This is my wife,” I am coming out of the closet and assuming a vulnerability that few people have to face on any regular basis when making introductions and small talk. It has been a while since I have faced outright discrimination or blatant disgust about my homosexuality but, over the years, I have been spat on, chased, and threatened with violence.

It was only 25 years ago that the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Today, in the United States, there are still 13 states where it is illegal for same-sex partners to marry. In 29 US States, being gay is still a legal reason to fire someone from their job. If I had been born in Yemen or Iran, my punishment for being born gay would be death.

The fact of the matter is that it is no one’s business what my wife and I do in our bedroom. But, for those who are really interested: we mostly sleep, sometimes we read, sometimes we watch Downton Abbey or Once Upon A Time or So You Think You Can Dance, and sometimes we make love. Mostly, our lives are fairly routine and we have to do things like go to work, pick up the groceries, clean the house, and pay the bills. Sometimes, on good days, we get to go out to dinner or catch a movie. Being a lesbian is almost as boring as being heterosexual.

In addition to being a lesbian, I am also an out and proud feminist. (Though, trust me, the two are mutually exclusive.) It somewhat pains me to admit, in a public forum, that I read all three of the Fifty Shades of Grey books by E.L. James. Since I have a degree in English Literature, it further pains me to admit that I really enjoyed reading them, especially the end of the third book. They were fun. The story was a fairytale, a fantasy. I didn’t read the books looking for relationship advice in the same way that I didn’t read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild as a field guide for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. There are flaws in the E.L James trilogy but, from my perspective, most of the problems are with the adjectives and the occasionally watery dialogue, not with something that might have made the feminist hairs on my body stand up.

Dr. Grossman delivers her warning to young people as though young women have no license or knowledge about their own desires and sexual health. She assumes that every young woman is a victim and has no ownership about what she wants or desires sexually.

It is important to acknowledge that a healthy relationship is a relationship that involves people consenting to the terms of their relationship. Consent is a verb and I think the best definition of the word was found on the back of a t-shirt produced by the California National Organization for Women in 2004: consent, v. to actively and willingly participate in any given activity, without coercion or force. Consent is a verb available to those who are of sound mind and body, able to give consent wholly. I want to be clear that children, animals, the mentally disabled, and those not in control of their faculties for whatever reason, do not fall into the category of able consent.

Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey are literary characters. They do not provide us with a clinical study. They are not scientific beings. They are not available for psychological analysis because, simply, they do not actually exist. It is unfair and unrealistic to base a scientific opinion on how relationships exist based on literary characters. I will go as far to say that I feel it is inappropriate and irresponsible to give blanket professional advice about real-world issues using literary examples.

Relationships are hard. Sexuality is an even more difficult subject to dissect. Young men and women in the United States today are facing an unprecedented era in sexuality. With the abundant availability of literary genres covering sex as a topic, the internet allowing young people to view pornography and active sexual acts at each person’s fingertips and, with less and less comprehensive sexual education and reduced access to services like family planning and birth control, we now have a large population of young people with lots of questions and hardly any real answers.

Further misinformation and blanket directives are not going to help.

I remember being young and confused. I remember experimenting with my sexuality. I remember wondering if I could be “normal” or “okay.” I took risks to understand myself. I took consensual risks. I had trusted boyfriends and girlfriends. I had sexual escapades. (Sorry Mom and Dad. I know that you read my blog. Love you.) I experimented sexually until I was ready to understand myself sexually and what my sexuality meant. It was a confusing and an enlightening process. But I had consensual partners. As a gay woman trying to make sense of things, I felt kinky and awkward and outcast for many years.

Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey do not give people an accurate sense of relationship. But they give people a platform. They give people a place to start a conversation.

I don’t think that any outside relationship can give people an accurate depiction of relationships. We have to love how we love. We have to want how we want. We have to be how we are. Relationships happen in relationships. Love happens in love. Life happens in life.

Sexuality is a tenuous subject. What pleases us and what makes us hot is individual.

It’s okay to have sexual fantasies. It’s okay to want to play. It’s okay to act out. As long as the people involved establish sober boundaries and set parameters, and as long as they decide what the limits are, it’s okay.

What we do in our own consensual relationships is no one’s business. For grown women and for young women and for the partners we choose.

