Showing posts with label robly matters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label robly matters. Show all posts

June 14, 2014

Unseen Giants

I wrote a Father's Day piece for my friends over at BridgingApps. They're great people and I'm honored that they're featuring my words.

Happy Father's Day to all my fellow dads of the world. I hope you get a nice tie.
Excerpt: 
If you asked me that oft-repeated but generally useless question, whether or not I'd take my daughter's disability away from her if i could, I won't lie to you. My answer now, as always, would be yes, without hesitation.

Should we want to take away our child's disabling condition? It's a hotly contested question, but it misses the point. The thing we come to learn as special needs fathers is that it doesn't actually matter how we answer. No one is ever going to ask that question as the prelude to a miracle.

We can't fix, but we can see. We can look and really see our kids, and come to understand that their disabilities are a part of their construction, threads that run deep and true in their tapestry. We become caregivers, and we become champions. We learn to fight and we learn to nurture, in ways that the fathers of typical kids might never have to do. We don't allow ourselves to become Homer Simpson because our worlds won't work with that character.

May 17, 2014

Borrowed Happy

"So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be." 
- Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This is one of those posts I might not actually publish, or that I might think better of and delete after posting it. If you're reading this, you're either Johnny-on-the-Spot, or perhaps I decided not to give the going rate of two shits and left it up. This might be one of those cases where just writing this is cathartic enough to shake me out of my mood and send me on my merry way.

I've been thinking about happiness lately.

(Because of privacy rules, this paragraph is going to be vague. Sorry, I know that's irritating.) I recently embarked on a venture of sorts, one that I thought might lead me down a new path, one that would make me genuinely happy. It ultimately didn't, and I'm taking that failure particularly hard, I won't lie. I feel foolish, and I feel disposable, and if there's a worse way to feel, I'm not sure what it might be. I aspired to something, and my wax wings melted pretty quickly.

The thing is, and I think this is significant, I can't remember the last time I did feel authentic happiness. I know it's been a very long time. If the idea of being truly content with my place in the world is so elusive that I can't even tell you how long it's been, I guess maybe that's an issue. I thought I could see the path until this week. I can't, though.

It's important to note that I'm not some sad mopey bastard with not an ounce of happiness in my life. I think rather the opposite. And when I find my confidence again, as I will shortly, I'll be fine. But it's an undeniable truth that the true satisfaction I find myself feeling is almost always a result of Schuyler's happiness. It comes in things large from time to time, but it's mostly the small joys. A monster movie well-realized. A trip to a comic book store that neither of us expected until we found ourselves standing outside. A joke we've told each other a thousand times. ("Knock knock!" "Come in!")

Schuyler experiences joy, and as a result, I feel some of that reflected warmth as well. I suppose, like a lot of parents (Julie very much included), my own happiness has probably become too caught up in my kid's. I've become dependent on the borrowed happiness I get from her.

If that sounds desperate or sad, I guess perhaps it is. But as I stand here at the end of a shaky week, it might just have to be enough, at least for now.

January 2, 2014

A Complicated Homecoming

I don't return home to Odessa very often. Probably not nearly enough, anyway. It's been almost three decades since I actually lived there. I left home a few weeks after I graduated from high school, back during the end of the oil boom and the beginning of some tough years for the place, and for my family. In the mid-80s, the oilfield economy was tanking, hard, and the publication of Friday Night Lights a few years later would train a spotlight on West Texas football and education and the community in a way that was ultimately good medicine but at the time probably felt a little like being kicked while they were down.

My father was to die suddenly a few years after I left, too. The aneurism in his heart burst as he stood in his yard talking to a friend; as a doctor later said, he was "dead before he hit the ground". I don't know why I always imagined a death bed scene like something from a movie, where he and I would somehow work things out before he died. What I got instead was a phone call, and a quiet six-hour drive home to Odessa, and another two-hour drive out to the remote cemetery at Paint Creek where he'd inexplicably chosen to be buried.

