celebrities, controversies, ethics, mental health, music, politics, social media, Virginia, YouTube

A few more thoughts about “Rich Men North of Richmond”…

When I wrote yesterday’s post about Oliver Anthony’s popular anthem, I didn’t know much at all about him. I was simply reacting to the lyrics of “Rich Men North of Richmond.” Consequently, my post, based solely on my first reactions to his popular song, may not have been as accurate as it could have been. I have since learned more about Oliver Anthony, whose real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford.

According to Wikipedia— admittedly not always the best source for information– Oliver Anthony is between 29 and 31 years old. He comes from Farmville, Virginia, which is a town I know well. I went to college in Farmville, home of Longwood University (Longwood College when I went there). Anthony might have been born when I was still a college student in his hometown, a place where there is poverty and lots and lots of funeral homes. In all seriousness… I remember there were quite a few nursing homes and funeral homes in Farmville, when I lived there. Maybe that’s changed, though. Longwood has certainly changed a lot since my college days.

I read that Mr. Anthony dropped out of high school and later got a General Equivalency Diploma. He worked a lot of industrial jobs in Virginia and North Carolina. Farmville isn’t too far from the North Carolina border. Evidently, while working at a paper mill in North Carolina, Anthony suffered an accident that fractured his skull and left him unable to work for six months. He’s suffered from mental health issues and alcoholism. Much to my surprise, he claims to be “non-partisan”, saying “I sit pretty dead center down the aisle on politics and always have.”[8][50]

If it’s true that Oliver Anthony is non-partisan, how is it that he’s become such a darling of the conservative, “anti-woke” crowd? I noticed a few of his other videos on YouTube. He’s written and sung a lot of songs that are about the plight of the working man. Indeed, he recorded most of his songs on a cellphone, singing near his off the grid camper. In the wake of his supposedly stunning debut, he’s made history, having become the first songwriter to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with no prior chart history.

Record companies are reportedly clamoring to sign Oliver Anthony. He’s “brushed off” $8 million contracts, claiming he doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, nor does he want the trappings that usually come from success in the music business. If that’s true, I commend him. Just like light bulbs, people who burn really brightly tend to burn out quickly. I think it’s good if Anthony is grounded enough to realize that losing what’s led to his relatability would be a mistake.

I also think that jumping into sudden wealth can quickly lead to disaster. Many people get caught up in the idea of living in mansions and driving fancy cars, but they forget about the associated negative things like taxes, fairweather friends, unscrupulous business associates, gold diggers, and criminals who suddenly take notice, and unhealthy interest.

I don’t have any personal experience with this phenomenon myself, but I have read and heard a lot of stories about overnight sensations who become the hottest thing in town without proper support from honest people. Next thing you know, they’re hooked on drugs and/or alcohol, suffering from severe mental health problems, and have fallen among the down and out. Mr. Anthony has already admitted that he has issues with alcohol and his mental health. Like a lot of people with mental health issues, he’s shown extraordinary talent that speaks to a lot of people. I would hope there are people near him who are looking out for his well being.

Now… about that song. Personally, I am still not a big fan of it. I mostly explained why yesterday. It reduces a lot of very complex and serious issues into a three minute song that, I think, blames some of the wrong people. I especially don’t like that Mr. Anthony, while trying to represent the working people of America, throws poor people under the bus, especially as he alludes to personal responsibility. I think those particular lyrics, reposted below, are hypocritical and ignorant.

I wish politicians would look out for miners
And not just minors on an island somewhere
Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat
And the obese milkin’ welfare

Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds
Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds
Young men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground
‘Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down

I get being a “salt of the earth” person, and I might even agree, on the surface, that taxes shouldn’t pay for junk food. However, as I mentioned in yesterday’s rant, what seems simple to so many people, isn’t actually simple at all. A poor, obese person using a SNAP card and eating fudge rounds is likely facing a lot of problems. Many of the problems they face are not so different than the ones Mr. Anthony has faced, and tried to drown with alcohol. Moreover, someone who weighs 300 pounds at 5’3″ probably has a legitimate eating disorder.

A lot of people scoff at the whole idea of eating disorders… especially folks who come from a lower middle class background (or poorer). Many people have also only heard of the most famous eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Those are the ones that get the books, TV specials, and movies, especially when someone famous suffers or dies after having been afflicted with them.

But there are many other eating disorders out there, and they are comorbid with a host of physical, emotional, and mental health problems. They aren’t fun to have, and they can have devastating effects on people’s lives and livelihoods. The deleterious effects of eating disorders don’t just negatively affect the person suffering from them, either. Their family members, loved ones, and friends also suffer, as does society as a whole.

It seems like common sense for someone who is very obese to just quit eating so much and start exercising more. I also know that plenty of people, lucky enough not to be bothered by eating disorders, will add that fat people shouldn’t be eating junk food. And, you know, people with obesity really shouldn’t eat junk food… nor should anyone else, really, be eating junk food. But it’s so easy to think or say what people should or shouldn’t be doing, especially when you know nothing about them, their lives, or the issues they’re facing.

