Food is Hard; Eating Disorders are Worse

So I saw this today: 12219626_1030712280304501_4016106131669144470_n

Obviously, this is a four-panel cartoon trying to illustrate a really frustrating phenomenon that I’ve experienced during every stage of my life. Everyone feels the need to editorialize everything you eat or don’t eat when you’re a woman. Strike that, some really misguided people, mostly from an older generation, tend to comment on what you are or are not eating.

I had an eating disorder, and it was at least partially fueled by this kind of shit. But I also had an eating disorder and wish that someone had noticed or acted like they cared, and maybe prevented me from throwing away parts of myself in the process.

At least some of the criticism – definitely on the thin end – that this cartoon is highlighting comes from a place of genuine concern, and I dislike this cartoon because it discourages people from voicing that concern at all. What we really need is for people to have a better understanding of how to approach the subject. Let’s face it, everyone has been told that eating disorders exist, but most people – unless they suffer with one – have no idea what that actually looks like.

They picture something like this:

But, that’s all pretty standard stuff. I dare you to find a woman who doesn’t wake up a few days a month, look in the mirror while she’s wearing some jeans that used to fit, and blame her body instead of the clothes.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Most of us have disordered eating. If you’ve ever skipped a meal, if you’ve dieted, to fit into a dress you’ve engaged in disordered eating. Any eating or not eating that is motivated by anything other than your physical need for nutrients is disordered.

BUT seeing a friend eat a huge meal does not mean she has an eating disorder. Seeing a friend skip a meal does not mean she has an eating disorder. Seeing a friend eat a huge meal does not mean she does not have an eating disorder.

You know how you can tell if someone is anorexic rather than naturally thin? Have they lost a lot of weight recently (and I don’t mean five pounds)? Are they obsessive over what they are or are not eating? Are they easily able to tell you how many calories are in something like gum, or know how many they’ve consumed on a particular day? Do they look healthy? Do they look unhealthy?

Regardless of why you think someone you care about has an eating disorder (of any kind) commenting on their food is not constructive. It will not help. You know what will? Letting them know that you care about them. Let them know you’re concerned. Tell them you’re afraid that they’re doing something that’s really unhealthy, and if that person is ready to face it, he or she will be open to your concern. If that person is not, just continue to make yourself available in a non-invasive way. Don’t make it about food. Don’t make it about looks. Don’t make a passive-aggressive comment over dinner. Basically, don’t be an asshole.

Show concern for the person’s well-being, not his or her weight or calorie intake, and really, if you don’t know someone well enough to discuss your bowel movements, you probably don’t know that person well enough to discuss eating habits either.

Say goodbye to your concept of America as a free nation.

As a prologue, The Supreme Court’s decision, announced yesterday, to strike down the portion of DOMA defining marriage as between a man and a woman was a huge leap forward for gay rights. Unfortunately, most of the rest of their decisions have been even larger steps backwards in terms of equality, and even staying within a reasonable interpretation of the Bill of Rights.

To begin with, the right to remain silent, based upon the fifth amendment right which allows citizens not to incriminate themselves, has been almost entirely gutted. According to The New American, “Guilty or not, suspects in the United States no longer have the right to remain silent. If they remain silent, moreover, that silence will now be interpreted as guilt and will indeed — despite what you see on television court and cop dramas — be used against that person in a court of law.” Essentially, the decision has stated that, unless a person explicitly says, “I’m choosing to use my right to remain silent,” that person’s silence – and everything that person does while choosing to remain silent – can be used as evidence.  This means that, even if you flunked out of school in sixth grade and never learned anything about the constitution, even if you’re just being approached for casual questioning (no warrant, no subpeona), and regardless of whether you’re in custody, or have a lawyer, without being informed of your rights, the police are now permitted to function as though you do know your rights, and unless you tell them you want to use those rights, you don’t actually have any.

The problems with this decision are so numerous, I can’t even begin to organize my thoughts in a way that won’t get confusing. This decision, alone, makes me want to charge the street and start protesting, and I’m usually too lazy to even get up to use the bathroom. When we couple the idea that refusing to speak in an informal interview can now be considered evidence of guilt, which could permit a wrongful arrest, with the fact that SCOTUS also recently decided that it is constitutional to take routinely take DNA swabs during booking, a completely innocent person could inadvertently end up with fingerprints, likeness, and DNA all neatly within their file, along with that charge, and entire phone and internet history at the 5 zettabyte data storage facility in Utah. Alright, that’s pushing into the realm of things Mel Gibson might say to Julia Roberts while they’re running from the big bad wolf (I just hope someone doesn’t blow my car up when my boyfriend starts it up to keep me silent!), but the reality is it’s getting a little too close to the dystopian future those YA authors keep warning us about.

Perhaps it is my inner conspiracy theorist, but all the NSA scandal from recent news, wasn’t really news to me. I always assumed that we were being watched, our emails read, messages scanned. Whatever, it’s written, it’s admissible in court, don’t say stupid things in writing. Here, however, is where I’m drawing my personal line in the sand: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been gutted this week, as well.

What does this mean?

