54 blog posts since January, mostly written by me. At roughly 1000 words a piece, that works out to a decent chunk of writing, especially since I hadn’t actually planned to start a blog at all. A decent number of hits (okay, I actually think it’s an awesome number given that rather fewer than 500 copies of my book of poems got themselves sold…), and a smallish number of followers (wordpress seems to weird many people out with the whole you-have-to-sign-up-to-be-a-follower thing, which I don’t entirely get). An unusually high amount-of-time-spent-viewing (I’m told by my social media guru that this is very good), and a few readers in Australia, Europe, and Japan. It’s a nice, happy-making set of stats, and it does make me happy, if a bit disconcerted (back to the I-hadn’t-planned-on-doing-it thing…).
One of the things that makes me feel best about it is that it seems to be read by a number of skinny people–a few who fight with anorexia or bulemia, and a bunch who’ve just always been un-fat. It turns out that my fantasy about how un-fat folks have effortlessly peaceful relationships with their bodies was fluff and bunk. Duh, Devon. Now, even though a few of those lovely folks are actual relatives, and a surprising number (to me, anyway–though it’s a delighted surprise) are former students or friends in academia, that does suggest to me that there is something in the whole discussion that’s worthwhile beyond just the grouchy, had-it-up-to-here, human rights issue with which I started out. Not that the pissed-off-ness is likely to run out of steam anytime soon. There’s plenty of abusive, assholic, just plain stupid stuff going on out there for me to keep talking about. And the issues around fatness and its surrounding conversations/contexts/cultures seem to be particularly important in a world that continues to treat the bodies of humans more as fodder than as gifts. Lord knows that that treatment, in turn, fuels a huge range of other cruelties and stupidities. I’d like to blame western dualism for all this, and dump particularly heavily on its #1 Spokesdude, St. Paul, but other cultural patterns don’t seem to have much better records.
So, though the name of the blog sort of came out of some dusty attic in my head when I discovered that I actually had to name the thing, and though a couple of people have suggested that it’s a little off-putting, I’ve come to think it’s the right one. Fat matters. Flesh matters. How we treat the flesh of sentient creatures matters (not an ad for PETA, who I think are a little/lot over-the-top, besides which I have no plans to stop eating meat or wearing leather) matters, and (Great Chain of Being, here we come), I do think it matters more the more sentient the being, though I realize that that is probably wrongheaded and dangerous on a number of levels, especially since the evidence of serious intelligence in various animals continues to mount–seemingly at an exponential rate. But no matter how you look at it, flesh always matters. And fat folk, because we are more fleshish, more visually, emphatically, unavoidably flesh-bound than others, seem to be a particularly vivid battleground these days.
It’s a Good Thing that we’re running out of People You Can Acceptably Hate–at least in some parts of the world, on some days. A great and blessed thing. It’s even good, in a weird way, that it’s become so unacceptable to be publicly racist in most parts of the US that Fox News and its Foxettes have had to content themselves with bitching about the president’s birth certificate or his being some form of “radical” in order to vent their frustrated racism. Not that they’re fooling anyone. But it’s a form of better, if a weird one. So I’m thrilled that it’s harder to hate on Native Americans, African Americans, LGBT folks, women, Jews, and while we’re at it, Muslims, the Irish, Poles, Italians, Catholics and everybody else we used to blithely badmouth and mistreat, whose rights we used to deny, and who we tried not to let into our colleges, workplaces, and families.
But humans do like to have someone to hate on, and I guess that The Fat are one of an increasingly small number of easily identifiable groups left. It needs to be someone easily identifiable because, at its deepest and most intransigent root, it’s just box-of-rocks STUPID, this need/desire/habit/instinct for Hating the Other. Unfortunately, the fact that a behavior is inarguably STUPID has never stopped humans from engaging in it. Well, shit. Sucks for the fat folks. And the rest of the “hateables” out there.
But, of course, it sucks for everybody, too. Because the Talmud is right:
“FOR THIS REASON WAS MAN CREATED ALONE, TO TEACH THEE THAT WHOSOEVER DESTROYS A SINGLE SOUL… SCRIPTURE IMPUTES [GUILT] TO HIM AS THOUGH HE HAD DESTROYED A COMPLETE WORLD; AND WHOSOEVER PRESERVES A SINGLE SOUL…, SCRIPTURE ASCRIBES [MERIT] TO HIM AS THOUGH HE HAD PRESERVED A COMPLETE WORLD.”
So I kind of know, or have begun to know, what the point of the blog is. I started trying to figure that out back around #30, but the need to understand got really strong when I hit 50, because it began to look like a commitment. Like a responsibility. Not heavy commitment or heavy responsibility. Nonetheless, a responsibility.
Which is sort of where it gets interesting. Because of the nature of Blog, which is this many-faceted hybrid kind of writing–part stream-of-consciousness, part free-write, part memoir, part strip-tease, part essay, part cultural criticism, part soapbox, part think-piece. All the other kinds of writing I’ve done have been around for a long, long time, and even when they are multi-faceted or dabble in hybrids, they have established boundaries and clear lines of writer-audience responsibility. Not so much The Blog. And I don’t think it’s even been around long enough for those lines to have settled. Maybe they won’t. I have a student who’s proposing to write an Honors Thesis on “Internet forms of writing, specifically blogs, and the implications of that for how we think, write, and perceive writing, including prose, poetry, and literature.” Maybe he’ll figure some things out. Or at least come up with some good questions.
Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure that if I’m writing a blog about how weight does not equal health, sanity, virtue, worth, or beauty then one responsibility I can see is that I attend to my own health–no small thing. Maybe the blog is my way of beginning to sanity-ize my own personal conversation with myself. It is very clear to me that many folks are using Facebook posts as a way to hold themselves publicly accountable (and the NYT ran an article recently about how diet apps may save us all, but, God, I am tired of ranting about the NYT–and maybe there’s something to this one, especially for folks who are actually food addicts–I don’t know): one friend posts his blood sugar numbers and meal contents, another posts her treadmill times, another posts his Crossfit workouts, another talks about her runs. It used to irritate me, until it dawned on me that this was a way of holding themselves accountable to themselves by being public–ooooh, a juicy paradox. And it dawned on me that I was being just a little bit bitchy (a not infrequent occurrence, I fear…) I don’t think I’m going to start hitting FB with my numbers or times. But keeping myself talking about fat matters does seem to be having an oddly peacemaking effect on my own private war. Not that it’s a smooth peace process… And it’s way too early to be making any sort of predictions, but it’s been kind of nice to feel like I’m doing some healthier things, adopting some healthier patterns. It’s not as scary as it used to be. Which is also nice. Maybe the nicest thing of all.
And if I can manage to make a little peace with my body while calling out both heroes and villains, then maybe this blogging thing will turn out to have been a good idea. So, thanks Miriam, for asking me to guest-blog on Miriam’s Well. It certainly gave me a taste for this no-boundaries, no rules, no format kind of writing, and certainly made it possible for me to do my own peculiar blog. If it does turn out that the blog, in turn, makes it possible for me to change my health, it may also be that you saved my life.