His last resting place felt ridiculous and cliched at the time, with its dusty plots and wild flowers and lizards, and most of all a kind of desert silence that felt almost loud. But that was then, I guess. Almost twenty-four years later, I can see why it appealed to him. I suppose most people pick a burial spot with the grieving people they leave behind in mind, but not my father. He thought of himself, and the kind of place he'd like to spend eternity, as if he would be doing so sitting in a lawn chair, sipping from that old plastic cup he always carried, the one with the words "The King" written on the side, perhaps with an irony I didn't recognize at the time, in his own hand writing.

So my father is removed from my hometown, and what's left are the family who still call it home. I should visit them more. I wonder sometimes if they think I don't care. I do care, very much. They've all continued to grow and age and have babies who then have babies themselves. My father is stuck in my head forever at the age of fifty-one, only five years older than I am now. If there was to be any wisdom or even self-awareness waiting in his future, it was ultimately denied him. Denied him, and all of us whom he left behind, hurt and wondering at his choices, and at his love. It was hard to see, that love. All these years later, long after it ever ceased to matter, I wonder if his love existed at all. He's no longer in Odessa, but his presence lingers, in memories and the places to which they're tied. Perhaps that's part of why I stay away. My hometown has grown ghosty.

Schuyler has been asking to see her Granny for a while, and my niece had a new baby at the beginning of December, so it felt like a good time to make the drive. As a retail manager, Julie is pretty much out of commission from November to the middle of January, so Schuyler and I pick a time when her mother wouldn't be home much anyway, the last weekend of the year, and we head west together.

Schuyler is a great travel buddy at any time, but going home is particularly fun. It's been a few years since she went back, long enough that the whole experience feels new to her. She sees the things that seem old and tired to me, but with new eyes. She doesn't see the desert like I once did. Schuyler sees a place that is rare and impossibly flat and ready for adventure, as if mummies or dinosaurs are waiting just out of sight. When I was her age, living there, Odessa felt like a prison, with a desert instead of walls. I thought I'd never leave. I saw places on television and in movies that seemed exotic simply because they were green, or densely populated, or on the cusp of a much larger world. New England could have been Mars.

Now, even the remote desert feels new. As soon as we pass the halfway point at Abilene, great spindly wind turbines begin to appear on the low hills on the horizon, and we notice the most unlikely of motion from their gigantic blades. These are the wind farms that have become the new face, and currency, of West Texas. Schuyler is fascinated by them, and I am, too, come to think of it. They seem so alien, like armies of robots in search of something. Even if they didn't represent a commitment to clean energy in maybe the last place on earth I'd expect it, I'd still love them. They add something to the landscape, something modern and peaceful and strong. It's hard to explain.

Odessa and the surrounding area are now in the midst of a boom, but it feels different than the one of my youth. I remember Odessa then, growing, gradually and organically, with things just generally getting a little weirder but a lot nicer as a result. Driving into town now, though, it feels very, very different this time. Housing is impossible to find, I'm told, and the lines at restaurants and local businesses are long and rowdy. The outskirts of town where my friends and I once did our drinking and lighting fireworks and making out are now built up, with lookalike strip malls and the same box stores you find anywhere in America. Passing into the town itself, things feel... diminished. The town of my childhood is still there, and it hasn't changed much except for growing more ragged. I'd hoped the new boom might save my home, and perhaps it will, in some sense. But from my eyes, those now of an outsider, it seems like new Odessa is simply building over the old. I guess that's the way it happens. Maybe that's why you can never go home.

We spend the weekend with my mother, who somehow manages to get older without growing old, and with my sister and her kids and her grandkids. (Yeah, that was a little hard to type.) By total coincidence, Schuyler's godparents are in town, so we get to spend some much-needed time with them. We eat at the fast food places of my youth and visit the sad little mall where I once hung out. We try to buy gear from the local (and new since I'd lived there there) hockey team, the Odessa Jackalopes, in part because the mascot is exactly as much fun as you'd expect (an angry rabbit with antlers) but mostly because there's something about the idea of a hockey team in Odessa that is too weird not to be celebrated. Sadly, the pro shop at "the Jack Shack" (as the Ector County Coliseum is apparently now known) is closed.

Schuyler has lots of questions about my home and my past. She wants to see the places I grew up, particularly the schools I attended. She wants me to show her the routes I walked home from school, as if the thought of doing so was the stuff of wild adventure.

