Both Sides Now: Hello from the Other Size
“I’m not saying people can’t be into Big Girls. There’s a lot of people into Big Girls. But there’s a lot of people into everything. That’s okay too. A lot of people are into weird shit.” – Joe Rogan
By Alyssa Saturley and Kim Latreille
Karl Lagerfeld calling Adele out in 2012 for being “... a bit too fat” was like when my 8-year-old son told me what I really really wanted for Mother’s Day was a new goalie mask: proof that most men don’t raise their periscopes and look beyond.
In the wake of Adele’s remarkable birthday tweet, the pendulum of commentary has swung from feelings of betrayal by the “real women” she’s been championing since her early days, to indignant weight-warriors in high gear, giddy at the prospect of something new to sink their teeth into.
(Give them a break! Among the Top 20 foods listed on Sirtfooddiet.net, Adele’s rumored regime of choice, are turmeric, red onions, and something leafy called lovage. Yum!)
The latest wave in the ongoing momentum of “Hello from the Other Size,” as the tweet has now been coined, comes in the form of a backlash to the backlash - men who tweeted out a wistful affinity for Adele 1.0 are facing ridicule by those who are hijacking her transformation in the name of the ultimate non sequitur: “health.”
Joe Rogan, a short and bald comedian of moderate success, schooled us during his latest podcast with, “I’m not saying people can’t be into Big Girls. There’s a lot of people into Big Girls. But there’s a lot of people into everything. That’s okay too. A lot of people are into weird shit.”
As a woman who hasn’t weighed a buck fifty since The Simpson’s pilot first aired, it’s amusing to learn that I’m officially a kink. Not that I didn’t know it (I see you through the sneeze guard peering at my rack and piling on extra turkey, Subway Sandwich Artist).
So, I’m a thing; I have a thing. If I succeed at this latest diet (insert pre-emptive eyeroll here) is my thing gone? Does it go from interesting to bemusing because it’s been usurped by something more mainstream? Was my inner dialogue true – will all my problems melt away as the thigh gap appears?
Looking back at photos of myself around the time I started to feel different, what becomes clear is that I wasn’t. I look like all the other girls my age.
The 1970’s was kind to almost no one. Ponchos, clogs, and angel sleeves left lots of room for Pop Tarts and orange soda. Where I got into trouble was those horizontal stripes and unforgiving corduroy jeans.
Somehow, I was walking around feeling like the female 1970’s version of Seth Rogan (only with a weirder laugh).
As I scrutinize images of myself at age 12, it becomes clear that I was carrying around about an extra ten pounds. Nowadays I can shed that with a really good pedicure.
Let Adele have this much deserved new brand of adoration. As convinced as we were when she said, “I don’t have time to worry about something as petty as what I look like,” she clearly now sees the value in practicing self-care (I hope), has extended her life for her child, and (for those of you who think her motivation rests in revenge) served up a big Screw You to the man who broke her heart.
Win. Win. Win.
This is unarguably a success for the woman who, with 15 Grammys to her name, still felt the need to reframe her priorities by telling us, “I don’t make music for the eyes, I make music for the ears.”
She didn’t come by those words alone. When I think about things that have been said to me, even out of a well-intentioned yet misplaced sense of concern, I can’t even fathom what she must have read and heard about herself since she shot to stardom. Or maybe I can.
When I was 20 a close male friend shared with me that “Fat girls are like mopeds. They’re super fun but no one wants to be seen with one.”
As the Adele discussion (which stopped being about Adele almost immediately) devolves, I can’t help but think of his message: Being impressive is more valued than being joyful.
I applaud Adele. She achieved this great feat without once sharing a picture of a freshly soiled Ketosis test stick.
No endless tweets about epic cross training sessions or her favourite green breakfast drink. She just got shit done. This is not something ever conquered by the weary or the unconvinced. No one just wakes up thin one day.
Perhaps that’s the problem. For her fans, Adele’s transformation has been a confusing and introspective couple of weeks. Many are reeling. Those who choose to project their confusion outwards will see – it will come back on you like that second burrito – I promise.
Science tells me that I had poorly timed releasing of glucocorticoid hormones as a child, which buggers with your fight or flight response and alters your ability to make the “good choices” after your brain is fully formed.
But let’s keep it real, I’ve been having a forty-year moment with good bread and soft, French cheese.
As another Monday starts and the word diet roles across my tongue, easier than this protein shake I’m “enjoying,” I find myself deeply moved and inspired by Adele.
Is this really a possibility for me? Could I make this happen?
The odds are stacked against me. For years I’ve watched the fine folks at TMZ pursue Jessica Simpson, billionaire fashion entrepreneur and occasional yoyo dieter, with a ruthlessness that should be reserved for Ponzi scheme architects and totalitarian dictators.
Most people don’t believe I can do this. Do I even stand a chance? There are those who will not be cheering me on, but that will be for their own reasons. Perhaps I can ride Adele’s emotional coattails, once again, until I’m ready for my own epic tweet.
In a highly scientific, Ipsosesque poll, 100% of the girlfriends I queried stated that they are Team Jen, not Angelina. Amy Schumer, Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy; these women are all of-our-tribe. They’ve got our backs.
Adele is cut from that same cloth. She will ride this storm with the same formidable spine and Times Square smile she has always given us. Her Fatness Forever fans will concede that she is, once again, doing her. How can anyone fault her that?
When the world gets back to whatever our new normal is, red carpet events will still be devoured like the most glamourous of treats.
And all sides of the Adele discussion will be scrutinizing their wardrobe choices.
