Dora Blume

Author

So, my dad thinks he can survive anything. He’s in his sixties and has had the attitude his entire life that he can tough out anything. It’s the boot-strapper attitude. “You pull up your bootstraps and keep going no matter what.” It’s why I have this ridiculous work ethic. Both myself and my brother have it. I am a full time English teacher and author. He has three jobs: a college basketball coach, a banker, and a bartender on the weekends. 

I always find it funny when my dad tells us we need to find time for a life. Especially when he tells me I work too hard writing those “damn” books. Or my favorite, “You need to set boundaries for teaching. You’re working too hard.” A psychologist might call this projection. 

See, my dad has owned a business of some sort all my life and most of his. The last thing he did was work as an owner operator, aka truck driver. He worked for himself, so he could work as hard as he wanted to. He’s retired now and has filled his life with all kinds of projects. (One day I came home from teaching and my deck was gone. Literally, gone! He then informed me that I needed a new one, and I had to go buy supplies so he could start on it right away.) 

His mind lately is always on what he’s making for dinner. He has begun watching cooking shows and likes to try new things. (I don’t mind, I get invited to dinner.) The problem is that he thinks he has to go to the store everyday to get the ingredients for his new dish. 

Under normal circumstances, this would be fine. I get it, he’s bored. If you want to go to the store everyday, go for it. (Did I mention, he cooks for me? Such a wonderful dad.) 

We’re in the middle of a pandemic! 

He has COPD and spent last year in the hospital after a hypertension incident that almost killed him. (It mirrored a stroke because his blood pressure got so high.) The nurses who saw him when we brought him to the emergency room thought they would never see him again. He was catatonic. Yet, somehow, against all odds, he made it. He’s doing better than ever. (Thanks to some amazing doctors and nurses at Mayo.) 

So everyday we’ve had some form of the argument,

“Dad, you can’t go out. You need to stay home.” 

He grumbles that Covid isn’t gonna get him, he has things to do. Blah, Blah, Blah. 

(I’ve heard similar conversations from a few of my friends, so I have a feeling many millenials are having this conversation with their boomer parents.)

Yesterday was a classic. 

We were watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding. (I had a small existential crisis when Tula was sitting in between her two parents watching TV. Oh my God, I need a life! See picture below.)  

I would like to mention before I go into it, that I bought the house across the street from my parents so I could help them. My mom has never driven a car, and my dad used to be a truck driver, gone for weeks at a time. My mom’s twin lives next door to her. We’re a pretty close knit family. 

Here’s how our conversation went: 

Dad, “I got to go to the store.”

Me, “No you don’t!”

Dad, yelling, “I need my pop and popcorn!”

Mom, “I think we need to make him a mask.”

Me, “I think we need to find the duct tape.”

Dad, pointing to the kitchen, “I got that, it’s in the drawer right there.”

Me, “I don’t think you thought through telling me where you keep the duct tape.”

I, of course, went to the store for him, again. I may have bought four twelve packs of pop and four large packs of popcorn. I swear if he asks me to go again in the next two weeks, I will use that duct tape. I love my father, but sometimes he can be a big kid. 

To all the grown-up kids trying to keep your stubborn fathers home. I salute you, may the odds be ever in your favor! Also, if you lose the argument, you know your dad is storing duct tape somewhere. That shit fixes everything, including a stubborn parent.  

I dance around my house daily. I mean if your going to clean you might as well dance while you do it. It makes the task so much more fun. (You’d think my house was much cleaner, it’s not.)

I love to dance.

So, when I went on a road trip with my brother and picked New Orleans as our destination I was super excited. I knew I would live it up, Curt style. I had taken a similar road trip shortly after high school and couldn’t wait to do it again.

First, we spent two nights in Nashville. I danced on the bar at Coyote Ugly. I’m not shy and I really like to have a good time. It was the end of our second night in Nashville. The bus would pick us up in front of Coyote Ugly, but we had time for one more drink. My brother liked that they had two-dollar beers. I liked the idea of dancing on the bar. Win-win.

The place was pretty dead, but it was a Monday. There were two other groups of people at the bar. The bartender was trying to get ladies to come up on the bar to dance. I agreed but had to run off to the restroom.quick. When I got back, there were two girls up there. One looked super nervous, shook her head and got back down quickly, leaving her friend all alone.

I jumped up on the bar and strutted over to her and started dancing next to her. She smiled wide, thanked me and we continued to dance. When the song was over, she joined her friends and I went with my brother. I was feeling pretty confident after dancing on the bar. It had been a spectacular night in Nashville.