People develop eating disorders for different reasons. Sometimes it’s genetic. Sometimes, it happens because of trauma. Sometimes a person uses overeating, purging, or starvation as a means of coping with stress or even pain. Sugar rushes temporarily make people feel good. So do endorphin and adrenaline rushes. Fat consumption can be very comforting to some people, not to mention flavorful. Food that tastes good makes people feel better… for a short while, anyway.

When I was a lot younger, I used to skip meals a lot in an attempt to lose weight and, if I’m honest, get attention from others. Doing that usually made me really bitchy (more so than usual, that is), but sometimes I’d get an endorphin rush not unlike the ones I’d get after cutting myself or maybe hitting my head (or another body part). That rush can feel really good, especially to someone who is in some kind of pain or distress. I hasten to add here, I didn’t deliberately cut myself to get endorphin rushes. I’m merely mentioning that rush I’ve experienced after accidentally hurting myself somehow.

Deliberate cutting is an associated behavior for some people with mental health issues seeking stress or pain relief in unconventional ways. Sometimes people cut themselves on purpose as a means of distracting themselves from another kind of pain, such as replacing physical pain and bleeding with psychological pain. And the bonus is that rush of endorphins that sometimes happens when a person is hurting physically.

As a side note… I just started entering search terms on Google and it somehow knew I was going to ask about eating disorders. I typed “Why do people develop”, and it immediately suggested “eating disorders” as the top result. Obviously, I’m not the only person who wonders about it.

The truth is, there’s no one definitive reason why a person might develop problematic eating patterns. But, impoverished people often have had a lot of trauma in their lives, and food is a cheap and readily available way to soothe bad feelings. What makes a food addiction especially problematic is that people have to eat to survive, and food (especially junk food) tends to be ubiquitous. And as I mentioned yesterday, it isn’t always easy for everyone to simply eat good, nutritious food.

I imagine that Mr. Anthony, who reportedly has himself been living off the grid, would know that firsthand, just as he apparently knows about being an alcoholic. I’ll bet Oliver Anthony doesn’t like it when people point at him and claim he’s the source of a complicated societal problem. And I’ll bet the poor people who eat fudge rounds don’t like that, either. It’s not a crime to be poor, and lobbing abuse and hate toward people unfortunate enough to need welfare assistance is neither productive, nor fair. Moreover, if a person is going to sermonize about personal responsibility, they really ought to start by taking a good hard look at themselves and their personal responsibility for their own situations before pointing fingers at other people.

No matter what, though… individual welfare recipients are not directly responsible for keeping the working poor in poverty. It’s probably more likely that Anthony’s song title has the true culprit within it. That is– wealthy people who make many times what the workers make, and are more interested in keeping investors and shareholders happy are probably the ones keeping down the working folks who are just scraping by in life. Add in the fact that basic necessities like health insurance cost so much– again, because healthcare is a business, rather than a human right.

A few days ago, I mentioned my college friend who was doing well enough to recently take a vacation in Hawaii. Just after she came home from that trip, she was in a catastrophic car accident. She may never fully recover from that accident, and there’s now a crowdfunding effort to help her family accommodate her needs when she’s discharged from the rehab hospital where she’s spent the summer.

While I don’t mind helping my friends, and I did help my friend’s cause, she’s in this situation because she was in an accident. Why should she depend on the kindness of family and friends to get the care she obviously needs? Especially when there are American people who have made so much money that they’ll never be able to spend it all in their lifetime, yet they’re constantly trying to find ways to avoid paying taxes. And you know as well as I do that the vast majority of those super rich people didn’t get rich without a lot of help from the much less wealthy.

Anyway… I’d like to see Oliver Anthony dig a little deeper into the issue. And if he really is non-partisan, I’d like to see his lyrics focus less on shitting on people who are already down, regardless of their body size. We all have problems. Everybody has a story. While a lot of people can relate to “Rich Men North of Richmond” and think it’s perfectly fine that Anthony specifically calls out fat people on welfare, personally, I’m not very impressed by it. It seems like a really cheap shot to me. Maybe some more reflection and empathy are in order.

Just my opinion, folks… perhaps I should write a song about it, too.

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art, book reviews

A review of Don’t Think, Dear: On Loving and Leaving Ballet, by Alice Robb…

Several months ago, I went on an Amazon book downloading spree. That’s when I discovered Alice Robb’s book, Don’t Think, Dear: On Loving and Leaving Ballet, published on February 28, 2023. I purchased my downloaded copy on March 11th, and just now finished reading Robb’s fascinating book about the world of ballet.

I started reading Don’t Think, Dear last month, as we were coming home from our trip up north. I remember being delighted as I dove into the new book, which instantly captured my attention. Robb writes this book from the heart, as she was, herself, a serious dancer when she was growing up. For a time, she even studied at the School of American Ballet, which was co-founded by famed Russian born, but ethnically Georgian choreographer, George Balanchine. Mr. Balanchine is considered the “father of American Ballet”. He also founded the New York City Ballet, and was its artistic director for over 35 years.

