Saturday, December 24, 2011

How a four-year-old film gave me my resolution

Three nights ago I watched Food, Inc. I have two words: Holy Shit.

If you've not seen this film, I urge you to do so. It WILL change the way you shop, the way you eat, and the way you think about food, corporations, and possibly even the United States.

Now, look. Fat Prattler didn't get fat because she has a glandular problem. Fat Prattler is fat because she has an EATING problem. And Fat Prattler has been yo-yo-ing for the better part of the last 30 years. That's another post for another time, but I'll tell you this much: no issue has EVER made me want to change my eating habits more than this film did. When I was younger it was the desire to look hot. As I got older it became the desire to look younger. A few years ago it was the threat of dying before my time of some awful obesity-related illness , the fear of suffering the indignity of dropping dead in public or of being found in some stage of decomposition in my bed. The reasons for my myriad stages of loss and gain, my peaks and valleys of weight and size, are as varied as the numbers on the scale over the years. But none have been as compelling as this film.

How many people REALLY know where their food comes from? How many people eat like shit day in and day out because it's all they can afford? How many people are really not affected by images of factory farms, with dirty, weak, antibiotic-laden, manure-caked animals stuffed into dark stalls? How many people would think twice before buying Tyson products after seeing how they abuse animals, mistreat workers, and bully farmers? How many people would change just one habit in an attempt to effect some change? I certainly can't be the only one.

I've grown complacent in a lot of areas. I'm not as outspoken on a lot of issues as I once was. It's been years since I marched on Washington for any reason. But I'm riled up enough at this point to make some real changes in my life, and I hope to eventually encourage others to do the same by demonstrating and leading by example.

So my resolution for 2012 is to heighten my awareness on ALL levels about what I'm putting in my body. It's physical, it's mental, it's emotional, it's environmental, and it's political. I'm sick of being fat, and I'm sick of feeling powerless. I need to be more aware of what's going through my head, and I need to be more aware of where my food is coming from. I'm not okay with supporting companies that abuse animals and their workers. I'm not okay with artificial growth hormones and pesticides and chemically ripened vegetables. I'm not okay with Monsanto and Purdue bullying farmers into massive debt with no return on their investment. I'm not okay with the US Government blocking attempts at regulation of safety and quality of our food supply. I've been mad about a lot of things in this country, you know, but that...that just nailed it for me. Just nailed it. DONE.

You know what did it for me? The Tyson farmer who talked. She lost her contract because she wouldn't "upgrade" to closed-wall chicken houses, where the chickens never see the light of day. She had dozens of dead chickens every day. She explained that the hormones they give the chickens in the feed and the rapid growth and lack of space cause the chickens to get so fat so fast they can't support their own weight. Their internal organs simply give out, or their legs break under their weight and they starve or get trampled. Most can't walk more than a few feet before they fall over from exhaustion. And when the workers come in to do a pickup of the chicken houses, the chickens are kicked, picked up by their heads, and thrown around.

Beef and pork factory farms are even worse. I could go into detail about factory farming vs. free-range farming and how just looking at the animals kept in each environment can clearly indicate the difference between the two, but I would rather encourage you to watch the film for yourself and form your own opinion. I would rather you research the staggering rates of childhood obesity and Type-2 diabetes and make your own judgment. We as a nation are the most unhealthy we have ever been, and for an industrialized nation, it's disgraceful. This generation coming up now is not expected to surpass their parents' life expectancy. The American people are being fed poisonous, unhealthy food in the interest of lining corporate coffers, and if you're not the teensiest bit pissed about that, then...well, I don't know what to tell you.

It's hard to get local produce in the winter here in the Rust Belt, obviously, but my changes are going to start by shopping more in-season and hitting the farmers' markets every chance I have. I'm going to plant my own vegetable garden in my backyard next spring. I'm going to eat less meat. A lot less. And when I do eat it, I'm going to buy it from a local butcher committed to purchasing from local farms that grass-feed and do not use hormones or antibiotics. I don't care if it costs more. It all comes out in the wash, as far as I am concerned, when you weigh the health benefits associated with a healthier, fresher, more raw and organic diet. I went on a weekend retreat a few months ago where I did a raw food cleanse, and was told that the closer you eat to the earth, the less food your body needs to sustain itself. And I believe it. That whole weekend I lived on raw soups and smoothies, and I was *never* hungry. The way I see it, if I'm going to eat meat, it makes sense to eat an animal that ate grass and wandered freely and breathed fresh air while it was alive.

