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Archive for April 2012

Long before HBO’s new series Girls was even a glimmer in writer and creator Lena Dunham’s eye, there was another HBO show, also featuring four young women trying to find themselves in New York City. And while Sex and the City will always have a soft spot in my heart (and a huge chunk of space on my DVD shelf), that show was about four women and their relationships with men, because they had their shit together. Only once did any of them really want for money and when Carrie found herself homeless and living in her shoes, she got offered a check by Mr. Big and in the end, a ridiculously expensive ring from Charlotte. These are not the lives of relatable New York women, but what made SATC so incredible was the dynamic between the four of them, the way they loved each other, and the way they so encapsulated the fragile strength of modern-day women.

HBO’s Girls, which premiered this past Sunday night, was a far cry from Manolo Blahniks and Vogue. It was a show less about the relationships of four women with their men and more about the relationships with their lives. And while I have come across a smattering of good reviews, like this one and this one, the show was not received too well. And from the negative reviews that I’ve read (and I’ve read A LOT) they all seem to be saying the same thing: white women who are financially supported by their parents can’t have real life problems. And this is a travesty, this new phenomenon that I call “brat-shaming.”

I was born in 1981, which lands me right on the last leg of Generation X. I spent a good solid 8 years in college, trying to pursue my dreams of being a writer and college professor, only to find myself with a Masters degree I can do nothing with, a weight problem I can’t seem to shake, and a whole slew of mental illnesses, all of which find me still living in the Queens home I grew up in, making me one of those spoiled assholes almost completely supported by my parents.

I am not as forutnate as Lena Dunham’s Girls personna, Hannah, who gets to live in a Brooklyn apartment with a sassy roommate. My parents don’t have the kind of money (or at least they claim they don’t) that could support me in an apartment. Apparently, I’m only supportable while under their constant and watchful (and disapproving) gaze. But I digress. My point is simple. In today’s society (or at least in New York society) there are those people who are forunate enough to have found full-time work. They are often folks who have pulled themselves up by their boot straps and struggle to pay their bills every month while still waking up every morning before the sun. That level of tenacity, that work ethic, admirable, no question.

Then you have the rest of society. The Hannahs of the world, fortunate enough to have parents who can support them while they try to follow their dream. I wanted to be Keats. I wanted to sit in a tree with a spiral notebook and pen sonnets about the Heath. Yeah. I know. And now that it’s 2012 and the economy is in the toilet (and “English” is one of the top worst majors to pursue), I find myself almost as unemployed as I am broke. So why shame me? Why get mad that I can sleep til noon and you can’t? Why not feel blessed, that in an economy so shitty you have managed to be able to do the covetous thing that is earning a living wage. I have never in my life earned enough money at one or more jobs that allowed me to live outside my parents’ home. But I have worked (always from home), and at jobs I’ve hated, just to have some money to help put a dent in my debt and maybe go out for a few drinks with friends once in a blue, or buy myself a new laptop. Never once did I ever look down on those women (or men) like Hannah, who have the luxury of living in a brownstone while interning for free. I don’t even look down on Paris Hilton, so indoctrinated into a life of luxury that she’s incapable of walking without posing. I try not to look down on anyone. Everyone’s worst day is their worst day. Right now there is a homeless man on the street whose only food is the scraps he gets from good samaritans or the dinner he gets from a soup kitchen. Does a starving child in Somalia have the right to judge him simply because his misfortune is worse?

I have the utmost respect for people, like my parents, who work hard. While they’re both retired now, my parents had an enviable work ethic. My father woke up at the crack of dawn every day and stood on his feet all day giving haircuts to folks who didn’t tip. Towards the end of his career he got diagnosed with emphysema, and even though he couldn’t breathe he still went to work. That’s just the kind of man he is. But does that make him a “better person” than fictional Hannah, who considers herself “the voice of a generation” (or maybe just “a voice of a generation”) and wants to pursue her dreams of memoir writing and awkward sex? At the end of the day, the have-nots will always look down their nose at the haves, because of jealousy. But the truth is that any number of my hard-working friends would probably love to be able to sleep til noon and have most of their bills paid for each month. What they wouldn’t love, however, is the rest of it, the not-so-awesome parts. Like how I still don’t have my drivers license and how I can’t walk a goddamn city block.

But contrary to popular belief, I’m not spoiled. I work hard for the things I want that fall outside of the realm of “bills” my parents pay for. Just about everything in my bedroom, from my Holmes fan to my Canon printer to my Sony dvd player, I paid for myself. Yes, that was only doable because my parents cover the basics, but I do have drive. And so does Hannah, or else there’d be no memoir written, no confident requests for a job from her boss. And even if Hannah and I were sitting at home in a cloud of opium tea, contemplating our navels and spending our parents’ hard earned money on designer lamps and eating lunch at the airport, so? What business is that of yours? Jealousy, as they say, is an ugly color on everyone. And the desire to bring fortunate people down to your level so that they too can wallow in your misery is an even uglier color still. The grass is always greener on the other side; I covet your paychecks, and you wish you could sleep til noon. At the end of the day, we both lose or we both win, depending on how we choose to perceive our own little slice of the world. Be better, not bitter, and you’ll go far in life.