Don’t Think, Dear, is a look at American ballet, particularly at the School of American Ballet and the New York City Ballet. Robb writes about the many hardships ballet dancers endure so that they can be on stage, looking incredibly graceful, athletic, and powerful. She profiles some legendary dancers like Gelsey Kirkland, Alicia Alonso, Suzanne Farrell, Misty Copeland, and Margot Fonteyn. But, Robb also writes about less famous dancers… ones who spent their entire youths working toward a goal of being employed as professional dancers. Only a few achieve that elusive goal, and many are left with permanent injuries, physical scars, and emotional problems at the end of their quests.

George Balanchine was famously picky about how his dancers were to look. He liked the women very thin and leggy. While today, artistic directors and choreographers are less blunt when they tell a dancer she needs to “lengthen” (lose weight), Balanchine would actually bark at them to “eat nothing”. If a previously anointed dancer fell out of favor with him, he would ignore her completely. As Robb points out, some of the women– like Gelsey Kirkland– would go on to develop severe eating disorders and addictions. Balanchine was also very jealous of his dancers’ attentions. They weren’t really allowed to date, unless they were dating him. If they did, Robb claims their careers suffered for it. Balanchine married and divorced four times before his death in 1983, and he had many other love affairs– all with his dancers.

Gelsey Kirkland dancing for “Mr. B.”

In between “vignettes” of famous and not so famous dancers, Robb writes about related subjects. For instance, she includes a very interesting passage about pointe shoes, and what it takes to break them in properly. Pointe shoes aren’t cheap, but new ones have to be beaten into submission before they’re any good, and that means doing everything from shaving them to putting them in boiling water. And even after that, they are extremely uncomfortable and leave dancers with bunions, broken toenails, and bleeding cuts on their feet. Someone did come up with a more comfortable shoe, but apparently dancers who use them are seen as wimps. Or, at least that’s what Robb implies. If you aren’t wearing your painful Capezios, you aren’t a serious contender.

Suzanne Farrell dancing Mr. B’s choreography as a Sugar Plum Fairy.

A couple of criticisms…

By her own admission, Alice Robb was a somewhat mediocre dancer herself. Yes, she got into the School of American Ballet, which was in and of itself an achievement. But she didn’t stand out from the crowd, and mostly just got small parts in the annual Nutcracker production. She does not possess the rare qualities that make someone a contender for a career as a ballet dancer. I’m not sure if that reality colored her view of ballet as a whole. I did get the sense, however, that Robb sort of has an ambivalent opinion of ballet.

Yes, there are some very admiring portraits of great dancers and their stories. Some of the benefits of studying ballet are discussed in Robb’s book. She writes about the feeling of flying when a dancer has a strong partner, and the thrill of being able to do more pirouettes with help from a male dancer. However, she also includes a lot of negatives about studying ballet.

Robb implies that dancers are basically conditioned to be extremely compliant by their very strict teachers. I came away with the idea that dancers are often prey to abusive, predatory men, or are basically beaten into submission by teachers who tell them not to “think”, but to “do”. Robb writes a lot about dancers who had to quit dancing due to injuries, as well as dancers who simply couldn’t cut it because of things they couldn’t help, like the ability to “turn out” properly or “bad feet”. And yet, in spite of all of that, Robb still dances “casually”. Obviously, there were some positives for her.

But overall, I liked it…

I enjoyed reading Don’t Think, Dear. I’m definitely not a dancer, so nothing Robb wrote was a threat or insult to me. I appreciated that her writing was good and mostly engaging. She includes a lot of sources for additional reading; I even ordered one of the books she referenced, even though it’s out of print. She also includes quotes from books I’ve already read, like Gelsey Kirkland’s Dancing on My Grave and Hilde Bruch’s The Golden Cage. The book is clearly well-researched, both by other written accounts and observations, as well as Robb’s personal experiences with ballet. I don’t regret falling down the rabbit hole of ballet through Robb’s pen, even though I thought it might be more of a personal memoir than what it is– basically a look at the world of American ballet.

So why did I read this book?

No, I’ve never taken a single ballet class myself, but I was exposed to ballet from an early age on account of my eldest sister, Betsy. Betsy is 13 years older than I am, and when I was very young, she was a pretty serious ballet dancer. We lived in England, which gave her the opportunity to audition for the Royal Ballet School. She was accepted, and finished high school by correspondence. Then, while we were still in England, Betsy moved home to Virginia and started college… all on her own.

Betsy kept dancing for awhile after her year in London. I remember meeting her exotic dance friends and attending their performances with my parents. I was enchanted by the music and colorful costumes, although it probably took awhile before I appreciated watching the dancing itself. I did once try on Betsy’s pointe shoes… and I don’t know how anyone could stand to wear them for more than a minute, let alone dance in them.

Years later, I ended up studying voice at the Eastern Virginia School of Performing Arts, which was primarily a ballet school run by a husband and wife. My teacher, Ron Boucher, is a dancer, but he was also a professional singer in New York. His wife, is Sandra Balestracci, and she has trained many wonderful dancers. She is also the mother of one. But before Sandra taught ballet, she was a great dancer herself. She even appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.

I loved taking lessons with Ron, and watching the beautiful young dancers in their studio. I envied their discipline, grace, and youth, even though I was still in my 20s at the time, myself. So, you could say I’m a “fan” of ballet. I admire it, even if I can’t do it. 😉 Kind of like I’m a fan of women’s gymnastics, even though I’ve never so much as turned a decent cartwheel. Sigh… I miss performing arts.

