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.

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

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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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movies, religion, true crime

Jennifer Grey as Gwen Shamblin Lara? Genius!

Now that I’ve gotten my latest editorial out of my system, it’s time for another review of a Lifetime movie. I have written a few reviews of Lifetime movies. If you’re a regular reader, you might already know that, in general, I’m not really a fan of the way Lifetime TV tells stories via its movies. I find that they’re usually heavily watered down and given inappropriate comedic spins, particularly when it comes to true crime. Nevertheless, I decided to watch the Lifetime Movie adaptation of Gwen Shamblin Lara’s life after seeing Jen review it on YouTube’s Fundie Fridays. Below is her excellent review…

I didn’t even know about this until I saw Jen’s video…

Gwen Shamblin Lara, for those who don’t know, is famous for starting her own church after writing a very successful Christian weight loss book in the 1990s. She later got very rich, let success go to her head, and died before her natural time in May 2021, when Gwen’s second husband, Joe Lara, crashed the plane he was piloting when Gwen and her entourage in it. Gwen’s church was notable, as it focused a lot on image and weight loss. It was also notable for its emphasis on the so-called importance of physically disciplining children. I wrote about Gwen Shamblin Lara’s championing of using glue sticks in corporal punishment sessions. You can read that post here.

The Lifetime TV movie about Gwen Shamblin Lara is called Starving for Salvation. It stars Jennifer Grey as Gwen. Yes, Jennifer Grey, as in the very same one who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in Dirty Dancing, back in 1987. She is unrecognizable in this movie about a weight loss guru. Mad props to the hair and makeup crew, as well as the wardrobe professionals, for making Grey into such an incredibly realistic replica of the real person. But not only did Jennifer Grey look the part, she also sounded like she was born and raised in Tennessee, which is where Gwen was from. I really thought she did a great job in this movie, especially given that it’s a Lifetime production.

The story itself, as presented by Lifetime, is typically pretty watered down. Remember, it’s a cable TV channel putting this together, and they have time constraints, viewers, and advertisers to appease, so they can’t be too graphic about what they present to the masses. I suspect the real story behind the Remnant Fellowship Church is a lot weirder and disturbing than what is presented in Lifetime’s film, which is typically campy.

Remember, Josef Smith, a young boy, died because his parents followed Gwen’s discipline advice. Josef and Sonya Smith, the boy’s parents, are now sitting in prison in Georgia, having both been sentenced to life plus thirty years on February 12, 2007, which would have been the younger Josef’s 12th birthday. In the movie, this notorious and horrifying incident is a bit glossed over, because there’s a lot of ground to cover in the time allotted for the movie. I found Jennifer Grey’s performance entertaining enough that I wonder if this movie shouldn’t have been a two part miniseries. I bet people would have watched it.

Gwen Shamblin Lara apparently suffered from eating disorders. I will not say that she definitely did, since I’m not a doctor, but I do think the signs and symptoms were all there. I saw clips of her preaching, wearing dresses that were obviously way too big for her. According to the Lifetime treatment of Gwen’s story, Gwen went from being a sweet, demure Christian lady who taught college to a megalomaniacal religious wingnut. She also tried to force her employees to join her church. It reminds me a little of Dave Ramsey’s organization, that is very intrusive into people’s personal lives.

I know there is a documentary/other movie in the works about Gwen Shamblin Lara. I will try to watch it if I can, but what I’d really like to see is a very well researched book about her… one that doesn’t water down or sugar coat anything.

Anyway, as Lifetime movies go, Starving for Salvation is pretty decent. I even watched it on my computer, rather than Apple TV (which is giving me errors on new content). I couldn’t wait for the issue to be fixed before I saw the movie. People are obviously looking for comments about Grey’s turn as the weight loss “prophetess” (as they called her in the movie).

I also highly recommend watching Fundie Fridays’ review of this movie, which goes into a lot more detail than mine does. This is obviously a very campy treatment of the story… and some people might find it disrespectful. I did see one person who was involved in the church commenting on Jen’s review. The person said that movies like this cheapen the terrible experiences Gwen’s victims had. That may be true… but let’s face it, Gwen was a pretty bizarre character, and movies about such people are often entertaining as hell.

I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a book that gives this story a more serious treatment. In the meantime, I would recommend this movie, especially if you want to be entertained. Just don’t think too hard about what the victims endured.

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book reviews, fashion

Reviewing The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir, by Andre Leon Talley…

As I recently mentioned in my review of model Paulina Porizkova’s memoir, I don’t really follow fashion much. I decided to download the late Andre Leon Talley’s book, The Chiffon Trenches, because I like true stories. Talley published his book in May 2020, just a couple of months after the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. Amazon tells me I downloaded it in February 2021, probably after I read several sad articles about how Andre Leon Talley’s life was in a downward spiral as former friends were trying to evict him from his home in White Plains, New York. He had fallen on hard times after a long and storied career as a flamboyant fashion editor for Vogue, where for decades, he regularly rubbed elbows with famous friends like Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour, Yves St. Laurent, and Oscar de la Renta.

