Teen Time

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I recently emailed a Christian youth group that I attended as a teen looking for some closure on events I experienced there. I attended back in the 80s and I don’t know what I was hoping for but this is what I got

I’ll let their own words speak for themselves.

Teen Time response letter
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Pound by Pound

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Today I got fat shamed by someone who didn’t like the fact that I called them out on their bullshit. They somehow thought that pointing out that I’m fat and laughing about it would make me slink away and shut up about their misogyny. They were wrong. They aren’t the first to try this tactic and they won’t be the last. I know who I am and I know my body. There is no shame in that. However, I’d like to show you where the shame in my obesity really lies.

Every time I was called stupid, there was a pound. Every time I was called lazy, there was a pound. Each time I heard ugly, freak, weirdo… there was a pound.

Whenever I realized I wasn’t good enough, there was a pound. Whenever I thought I wasn’t being enough, there was a pound. Every time I knew I wasn’t kind enough, considerate enough, polite enough… there was a pound.

Each time I wasn’t perfect when it was demanded, there was a pound. Each time I fell short of expectations, there was a pound. Each fail, fall, foundering… there was a pound.

Those times I was told I was unlovable, there was a pound. Those times I was told I was good enough to fuck but not to marry, there was a pound. Whenever I became nothing more than a trophy, a fuck toy, a thing… there was a pound.

Times when I was the odd shaped peg that couldn’t fit into the square hole, there was a pound. Times when I asked questions that people didn’t want to answer, there was a pound. When I was too curious, confused, disorganized… there was a pound.

When I laughed instead of cried because jokes hurt, there was a pound. When I agreed that I was too sensitive rather than admitting words can wound, there was a pound. Those many times when it was easier to say nothing, to agree, to mimic… there was a pound.

When I was sexually harassed because of my large tits, there was a pound. When I was grabbed and assaulted because I wore a short skirt to a bar, there was a pound. When I was raped with a hand around my throat ready to choke me, there was a pound.

I carried shame with each and every pound I put on like an albatross. I’ve carried that weight most of my life it’s only now after the diagnosis of diabetes and thyroid and anxiety and depression and polycystic ovarian syndrome and… It’s only now that you can see the manifestation of words and actions taken on me.

My fat makes you uncomfortable not because it makes me less of a person but because it reflects on you those abuses that you have been guilty of. I am a mirror of your worst behaviour, of those dark parts inside that you’d rather not see. I am your own shame made manifest.

I am learning to love my body as it is. I am learning to heal it slowly. I am learning to appreciate it as it is. If you think to shame me for that then you are sadly mistaken. This body is my pride, my beauty, my glory and you will not take that from me.

I Am Fat

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Dear Men and Women:

I am fat. I know this. I am comfortable with my body. I do not need nor want your approval. I would like, however, to clear up a few myths.

Fat does not lower my IQ. I am an intelligent, thoughtful, creative woman. I am able to talk to you about Chaucer, Shakespeare, Zen Buddhism, the occult, philosophy and the Bible. I create entire worlds in my head and bring characters to life in such a way that makes you want to join them in their travels and travails. I am not stupid.

Fat does not make me lazy. Sunday mornings do that. I work hard and put my full effort into everything I do. Perhaps I can’t do the splits anymore or hike the five miles down the River Valley, but I’ll do my best. You can’t be a lazy writer. They don’t exist.

Fat does not make me ugly or lessen my sex appeal. I am a beautiful, sexy woman. If you feel disgust or shame when you look at me, keep it to yourself. I don’t need to hear it. I don’t expect everyone to be sexually attracted to me but don’t try to make me feel like I should be asexual. I am a very sexual, sensual person and enjoy the company of many men and women who enjoy my body. Accept that.

Fat does not make me desperate for your company. Don’t act like you’re doing me a favour by being seen with me. If you are ashamed to be seen with me, that’s your problem, not mine. There are far too many people out there who do want to be with me because I’m beautiful and funny and intelligent.

Fat does not mean I’m unhealthy. My health is an issue between me and my doctor. I’m a 50 year old women with the common health concerns any 50 year old woman faces. My fat does not give you licence to dig into my medical history so you can use it as a means to justify your discrimination and bullying of me. This is not your body so don’t you worry about how well it’s functioning and don’t give me that crap about how concerned you are about my health. That’s just bullshit and we both know it.

Fat does not determine my choices. No, you can’t lecture me on what I should wear or eat or where I should go or how I should get there. My fat does not give you any right to determine what my choices are or should be.

If you are uncomfortable with my body then that’s your problem. My body, my rules. If you have a problem with the way I look then look away. Keep your tongue behind your teeth on any opinions you have on my life.

I am fat. I am not going to crawl into a hole because you can’t accept that I’m beautiful. I will wear dresses and spandex and cotton and bikinis and I will dance and play and run and I will be happy. Either accept that or get out of my way.

The Christmas Tradition

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A picture talking about ownership of Christmas traditionsYesterday someone posted this on Facebook where I could see it. It made me so unbelievably angry I had to go out for a while before I could sit down and think about it sensibly. Those who celebrate Christmas claim it’s a time for sharing and showing love to one another then this is posted. How hypocritical can you get?

Let’s break this down. First, let’s look at these traditions you claim are yours. Do you have a Christmas tree? Are you getting gifts? Going to have a nice Christmas feast? All these things can be traced to earlier pagan traditions from around Europe. See, back in the day when the Holy Catholic Church (which appropriated the shreds of the Roman empire) was establishing itself, the pesky pagans refused to give up their traditions. Things like Samhain and Yule which later became Halloween and Christmas. Oh and don’t even get me started on Easter traditions.

Yule, or the Winter Solstice, was a time to celebrate the sun’s return to earth. So, boughs of evergreen were brought into the home, feasts were had, gifts exchanged. This made the Church nuts. Darn pagans. Didn’t they know that their traditions were wrong? So, in good Christian logic, they simply moved the day of Christ’s birth to the Winter Solstice and appropriated the pagan traditions as a means to celebrate.

I’m not going to get into whether Christ was a real person or not but if He was, He wasn’t born in the middle of winter. Most likely he was born in spring. WHAT?!?! Yep. As a matter of fact, the whole Nativity story is a crock. It’s stolen, almost wholesale, from the Egyptian story of Isis giving birth to Osiris. Minus the magi, of course. Funny for a person claiming this is their tradition, isn’t it?

So let’s get to the heart of this posting. What it says is that no one better mess with Christmas. After all, this is MINE, god dammit and you have to agree to it. In short, I’ll do what I want and fuck you. I’ve run across this attitude before, ironically it happens most often at Christmas and I’ll give you a brief overview of the person that usually mouths this sentiment. They’re the ones that have the most lights on their house complete with a Nativity scene in the front yard. They send out picture cards every year of their family in matching outfits and even subject the dog to this humiliation. They go to the office Christmas party and smile and show what a good person they are. They donate to at least three of their favorite charities and it’s usually a big donation. At Christmas dinner they have a glass of wine, never beer, and tell everyone what they’re so grateful for this year. On Boxing Day they’re out in the malls and stores, making people work, so they can get the best deals.

This person would never dream of inviting a stranger in need to Christmas dinner, knowing they’ll be alone for Christmas. They donate to charities because they feel guilty for never giving those in need a thought the rest of the year. They put on a great show for this one day out of the year but never show respect for any other traditions happening at this time of year. Well, they might say “Happy Hanukkah” to their Jewish friends. After all, they’re not racist.

However, ask them to change a little so as to include everyone in the celebratory nature of this time of year and they will throw fits. Share the season with another tradition?? BLASPHEMY! Open your celebrations to someone of another culture? NEVER! Christmas is theirs and belongs to them, dammit. How dare they want to share it? They’ll take that “Merry Christmas” and like it.

What truly saddens me with this posting is the idea that someone would think that this is in any way keeping with the true meaning of Christmas, no matter your tradition. All over the world there is a common theme to this time of year; love. Yet, in the desperate need to be right, to be better than others, they would trample over the feelings and traditions of others. So when you stop to say “Merry Christmas” consider why you’re saying it. Are you saying it to show off your Christmas spirit or are you saying it to wish another the love of the season? Christmas isn’t the exclusive right of one group of people. Christmas isn’t yours.

Broken

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Having anxiety is like having spiders infest your brain.

My regular readers won’t be surprised to hear me say I have anxiety. New readers may be a bit shocked to hear me say it. However, it is a fact of my life and one I deal with daily. Sometimes it’s bad enough to stop me in my tracks and other times it’s like a dull throb in the back of my mind. Either way, I have a life to live and need to keep moving forward.