Anyway…

I liked Don’t Think, Dear by Alice Robb, although I see it kind of gets mixed reviews on Amazon. Some people found the book too “wandering” and “rambling”. I suspect some of the people who read the book were looking for more of a personal story, rather than a general look at stories about ballet dancers. But, as someone who is just a ballet fan, I think the book is interesting and insightful. I would recommend it to those who are intrigued by it. I certainly have more respect for ballet dancers now that I’ve read Alice Robb’s expose.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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communication, complaints, condescending twatbags, rants, slut shamers

You really don’t need to comment either way…

On this date in 2012, I took the featured photo in Cologne, Germany. We were on our very first “hop”, which took us to Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg. I spotted this sticker on utility equipment and snapped a photo. It fits today’s topic perfectly.

Happy Sunday, folks. It’s another pretty, late spring morning here, and already 69 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty nice. I know it’s hard to fathom to those of you in the southern United States, but it’s still a bit chilly in Germany. I don’t look forward to the hot, un air-conditioned days that are coming, but right now, the weather is getting more pleasant.

Our Nordic holiday is rapidly approaching. I have experienced Scandinavian and Baltic countries in the summer, and I know that it will behoove us to bring layers. I remember the first time we went to Norway, back in June 2009, and we both had to buy warmer clothes. Bill got two sweaters, and I got a hoodie and a sweatshirt. I loved the hoodie and was pretty sad when I lost it after our 2014 “hop” to France and Germany from Texas. Perhaps I’ll find a new one when we’re up there.

I’m kind of glad we’re going up north next month. I probably won’t be wearing a bathing suit in public. Maybe I’ll wear one on the cruise ship, but I’ll bring a robe with me. Actually, one thing I’ve noticed and really enjoyed in Europe is the less judgmental and shitty attitude people tend to have about other people’s bodies. This is especially true in Germany, where there are a lot of health spas in which being nude is a requirement. I’ll admit, as an American, it was hard for me to embrace the idea of being nude in a “public” place. However, once I did it, I found the experience very liberating. Nudity isn’t a big deal here, so you see all kinds of people at the spa. All of them are there for themselves, and it’s not a big deal if you don’t have a bikini or Speedo worthy body.

Yesterday, a friend shared the below post on Facebook. I liked it, so I decided to share it, too.

I added the comment, “Yup. Zip it.”

Now… I’m going to clarify. Personally, I don’t objectively think that every body is necessarily beautiful. However, I do believe that (almost) every person has basic worth. I do think that we should show basic respect to people, and do our best to preserve their dignity. I completely agree with the original poster’s statements that people don’t need to make comments about other people’s bodies, positive or negative. You really don’t need to comment either way. I honestly don’t see why people feel emboldened to make such personal comments to people, especially when they are total strangers.

A lot of my friends saw the above post and liked it. However, I did get one comment that I’m afraid has given me something to write/rant about this morning. It was actually a little embarrassing on many levels. A family member, seeing the above post, wrote this:

You look GREAT💕

In fairness, this family member is related by marriage. She’s married to my dad’s first cousin (my first cousin once removed– Granny’s nephew– and the son of my fabulous late Aunt Estelle, who was hilarious). She has known my parents for years, though, because she’s from the Tidewater area, and used to patronize my parents’ business. One time, we went to our annual Thanksgiving shindig and she was there with cousin Jimmy. She didn’t even know Jimmy was my dad’s cousin, and asked us what the hell we were doing there!

I’m not sure if this relative knew me when I was growing up. She probably saw me a few times, since my parents’ business was run out of their house. However, she hasn’t seen me in person since 2014. Moreover, it’s pretty obvious if you actually READ the post before reacting or commenting, that I am not the original poster. Anyway, I wrote this response, with a laughing reaction (though I kind of wanted to post an orange, angry reaction):

Uh…. That isn’t me.

My relative posted this:

🤣😂🤣oooops!

If my relative knew me better, she’d know that I never wear bikinis. I probably should wear them, since it’s easier to go to the bathroom if you have a two piece bathing suit. But when I do wear bathing suits, I prefer to wear one pieces. Anyway, I responded thusly:

When I go swimming, I’m usually nude. Plus, I could never grow my hair that long.

And this is the truth. In Germany, when I go swimming, it’s often at a health spa, and a lot of them are nude. So when I swim in Germany, I do often go swimming in the buff. When I’m not in Germany, I don’t wear bikinis. And I have never had long hair like the woman in the picture has. My hair simply won’t grow that long. I’ve tried.

My relative wrote:

I did notice her hair is longer than yours usually is!

Right. And did you also notice that she’s got darker hair than mine has been in years? She probably has a “better” figure than I have, too (although tastes differ). 😉 I was a bit perturbed and it was later in the evening, so I made one more response.

She’s also a bit younger.

People should be able to go swimming or whatever and not have people comment about their bodies. I like how it is in Germany. Nudity isn’t a big deal here, so you see people of all shapes and sizes, especially at wellness spas. Nobody cares. It’s very liberating.

