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Ellen Inspires my new Letter to Joan Rivers about Fat Jokes

Yesterday I wrote a blog about WLS Plastics from the Patient Perspective. There was a reference in it to a school yard bully incident that I used to help people understand the psychological stigma that such encounters can have on you even 20 years later…

The hall was crowded, kids bustling around as they rushed to their lockers to get their books for their next class. She stood at her locker with her back against it, cradling her books to her chest as if she were protecting them.  Her right foot moved slightly as she readied herself to leave but it halted as a frown appeared on her face. Standing in front of her, blocking her way was one of the more popular girls; one of the “mean girls” if you will. “Awe look at the little fat girl hugging her books because nobody else wants to hug her. Stop eating Ding Dongs and Twinkies and you might not leave high school a never been kissed virgin.” The blond-haired girl clutching her books as if there was safety in them, took a deep breath and even though her voice cracked as tears threatened to stream down her face, she responded courageously, “I might be fat, but I can lose weight, you’re just ugly inside and out and you can’t ever change that.”

oca-logo-footerShortly after I posted that article I received a notice from the OAC about a Bias Buster Alert they had posted on their website. ( See: Joan Rivers’ Comments on Singer-songwriter Adele’s Physical Appearance ) When the OAC asks me to do something, I usually do it, and so I wrote a letter to Joan Rivers instantly and fired it off.

Dear Ms. Rivers,

I had the most unfortunate opportunity to view your guest spot on the Dave Letterman show and I feel the need to write you and tell you that I find your attitude and discriminatory comments towards Adele insulting, and a far cry from funny. I feel that your attempt at making fun of Adele based on her size is a sad expression of your views on the morbidly obese.

The fact that you feel that your job as a fashion reporter for the Oscars somehow gives you the right to mock people who are battling obesity is morally alarming and in my eyes pretty much equates you to a school yard bully that is using their public figure status to pick on over 149 million Americans that are overweight or obese.

Furthermore Ms. Rivers your inability to apologize for offending your fans with tasteless jokes that make fun of people based on things like weight and religion has insured that I will never again watch, or in any way support anything you are a part of. You were once a woman I respected and admired for the name she made for herself in her industry, you’ve lost that respect and I can honestly say without some sort of public apology to Adele and the people you offended with your weight biased comments, I will never see you in the same light again.

Jaime “Pandora” Williams  – Portland OR

As I sit here this morning I am still disturbed by this. Now I will say, that I highly doubt that Joan Rivers cares that she has offended me or several other Americans that have struggled with obesity on any level with her comments.  Currently she is busy refusing to apologize for a joke she made about the Holocaust on the Fashion Police last week. I’m sure if the star who is Jewish herself and whose Husband she said lost family at Auschwitz doesn’t care that she has offended her fellow Jews, she cares little that she has offended people who are battling obesity. ( See: Joan River unapologetic about Holocaust, Adele fat jokes )

I used to respect Joan Rivers. Her tell it like it is, call a spade a spade attitude and the way she made such a name for herself was always something I admired. If I am being honest, which I try to be, both with my readers and with myself, her twisted and often taboo sense of humor is something I normally find entertaining and amusing. Joan Rivers has grinned everyone’s ax for years, that is just the sort of comedy that she does. I have to say though, when her making fun of someone was targeted at a person, group of people and issue that hit so close to home for me, I resented her for it instantly.

The other day, I had my first experience where I actually felt discriminated against. I won’t go into details, it really isn’t important, but it happened in the context of business, when my definition of something referenced “Gay Pride” and I suddenly had someone’s “People” telling me that they were not comfortable with that wording. It sort of blew my mind. I found myself having to walk away from the computer.

But strangely enough, you know what bothers me the most about it… I’m jealous. How stupid is that? But it is the truth. I look at Joan Rivers, and I’m jealous that this woman who picks on people, makes fun of their weaknesses and behaves like a catty sixteen year old gossip monger rather than a classy well aging lady gets to be on television and deliver that message to millions of millions of people.  I’m jealous that she has a venue I only dream of having, and I am disgusted by how she utilizes it. It makes me thankful that people like Oprah and Ellen came along and started reminding people how important it is to give back and to help others and to show one another kindness.