When I was in Thailand last year, I was struck by just how fresh everything is there. I ate in restaurants that had their own fish farms in the adjacent bodies of water. I ate in food stalls that had gardens behind the building. I went to markets filled with locals peddling their fruits and vegetables and spices and meats. And you could do this for next to nothing. Food in Thailand is cheap, it's fresh, and it's healthy. Hell, most places you can walk outside and pick a banana right off the tree. I was there for a month and I don't think I've ever felt better. I don't understand why we, as a nation, can't feed our people better. We rail against overseas sweatshops, but the way these corporations like Tyson, Smithfield, and Purdue treat their workers is every bit as despicable. We race to help countries suffering famines, and yet we willingly patronize corporations that are feeding us garbage devoid of any real nutritional value. We express outrage against countries who chop appendages off of thieves, yet we tolerate farmers being bled dry and run into the ground by corporations who cut their lifelines. (The average contracted farmer is $500,000 in debt yet only makes $18,000 a year). We engage in wars in the name of "human rights," and yet in our own backyards children are dying of new, antibiotic-resistant strains of foodborne illnesses and the government won't help. We are all about "free speech," but remember what happened to Oprah when she questioned the safety of ground beef?

Give me a break. We are not free in this country. And I don't care if Monsanto, the FBI, and the fucking president of Tyson Foods show up at my door tomorrow. I'm fired up.

I'm going to change my habits not because I want to be thin, but because I have a conscience, and because I'm angry. Henry Rollins said, "I use my anger to go out and get shit done. If you don't get really pissed about it, it won't change." And it's true.

Watch the film.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

You know I couldn't NOT take part in this

Commentary to follow, but for now I'm just avoiding doing real work. Kind of like this guy.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

On dating: projections and reflections from a recently uncoupled, middle-aged, Childfree chick

Okay, so I slacked. But I'm back. And this time it's personal.

I've recently been talking to some folks about my dating woes. Well...not really dating woes because I'm not dating yet. I won't be for a while. That's just how I roll. I'm not a rebounder and I usually take pretty long breathers in between relationships. This time is no different, except this time I'm in Buffalo, New York, which is most likely the most Childfree-UNfriendly town on the planet, and if my previous forays into dating here are any indication, I should probably just get another cat.

Prior to meeting the most recent boyfriend (who is not from Buffalo but did live here for the last six months of our relationship), I dated here and there, but met with a lot of opposition - mainly in response to my Childfree lifestyle and my unwillingness to date single dads. People are really rude and awfully defensive and pushy when it comes to this topic.

And the worst offenders? Men. I mean, yeah, women are aghast at the very suggestion that lack of maternal instinct actually exists, but the men's reactions are what really surprised me.

A few years ago I asked a male acquaintance what he honestly thought my issue was when it comes to dating and attracting a quality partner. I said, "let's pretend for a second that my weight has nothing to do with it, and let's examine what the deeper issues are. Like, let's pretend I'm going to wake up tomorrow and not be fat. What's my problem then? What makes me so repulsive and undate-able then?"

He thought for a second and said, "well, your biggest issue, I think, is that you're 37 and have never been married and you don't have any kids. Guys see that as a HUGE red flag." The way he went on to describe it made me feel like a clearance-rack item, doomed to be picked over as I continue to collect dust on the back of the shelf. It's apparently better to be a divorced single mom than it is to be a middle-aged maiden. I believe I'm classified as what they call a..."spinster." No one takes into account that I spent 10 of the last 22 years earning higher degrees, and maybe I didn't have time to date, plan weddings, or have babies. No one seems to understand that not everyone meets their soul mate at 21. No one (except my girl friends - go figure) thinks it's "normal" to take a year or two off between relationships. No one thinks it's "normal" that I didn't get married the day after I graduated from college and pop out my first kid less than a year later. I'm regarded as "defective" because I didn't live up to the status fucking quo that everyone follows here. I'm not begrudging anyone their happily ever after, but maybe I should, since people see nothing wrong with pointing a self-righteous finger at my barren womb and unadorned ring finger.

I gave up on dating sites a long time ago because they just don't work (more on that later), but shortly after I moved here eight years ago, I received a note from a man on one site or another, and when I looked at his profile, I saw that he'd clearly skipped over the part in my ad that mentioned I wasn't interested in single dads. He had a kid. So I very politely wrote to him and said, "hey, thanks for the note. You sound like a great guy, but I should be honest with you and tell you that I'm really looking for someone without children. I live a child-free lifestyle, and someone with kids just isn't compatible with that. Thanks so much anyway, and best wishes in your search!"

