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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Methods for Cutting Spending

In my quest to get out of debt without going full on bat shit over it, I've realized that I need to cut spending so that I can accelerate debt payment AND still buy crap I want and need.  I'm not going full on frugal zealot here, 'cuz I'm old and bitchy and the moment I try to deprive myself, I end up compensating by binging in some manner. So, I suppose I should say that I'm old, bitchy and insane. Fair enough.

After spending like a typical American (aka above my means) for a few years, I'm pulling myself back into my consciously frugal ways. I've gotten better about battling the impulse to throw money at every problem. I got a new dog recently (post on that adorable doll coming soon!), and she loves to sleep in the oddest places. I realized a nice little doggie house would be good for her. Gotta buy that! Uh, no. No I don't gotta buy that. I can let her continue to sleep in odd places and buy nothing. I can also convert a cardboard box into a little dwelling (gonna do that eventually). Doing nothing is always an option. So is being creative. Money doesn't need to be thrown at every issue that pops up. Can I get a witness?

So, the 1st method of cutting spending: just don't buy shit. Pretty simple, eh? Whenever I get the urge to buy something now, I ask myself: can I make do with something I already have to fulfill this want or need? Most often, the answer is yes.

2nd method: a cooling off period. I send a link of whatever I want to buy to my bestie, QP (that's short for Queefing Pussy. Be grateful if you're not my friend in the day-to-day, 'cuz my love is kinda mean), and he then mocks me in some manner for wanting whatever it is, then tells me to stick in in my Pinterest account and check back in a week to see if I still want it. It's an awesome trick, because the pinning makes me feel like I somehow "own" it, and I generally don't give a shit about it in a week.

3rd method: be aware of what I have and use what I have. It's actually fairly easy not to spend when you realize just how much crap you have, particularly after a couple years of buy, buy, buy. I have so many clothes, it's ridiculous. But that's a first! And one I am incredibly thankful for after years of awful fat girl clothes. (Thank you, Igigi.) So, for those items that I already have plenty of, I have a No Buying rule. No clothes. I have at least 4 dresses that need to be altered. Those are my "new" clothes, because I've yet to wear them. That's right! I own clothes I haven't worn yet. Excess, much? No new kitchen gadgets. Actually, nothing new in the apartment until my decluttering project is finished. I'm also using the "be aware" method when it comes to food. Digging through my pantry and freezer and using what's there. An inventory would probably help here, but ain't nobody got time for that.

4th method: no new recurring expenses and reduce those expenses where I can. I don't have a lot of the typical expenses most Americans have. No cable. My internet is about $20 a month, which is less than half of what most of my friends pay. No gym membership. I use a public pool that is much cheaper than a gym and allows a per-use payment system.

I can reduce some recurring expenses through crafty means. For example, I now buy flea meds for medium size dogs and use one tube for my two small dogs. $20 a month to $10. BOOM.

The one glaring recurring expense that makes me cringe is my cell phone. For years, I used a drug dealer phone (aka flip phone), despite being mocked heavily for it, at a cost of about $200 a year. When I got divorced and started dating, I caved and got a smart phone. (Dudes really love texting and exchanging photos. When did men become teenage girls?) I got an iPhone 5 for $50, which is apparently a good deal, but I pay $98 a month for my unlimited plan. That's too much. I am going to see about getting a cheaper plan when my contract is up. I dream that one day I will be able to give up the smart phone. Time will tell.

5th method: reduce or eliminate wasteful flexible spending. My biggest area of waste is in eating out. I've mentioned previously that I was spending $800 to $1,000 a month on eating out. My mother's best line in response to such idiocy? "I don't understand why you spend so much money on something that turns into poop." I've dropped that amount to $200 a month, and the majority of it needs to be in a social situation. I was eating shit tons of fast food and delivery, which was making me miserable. But going out with the girls, having a great meal and a few drinks? Absolutely wonderful. Granted, in LA, $200 doesn't take you very far, so we're doing picnics and other non-spendy stuff.

