“This is Us” This Ain’t Enough.

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Written for the badass podcast Bad Fat Broads. You should subscribe immediately!

This is Us, NBC’s latest tear jerker drama, has been a runaway hit. Every week the audience is lulled by soft acoustic guitar and whisper singing through emotional and dramatic stories of family, those chosen and hereditary. The way the stories travel backward and forward through time have the potential to feel hokey, but here make pointaint connections that develop a world designed to pull at your heartstrings.

Having been burned by Parenthood, NBC’s emofamdrama predecessor, I avoided This is Us like the Falcons avoid super bowl wins. Being a completist, every week I was faithful to the broadcast of Parenthood even though I disliked every single character by the end. Something about the milquetoast Californian whiteness lulled me in and I couldn’t let it go. Even now I could not honestly say I enjoyed it, but I didn’t hate it either, thus I remained committed.

This Is Us, however, has been a remarkable improvement over Parenthood. Characters are flawed, yet likable, and relatable. I can even see it for Kevin (Justin Hartley); the self-absorbed, shallow Hollywood actor, whom we first meet as the constantly shirtless star on his hit sitcom The Manny, is charming. His impulsivity and drive to be the center of attention lead to some predictable situations, but you can see where his heart is. For Kevin, and for the rest of the characters in the show, their motivations are clear and make sense for each one.

Inarguably, (you can try to debate me, but you’ll lose) the best storyline rotates around Randall (Sterling K. Brown), who begins life as an adoptee into the Pearson family. Parents Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) lose one of their expected triplets during birth and take baby Randall into their home. The struggle of raising Randall, a black child in a nearly all-white town, is excellently written. The adversity Pearson’s face because of their ignorance and because of how systemic racism operates is not waved away with some Kumbaya/I Don’t See Color/The Only Race Is The HUMAN Race/#AllLivesMatter bullshit.

Adult Randall’s daughters are the most adorable babies on TV right now and his partnership with his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) is truly #relationshipgoals. I have never related more to TV family. Even when Randall’s birth father appears, his story of drug addiction is treated with nuance, dignity, and humanity. Moreover, when the friction between Kevin and Randall finally erupts, it is very clear they have some writers who truly know what they’re writing about. However, this knowledgeable and nuanced writing all falls to pieces when it comes to the Pearson sister, Kate (Chrissy Metz).

Outside of the bookends of the premier and finale of the season where Kate deals with unemployment drama, she spends the entire season worrying about weight loss. Kate is fat. So when the show deals with her trials around diet, body image, isolation, loneliness, wanting and wondering if she’ll ever be loved, and desire to lose weight, I relate 100%. Having been fat all of my life, I am deeply intimate with that struggle. If she did not live in or confront these spaces, that would leave me wondering if This Is Us writers knew how to deal with it. However, the storyline written for her removed all my doubts and proved that they do not. In fact, Kate’s storyline is a firm reminder that the only worthwhile thing a fat person can do is lose weight.

We meet Kate, looking great in a cute outfit, staring at a scale. She proceeds to remove every article of clothing and jewelry, only to slip and fall off the scale. Ha.   Ha.

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We see Kate go to overeaters anonymous meetings, because fat people are only fat because they literally cannot stop eating, amiright? While eating disorders are a very real and serious issue, it seems that whenever a fat person is allowed any significant screen time it is paired with the conditions that must also be on a weightloss journey. Kate doesn’t have any real friends, hobbies, or interests. She has dedicated her entire self to losing weight and nothing else.

And you know what? I get that. I have been there. I tried diets, working out, food delivery services, even hypnotism, which I just plain slept through. But this isn’t just part of Kate’s story. It is Kate’s only story. In fact, when Kevin is describing his family to an actress he’s trying to woo by telling her how “crazy” they are, he says, “And my sister Kate, she’s really fat!” Wow, you’ve only shared your entire existence with her and that’s all you have as a descriptor?

Kate is so isolated that she meets her love interest, who is also very fat, in an OA meeting. Because fat people can only ever date other fat people; we’re too disgusting for anyone else you see. Toby (Chris Sullivan, who wears a fat suit for the show) appears as a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, which I can appreciate as fat women on screen are never shown being desired and worthy of romance. However, he can go from 0 to asshole super quickly and as there’s never another rival for Kate’s affections, she sticks with him. Toby isn’t really here for OA and honestly, the show doesn’t seem to be either. Kate and Toby bond over annoying oversharers and how they would never cry like these people. But y’all both signed up AND showed up? Writers, what? We couldn’t have a better meet cute for two fatties in love?