An item about Talley’s book and the legal dispute regarding his eviction from his home.

But, again, I don’t follow fashion much. I only knew about Andre Leon Talley from watching America’s Next Top Model, a reality TV show by supermodel Tyra Banks. I watched ANTM, not because I care about fashion, but because I enjoyed the ridiculous antics of young women stuck in a house together. Andre Leon Talley had temporarily brought some “legitimacy” to ANTM, when he served as a judge in cycles 14 through 17. He charmed me with his warmth and intelligence, although I had no idea that the man was considered a huge fashion icon. Sadly, by the time he died on January 18, 2022, he literally was huge, as he had battled an eating disorder for years. On January 18, 2022, Mr. Talley was a victim of a heart attack and COVID-19, which took his life at age 73.

He was much beloved by his fashion friends, in spite of his comments to the contrary.

Though it took me almost two years to get around to reading The Chiffon Trenches, I’m glad I finally did it. Having read his book, I understand why Talley was such a highly regarded editor for Vogue. I only knew him from television, which was not where he was in his element. As a judge on a show with Tyra Banks, it’s not like he would have had a chance to share much. Tyra Banks is not one for sharing the limelight. I suspect he took the job with ANTM because he badly needed the money. And yet, he still managed to handle the job with grace.

So who was Andre Leon Talley?

Andre Leon Talley was born October 16, 1948 in Washington, DC to his parents, Alma Ruth Davis and William C. Talley. His maternal grandmother, Binnie Francis Davis, raised him in racially segregated Durham, North Carolina. She worked at Duke University as a cleaning lady, and raised Andre with good, southern food and lots of church. Talley rarely saw his parents; they would divorce when he was eleven years old. France and the French language, fascinated Andre Leon Talley. He went to North Carolina Central University and majored in French literature, graduating in 1970. Because he excelled in his undergraduate studies, Talley won a scholarship to Brown University. There he earned a Master of Arts in French literature in 1972. Talley initially had plans to earn a doctoral degree and teach French for a living.

While he was at Brown, Talley befriended some students from nearby Rhode Island School of Design. Eventually, through his friends from that school, Talley met and impressed French-American fashion columnist Diana Vreeland. By 1974, he had abandoned his plans for a doctorate and was apprenticing for her, unpaid, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eventually, through Vreeland, Talley worked for famed American artist Andy Warhol. Working for Warhol led to stints at Women’s Wear Daily and W magazines, where he met and wrote about fashion designers and models. He further sharpened his skills at Ebony and The New York Times. Finally, he reached the pinnacle of his career when he worked for Vogue. He made history in 1988, when he became the first black male creative director for Vogue.

Andre Leon Talley co-authored the book, MegaStar, with Richard Bernstein in 1984. In 2003, he penned his first autobiography, A.L.T.: A Memoir. In 2005, he published ALT 365+, an artistic photographic look at 365 days of Talley’s life. Out magazine ranked Talley 45th in its 2007 list of the “50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America”. However, in 2018, when asked about his sexual orientation on The Wendy Williams Show, Talley claimed to be “gender fluid”. According to The Chiffon Trenches, Talley was never one for having a lot of sex or using drugs, anyway. Talley was very devoted to his work, which he claimed “saved his life”. He watched many of his more promiscuous friends and former colleagues die of AIDS in the 1980s and 90s.

In later years, he did extensive work with Savannah College of Art and Design. There is even an annual award named after him at the school. My nephew is currently a student there.

My thoughts on The Chiffon Trenches

After reading Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, Things I Should Have Said, Andre Leon Talley’s book is like a cool drink. He really was an excellent writer– witty, engaging, and intelligent, and sometimes very funny. I was fascinated by the foreign world Talley wrote of, involving creative, eccentric, and fabulously wealthy and stylish people. There were people Talley wrote of I didn’t know; his descriptions of them were so interesting that I took the time to research them on Google. He also wrote about people everybody knows, like Elton John, Princess Diana, and Mariah Carey. Talley enjoyed a long friendship with the late Lee Bouvier Radziwell, to whom he dedicated his book.

NBC’s tribute to Talley.

One person I never saw mentioned even once is Tyra Banks, nor does he mention ANTM. However, Talley does write some lovely comments about Naomi Campbell, who is famously regarded as one of Tyra’s nemeses. I noticed that Tyra Banks posted a tribute to Talley after his death last year. I don’t know why he didn’t comment about Banks, but it probably had to do with legal considerations. Paulina Porizkova didn’t mention her in her book, either.