His response:

"If you are going to reject me based on the fact that I fell in love with a
woman before you and our love resulted in the birth of a beautiful little girl whose light shines on my life every day, then I feel sorry for you. Your heart is dark, your soul is black, and I am lucky to avoid you. You clearly have deep-seated issues and I wish YOU the best of luck in your search, though you might just have to get used to being lonely for the rest of your life."

Holy shit. I'm the one with issues? Um. Okay. Ten bucks says that guy's still single, too.

Everyone knows that having kids is a big lifestyle decision, but NOT having them is a big decision as well. I have chosen the Childfree lifestyle based on a careful assessment of myself. With a few exceptions (i.e. my nieces and a few close friends' kids) I am generally not a fan of children. That's not to say I would ever visit harm upon one; I just prefer to not be in their presence the majority of my time. Everyone says, "oh, it's different when you have your own," but I have never felt the pull to be a mother. Some people just aren't born with a maternal instinct. Does that make me a freak? Perhaps. But better to recognize this and not produce an innocent life than to do it just because it's what's "right" and "normal" by societal standards and end up shortchanging the poor kid. I mean, parenting is not like buying a pair of shoes that you discover pinch your toes after an hour. There's no allowance for "buyer's remorse." And if there's no real desire in the first place, why push it? Just because I have "working parts" does not mean I should use them. People who don't like math do not generally become accountants.

Some women get all wistful and swoony when they see a baby, or see a couple with a baby, or see a family out and about. Some women aspire to have a van full of children, with representations rendered in adhesive vinyl stick-figures on the back. Me? I am happy for friends who have babies, because it's what they want and they're getting their dreams fulfilled. But you want to know what makes me wistful and swoony? Couples with dogs. Couples who travel. Couples who spend weekend mornings lolling about in bed with coffee and the crossword. Couples who don't ever have to fight over who's going to take Junior to hockey practice. There are women who would rather be hockey moms and vacation at family-friendly spots. I, however, am not one of them.

Older and/or non-custodial children are no exception. One of the reasons I never had children was not just because I am uncomfortable around babies and toddlers, but because teenagers bug the shit out of me, too. And grown children produce grandchildren. Rigid and closed-minded? Perhaps. But it is what it is, and I feel strongly enough about it that I won't back down.

So if I have no desire to be a parent AND doubt my ability to effectively execute the role, what on EARTH makes it so weird for not wanting to be a step-parent? Shortchanging myself and missing out on some potentially great dates? Perhaps. But I'm willing to live with that. Being alone for the rest of my life? Maybe. But I'm not alone. Partnerless? Yeah. But my life is otherwise very fulfilling, and I'm not so desperate to be coupled that I'm willing to compromise on this issue. It's really the only thing that I consider a true deal-breaker. And as long as there are men out there who won't date me because I have two cats, I feel totally justified in turning down men with kids.

What can I say? Not all of us are Carol Brady. Live with it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Turns out my red hair has been the problem all this time

So you know what they say about blondes having more fun, but did you know that being a redhead actually decreases your chances of being taken seriously, particularly by the opposite sex?

My hair is naturally an understated auburn color, but when I was in high school we moved into a house with a well, and the iron in the water grabbed hold of the red in my hair and brought it out. I liked it so much, I began coloring it once I moved out of the house so I could keep it. Over the years my hair has been some shade of red, from my natural auburn to newly-minted penny, with an occasional venture into extreme ends of the spectrum from platinum blonde to near-black. Mostly it stays a sort of medium coppery shade, which works well with my skin tone and looks natural enough that the roots don't scream "I NEED A TOUCH UP" every six weeks.

Right now I'm sporting a much darker look - a deep mahogany which is a LOT darker than I'd planned on. But the friend who colors my hair assured me it was what I wanted. I got a lot more compliments on this shade than any other I've ever tried, so while I was unsure of how I felt about it, I gathered by the number of people who said, "it really brings out your eyes and your skin," that perhaps I had found something that worked.

But I wonder. Does having been a redhead for most of my life hold a direct correlation to the fact that I'm 40 and still single and have a rotten dating track record? Is my weight solely to blame, or has my red hair been the culprit in attracting the players, the weirdos, and the jerks? Like the author of this article, I think I'll take a look at the women I know in stable, healthy relationships and see if there's something to it. Right off the bat when I think of the three people closest to me who have stability and happiness in their marriages, there it is - they're all brunettes. Coincidence?

You tell me. In the meantime, I'm going to email my hairdresser and see if she has time to help me wash the last relationship failure out of my current dye job.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I'm not heartless. I just don't care.