When I post photos of my old schools and other shots around the area up on Facebook, some people take the opportunity to comment on how unattractive my home is. I get that. I recognize that it must be hard for people who come from pretty places to understand how those of us who grew up in harder environments could somehow still have had enjoyable childhoods, or that we might still have fondness for those places, and even find them beautiful. It's like anything else; we make plenty of jokes about "Slowdeatha" or "Odessalation", because we lived it. We did our time. We experienced our youthful days with grit in our mouths. But if someone else tries it, our defenses go up. It's the "he ain't heavy, he's my brother" effect, I guess.

The thing is, Schuyler doesn't seem to see it as ugly, or harsh. When she sees vast dusty acres of high grass and mesquite bushes, she imagines the snakes and jackrabbits and horny toads that must be hiding out there, just waiting for discovery. Schuyler has sand in her blood, I guess. She's got her father's weird love of the desert.

When we leave Odessa to return to Dallas, Schuyler again asks about my father. We leave the interstate and head southeast, for the tiny town of Robert Lee and the remote Paint Creek Cemetery a few miles away. As we drive out past Sterling City, the wind turbines return, like giants both protecting us and beckoning us further. When I see them, I wonder if they hold vigil over my father's grave now, but the road drops into a shallow valley and the wind farms fall behind us. When we arrive at Paint Creek, it looks completely unchanged, not just since I visited last, but in all those long, full years since I watched my father lowered into the chalky ground, taking his secrets with him.

He's keeping them there still.

December 31, 2013

I will try.

At Support for Special Needs:
I’m not sure I’d call any of these "resolutions". But as we march off into 2014, I will try to be the father that Schuyler needs, more now than ever. I wasn’t ready to take on the life’s work of being a special needs father; I’m not sure anyone ever really is. But it is in the trying that I become a better father, and a more whole person.

December 9, 2013

The Hardest Forgiveness

Today at Support for Special Needs:
As parents, we’re probably almost certainly unprepared for the disabilities of our children, at least at first. We go into battle against monsters without so much as a BB gun in our hands. What we discover as we go is that sometimes, we don’t need weapons. We simply need different tools, such as patience, and tougher skins, and ingenuity. And most of all, we need to learn forgiveness, primarily for ourselves.

November 11, 2013

A Little Space

This morning, over at Support for Special Needs:
If Schuyler feels comfortable with even a few people in a gathering, she's a social butterfly, and an explosion of personality. But it's different when she's on her own, with no supports and no comfortable narrative to follow. For Schuyler, with communication being as fragile as it is for her, her social anxieties can feed on her in ways I probably can't imagine. She's not on the autism spectrum, nor am I to my knowledge, but in those settings, surrounded by people she doesn't really know but who come at her with a startling familiarity, a kind of sensory overload shuts her down.


April 28, 2013

"...and I just want to go with you..."

Mothers and fathers have very different relationships with their children. I would never try to describe Schuyler's relationship with her mother, mostly because it's not my story to tell, and I don't understand it all that well myself.

As she grows older, I like to think that Schuyler's relationship with me becomes easier to comprehend, although that's not a given. It's certainly stronger now than it's ever been, which to the parent of a teenager is a very welcome surprise. And yet, it is still very much true that our best moments come in wordless appreciation of each other. We curl up together on the couch and watch terrible monster movies, or play games together on her iPad, or wait outside in the morning air for her bus. Quiet moments sometimes, rowdy at others, but always with an indescribable ease, and the sense that we'll always have each other, no matter what comes our way. This is a great comfort to us both, even if it's fiction. Which it probably is.

She calls me Daddy-O. I call her any number of nicknames. Schuyler Bear. Spacemonkey. Chickenhead Jones. We call each other "Big Dummy" in public places, attractive disapproving looks. Which is fine; that's probably why we do it. We step on the heels of each others' shoes when we walk through stores. We are incapable of walking past toy lightsabers without slicing each others' heads off. We share waffle fries, but she always gets the end pieces, which we call "potato butts". When I ask her if she wants to eat a butt, she always says yes. Burps are always appreciated for their merit. Farts are always funny.