I currently spend about $100 a week on groceries, including household items like laundry detergent. I plan on separating out those costs and reducing my grocery bill to $60 a week, not including bulk purchase meats. I have 7 cubic feet of frozen dead animal, so I really don't need to worry about meat for many, many moons. $60 a week should more than cover veggies and other food items. I'm going to have to stop it with novelty items and buying expensive crap every single week. I don't need prosciutto every week. Special items should not be confused with daily items. Why I need to be reminded of this at 41 is absurd, but there you go.

6th method: if I can make it for less, do so. I purchase crazy expensive items that I could easily make myself. For instance, I pay $4 for a 12 ounce bottle of kombucha tea. That's kinda pricey for some bacteria-laden sugar water. Dumb. So, I plan to start making a few items myself that I normally purchase, such as kombucha, yogurt and bread ($4.50 a loaf. Seriously, assholes?). I'm also making my own "convenience" foods, which is really just about freezing items I've cooked in bulk.

I'm also going back to making my own cleaning products. Not that I actually clean. But I had started purchasing 7th Generation and other "green" cleaners out of laziness. Laziness will be the death of me. 

7th method: find cheaper entertainment. I am currently crocheting a MASSIVE blanket. Great project! I absolutely love it. I also spent $100 on the yarn to make it. That's a damned expensive blankie. So, I am learning how to do fun projects but with cheaper supplies. My next project will be a rag rug made from old sheets I no longer use. These projects also occupy my time, which decreases my urge to spend.

To keep within my $200 budget and build a better social life, I will need to find fun stuff to do with friends that doesn't involve $10 happy hour cocktails. Dinner and drinks at home, hanging at the beach, etc. I'm also renewing my library card for free entertainment via books, DVDs and CDs. Hard to believe, but it actually expired and showed that I hadn't used it in 2 years! Insane.

8th method: therapy. This certainly isn't standard in the frugal living game, but I am creature of compulsion. Although it is primarily around food, there are times when I have shopped compulsively. So, I set up an FSA and will start seeing a shrink this month to help me learn healthier coping mechanisms for the ol' PTSD. And yes, I will totally do a TMI around all that at some point. You have been warned.

That's my plan, folks. What have I missed? Any suggestions? Are you still awake?


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Long Climb out of Debt

I've been asked a few times about how exactly I plan on getting out of the massive hole of debt I'm currently in. I told y'all about the insane credit card debt, but I also have a car loan and student loan debt on top of the credit card crap (which will henceforth be called Idiot Debt).

So, over Labor Day weekend (thank you, unions!), I figured out my full debt package and plotted a plan. It will take a total of six years to knock out all the debt. I have the fortunate misfortune of making too much money to qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (not 100% sure about this, but I am about 99.8% sure. I'll let you know if I find a loophole), despite the fact that I work at a non-profit. But, if I continue at my current rate of payment, I will have paid DOUBLE the amount of the initial loan by the time I'm done. To hell with that.

The six year estimate is a generous one, taking into account that Shit Happens. I did not calculate both "extra" checks (I get paid every two weeks, aka 26 paychecks, but base my budget on two pay periods a month or 24 checks) into debt repayment, or the full amount of tax returns (more on why I get a tax return at another time) or any raises. I allow that Shit Happens and something will probably pop up that will eat some of those "extra" funds. Despite the inevitability of Murphy's Law, I will likely get out of the hole sooner than that, but slow and steady wins the race.  At least in this brain.

Six years. I'll be 47. One, I cannot honestly believe I'm as old as I am (isn't that maturity thing supposed to happen at some point?) or that I will be creeping up on 50 and in debt. I want to cry. I want to believe fairies or a rich hottie or a huge pay increase (actually going to go after the latter, but that's another tale) will come along and save me, but the joy of being as old as I am has rendered me the following bit of wisdom: I am my own savior. No need to wait on anyone or anything else.