So Casey Anthony was acquitted of the murder charges in the death of her daughter Caylee. (Do you really need a link)? Immediately Facebook lit up with protests and passionate opinions, mostly from those who had admitted to being glued to the trial while it unfolded. Then the canned "copy and paste if you agree!" statuses started, with posters urging others not to line Casey's coffers with purchases of her inevitably forthcoming book and/or movie.

Sad that a little girl died? Sure. Sadder that people's lives became wrapped up in the "social media trial of the century?" I think so. Did we not learn our lesson from O.J?

There are things that matter and affect the greater human population more than whether or not a 20-something Florida party girl killed her child. Yes, it's a tragic event, and I'm not trying to be heartless about the situation. I just don't care. It doesn't affect my life directly, nor does it affect those around me, my friends, or my family. Can you imagine if every time someone was accused of murder the media got involved on this level? I mean, let's get real here.

Am I curious about what really happened? Sure, with the same morbid curiosity that has me picking up the newspaper and reading about most missing person and/or homicide cases. But as far as allowing it to consume my life to the point where I'm glued to my television, computer, radio, or cell phone awaiting up-to-the-minute I have other things to do and other causes to worry about - like local issues, which affect me much more profoundly than a murder case in Florida. And as for it allowing it to ruin my day or my week by getting upset about it...

Who has time?

So don't worry. I won't buy Casey Anthony's book. I won't watch whatever cheesy made-for-tv movie comes out of it. But I also will not post "a rose for Caylee" or a chain status about the gross injustice of the case. I have smaller fish to fry, and sometimes those are more important. Those are the ones in my pond, and until we all spend a little more time cleaning up our own backyards, what happened 3 years ago in a Florida subdivision has little bearing on the big picture.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

If you think I'm full of hot air...

Boy, am I out of the loop.

Two nights ago I wanted to watch a movie, but my DVD player had mysteriously stopped working. I'd been doing some remodeling, and while I remembered to cover the TV and the stereo, I'd neglected to cover the DVD player, so I thought perhaps it just needed a little dusting. Before shelling out $50 or more for a new player, I figured I'd invest in a $5 can of compressed air first and see if that worked. There's a Target right up the street, so I hopped in the car and headed up there. I ran back to the electronics section, picked up the air, and made my way up to the checkouts.

When I got to the register, the cashier asked, "may I see your ID, ma'am?" Without skipping a beat I burst out into loud belly laughter.

"You can't be serious," I said. I started to launch into my "stupid laws but no healthcare" diatribe, but there was a line behind me, so I stifled myself and handed over my license (which he proceeded to SCAN...??).

Now, when I lived in Chicago, you had to show your ID for spray paint. I assumed it was because graffiti in Chicago is a huge problem (despite the fact that much of it is quite beautiful), and since I've been back in Buffalo I've been buying spray paint without incident.

But...canned air? Really? The next morning I was laughing about it at work, and a younger coworker said, "Oh, Endust? Yeah, kids get high with that."

So I did some more digging. I'll be damned. People really do huff. I thought that shit went out a long time ago. Apparently not. But when I googled it, I was hoping to find some recent articles on the subject. Most recent one I found was from April of this year about a guy who was arrested 48 times for huffing spray paint (which actually really squicks me out, to be honest). Nothing about huffing computer duster since 2009, though.

So tell me again...who are they protecting?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The sick thing about the U.S. (well, one of them, anyway)

By now pretty much everyone has heard about James Verone, the 59-year-old North Carolinian who robbed a bank for $1 so he could go to jail for health care.

Going to jail to get free meals and shelter has long been a tactic of the homeless. Ever watch "Barney Miller" or "Night Court?" There was always a homeless guy attempting to get arrested for one silly thing or another so he would have a place to sleep and a warm meal for the night.

But this is not a sitcom. This is the unfortunate reality of life in the United States, where we pass laws requiring 40-year-olds to show ID for tobacco, alcohol, and cold medicine, but will not provide healthcare. If you stop and think about it, it really is quite ludicrous.

Last week my friend lost his wallet. His lack of ID was causing all sorts of issues with his tobacco habit. Not that I'm condoning smoking in any way, but the whole scene was just ridiculous. A few days after losing his wallet, he needed cigarette papers (he rolls his own). The cashier at Wilson Farms refused him because he didn't have ID. So I had to go buy them for him. Then a couple days ago he was hanging out at my house and had walked up to the gas station for tobacco, only to be turned down again for lack of ID. Evidently he made a bit of a scene in the process. So again, I had to go buy them for him.