Well, it means that there is officially nothing stopping all of the states that have been trying to pass laws which would severely restrict the abilities of people within certain demographics to exercise their right to vote. It means a de facto reinstatement of poll taxes, shutting down or moving polling places to inconvenience certain citizens, and a general disregard for policing states who have a history of making really questionable decisions about voters’ rights. 

“Now many of our Christians have what I call the ‘goo-goo syndrome.’ Good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” —Paul Weyrich, 1980

Read more:

The point of my rant is that I think we all need to be aware this is happening. We need to be aware, and the internet needs to react the way that it did when it wanted SOPA to disappear. This information, and the appropriate outrage, outrage that our rights are being taken away in droves, needs to be viral, it needs to be known by everyone, and everyone needs to use this moment in time to say, “Enough.”

As I write this article, I am more terrified for our future than I ever imagined I would be. I want a life with kids and a home and emotional and financial stability someday. It’s bad enough there isn’t enough money in the middle class anymore, and it’s bad enough that my generation has the worst employment prospects since the The Great Depression, do we really need to witness the end of our personal rights, too?

I just can’t. I don’t want to tell my hypothetical grandchildren that I was there when The Bill of Rights lost all of its meaning, and I really don’t want to say that I silently allowed it to happen. Do you?


Healthcare and Invincible Twenty-somethings

I know that nationalized health care is an issue of serious contention. People who are lucky enough to have health care provided by their employers without Obamacare seem to live in this bubble which makes them think that anyone who holds a job without that particular benefit is doing something wrong with his or her life. It usually sounds something like, “Maybe they should get a real job.” Perhaps if you’re lucky enough to finish college before the age of 23 (which is when pre-Obamacare you were thrown off of your parents’ insurance) and you were lucky enough to get a full-time job that includes benefits as soon as you graduated, you think that people who didn’t manage accomplish those things did so intentionally. So, I’m going to tell everyone a little secret: No one I know has ever turned down a job that offered benefits to work a job that didn’t. There are some fields (free-lance musicians, substitute teachers, mechanics, half of the people who work in hospitals, cashiers) which involve working 40 or more hours a week, pay minimum or barely above minimum wage, and offer no medical benefits. So, if we’re going to argue that small businesses can’t afford to provide benefits, so we can’t require them to, what are these people supposed to do when they get sick? Stand on a street corner and beg for money? Mortgage their houses into default and then live on the street? (Ironically, I’m pretty sure the only people who make enough to pay for private health insurance already receive it as benefits through their employers).

When my best friend graduated from college in 2010, she was staring down the barrel of a very large health insurance coverage bill. It was the program available through New York State and I don’t remember the exact figure, but I remember thinking it was a pretty unreasonable number for something intended to be purchased by people whose jobs were somewhere between the poverty level and a job that would just provide complementary health care. (I think it was about what my car insurance bill is, and that’s about $4,000.00 per year). This particular friend happened to be dating someone who landed a particularly good job as soon as he graduated at a chain store and managed to set up an interview for her to be an assistant manager (even though she had no real experience in that field and her degree was completely unrelated), so she got that job and subsequently never had to figure out how to pay the absurd amount of money required to keep health insurance.

At the time, when I was comparing the cost to my car insurance bill, all I could think was: owning a car is a voluntary expense, public transportation exists, there are other options; the only situation in which health insurance is completely unnecessary is if you’re dead – life isn’t optional otherwise.

About a year later, I spent six months without health coverage. I suffer from hypothyroidism (which, untreated, can result in me slipping into a coma), as well as bilateral cubital tunnel syndrome. These are both chronic conditions and due to ongoing issues with my health coverage (for reasons completely unrelated to politics), they continue to be poorly managed, but for six months, I had no choice other than to just pray I would be okay – I didn’t have 2 grand laying around to just hand to the state. I consider myself lucky to have a father who works for a union which provides health insurance, even if I don’t have complete access to the information I need to properly use that insurance.

Tonight, a friend of mine posted this status on Facebook: Officially can’t hear a thing out of my right ear. This may be an annoyance to anyone but to a musician, this is NOT OK. Health pros on my fb feed please help 😦 visit to the doctor or just decongestants?

It’s a pretty typical display of invincible twenty-something behavior. We’re a demographic notorious for analyzing whether or not something is serious enough to seek legitimate medical attention. We share prescriptions and diagnose ourselves. It’s considered something of a normalcy, but if we think about the reason what it is and why this has become so normalized, it’s really disturbing. If your child were suddenly complaining she couldn’t hear out of her right ear, you’d rush her to the emergency room, right? It could be a symptom of anything ranging from an ear infection to a brain tumor. There would be no question that this is a serious problem. For someone who has been without health insurance or who has no idea whether medical bills will be affordable, suddenly, your bank account is more important than your health. Being alive and fully functioning is fine and dandy, but it’s a trade-off. You sacrifice quality of life in one way to achieve a satisfactory quality of life in another.

I’m not saying that it’s necessarily fair to require people to pay other people’s medical bills (if that’s even how truly nationalized health care would work), but I am saying that it’s even more unfair for people to literally have to choose between their health and having a roof over their heads. What’s the point of being able to hear if you’re just going to starve to death after you pay your medical bills?