The game plan is this:
1. Pay off the credit cards first and aggressively as possible without going batshit or triggering any cray cray; when that's done, move those payments to the student loan debt. The car will be paid off at its current rate, because I have a crazy low interest rate on it.
2. All monies from raises will go into debt repayment. I didn't calculate that in, because in my field, you can never predict how that tide will turn.
3. Pick up a couple of paid freelance gigs each year and throw that money into debt repayment.
4. Earn a substantial raise (this is possible at my new gig, given the responsibility of my position, despite how insanely attached to martyrdom my field is) and toss it towards debt.
5. Reduce spending (this is a separate post).
6. Keep funneling unspent money from my current budget into my "wants" file, so that I don't feel deprived and say FuckIt and just go back to old behavior. Thus far, I have saved $360 towards some new furniture I'd like. It's incredibly motivating to save in this manner, for some odd reason, despite the fact that it's gonna take eons for me to afford the stuff I want at this pace. But I also have a rule of nothing new in the house until ALL the clutter is gone. That's also gonna take me forever. WIN-WIN, HEIFERS.
7. No new clothes for at least one year, except for undies and bras, 'cuz well...undies and bras.

When I hit that magical day of having paid off this hefty demon, I will then shove that monthly chunk into savings so that I can get the fuck out of this concrete shit hole and find my way back to a chunk of land and a piece of sanity. It's entirely possible that a number of magical things could happen that will bring me to a nice place in the country before then while still allowing me to pay off my debt. But right now, I have to plan with what I've got, and what I've got is a long ass road ahead. Paved in concrete and asshole drivers, SoCal style.

I keep telling myself I'm a late bloomer, which is true. The other reality is--holyhell, have I been a well-informed idiot. It's astounding that a handful of crappy years could cause so much damage financially, and even more unfathomable that I handled it so poorly. But what's done is done. Time to move forward, making sound decisions. I am grateful for the clarity I have now and for the earning capacity I have at this point in my life, particularly given my do-gooder field. Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, everything will be just fine.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Trying New Farmers Markets

Thanks to a fabulous "summer hours" program at work, I was able to take Friday off, which I used to visit a new-to-me farmers market near my home. I'm a big fan of checking out a variety of farmers markets, because I've found them to differ pretty significantly based on location.  Affluent neighborhoods tend to have a lot of prepared foods and craft item offerings and larger markets in general. I assumed that lower-income neighborhoods would have cheaper offerings, but that's not always the case. But the broke 'hoods generally never have the crafty items. I'm okay with that. It tends to be hippie shit. I could happily live the rest of my life without seeing another tie-dye object.

My community has been gentrified, but still manages to be mixed income, so I didn't really know what to expect. My usual farmers market is on the other side of town and is large, extremely popular, very crowded and has a ton of great offerings. Yes, even a bunch of crafty hippie shit. The Friday market was much smaller and didn't have much traffic, since it's held during the middle of the afternoon during the work week. But lo, did I find the world's cheapest  and most fabulous vendor.

Check out this massive bounty I got for $20!
They were offering 3 bags/3 items mix and match for $5 (the 3-pack of strawberries were $5). That's a whopping $1.66 per bag, and they were STUFFED full of veg. I have seen bunches of kale on sale at Whole Jerks for $1.50 each, but they are usually less than half the amount in the bundle pictured above.

Other vendors were  more expensive, with prices comparable with what I'm used to at my usual market. And I will admit that these bad boys were ripe and needed to be cooked within a couple of days. But since I do bulk cooking on the weekends to get me through the work week, that's not an issue.

I then more than doubled my spending, for a total of $46, buying only 3 more items: eggs (30 total for $10, which is .33 per egg. Not bad for local, pasture-raised chicky eggs); honey ($11.50 for 24 ounces, which is .48 per ounce. Kinda pricey, but FUCK YEAH bees and local producers) and 1.5lbs of nectarines at $3 per pound. There is nothing more glorious on this earth than a local, perfectly ripe yellow nectarine. I would kick a baby in the face for that glory. Check out the total bounty!