A couple of nights later, we’d finally made it to New Orleans. After writing by the pool all day, I finished my novel in The Carousel Bar. I had timed my writing perfectly. I was feeling awesome after finishing, so it was time to go enjoy all that New Orleans had to offer. The food had already been spectacular, but I knew the city lived for its nightlife.

I said goodbye to my brother and ventured to Bourbon street. I hit every bar that was playing something good. I wandered into one packed bar. I had to push past people to get to the front. Which I normally hate to do, because I love having space. Yet, the music was perfect for dancing, and I just had to get up there to dance. These two beautiful ladies were singing and everyone was dancing. They were so good at it too. I learned shortly the group around me were from Brazil. I spent hours dancing with them. I loved the unabashed way they moved to the music. Sweat soaked through one guys collared business suit, but he didn’t care. He still danced. It was amazingly freeing to dance with them. They embraced me as a friend on the dance floor. I loved them immensely for it.

I had gotten some peculiar looks earlier in the evening while dancing. I tried talking to a few people with some polite, some not so polite, rebuffs. I love when a fat guy looks at me like, “why are you talking to me?” with such a condescending attitude. Like, sorry dude, I’m just trying to have a good time. I only asked a question. On the other hand, maybe they know I’m trouble. I got one guy to take a shot shortly after meeting him. He was super sweet and from Wales. I felt kinda bad ditching him when he was drunk, and completely out of his element. But I wanted to dance and he wanted to hold up the wall.

Okay, I know this was going somewhere…

Oh right, live like the Brazilians. Dance when you want to dance. Find ways to truly live everyday. I will definitely take their kindness and zest with me. So, next time you’re at a bar or whatever and the music starts to play. Dance like you don’t care if anyone is watching. Move all your beautiful jiggly bits. Don’t forget to have fun. We only have one life. Don’t let a little pudge get in the way of having a damn good time.

There are two things you need to understand about me.

First, I say exactly what I am thinking.

Second, I can sometimes be too nice.

Seems like a contradiction, right? Well let me explain. Oh, I’m also fat. It’s a thing. Sometimes, it causes problems. Sometimes, it’s hilarious. So, this weekend I was at an author signing. It was super cool and I met some interesting individuals. But it was also annoying for a fat girl like me. See, I took a spot in the middle. (I know poor planning on my part.) I was stuck in that spot for hours. If I wanted to leave I had to ask four people to move for me, just so I could squeeze my fat ass between the insignificant space between the chairs and the table. I mean, what the hell were they thinking. I stared at the damn pizza truck all day. I swear, there was drool pooling from my mouth at around three, two hours after the event started. By the time five rolled around, I had given up on eating entirely. Well, not entirely. I had thought about all the yummy places I could stop after leaving the signing. It was my only salvation as I sat their salivating.

This is where my second problem comes into play. I could have at any time asked the people next to me to get up so I could get through. I, being too nice, only left when they did. I had to get some hard cider. It was the reason I was there. You put books and hard cider together in one place and I will be there, guaranteed. What’s stupid is the people next to me were super cool and would have moved if I asked them to. I didn’t. (See, second problem.)

I still had a really good time. I joked about my fat girl problem every time I had to squeeze between the space to go back and sit in front of my books. I also drank plenty of hard cider, it was delicious. So, if you’re reading this and planning an event in the future. Please remember us bigger people, and maybe leave a little extra room.

Check out daily musings at my Fat Girl Problems Facebook Group.

So, I’m a teacher.

I love every minute of it. Even when that one beautiful students blurts out random things during the lesson. It’s not like you’re trying to impart anything important up here, in front of the class. I loved the reference I learned this year about the cat in the dog house. We all have them. We all love them a little bit more, because they need it.

I do a lot of workshop style reading and writing in my classroom. I’m having individual conferences with students everyday. I kneel down next to their desks every time they need help. I call them desk squats. It’s a great workout. On a good workshop day, my legs are burning at the end of the day. It’s great because that means I’ve helped a lot of students.

There’s only one problem with desk squats. Trying to fit between the rows can be difficult. I have thirty-two desks in my classroom. Currently, they’re in rows. There is maybe twelve to eighteen inches between the rows. Not much room for a girl like me. Fill those desks with students and forget about it.

I bump into desks, students or stuff everyday. At least my students are cool about it. When they know they’re in the way or they’ve blocked the aisle, they move for me. I have bruises on my hips and legs from the daily struggle.

My students laugh at me when I try to get around and can’t fit. I shrug, say, “Fat girl problems,” and keep moving on. I’ll stop at the beginning of the row and say, “y’all know I can’t fit through there.” I make a joke of it and laugh, cause that’s what I do. I love humor. It works well for me.