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After Toby has a health scare, Kate runs away to a fat camp, determined more than ever to live life thinner. (BTW, how is Kate, who has been unemployed for months, affording this fat camp in the tri-state area?) The show treats Kate’s fatness as evidence of emotional trauma left to fester. Despite that we teach children that people come in all shapes and sizes, there has to be a tangible reason to explain your fatness. If that emotional trauma can be fixed, then the problem of your weight can also be “fixed.”  No, This Is Us, fatness is not always about trauma. Believe it or not, some people are just fat and that’s OK.  

The way This Is Us tackled Randall’s issues with precision and clarity had me fooled. I believed they would take a chance and tell a different story with Kate. I began to hold my breath for the break in the narrative where Kate finds out about HAES (Health At Every Size) and the Fat Acceptance movement, but subsequent episodes ended  my heartbreak as the show dived deeper into weight loss being The Only Answer. While I didn’t think it feasible Kate would end the season loving her fat, I dared to hope that maybe she would begin her journey to acceptance. However, as weight loss is included in the actresses’ contract, it is very unlikely a different story will be told.

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When Accessibility gets Labeled Wasteful

crippledscholar

So there’s a debate going on, on Twitter right now between disabled people and people who either claim to care about the environment and or just want to complain about “lazy people”

The tweet that started it all

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Image Description: tweet with a picture of peeled oranges in plastic containers on a grocery store (whole foods) shelf. Tweet reads “If only nature could find a way to cover these oranges so we didn’t need to waste so much plastic on them”

The original tweet has been shared over 70,000 times. Whole Foods has apparently agreed to remove the prepeeled oranges from their stores. Environmentalists and those who hate laziness rejoice!

The problem is that this discourse completely ignores how preprepared food impacts people with disabilities. The most common complaints about the sale of these oranges is either the wastefulness of the additional packaging (which is true but somewhat misdirected as…

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A Twitteration w/the AJC

I was upset by the initial tweet as I had just finished reading this article on Jezebel. A transgender woman was beaten near to death after two cisgender women (one was a girl of 14) “found her out” while in the McDonald’s women’s restroom.

One of the employees filmed the attack (while laughing) and the video went viral. This woman was beaten for 15 minutes.

According to WBALTV, Brown also asked for forgivness today and said she wanted to apologize to the victim. Polis wasn’t in court, but her victim impact statement made it clear that she isn’t ready to make amends. She said:

“While being beaten, I felt like I was going to die that day. I was kicked in the chest, crotch and head. Chunks of my hair were pulled out. They were all over me, and I couldn’t get them to stop … My private life has been exposed to the world. I lost my job. I can’t go anywhere without the fear of getting hurt again. I want to go into a hole and hide. I do not forgive them for what they did to me.”

Vicky Thoms, a woman who was hit while trying to break up the assault, was in court and said, “I never dreamed I would see anything like that in my life — never. It’s like you were watching someone being murdered almost.”

On the difference between Good Dogs and Dogs That Need a Newspaper Smack. (via Sindelókë)

A great example of what privilege means to those with and without it.

Today I'm feeling 101-y, I guess, so let's talk about privilege. It's a weird word, isn't it? A common one in my circles, it's one of the most basic, everyday concepts in social activism, we have lots of unhelpful snarky little phrases we like to use like "check your privilege" and a lot of our dialog conventions are built around a mutual agreement (or at least a mutual attempt at agreement) on who has privilege when and how to compensate for tha … Read More

via Sindelókë

I cut my (our?) hair.

When I was younger, I had my hair hot combed until my first perm at the age of 13. I’d always wanted a perm, b/c I loved swimming and couldn’t take the tenderheaded pain of combing it out afterwards. I wanted hair and styles like my mom’s & sister’s. I took pride in my long hair and never thought of cutting it. I wanted to be like Sampson!

A day before my business trip to D.C., I went to my new favorite salon to have my hair hydrated, flat ironed, and chopped. By “chopped” I mean having several inches cut off. I decide to go from past shoulder length to just below chin length in a concave inverse bob.

I’ve been into bobs since TLC and the idea of having one only grew stronger when Rory on Gilmore Girls cut her hair upon her entrance to Yale. Even though the character is younger than me, I thought the hair cut looked so sophisticated and adult. Something I desperately wanted to be considering the fact that other adults where always mistaking me for a high school student even though I was a junior in University.

