When You’re Accustomed To Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression

The Boeskool

I’ve never been punched in the face. Not in an actual fight, at least. I’m not much of a fighter, I suppose… More of an “arguer.” I don’t think I’m “scared” to get into a fight, necessarily–There have been many times I have put myself in situations where a physical  fight could easily have happened… I just can’t see myself ever being the guy who throws the first punch, and I’m usually the kind of guy who DE-escalates things with logic or humor. And one of the things about being that sort of person, is that the other sort of guy–the sort who jumps into fights quickly–tends to not really be a big fan of me… Not when he first meets me, at least. They usually like me later. Not always. You can’t win ’em all…

fight-club-brad-pitt-fight-image.jpg The first rule of White Club is you do not talk about White Club…

When I moved to…

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Words Branded on my Self-worth

Allow me to preface this with a brief explanation about myself.

I’m tiny. I’m a weight class below the itsy bitsy spider. I’m short and thin, I’ve always been short and thin, and going by my eating habits and family I’ll probably always be short and thin.

In actual numbers, I’m 5’4 and I hover between 85 and 95 pounds. I’ve never once in my life broken 100. I’ve tried.

I don’t have an eating disorder of any kind. I never have. No matter how much I eat, I never get any larger. No matter how much I sit around on my mysteriously round but small ass, I never get any larger. This is the way my body is built. I have no advice on how to achieve this kind of body because I have no idea how I did it. I just am.

I’m asked sometimes, and in order not to sound like a complete asshole (“be born thin?”), I offer the easiest answer: exercise. I don’t do it all that often because I’m lazy, but that seems to be the general good advice for losing weight, right? At the least, it can’t hurt. (As opposed to dieting, which absolutely can.)

I’m so painfully aware of how my own body is built that I don’t find fault in anyone else’s. Maybe it’s the way they were built or maybe it’s their fault. I have no way of knowing. I have no reason to care. It’s their body, and not my responsibility or business.

By complete coincidence, my shape resembles this society’s ideal to a degree. Enough of a degree that it elicits concern for my health. I’m often told to “go eat a sandwich.” A group that I very much love knew me as “Twiggy” for a while when they couldn’t remember my name.

For anyone who’s never been thin and may not think about this end of the body size spectrum, these are shockingly similar to, respectively, “put down the ice cream” and “fatso.” The comments come from the same line of thinking. But because I’m the ideal, right, it’s not hurtful somehow.

The internet has a lot to say about a wide variety of topics. Body positivity is one. I’m a huge advocate for it. (See what I did there?) Everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin, and not be made to feel ashamed because of the arbitrary shape of their hips.

If you’re on the large end of the spectrum, I want you to feel more comfortable. From the bottom of my heart, I do. I want you to look in the mirror and find the things you see that are beautiful, and I want them to be numerous. Finding them in myself did wonders for my personal happiness. Not just confidence: happiness. I want everyone to feel that.

Including myself and people my size.

Years ago, a friend posted a meme to Facebook. It was years ago and a stupid meme, but I remember every word of it.

“Love women with curves and tattoos,” it said, “because no one wants a stick with no imagination.”

I wouldn’t think I’d need to explain why that was branded on my self worth, but the fact that a friend posted it in the first place suggests I probably should.

Insult #1: According to this meme, not having a tattoo means you have no imagination.
Insult #2: I’m not a woman. I’m a stick.
Insult #3: Because of the choices I made about what happens to my body, and the arbitrary shape of that body, no one wants me.

I politely pointed out that her meme was hurtful, and she said she never meant to hurt me, but sometimes she would be posting things like this, and maybe I should unfollow her if I didn’t want to see them. Which was not the point I was making.

Here’s another example I saw the other day.

“Curvy women are beautiful,” said this meme. “Bones are for dogs; meat is for men.”

Insult #1: The second half of the meme implies that the first part includes an understood “only” and should be heard as: “Only curvy women are beautiful.”
Insult #2: …I’m sorry, I can’t find another way to put this. “Bones are for dogs” is hurtful enough without finding a new way to say it.

I politely asked him not to spread things like this because we shouldn’t lift up some by standing them atop of others. He did not take it down. Far more people liked the meme than liked my criticism of it. He did not even respond.

I will never understand why spreading hatred of other groups is supposed to spread love for your own.

Yes, I’m Sensitive. So What?

If you don’t think “sensitive” is an insult, I’m not talking to you. But if you do, lend me your ear for a second.

I’m not mad at you. Or accusing you of anything. Or talking down to you. At the very least, none of that is my intent, but you’ll take it how you take it. All I’m asking is you hear me out. Okay?

If you’re still here, beautiful. Thanks.

On one level, I get it. I do. You say something, someone got hurt, and you don’t have a clue why it happened. Clearly, they’re just being sensitive, and you didn’t do anything wrong. They took it wrong.

Some people, they intend to hurt those around them, but most people, we don’t. Words happen, feelings get hurt, and you don’t want it to be your fault. Especially if it happens often. I do it all the time. Yeah, I’m terrible about it. Stupid falls out of my face, and the next thing I know, people I love are mad at me. Hell if I want it to be my fault.

Just as often, if not more so, I’m on the other end. It might be a friend trolling me as a joke and going too far. It might be one of my students trying to get a rise out of me. It might be a fellow teacher who doesn’t want to listen to me. It might be an off-hand comment that mashes that big red button in my thick skull.

