The Fat Girl in the Office

I just recently got a new job.  In fact, I’m just starting my third week at the office as you’re reading this.  I am comfortably the fattest person in the office.  Out of 50 people, there are only about 3 of us who could be truly classified as plus size (one man, and two women).  It’s a primarily sales office, and there tends to be a particular culture that manifests it’s self any time sales is involved.  You tend to get a lot of former athletes.  Sports metaphors abound.  And appearance matters.

When I was getting ready for my interview, one of my former coworkers remarked on how I was dressed and the fact that I was doing my make up at my desk before I left.  At that office, the dress code was … remarkably relaxed, even by Oregon standards.  As in, yoga pants was a perfectly acceptable choice of clothing.  So while I didn’t go quite that far into relaxed attire, I definitely dressed casually and didn’t bother wearing make up to work.  I don’t wear make up normally anyway.  So the former coworker just couldn’t understand why I was going to such pains to get ready for the interview.  In sales, appearance matters.  How you present yourself matters very much.  If I can’t sell myself to the person who is interviewing me, how can I expect them to trust me to sell products on their behalf?  So I have to meet certain expectations that the interviewer will subconciously have for me, one of which is professional appearance.  For men that simply means wearing the right clothes within a fairly narrow range of what’s considered appropriate, having good personal hygiene, and having their hair neat.  Women have a much broader range of what can be considered acceptable, and thus spend more time thinking about whether their clothing choices are making the right statement on their behalf.  They also have to consider how they style their hair and what signals that style sends.  Then there is make up and all the subtle nuances that can shift the message from “professional” to “oldest profession”* with one misplaced brushstroke.  Simply, it’s complicated for a woman to “look right” for an interview, and getting that part right likely has more to do with weather or not you get the job  than anything you might have on your resume or say to the interviewer.

So with all of the difficulty of getting the nuances of appearance right as a woman, there are even more layers of difficulty as a fat woman.  I also have to overcome the pervasive notion that fat people are fat, lazy, and undisciplined.  So even though I normally don’t wear make up and don’t really conform to the traditional business suit dress code, I’ll go those extra miles when interviewing the job.  I shouldn’t have to, but if it gets me past those hurdles, I’ll do it because I need to work to put food on the table and keep a roof over my head.

 

* As an aside, I mean no disrespect to sex workers.  I’m trying to illustrate the perceived unsuitability of a person for a job based on a stereotype of appearances.

The Fat Chick on the Bus

I’ve been a public transit user now for about a year and a half.  I’m very lucky to live in a city with an excellent transit system that allows me to live my life without owning a car and without seriously hindering my life.  Most of the time, my experience on the bus and light rail trains are unremarkable.

I have learned a few things and make my choices accordingly.  I try very hard not to travel during rush hour, or planning my trips so that I can wait for the next bus or train if the one I had planned to take is too full.  Thankfully my job facilitates that, though it is a bit of a challenge getting there on time in the morning when my boyfriend isn’t around to give me a ride.  Then in the afternoons, I’m off work well before most people, and even before most kids are out of school, which is a blessing.

One of the things I’m very aware of is seating.  I try very hard to sit so that there is an empty seat between me and the next person.  While the transit seats are a bit wider than airline seats, I still need a little more room than the average person.  So most of the time I choose an empty two seat block, sit next to the aisle, and put my bag in the empty seat.  But when the bus is crowded, I feel like it’s rude to block off the extra seat, so generally I’ll pick up my bag, slide over, and hope that no one chooses to sit next to me.  On the rare occasions when I sit down next to someone, I’m always careful to sit so that I’m not touching them or encroaching on their space… sitting thigh to thigh with a stranger just feels rude to me.