The more I learn about self-advocacy for people with disabilities, the more I feel like I learn from Schuyler's interactions. She does so much communicating, so much of it in ways beyond traditional verbal expression. Talking with Schuyler means taking in so much that is spun out of her wild gestures and her expressions and the tattered remnants of her sign language. Schuyler can be easy to follow sometimes, and yet get her on the phone and she becomes almost impossible to understand, even for those of us who live with her. Schuyler's language is an amalgam of all the ways we all try to make ourselves understood, but it works in a way that is entirely her own. Understanding Schuyler means paying very close attention to her. And that close attention is rewarded, not just in communication but in a kind of intimacy, a closeness that she delights in.

I'm overprotective of Schuyler, even when I try not to be, when I know that she'll be better for taking flight on her own. I let people into her life very sparingly. Sometimes I regret it wildly; most times, she grows from the friendships she makes and I guess I do, too. I watch Schuyler try to navigate her own friendships with kids her own age, and I wish I could make it easier for her, but of course I can't.

There are times that I see something else in Schuyler, something familiar. I watch dark shadows cross her eyes, and I see her frustrations rise at simple obstacles. I observe her need for solitary time, not playing or reading but simply watching videos on her iPad or just sitting. I recognize some of it. I know that we all have our own little monsters, and I fear that polymicrogyria isn't the only one I've given to her. I was probably Schuyler's age when I became aware of my own sadness, the kind that arrives on silent feet and turns the room upside down. I've never done a very good job of managing it, although I've started getting help with it. We're making sure that Schuyler gets help, too. I'm not sure if I'm entirely past my skepticism of that help, but for her, it's a given. She's got a lot that she needs help with. That's not one that she needs to face alone.

We talked about it yesterdayday, when she noted that I seemed a little sad. I explained how for some people, sadness just kind of happens, and it's a thing that we deal with as best as we can. It's just something that happens inside our brains.

"Like my little monster?" she asked. When I said yes, she said "You have a little monster, too!" She was extremely pleased at this, for reasons that both defy explanation and yet make perfect sense.

I don't know if Schuyler will fight that same battle as she gets older. But I worry that if she does, my own sad monster will devour me, as I often feel like it inevitably will, before I get a chance to help Schuyler cope with hers. I hope she learns how to do that better than I ever did.

April 11, 2013

On Inspiration

My latest post at the 504:
I think that any growth on my part must be because of Schuyler, because of her own giant trusting heart and her fierce, unconditional love for me, a love that I am desperate not to win, because I have it already and always have, but rather to deserve. Schuyler gets up every day and she moves into the universe like a storm front, and her success or her failure on any given day is almost beside the point. She perseveres because it's what she has to do to be in the world. And so I try to put myself together as a kinder and more humane person. A better person. The father she deserves.
Schuyler and me, at the time of her diagnosis

April 5, 2013

Guest Author to Discuss Saga of Raising a Child Without Words


Guest Author to Discuss Saga of Raising a Child Without Words

Robert Rummel-Hudson, author of Schuyler’s Monster, will speak April 9 at The College of Wooster

April 4, 2013

Contact
John Finn - 330-263-2145 - Email

WOOSTER, Ohio — Robert Rummel-Hudson, author of Schuyler’s Monster: A Father's Journey with his Wordless Daughter, will share his story at The College of Wooster of Tuesday, April 9. His talk, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7:30 p.m. in Gault Recital Hall of Scheide Music Center (525 E. University St.). A book signing and a dessert reception will follow the event.

Schuyler’s Monster is the story of the relationship between a precious little girl and her family, particularly her father, struggling to find the answers to a child’s silent world. The book chronicles how their relationships formed without traditional language against the expectations of a doubting world.

Schuyler was diagnosed at 18 months of age with Bilateral Perisylvian Polymicrogyria (BPP), an extremely rare neurological disorder caused by a malformation of the brain that can affect the patient’s speech and fine motor control; cause partial paralysis of the facial muscles, tongue, jaws, and throat, as well as difficulties in speaking, chewing and swallowing; and result in sudden episodes of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain, leading to possible grand mal seizures. Schuyler communicates through an Alternative Augmentative Communication Device (AAC), which is manufactured in Wooster by Prentke Romich.

