I have a proposal of sorts: let’s make ourselves a fat, queer online writing group.
You may have noticed a bit of a lack on this space, from me in general. In part, I’m trying to take an intentional step back from the internets and focus on other things. But a large part of it is, I think, a fear of writing and creating. I have been trying to write a few things for a while, and I can’t seem to make them happen. I stare at my computer willing it to free me from a task I know it can’t; I write the beginnings of something on Facebook or in a journal and decide to scrap it because it’s hard. I want more practice, and I want people who see me to hold me accountable and push me to write more and write better.
It’s not just about my writing; it’s about our community voices. We have important things to say, things that need to be heard. I want our voices to be as powerful, beautiful, resilient, delicate, layered, and full as they can be. I want for us to write so that we can make ourselves whole.
Here’s my vision:
- A 6 week writing workshop starting the first week in February (I’m open and interested in more, but I think this is a good starting chunk of time. It’s enough time to actually work on a piece or three and not so much time that we’ll burn out or forget about it by the end.)
- We “meet” once a week, and we alternate submitting either original work or critiques to the works presented. I will arrange some round-robin type system so the same people don’t always respond to each other. “Meetings” will consist of a weekly deadline to submit either texts or feedback on dreamwidth.org.
- All genres and styles of writing are welcome. Texts need not be directly related to fatness / queerness, though the content of text should exist within the NOLOSE community agreements.
If this sounds like something you are interested in, please email me (jenn @ fatsmartandpretty.com) by January 25th. We’ll exchange a few emails to make sure it’ll be a good fit for this group, and then we can start the first week of February.
Today we have Kristi M, a 30 year old American English teacher in South Korea.
1. What’s the last thing you did exclusively for yourself?
The last thing that I did exclusively for myself was download and read a new book. It’s a cheesy romance novel/guilty pleasure type deal, but it was completely for me and I’m thoroughly engrossed in it. I stayed up until nearly 3 AM reading when I should have been asleep early since I had work this morning, but sometimes you just have to do something for yourself.
2. If you had an hour and $20 to spend on yourself, what would you do?
I would buy the new yarn that I want and get a Christmas Cookie Latte from Starbucks and just sip and knit.
3. What do you think of the word “selfish”?
I think that the word selfish has a negative connotation in our society today. Sometimes thinking of yourself is a good thing, as long as it is not hurting anyone else (or yourself). This is not being selfish, although lots of people get accused of being selfish for doing it. Solely thinking of yourself to the detriment of others is being selfish.
I recently started a new job teaching kindergarten in Korea. I was replacing a 43 year old, white, American, male. I’m a 30 year old, white, American, female. We both assumed that we were pretty much on the same page. Merely the commonality of being strangers in a strange land had has afforded me the opportunity to make lots of new friends. He kept complimenting me, saying that I was “just so good with kids” and asked when I would have some of my own. I politely informed him that I love kids, and I love teaching, but I don’t have any intentions of having my own kids. You would have thought that I had punched him in the face; he was so offended my statement. He accused me of being “selfish” for not having kids. It felt like he was using “selfish” as a derogatory word. I was floored. I didn’t have a clue what to say back, so I asked him why he felt that way. He told me that the only reason that I think I don’t want to have kids is because I think that I can’t find a good man and gave me the “plenty of fish in sea” speech. His assumptions made my patience start to run a little thin. I kindly explained that, I guess he’s right, I am being selfish for not having kids, but not for the reasons that he assumes. I like my life the way that it is. A baby changes everything. If I had kids, they would be the top priority in my life and I would make sacrifices to give them every advantage that I could. Having said that, I don’t have kids, and I don’t have any intentions of having kids. I’m taking every precaution to insure that I don’t have kids, and that is a choice that I get to make. I’m in a committed relationship. I like coming home to someone that I love dearly and that loves me. I like being able to stay up late reading, if that’s what I want to do. I like being able to eat desert first. I love to travel. I have a personal goal of making it to every continent. I don’t think it would be right or safe to force a child to accompany me on that journey. I enjoy extreme sports like skydiving and bungee jumping. I feel like it would be careless and irresponsible to risk my life like that if I had a child that was depending upon me. The mommy path is not the path that I choose to be on. My path has changed a lot in the last 30 years, I never expected to find myself in Korea. Maybe one day, that path will change, but right now, this is my choice. I feel absurdly lucky that I have the capability to decide how I want to live my life and actually do it. It is possible for me to carve out the lifestyle that I want to have for myself. I dislike the term selfish. Doing what I think is best for me, when it doesn’t hurt anyone else, is not being selfish. One man’s selfish is another woman’s self-awareness.