The same applies on the train, though I’m more commonly left standing than I am on the bus.  Not bad really, the train moves faster and I’m more likely to get a seat in a stop or two than I would be on the bus.  I rarely if ever have anyone look at me oddly or say anything to me.  But there are times.  Like the man who sat down next to me one morning and pressed up against my side and remained that way for the nearly 25 minutes of our trip.  Or the morning that I sat down in a section of three seats, taking an outside seat and putting my bag in the middle seat.  An older woman got on the bus and sat down on the other outside seat and proceeded to give me serious side eye for the next 15 minutes.  That’s not even getting into the glares I get on those rare days when I chose not to give up my spare seat to someone.  When I do that, I try to appear to be as absorbed in my smart phone as possible so I don’t notice the looks and it will hopefully seem like I’m just unaware of the crowded seating conditions.

And I sometimes wait two or three trains before getting on one because I know I’ll have to stand and I don’t want there to be a high risk of bumping into my fellow passengers when the train stops or starts or jostles us unexpectedly.

So if I could say something to my fellow passengers it’s this: I don’t like being pressed up against, bumped into, or packed tightly into the vehicle any more than you do.  And sadly, no amount of glaring on your part is going to make me instantly slimmer or rich enough to not have to go to work anymore.  And that means we’re both in it for the long haul.  So just can the micro-aggressions, m’kay?

Going back to school

After 10 years, I’m finally going back to college this fall.  Well, actually, I’d like to take a class this summer if I can put the money together for it.  Let me back up a little bit.

I’ve been working very hard to pay off or rehabilitate my federal student loans from my original attempt at college 10 years ago.  I don’t qualify for any federal financial aid or loans until those original loans are in good standing again.  I only have 3 more payments to complete that process.  So when I go back to school full time at the end of September, I’ll get financial aid again.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching my chosen career path and what classes I’ll need to complete at a community college before I transfer to a University to complete my bachelor’s degree.  I plan to study Social Work, and work towards getting a Master’s degree in that field.  The prerequisites I’ll need to complete are a psychology class, a sociology class, a basic science class with lab, and 4 credits of a second language at the 200-level (second year).  I’ll also take additional electives to stay in full time status and have 90-quarter hour credits by the end of the year.

Most of those prerequisites don’t worry me.  My only concern is the 200-level second language class.  I took Spanish in High School, but that was more than 10 years ago.  Practically speaking, Spanish or Russian would be the best choices for a second language, since these are the two most common languages in Oregon.  As I researched, I found that the community college I’m planning to attend offers a fast paced or condensed track that allows the student to complete the 100-level Spanish classes in 2 quarters instead of 3.  Since I already have a background in the language, and I’m trying to complete these classes in one school year, this seemed like the best option.  The 200-level classes have a 2-instead-of-3 track as well, so I’d be able to take all 4 classes in Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer.

But then the other night I was flipping through the community education catalogue for the community college and noticed that they offer a fast paced Spanish 1 course at a significantly lower cost than it would be for the normal credit-granting course.  This would allow me to “test into” a higher level of Spanish in the fall when I start taking for-credit classes, will give me a chance to ease back into academic life, and won’t affect my prerequisites (because it’s the 200-level class they’re looking for).  I have plenty of transfer elective credits from my first time around in college, so I’m not worried about meeting the 90 credit minimum.

The problem is that while the class and book are significantly less expensive than the regular class, it’s still $130 that I just don’t have.  It’s not vital that I take this class this summer, but it would certainly help me out a lot.  So I figured I’d set up a GoFundMe campaign and see if I could convince enough of my friends and family to chip in $5 or $10 so I can take the class.  I’m still working full time, but I was moved out of my leadership position faster than I expected when I let the company know that I would be going back to school in the fall.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue in a leadership role while going to school full time, and I thought I’d be proactive and let my work know well in advance.  The transition didn’t happen at all as I expected it to, so I find myself suddenly with fewer responsibilities on my plate and this beneficial opportunity in front of me.

I know I don’t really have any followers here, but here’s the link to the Go Fund Me page for the class I’d like to take:

 

http://www.gofundme.com/9p8y78

Microwave Lemon Curd

1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)
zest of 3 lemons
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth and thoroughly combined. Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest and butter.