Recently, a friend of mine told me about her concave bob and how much she loved it. I did some googling and found this really dramatic picture that I feel in love with and decided on it immediately.

Now, this is not the first time I cut my hair. A few years ago, when I first tried a bob, my stylist cut it much shorter than I desired, but I liked it all the same. I warned friends and family that I planned to get it cut and many tried to dissuade me.

“Your hair is so long and healthy! I like it long. You shouldn’t cut it.”
Other folks that I hadn’t thought to tell where shocked. Some almost seemed angry that I had cut my hair. It was as if I had done something to them personally. Although most never said more than “But it looked so good long! How could you cut it? Do you know people are buying/trying to grow hair like yours? And then you go and cut it all off!”

The feeling, the meaning behind the words communicated to me that I was some sort of hair ambassador for black women. That my long hair proved to others (possibly white others) that black women could have long, healthy looking hair. That there’s some sort of community bonding or ownership over the state of my hair. People seemed invested in it. Maybe some saw it as aspirational? I don’t know. I don’t want to go that far into thinking people looked up to my hair.

Even in the salon people questioned me, “Do you really want to cut all that pretty hair off?” Unlike the first time I cut it, I had supporters who reminded everyone that it was “just hair” and that it would still look just as pretty short.
Has anyone else experienced this? I can understand the obsession with having long, straight hair. I know where that comes from (fake, racist ass beauty myth!). However, the idea that I should not cut my hair for the sake of others, including I may not even know personally, truly puzzles me.

Below, a funny anecdote.

After the chop, I went home and hung around for a little while. I got ready to leave again, but noticed my father hadn’t noticed my hair! He usually does and often says something like, “Wow, my hair looks beautiful!” (It’s always HIS hair!)
I asked him, “So, nothing to say to me?”
“My hair looks really nice.”
I put on a playfully exasperated tone, “Is that all?”
He turned on the lights and looked me up and down, but only looked confused.
“Sigh, I cut off six inches!”
His confusion melted into a look of sorrow.
“Oh, you didn’t even notice but now you want to be sad?”
I laughed and left.

RE: Grandmothers

The other day Sarah of Feministe wrote Grandmothers. A bit of a tribute to Elizabeth Taylor and the meaning grandmothers in her life. At the end of the post, Sarah asked, “What do you wish you could ask your grandmothers (whether they’re blood grandmothers or otherwise)?”

I replied with this.

My grandmother & I were never close. In fact, most of the time I didn’t like being around her, especially if I was alone. My first memory of her is her yelling over my protestations, forcing me to drink some V8 b/c she didn’t want to see it go waste.

See, my parents are peaceful people who NEVER yelled at me out of anger–not to themselves, not me. Yelling was the one of the surest ways to make me burst into tears.

When my grandmother’s cancer returned in 2008 (She’d been w/o cancer for 40+ years. It disappeared when my mom was a child) she moved in with us. Which was fine, the house is big enough for everyone. This meant more interaction. I was always nervous about, but she would say things like, “You have to be strong. The world hates fat, black women” or she would ask why I didn’t have a boyfriend and then brag about all the times she had been asked for her hand.

She was demanding, “always right”, and could talk for 15 minutes non-stop. We were not close. Although, she’d ask for “sugar” she wasn’t affectionate. I never went to her with a problem, ever.

Having to help take care of her was really, very hard for me. Not only because of our relationship, but b/c it took GREAT patience which I hadn’t cultivated having never had to care for anyone but myself. And she was having an extremely hard time adjusting to a life of increased dependence (the end of which was certain death) on other people and would try to take it out on us to the point where my sister had to threaten to have her put in a nursing home in order in an effort to make her cooperate. It wasn’t coercion, she was fighting against us and the paramedics we’d been forced to call.

One day, before the days she lost her ability to talk, she asked me, “Have I been horrible to you?” I was so shocked! I just yelled “no!” and hurried up whatever I was doing and got out of there. If I could tell her, I would say that she wasn’t horrible. But our relationship had not been easy at all for me, but that I loved her and admired her so very much. That she had given me the gift the priceless gift incredibly, nurturing, supportive loving mother who always sought to comfort & understand me, but never shied away from discipline!

With out you, I don’t know where I would be, but with you, I have an amazing family I wouldn’t trade for the world. I know that was possible because of her. Even if it was because my mother decided NOT to be like her own mother.