This was my main point. You don’t need to make a comment of any kind about other people’s bodies. You don’t need to reassure someone that they look “great”. You don’t need to compliment them, nor do you need to tell them they’re too fat, too thin, or need to wear a bra, shapewear, or a girdle. Just let them live in their own skin in peace.

If you must comment, try to pay attention to other things, like whether or not they look happy. Stop focusing so much on the external appearances of other people– especially those you don’t know personally. Most of them won’t care about your opinions either way, and by keeping your mouth shut, you avoid embarrassing and traumatic situations with strangers.

My relative still didn’t get it. She posted this…

You could pass for that age…whatever that may be!

Well gee… thank you. But a compliment on my looks was not what I was hoping for when I shared that post, as much as I appreciate being complimented. It’s not that I don’t like being told I look young, or beautiful, or whatever else. I do like hearing sincere compliments. Sincere is the operative word, and really, compliments should come from someone whose opinions matter to me.

I did visit the original post, just to see what other people’s reactions to it were. Naturally, there were many comments about how “obesity isn’t pretty”. Some were from mansplaining males who expect women they deem unattractive to cover up. Some were, sadly, from women who harped on what’s beautiful and “healthy”. Others posted backassed things like, “I wouldn’t do it, but good for her.” A comment like that tells me that you’re trying to be “nice”, but you still disapprove. The woman in that photo doesn’t require your approval or your opinion. Just zip it, and mind your own business.

Everybody has a story. You have no idea what’s going on in that woman’s life. For all you know, she might have just lost a lot of weight. Or maybe she just gained a lot of weight. Maybe it’s the first time she’s been to the beach in years. Or maybe she visits the beach every day, and it’s her happy place. Who are you to intrude on her business with uninvited comments about her body? Why do you think she, or anyone else, should care what you think about her body? You’ve got your own body. Pay attention to that, instead.

I’ll be honest. I don’t like it when people make comments about my body. They almost never make me feel good, even when they’re positive. When they come from men, they make me feel skeevy. When they come from women, they make me feel bullshitted. And no matter what a person does, there’s always going to be someone who is critical. Even if everyone was an “acceptable” size for aesthetic purposes, there would always be someone out there with a criticism or a backhanded compliment. Seems to me that people really ought to just STFU about other people’s bodies and mind their own business.

Last weekend, I took some photos with Bill at a street food festival we attended. They turned out really nicely. Below is the photo currently serving as my profile picture.

Maybe I look “pretty” in this photo, but I would much rather someone say that I look happy.

One friend left a comment that I really appreciated. She wrote, “Great picture!” That’s really all anyone needs to say, if they say anything at all.

I know not everyone shares my opinions about this subject. My thoughts on this probably come from being raised by people who were very image conscious and constantly criticized me for not looking “good” at all times.

I can remember my dad grabbing me by the head and forcibly combing my hair as he claimed it “looked like a rat’s nest.”

I can remember my mom looking at me with disdain and saying, “Why don’t you go put on some makeup?” Alternatively, when I got dolled up, she’d pull out the camera for a photo… as if it was such a rare and momentous occasion that it demanded to be preserved for posterity’s sake.

I can remember both of them giving me endless shit about my weight when I was a teen and a young woman, even as I flirted with eating disorders. My dad called me names. My mom tried to bribe me with new clothes, as she pleaded with me to lose weight. It made me feel unloved, ugly, and unworthy, and eventually led me to depression bad enough that I saw a psychiatrist, who also fat and appearance shamed me (but did at least find the right antidepressant).

It took years after that to stop going on starvation diets as I constantly made derogatory comments about my body to anyone who would listen. I’m sure that was as tiresome for other people, as it was not helpful for me. I don’t want to go back down that road.

Years after my last appointment with that psychiatrist, I asked for his notes to be sent to me, because I needed to give them to the Army for an EFMP screening. I made the mistake of looking at what he wrote about me. He made quite a few comments about how I wasn’t losing weight, and how I looked “garish”. I guess he felt my clothes were too “loud” for being my size (about a 14 at the time). He gave me medication that was supposed to be used for migraine headaches and seizures for an off label use– it caused appetite suppression. He was obviously very disappointed when it didn’t cause me to lose scads of weight. (This experience, by the way, is the main reason I don’t go looking for people’s opinions about me or this blog. I’d probably rather not know.)

I already had little trust or regard for doctors at that point in my life, mainly due to the very disrespectful and traumatic way I was treated by an Air Force OB-GYN at my very first gyno appointment. When I read those notes by a psychiatrist, who was supposed to be helping me with depression, I trusted them even less. That doctor’s notes should have indicated things like whether or not I was appropriately dressed, or adequately groomed for the occasion. Comments about my weight might have been fair enough, but only in terms of my health. My personal makeup and clothing style should not have factored into my records at all. Using the word “garish” to describe me was completely inappropriate. I think he had a bias against people he deemed to be “too fat”, and felt entitled to share them with patients who came to him for help.