The Chiffon Trenches is an easy and entertaining read. I got the sense that I’d probably enjoy Talley’s company. We could bond over our mutual love of southern food. He genuinely seemed like a kind, warm, decent person, shaped by his formative years in the South. Andre Leon Talley grew up during the Jim Crow era, but he literally towered over his humble beginnings and became “somebody”. Even a non fashion follower, as I am, has heard his name. That’s really something special.

However, although I enjoyed Talley’s book, I noticed that he was pretty bitter about some things. Talley repeatedly writes about his long friendships with Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour, and how they both cruelly “cast him out”. If I were to go only on his stories, I might be left with the idea that everyone in the fashion world is racist, superficial, and unkind. And yet, even as he complains about being ditched by his friends, he writes about how Anna Wintour staged an intervention for him and got Vogue to pay for his weight loss treatment three times!

Talley writes that his problems with binge eating intensified after his beloved grandmother died. He overate to drown the sorrows of bereavement, as well as to dull the pain of abuses he suffered as a child. Talley went from being tall and rail thin to a mountain of a man, forced to wear bespoke caftans. He could no longer dress like a fashion icon. Anna Wintour legitimately tried to help him. That sounds like something a good friend does. But she must have also realized that Talley was an addict, and the best way to help an addict is not to enable the damaging behaviors. I’m sure it was very painful for Wintour to separate herself from Talley’s drama. It would have been one thing if Anna Wintour had dumped him when he first gained weight, but she didn’t do that.

Talley might have more of a case against Karl Lagerfeld, whom he describes as extremely generous, yet very eccentric. When Talley met Lagerfeld in the 70s, the fashion icon gifted him with silk tunics. Talley said that if you were in Lagerfeld’s life, he dressed you. And he writes of how his old friend would routinely fly his friends in private jets to his sumptuous homes. He’d give them rare and expensive antiques, only to ask for them back again. Still, as strange as that behavior sounds to me, I couldn’t help but wonder what Lagerfeld would say about Talley.

I also noticed that Talley complained a lot about racism, but he was in an industry that embraces people who are different. Andre Leon Talley worked in a creative field populated by eccentric people, many of whom are not heterosexual. He worked with women of all shades and orientations. Yes, racism is a huge issue, and of course it needs to be addressed, but Talley worked in a career where being Black was no doubt less of a problem for him. He had an enviable life that most people can only fantasize about, regardless of their race or gender. His complaints about the lack of diversity in the fashion world are probably more on point. He does make some damning comments about Wintour not pushing diversity as much as she could have.

Although I can understand why Talley mentions racism, I wouldn’t say that he was a person who suffered extensively from it in his career. From what I can tell, he was highly revered and respected. In fact, I’ll bet in the fashion world, he was mistreated more for being a very fat man. But even his weight was accommodated by his friends. He writes about his fashion designer friends designing caftans for him. Naomi Campbell even managed to get him to Nigeria, where he helped promote Black fashion designers. Talley hadn’t wanted to go at first, due to his physical condition and enormous size. Naomi made it happen, and he was able to visit Africa, something he claims that even Black person wishes to do. Personally, I wouldn’t assume that every Black person wants to go to Africa, but Talley would certainly know about that more than I would. Below is what he wrote:

It is the wish and desire of every black human being to see Africa at some point before they die. But at seventy, highly overweight, and in poor health, it seemed a tall order for me. If only one person on God’s green earth could pull it off, it would be Naomi Campbell. I said yes and she said she would be in touch soon to sort out the details.

Talley, André Leon. The Chiffon Trenches (p. 239). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It was obvious to me that Talley was not expecting to die so soon after publishing his book. Throughout the manuscript, he writes about the funerals of friends. Sometimes he was surprised to be invited to the more exclusive memorial services. More than once, he writes about how he envisioned his own death. But it’s clear that he thought he would live beyond 73 years of age. Frankly, given how obese he was, I’m surprised he lived that long.

Overall

I heartily recommend The Chiffon Trenches to anyone interested in reading about fashion, or just those who enjoy books about real people. Andre Leon Talley lived through the “golden age” of fashion. He refers to himself and some of his former colleagues as “dinosaurs”. But they worked in fashion in a bygone era. Talley seems sad about how the glory days of fashion are seemingly gone. People no longer have huge expense accounts and stay at The Ritz. The whole medium as changed, as fewer people buy print magazines. It’s all online now, and a famous YouTuber might be doing what skilled writers and editors like Talley used to do.

In spite of his occasional bitterness, Andre Leon Talley was a true giant in the fashion world. He was larger than life on many levels. Writing and editing were truly Talley’s vocations. It’s sad to me that his life ended with so much controversy and rancor among his friends. He deserved better. At least Anna Wintour went to his funeral.

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