I would also ask if she liked her funeral. If she liked the video I made for her. I would ask what she thinks of me thinking about getting a tattoo in her honor that says “The fat lady is doing just fine”, like she used to say.

My Heart Breaks\Use of DNA to research African heritage

I actually wrote this back in 2006, but a post I recently read at Womanist Musings.

Lost Ancestry: I am a descendant of slaves

And I felt so connected to the sentiment expressed, I thought I’d republish that long ago written blog here.

POSTED BY “Mohamid al Goldberg”—African slaves were sold to europeans by other africans. who cairs about relatives in crumby old africa? find out who yours are, go see them and puch them in they nose.

I CARE!!!!
Do you have any idea how painful it is to sit around during Multi-culti month and have absoluetly nothing?

I have no langague
I have no music or song
I have no myths or stories to tell
I have no rituals to explain
I have no dance to dance
I have no knowledge of my people that I can depart or even take part in.

I have nothing. I do not know where my people come from. The majority of Americans (whether they care to or not) can point to at least one place on the world map and know where they came from. They can learn all about that place and take joy in it.

I have none of that.
And what makes it worse is that IT WAS PLANNED TO BE THIS WAY! It wasn’t planned by the Africans this way. The actions of men long dead and unknown have the power to this very day to make me long, make me feel worthless, lost, make my eyes burn with tears, and fill my throat with screams. I have been willfully deprived.

I am so very intensely JEALOUS.

This is the article that sparked these comments.
http://www.topix.net/content/kri/0937326822208824041312895466912884173061

In highschool I began to read Morgan Llwelyn who writes books about ancient Irish legends and historical Irish events. She’s absolutely an excellen author. Anyway, I began to realize how much I did not have. I had no cultural heros, sayings, songs, dances, holidays, rituals…nothing that really reflected me.

Remembering that we do have Chickasaw Indian on my dad’s side, I began to search the internet for Chickasaw websites…I found one that had some language. I learned how to say “Hello, How are you?” (Halito! Chi chukma?)

They wanted me to pay $100 for some kind of package and my internet search ended there. But for a little while I was happy with these little words I knew, because I knew that others knew them too and that somewhere they knew me.

I have held in my hands the papers that state my ancestors as “Chattel”. I have seen it and I have read the names, the ages, the prices. On my father’s side Big Quali and his wife and children where first sold in Lousianna…but it does not state where they came from.

After that, I don’t know….except that at one point, a family member killed a white man, had to flee and changed his name.

But what I *DO* know is that we have white relatives in LA. My cousin, who has tried so hard to discovery our past, found them out. She wanted to meet and invited them to the family reunion. They were game. They wanted to come! That is until they found out we are black. Then they declined all offers and stopped taking phone calls.

For years I dreamed of going there. Walking up to their door, asking for something…maybe to use the phone or directions or a drink of water. I would gaze at them all in the face and try to see if I saw me and then I would tell them. I would tell them who I am, who my father has become, and who they are to us.

It burns me up.

One day, I found Morgan Llwelyn’s e-mail address and not thinking it was her direct e-mail, I wrote her. I told her about how I loved her books. I told her about a classmate of mine, Mark who I had spanish class with. I had told him about her books and how great I thought they where. I asked him if he would be interested, cause Mark’s is (clearly) of Irish descent. He said he didn’t care about the past.

It broke my heart and made me angry. I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t comprehend how anyone who could know anything about their ancestors simply by going to the library didn’t care. The things I would give to be able to do that.

Now, it’s not Mark’s fault. I don’t blame him for anything, but I envied him intensely..and anyone else who had/has this opportunity.

Anyway, I told Miss Llwelyn all of this and how I felt I had no place that was mine, that no place was for me.

SHE WROTE ME BACK!

She told me not to feel so bad. That even though I cannot be sure where on the map I came from, that Africa has such a rich history. She talked about Ghana and Egypt and how one day I would find my soul’s home. It’s not like I didn’t know about Egypt and Ghana (and Shaka Zulu. I used to try to explain to my elementary schoolmates about Shaka Zulu, but they would just laugh at his name and not listen to anything I had to say), but to know that someone could, sympathize, understand and acknowledge my pain and tried to cheer me up (especially my favorite author!) did a world of good for me.

Although it could not (and did not) qwell my jealousy and anger, it pushes me to keep looking. And I will keep looking and I will cry alot.