I watch videos from when I recorded myself student teaching. That classroom was smaller. Y’all I just don’t fit between the desks. I have to plan a route around my classroom everyday. I move the desks everyday. Those rows get narrower, every single day.

It’s okay though, we’ll start literature circles in a couple of weeks. I still won’t be able to move around the classroom without bumping into things. (It’s probably that I’m just a clutz on a daily basis.) It might be better. It might not. We’ll see.

Of course, it’s not going to stop me. I’ll be next to each students desk every day asking about what they’re reading or writing. I’ll be next to their desk helping them when they need it, even if they think they don’t I’ll be there. It’s what I do. It’s what all teachers do.

Even if I get a few bruises from the desks.  

So, I hate the gym.

Not because I don’t like exercising. I hate it because of the people who are always there. (Okay, I kinda hate the options for exercising at the gym, too.) There are three types of people at the gym. The first one is your cheerleader. They think they’re being super helpful by saying things like:

“It’s so good you’re here,” or “you go girl.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love positive people. These people are awesome and positive. But there’s that undercurrent of, “it’s good you’re here because you really need to be.” I understand they mean well but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. It’s their look that always gets me. It hovers somewhere between staring and gawking. It makes me uncomfortable every damn time.

I want to say, “focus on your own work out, would ya.”

The next type of person at the gym is the regular. They are the ones that give you the look. The one that asks:

“What the hell are you doing here?”

It’s their gym and they don’t want any of us there, taking up their space. I have heard the heavy sighs from these people as they watch me move from bicep curls to tricep extensions. They always have an air about them that I’m in their way. If I’m not in their way, they’re just dying to tell me I’m doing it wrong. Could be both. I’m pretty sure we all took the same gym class in which a gym teacher, wearing another tracksuit with crew socks over his pants, explained how to use each machine with painful precision. (Just me? Okay? No one should wear crew socks over your pants. Just saying…)  

This last group has two types. One is the normal regular who honestly works out for hours everyday. Not sure how they manage this but they are regulars, in every sense of the word. The other is the creeper. They are staring for entirely different reasons.

“Yes, I know my boobs are jiggling. Could you close your mouth please?”

I have bought sports bra after sports bra, they still jiggle. It’s a fact. Shit hurts sometimes. You will not see me running at the gym. First, why run? Ever? I’ve never been in that big of a hurry. Second, getting a boob slap to the face is not pleasant. So, no, I won’t be running, ever.

So, I work out. I just do so in the comfort of my own house or I take long hikes. I love the woods it’s so peaceful. I also love dance parties in my kitchen/living room because if you’re going to exercise you should have fun doing it. I’m not a hamster, I don’t need a “wheel” to get my exercise.

You want me to go to the gym?

Nope, not for me, but do what you gotta do.

So, as I write this post I am sitting in first class. I have to say that it’s nice, especially for someone like me. You see I’m a big girl. I take up space. In the past I have always sat in those tiny seats. My ass fitting but scrunched against the sides. Always pulling the seat belt all the way and hoping it buckles. The look on people’s faces when they realize you are sitting next to them. Ugh. It sucks. It’s humiliating. It hurts.

I’ve been a big girl for the last twenty years or so. I know what it’s like to live on both sides. When I was in my early twenties I was so small that people thought I was anorexic. Now people actually have the gall to suggest I eat a salad. Body shaming goes both ways but I digress.

I’m sitting in first class right now and for the first time I actually feel comfortable on a flight. It’s never happened before today. It’s awesome, too bad I had to pay a bunch of cash to finally feel comfortable in this scenario.

Let me tell you about my last experience flying. I booked a flight on Southwest Airlines not knowing that the sooner you check in online the sooner you can get on the flight. The sooner you get on the flight, the better seat you will get. Being a bigger girl, your seat selection is very important. I have, up until this point flown on Delta, American and Sun country. Southwest had only recently started flying from my terminal so I was caught unaware.

When I checked in I found that I was in the very last group to board the plane. When I asked what that meant exactly, the very nice desk attendant explained the procedure to me. The empathetic expression in his eyes is still with me. He knew, this was not going to be a good situation for me. I believe he even said, “oh honey,” in his perfect southern drawl.  I took a deep breath at his news. I tried to calm my racing heart. I had just made an already bad situation worse.