2. Cook in the microwave on full power for one minute intervals, stirring after each minute. This process will take about 3-5 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave. You will know the lemon curd is done cooking when it coats the back of a metal spoon.

3. Remove from the microwave, push through a fine, mesh sieve and pour into sterile jar.

Taken from http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/fundamentals-simple-microwave-lemon-curd/

I used bottled lemon juice to make this, and skipped the zest.  It still turned out really well.

GF Devil’s Food Cupcakes

Cupcakes
2 cups (280 g) all purpose gluten free flour

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

3/4 cup (60 g) natural cocoa powder

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups (327 g) packed light brown sugar

1 1/3 cups (10.6 fluid ounces) warm water

8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream, at room temperature

2 eggs (120 g, out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line 2 standard 12-cup (or 2 miniature 24-cup) muffin tins with liners, and set them aside.

In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt, and whisk to combine well. Add the brown sugar, and whisk again to combine, working out any lumps in the brown sugar. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the water, butter, sour cream, eggs and vanilla, mixing to combine after each addition. The batter will be soft and relatively thick. Fill the wells of each muffin cup about 3/4 of the way with batter. Shake each tin from side to side and back and forth gently to smooth the top of the batter in each well. Place the tins, one at a time, in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when pressed lightly (about 11 minutes for the minis and 22 minutes for the standard size). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Taken from http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/gluten-free-devils-food-cupcakes-chocolate-glaze/

This actually makes 24 cupcakes.  A few more, actually.  They’re fantastic.  And none of my coworkers could tell that they were gluten free.  I frosted them with this:

1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
5 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons milk

Whip butter and cocoa together until smooth in large bowl. Stir in vanilla and powdered sugar. Slowly stream in milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Scrape sides and whip again until light, fluffy and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Frosts 1-9 or 8 inch round layered cake or 24 cupcakes.

Taken from http://www.laurenslatest.com/the-best-and-easiest-chocolate-frosting-birthday-cake/

GF Maple Bars

Donuts
1 egg beaten
1 c. buttermilk
1/8 c. butter melted
 mix together
2 1/2 c.GF flour
(I used Mamas almond blend)
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. xantham gum – skip if your blend already contains it
mix together
Add wet ingredients to dry mix gently
then knead a few times.
Let sit for 15 minutes.
Roll out on rice flour dusted surface,
to about 1/2 inch deep.
Cut into squares about 2×2.
Fry in very hot oil until brown on both sides.
Drain on paper towel.
Frost when mostly cool.
Maple Frosting
1/4 c. melted butter
1 tsp maple flavoring
1 T. milk
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
Beat until smooth
The doughnuts turn out a bit heavier than traditional doughnuts, but are still good.  I think they’re better about 15 minutes after cooking, edible the next morning, and no good after that.  I’d love to split this recipe in half, and I’ll work on that.  A whole batch might be great for a party or sharing with co-workers, but it’s too much for just me at my house.

Life is Short, Eat Pie First

Yesterday I had to say good bye to the nicest, kindest, handsomest, funniest man you’d ever hope to meet.  And the most modest too.  Don’t believe me?  Ask anyone who ever met him, because he certainly told them at least twice.  Uncle Dan was my Grandpa’s brother.  Most people don’t know who their grandparent’s siblings are, but Dean and Dan were good friends as well as brothers.  Uncle Dan was there for most of our family holidays, birthday celebrations, and the near-monthly family get togethers of one kind or another.  Grandma and Grandpa’s families became so close over the years, that when Grandpa’s oldest sister passed away almost 5 years after Grandpa died, Grandma was asked to help make the arrangements since Zelda didn’t have any children.  After 47 years of marriage and most of a lifetime in a small town with each other’s siblings, the lines between blood and in-laws just didn’t matter any more.  So when I tell people who Uncle Dan was to me really, most people give me a confused look and can’t understand why I’m mourning his loss like my Grandpa died again.  To me it’s my favorite Uncle who’s passed away.  Nevermind that we’re too far removed to be considered immediate family.