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As someone who is morbidly obese (though I hate that term more than anything), I feel only too qualified to point out what so few people seem to realize: McDonald’s is not making you fat.

Do you know why Morgan Spurlock got sick after eating Big Macs every day for a month? It’s not because McDonald’s puts rat poison in their beef or because the cows they slaughter ate grass from Hitler’s front lawn. It’s because NO ONE SHOULD EAT THAT CRAP EVERY DAY FOR A MONTH.

There is one thing – and one thing only – that will make you lose weight (assuming you don’t have some type of glandular problem) and that is moderation. Eat right and exercise. There you go. That’s the diet secret that Weight Watchers and the creators of Acai Berry don’t want you to know. You don’t need meals home delivered to your door. You just need to STOP EATING SO MUCH and take a fucking walk.

So then why are there so many fat people out there galumphing around with their sweaty faces, you ask? Well let me explain. Because that shit is fucking hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life. I am addicted to binge eating. For me, eating a singular portion of anything is like eating a crumb. My mind craves tacos 24/7. I am like a heroin addict, and I must spend my ENTIRE LIFE fighting the most intense cravings for copious quantities of pizza and cheeseburgers and the WORST FOODS EVER. The top ten list of foods your doctor says never to eat, are the precise foods that keep me up at night. But addiction is a war, and so I fight. Or at least I try.

To date, I lost 140 pounds, then I gained back 90, then I lost 25, and then I gained back I don’t know how many because I haven’t been on the scale in two weeks. Like I said: the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life.

But this notion that somehow fast food is to blame really sticks in my craw. Earlier today, Jezebel brought to my attention an article from USA TODAY in which the activist group Corporate Accountability International is seeking to have hospitals sever their greasy ties with McDonald’s food chains. Why? Don’t you get that people who overeat will overeat whatever they can overeat? You can take McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and all the Pizza Hut and Dominos chains and bury them at the bottom of the sea, and people like me will just sit home and binge on bacon cheeseburgers we cook ourselves. Just because you make them on the George Foreman grill doesn’t mean you can eat ten of them. And this is why I get so annoyed when people give me diet advice. I KNOW WHAT I AM SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. No one tells alcoholics, the trick is just stop drinking. Because society understands that alcoholics have an addiction problem. Food addiction is kind of like pot addiction; it rarely gets identified as an actual addiction and it mostly just gets met with eye rolls and snickers.

The proof is in the pudding (pun intended); have you ever seen skinny people at McDonald’s? You have?? Well how on earth are they avoiding the lard-laden fray? Snarkiness aside, the truth is right in front of us; I know because I live it. Losing weight is science and math. You must expel more than you intake. If you do, you lose. If you don’t, you gain. Sure, genetics and environmental factors play a role in how proportionate you are and what kind of foods you can afford (sadly, the bad food is the cheapest), but at the end of the day the food chains are not to blame. McDonald’s has its purpose, to give people who can’t afford Starbucks a place to get coffee on their way to work. You can dismantle the Egg McMuffins all you want; you can force them to sell salads and apple slices, but IF PEOPLE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH FOOD, THEY WILL FIND A WAY TO OVEREAT.

Since I’m not a doctor, I can only speak for myself. When my parents recognized that, if left to my own devices, I would literally eat until I puked, they tried their hardest to monitor what I ate. This left me with little opportunity to binge. So I waited until I was at school and I ate out of the garbage. I went across the street to the supermarket after school and shoplifted Hormel pepperoni. I FOUND A WAY. Granted, I’m an extreme case, but I don’t believe that obesity exists in a vacuum. There are plenty of people out there with my same problem. The solution is easy, it’s the doing it that’s hard. To get from simply having the knowledge to being able to utilize that knowledge in some kind of healthy way that results in longevity of life, now THAT’S the real question. But you can bet the answer’s got nothing to do with parfaits.

With all of this talk of the new documentary “Bully,” which hit theaters March 30, and with Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign becoming a YouTube sensation last year, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own days (years?) of being bullied. I didn’t have to look back too far.

As a kid, I was lucky (though it didn’t seem like it at the time); my bullying was mostly verbal. The few times I was threatened with actual violence nothing ever came of it. It was mostly taunts, which followed me from grade school into college. Yeah, you heard me. College. The hilarity at poking fun at me for being fat, apparently, does not elude the scholarly among us. If you’re different from the norm, or if you’re perceived as an easy target like I was, that’s it. Hunker down and count your blessings. Life will not be smooth for you.

The consensus of all of these anti-bullying sentiments seems to be the same thing: an attempt to eradicate bullying while simultaneously reassuring kids that, simply put, shit gets better when they get older. Personally, I hate this strategy. And here’s why. You can’t eradicate bullies. Bullies are like mosquitos; they’re everywhere and they can smell fear. The people watching “Bully” are the victims of bullying, not the bullies themselves. The bullies are too busy stuffing some chess club president into his locker and drinking beer behind the A&P; they don’t have time for life lessons. Ahhh, the circle of life.