With the above goodies and stuff from my pantry, this week will be filled with fancy toast (toast with goat cheese, sliced strawberries and a drizzle of honey); brussel sprout and kale hash with eggs; the world's largest pot of ratatouille; and (don't get jealous) halibut and/or salmon sent from my sis in Alaska with corn and green beans. Did I mention the delicious fish caught by my family in Alaska? Yeah. I'm kinda loopy with joy right now.

I went to Trader Joe's and got the necessary half-and-half, toilet paper and chocolate, among other goodies, but still managed to come in under my $100 per week budget. This amount does include certain non-food items like dog treats, toilet paper, lotion and laundry detergent (basically, home and personal care items I can get at Trader Joe's so I don't have to go to a big box store). However, this amount doesn't count the bulk purchases I make directly from farmers for properly-raised meat, which averages to about $166 per month for about 22 chickens, a quarter of a cow, half a pig, and half a lamb per year. That's a shit ton of money, particularly for the meat. But you have to keep in mind that I live in Southern California, where farmers wear $300 sunglasses. We're all living an absurd lifestyle out here, and I don't expect my farmers to be an exception to the rule. They work their asses off, generally hold down additional day jobs, and they can spend their money however the hell they want. (I do not own $300 sunglasses, because that's just fucking idiotic. But, yanno, to each their own and all that jazz.)

The money I don't spend on gas and groceries every week is going into a "new furniture" fund. I "should" use it to pay off debt, but mama needs a new couch and a couple of dining room chairs. The act of saving is helping to return me to sanity around money, focus on paying off debt instead of buying yet another dress and blah blah blah. It's working for me, so I'm not jacking with it.

A buddy of mine on facebook asked folks what they spend per month on food and how often they cook. It was pretty fascinating to read. Me and one other dude had high budgets (he's an athlete; I'm just a glutton). So, I'm curious--what do you spend per month on food at home? How often do you cook? What are the prices at your local farmers markets like? Are your farmers markets certified or are they trying to sell you Dole We Use Slave Labor bananas? Do you grow or forage much of your grub? Do you have a direct-from-farmer, properly-raised meat source? If so, how much does your stuff run?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Healthcare in America: You're On Your Own, Love!

I mentioned a few posts back that my friend Rosa died after a year and a half battle with cancer. She was 28.

The short version is this: She went to the doc, complaining of pain. She was thin, tattooed and Cuban. So, he assumed she was drug seeking. Instead of testing her to show her just how wrong her pain complaints were, he repeatedly sent her on her way. When she finally found someone who would listen to her (no insurance at the time), it was too late. The cancer had spread. Her husband said that the doctors and hospitals fucked up her care every step of the way. She died from a type of cancer that has an incredibly high survival rate. At their wedding, a gift from hospice care, one of her nurses said, "No one dies from this anymore. This is malpractice."

Welcome to healthcare in America.

Upon moving to California from Missouri, I was shocked at the level of incompetence in the support staff at doctor's offices. Secretaries and medical assistants couldn't seem to manage the most basic of tasks. In MO, I had worked in an ICU throughout college with some incredibly talented nurses and secretaries. My mother is a nurse practitioner; my father was an RN. I expected the same level of competence I experienced in small town MO in big city CA. Ohgoodlordjesus, no.

But then again, competence in any field is a rare thing. But when we're talking about people's lives, accepting the status quo of incompetence seems a little insane. We complain and complain, but not much is being done on a national level. Obamacare is a blessing to many, but I have to wonder--is shitty healthcare better than none? Is it possible that it causes more harm?

Case in point: Weight stigma has created negative health outcomes for fat people. Shitty care in this regard, much like my friend Rosa, means that concerns are ignored, because you just need to Lose the Weight (tm). Every health concern is attributed to weight and the solution is to just Lose the Weight. I don't have many horror stories of strangers being mean to me over my weight, but goodlordjesus, do I have some tales about crappy healthcare. Enter the latest saga.

Since I started my new job, my self-care has gone to crap. I was exercising most days of the week at my previous job, because we had an onsite gym. I haven't worked out in eight months. I work crazy long hours and have eaten more fast food in the past eight months than I have in the past eight years. Not that self-care during The Lunacy or the past four years of my crappy marriage was so great, but still. I was working out and not scarfing down fast food every minute. So, I wasn't too surprised to find that my A1C had gone from 6.1 to 6.7. Not a good thing.