So, I’m waiting at the gate. I end up meeting some other English teachers. We are all headed to the national conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I forget for a few moments that I’m about to board a full plane. I enjoy my preparations for one of my favorite yearly events. I love meeting other English teachers because we always get caught up in talking about books and our students. Before I know it, the flight is boarding. I watch everyone get in line and begin boarding. Dread creeps over me and I can feel the knot settle in my stomach. Finally, they call section C and I stand in line. There are only five other people behind me. This can’t be good.

I walk slowly down the tunnel and step onto the plane greeting the flight attendants with my best friendly midwestern smile. I walk down the aisle and no seats are open. There are only three or four seats in the middle and not a single person moves to allow me access to one of the seats. I see the group I met earlier and one guy shrugs his shoulders. He mouths “sorry” and I turn and walk toward the front. Again no one moves. I stop and ask a woman on the end, hoping for some sympathy and she balks. “I’m not moving, find someplace else.” I can’t believe this is happening. I am full of shame as I walk back up toward the front. I can’t believe not a single person will move so I can at least sit in a middle seat.

I guess I get it, no one wants to sit next to the fat girl.

That hurts. Bad.

I make my way back toward the front and the flight attendant motions for me to join her. I reach her and she says “Wait here, because of the delay those traveling to Boston will have to get off this flight to board another. We’ll get you a seat at the front.” She winks and rubs my arm. I expel a relieved sigh. She nods her head toward the other flight attendant and he makes the announcement. Passengers begin to grumble. They stand and grab their carry-on bags from the over-head compartments. One man, in the front of the plain stands. So, does the woman next to him. Leaving an entire row empty.

The flight attendant waves her hand as soon as they depart and says, “Here you go sweetie, the row is all yours.”

I smile and say, “Thank you so much.”

She smiles back and says, “No problem sweetie. Let me know if you need anything else.”

To this day I am so grateful to flight attendants. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Especially since they have to deal with so many, rude people.

I know my story ended happily. I got the whole row to myself and learned my lesson. I checked in early to my returning flight and haven’t made that mistake again. Yet, I will never forget the shame and hurt I felt walking up and down that aisle without a friendly face. People could have moved for me to sit in the middle. Not a one did. I’m sure this isn’t even the worst story another larger person may have experienced. I mean Kevin Smith was kicked off the plane for crying out loud.  Too fat to fly almost became a movement, almost.

Somehow fat shaming is still acceptable. Somehow, we blame the person. All it would’ve taken that day is one friendly face. I will never forget what the flight attendant did for me but I always wonder. What if there hadn’t been a delay. What if no one actually moved. I know I would have made someone let me in at some point. I am a strong-willed female. I would have sat in that bitches lap to make her move but I shouldn’t have had to. I’m hopeful that others sharing this journey find a friendly face rather than a condemning eye. I also hope no one ever experiences too fat to fly.

Anyone with a little extra weight on them knows the horrors that often await us at the amusement park. I have had a few of these horrific experiences. The moment you are about to get on the ride and the operator takes a look at you and you can feel the judgement in this eyes but you defiantly get on the ride anyway. He moves to move the bar over you and for one moment you are sitting there full of hope that it will click into place and you won’t have any problems. As you hold your breath, and suck in your ever expanding gut he pushes and the breath expels quickly out of your mouth but there is no click. He pushes harder and harder, meanwhile you are thinking: seriously I am a person you know and that is still part of my body, OUCH! He lifts the bar up and says “I’m sorry you can’t ride if the bar can’t snap into place” He looks down to the ground as he waits.

You nod, sigh, and move to get out of the damn ride. Even worse, he stops you and points. He wants you to go back the way you came. Really, you want me to walk all the way back down through the line with all of those people. You shake your head but he shakes his back and points. Head down you turn and go back the way you came. Something inside you has died a little at the prospect of walking through the crowd but you do. Head still staring at the ground the entire walk as you can feel each person’s eyes on you as you walk. You can’t bare to look up and meet any of them in the eye. The pity you could see would be the last straw. The pain in your throat is familiar, you’ve held back tears before today. These people will not see you cry today.

The amusement park is supposed to be a place for fun. You just wanted to ride a few rides and have fun with your friends. Now all you want to do is go home and start in on that pint of Ben and Jerry’s you have in the freezer. For a moment you understand that those thoughts might be the reason you’re in this situation but you know it will make you feel better for at least a little while, then worse. It’s a never ending cycle that I know all too well.

I have many of these same experiences from my visits to the amusement park. Not all of them have been quite this painful. One instance I remember quite clearly because it was only a couple of years ago. I went with my cousins to Wisconsin Dells. I love it there. My family used to go there almost every summer when I was a kid. It holds some of my fondest vacation memories. Well most of them.

