Thursday, April 13, 2017

On Bullies, Bikinis, and This Is Us's Kate

I started binge watching This is Us recently. My reaction? Visceral. Raw. Despairing. My husband came home and found me sobbing into a towel. Big, ugly crying..not a dainty teardrop or three like a normal person would do during a show that repeatedly tugs at the heart. Well wtf! He laughed a bit, saying "It's just a TV show Fely." I kept crying. Tried to tell him between gasps that I understood how Kate feels.

And what triggered this bullshit? The note little Kate received after proudly debuting her Care Bear bikini at the public pool. She got a note from the other girls that they didn't want to be seen with her anymore. Flashback to Honolulu, Hawaii, late 70s. Physical education required us to use the pool for a couple months and I didn't have a bathing suit I liked. My mother made me one...and oh how delicious it was. A bright blue bikini made with "aloha" print material, made to fit my considerable curves and embarrassing rack. I loved that bikini, but as I walked out with the other fat girl in the class, I was nervous. So nervous. Honolulu boys are especially brutal in their cruelty, as they expect girls to look willowy and tanned. Surf's up bitches! I knew my mate Lori would get the brunt of their brash criticism, as they sat in their swim trunks and watched the girls troop out to join the class. Lori was truly fat. Kate fat. She had freaking jowls at 14, and a giant gut. She was also a lovely human being. Lonely? Shit ya she was lonely. Nobody wanted to be seen with her at awesome Kalani High School (except, grudgingly, me). I was fat too though, and as much as I wanted inclusion in the normal bodied club, I couldn't get a membership.

Yes. I was heckled that day. Without mercy, without any recognition on the bullies part that a person was tucked into that blue bikini, shoulders hunched and dying with every step around the pool. What I secretly believed before that moment, as I checked myself out in front of a mirror, is that I looked rather smashing. Alas, I was in the wrong place to find appreciation for some curviness and milk white skin.

Back to This is Us. Kate's parents meant well, and so did mine. Neither Kate's fictional parents, nor my real ones, had a clue how to deal with a child with a "weight problem." Kate's father Jack told her a super hero story to convince her to wear a tee shirt. My father went into a rage the night of the bikini debacle, shouting at me as I wept that I shouldn't give a fuck what those assholes thought. My mother? Well she'd fled the boat a few years before, but she was (and is) fat as well, so I called her, hoping for some comfort. I knew my dad meant well, but how DOES a parent deal with the despair and weeping of a child bullied for being fat? She said I needed to prove them wrong and go on a diet and lose the weight.

Well wasn't that good advice?

I failed Phys Ed that year, along with a few other classes. I simply stopped going to PE on pool days, as the teacher couldn't bother to protect any child who wasn't in the mold. Eventually I stopped going to any classes. It was just too hard. Too damning a place to exist. Shame really. I was a brilliant girl, and I chose to throw schooling away and hang out with badasses (now THAT'S a tale!) rather than feel the shame of my lumps on a minute to minute basis.

So yeah...I cried during the show. My husband, who is a kind man, suggested a drive around town. I sniffled my way into the car, and he just drove. Just said, "I think this show is a little bit sensitive for you." I asked him if he'd ever made fun of anyone. If he'd ever laughed at a girl who wasn't pretty. The answer was important to me. He just frowned and said, "I don't know honey. I don't remember."

People who laugh at others when they are children don't remember do they? Those boys don't remember a single moment of that class. Not at all. It's time for me to stop carrying around the looks on their faces as well.

Feel like some cake now? Lord knows I do. I baked a coffee cake this morning and brought some of it to work. It's my thing.

Felicia's Badass Bikini Coffeecake

This batter nicely fills a 13x9 pan.

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C

Whisk together:

4 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 tsp. baking powder

Cut in 1 1/2 cups softened butter.

Add 1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir this until just blended. Coffee cake is a sturdy, toothy cake so no finessing with the batter is necessary.

Spoon into a greased 13x9 pan and smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix:

3/4 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts...pecans are damn expensive)

Using your hands, mix in 3/4 cup butter until it's all moistened. Sprinkle this over the batter. 

Bake for 30 minutes, or until "toothpick clean" That means you insert a toothpick and if there's no batter stuck tot he cake, it's done.

Yeah, I ate two pieces. Damn right. This weekend I'll put on my Salalah-friendly burkini (no wobbly bits showing) and go for a swim. Nuff said.