The ADA recently changed their parameters, increasing the level at which someone is considered diabetic. I think that's insane. I used to work at the ADA and talked with researchers frequently. Back in the day, they fought to keep the "pre-diabetes" diagnosis out of the discussion and diagnosis realm, because you can get complications at a pre-diabetes level as well. Short version--there is no "pre." If you're "pre," you have diabetes.

Today, diabetics are told to keep their A1C under 7. A non-diabetic person's is less than 6. My new doctor told me that at 6.5, she medicates. I assumed that since I am over that amount and that my A1C was worse, she would want to medicate. No. Well, that's okay. This is still manageable with lifestyle changes. So, I explained to her that I wanted to get it under 6, essentially--I want to reverse my diabetes. I was doing great and fell apart during The Lunacy and my new job. Time to get back on the self-care wagon.

What she said in response floored me. "You're doing a good job managing your diabetes. Getting it under 6 really isn't necessary."

That's right. Just "manage" the disease. It's getting worse? GREAT. JOB. Trying to reverse something you likely have the power to change isn't necessary. Just keep doing what you're doing, and everything will be just fine.

Diabetes complications include blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation. Recent studies link it to dementia. That's right, kids! If I keep doing what I'm doing, I have a blind, one-footed, dialysis-driven demented future in store. FUCK YEAH!

After years of crappy experiences with doctors and watching Rosa die, I knew I had to advocate for myself. I went into my appointment (a new provider) with a fist full of tools I wanted to help me get myself back on track. My healthcare provider, Kaiser, offered only one of them. My primary options were weight loss surgery (incredibly high mortality rate and mutilative bullshit) and a weight loss program. As we all know, weight loss programs result in 85-95% of participants (depending on the data you're looking at) gaining more weight back than was lost. So, surgery with an alarmingly high death rate and something that will likely make me fatter? FUCK YEAH!

What the hell is wrong with this picture? Even while advocating for myself, I encountered rampant incompetence, bigotry, and outdated, ineffective, and even harmful treatment modalities. How can anyone win in this system?

Of course this doesn't mean that I will stop being my best advocate. I am cobbling together resources to help me reverse my diabetes. I was on the path before, I can get there again. But ferfuckssake, it would be a whole lot easier if my healthcare provider didn't suck.

So, my goals for the next 2.5 years:
1. Get out of credit card debt
2. Get my A1C at or below 6.0

I have a payment plan for my debt and am building a health plan to kick diabetes' ass. I will bore you to tears with tales of both. My apologies in advance.



Monday, August 4, 2014

Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without

"Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without." Ah, the beloved refrain of the Great Depression. During The Lunacy (not yet a nationally known phenomena, but you know you've had your own crazy grief-stricken period too. ADMIT IT), my manta became, "Fuck This Shit, Just Buy a New One" or my even more favored, "Can't We Just Outsource This?" $18,500 in credit card debt later, it might be time to kick it old school and get all crazy Depression Era on my own ass.

Since returning to center, I've found myself rather shocked at some of my new spendy impulses. My dog Daphne had some awful bowel issues before she died, and I had a few days before I bought those handy puppy pads to help out. So, in my exhaustion and disgust--seriously, y'all, bloody stools are NASTY--I just tossed towels she was laying on. After all was said and done, I lost about four towels. My first impulse after she died was to just go out and buy some more to replace those that were tossed. But I don't actually need more towels. I have four large bath towels. I'm one person. I use two at a time and wash them once a week. Why bother with more?

My shower curtain is a little grubby and a few of the holes have ripped out. Impulse? Fuckit. Go buy a new one. But I don't need a new one.  I can run it through the washing machine, repair the torn holes (or not. Still has plenty of undamaged ones), and call it a day. Plus, after watching a documentary on the plastic soup that is the ocean and the plastic-related toxin laced world we live in? Yeah. No need to add to that waste stream.

