Why I’m Fat…and Trump

sad-505857_1920I don’t want to share this, I shouldn’t have to share this part of my life, but I cannot stay silent any longer. I, like most women, am disgusted by not only Trump himself, but more so by the attempts of his supporters to dismiss his lewd, sexual comments as “locker room talk.” What’s happening with the Trump campaign and the rhetoric surrounding this election is striking a familiar chord somewhere inside of me, and it’s time I tell you all how Donald Trump made me fat.

As a teenager, I developed quickly and early and the boys noticed-as did the girls. In gym class, I tried everything I could think of to get out of running, jumping, or any other activity that would cause the boys to hoot and holler at my bouncing breasts. Boys dated me because of my body, and other girls called me a slut for the same reason. I learned early on that my body was something I should be ashamed of. That idea-body and shame-rooted itself inside of me and bore fruit for years and years in the form of bad decisions and self-loathing.

Sometimes, I welcomed the attention. If a cute boy said hello in the hallway, I smiled. If a boy told me I was pretty, I accepted that compliment. But the language never stayed benign. The rhetoric always escalated. There were nicknames, obscene gestures, forced sexual encounters. What should have been a kiss always ended with a hand under my shirt. Boys would grab my breasts under the bleachers at the football games, press themselves against me in dark corners at parties, or break up with me after I refused to allow their hands to wander. At 12, 13, and 14 years old, I never knew how to handle the Donald Trumps of this world and their overtly aggressive and sexual advances. I didn’t know how to respond, how to handle what I perceived as ridicule, or how to hide my body from them.

Then, I discovered a way. I began turning to food for comfort and protection.I know now that I didn’t want boys to stop paying attention to me altogether, I just wanted them to pay the right kind of attention. I wanted boys to notice my sense of humor, to appreciate my intelligence, and if they thought I was pretty-I’d take that too. What I didn’t want was the boys leering at my breasts, thinking I was easy because I was shaped a certain way, and for girls to hate me because of it.

In my late teens/early twenties, I gained a massive amount of weight, hence changing the shape of my body. And while being fat brought with it a new kind of shame, in many ways it felt safer. I felt safe. I found a boy who loved me in the right way, who saw my humor, my mind, my inner beauty, and who-for a while anyway-loved me for those things. I didn’t attract attention from men on the street anymore. Girls didn’t hate me. I was still ashamed of my body, but I no longer felt unsafe because of it. I had finally found a way to protect myself from the Trumps of this world, from the boys and men who had reduced me to a sexual commodity.

Today, I am 39. I have two daughters and a wonderfully supportive husband. I am a better weight, not great, but better, and have learned to love the body I have. Still, the Trumps of the world are out there. It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while a man will make a comment or an advance that focuses once again on my body-specifically my breasts, and I am immediately 12 years old again and can still taste that shame on my tongue. The instinct to hide myself from sexual aggression is a reflex born out of a lifetime of feeling ashamed of my body. It is the tree still living inside of me-no longer bearing fruit-but refusing to wither.

That’s why Trump’s campaign of sexism and hatred is so very dangerous. Many of us still have that tree inside of us. We know what it feels like to be objectified, to be ridiculed, or worse yet, to be sexually assaulted. Trump’s comments went beyond any “locker room” talk I’ve ever heard, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t heard them somewhere before. I’ve heard talk like this under the breath of the boy pressed against me in that dark corner at a party, before I could wiggle out of his grasp and before I could muster the word “no.”

If you ask me what I want for my 9-year-old daughters the list is long. I want them to be strong, to have a solid education, to make their mark on the world with kindness, not power. But if I could only have one thing-just one wish for my children-it would be that they find their voice and they learn how to use it for change. Simply put, I want better for my girls. I hope they never have to feel how their mommy felt, or her mommy, or her mommy before her.

*

Amye Archer is the author of Fat Girl, Skinny. Follow her at @amyearcher

The Book Inside of You

I was on a debut author’s panel over the weekend at the fabulous Hippocamp to discuss my memoir, Fat Girl, Skinny.  If you haven’t heard of Hippocampus Magazine, I suggest you check them out, it is a brilliant pub and the conference they hold each year is wonderfully inspiring. Anyway, the panel I was on was one in which myself and four other authors each described our road to publication.

The audience was eagerly awaiting our answers. They asked great questions and I hope we satisfied them with our responses. However, now that I have a few days distance and more than ten seconds to respond, I’d like to answer two of the questions I was asked a bit more thoroughly.

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Here I am (left) with two amazing authors: Jamie Brickhouse (Dangerous When Wet) and Laurie Jean Cannady (Crave: Sojourn of a Soul) 

First, I was asked how I knew I had a book in me. The answer I gave was truthful. I had always written poetry, and when asked to write a short creative nonfiction piece for one of my graduate classes, I fell in love. My poetry has always been so confessional that expanding that same voice out to a longer narrative felt good actually. It was like allowing my memory to stretch its legs. I also liked writing with a dash of humor. I tend to be the person always looking to make a joke in real life, so again, putting that on the page felt natural.

But on a more serious note, I didn’t know I had a book in me for a long time. You see, I was married young and it didn’t go well. I married into comfort because I was fat and ashamed and my self-confidence was in the toilet. I married the boy who accepted me, instead of a boy who loved me. When the marriage finally disintegrated, as we knew it would, I knew I had to do something about my weight or I would fall back into the same bad habits. So, I joined Weight Watchers, lost some weight, and started to feel good about myself and the life I began to shape. That’s it. I never thought that story was anything extraordinary, I mean, this happens to a lot of us right? My friends and I call it the divorce diet. I just started writing about it, and decided to be grossly honest. And that, is where my story sprung from: truth.

Writing a memoir doesn’t always take an extraordinary story. It takes extraordinary honesty. People don’t always read memoir to discover the great feats you’ve accomplished, they read memoir because they’re looking for some part of themselves in your story. They look for that recognition, the universal truth that connects the memoirist and their reader. I didn’t know I had a story in me until I started to read my pieces in front of people, until I met men and women who approached me after readings to say “That happened to me,” or “I’ve struggled with weight my whole life, I can relate.” It wasn’t until I started realizing the universality of my seemingly ordinary story, that I realized its power lay in accessibility. Which brings me to the second question.

I was also asked about feedback I’ve received. I talked a little bit about the feedback I find most rewarding, and that is from young men and women who have shared with me their weight-related stories. But I wanted to share an example with you. This came in late last night, and it brought me to tears when I read it.

From an Amazon reader:

I would recommend this book to anyone who’s struggled with their weight, or an addiction. I think this is a story that so many people can relate to on multiple levels.

I went from anorexia, to bulimia in my life. I would read stories of eating disorders, and instead of marveling at how they recovered, I’d wonder if I could make what they used to get so emaciated, would work for me. This is the first book, having to do with eating disorders, that made me want to work for the weight loss, instead of doing something extreme and dangerous while hoping for immediate results.

I can’t praise this book enough, nor Amye, for laying it all out there for us, allowing the rest of us to have hope.

This review means the world to me. To think that my story, my vulnerabilities, may have helped someone is overwhelming. This is the feedback that keeps me writing, that makes every rejection (and there were A LOT of them), every edit, every revision, and every tear shed, worth it. It’s comments like this that remind me of one simple truth: everyone has a story to be told, because everyone has a life they’ve lived. It doesn’t have to be exciting, it has to be true.

Thank you to those reviewers who let authors know that a book has moved you. And thank you to everyone at Hippocamp, especially Donna Talarico-Beerman, Hippocampus Magazine’s creator. You’ve created a culture of acceptance and inspiration that I’m confident will grow and nurture writers for many years to come.

 

 

Fat Girl, Skinny Launch Party!

This weekend was an author’s dream weekend. On Saturday, I was invited to sit in on a book club that had chosen my book, Fat Girl, Skinny as their monthly read.  It was amazing to hear these women talk about their lives in connection to my story of weight gain and weight loss. It reinforced an important lesson I learned while writing my memoir: body image is a personal and private issue.

It was also a really unique experience visiting a book club as the author. I walked into a room full of people who knew the most intimate details of my life. I was a nervous wreck, yet I felt at ease and welcomed-heck, even embraced-by them only minutes after arriving. It was a moving experience, and one I will treasure.

Sunday, I celebrated Fat Girl, Skinny‘s publication at a launch party. The response was amazing. Love filled that small room, and I was overcome with gratitude for those who came and showed their support. I’d like to share some pictures from the day. All photos were taken by Mindy Lipcavage Photography, owned and operated by my dear friend.

A Letter to My Followers

Friends,

It’s been a very busy week for me. I thought the hard part was writing the book-you know, the six plus years of revising and revising and revising…. Nope, the hard part is NOW- getting the book into the hands of you, my readers. I went with an Indie press mainly because I believe in this press, and felt loved and respected by its editor, the lovely Robin Stratton. The downside is that the system is set up to help the big publishers, and the little guys need to work extra hard at spreading our message!

So, I’m writing today to ask if you will consider purchasing a copy of Fat Girl, Skinny, the memoir I wrote about losing 100 pounds on Weight Watchers, and finding myself in the process. If you, my blog audience, order through my website, you can use promocode: Blog at checkout. You will receive free shipping PLUS your copy will be signed Just click on the “shop” tab here.

If you like the book, I hope you’ll consider giving it an Amazon review. Thank you for your continued support. The blog has over 1500 followers, and you have all been so supportive. I look forward to writing more and sharing my story with you.

PS. If you’re looking for the Kindle version, it’s right here.

Best,

Amye

An Excerpt from Fat Girl, Skinny: A Memoir

Prologue

The women of Weight Watchers are tough. A gang. The Bloods, the Crips, and the Latin Kings all rolled into one. Sure, we look harmless enough. Ten or fifteen portly women standing like preschoolers in a straight line outside the door, waiting for the loud mouthed receptionist to swing it open and begin to weigh us. But make no mistake about it. If you cross us, if you come to a meeting already thin and complaining about five extra pounds that you have gained over the winter and need to lose before bikini season, we will cut you. We will grab you with our fat little paws, roll you up into a tiny little ball, and kick your skinny ass out of here. Because this is our turf. The basement of the Northeast Pennsylvania Chapter of the Electrical Workers Union, with its mundane pine paneling and shiny medicinal floors, belongs to us every Thursday night from seven until eight fifteen. So, if you have less than ten pounds to lose, stay home. Get a stomach flu, stick your finger down your throat, or swallow a laxative, we don’t care. Just don’t come here.

“Ugh, I feel gross,” says Sherri (with an i).

“You’ll be fine,” says a voice from somewhere in the front of the line.

“ I had a brownie last night and I swear to God it went right to my ass.”

“No, it takes a while to catch up with you. You’ll probably see it next week,” says a different voice.

“I hate this,” sighs Sherri.

FinalCoverWebI am late, as always, so I am all the way at the tail end of the line and can barely hear the riveting retellings of this week’s sins, but I know they are happening. The line snakes around the long thin corridor and is full of women sizing one another up. We smile and greet one another like we are fighters on the same side, sisters in arms, but deep down we are praying for one another’s demise. I am nowhere near as big as she is. Wow, I hope I don’t look like that. Who does she think she is, wearing that kind of top?

There is a certain code of conduct required. You won’t find it in your introductory binder or your new “Getting Started” booklet. You have to become one of us to learn it. For instance, you have to get here early. That’s one of the unspoken rules. If you’re late, you are stuck in a long, very slow moving procession of nerves and anxiety. What you want is a quickie. Hop on the scale, get the good or bad news, leave the money on the counter and move on. The desire to be here first and to avoid the long wait results in a hallway full of overweight women staring at a closed door, clutching their weekly food journals in one hand and thirteen dollars in the other.

It is the middle of December, yet all of us have come dressed as close to naked as we can get without being arrested for indecent exposure. I’m wearing tiny little knit shorts, a tank top, and socks with sandals. You cannot stand barefoot on the scale, another rule. You cannot hear your weight, the specific number, out loud. That is yet another rule. If you do not follow these expectations, you stick out like the new kid in school. We can smell it on you.

When it’s my turn, I hand my book and money over to Joan, an elderly woman with shaky hands and a broad smile. My book is my bible. The list of everything that went into my body this week, with the exception of the Snickers Bar (6 pts) and three Tootsie Rolls (2 pts each) I jammed in my mouth only moments earlier in the car. Joan stamps a red PAID over this week’s date and motions for me to climb onto the scale.

“Wow, down three more pounds, Amye! Nice work! What’s that bring you to now?” she asks loudly, hoping my success will serve as inspiration.

“Um, twenty seven,” I answer, barely able to conceal a smile.

“Twenty seven! Wow! Do you hear that everyone? Amye has lost twenty-seven pounds!” Joan announces to the small room where we have all filtered in and taken off our sandals.

FinalCoverWebThe geniuses at Weight Watchers have developed a super-secret system in which everything has a certain points value based on the calories, fiber, and fat that an item contains. These points then consume your life. I have become obsessed with counting points, calories, and grams of fiber. My dinners come in points now. I have become fluent in points. I can look around and see the points in everything. A hamburger made from lean meat and no cheese, five points. The side of broccoli with one pat of butter, two points. A hot dog, no bun, six points. A banana, two points. Baked chicken, two ounces, three points. A delicious, mouth watering Double Whopper with Cheese, twenty-five points. When I am at the supermarket, I see rows and rows of shiny points. I speak in points. I dream of points. I have become a point. If you cut me open I will bleed points.

My best friend, Georgia, who has only a handful of pounds to lose, has agreed to accompany me on this journey. Together, we have developed a language that only we understand.

Me: I am starving, what can I eat for two points?

Her: Can you use Flex?

Me: Maybe, if I go under tomorrow. How about a granola bar? Her: Too pointy. Can you do a veggie?

Me: Sigh. I guess.

It’s a language that draws confused stares from skinny strangers and smiles of recognition from pudgy women in the grocery store.  The shaky receptionist affixes a golden star to my weigh-in booklet, folds everything nice and tight, and sends me on my way.

I wish I could say I had an epiphany that brought me to Weight Watchers. That I had cared so much about my own body, my own health, and my own well being that I dragged my fat ass to the only place I knew could help me. But that was not the case. I’m here because I’m desperate. I’m here because I have nowhere else to go. I’m here because I need help.

As a teenager, I remember reading a book my mother had that was written by Richard Simmons. He described the event that made him lose weight. Apparently, some well meaning Samaritan who loved him but didn’t have the guts to criticize him, put a note on his car that said something to the effect of “I love you, please don’t die.” This changed his life and inspired him to lose weight and begin helping others lose weight. The story fascinated me, not because of the touching moment in which Simmons realized someone cared about him, but because I always thought to myself: What kind of an asshole would leave a note like that? I wish I had a Richard Simmons story, but the truth is there was no cute moment like that. I have had plenty of events over the years that should have inspired this change but never did.

I have been in a stuffy elevator and had some guy ask me when my baby was due. I have had the people at work call me an elephant and make cow noises when I walked by. I have stared at myself in a full length mirror, while being wedged by two seamstresses into a size 28 wedding dress. I have been told by a doctor that I will almost certainly contract Type II Diabetes. I have been at an amusement park and left a ride line because I was afraid that the pull down bar would not fit over my stomach. I have been labeled sterile because of my heft. I have had chairs break under my weight in the company of friends. Still, none of these events triggered that moment of inspiration.

I wish I could say it happened in one of those ways, because the truth is actually worse. I’m here because of a man.

Fat Girl, Skinny is available now at Amazon!