The Sunday Roast: A Conversation Between Friends

Note: Today is the inaugural edition of “The Sunday Roast: A Conversation Between Friends”, a semi-regular feature of guest posts. I am always happy to take submissions for “The Sunday Roast”. The only criteria is that the author write honestly about something that is important to them, or about which they are passionate. (Today’s post was inspired by an interaction between me and a friend – your guest post, however, need not have anything to do with me or with something I’ve written about on Jenion!)

Today’s Guest: Molly Altorfer

Molly’s self-description on Twitter says it all:  “Aspiring SuperMom. Communications & marketing freelance strategist. Wannabe professional golfer. News junkie. Mid-life grad student.”  You can find Molly on Twitter @m_altorfer or on her blog Molly Altorfer::Freelance

“I wouldn’t have been friends with you in college. You would have scared me.”

Jenifer uttered these two statements mere moments after I told her a less than flattering story about me from college. How less than flattering? Well, I rate it an 11 out of 10. The story involved me being furious with one of my college roommates because she refused to (ever) do the dishes – including her mountains of used, gelatinous-encrusted pots and pans. In a temper tantrum worthy of John McEnroe, I demolished a wall with a tennis racket in the rental house I shared with six other women. The look of pure disgust and fear on the face of my one roommate who witnessed this episode was enough of a gut check for me. Did my temper go away? No, not entirely, but I think I do a relatively good job of controlling it now. I consider it a process.

Over the past few weeks I’ve thought of Jen’s response to my story, which I had never shared with anyone else. Ever.

Jen was completely non-judgmental. And it wasn’t my behavior that she questioned – but her own. As I understood Jen’s evaluation of me at that time in my life, I would have been too competitive, too intimidating and too forceful for her to even consider having a friendship with. She’s chronicled in this blog about how she was often gripped with fear about her own insecurities, and I interpreted her comments to mean that I would have been “too much” of anything, and everything for her tender, fragile self.

What I didn’t say to Jen at the time – but have thought several times since is, “I wouldn’t have been friends with you, either.”

In case you’re just reading this blog for the first time, here’s a news flash for you: Jen was fat. At her highest weight, she clocked in at more than 350 pounds. The “college Molly” wouldn’t even have registered Jenifer as a person, let alone someone worthy of befriending.

That’s a pretty shocking statement: I would not have registered her as a person. Embarrassing, but true.

Here is the back story, but please note that this is not presented as an excuse for my behavior. I went to a private college in Minnesota. As I look back now, no one was overweight. Seriously. I cannot think of one person who I knew – either personally or in passing on campus – who was obese. Jen and I have had this conversation about the “skinniness” of my alma mater and she thinks (and I agree) that it likely has to do with the socio-economic makeup of that particular school, which includes a lot of middle- to upper-class students from the Twin Cities. Greater resources often provides greater or increased access to healthier foods and exercise, thus equaling a campus that is obsessed with health, fitness and size 2 J-Crew jeans and sundresses. (No one was fat, but I could talk a blue streak about classmates with serious eating disorders…but that’s another story).

So without coming into any sort of contact with an overweight person or anyone who was struggling with obesity issues, I had some alarmingly negative and entrenched stereotypes of people who were overweight. Lazy? Check. Lack of self-control? Check. Unclean? Check. Unintelligent? Check. You name them and I can almost guarantee I had them.

So how is it that I now count as one of my best friends a person who was formerly fat? I’m not sure how we connected when I was working at Mount Mercy, since Jen and I worked in markedly different areas. Of course, I am incredibly glad that we did find a common bond. Jen is the person to whom I know I can tell my secrets and that they will remain confidential and who is always ready for a good laugh or a snarky comment, and she is also the Godmother to my daughter. So it’s pretty apparent that I cherish her and our friendship.

What is astounding is that she alone has had the power to reverse all of my negative, hurtful and harmful stereotypes about people who are overweight or are dealing with significant weight issues. We were friends before she started this blog and her food challenge, but I would argue that our friendship has deepened during that time. What I’ve learned from Jenifer is that there is incredible power in disclosing and bringing to the light of day our fears, hopes, insecurities and desires. She proves that to me every week – and each Thursday I am more in awe of the cogently written and wryly described tidbits of “Jen-isms” that she offers to her readers.

I didn’t intend for this post to become a “Jenifer is the best” entry, and I know she wouldn’t want that anyway. But I do wish to convey that Jenifer has tapped into the power of the written word – and in a way that is eloquently yet simply conveyed to me and to others each week. Her struggle with weight issues is visible – but there are legions of us out there who struggle with issues that cannot be visibly critiqued by others.

Jen has taught me that there are restorative and healing powers in voicing what’s on your mind so that others may benefit from your experiences, mistakes and successes – and even the power in dredging up old college stories.

Tennis anyone?

Flashback Friday: Occupy Jeff’s Coffee House

In the Hanson household, we were born to protest. In this shot, my sister Chris and I stage a sit-in at Jeff’s Coffee Shop. We are protesting cod liver oil. The stuff tasted horrible! I don’t think anyone makes children take this crap anymore – and I like to think Chris and I played some small part in its demise!

What Defines Us

I didn’t post a weigh-in today because I didn’t want to share my current weight. The important thing about that weekly snapshot of my scale has always been, in my opinion, the concept of honestly sharing both the ups and downs of my path with others who might struggle with things in their lives, too. Today, I feel like copping out.

For a month now, my time and attention has been elsewhere than on my weight. In some ways, it has felt good to let my guard down a bit, to worry about other things, to enjoy other things, to just not let the central factor of my life be the scale. In other ways, I have felt stressed and out-of-sorts, with various life issues pulling at my focus.

I haven’t made horrendous choices in that time. I’ve continued to work out. I haven’t suddenly begun eating between every meal, or eating outrageous menus or triple helpings. I haven’t given in to temptations such as the Taco Bell drive through to try one of those Dorito-shelled tacos I’ve seen on TV.

But the scale has inched up anyway.

One of my favorite television moments ever was on the Roseanne show. The family is in debt, having trouble paying their bills, and at the end of the episode their electricity is shut off. From the dark screen, we hear Roseanne’s voice, “Well, middle class was fun.” I feel a little bit like that today, “Well, One-derland was fun.”

Except for this: I can choose differently.

Not every family has control over the financial vicissitudes in life. But each of us has control over where we place our attention, the choices we make on a daily basis, and the attitude we bring to each day.  These are the real lessons I’ve been learning via the process of losing weight. And while I can’t say the scale doesn’t have an impact on me, I can truthfully say my weight no longer defines me.

Because I am choosing to define myself.

One of the lessons I am still learning is to never underestimate the power of that. We live in a world that wants to define us externally (using standards set outside ourselves) – by our looks, our weight, our gender, our sexual identity, our politics, our socioeconomic status, our race…so many factors. But none of these is who we are, no matter how central that factor is to our lived experience. Who we are depends on us.

With that in mind, there’s one other thing I’d like to share with you this morning: