Size Matters

I have blogged about weight loss, my own weight, fat shaming, and related health stuff before.  I get angry about the media portrayal of larger people and the way fashion dictates what plus size means.  It makes me frustrated when people talk about the subject in specific ways (most recently, a woman saying that a plus size pole fitness group was not the place to talk about size 12* clothes, and that the people who were can’t be plus size because they haven’t experienced the same structural oppression as real plus size women).

I am currently really struggling with my weight.  I’ve got arthritis in my hip and I know the extra weight I’m carrying will be, more than likely, contributing.  It’s not really about the number on the scale, but on how uncomfortable I am with myself.  That, and I have a surgeon who doesn’t even want to discuss my hip properly until I lose weight as I am too high risk to operate on.  I’ve started a new job so I am now working in an office, and have to wear smarter clothes so gone are the days of being able to wear leggings and comfortable, stretchy clothes.  I want to look smart, and I want to feel confident in myself (not easy when I’m not happy with the way I look).  I’ve had to go shopping for new clothes.  My bras needed replacing (don’t even get me started on the premium people pay for having larger than DD cups of their bra), I wanted to get some shirts, if possible, and some smart, tailored trousers.  I’m not made of money so I can’t get made to measure, and I was struggling to go clothes shopping because, well, I hate it.  There are two reasons for this (well, main ones):

  1. People – going shopping is horrible because of people meandering around, unaware of any of their surroundings.
  2. Changing rooms – hot, bad lighting, too small, the shame of handing back all the things you’ve tried on because none of them fit you.

An added reason for this was knowing that a lot of shops stop stocking their range at size 18, even if they sell bigger clothes.  When did I start needing size 20 or size 22 clothes?  Size 18 at a pinch.  Oh, but then I’m still in size 16 at places.  What is this all about?  So, having ordered in a load of clothes to try, I found that there was absolutely no consistency in sizing between different shops, or even between different styles at the same shop.  Or the fit of larger clothes was, well, awful.  Then I’d browse the specific plus size ranges and get depressed pretty quickly because I’m not allowed fitted shirts if I need a size 18, and there is so much shapeless, boring clothing.  I’m pretty happy to wear a lot of black, but I also want to wear things that look good on me, not just hide my body, which, being larger, is obviously hideous to the eye and I might as well wear a giant bin bag as a dress.

So what is this post really about?  I suppose it’s my unhappiness that there is no set standard for clothes sizing in women’s clothing.  I know that fabric has an effect on this, but I should not be able to wear size 16 in one thing from one shop but need a size 22 from somewhere else.  I don’t want to buy clothes from a plus size range that on purposely makes a size 16 bigger so you can feel better, even though a 16 from the “normal” range in the shop won’t go over my head even.  For me, although I don’t enjoy needing a size 20 in things, I want to be able to pick up a 20 in other clothes and other shops and be fairly sure it will fit, at least size wise, even if it isn’t flattering.  Then there are the other issues of design, something that I know massively effects my roller derby friends.  Jeans seem to think that you have no thighs until you hit size 16.  I also remember the time when the bottoms of a pair of capri jeans were the same diameter in a size 14 and a size 20.  Because calves never get any thicker when your waist does.  And I want changing rooms to stop being a massively depressing place for me.  Stop being too warm, too small, with the most unflattering lighting.  The huge mirrors in there don’t exactly make me feel great as it is.

Sod it.  Maybe I should find some one size fits most adjustable outfit of some type that I can tweak when I get larger or smaller.  Get it in 7 different colours and then just forget about this whole nightmare that is buying clothes.

* US size 12, before you say size 12 isn’t plus size

Semicolon

TW: depression, suicide

So, my boyfriend gave me a random gift today, of an Ikea notebook. He knows how I feel about stationary anyway, but this was particularly poignant. 

You see, the notebook has a semicolon on the front, something that a lot of people will understand if they’ve heard of the Semicolon Project. Essentially, it’s about how a semicolon can represent surviving mental health problems, especially depression, as the story of your life is continuing, not ending. I have a semicolon tattoo because of how important this is to me. To be given the notebook this week is an especially big deal as this week has been more than a little hard. 

On Wednesday night, I had a breakdown. It started with my girlfriend just trying to give me advice, turning into a huge  argument, and then a plummet into darkness for me. The thing is, my hip pain got on top of me. This is the 4th time I’ve felt like my life has to be put on hold because of physical restrictions. I’m sick of fighting. I don’t feel strong, I don’t feel capable, and, on Wednesday, I was ready to give up entirely. A scary thing for me as suicidal is something I don’t get, and I’ve also been so well up until now. 

I’ve taken some time off. I feel bad, as I love my new job, but I also know that the second I try to think, I have hundreds of thoughts running around at once and I can bearly get them written down in time to remember them. I feel guilty, as there is so much to do. I’m scared as I’m on a temporary contract. I’m scared because this job is important to me. I took the time off this weekend too. I was meant to be NSOing, including heading up a crew on Sunday. Now I’m a flake, someone who drops out, who gives up. I’ve let people down. 

I’m waiting to see if Crisis Point gets a bed. I don’t know if I should wait really, but I need help. My brain doesn’t behave anymore. 

Orthopedically Impaired

My body isn’t kind to me. Knee problems, broken ankles, messed up brain chemistry, deformed hip, broken toe…silly things I’ve struggled through and still have to deal with at times, but I did feel I was coming out the other side with most of it. My ankle barely causes me problems, my head is pretty good most of the time, and I had my dysplasia corrected. I’m 31, my body has given me enough crap so I thought I was due some time off. Apparently not.

So, the back story is that when I was non weight bearing for so long, I started to get the odd twinge in my hip. It wasn’t too major, and just meant I was aching after a long day, and my back would hurt. I did some physio exercises and it got a better for a while. I was still working on getting back to how I was pre-break, and trying to get my stamina and stuff back up. I tried to skate again, and do more walking, but I was getting pain in my lower back. I saw another physio, who did some acupuncture, gave me a bunch of exercises, and things eased up for a little while. Still, I didn’t feel quite right so saw my osteopath friend. On her suggestion, I got my GP to request an x-ray, just to check.

Fast forward a few months, in which I moved house, got a new job, and added to my relationships, and I finally got the x-ray done. Eventually, I sorted out an appointment to get the results too. I thought there would be the usual normal enough result and didn’t think much about it. Yeah, I wish. Apparently, I have moderate to severe degenerative changes in my hip joint, in keeping with osteoarthritis. I’m 31! This should not be a thing! So referrals for me, and lots of painkillers. And changes to my life so I learn to manage it better. Until I see specialists, I don’t know if they will be able to do much to help right now.  Even if they can, I don’t know what this means for various things in the future. I’ve been missing skating, lindy hop, long walks and hiking, but they seem so out of reach for me right now. Who knows what I’ll have to give up.

Funnily enough, my head is taking a mental beating too, but I’m trying to remind myself that being sad, shocked, angry, a bit useless is all OK right now, as long as I look after myself too. That, and remember to do my best to manage my pain as I am a particularly grumpy person when I’m in pain.

I will get through this. I am strong.

Web of Love

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory.  Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them.  Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com from tomorrow.  This month, our topic is “hierarchy”

Over the year, I’ve had several different poly setups due to the relationships I’ve been in.  Being in a long term romantic relationship, which led to marriage, meant that I had things to consider, including how I felt about hierarchy in poly.

I suppose I can talk about what I think hierarchy means.  It refers to giving some kind of priority order to partners.  It’s an interesting concept and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.  I think it’s something that I do without a level of formality to it.  For me, when I love people, I love them.  It is hard to put people in a hierarchy at that point.  Well, it is for me.

When I was married to B and also dating S, I really didn’t want there to be a hierarchy.  The trouble was, I lived with B, I owned a house with him, had a cat at home and a long history too.  It meant that I had responsibilities but also wanted them with S.  People would assume that B always took priority because of our legal status.  I lost one of my closest friends over that.  It was hard.  In the end, this lack of hierarchy but inability to change the one that seemed to have formed became a sticking point in my relationships.  I slowly realised that the reason it didn’t change was that I wanted something different.  What I’d wanted when I’d first gotten married and bought a house had changed and I had changed.  It was less to do with hierarchy but my eventual realisation that I don’t want traditional life setups.  I don’t want to life with other people; I just don’t live well with them.  I don’t like the level of compromise it takes, the sharing of space constantly or even the sharing of responsibilities.  If the dishes aren’t done, it’s my fault.  If I have no clean knickers, entirely my problem.  If the cat hasn’t got any food left, my responsibility to go out and get some.  It doesn’t mean that I never want to help my partners or have them help me out domestically, or that I don’t want to share everyday burdens and stress, I just don’t expect the help.

I suppose I should get back on track with hierarchy for me.  I don’t spell it out as such but I suppose that I do have primaries and and secondaries.  I don’t really see hierarchy, more my core triad relationship with E and the Girl and then the other people I play with or date as a pretty complicated web.  I suppose there is some level of prioritisation to people there but I like to that I can manage people’s expectations of me and make my own ones clear, as well as my limitations.  As usual, the key is communication.  I’m not always great at it and I know I’m far from perfect at poly and relationships but I do try my hardest and also hold my hands up and admit when I’ve messed up.  I still need to learn to say no to things though!

A Developing Hobby

Last summer, I was wandering around a camera shop as E was playing with some toy on demo (the Hasselblad CFV-50c digital back, to be precise).  I’ve been thinking of getting a DSLR for a long time, but never had the money.  E had been teaching me how to use his Canon 5D and it had sparked my interest again.  So, I glanced in the second hand cabinets, thinking that I could get an idea of what a body would cost me when I had some spare cash.  Sat there was a Canon 20D for £20!  Bargain!  It also came with 2 batteries and a charger.  No lens but E had a quick look over it and decided with was worth it, plus he was happy to lend me his little used nifty fifty.  Actually, he bought it and basically told me that I could only use the 50mm lens for a while, forcing me to get used to actually moving to get the shot I wanted.

I’ve not got out and taken photos anywhere near as much as I wanted, what with a broken leg!  But, on Monday, I took the camera out on my first non-double crutch walk and then went to Hull to assist on a photoshoot.  I have the bug back!  I want to take photos all the time, and the weather is making that a more feasible option.  Just, now, I’m planning on spending too much money on my own lenses!  I have so much to learn and so many different types of photography I want to try, to see what I enjoy most, what have an eye for.  So, this is mainly a photo post, with a few of my favourites!

Being Broken Isn’t Always Bad

For those of you who don’t know, I broke my leg and dislocated my ankle my first week of fresh meat roller derby training, back in November. It would have been easy for me to have quit derby then and there, not really knowing anyone that well and having a pretty bad experience. I just couldn’t though. From the minute I broke, people were getting to know me. They cared, they were concerned and it didn’t stop when I left training in the ambulance (clapped out by many). I was added to the broken skaters support group on FB quickly and spent plenty of my hospital stay chatting on FB to various people, including our skater reps and other lovelies who hadn’t even met me that first week. I was already talking to one of our refs about doing some NSOing* at scrims when I was barely out of surgery. I had somehow caught the bug, even with a broken leg!

It did take me until January to feel up to going along to a scrimmage, watching the skating and actually doing something. Score tracking felt awesome. I could be involved and make myself helpful. It sucked a little as I couldn’t really get to know the other NSOs that easily and I flinched every time I saw someone fall but it was fun. So I’ve been doing that ever since, finally getting to NSO at a league game this weekend just gone.  That was a proud moment and our All-Stars won too (I was impartial, honest).  It’s got easier to watch people falling so that now, I’m only getting a little stressed out when someone actually needs on track medical attention. I’m getting to know my leagues officials, have a laugh with them and still do a job, one that I have been complimented on and that’s something that has helped me through the last few months.

So, I got some awesome news this week.  My consultant has told me that I am healing well, that there is bone growth visible now and my ankle is still stable.  No more goth boot and no more crutches in the next few weeks.  He’s so happy with the result that he want’s to use my case in his teaching.  As the second surgery had a pretty low change of success, I don’t blame him.  I’m super excited myself and grinning like a loon!  I can wear matching shoes.  Plus, soon I’ll be able to do more than score tracking! I may even be able to get back on my skates sometime. My consultant has made it clear that it’s not going to be an easy 18 months or so but that’s fine by me. It gives me time to get stuck into a role that I didn’t remotely expect, and would have quite probably not even done had I not broken. At the weekend, our head ref asked me to take on the role of head NSO for the league. MRD have never had one but we’re getting big and for some reason, they picked me. I’m so chuffed, so excited and so proud to be an even bigger part of my league now.  The rule about having to pass minimum skills to reserve my name and number has been bypassed too so I am formally Sara Tonin, #192😀

I’ve posted this as a positive thing that can come out of breaking. But it’s not just this; I’ve made so many new friends as it’s harder to hide in my introvert shell when people ask about my broken leg. I know I would have had the chance to get to know these people anyway but who knows when.  Even if I don’t get back on to skates, or I choose to only ref, I have a new family to be part of and that is something pretty damn awesome.

* Non-skating official

My Calendar Looks like a Pride Flag!

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory.  Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them.  Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com from tomorrow.  This month, our topic is time management.

There are a few things that people will often say when you talk about what makes a good poly relationship.  There’s always the mention of communication and openness.  Often people will talk about boundaries, flexibility, compromise, owning your jealousy, loving yourself first.  But always, always, there will be a mention of time.  Frequently, this will be that there’s not enough hours in the day, or that you might feel like there needs to be two (or three, or four) of you.  Or my favourite, Google Calendar will become your friend!

Being in any relationship can be hard work in terms of time, especially if you’re not used to having to share your time with another person.  Add multiple relationships into the mix and it can become very complicated.  Or not.  It really depends on how you are about scheduling, going with the flow and what your poly set up looks like.

Personally, I love to plan.  I love to be organised.  I’d been putting things in diaries and calendars for years and started using Google Calendar when I got a smartphone.  Being able to colour code things, use reminders, add other calendars, import travel times and such have made it such a useful tool for me in general.  Being able to share my calendar with others and see their events, has made me a very happy bunny.  It’s felt like the perfect way to keep on top of what I’ve been doing and try and plan things, especially when I had several partners and metamours.  At one point, my calendar really did look like a Pride flag, and it was good.

Of course, there’s other calendars that do the same kind of thing but it seems that everyone I know has Google so it seems to work fine.  Well, it does if other partners use it too!  Even so, I find it great to organise myself and that’s something I feel I need to do to be able to manage having multiple partners and stay healthy.

Of course, time management isn’t just about using calendars to plan your days.  It’s about actually looking at the time you have, what you need to do, making time for the people you want to and also staying well yourself.  It’s about balance and compromise.  It’s about making sacrifices and not burning out.  It’s about being flexible enough adapt to changes when they have to happen.  I’m not always great at all of this myself.  I want to do all of the things!  And I love to plan!  I’ve had to change, especially at the moment.  Having a broken leg has zapped my energy, making it hard to do even a small amount of what I want to do.  I have a partner with a long term illness that means plans have to change.  I have another partner who is spontaneous as all hell and I’m adapting to that.  It’s not easy but I keep on trying, keep on learning from my mistakes.  It’s all about my priorities.  Selfish though it sounds, my number one priority is me.  I have to look after myself, make sure I have enough down time so that I can relax and stay mentally and physically well.  I have to balance out doing the things that I love doing, my hobbies, so that they don’t consume me but I don’t abandon them.  I have to do the boring things, like work, household things, shopping.  Then I have to think about giving my time to others; not just my partners but my friends too.

I’m learning.  I do burn out sometimes.  I do try and do too much sometimes, and I think that has a lot to do with wanting to live in the moment a lot more since my marriage broke down.  I don’t want to plan massively into the future any more as I have no idea what the future will hold.  I never really knew before but it felt like it was planned out.  It’s hard as it’s against my nature not to plan, not to dream about the future too much.  I also know that life is too short.  I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, whether I will have these opportunities again so I’m trying to clutch at life.  Now that my anxiety seems to be under control, it’s getting easier.  But I still have to remind myself that I am the priority.  My own mental and physical health has to come first.  I have to stop giving too much or I become unhappy and worn out.

Even if you’re not anal retentive about colour coding a calendar, adding more (and more) people to your life means you can’t just wing it all the time.  You have to think a little about managing your time, and mainly, about managing yourself.

