Monthly Archives: May 2011

Roseanne Barr

Laurie and Debbie are on a blogging vacation, because they’re both at WisCon in Madison, Wisconsin. Debbie will be back next week. In the meantime, have another post from the wonderful Lynne Murray:

Lynne Murray says:

I recently read a long New York Magazine interview with Roseanne Barr, which is accompanied by some stunningly beautiful photos.

artistic head shot of Roseanne Barr

I’ve long loved Roseanne, and the article offers a fascinating glimpse into her greatest achievement, and it is well worth reading, just for the blow-by-blow dissection of how hard Roseanne had to fight to get her own truth and her comic genius a fair showing, when after her show was number one in the ratings, and one would assume she would have some clout.

Hollywood hates labor, and hates shows about labor worse than any other thing. And that’s why you won’t be seeing another Roseanne anytime soon. Instead, all over the tube, you will find enterprising, overmedicated, painted-up, capitalist whores claiming to be housewives. But I’m not bitter. Nothing real or truthful makes its way to TV unless you are smart and know how to sneak it in, and I would tell you how I did it, but then I would have to kill you.

I’m not bitter. I’m really not. The fact that my fans have thanked and encouraged me for doing what I used to get in trouble for doing (shooting my big mouth off) has been very healing. And somewhere along the way, I realized that TV and our culture had changed because of a woman named Roseanne Conner, whom I am honored to have written jokes for.

I’ve read a couple of Roseanne’s autobiographies. The first one influenced me most in that it included pictures of her at various weights. It came out when I was writing Larger Than Death, and I included a sequence where the heroine finds an album of photos taken of Nina, her role model in size acceptance, “At different ages. Different sizes.” This scene was directly inspired by Roseanne’s book [I’ve cropped my quote a little].

Most fat people have such a sequence of pictures. The first picture in the book showed Nina as a teenager, with the glowing energy of youth. At that age she must have been around a size fourteen—the largest size on the rack in most women’s clothing stores. Of course she felt fat and everyone told her she was unacceptable.
. . . In the next photo I scarcely recognized my old friend. She had lost a substantial amount of weight. She was wearing a tight sweater, very short micro-mini skirt, and an expression of frenzied animation. I had seen enough desperately dieting women to understand the forced gaiety in her face.
“Well, here it is, the Holy Grail. I’m finally at a normal weight. Why do I feel so crazy? I’m always thinking about food. I’m terrified to eat. Men’s heads turn when I walk by, women see me as competition. I’m getting the attention I always wanted. Why do I feel so driven and hopeless? What will happen to me if I gain weight again?”
Over the next series of photos she did.
. . . Her body testified that normal for it was not the size of the Nina in the micro-mini. In the last few photos I thought she looked glorious. Glowing with health and confidence, wearing clothing she had designed to show off a body she had come to accept and even celebrate. This was the Nina I’d known and loved.
As I looked at the last picture I realized that every one of Stack’s clients would call it a “before” picture and would suffer any pain or indignity to get to the slender “after” mode, never facing the fact that for many of them it was unnatural, even damaging to their health, and impossible to maintain.

I realized I was crying without knowing when I had started. [Larger Than Death, Chapter 35]

Like a lot of fans who feel they “know” Roseanne, I’ve always felt affection for her even when I’ve been saddened by her struggles with self-esteem, including gastric bypass surgery. While each person’s health care decisions are that person’s business, Roseanne’s had the unfortunate effect of canceling out some of her size positive message. I must note that this also is also her business–she’s a human being, not a walking role model, and she’s entitled to do what she wants based on her own feelings. But the upshot is that sites pushing the surgery list her as a celebrity victim. They don’t call her a “success” as they note that she regained much of the weight she lost. The gastric bypass community blames her for this, following the conventional commercial delusion that any weight regained is always the fault of the fat person. Roseanne appears to blame herself as well, judging by her joke: “Since I had my gastric bypass surgery in 1998, I eat like a bird. Unfortunately, that bird is a California condor.” That sort of comment saddens me even more.

On a positive note, I’m glad to hear that Roseanne seems to have found happiness with a compatible mate, growing macadamia nuts in Hawaii. She has a web presence that links to video clips, a radio show and her many causes.

“Concern Trolling,” or “I Just Want to Help You”

Lynne Murray says:

I recently learned the term “concern trolling,” which describes a kind of verbal attack that both I (a hypervisible fat person) and my friend (who has an invisible disability) have endured in a remarkably similar way. For both of us it comes as unsought advice and pressure from a medical professional, friend, acquaintance or total stranger using a posture of concern to supposedly “fix” us.

My friend, who suffers from a variety of invisible medical conditions, has felt isolated for years in trying to explain why she can’t do various things. Just as I’ve been braced by people who assume they are entitled to share their weight loss suggestions, my friend has to deal with people who dismiss her explanations of her limitations and instead try to force her to do things she literally cannot do, because they assume they know her body better than she does.

My friend’s situation is different than mine: she is quite thin and active in various physical and social activities that put her in touch with people who want her to extend her involvement and push herself beyond her limits. After knowing her for a couple of decades I was surprised to hear that she felt like she was the only one who had this problem and that somehow it was her fault and (worst of all) maybe some of these uncaring, unlistening people were right. Last week she had a considerable revelation when she discovered the Invisible Disabilities Association

“The Invisible Disabilities Association’s vision is to make people living with illness, pain and disability, ‘Invisible No More!”(sm).'” It was founded by a couple, Wayne and Sherry Connell, who are dealing with Sherry’s MS and Lyme Disease.

For the first time my friend felt both validated and empowered by some of the tools on the site (including a fold-over brochure to hand to the intrusively “helpful”).

I’m sharing the website and an excerpt from one wonderful link on it–a clip from Amy-Beth Maran’s article, “The top ten worst suggestions commonly given to someone with a chronic illness,” that wrings some laughter from some of the awful, inexcusable things people say when someone tries to explain an invisible disability.

Sick Humor: The top ten worst suggestions commonly given to someone with a chronic illness

Sometimes you just gotta have a sense of humor!

The top ten worst suggestions commonly given to someone with a chronic illness:
1) Have you tried holistic options? (many. I’ll bring it back up with my doctor on my next visit, thanks.)
2) Could it be your stress? (My opinion is, it is my illness. I’ll bring it up with my doctor though, thanks.)
3) Could it have to do with the altitude? (I’ll bring it up with my doctor…thanks.)
4) I read in {insert any generic magazine here} about a new medication. Have you heard about it? (I was on it when it came out 17 years ago. but I’ll bring it up with my doctor. thank you.)
5) Have you thought about being in a trial study? (I’ll ask my doctor. thanks?)
6) WOW. If I were you, I don’t know what I would do. I might just kill myself. (Thanks?)
7) Have they found what is causing the problem? (no. my doctor is an idiot. I’ll remind him, thanks!) Have you tried hypnosis? (I’m still sick, but when the phone rings I bark like a dog.)
9) Have you googled your illness? (….no! thanks!)
10) Have you ever thought you were getting sick because you haven’t wrapped your house in aluminum foil because, you know, the aliens have been bugging our houses for the past 30 years and in some cases, making people really sick. I read on…..gee I lost the web site. but it’s true! I heard it from Sally’s cousin’s sister-in- law. And then every time you use deodorant you would think you would be warding off these bugging rays, but it still makes it worse, so you are not being pro-active to your health by wearing that deodorant. I can’t believe you! If you wanted to get better you would stop wearing deodorant..(voice gets fainter and fainter the further you just walk away.) THANKS!!!!!!!!!!