Let’s hope when the House of Chanel comes calling, she and her stylist have the fortitude to send them packing.
By Alyssa Saturley
By five years old, I knew my appearance was going to be a problem. It was already a subject of opinion.
My aunt on my dad’s side was Mrs. Ottawa in the 1960’s.
My godmother is my mother’s sister. There’s a prom photo of her beautiful face smiling back from under a sparkling tiara and bouffant up-do — a total stunner.
Thin and adventurous, my godmother struggled with a blood illness — anemia, and after another miscarriage I remember her crying over how she couldn’t carry a fetus to term.
I inherited her body-type, and some of her chemistry, too. My mother made raw egg shakes spiced with cinnamon to help keep weight on me. It was the doctor’s suggestion. Boney, she called me.
My grandmother hung out with me. She’d laugh at how often she was mistaken for being 20 years younger than she was, and how I’d be just like her. I don’t see my own face, and didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.
I weigh 115 lbs.; the most I’ve weighed in the last six years. Prior to that, while having my kids, I hovered between 118-122 lbs.
Capping out at 154 lbs., just before my body exploded for the second time into two people, I gave birth to a screeching almost ten-pounder. Minus another ten pounds of water, the cottagey fat deposits behind my arms, and the sadly deflated milk machines my boys cherished for months, my body was back to it’s pre-pregnancy weight in less than a year without much effort by me.
Yes, I’m fit, but you can’t deny what God gave me — a small frame, and a fast metabolism that causes my blood sugar to spike and dip. It’s hard to eat properly, or enough when anxiety flares and I feel nauseated gagging through my lunch. I’m hypoglycemic, developed Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy, and expect to progress to Type 2 Diabetes.
My neighbourhood fed two public schools. Alyssa and I each went to the other, but we became friends congregating at the public pool in the summertime.
When we laid eyes on each other, I didn’t think about Alyssa as fat, I also didn’t think I was beautiful. People treated me differently, that’s what I knew.
Appearances matter. Critical words roll off familiar lips for reasons only they know. People say mean things. I dodged remarks I didn’t understand from people who claimed to love me growing up — bitch, lard-ass, thunder-thighs, boobless.
Before seeing “Kim Latreille is a boyfriend stealer” written in the bathroom stall at my high school, I didn’t know I was that kind of person.
It’s hard to understand being sexualized when you are a kid; too young to know that is what’s happening. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how societal fascination with weight has been engrained into our psyche, in some cases literally beaten in, from the time when we are little.
Girls are compared. Why did Jennifer Gowling point at me in the schoolyard to announce I “had no tits?” I knew that. My mother told me, and my dad pointed it out when I modelled my new green bathing suit for him. He tried not to laugh saying, “they are different sizes,” but even at ten years old, my humiliation told me what he was laughing at.
Over the years, Alyssa and I have shared the pain of being objectified. She doesn’t condescend when I’ve lost job opportunities, friends, and relationships over it. She gets it. When I show up at her door 102 lbs. soaking wet with a freshly painted smile on my face, she doesn’t say, “You look great!” She says, “What is wrong with you?”
Years ago, I told her of a researcher at a business magazine I worked for who would pepper my vacant desk with articles about anorexia nervosa and bulimia — medical conditions I don’t have.
These past few weeks, Adele’s photo bomb has touched almost every point Alyssa and I have ever spoken about in regards to being fat and thin, opposite ends of the scale, and how we are both objectified and judged by our appearances.
We’ve been discussing tweets. I note how Adele hadn’t said anything about what she was doing to affect her body shape, yet her ex-trainer had piped up. Why?
We swap a few stories.
I remind her of my ex-boyfriend being self-conscious about his body while we were dating. He was aware of our perception as a couple, saying we looked like Beauty and the Beast.
“It’s about being fuckable!”
I’m speaking to Alyssa, and she has hit the nail on the head.
“As long as you are fuckable, you’re good.”
She’s right. The criticisms about appearance come when a person feels they are no longer fuckable.
When you’re not happy with what you’ve got and don’t think you’re fuckable, other women perceived as getting fucked are irritating. How dare they (allegedly) get what you deserve? Time to form an opinion!
I visited Alyssa when my heart was broken to tell her what happened. After all the talking about how appearances didn’t matter with my ex — they did. The constant ridicule by family and friends about dating someone “out of his league” finally got to him. “You are too good-looking for me”, he said, “I can’t handle it.” He apologized for being cowardly. I stood there, stunned.
Many friends were quick to jump, criticizing; it’s him, not you. It sure didn’t feel that way. With a different set of genes, what about my life might be different?
Alyssa wasn’t critical when I cried how I wished I were fat so I might be loved better. She hugged me instead and let me cry, knowing the unfairness I was feeling.
Lady Gaga said it best, “Baby, I was born this way!” Her lyric has become a mantra every time I feel judged by my appearance, whether it’s to be complimented, ridiculed, or thought of as being incompetent.
Discussing this with women friends late night after a few drinks, we notice the pricked ears of the men within eavesdropping distance. As a woman you are one of three things: fat, smart, or pretty. Not in combination, and certainly not all three. And women don’t need to worry which category they fall into, men decide.
That’s a joke (sort of), thankfully, not true (all of the time). I love good men, and supportive women, but the self-congratulatory spouting off on social media over weight has made it easy to generalize, and see where we can all do better.
By Kim Latreille
Alyssa Saturley is a creative writer from Ottawa, living in Calgary, Alberta, currently quarantined with her (hot) husband, and 8-year-old son. Kim Latreille was raised in Ottawa, and lives in Toronto. She is the publisher of Femke magazine.