Okay, It’s True: Fat Teenage Girls are Ruining America

They’re eating all the cake and smothering your lovers with their giant breasts. They’re using skinny girls as toothpicks to make sure there isn’t any unsightly baby-flesh stuck in their pearly whites. They’re devouring everything they can get their hands on: desserts, hot lovers, the Olsen twins, gun control lobbyists, Bill O’Reilly, etc. They’re running up the cost of your health insurance and shortening life expectancies. They’re harboring terrorists in their plus-size bathing suits. They’re lounging around in their government housing enjoying bon-bons and sharing ways to commit welfare fraud. They’re secretly at work in their laboratories cooking up a special mutagen that will let them turn the rest of America fat. Fear the power of the fat girl!

Oh, Salon, does it make you feel better to have all your fears confirmed? Because it makes me feel better to have all my fears about your unacknowledged sexism* confirmed right there in your hook: “Clothing company Torrid makes cool clothes for overweight teens. Its bodacious bras and extra-large camisoles help salvage fat kids’ self-esteem. But do they also encourage obesity?”

What’s wrong with specificity? Why can’t you say “Clothing company Torrid makes cool clothes for overweight teenage girls and cross-dressing boys. Its bodacious bras and extra-large camisoles help salvage fat girls’ and cross-dressing boys’ self-esteem.”? Is it because that kind of specificity makes the true target of your article–teenage girls–more apparent? Is it because, someplace, you had a tinge of guilt over heaping one more pile of steaming shit upon a group already inundated with it? Too bad you didn’t heed that discomfort.

Actually, I’m starting to wonder if articles like this don’t have their uses: a good laugh, for one. Take “Yale-New Haven Hospital dietitian Lisa Tartamella” who says “We should be alarmed about this epidemic because we know the consequences.” Salon goes on to ask and answer “Such as? Well, death.” Oh, no! Death! Please, Salon, tell us the bad news, how an “excessively gloomy” study shows that this second leading cause of preventable death “could reduce life expectancy in the United States–this century–by at least two years.” Yes, you read that right, being fat might, just maybe, perhaps reduce life expectancy by a couple of years over the course of a century.

Oh, Sweet Jesus, we’re all going to die. It doesn’t matter if you’re thin or fat or rich or poor; you don’t get out of dying. It’s going to happen. And, here’s the other truth of it: death is not a punishment. You don’t die because you fucked up in some way. It’s not like losers die and winners live. There’s no way to get out of dying. You can’t “prevent” death. Something is going to take each and every one of us out.

To hold death out in front of these girls–like it’s the inevitable and quick consequence of and appropriate punishment for them being fat, as opposed to the inevitable consequence of being alive–in order to promote an aesthetic ideal without having to be honest with yourself or these girls that that’s what you’re doing sucks.

If you don’t like fat girls, fine, don’t like fat girls.

But, if you don’t like fat girls, why do you stick such big boobs on your fronts? Why do you fill your lips with collagen so that they’re plump? Why are you constantly imitating what you say disgusts you? And, if it really disgusts you, why are you looking?

* I use misogyny to mean the hatred of women and homophobia to mean the fear and hatred of homosexuals, but sexism as a kind of lump term to capture general anxiety about anyone who doesn’t fit a very narrow definition of normative sexuality or gender.

April is the Cruelest Month

So, it’s Poetry month, which means all the cool websites are posting poetry. . . which means all the small presses who publish poetry are oscillating between being happy about the free publicity and furious about the copyright violations.

Because Tiny Cat Pants is not a cool website (it’s the kind of website you catch drinking straight from the milk jug–totally not cool), I’m not quoting any poetry at length.

I am going to make two important points about poetry, though.

1. Poetry will get you extraordinary reactions. I got on a plane for the first time in my life a mere six years ago to fly from North Carolina to Boston because a gangly, awkward history student sent me an email containing only a snippet of a poem Lord Byron wrote about some woman’s boobs.

2. It’s far better for people who want to get laid to read poetry out loud than it is for the poet himself to read it out loud, usually (unless the poet wrote the poem to get laid, in which case, read away.). While in North Carolina, I had a class on modern poetry. The professor brought in a recording of T.S. Eliot reading “The Waste Land.”

For those of you who haven’t read it, “The Waste Land” is this trippy complicated epitome of modernist poetry. Modernism means, I guess, pulling in everything that’s ever inspired you and smashing it all together and thinking the end result means something. (Post-modernism means, I think, the same thing, except that the end result is you growing increasingly cynical.)

So, over the course of this poem, you have invoked the Grail cycles, Shakespeare, tarot, Buddhism, globalization, and on and on. And the poem starts like this:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

If just read it, it’s striking enough–that part about “mixing memory and desire” just gets to me. And, indeed, there is something really cruel about stirring up things in places we’ve come to accept as dead. But if you read it out loud, it’s extraordinary. You have all these soft gentle sounds–ls and ms and rs–breaking up against bs and ds and sts and sps.

The words sound like what they’re about–placidness being stirred up by spiky signs of life. It’s awesome.

But to hear my fellow Midwesterner (what’s with us running off to England and pretending we’re British? We can only hope Madonna reads this and deigns to answer) read this poem . . . Folks, it was hilarious and I still can’t look at the poem without thinking of him speaking it out loud.

It sounded like he was speaking to us from beyond the grave, like Beowulf had nailed Eliot’s good arm to the wall of some hall and so we had to hear the poem from the perspective of a mutilated zombie who wished he were Chaucer’s progenitor.

“Oaop rrruyl is tha krew uel eist mon-th,” he groaned, and though we were all supposed to be deeply touched by his moving recitation, I looked around the room and saw a bunch of other people who also were not sure if this was a joke, and I started to laugh.

Apparently, you are allowed to have all kinds of reactions to “difficult” modernist poetry, but, my friends, scholars who’ve spent their whole lives studying modernist poetry do not appreciate it when you laugh long and hard at Eliot. They also don’t appreciate it when you answer, in response to “What’s so funny?”, “I can’t take that seriously. No one from St. Louis sounds like that.”