I expect to fight the Fuckit urge quite a bit over the coming months, until I am fully back to myself and in the  "Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without" mode. I've pulled out my copies of The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn, The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living by Janet Luhrs, and Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin to reread, which were the most influential in helping me on the frugal, simple living path. With all the pro-disposable culture advertising that's thrown at us on a daily basis, I figure I need all the help I can get.

 





Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Personal Responsibility in the Social Sphere

This is long and rude and has nothing to do with money. You've been warned. If you can't handle snark or a long read, you should probably hit "next blog."

A few posts back, I referenced a hilarious piece in The Onion and chatted about systems and personal responsibility. The gist: I don't think it's either/or. It's both. Thinking otherwise is all part of the joy of dichotomous thinking, where all things are black and white. 'Cept it's rarely ever genuinely so simple.

I wanted to chat a bit about personal responsibility in the social realm after seeing a few pieces by young size/fat/body acceptance activists. I'm not going to reference the stories with direct links, largely because I don't want to deal with 20-something kids raging at me. And 20-somethings are largely leading this discussion, which is problematic. But that's a whole other issue.

Let me preface this by saying that the first criticism of my view point is that I'm blaming the victim. I'm trying very hard not to do that here. Much like how I feel about poor folks and money--the world we SHOULD live in is not the world we ACTUALLY inhabit. People should be able to wear whatever the fuck they want without any grief. People have a right to exist exactly as they are. But, and this is news to no one, that is not the world we exist within. I advocate embracing reality while advocating for change.

SO! A few folks are documenting their experience with being ridiculed, bullied and/or mocked in the public sector. These young women believe it is because they are fat. They have some horrible stories to tell about how they are treated. Story after story after story of mean, awful, wretched things being said and done to them. One woman said that she cannot leave the house and venture out into the world without someone making a disparaging comment about her weight. It happens every. single. day. (Holy shit!)

It was all truly shocking to me, which is rather surprising, as I am one seriously fat muther fucker. I'm not "chunky" or a little "plus size." I am fat. as. hell. Supersized like fries. Yet I've not experienced nearly the kind of crap these women have endured, and have probably had less than 10 super douche experiences in my life related to my weight. I am not special. I am not some anomaly. So, why is that, I wondered? I live in Fake Tit LA, where botox is king and women as young as 30 start in with the godforsaken juvederm face. (It's horrifying, truly.) Thinness is considered a virtue in this Land of Vapid Twats. So, what the hell? Why are these women suffering such horrible shit while my life experience largely consists of kindness, compliments and warmth?

I started looking at their projects and paying attention to their facebook pages, etc. And lord forgive me if this sounds like victim blaming, but I noticed ways in which they were participating in the abuse. I also noticed that they were making assumptions about why people were giving them grief, and I believe some of those assumptions to be incorrect. As in, it ain't always about your fat ass, darling. A few examples, where I'm going to pull out my inner asshole. You've been warned:

1. One woman started a photo project, documenting the way in which people reacted to her. She believed they were giving her dirty looks, etc., because of her size. She's slightly above average weight. I would consider her a "wee chunk." The most common thing I saw in all of her photos was that she was, well...acting like a goddamned freak. Incredibly awkward, not engaging at all with her surroundings, and seemed almost to go out of her way to separate herself from those around her. Obviously this could be do to the fact that she feels unsafe in the world and is fearful. I suspect, however, that she has some form of autism, and people were reacting to that, which is an entirely separate issue.

What I saw in the reactions of people around her was not "ohgodDEATH!!!FAT!!!" It was, "Why is this woman acting like such a weirdo?" Also, several photos showed folks holding their noses around her. She attributed it to the stereotype that fat people are dirty and stink. Um, is it possible, perhaps, that she needs better hygiene? 'Cuz...well, I've seen lots of fatty hating crap out there, and "eww, stinky" never happened until I saw this woman's project. I have, however, read about some folks on the autism spectrum having specific issues related to bathing. So, maybe?