If what we choose is consensual, there are no shades of gray.

Real Jobs

Three months ago I applied to be a Production Assistant for a television pilot. A local acquaintance of mine, who is something of a celebrity, posted an announcement on a local online community forum that she was hiring for the job and that the show would be filming locally. I sent in my application and waited.

And waited.

I ran into my friend Zoe a week later who told me that she was working on the production but feeling like she might have to quit because it was just too much and she was working two other jobs. I told her not to quit because I had applied to be the Production Assistant and “we could totally work together!” I think I actually said that.

“What are you doing with the production?” I asked her enthusiastically.

Zoe shifted her weight uncomfortably and looked away from me.

“Oh god,” I said. “You’re the Production Assistant, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.” She said shyly.

“I think that’s super awesome.” I really meant it. Zoe was a film major in college and probably knew a lot more than I did about what a Production Assistant actually did. (Before I applied, I had to google it.)

“I really think I have to quit though.” Zoe said. “I’m already completely stressed out.”

Before talking to Zoe that morning I had emailed to follow up about the job. I professed how hard working and intelligent I was. Shortly after Zoe quit, the director and the producer called me, did a phone interview, and hired me.

I probably should have paid more attention to Zoe’s stress.

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This past week has been one of the most difficult and hectic weeks of my life. If it hadn’t have been for the incredible and amazing people working on the television pilot, this week could have easily been one of the worst weeks of my life. If I have learned anything it’s that I have no desire to have a career in show business.

Three months ago, just after I had been hired for the Production Assistant job, the non-profit that I had been volunteering for, and whose board of directors I was the president of, named me their Executive Director. In the span of a few days I had gone from having no job to having two very demanding jobs.

I love being the Executive Director of Sierra Commons. Sierra Commons is a non-profit business education center and coworking facility in Nevada City. It is a professional work space with a philanthropic attitude and a sustainable mission and business plan. At Sierra Commons, I love the people I work with and I love the people I work for.

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My duties at Sierra Commons include everything from large-scale fund-raising and program management to taking out the garbage and cleaning out the fridge. It is my personal philosophy that any Executive Director should be intelligent, commanding, charismatic, organized, and humble. There is nothing within the organization that is beneath me and there is no job within my skill set that I would refuse to do. Every little bit is important. And I’m willing to step in anywhere that I can. Needless to say, I keep busy at Sierra Commons.

After a few weeks trying to tackle both my role as a Production Assistant and my role as an Executive Director, I probably should have examined my threshold for stress.

My role as a Production Assistant was varied and covered a vast landscape of responsibilities. Some days I put together spread sheets listing camera equipment. One day I sent letters to colleges soliciting interns. I faxed and copied things. I filed receipts and invoices. When the cast and crew met for a table reading, I cooked and served all the food.

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Early on it became clear to me that term “Production Assistant,” or “PA,” refers to the person who does the tasks for the producers. My job was to say yes to whatever they asked me to do and to find a way to get it done. Even when it was unreasonable or impossible.

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We wrapped up filming on the TV pilot last week. It was seven days in a row of 12+ hour days.  My role as the PA morphed from clerical to caterer. I was waking up an hour before the rest of the cast and crew so that I could pick up breakfast and have coffee made for everyone when they got there. I was in charge of setting out snacks and replenishing them throughout the day. I was also running errands throughout the day, running across town picking up things like extra trash bags and duct tape. On most days I was among the last to leave because I had to collect the days dishes and get them back to the catering company.

On Tuesday night, after filming, I was on my way home from one of the locations, a residence about 30 minutes out of town, and noticed my car making a really strange sound. I had a flat tire. I had a spare but I couldn’t change the tire because the spare had a wheel-locking device on one of the lug nuts and I didn’t have the key to open it. A couple of people stopped to help. Most people stopped to ask if I was okay. When the last car passed by, I called the tow truck and burst into tears. It felt cathartic to just sit on the roadside sobbing.

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Back in October I had vented that I wanted a “real job” but I had resigned myself to finding any job that could pay me money so that I could pay my bills. It doesn’t matter that I’m smart, capable, vastly skilled, and have a college degree. There just aren’t enough jobs and there definitely aren’t enough meaningful jobs that pay a living wage. Sometimes one has to take what one can get and make the best of it.