Uncle Dan taught us kids so many lessons in life.  Always be the one who started it, that way you can be sitting back laughing when the others are getting in trouble for being rowdy.  Life is short, eat pie first.  And since kids aren’t allowed to have pie first, cover your pie in gravy so they won’t be able to tell that you’re eating dessert first.  It’s always the fault of whoever isn’t in the room at the time.  Anyone who says you’re getting older is a damn liar.  Teach small children to say rude things to their parents and sit back and watch the fun.  Love kids.  Love your own kids.  Love other people’s kids.  Kids can never have too many people who love them.  There’s always somebody a little worse off than you are, do what you can for them not because they might return the favor, but because helping people is fun.  Flirt with everybody, because it’s fun.  There are no occasions for which a well timed joke is inappropriate.  Tell tall tales with a straight face and lots of sincere belief.  And don’t ever take yourself seriously.

He started leaving us a couple of years ago when Alzheimer’s made it hard for him to keep doing the things he had always done.  He’d latch onto an idea and wouldn’t be able to let it go.  It was hard for the people in the family who were caring for him, mostly because they forgot that last rule: don’t ever take yourself seriously.  One day I was out running errands with a couple of cousins and Uncle Dan, after his Alzheimer’s began getting really bad.  My cousins nearly had a heart attack when they heard Uncle Dan and I chatting in the back seat….

“I heard you’ve got a fancy new job now.  Are you making lots of money?” Uncle Dan asked.

“Oh, I’m making enough to get by.  It’s a pretty good job.”  I replied

“Now that you’re making all this money, you’ll have to pay for me to go down to California and visit Dee.”  Uncle Dan said in his trademark serious tone that we all know not to take seriously.  Dee is Dan’s oldest son.

“Oh, sure.  I’ll pay for you to go visit Dee.”  My cousins were giving me panic eyes in the rear view mirror trying to get me to stop, worried that he’d latch on to this idea and pester them about it once I was gone.  I just smiled and gave it 10 or 15 seconds, just like Uncle Dan would have done.  “Yup, I’ll pay for the trip down to see Dee.  I don’t know how you’re getting back, but I’ll pay for the trip down.  You’ll have to hitch up your pant leg and hitchhike back because you know how cheap Dee is, he’s not going to pay for you to get back.”

Uncle Dan looked at me with a crooked grin and a sparkle in his eyes and chuckled.  Then he shook his head.  “Well, I don’t know about that.  I’ll have to think about that a little bit.”  And that was that.  He was never serious about having me pay for him to take a trip.

Not long after that, he asked me if I’d bought a house yet.  When I explained that I wasn’t that rich yet, he said my rich aunt would surely pay for most of it.  I laughed and told him I didn’t think she loved me that much.  He shook his head in mock consternation and then asked why I hadn’t bought a house with all the money I was making at my new job.  I told him I was saving up my nickles and dimes but that he could donate some money to buy me a house any time he wanted.  He was having a serious conversation with me about having a secure future for myself, but he framed it as a joke as always.  That was how he showed his affection, and he did care about and worry about all of us.

His service was as he would have wanted it.  The military honors he was due as a veteran, followed by a short 5 minute service, reminding us to celebrate life, love our kids, and just live life.  That was it.  No formality.  No sermon.  Then a party, where Uncle Dan would have been quite happy… lots of pie, plenty of rolls, and everyone talking, laughing, and catching up.  It never fails that I cry during the military honors, just a little bit.  But beyond that I don’t think I’ll be crying.  I don’t believe that they ever really leave us.  I think they pop in to watch over us when we need it.  Or just to laugh at us during the everyday silliness of life.  When Grandpa passed, he shows up in my life in two ways… sometimes I hit my head and that’s a reminder to pay attention and take care of myself.  And then when things are really bad and I’m losing hope for myself, a particular song will come on the radio.  The week he died I couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing that song.  Now it just shows up every once in a while, a reminder when I need it.  It will be interesting to see where Uncle Dan shows up in my life.  He was a prankster in life, so whatever tricks he decides to pull will bring a smile to my face.