There are supposed to be aids to help people like me but the rules are so narrow that it’s ineffectual. You can’t merely be broken, you have to be shattered. The rule is that you have to have medical evidence proving that you’re unable to provide for yourself. Great. Except there’s one problem; what’s said on paper and what happens in reality is often two very different things.

Part of the problem is I have Non-Verbal Learning disorder. Because of how it manifests, it can often be mistaken for Asperger’s or Autism. It’s a different disorder and has different problems associated with it. They’re in the same spectrum but have very different outcomes.

Now put the NLD together with the anxiety, stir well and put me in an office.

Let me explain NLD a bit. First, NLD people love words. In my case it means I became a writer. However, in face to face contact my love of words causes some ostracizing. I tend to use large, $5 words and I talk a lot. I’m aware of it, I just can’t do a thing about it. I’m the person that will give you a paragraph answer to the question, “how are you?”

That leads to problem number two. NLD people tend to have problems with spatial recognition which means that we don’t have the same sense of space as “normal” people do. This may seem like a small thing. However, it is this skill which helps children gain a sense of non-verbal communication. NLD people simply don’t see non-verbal body cues. However, we hear everything.

NLD means there is a gap between what we hear and what we see. Therefore, our interaction with the physical world, especially as kids, tends to be minimal. We’re loners and we like being loners. Inside our own heads we can construct entire worlds and, in my case, put it down on paper. We can think through a problem in our heads and come up with a solution that is so far outside the box that it’s on another plane of existence. That’s our strength. It’s also our weakness because no one else lives in our head. When we come up with a solution, we’ve already thought ten steps ahead and left others behind. However, when others see our solutions, what they see is something nearly unrelated to the problem. Since we have problems with communication, we can’t explain the solution. Big gap.

Imagine you’re a manager and you’ve hired me. You ask me to do a task you think is pretty simple. An hour later I come back and the task is done but in a way you never imagined possible. Okay. Once it’s funny. Twice is cute. By the third, fourth and fifth times, you’re getting pretty angry because you want it done a particular way.

A kitten curled up in a ball and frightened

Now let’s add to that problem with the other staff. I am a social platypus. I will happily give you the entire history of an event or tell you the entire psychology behind your favorite show. I don’t know the difference between sarcasm and a simple joke so the two are pretty interchangeable. Socializing for me is on a skill level with constructing a warp engine. At best I’m seen as weird and at worst I’m pushy or even rude. As the manager you start getting complaints from your workers about me.

So, as the manager you have a worker who can’t seem to follow the simplest instructions, needs to take regular time off for therapy (which won’t do a damn bit of good) and has coworkers complaining about them. Add into that the fact that this worker has regular anxiety attacks. Solution: fire that person and hire someone who causes you less grief.

So who wants to hire me?

Yet, to access help, none of that matters. On paper I can get therapy and do little “tricks” to minimize problems. I don’t do tricks. Dogs do tricks. I live my life and try to move forward. My brain works in a certain way and I can either decide that I’m broken and try to fix it or I can decide that this is who I am and learn to live with it. Apparently option two isn’t acceptable to the Government of Alberta.

According to Government of Alberta rules, I’m broken but not all the way broken. More like bent. All the trees in the forest must be straight and grow a certain way. No room for bent. Bent doesn’t get any help at all. Only broken and I’m not broken enough on paper.

It’s frustrating knowing I’ll have to go and try and explain all this to people who don’t care. When they leave the office at 4:30pm I cease to exist. They read paper. They don’t hear my words. Words that are nearly impossible for me to verbalize. They see me as a platypus with no place in their world. Not as the wonderful, beautiful, intelligent raven I am and I can’t explain it to them because they won’t hear me.

Words

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A wordle text of a story I wrote

The Power of Words

This past week lessons abounded in the power of words and the effect they have on people. The Universe has an odd sense of humour and when things like this happen, it’s best to just go with it. Otherwise She gets cranky and the lessons come with bruises.

We’ve all heard the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” That is a dead lie and I think we’re all grown up enough to know it. Words do hurt. Sometimes words can leave scars deeper and more painful than any belt or fist.

When I was 12 years old, I picked up a discarded copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’ve always been an eclectic reader so I picked it up and read it. This book was the first book that made me realize just how powerful words were. Disturbed, I went to a teacher who tried to explain that the book was simply enduring. I didn’t understand so I went to the library.

The library happened to be having a reading by an author whose name I no longer remember. I walked up to the author after he was done and shyly asked about Lee’s book. I didn’t understand how it could affect me so powerfully.

The author smiled at me and said, “writers craft words. We use them to build cities or to kill nations. Each word we use has its place and time. Words have power” (yes, I’m paraphrasing since I don’t remember exactly). I do remember the phrase, “words have power.” It’s stuck with me ever since. As a child in a powerless situation (I was the victim of abuse); to be able to hold power in my hands, in my mind was intoxicating. I went home and recreated those stories, those songs that I loved. I learned my art through mimicry. I would use the style of Pink Floyd to write a story about a princess and a dragon, the style of Harper Lee to write a love story, I even mimicked Robin Williams at one point with mixed success. From this imitation grew my own style over years and years of putting words on paper. A style as much a part of me as my own skin.

Today I’m well aware of the power that writers wield but I’m even more aware of the power that everyone has with the words they use. I was walking through a mall when I heard a parent tell their child, “you’re being stupid.” I was shocked that a parent would say that to their child but when I looked back, the parent carried on as though nothing happened. The child, though, gave me a look of shame that I will never forget. That parent has no clue of the impact of that casual phrase they threw out. The child will never forget, sadly.

Casual hurts are tossed out all the time and we don’t realize it. A teen girl refers to herself as a “ho” and her boyfriend as her “pimp” (overheard at a bus stop), a friend tells another friend they’re an idiot, a parent tells their child they’re stupid. We use these phrases and words casually and never think twice about the impact. Yet each word lands like a blow and leaves its mark.

I’ve been known to spend days trying to find the perfect word. Other writers will spend weeks or even months just to get that word that sets the tone. Do we really think that the words we say to each other has less importance? It’s time we stopped using words as weapons and started using them to build each other up.

 

Mutilating the Labia

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I had my first sexual experience when I was six years old. A female friend and I were curious and played several rousing games of “what does this do?” I don’t regret that early experience, it allowed me to realize that my body can make me very happy. I know now that I’m an anomaly and not many other girl children do this. Apparently, though, parents will rarely bat an eyelash if a young boy is caught masturbating. It’s met with some giggles and blushes but that’s all.

This childhood memory makes me realize the difference between male and female behaviour and what is acceptable or not. The difference isn’t in our thinking or roles in life, it’s in the control we have over ourselves and who we are as people. Men who control their own destinies are seen as powerful and virile. A woman who tries to control her situation is seen as a controlling bitch, she is derided as a harpy and can be called butch. A man can be strong in the boardroom or in the bedroom yet a woman is expected to be the pure mother figure by day and a whore by night in the dark behind closed doors. Still there are those who question feminism’s validity. As though feminism is simply out to destroy their life or make the work environment difficult.

So I thought about some of the things that women in our country have to endure. I’m not taking this outside of Canada. Heck, I won’t even take it out of Alberta. I wonder if men would endure the same things. So let’s do a little switchup. Okay?

Bullying

Women aren’t bullied, are they? Women are the bullies. Damn. We expect those blonde jokes to stop but they’re so funny. So here’s the turnaround; a man goes in to work and the first comment he hears on how his female boss likes how tight his new pants are. When he makes a comment that he’s uncomfortable, she slaps him on the ass and says, “oh, can’t you take a joke?” He files a complaint with his human resources department but the boss is only given a slap on the wrist. Instead, he’s offered a chance to move out of that department. Forget that he’s spent five years in his current position and his boss has only been there for two but HR says this is for the best; change or leave. After all, they have to keep everyone happy. Besides, the boss did mean it as a compliment and is he so sensitive that he can’t take it?

Pay

Equal pay for equal work, right? By and large, women are paid far less for the same job men do. As a man, you automatically earn more for the same job as a woman. So, men, how would you like to do your current job but take an almost 25% pay cut? Yes, women earn around 75 to 80 cents per dollar men earn. Oh and that job your currently doing? Let’s add a few more duties but you’re not getting a pay raise.

The Old Boy’s Club

Think this is gone? It isn’t. In many companies, meetings are held on the golf course. Well, women golf, too, right? They do but they are less likely to be invited along to one of these little events. So let’s turn this around. The CEO is having a spa day and has invited three of her female managers. You, a male manager, expressed interest in going but she says you’ll be bored and she’ll grab a coffee with you some other time. Not a likely scenario? Think again.