2. Another lovely woman is an unconventional plus-size model (as in, she's actually plus-size). She has talked at length about how she dropped out of high school because she was bullied so relentlessly due to her weight. She lived in a small town in the Deep South, which is known for being the fattest part of the country. So, that surprised me. She has also talked about how her chosen profession, modeling, has driven her to contemplate suicide. The most common thing you'll see on her facebook feed is posts of her raging against those who belittle the way she looks, asserting that she doesn't give two shits. She'll have 2,000 comments clamoring over her beauty and 200 calling her a fat cow. The 200 become paramount and the focus of her attention. That is most definitely giving two shits.

So, let me get this straight: She's chosen a field where the most successful people are underweight and she is significantly overweight (chart weight, whatever the hell said charts deem acceptable these days). The experiences she's had as a result of this career choice make her want to die, but she still "loves it." I have a distinct feeling that if something makes you wish you were dead, you probably don't genuinely love it all that much. But since she dropped out of high school, she's limited her career options. What's the long-range plan here? And what do all those posts giving attention to haters do? Well, it gives them attention. Internet bullies thrive on attention. So, she feeds the beast that makes her suffer.

3. Another woman, whom I referenced earlier, says she cannot leave her house without someone making a disparaging comment about her, usually about her weight. She told a story of a boy coming up to her as she was in a restaurant and boldly taking a photo of her while she sat there. Super rude. I wanted to slap that little douche. Then I ventured over to photos of her.

She's definitely fat. But that's not the first thing I noticed. The first thing that came to my attention was her outfit, which  I likened to a clown suit. Obnoxiously bright, blindly mismatched patterns. She dyed her hair a kind of nuclear orange-red, which emphasized her ruddy skin. I was surprised to see so much color in her hair and clothing and zero makeup (I'm also surprised when I see women in sweat pants and a stained t-shirt with impeccable makeup and hair. It's so odd what we choose to give attention to). I didn't think, "Damn, that's a big girl." I thought, "Damn, that girl looks like a circus clown on fire who is about to explode."

4. I know several people who make it their life's work to search for and document cases of abuse against fat people, women in particular. They see it everywhere, because they look for it constantly. I have learned horrible terms about and abuses against fat people that I never knew existed until they wrote about it, and I have been fat most of my life. Each of these women has a shit storm of horrible personal stories that they can cull from in their documenting adventures. On facebook, I watch them tell stories about how men just want to sleep with them and don't want to actually date them, because they're fat girls. On and on and on. They are deeply committed to their stories of pain.

--

There is no doubt that misogyny is alive and thriving across the globe. We have ridiculous standards of beauty in this country that have more to do with photoshop than reality. Fat people suffer all kinds of abuse. I have some horror stories of the medical variety that would make your blood boil. Studies are surfacing that note health disparities may not be due to the DEATH!!!FAT!!! that we once thought, but poor care received because bigotry is alive and well in the medical community. Fat folks are a favored scapegoat. The "war on obesity," beyond being utterly absurd, is a prime example of just how insane we are around weight and bodies. People will "health troll" (but your health! Being overweight can kill you!) with a complete inability to have a conversation that even entertains the idea of separating weight and health. Fat people most definitely experience abuse and bigotry and are blamed for it, because we are under the delusion that being fat is a choice, despite the fact that we don't have any genuine evidence to support that notion. (Side note: health trolling comments will be deleted, because you fucksticks are dumb and annoying.)

We absolutely need to address bigotry in all its forms. It exists. It sucks. We need to stop that shit.

Yet...do we participate in the abuse? Do we support structures that oppress us? I would say, most definitely. If you feed the beast that makes you miserable, how can you expect to experience joy? If you constantly look for pain, you'll find it. Over and over and over. If you attribute every negative experience to one single aspect of your person, you might be creating a story that doesn't actually exist. It might not be your fat. It might be that you need to take a shower. Or maybe learn the basics of human interaction. Or maybe you just need to ignore the asshole who is cheating on his wife and raging at you because he doesn't know where else to direct his shame and guilt.