When I was younger, maybe I would have appreciated fake compliments about how “good” I looked over rude comments about body image. But today, at almost 51 years of age, I’d much rather people just focus on what’s important… and what’s important is NOT what my body looks like. Because if you think about it, people who body shame are basically expecting everyone who doesn’t meet their standards to just hide away somewhere until they’re more suitable for public view. That’s not a fair thing to ask of anyone. Moreover, most of the people who make those kinds of comments aren’t exactly hot shit themselves. 99.9% of the time, you really don’t need to make a comment at all… just zip it, and leave the person alone to enjoy their lives. By keeping your mouth shut, you will keep them from experiencing unnecessary trauma, and you will keep yourself in good karma. Just my thoughts.

And… just to end this post on an amen, the wonderful singer, Jane Monheit, posted this on Twitter in 2019:

I would also add… please don’t give people unsolicited advice, either. Especially on something as personal as their body image. If someone wants your advice or input, they’ll ask for it.

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book reviews, mental health, psychology

A review of Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia, by Hadley Freeman…

Leave it to Amazon’s suggestive selling feature to sell me things I didn’t think I wanted. Before last month, I had not heard of journalist Hadley Freeman, or her new book, Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia, which was published on April 18, 2023. Now that I’ve just finished reading Freeman’s personal story about her experiences with anorexia, along with anecdotes from people she knew when she spent months in eating disorder programs in London, I can say that I’d definitely read another one of her books. She has a very engaging style, and her talent for turning phrases makes her writing interesting and an overall pleasure to read.

I also enjoyed Hadley Freeman’s story, because she and I are somewhat close in age. I’m almost six years older than she is. There was a time when that would have been a significant age gap, but once you get to middle age, that gap really isn’t so wide anymore. Her book was interesting to me, because we were young at the same time. I got a lot of the cultural references she made. Good Girls is about her experiences with anorexia nervosa, but it’s also about the experiences of people she met while “in hospital”. A number of the women she interviewed are my age or slightly older. I could relate to them and their stories because of that closeness in age.

Freeman included some interesting anecdotes about some of the cases involving her fellow patients that invite more research and study for my blog. Regular readers know I’m a sucker for a scandalous story, and she made me aware of a couple of them in her book. Perhaps on a day when I have writer’s block, I will think to revisit Good Girls and be reminded of those stories, which I will then write about. As I’ve discovered through blogging since 2010, I’m not the only one who is a sucker for a scandal… even the low level ones that are only interesting on a local level. 😉

Everyone has a story, and Hadley Freeman is no different. She is a British-American journalist who was born to a Jewish family in New York City. Freeman spent her early life in New York, where her father worked in finance. Freeman has dual American and British citizenship, and continues to live and work in both countries.

When Hadley was eleven years old, her family moved to London, and Hadley was plunged into a similar, but different culture. I could relate to that. I was born in Virginia, but moved to England when I was about three years old. I stayed in England until I was almost six years old. Although I was in England as an “Air Force brat”, that experience really left a mark on me, and I can remember being bewildered when we moved back to the US, having doubled in age. Granted, Hadley Freeman was eleven when she moved, so surely she had a concept of countries and continents and such. But there are some significant differences between life in the United States and life in England. As Freeman points out, New York and London, though both big cities, are very different. Hadley had some trouble adjusting.

When she was about fourteen years old, Hadley began suffering from anorexia nervosa severe enough to land her in the hospital. She spent the next three years in and out of different psychiatric hospitals in London, occasionally being treated by an arrogant doctor who apparently did more harm than good. Most of the hospitals where Freeman was treated are not specifically named in this book; Freeman does mention one clinic that was eventually renamed where a fellow patient had spent time and was exposed to a predatory male nurse. I did some preliminary research about the nurse and found his case was covered in the news. I’ll be reading more about him.

Freeman’s experiences put her in contact with other people who suffered from eating disorders, including a few men. Not everyone she met had anorexia; some were diagnosed with bulimia, while others were compulsive or binge eaters. Because the hospitals were residential, she had the opportunity to get to know the other patients. She eventually lost contact with her fellow patients, as social media wasn’t a “thing” in those days, and she had been discouraged from keeping in touch with them. Therapists had told her that staying in contact with other people with eating disorders could encourage her to keep up the destructive behaviors that had led to anorexia.

Years after her final release from hospitals, Hadley Freeman decided to reach out to some of her old friends. She found that a number of them were eager to speak to her about their experiences. So, while Freeman writes about her time on the eating disorder wards in the 1990s, she also includes stories from others she knew back then. In one case, the story didn’t come from the fellow patient, as she had died by her own hand. Instead, Freeman spoke to the woman’s family. This particular patient was a talented actress who had starred in some television and theatrical shows before she ended her life. I had not heard of her before I read Good Girls, but I looked her up and now I want to know more about her.

The theories and treatment modalities for treating eating disorders were different in the 1990s than they are today. I read several Amazon reviews from irate readers claiming that Freeman’s book is “dangerous” because she doesn’t delve into the most recent research regarding eating disorder treatment. I don’t think this book is supposed to be about current treatments or theories. It’s a memoir. Freeman is writing about her experiences in the 1990s. There is an audience of people who would be interested in reading about Freeman’s experiences during that era, even if the information she includes is not as useful to people who suffer from eating disorders today.