Is it fucked up that I’m basically saying that the onus is on the victim? Yes. But this is the world we live in. There will ALWAYS be bullies. There will always be a flagrant douche who draws a picture of what he imagines you look like naked, and takes the time out of his day to carefully sketch your disgusting, fat, nude body – complete with hideous, crotch-blocking undercarriage – in pen, on a piece of cardboard and then show it off to all your friends. There’s always going to be some tall, towering bitch who accuses you of looking at her (or her boyfriend, or her best friend, or her schnauzer) the wrong way. Bullies are like cockaroaches; they will be here long after we all die. They are a part of growing up and, much to the contrary of what victims have been told of late, it doesn’t always get better when you get older. Adults can be bullies too. And adults have money. And a better vocabulary.

So what does this negative-nancy news mean? It means we have to build thicker skins, both for ourselves and for our children. In a perfect world, there would be a movie or a slogan or a voice or a YouTube video that would change the minds and hearts of bullies everywhere. They would realize that they pick on that dweeb in Math class just like their dad picks on them at home. They’d have an epiphany and start helping the homeless. But this kind of thing rarely happens, if ever. The truth is, bullies often get far in life because they bully their way to the top. Just look at Donald Trump, or the tools on Entourage.

I’m not excluding myself from this viewpoint, either. The bullying that I received growing up (and that I still receive any time I walk to the post office and some gaggle of douches in a Jetta moos at me) ruined my life. But I let it. And I let it because I’m generally a weak person; I admit it. There are people out there who are like me, but there are also people out there who aren’t. There are people out there who have the kind of constitution I’d kill for. These people aren’t arrogant, per se, but they are so utterly convinced that they are good, kind, decent people, people of value, that no one’s words can mold them into something else. These are the kinds of people who rarely get bullied. Bullies don’t bother with these kinds of people, because there’s no point.

So yes, ultimately I’m an asshole, I suppose, for daring to suggest that we as people (or as parents) try to create stronger selves and therefore stronger children. Kids learn more from how parents treat themselves than from how their parents treat them. And it applies aptly to my own life. My mother has – and has always had – incredibly low self-esteem. I inherited all of her weakness, and, sadly, very little of my father’s strength. But I cannot blame her, because you can’t instill in your children what you don’t have in yourself.

Is it the victims’ fault that they get bullied? No. I put 100% of the blame on the bullies. But trying to somehow universally “nicefy” assholes everywhere by showing them a video of a kid who killed himself is futile. Trust me, the assholes are laughing. They don’t care. We have to thicken our skins, and live the indelible words of Eleanor Roosevelt, who dared declare that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

I’ve recognized this trend a lot over the past decade or so. The music industry has a negative habit of – for some reason – continuously trying to *whiten* up their African-American female artists. Does it happen to every woman with a mic who drops an album? No. But it does happen to several major ones. And it’s only getting worse.

Remember when Mariah Carey was noticeably half black? Yeah, neither do I. Because the last time she looked half black I was nine. Her album cover from 1990 shows a somewhat darker skinned, curly haired Mariah. But, as the years go by, she gets whiter and whiter. In 1997 she looks Hispanic and then in 2009, she’s scantily clad in white (as every female singer should be) looking almost as pale as I do, her tight curls replaced with loose waves.

Lil’ Kim’s 2000 album cover portrays her as a strong black woman with a penchant for fine jewelry and a vendetta against clothing. But fast forward a measly five years or so, and on that album cover all you see is her face, and I don’t know about you but I didn’t know who the fuck that was the first time I saw it. She looks remarkably whiter.

Beyoncé, one of this decade’s most revered and talented performers, never looked so good (or so black) as when she posed for the cover of her 2003 album, Dangerously in Love. But her most recent album, 4, which came out last year, shows a drastic change, and not just in the color of her skin.

Most recently, Nicki Minaj’s new album, which came out this week, showcases the rapper virtually nude and covered in paint. But the digital booklet features a downright completely de-blackified Nicki, complete with blond wig and flesh toned undergarments.

So what’s the deal? For one, I’m certainly not the first to notice this discrepancy, and I surely won’t be the last. The DailyMail reminds us that:

“In August 2008, cosmetics giant L’Oreal was accused of ‘whitewashing’ [Beyoncé] in an advert by digitally lightening her skin.”

The ad that they’re referring to isn’t half as bad as the “4” cover. So am I just a jaded cynic, or are the people behind these lovely ladies’ albums aware of a secret (or not so secret) truth that, blatantly put, looking white sells more albums? I don’t know. I’m positive that the photos in question were photoshopped, because all non-paparazzi, professional celebrity photos are, but I’d be curious to know if the skin color of these songbirds was purposely photoshopped and for what reason. I don’t want to pull out the race card just yet, but I do have it tucked safely in my back pocket.