Advocacy: Lets Help Amanda Baggs

Long ago when I first started this blog I received comments from several people. It startled me. THe idea people would read this blog. Then I had to put it away and found out people didn’t quit following. So with that in mind I am writing the first advocacy post in two years. A great deal of what I learned about advocacy I learned from Amanda Baggs. She was kind enough to email with me for a short period when I had just survived my exhusband and I found comfort in her words. I was able to keep going because I did not feel alone. I didn’t feel trapped by all the things in my mind or the way I see and think anymore. Amanda is one of the most powerful advocates I have met, not in the sense others see power but in her effect that I can see.

These links are PTSD trigger alerts. Simply put, Amanda has been tortured by the hospital that should have helped her and is being bullied into a dangerous and potentially deadly situation. Here are the links and they do include how you can help. Sharing this post or these links will also help.

http://paulacdurbinwestbyautisticblog.blogspot.com/2013/04/no-anesthesia-for-disabled-woman.html

http://webmuskie.tumblr.com/ This tumblr has an entire series of documentation posts about the event. This is the first hand source of the info.

Please do what you can to help Amanda get her needs met and not be punished for the malpractice of her medical team. I am going to go curse into a corner and figure out how to make the calls around my brain tomorrow.

Update: I redid the links to the blogs, they should both be working now. I am not sure why they weren’t since the links are the exact same. If issues persist please let me know.

 

Beauty

I am tired of the stereotype of beauty. I grew up being told that a girl should like men who look like Brad Pitt. I like women with soft lush curves, big and strong ones too. Many would consider my past conquests masculine, or overly thin, or fat. No one type fits what I like. I too have “strange” preferences for the men I have dated and these too tend towards those with meat on their bones, they have body hair, they are dark skinned, fair skinned, or really just alive.

Most of them, but not all, are tall. With either sex I tend to reach out for the taller people, though tall has changed in meaning since the wheelchair entered my life. I can’t look up at my baby brother without hurting my neck. He sits down for me, and still towers above. He is about seven feet tall. I love height because my family is full of tall people, except my own biological father. I associate height with safety. What does this mean about the other standards of beauty? Are we all programmed to like certain things?

Yes!

A huge part of my persecution in this life has been based on facets of my physical appearance. I have red hair, very pale skin that burns the instant sun touches it, soft full lips, and I have always had curves. My smallest size is a fourteen. I was barely eating to maintain that. My body needs meat on it. I am simply a curvaceous woman. I do have an ample bosom as well, and all of these things have been picked at.

I grew up being told I should be blonde. Blonde meant perfection. I hardly find blondes attractive as a result. I am aware that most of my siblings and my own mother are all blonde, and this factors in too. I think Blue Eyes are the best, though any shade is lovely to me. Blue eyes were mocked, because they are pale. Being a minority as a white person is very rare in any part of the world, the patriarchal structure still dominates and is usually white, even in countries where white is the minority. I have always been told my pale skin makes me wealthy. Whiteness in my state is a status symbol.

In India women who are by nature in the darker end of the spectrum are considered harder to marry off, they have less value based on something as simple as their genetic make up. The lighter you are, the more respect you can gain. This is White Privilege. It has defaced an entire culture, this love of all things white has poisoned us. You see whiteness in media, dominantly with able bodied super muscular WHITE men. You see their blonde perfection everywhere. I think back to the Nazi Propaganda studies group I was a member of in High School, and that is what I see. Reflections of past propaganda, continued, accepted, and fully realized.

Curly hair is considered disheveled. Girls with curly hair wake up at odd hours to iron their hair out. I think it is lovely, and my standard of beauty includes the use of a curling iron to add curls to my hair. This is rare, the era of the Super Perm died out at the end of the Eighties, except for a few hold outs.

I am told I must wear make up to seem presentable. I do, at times like to wear make up but I do it when it feels good. Usually I will also hide some of my facial scars under make up, if I cannot shake my feelings of Paranoia. I do not allow myself to wear make up on days when my self worth is being questioned, or when my confidence would hinge only on sultry red lips.

As I write this I am watching a movie that has what I consider the equivalent of Black Face. Sophia Loren is the Millionairess, Peter Sellers is the Indian Doctor who teaches her how to be more than a spoiled snob. This movie is full of propaganda that is anti woman, anti persons of color. I was enjoying it until I realized the fallacy that a white man is playing an Indian, with hardly any alteration of skin color and a very cliched accent.

I also note that the famed figure of Sophia Lauren seems to be aided via a corset. I might be wrong, but the extremes to her figure seem to need assistance. It doesn’t feel natural to me, though it does fit the “standard of beauty”. Her hair is lightened a bit, and of course she is always shown in posh and polished appeal during this film.

I do not think Brad Pitt is handsome. I think he is mediocre. This is all about looks, not his acting. I will not malign someone for having a career. I will however state that I do not understand the requirement to find him attractive. If you want to know who I find attractive in Hollywood, you will have to dig deep. There are few people that strike me as gorgeous or stunning, especially since we have entered the Anorexia Age of Hollyweird. Health is beautiful. That inner glow of self acceptance can make anyone gorgeous.

Since my blossoming into awareness about privilege I have seen more beauty in the world. This side effect shocked me. I like to compliment people when I find them attractive, and I have had the urge to tell the entire world how beautiful it is. The beauty I see is nothing like what is in the Movies or on Television. I live in a world of diversity. The people I see daily are of mixed race, from other countries, and their voices alone are a rhythmic song.

I am not beautiful by the overly BMI oriented modern sensibilities. I never will be. I’d have to break my bones, cut my body apart, inject myself with dye, and lose my sense of self. (This statement does not mean that those who naturally fit this standard are not beautiful, it is merely a rejection of the expectation to alter myself to be just like them) I reject the need to starve myself to fit a rare body type. I reject the fashion industry’s expectation that “fat” women do not like Fashion. I LOVE clothes shopping, and am discovering that I could easily spend a million dollars on cute shoes. These are cliches about womanhood, and yet you will find I only have four pairs of shoes, two for winter, two for summer. My clothing is all rather sensible, black, and boring.

I am pigeon holed by my lack of thinness. I am trapped by the need for others to stigmatize those who are not identical to them. I am not a Stepford Cripple, I am not anything but a person. I am flesh, I am bone, and I have soul. You are beautiful. My friend who is an immigrant is beautiful. I love listening to her voice, the way that she sings while she speaks entrances me. My friend who is the son of immigrants is beautiful. He cannot see that because his world is full of hatred, hatred of the Other.

I discuss privilege with my friends. It is an unavoidable conversation now. Eventually it is addressed either by discussion of politics, feminism, or simply the venting of frustration. I no longer hide my beliefs, to survive until the next day. I am free to speak them. Most of the time these conversations hold a similar impact, someone learns something. We all do really. My friends are all shapes and sizes. I have friends who are thin, blonde, and blue eyed. I have friends who are extraordinarily fat, but give hugs that are so soft. I have friends of every shape, size, mental capacity, and ability. My friends are all beautiful. You are beautiful.

Stop stigmatizing people for not being clones. Clones are scary, according to the media pundits and science fiction. Every time the word cloning is mentioned on TV it is with the hush of fear. Disability also has that hush of fear. Stop being afraid. Fear stops you from living life. This doesn’t mean you should ignore some fears, such as the fear of hunger or the fear of a snake bite. Stop fearing things that are different. If you do not understand something, educate yourself. Don’t fear it. Don’t shun it.

This includes fine art, not so fine art, but most especially people. Children are people. Women are people. I see often abuse launched at those who are different. I experience it every time I go out. I was reminded however, of the power of kindness and decorum.

I write often about the importance of gentle resistance, passive resistance, and not striking back. I admit I fail this way at times but, every so often I am given the reminder I need, the proof that I am right. I had transferred out of my chair at Sam’s Club, into the van and rolled down the window. Beside me a harried mother of two beautiful children, her disabled mother, and a cart of groceries struggled. I watched in silence, until they were about to leave, calling out to the woman that her mother had forgotten her cane.

Her son looked up as she thanked me, glad to not have to spend another twenty five dollars on a cane, and said, “Mommy, that’s the lady from the Walmart with the kitty!” His mother paused and said, “She was on TV too.” We talked then, and I complimented her for handling the stress. I could see she was frazzled, and I let her kids talk to Sprite while she settled them in. No petting of course, but, I told her how beautiful her family is. Three words. “You have a beautiful family.” Okay, five. I never was good with numbers.

She froze, looked at her kids, and then smiled. “I wish everyone could see that.” The thing I have not mentioned is this. Her children are Triracial. They are of Asian, African, and Caucasian Descent. I wanted to take them home with me, their sweetness gave me a rare pang of desire for Motherhood. It went away before we were out of the parking lot, but not the reminder that everything you do has a lasting impression. Every word, Every laugh, Every shout, every time you teach someone something. There is impact.

What draws me to people is never what they look like. It is instead their personality, the joy they have for life, and sometimes the hope that I can grow up to be like them. I may never grow up. I am always surprised when I realize for a moment I am not a child anymore. It fades, but, that too reminds me to be innocent.

Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. It is not what media tells us it should be. Beauty is merely in the existence of life. Flowers, Puppies, kittens, children, lovers. All beautiful. Be you a Homosexual, Transgendered, A person of non Caucasian ethnicity, red haired, blonde haired, black haired, green haired, or even a strange shade of orange. You are beautiful.

Corned Beef Homelessness

I was humming “The Rising of the Moon,” today and remembering Saint Padraig’s Days past. Part of it was the entire discordance in my body, the rest of it was a mixture of too much green and random facts about Saint Pats. I had seizures all day, starting directly after the TVC Toastmaster’s Meeting began. This left me exhausted, and my mind was not on the evaluation.

I still did my best, but, instead of baseball I wanted to think about the children i used to know. When I was homeless, at the first shelter I was running under the presumption that there was no joy to be had there, no safety, no happiness, no love. So far this had been proven correct, until I woke up on Saint Patrick’s Day Morn. This was about four years ago, I was all alone in the world. What woke me was a soft bundle of skin clinging to me tightly, crying.

The little girl was blind, and could not tell where her mommy was, and I felt nice and safe. So, sitting up I carefully ran a hand down her back and asked her what her mother’s name was. It was an hour before wake up call, and the girl had just gone to the bathroom, but her mommy had left her there, or so she thought. I put my shoes on and forced my body to move. Once I had my footing we walked to the bathroom, through the snow, my coat wrapped around the girl. I was cold, but, she was smaller and I decided she likely needed it more than I did.

I could hear someone calling, “Maggie?” In the darkness, I could not see but I could hear her. “I hear my Mommy!” The relief filled the child and she wanted to run off, but was afraid because this was their first night at the Shelter and she had fallen a few times, trying to find her mother. We made it to the bathroom, over 500 yards from the main building. Her mother was in tears when she saw her child and scooped her up. “I thought you were gone forever.” They said this in unison. I took my coat, her mother had hers, and wrapped myself in it, creeping back to bed.

I tried to go back to sleep but it was too late for extra rest. Still, I reasoned this wouldn’t be a big deal. They often treated women like garbage there, I am certain they still do. This day was different, if you could ignore the fact that the men had a restroom inside the main building and did not have to go outside with wet hair, they even had six toilets instead of just two and theirs was accessible. I couldn’t ignore it but was told if I so much as protested I would be out with no shelter.

When we cleared the floor, set the tables and had our breakfast, a bowl of sugary cereal each, the children came in. They rarely got breakfast, unless someone saved it for them, first come first serve, and children without a home are just as reticent to leave their warm beds as those with. I often saved my cereal for a child, and this morning I presented it to Maggie, after it turned out there was no more food. She recognized my voice and told her mother I was the nice lady who had saved her. I smiled for the first time, since losing my home. For a moment I didn’t hurt so much either. Then my stomach started whining at me, it wasn’t hungry it was just the sheer amount of allergens I had to eat in order to not die. The knife’s edge I walked on had become narrower and more harrowing.

I pulled on the very shirt I wore today, one of the few I managed to salvage. It was my only green at that point. I let my hair down, liking how it felt. I felt pretty again, a first since my back injury and homelessness. I wanted to dance, though I did not trust my legs for that. Then the staff asked for volunteers to run arts and crafts. The adults all grumbled, no one wanted to bother with the kids. I raised my hand. I have this strange reaction to chances to do things, I usually say yes.

There were acrylic paints, glitter glues, glitter, glue, and a lot of paper. I was given the one pair of scissors and we set out to work. Maggie was the first to want to try something, so, I helped her cut out clover and let her smear the glue all over the paper. She was having a blast. I remember her laughter, “It’s gooey!” Her mother watched, but less carefully since I had returned her unharmed without knowing either of them. Another girl came over, then a boy, and they made green paper chains, then, on white paper we painted leprechauns. Soon, the entire building was covered in green.

That smile kept returning too. After the first chain was hung, a few of the men began to pin the decorations, growling out playfully, “We need more green over here.” Smiling as one of the kids ran a decoration over, the smiles started to spread. By the time the annual news cameras came, filming us just to show how great the people who run the place are everyone was smiling. I remember the reporter, a short man with a puce tie, muttering, “Why are they so damned happy? Don’t they know they are homeless?”

As we sat down, a kind man bringing me a plate as I had begun to fall over again I realized why I was happy. I had stopped focusing for one day on my homelessness, and had instead focused on making someone else happy. I wanted to make sure that those kids had a happy day. I wanted to see their smiles. It was cold out, snowing, but inside the warmth of family and friends was found. I also had the first meal that was not going to make me sick since arriving there. Corned Beef with a side of freshly mashed potatoes. There was enough for everyone, a rarity there. I even was allowed seconds on the meat and potatoes.

I hid from the camera, this was helped by the smile that would not abate, I could not stop grinning. After all, the children were laughing, our temporary home felt like a home for once and until it was time to sleep no one fought, there was no need to try to steal food, and we were all content. The next morning there was no green, just the cold snow. There was too little food once more and it all went back to being a gray existence, dull and painful. Except, that I still felt happy.

My happiness was not permanent, yet, my acceptance that I could feel happiness made it easier to exist in a state of contentment. Without that day, I might very well have been too depressed to fight for survival a month later, when I nearly froze to death. That shelter is a special hell, for those in need, for those who no one cares enough about. It is not up to code, safe, and they do not try to make you safe or happy. It was merely a whim that lead to that one day, a kindness so rarely given.

As more and more families lose their homes, they head to shelters just like that one. Today, I remembered my own agony as I fondled a bit of green paint hidden just inside my sleeve, the paint stain is left over from that day. I too considered why I kept the shirt, and I realized despite it being a bit uncomfortable, always too warm , I keep it because this shirt has memories attached. It isn’t just the shade of green that sets my hair afire, smooths my skin, and makes me feel absolutely beautiful. The beauty I feel is instead in the subconscious associations with happiness.

When you have nothing, you still have your soul, your life, and the ability to love.
Happy Saint Padraig’s Day. May the road rise to meet you, your friends and family greet you, and love fill your heart today.

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