Schuyler’s disability had a profound impact on her father, who went from a sarcastic, befuddled dad to a special-needs parent. Thrust into a battle against this rare and invisible disorder, Rummel-Hudson chronicles his own depression, his past family dysfunction, and the nagging suspicion that he was not the right person for the job. In the process, he discovers a sense of purpose and responsibility, and becomes the father and advocate that Schuyler needed to help fight her monster.

Rummel-Hudson’s lecture is sponsored by Wooster’s Department of Communication, the campus chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA), the Cultural Events Committee, and Cross Cultural Connections.
Additional information is available by phone (330-263-2647) or e-mail.

January 28, 2013

A Life's Work

Over at Support for Special Needs, I discuss what has become of me in a post that I could have called "What I Want to Be When I Grow Up", if not for the fact that I am in fact quite old.


January 24, 2013

Two things. Three, if you count the chinchilla.

Two quick orders of business today.

First of all, I want to very publicly thank Dr. Janice Light from Penn State's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. I had the opportunity to speak to her class this morning about Schuyler and AAC and the experience of being a parent wielding a rubber sword. One of the very best things to come out of writing my book has been the opportunity to meet and speak with the young people who are heading out into the world to make a difference, to make THE difference, in the lives of people like Schuyler. They are my heroes, and it really is an honor and a privilege to share my own small insights with them.

Secondly, I'm happy to announce that I will be contributing to the new special needs blog, The 504, over at Parenting.com. You can read my introductory post, Meet Schuyler, Monster-Slayer. (It's sort of a "Hi, this is what I'm all about" post, so it's not exactly going to be new stuff for regular readers.) I'm happy that they've started this new project, and even happier that they've invited me to be a part of it.

Okay, that's it. Oh, and here's our new chinchilla, because as you may or may not know, chinchillas are exceptionally cool. (My Instagram and Facebook feeds are mostly about chinchillas these days, in no small part because it makes me happy, imagining everyone saying "What's with all the goddamn chinchilla stuff?" I gotta be me.)

Hello, Frida.

December 3, 2012

The Quiet Place

Today at Support for Special Needs, I discuss the quiet place I go when things are troubling for me, the refuge I take when it becomes just a little too much for me to handle alone.

And it's funny, but it always seems to be Schuyler who's waiting for me there.


November 26, 2012

It's Complicated

This morning over at Support for Special Needs, I discuss the complicated nature of my relationship with Schuyler, which is no doubt both completely unlike any other in the world and at the same time identical to any family with a disability. We're all navigating varying degree of happy and sad. It's complicated for us all.

By the way, speaking of complicated, today is my birthday. Actually, it's not all that complicated at all. I'm forty-five. Forty-five human years. That's youthful for a tortoise, or a tree. It's not feeling all that young to me. It beats the alternative, as they say, but still. Forty-five feels like it falls squarely between kind of awful and frankly surprising.

On the other hand, I might get a chinchilla for my birthday, so you know how it goes. "Strikes and gutters, ups and downs," as the Dude says. I abide, too.


November 15, 2012

Movember monster face

Yes, it's November, which means that for the second year in a row, I'm growing a sad little creature on my lip in the cause of promoting men's health (my own sickly facial hair notwithstanding) for Movember.

This year's timing couldn't be more challenging, with the very real need for charitable donation for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. (I've said it time and time again, but killer storms really do need more badass names, like Vladimir or Spike.) As a result, I'm not surprised or disappointed by the lack of Movember donations this year. Still, it's a good cause and I hoping to make a little difference as the rest of the month presses on.

To that end, I wrote a brief little guest post for the folks over at Totsy regarding my own reasons for getting involved in the Movember project. I'm grateful to them for asking for my input.

I realized this year what I was shooting for with my own facial atrocity. I'm not looking for some big Joseph Stalin, Magnum P.I., Sam Elliott level moustache. I'll settle for the Principal Rooney. Save Ferris!

November 12, 2012

The Teachable Moment

Today at Support for Special Needs, I discuss what is probably my worst skill as a special needs parent and advocate: the ability to transcend "Caveman Dad" mode and embrace the teachable moment.