Many years ago, I read Cherry Boone O’Neill’s 1982 book, Starving For Attention. Cherry Boone O’Neill is Pat Boone’s eldest daughter. She suffered most extensively from anorexia nervosa in the 1970s. Her book includes theories and treatment modalities from that time, which would probably be thought of as “wrong” and “dangerous” today (even though Cherry ultimately survived and has five adult children). I wouldn’t go to Cherry’s book for information about how to help someone with an eating disorder in 2023. I don’t think that’s its purpose. It’s a story about her experiences, which has worth in and of itself. I think I feel the same way about Hadley Freeman’s book, Good Girls.

I wouldn’t recommend Good Girls to a worried parent or spouse of someone with an eating disorder, desperate for solutions or answers as to why eating disorders happen. There are other books written by experts for that purpose. Freeman does include comments from physicians and mental health professionals about today’s treatments, but I didn’t really feel like that was the main idea of her book.

Freeman eventually became a “functional anorexic”, after “cramming” at different British schools to pass her “A-levels”. She wound up earning her university degree at Oxford University, and then curiously embarked on a career as a fashion journalist. She found she had an “in” with people in the fashion industry, because she was very thin. After about ten years of that, she moved on to other areas. She’s written for The Guardian and The Telegraph, and she has also penned other books. I enjoyed Good Girls enough that I would seek out her other books– after I’ve read a few that have been sitting in the “to be read” queue for awhile.

I do wish Freeman had expanded a bit more on the British education and healthcare systems. I wouldn’t have expected an in depth explanation per se, but a little bit of information about the differences between the U.S. and British systems may have been helpful to the many American readers whom I suspect will read this book. The U.S. healthcare system is much more expensive for consumers than the British system is. Freeman also mentions “sectioning”, which could be a foreign concept to US readers, as the U.S. system doesn’t really have “sectioning”, which allows healthcare professionals and family members to involuntarily commit adults for mental health treatment for illnesses that are life threatening.

Yes, a person can be involuntarily committed in the United States, but it’s my understanding that the system is broader in Britain, which allows for commitment for illnesses like anorexia nervosa that put a person’s life at risk. In the United States, the criteria for commitment is set by individual states and is more focused on an individual’s civil rights and potential for harming or killing other people. A look at the number of people who have been recently killed by gun violence in the United States might offer a clue at the discrepancy between the U.S.’s system and Britain’s system.

Overall, I’m glad I read Good Girls. I know a lot of people with eating disorders might not like it and will protest that it lacks value due to its “dangerous and outdated” discussions of eating disorder treatments and theories from the early 90s. I would like to remind those readers that discussions about past treatments and theories are still worth reading about, if only because they provide a historic view of how things were handled in the past. History is useful, as it offers a look at where we’ve already been. This book isn’t a volume on how to treat eating disorders in 2023, although it does include some commentary from healthcare professionals of today. It’s mostly a memoir, and should be regarded as such.

On a side note… maybe one distressing side effect of reading Good Girls is that Freeman mentions the fashion industry and certain models of the 1990s and 00s. Because of that, I fell down a rabbit hole, watching America’s Next Top Model. Talk about toxic! I’ve written about that show a few times, but I have a feeling this latest look will spawn some fresh content… particularly after I watched Cycle 8, which starred Renee Alway and the late Jael Strauss. I hadn’t watched ANTM in years, but I’m hooked again, and I think it merits some discussion. So stay tuned, if that piques your interest.

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blog news, home, musings

One hit wonders in the blogosphere…

Good Thursday to you all. Bill arrived home yesterday afternoon, just as I was baking a refrigerator clearing casserole. You know the kind, right? When you have a bunch of stuff in your fridge that needs to be used up before it rots, you think of creative ways to use the stuff. In yesterday’s case, I made an Italian inspired baked pasta dish of sorts.

I boiled half a bag of penne pasta, then cooked the last bit of breakfast sausage and a little bacon, added some peppers and a smidge of onions and garlic, then added tomato sauce and cheese. I mixed all of that stuff together with some basil and oregano, and a little dash of cayenne pepper. Then I threw the mixture into my cast iron pot, sprinkled with cheese, and baked it. It turned out very nicely, and was ready just as Bill was changing his clothes.

Last night, we put a new mattress topper on the bed. I don’t know what got into me last month. I decided I was tired of waking up with a sore back, so I ordered a new foam rubber topper, which I figured would be better than the featherbed we have. It took a lot to decide which one to buy, but after the first night, I can say that my back was not nearly as achy this morning. I also put the featherbed on it, mainly because I don’t have anywhere to put it.

The new topper and featherbed makes the bed very tall. Arran was already having difficulty when the bed was made up with the duvet. Now, it’s impossible for him to jump up there by himself. I ordered him some steps yesterday, although I don’t know how long he’ll get to use them. The vet found another mass on him yesterday. But again… he’s still bright eyed and hungry, so we’ll keep taking care of him. I’m sure the steps will come in handy again eventually.