If you go out into the world in a manner that screams LOOK AT ME and then become angry when people do and find your clown hues disturbing to their beige world, it probably shouldn't be surprising that you'll get a reaction. Daily. Because, yanno, you're trying to get one.  Maybe it's time to admit that? It's not just about wearing what you want to wear. Maybe you want to scream FUCK YOU to the world. It probably shouldn't be surprising when the world responds in kind.

We internalize our oppression. All women do. It's nearly impossible not to. One of the ways in which we do so is to take these external negative stories about our bodies and make them our own. Every woman, regardless of her size, has to deal with a shit ton of douchebros trying to fuck her without wanting to take her out. Every. Single. Woman. But we tell ourselves it's because we're fat. That somehow, this is a curse felt only by those with extra adipose tissue. We ignore countless compliments and fixate on the far rarer rudeness. We make ourselves glaring and harsh in our dress and then blame our weight when people try to hide their eyes from the garish spectacle we call an outfit. We hunt and hunt and hunt for pain and feel brutalized when we find it. We feed that which makes us miserable and rage at the world for being so awful.

Maybe we could just stop that shit?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

30 Day Challenge: No Eating Out

In the process of returning to sanity (for any newbies: divorce + lots of death = cray cray), I've found myself wandering back to things I used to adore. Blogging, being all anal about my money, walking through the halls at work shouting WU-TANG MUTHER FUCKERS!, and other assorted joys. It's kinda fun. So, I decided I needed a new 30-day challenge. Those used to delight and frustrate me to no end.

The biggest and most bat shit drain in my budget is eating out. During the height of what shall henceforth be known as The Lunacy (the 2+ or so years of divorce, death and crappy health), I spent about $800-$1000 a month eating out. Yes, in addition to my monthly grocery bill. Yes, that is absurd. Thank you for feeling the shock with me. Anyhoo, I decided to knock it down to $200 a month to see if I'd survive.

Surprisingly, I did not die. Something else pretty interesting happened--friends started buying ME lunch and dinner. Part of the reason why my spending was so out of control in the eating out arena is that I had a combination of annoying asshats who would never pay their full share (seriously, I attract these blowhards like flies to poop), or if I was dining with someone I loved, I would take care of the entire bill (always booze and dessert , y'all. Go big or go home!). But when I got honest about my debt and my ridiculous spending, some friends decided to take care of the bill for me. I used to resist that kindness. I wanted to prove that I was doing just fine, thank you very much. I was happy to give but had a hard time receiving. (Word to women like me: This is why your love life sucks. Learn to receive. It's the best thing you can do for the entire universe.)

That kindness helped ease me into my $200 per month budget. Thanks, friends. But I found that the biggest drain on that 200 bucks wasn't socializing with friends; it was a "quick bite" because I had worked too late, again, or felt too tired, again, to really deal with dinner. Then I remembered a little tidbit I read from Jackie over at MoneyCrush eons ago--going through a drive through, or running to pick something up, or waiting on delivery didn't actually save me time or effort. There was still waiting and fetching involved. Still some form of clean up. And, of course, I was supporting (via fast food) food systems I absolutely hate. Ain't nothing convenient about any of that.

So, my 30-day challenge will be not eating out in August. Due to a flexible summer schedule, I get three Fridays off in August. I'm going to use that time to create my own convenience foods galore, so that in coming months I can use that $200 towards social outings with friends and not sad 11pm, I-just-finished-work-fuckit-Imma-eat-a-shitty-burger drive through adventures.

I will have dinner with friends, if the opportunity arises, but I doubt it will. August is a hell month for me at work, and very few of my friends venture to restaurants at 10 or 11 at night. But there's no eating out on my own, definitely no fast food, etc. I'll put the $200 in my couch fund, and hopefully call it a win.

To help me, I'm going to browse recipes over at Barefeet in the Kitchen (I love Mary so), rip out my Working Class Foodies cookbook that a friend bought me, and revisit Casual Kitchen. Do you have suggestions for food blogs that are simple, easy, and locavore focused? I need to expand the number of go-to dishes I can make.

Feel free to swing by and make me dinner though. ;)