The newest person at work is quitting. When I found out that she was quitting and moving back to Canada I was, of course, concerned about her well-being. Moving abroad is hard, and having to move back on less than ideal terms is even harder. Plus there’s the fact that we’ll all have more work as we train the replacement teacher and her them up to speed. It’s not what anyone was hoping for.
More than anything, though, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I’ve fucking made it. 5 months. I’m here. I’m adjusting well. I am adaptable. I am resilient.
I taught myself how to read Korean. I signed myself up for Korean classes and make it a point to go every Saturday morning. I find things I want to do in Seoul, and I do them. I go into the city and figure shit out by myself with little more than internet research to help me out. I try to find likeminded people and meet up with them. I managed to figure out how to feed myself, including figuring out to how budget and cook for myself. I’ve even increased my spice tolerance significantly. These are not easy things. Especially not all slammed together and thrown at someone all at once. It feels really good to realize how far I’ve come.
This is why I wanted to move abroad. I wanted to challenge myself to be more adaptable. I wanted to stretch myself and see what stuck. I wanted to challenge my notions of what is normal and typical from what is normal and typical in my circles. I think it makes me a better person. It makes me more capable to take on other tasks, and it’s fun to do new things.
I nearly lost sight of how much I’ve accomplished because I’ve been surrounded by people who don’t get me. These are the kind of people who don’t think about patriarchy and white supremacy and the invisible systems that define our lives. They don’t think about these systems because they don’t have to.
About three weeks into moving here, when I was starting to get to know everyone at work and really feel like I was going to be able to live here, one of my coworkers stopped me on the way home from work and basically told me that the people in the office thought I was a judgmental bitch. He was trying to be kind, and I don’t doubt his intentions. I remember thinking, But I was trying! I am holding my tongue and playing nice! You should see me when I try to be a judgmental bitch!
I can only play nice to a certain extent. If I don’t feel like I can engage with you and have a real conversation about why talking about dieting at lunch is really difficult for me or why saying things like “shut your whore mouth”* is hurtful and harmful, I simply won’t respond. I realize that some may see this as rude, but what am I supposed to do? Put up with all of that shit with a smile on my face? Fuck that. I’m not here as decoration. I’m not here as an object for your amusement. I’m here for me. I’m doing shit for myself. I don’t care if that means you think I’m selfish, or a cold hearted bitch, or judgmental, or the office pariah. I’m going to live a fulfilling life.
Upon reflecting on this, it occurs to me— no fucking shit. Of course I’m resilient and adaptable. I’m a fat, femme, queer woman. I live in a patriarchy. I literally have to be both resilient and adaptable to survive. I’ve called killjoy and obstinate and a slew of other things when I stand up for the dignity of people. When I refuse to sit back and let dominant narratives continue to enact violence on my communities and the communities of the people I love, I make my presence known. Even the act of disengaging from these conversations can be read as an act of aggression.
The world at large doesn’t want me to exist. I know this. And yet here I am. I’m not a cold-hearted bitch; I’m just not putting up with your bullshit.
*Addendum: To clarify, it was a white, straight, American man who told me to, “shut [my] whore mouth.” Koreans have been overwhelmingly kind and welcoming.