Jesus Howard Christ, am I terrible at the teachable moment. In that situation, I achieve near perfection as a cautionary tale. (Good news: THAT is probably my greatest strength. Well, someone's got to do it.)

Caveman Dad procures a rug, which will really tie the cave together.

April 14, 2012

Fat Talk

It began, like so many silly things do here in the heady days of The Future, with a comment I made on Facebook.

"I lost ten pounds in the week since I was at the doctor. No joke. Perhaps I should let this infection linger a little longer."

The short version of backstory is that for the past week and a half, I have been sick. REALLY sick, actually, with a one-two punch of what the doctor wanted to call pneumonia but which I weaseled her down to bronchitis (because I am so very very charming, no doubt) and a wicked sinus infection. The bronchitis was under control fairly quickly, but the sinus infection, my very first, lingered painfully and disgustingly. I'm going to skip the details, but suffice to say that due to a near-constant nausea, I had very little to eat that week. When I returned to the doctor for new, hopefully not-pretend antibiotics, the nurse weighed me, and yep. I had lost exactly ten pounds in the course of a week.

So I posted that fun little status update. There are two parts to it, which I believe can be identified as a) the "silver lining" part, and b) the "obviously a joke" part.

Well, maybe not entirely obviously. Someone left what I felt was a passive-aggressive response, linking (without comment) to "How To Spot Fat Talk So You Can Stop It". When I called her on it, she took the "oh, I'm just saying…" approach, and that pushed my button, I guess. Don't walk in the room, release a flatus and then pretend it wasn't you. She said she found "fat talk" to be toxic, and I guess it didn't matter that I was talking about myself, and that no, I wasn't actually advocating the use of illness for radical weight loss.

Because here's the thing: I didn't make a choice. Getting a nasty infection wasn't part of my plan. I didn't stop taking my antibiotics or stick Cheetos up my nose. I was sick, it sucked a very great deal, and I didn't eat much. I didn't really understand how much weight I was losing because I wasn't changing out of my pajamas much. I was a delightful treat; if you had knocked on my door this week, when I answered the door, you wouldn't have thought "Sexy MAN!" You might have phoned up the Centers for Disease Control after you finished spraying Lysol in your face.

I'm going to be blunt. She seemed like a perfectly nice person, but I found her point to be extremely unconvincing, as was another comment by someone else later. Because, again, it was a joke, and again, it wasn't a joke at someone else's expense. You can't just show up on someone else's Facebook page and take their self-referencing, self-deprecating humor and sanctimoniously apply it to yourself. Well, you can, but I'm not sure why you would want to.

Anyway, the whole thing got a little out of hand. (Trust me, you want to read that. I'll wait.)

Fun Internet kookery aside, weight is a tricky issue to discuss publicly. I know that in the "fat-o-sphere" (I really did just type that), there are a lot of specific rules for how these discussions are supposed to take place, with lots of trigger warnings and the like. I know none of these rules, and I'm not sure I care to learn them. Not because I'm a dick (or not JUST because, if you prefer), but because the weight issues I'm discussing are my own. I'm not sure I need a set of guidelines to talk about me.

I've always had issues with weight, ever since I was a kid. And while I've never been morbidly obese, I can't remember the last time I was exactly fit, either. I'm going to use some actual numbers today, since I'm sitting at the low end at the moment. For scale, I am six foot, two inches tall and possess all my limbs and parts in the usual proportions.

At my worst, during what might be termed my "County Fair" days, I weighed 280 pounds. No joke. I remember that day, when I stepped on the scale and saw that number. I was young, too, maybe twenty-six or so. I spent the prime of my youth eating and (more to the point) drinking as if an alien invasion were imminent. All I got for my troubles was about ten years of photos I will never show anyone, and well, yeah, perhaps a little type 2 diabetes. (That was a joke, too. I come from a long line of genetic diabetics, although I certainly tossed enough gasoline on the fire.)

By the time I met Julie, I was way down from that, maybe 250 pounds. I lost a bunch of weight when I was diagnosed with The Beedies at 37, but then I published a book and ate and drank a lot and gained pretty much all of it back. The last time I really remember weighing myself was about a year ago, and I was at an unpleasant 245.