Why doesn’t matter so much for this point. My feelings were hurt. Because I’m sensitive.

I am. I’m all kinds of sensitive. The thing the negative connotation of the word doesn’t represent is emotional sensitivity is the whole range. My favorite high is an emotional one. And I can make it to space on it. I’ll be driving home from a good day at work and bust out in giddy laughter at how amazing it was. One second, I’m singing along to Barenaked Ladies, then I’m giggling for five minutes. I’m so damn pleased with myself.

My emotions leave a huge impact on me, too. If you leave a consistent good impression on me, I’ll continue to believe that good feeling about you for a whole slew of bad stuff. I’ll doubt any bad thing said about you. I’ll emotionally take your side in a fight. (If it’s against another friend, that doesn’t mean I’ll actually take your side, though, because dragging other friends into fights that make them jeopardize their friendship with someone else is a dick move. Don’t do it. Plus, I’m probably on both sides, in that case which is emotionally totally possible.)

You leave a consistent bad impression on me, though, I’ll be upset at the mere mention of you. I’ll acknowledge you’re capable of being a good person, but I won’t want any of it near me. Whatever good you might do, whatever you might think of me, go do it somewhere else, thanks. I might hate you, but that’s rare. Usually, all I want is for you to stay away from me so my entire existence near you doesn’t suck.

That’s what being sensitive is. It’s everything amplified. The hurt is amplified, but the joy is, too. So, when you say, “you’re too sensitive,” you’re damn right I am. I feel everything. And when the getting’s good, there’s nothing like it. It has the side effect that, yeah, sometimes I get a bruised heart at the turn of a phrase.

You know what’s way worse than the fact you hurt my feelings, though? The fact you won’t admit it. Calling me “sensitive” when it happens is blaming it on me. No, you didn’t mean to, I believe you. I do it on accident all the time. To the people I most want to never see hurt. I’ll get over it, maybe even as fast as it happened, if you don’t try to pass off the blame.

Sit down. Let’s talk about what happened. What you said. Why you said it. If you mean it. What you meant, if it didn’t come out right. If it’s true, why I need to hear it. Because if you don’t sit down and tell me these things yourself, my brain will come up with answers on its own. My brain’s answers probably won’t match yours. And either: A) you’ll come out the worse in those answers, or B) I will, further damaging my self-image, and making my heart bruise even easier.

No one wins if I answer those questions for you. It doesn’t have to be right that second. Cool down if you need to. Preferably, tell me you need to instead of storming out without a word, but hey, you do you.

So, look, being sensitive is just as much a good thing as it is a bad thing. Don’t use it like you’re calling me names. I can be very forgiving, but I’m not interested in forgiving something you won’t admit you did. I’m sensitive, remember?

Do I Have My Own Voice?

This question has started haunting me.

I’m a mimicker.

I have one friend who sends messages online in a series of short sentences or fragments, never all at once. When chatting with him, I do the same.

With another friend, “eww” replaces dislike for anything because that’s a thing she does. “It’s cold and windy outside.” “Eww.” “I hurt my ankle.” “Eww.”

I was rewatching Lie to Me recently, and immediately started overusing “oi,” using extraneous sentence endings (“You’re a jerk, you are.”), and saying “pull the other one.”

I never saw this as a problem growing up. It was fun to adopt my friends’ speech patterns. Partially because I felt more accepted when using something I knew they approved of. Partially because I usually feel like my friends are more creative, witty, and clever than me, so using their unique speech patterns makes me feel more creative, witty, and clever despite that making zero sense.

Age really has nothing to do with my current problem. It’s that I’m a writer, now with a goal of publication. If I don’t have my own unique voice, I’m screwed. The internet says you absolutely, one hundred and twenty percent, nothin’ but net must have a unique, compelling voice. (As we all know, the internet is always right.)

If my voice depends on who I’ve been talking to that week, am I doomed to never have a consistent voice? And thus doomed to always land in the reject pile?

I’ve heard that some professional writers can’t read while they write because the voices of others mess with their voice. But it’s not just books that do this to me. It’s literally any words I consume. Who I talk to. What I listen to. Music. Conversation. TV. Books. So, what, I have to isolate myself from life while writing? That’s not gonna work out.

Also, I notoriously try too hard. I want to impress people. I want to be liked. I want to sound as creative, witty, and clever as I see my friends are. And I often impress myself with these stupid little phrases as alternatives to cliches, and watch them go completely unnoticed at best. Meanwhile, my friends say something, and everyone laughs. I’m probably right that they’re way cooler than me. Damn I’m lucky they put up with someone as lame as I am.

And how do I separate someone else’s opinion from mine? Quite often, I hear writers say that they hate their first draft as they write it or upon looking at it again after some time has passed, even as little as the next day. For me, it’s after hearing an opinion about it. If I write something I really like (let’s be honest with myself here, I’ve got an ego the size of Sirius–Black’s or the star, they’re about the same size–so I pretty much love most stuff I come up with. Also, I’m hilarious), I don’t change my mind upon further reading. My “damn I’m good” feeling doesn’t vanish.

Then I get a critique, someone points out a flaw, and then it looks like it belongs in the plastic bag in a dog walker’s pocket.

I’m not going anywhere with this. I don’t have a solution or a point. Merely fretting, which is a beloved pastime of artists everywhere. “Dog with a bone” doesn’t even do it justice.