My cousin got a good deal at Chula Vista resort and so we were staying there for an extended weekend. I had decided that I didn’t care what others thought I was going to enjoy my vacation, cellulite be damned. So there I was in my suit with my younger cousins enjoying the lazy river. I mean it felt like the perfect “ride” for me. Nate and Tony were about to head to the water slides to go down together. Naomi wanted to go to but she didn’t have a partner.

She looked to me and said “Please Danielle, will you go on the slide with me?” she was so cute.

I responded “of course I will go with you.” I am a sucker for anything my younger cousins want but shh don’t tell them.

So we grab a tube and begin the climb up the towering flight of stairs to the top of those slides. I am already regretting this decision but Naomi looks so happy and expectant that I follow her up the stairs as she giddily says “come on Danielle.”

We are about half-way up when I notice a sign that reads, weight limit 250lbs. I halt instantly. I think to myself: wait, I weigh 250 lbs and there are two of us. I look to Naomi who is thirteen at the time. I know she has got to be close to a hundred herself.

Oh shit. I think to myself.

I ask Naomi, “How serious do you think they are about the weight limit is on this water slide?”

She turns and says “I don’t know” then continues walking.

I follow still questioning the sign and whether I should still be climbing these stairs. It would suck to get to the top and be denied and have to walk all the way back down. Would they be able to tell by looking at me that I exceed the weight limit? Would they ask me when I got to the top? All these questions roll around in my mind as I continue to trek up the stairs. As I’ve mentioned before amusement parks have not always been that great of an experience for me and they usually make weight limits for a reason.

As I climb the last few steps I resigned to go on the damn slide, I mean I’ve already climbed all those damn steps. So, we get to the front and the guy holds the tube for us to both get on. Naomi is in the front and I straddle my legs around her in the back and flop into the tube. The minute I hit the tube it sinks in the back and it takes a bit of effort to get us to the entrance of the slide. One last heave by the worker and we are dropping down the tube. Water splashing around as we fly around each curve. I tell you what the added weight made us fly down the slide.  We both scream out in glee at each jutted curve the tube takes.. My worry about the weight limit has disappeared and I am having so much fun.

Suddenly, we enter this round opening that reminds me of a toilet because the hole that we will go down is in the center of the bowl.  The minute we hit the floor of the bowl we stop immediately. We both jerk forward with the abrupt halt. There isn’t as much water rushing through the bowl, definitely not enough to keep us going around the bowl to the center where we would continue our descent. I panic and look around to see what I can do to rectify this situation. The sign instantly flashes in my head and I put two and two together I realize the reason for the weight restriction. I try to get some kind of leverage and lift myself enough so that water can go back under the tube but that doesn’t work. We still weigh to much and are sitting like a rock as water rushes around us. My legs are on the tube on either side of Naomi and I can’t seem to move too much or lift myself enough to make any difference, we still aren’t moving. My breathing increases as the inability to move us sets in.

Naomi says “Oh my God we’re stuck.”

“I know, I know” I respond.

“There will be other people coming behind us any minute” she says.

I look back quickly, “I know that too” I said rushed.

I arch my back to press against the back of the tube and reach both hands behind my back and begin to attempt to push us forward as fast as I can. My hands are able to just barely reach the bottom and I push as best I can against the slick surface. I can feel the water part the tube as I continue to push as in hurried bursts. This is all I can do short of getting off the tube altogether. I frantically push over and over trying to push myself further back as best I can. We move mere inches with each push. I try to lift myself more to scoot further back in the tube so I can get more traction with my hands. I push and push and push but I am running out of breath.

Finally, we’ve just about reached the hole to drop down the center. I breathe a sigh of relief and take a moment to look behind us. Two teenage boys in their tube just entered the bowl. They are moving at record speeds and I know that they are going to hit us before we drop into the bowl. I try a few more times with my hands to push us to the hole without luck. They slam into the side of the tube and we end up going down backwards with the two boys staring at us as we descend down the last of the twists and turns in the slide. When we shoot out the bottom they are right behind. I go to get off the tube and flop oh so gracefully into the water, belly first. I stand quickly, grab the tube and walk toward the stairs, trying to save any dignity that I have left. I don’t look back. I don’t want to see the looks on the two boys faces. I smile and head toward the bar and Melanie.

Naomi turns and says “Do you want to go again?”

My bottom lip drops and I gape at her. She’s got to be kidding right? I answer after I close my jaw, “No I think I’ll just hang out at the bar for awhile with your mom.”

“Okay” she says and runs for the line again.

Yeah it will be a long time before I go on that damn slide again, I think and continue my approach to the bar. I’m ready for a shot after that adventure.

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