I also ordered some new lighting for my office and the bedroom, after watching Katie Wenger on Meet the Wengers yesterday. Her daughter has this really cool night light that lights the room up with stars. I never had a night light when I was a child, but my former friend did. I didn’t like them back then, but as an adult I can now see their value. And I like the idea of stars on the ceiling without actually having to use glow in the dark stickers. 😉

Now… what’s today’s title about?

Lately I’ve been getting a lot more blog traffic. Once again, it’s because someone must have shared my post about Amber and Daniel Carter. Most of the traffic is going to those two posts, the first of which happened to come up because I watched a French documentary about the “half-housed” in the United States. The second post in which I mentioned Amber was after someone left me a comment wanting an update. I don’t actually know anything about Amber or Daniel Carter, other than what’s available online. I have no connection with that case. I’m just as curious as everyone else is. Actually, I’m less so, because I’ve long since moved on from that post. People are intrigued by true crime, though.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written a “one hit wonder”. I guess, technically, that doesn’t make me a one hit wonder. 😉 Nine years ago, I wrote a post on my music blog about Richard Carpenter’s daughter, Mindi Carpenter. That post, on my least popular blog, is probably far and away my most popular post, EVER. At this writing, it has well over 122,000 hits. It also has 31 comments, several of which comes from someone who INSISTS that Richard Carpenter and his wife, Mary (who is also his cousin), are closely blood related.

The official story is that Mary Carpenter was adopted, so she and Richard, though legal first cousins, have no blood ties. This person who has commented several times, insists that she was not adopted. I don’t know Richard or Mary, and as they’ve had five healthy children who are now adults, I don’t see why it’s anyone’s business if they’re blood relatives. Richard and Mary maintain that Mary was adopted. As far as I’m concerned, that should be the end of it.

I think the main reason why inbreeding is frowned upon is because of the possibility of birth defects. It’s pretty plain to me that wasn’t an issue with Richard and Mary and their children. So, honestly, who cares? They’ve been married since 1984, so obviously, the marriage works, even if some people think it’s “weird”. I say leave them alone.

The funny thing is, the original post was about Mindi Carpenter, who is a singer. I’m sure a lot of people come to the post wanting to know if Mindi sounds like her Aunt Karen. In my opinion, she really doesn’t. To me, she sounds less like a pop star with an extraordinary voice, and more like someone in musical theater. Some of the comments are about Mindi’s voice, but too many come from someone who seems obsessed with the “truth” about Richard and Mary.

I’ve noticed that post getting so many hits over the years. I wanted to try something a few years ago, when Merrill Osmond’s son, Troy, died unexpectedly. I wrote about him, and noticed my post got a lot of hits. So I wrote a post about what Troy and Mindi had in common. Sure enough… lots of hits. But then I moved my blog, and decided not to move that post… at least not at this point in time. I didn’t move it because I didn’t see the point. I had written it as an experiment. The experiment is over now.

One final post that I notice gets a lot of hits is one I wrote about Karen Carpenter and Christy Henrich. I noticed that Dr. Todd Grande on YouTube did a video about Karen Carpenter. I wondered if maybe he shouldn’t do one about Christy Henrich, since she was a fascinating person who died much too young of anorexia nervosa. Henrich, for those who don’t know, was a very promising gymnast in the 1980s. She missed the Olympic team by the tiniest of margins, and then tragically fell very ill with her eating disorders. Her story is a very sad, cautionary one… and I just thought it would make for a good topic for Dr. Grande to cover. Lots of people hit my blog to read my post about that subject, which kind of proves my theory that it would be interesting and successful. But then, I don’t know… maybe it wouldn’t. I write a lot about eating disorders, and get a lot of hits on my posts about that– and fundie Christians, too.

It always intrigues me to see what people on the Internet want to read. On my travel blog, I get tons of hits on the few posts I’ve written about nude spas. I also get a lot of hits on my posts about the differences I’ve noticed between living in Wiesbaden and Stuttgart (and there are surprisingly many). Some people also arrive wanting to read about living here as a contractor versus someone in the military. I can only offer opinions as an observant spouse with a husband who isn’t reticent about his experiences working with the military in Germany. But people are interested in those posts, too. They don’t care about my experiences on day trips or vacations. 😉 I think that’s a shame, since Bill and I have had some pretty amazing experiences.

Besides my posts on Amber Carter, this blog also gets a lot of hits on my posts about domestic discipline and corporal punishment, as well as book reviews about sex related subjects. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised… What I find interesting, most other people don’t! Story of my life!

Well… anyway, I just think it’s interesting. Obviously, people come here for the subject matter, not the writing. Maybe I should relax and stop editing as much as I do, hours or days after I post.

Oh… and I also notice where people come from. I have a surprising number of European readers, although I also get hits from the States. It always intrigues me when someone hits from a place I used to live… especially when they come from the town where I was raised from the age of eight. The other places, I didn’t live in long enough to make that much of a difference. But I still have lots of friends in Gloucester, Virginia, even if I have long since moved on from there, and so have my parents.

I didn’t get around to practicing guitar yesterday, so I think I’ll sign off now and play my instrument… maybe I’ll even do a music video. Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, so perhaps I should honor my Celtic heritage. We shall see.

Until tomorrow, y’all. Sayonara.

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