Now here's where it gets fun. Last week, when I went to the doctor, I was surprised to find that I weighed 223 pounds. I knew I had lost some weight; my clothes told me that. But twenty pounds, for nothing? I was pleased.

When I went back to the doctor exactly one week later? 213 pounds. That's not all that far from my doctor's target weight for me. The last time I weighed this little, I think I was still receiving lunch money.

For those of you who also have had weight issues during your life, however, you understand a kind of universal truth. Numbers don't always mean a whole lot to a fat person. Not good ones, anyway. And when I say "fat person", I mean that in the same way that someone who has been clean and sober for twenty years still self-identifies as an alcoholic. Sometimes you can tell the formerly fat person by the clothes they wear, at least a size too large, as if they don't trust what their own senses tell them in the dressing room. I imagine sometimes you can identify the formerly fat in the ranks of the extremely fit and healthy. They watch those numbers closely, perhaps a little grimly. Their own silent exercise mantra might be "Never again."

You can be the obscenely rich CEO of a major corporation, but you can still probably list the names of the bullies who made fun of you when you were a little fat kid. You can have the most beautiful and successful man or woman on your arm at an elegant dinner party, but if you close your eyes, you can clearly see the faces of the pretty girl or the handsome boy who turned you down in school with a barely-concealed smirk on their face, the universal "As if!" sneer.

And if you were a fat kid who discovered early on that you could make people laugh at the jokes you made instead of the shape of your body, then you made sure to hone those skills. You learned to make jokes, and not just innocent ones, either. You learned that the easiest way to deflate a bully was to get the crowd to laugh at him instead, so you developed a sense of humor with an edge, and you never forgot how to use it. And you never ever forgot that if you really wanted to be funny and to keep yourself in the good graces of others, you saved the most biting jokes for yourself.

And when someone shows up on your Facebook page to tell you to use nice words when you talk about weight issues, even when you're talking about yourself, you push back. And you should. Because no matter what your size now, you're a fat person. And you're not about to let someone who (in your mind) apparently hasn't figured out How Things Work take away your own best defenses simply because when they see "fat talk", they take it to heart, as if every conversation about fat people is a conversation about them. As if the warm embrace of "The Fat-o-sphere" is the only place one can find relief, with words of acceptance and maybe some denial, but never anything harsh or sad.

Some of us, and I'm going to say that includes a lot of you reading right now, some of us learned a different way. And whether we hide our fat person past or joke about it or sweat and bleed it away at the gym, we at the very least own our fat person in our own way. If you're a fat person and you try to change that, you might be a well-intentioned person, but you really ought to know better.

Yours truly at 213. Don't get too accustomed to it...

March 12, 2012

The Shiny Future

It's Monday, which this time means I'm at SXSW in Austin (the Prodigal Son returns!) speaking on a panel, and also that there's a new post over at Support for Special Needs. Are these two things related? Maybe a little.

If you're in Austin today, it's not too late to come say "Hi, Rob!" or "You suck, Rob!" or whatever. I'm cool either way.

October 22, 2011

Manly Man Stuff, for Men

The concerns and issues surrounding men's health don't get nearly as much media attention as they should, but it's probably our own fault. We don't generally like to talk about it. Surpise! Men are taciturn about our health, particularly when discussing how it falters. Read more about it in this month's Journal of Duh.

Every November, however, thousands of men join the Movember campaign and grow a moustache to raise money and awareness for prostate cancer and other cancers that specifically affect men. Last year, over sixty-four thousand people in the US raised over $7.5 million. That's a lot of cheesy moustaches.

This year, I've joined up with a group of bloggers and writers who will be growing some lip fuzz for the cause. I would be thrilled if you would go donate at my Movember page.

More importantly, we would love to have other men (or women; I'm not here to judge) join the team. Anyone who has ever seen the atrocity that grows on my face knows that I'm not exactly entering this thing as a ringer. When I grow facial hair, it generally turns out looking like I need to wash my face or possibly consult a doctor. Unless you've got a job as a television anchorman or a professional soup taster, you can probably devote a month of your life to growing an ugly thing on your face for a good cause. And fighting prostate and testicular cancer is undoubtedly a good cause.

So join up, guys. The man-bits you save could be your own.