When I asked the cashier for the tobacco, she asked me for my ID, and I said, "I understand my friend was in here a little while ago and got kind of pissed. Sorry about that, but it really is dumb." The cashier, who couldn't have been more than 20, said, "well, we have to get ID from everyone because..." I cut her off and said, "Yes, yes, I know. I used to work in convenience retail, too, so I get it. But really...think about this for a second. We have all these laws to 'protect' us - mandatory ID checks for tobacco and alcohol, compulsory seatbelt and helmet laws, you can only buy certain kinds of cold medicine off the shelf without subjecting to an interrogation, et cetera, and yet...we have no healthcare." She just looked at me for a second and said, "yeah, but I don't want MY tax dollars to pay for someone who gets sick because they smoked."


I didn't want to start an argument, and maybe I was out of line for even starting the conversation, but that statement just about blew my mind. Now, I don't know what this girl's situation is, and I don't purport to judge anyone by the uniform they wear. But that statement, coming from a 20-year-old kid who's making probably not much more than minimum wage selling cigarettes, just struck me as downright ignorant. The "my tax dollars" argument seems to be everyone's sticking point, but how many of these people actually THINK about where their tax dollars ARE going?

You know, I sure as hell don't like that "my tax dollars" are funding a war that I oppose. The girl at the gas station should oppose it, too, since it doesn't benefit her interests at all. She works for Sunoco, the only American oil company in this area that does not source from overseas wells. I don't like that "my tax dollars" keep rapists, murderers, gang leaders, drug dealers, and other criminals fed, housed, clothed, and counseled. I don't like that "my tax dollars" get spent keeping government employees in jobs when I have three college degrees and am making coffee for a living. I don't like that "my tax dollars" are going to pay law enforcement officers who gratuitously speed and run red lights. I don't like that "my tax dollars" are being wasted on under-performing public schools. I don't like a lot of things that "my tax dollars" support. But I don't have much of a choice, do I?

Not wanting "my tax dollars" to pay for someone's healthcare on the basis of their bad habits and lifestyle decisions is a weak - as in, barely detectable - argument. Even physically fit, healthy-eating, non-smoking, non-drinking people get sick. Remember Andy Kauffman? Never smoked a day in his life, but died of lung cancer at 35. What about people who eat too much junk food and get diabetes? What about people who sit on the couch too much and get heart disease? How about guys who work with asbestos and get mesothelioma? Or taxi drivers who get assaulted on the job? Where do we draw the line?

We pay taxes into a system that supports criminals but not sick people. We pay into a system that will build prisons but not hospitals. We pay into a system that will "rehabilitate" prisoners but not provide adequate preventative care to the mentally ill, many of whom end up in prisons because their illnesses were not correctly managed - usually due to the inability to afford it. We pay into a system that gives no incentive to get off public assistance and just keeps putting band-aids on the situation. We pay into a system that gives free health care to politicians, but not to their constituents. Is this really democracy? Where you have to show your ID and fill out a form and practically get fingerprinted to buy a box of Sudafed, but a guy has to rob a fucking bank to get a painful lump on his chest treated?

Really? That's sick.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I have stuff to say.

Welcome to my new blog.

Those of you who followed "As Planet Deedums Turns" in its heyday remember that I had intended for it to be more than just a glorified journal. But it didn't really turn out that way. Toward the end there it contained lots of personal whining and then just sort of fizzled out in favor of other endeavors - namely, school, and a fucked-up relationship that more or less turned my life on its head for its duration (and about which I began writing a private, anonymous blog). I really want something that's less "me me me" and more "this stuff interests/excites/bugs the shit out of me and I want to share, and possibly invite dialogue in the process."

I feel at this juncture that Planet Deedums needs to go the way of Pluto. It still exists, but isn't really a true member of the solar system. It'll still show up on the blogosphere radar, but there isn't a whole lot in the way of new life on it. I also didn't feel like changing the subtitle from "Musings of a 30-something Drama Queen." Planet Deedums was where I lived in my 30's. Now I'm 40. Time for a change.

"The Fat Prattler" is what an ex called me once. I thought it was funny. Rather than let it bother me, I embraced it, and decided to use it, kind of like a superhero moniker. The truth is that I am fat (and will be for quite some time, I would imagine, despite my frequent and ongoing efforts to remedy that - which will be discussed in future posts, I'm sure), and I do talk quite a lot. I have an opinion and I'm not afraid to express it. I'm a Gemini, too, so sometimes I have two opinions. Just sayin.'

As is my way, this blog will remain uncensored. I have a lot to say about a lot of stuff, and it's not always pretty. But that's life. And at 40, mine is just beginning. So come on in, pop a squat, and drop a comment if you wish. I'd like that.

Ever so...
The Fat Prattler