Abuse

Well, guys, don’t worry; this one’s an equal opportunity game. Men are just as likely to be abused as women in a domestic relationship so this not one I’m going to do a switchup on. However, there is more societal pressure on a woman to “make things work” in a relationship. A woman is supposed to be caregiver and homemaker and if the relationship falls apart, there are movies and books pointing to how it was her fault. How she failed as a woman. This one is a toss up, though.

Cultural Expectations

Okay, this one’s a problem. There are cultures in the world that have practices that we, in Canada, have decided are wrong. Yet, Canada has a large immigrant population and these practices come to this country so I’m going to do a switchup here. Men, you are four or five years old when you are taken to your uncle’s home. There, you are stripped of your pants and underwear and lain on the kitchen table. Perhaps your limbs have been tied spread eagle to the table. A gag is placed in your mouth so you can’t scream or make noise. Your uncle takes a sharp knife, may even be a utility knife, and he begins cutting the foreskin off your penis. He then cuts the rim under the cap on your penis off and makes a slice down the length of your penis. This scar will grow in such a way so that getting a full erection later in life is impossible. To finish things off, he then sews your testicles in place. If you survive this little “operation”, you will then be an asset to your family. Forget about completing school. Getting married is more important. While you won’t be told to quit school, you also won’t be encouraged. Forget telling your teachers. It’s drilled into you every day that this is family business and family comes first. You will then perpetuate this horror on your sons.

Poverty

Okay, men, here’s your switchup. When you got married, she was the woman of her dreams. Then, after the wedding, something happened. It wasn’t obvious but she changed somehow. She was more distant, drank more, was less involved in you. One day, she went out to get milk for the baby and just never came back. Now you have three children and no skills to get a job. With a toddler, affordable childcare is a nightmare so being away for eight hours a day is not an option. The biggest surprise is finding out that all your savings, your RRSPs are all gone and your  credit is maxed out. Welcome to bankruptcy. Next you realize you have to feed the kids so you go to welfare. Humiliated and frustrated, you dance through their game just to feed your kids and give them a life but daily you feel the weight of just living pressing down on you until you simply give up. You go through a series of women, hoping to find a mommy to your babies but the next is worse than the last. You don’t know how to make it on your own but you can’t seem to make it with anyone else. Your kids resent you for driving daddy away and depression is your daily companion. You don’t even try any longer. Heck, it’s enough that you even put on pants during the day.

Rape

This one is just for you, guys. You’re a teen boy and you go to a party. Like the other kids, you have a few too many and pass out on the couch. At one point you wake up and realize you’ve been given a Viagra and girls are hopping on you like you’re a pogo stick. To top it off, there’s someone filming. It hurts and you want them to stop. Not one is using a condom. You go to your parents who take you to the police the next day. Then comes a series of doctors examining you, blood tests for STDs and pictures of marks. Then, you go on your Facebook page and there you are in all your shame. Someone has uploaded the video of you being raped multiple times and now the entire school, including the teachers, has seen it. Instead of being supportive, everyone blames you. They say you liked it. That you wanted it. Your friends want nothing to do with you and school is a nightmare. The girls responsible hang outside your locker, pressing against you and rape you verbally over and over. In desperation you and your family reach out to the media and your story gets out. The school, though, can’t allow these girls to be vilified. They’re the school stars and the school needs them. So the school hires its own public relations person and they put a new spin on it. Now you’re not only the villain in school, you’re the prick out to ruin these innocent girls’ lives. When you try to complain, start your own social media campaign, you’re told you’re playing the “victim” card. Forget college. They won’t touch a hot topic like this. Your family is forced to move but your shame goes with you. The outcome of the trial? The girls are found guilty but of a misdemeanor. They won’t spend any time in jail and when they’re 18, their record will be clear. One girl has had an offer for a free ride from two colleges.

Men, you tell me that you’d put yourself in any one of these positions and not want things to be better. You tell me that any of this is a reasonable situation for any woman to expect to happen to her then tell me that women are not allowed to fight back. Yes, there are Oprah Winfreys and Michele Obamas in this world and thank the gods for them. However, there are far more nameless, faceless, voiceless women who are beaten down by a system that expects them to be the perfect woman. They want the mother whore to satisfy every need. Heaven help the woman who embraces her inner wild child, for she is the wanton slut and open to shaming.

It is not the women who have taken control of their lives that we need to fight for. It is the woman in the shadows who cannot speak for herself that we need to give tools to be able to stand on her own.

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