Why Thursdays are my new Mondays

My life is getting a lot better.  I’m back at work, on my fourth week of a phased return this week.  As I have a lot of annual leave left, I’m managing to only work 3 days a week for the next month too.  It’s not always easy trying to deal with public transport, the walk across the site at work, trying to do simple things like getting my lunch but it is lovely to be back, even if I am not doing the most interesting of tasks.  It is giving me the time to do my portfolio though, although there is even a problem with that as my degree was assessed over 5 years ago now so I may have to pay to get it assessed again.  It’s still fine though, I’m just going to get on with it and see what happens.  I’ve felt pretty supported being back at work, getting to chat with colleagues again and do something helpful.  Honestly, I feel like I used to, when I first started.  I’m genuinely happy to be at work.

I didn’t work when I was recovering from my osteotomy.  I was thinking of trying to get back when other things in my life got in the way.  I think back and really can’t remember the type of exhaustion I’m getting right now.  I ache, my body feels tired in strange places.  My shin bone hurts, my good ankle aches.  Even my knuckles in my hand feel strange!  I feel great on a Tuesday going to work, and not so bad on Wednesday but I get to Thursday and feel like death.  My body has had enough.  This is even with better sleeping patterns, taking the time to look after myself and relax at night.  It’s not just the physical though, I seem to just crash a little on a Thursday.  My mood goes south, compared to normal.  It feels like most Monday’s used to feel.  That dread, that horrible Monday feeling, but on a Thursday.  I hate it but, thankfully, being able to work around it, I don’t have to work on a Thursday.  I get to use the day to self care, to deal with the weird mood, the blip in my week.  

It’s working.  I’m doing so much better.  My life is so much better.  My counselling has helped me so much, just having a open space to work things out.  I feel I’m more positive, I think I’m coming across better to people too.  I’m trying not to take things the wrong way when I am in a mood.  I feel good.  I feel balanced in a way that I don’t think I I have for a very, very long time.  

Now, just to get this damn leg healed!

Size Queen

Oh, joy.  Time for another post about weight, body positivity and my reluctance to engage with arguments on social media.  Apart from my personal struggles with weight and my health, the last post on this topic was because I saw people being vile on Twitter about fat women.  This time, it has mainly been friends on Facebook talking about the plus-size model Tess Munster.

Ok, so the background if you’re not aware of Tess.  She’s a size 22 model, in the USA, who has just signed with a major modelling company, Milk Management.  They are a plus size modelling agency but normally only take women up to a size 20.  The reason this has made the news, though, is her body positivity campaigning, along with#effyourbeautystandards on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter.  She has a beautiful face, a way with makeup and hair and brings so much energy to her photoshoots.  She is beautiful, whether you find her attractive or not, you cannot argue that she doesn’t have something.

What has upset me about all of this has been the uproar that it has caused.  People saying that she is obviously unhealthy at her BMI and a poor role model because of this.  That, because she’s a model, people are being told they must find her attractive.  That body positivity is just about not fat shaming and that people still lay into thin people.  The comments I’ve seen on friends’ statuses have made me sad that people don’t seem to understand the idea of body positivity.  And then there are men making the usual comments that mean they just don’t understand the issues that the modelling industry have for women (although I do agree that male modelling is still not diverse enough).

Instead of retaliating on FB, or trying to justify myself on a status, I thought that I could put my thoughts and feelings about the whole weight/body positivity thing into a nice blog post.  I’ve talked about my dislike of body shaming of any degree before.  I think that it’s a horrible practice.  I don’t like the real women type discussions, don’t like people who aspire to be glamour models and find people’s judgement hard.  I think that it’s often because of my own weight and self esteem issues that I get very sensitive about these topics, even though I have modelled in my past and still think of doing some every now and again.

Our world is an odd place.  We have weird standards of beauty and a massive media obsession with weight, especially the yo-yoing weight of celebrities.  Everyone seems to love looking at those in the public eye and commenting on their diet struggles, their exercise regimes, their clothes, makeup, red carpet style.  We also have a fashion industry that straddles the super skinny to the plus sized, the haute couture to the catalogue.  Some of this fashion is really just art that influences the clothing we see on the high street, some of it is practical and some just seems to be clothing to hide in.  Whatever the case, the women* we see in these clothes are generally at the smallest they can be to fit into the “fashions”.  Size zero catwalk models, size 8 high street models, size 12/14 plus sized models.  All tall, proportioned and pretty much sewn into the clothes they are wearing.  Any celebrity with a stylist will be in made to measure or altered clothing to make the most of what they have**.  The average woman doesn’t have a chance at living up to this, being a size 16, shorter and not able to take in every item of clothing they own.  We are surrounded by these images of the “ideal woman” that we can’t fit in to.  We buy the clothes but they don’t look remotely the same.  We diet, we shave, we use every beauty product under the sun but we will never be them.  I talk for the average woman, of course there are exceptions.  This media portrayal also makes women believe that this is what all men find attractive, whether this is concious or not, generally totally illogically.

Body positivity is meant to celebrate bodies, whatever shape, size, colour.  It’s about people learning to love what they have, learn to appreciate themselves.  It’s about self-esteem, beauty of a type that isn’t media obsessed, linked to the male gaze or the pressures of others.  When Tess Munster appeared in the mainstream public eye, people started to examine her, to judge her, to make assumptions.  This is what we do with those in the public eye.  We hold them to the mainstream standards of beauty, the mainstream ideals, those ones that are barely achievable for few, impossible for most.  From what I can tell, she’s not trying to achieve these standards, she’s comfortable in her body and loves herself.  I’m sure she has moments, just like everyone, but she’s doing something she loves.  More people can probably relate to her and her body that they can to the usual plus sized models, who are barely any concept of overweight.  And, personally, I’d rather see clothes on someone I can relate to, in terms of size and shape (although I am not remotely like Tess, but I would love to see other women of similar ilk).  Diversity in body types and people’s general look mean that we can’t find everyone attractive.  Models so often fit a very narrow idea of beauty, one that I don’t personally find attractive.  The ones that have been the most successful normally sit outside of this idea anyway so I don’t see why people seem to think that the world is trying to tell us that we have to find Tess Munster attractive.  I don’t find Kate Moss attractive personally but I know some people do but I don’t feel that I’m supposed to just because she’s a model.  She has a strong look that makes her interesting.  So does Tess.  And much as people can argue that they are both bad role models for various reasons, I still think that someone who speaks out about mainstream beauty standards so loudly is a better role model than one that doesn’t.

So far, I’ve not touched on my main anger.  That is the assumption that Tess Munster is unhealthy.  This is something that is none of our business really but she is in the public eye so she’s going to be scrutinised.  Firstly, if she is “unhealthy”, that is her business.  We have plenty of role models that do unhealthy things, especially mainstream models; binge drinking, drugs, bad eating habits, smoking.  I don’t know exactly what unhealthy things that Tess may do but everyone is allowed vices.  From what I have heard, she actually eats pretty well and exercises.  The other aspect of unhealthy that people seem to be assuming about her is that she has health problems or will definitely get them.  Joint issues, heart problems, fatty organs, diabetes etc.  I can understand why people are thinking this.  We are constantly told that being obese means we will get ill and die.  Sure, a high BMI (assuming that the person in question doesn’t have a particular high bone or muscle mass to account for it) is a risk factor for many illness.  That’s right, a risk factor.  You generally need more than one risk factor to get ill.  And even if she does have any of these illnesses, is it our problem?  She’s not saying that having heart disease and joint pain is beautiful, she’s saying that the we should be able to find our bodies’ beautiful without the pressures of mainstream beauty standards.

You may recall that I have said that I want to lose weight, that I’m not 100% happy with my body right now.  Does that make it hypocritical to write this?  I don’t think so.  My reasons for losing weight and getting fitter are my own.  I am seeing a health issue with my joints that had eased when I lost well over a stone*** and I do not feel happy with how my clothes fit.  But I don’t care what others see.  This is about me.  I am still positive about my body, just not as happy as I could be.  I want to be fitter so that I have better stamina.  I want to eat better because it will help me mentally.  This is for me.  I am just so sick of seeing so much judgement on a woman who is beautiful doing something that she wants to do with her life.

* Male modelling and fashion is an entirely different subject that I may cover at a later point.
** Let’s just pretend that Photoshop is not an issue too, as that’s just another evil of printed media.
*** A broken leg and thus walking all levels of weird are not making my joints happy.  Uneven distribution of weight, additional impact from hopping and muscle wastage have massive impacts.  I have kept the weight off, at least.