Yesterday I felt like I had been living in a bubble where I never really experienced any sort of discrimination because of my size, gender, race, religious beliefs or sexual preferences. Maybe that was because I was super morbidly obese, self-employed and surrounded myself with only people who accepted me and loved me no matter what. But as I start to experience the world more, I realize that some days aren’t amazing even when you are thin. I always thought being thin would change everything and turn the world into a place where everyone followed rainbows and founds lucky pots of gold but I’ve learned over the last couple of years as I live life after gastric bypass and massive weight loss, that just isn’t the case. In fact, I think the world I live in now is a little bit harsher than it was before.

After I read my blog to HJ this morning she told me about a clip on www.AfterEllen.com where Ellen talks about bullying. ( See: Watch Now! Ellen opens up to “A Current Affair” ) Ellen DeGeneres is one of my personal Hero’s. I grew up in the era where my Mother watched Oprah and I fell in love with Ellen. Her motto “Be kind to one another,” is something I try to incorporate into my life.  Each day, when I am dealing with other people I remind myself to be kind and to pay it forward. A very wise man once taught me that each of us is on a personal journey, and during each of our journeys we each have the responsibility to do two very important things. We must know when to stop and reach forward to those more experienced than ourselves for help and we must know when to stop and reach back to those behind us and offer them the wisdom of our experience in the form of a helping hand. This is the theology I live my life by. As I listened to Ellen’s interview, I found myself chuckling a little at how much it applied to how I was feeling today.

 

“When I say be kind to one another, I think, umm… I just want people to, maybe it will seep in… I think people are rude sometimes, and I think people are unkind and I think people don’t pay attention to someone else’s feelings. And I think that there are a lot of kids out there that are bullied…and I think that needs to stop, and I think adults need to know that they are doing the same thing, it’s not just kids. There are adults out there bullying and they need to be kind.” – Ellen DeGeneres

In this same interview Ellen talks about her take on how you can’t control everything, how some things happen because they are just meant to be and how all you can really do is be yourself. For her that means living life as a good, kind and gentle person. Is it any wonder she is one of my personal heroes? There is even a little comment in there about Joan Rivers and how mean her comedy is.

After watching Ellen’s interview today I have to say, I think I got this wrong. I forgot to approach Ms. Rivers the way I would have wanted to be approached, with kindness and gentleness, because I was so upset at the group of people she was making fun of.  So, inspired by Ellen I decided to write Joan Rivers a new letter today.

Dear Ms. Rivers,

I wrote you a letter yesterday scolding you for your weight biased joke against Adele on the David Letterman show and demanding an apology. I apologize, because demanding anything rarely gets anyone anywhere. As a Bariatric surgery patient that often has to explain to people why I chose surgery as my tool to fight obesity and a post reconstructive plastic surgery patient who now gets judged for not being grateful enough for the body her insurance paid for and a woman who has battled obesity since my childhood, it hit close to home and my first response was defensive and off mark.

I called your behavior the equivalent of a high school bully, and while I think it was, I did neglect to give you the benefit of the doubt and credit the fact that this sort of comedy is your job, and what you are famous for doing.

It occurred to me today Ms. Rivers that as someone who has often been made fun of and ridiculed for her plastic surgery selections, I am sure that you understand how that can feel. I’m sure you understand how hurtful it can be. That’s why I would love to invite you to show your fans and 149 million Americans battling obesity, that you don’t really think it is a laughing matter.

You can do so by joining the Obesity Action Coalition and by making charitable donations to the Obesity Action Coalition and the WLSFA. I’m sure once you get to know about the WLSFA you will love them as much as I do! They are an organization that helps fund grant recipients for patients that need plastic surgery to remove excess skin after massive weight loss. As someone who was lucky enough to have her insurance cover several of these procedures I know how life changing these plastic surgeries can be. I am so passionate about these two organizations and what they do in the fight against obesity that I am thrilled to tell you about them so that you have the opportunity to show the world that you’re really not as mean-spirited as your jokes can be and that there is a kinder gentler Joan behind the jokes.

I’ve included links to both organizations for your convenience.

http://www.obesityaction.org/ – http://www.wlsfa.org/

Thank you for your time Ms. Rivers,

Have a great day

Jaime “Pandora” Williams – Portland OR

Thank you Ellen DeGeneres, though you’ll likely never know you did it, you helped me put into perspective my first real experience with discrimination and helped me set the paradigm for how I will deal with these types of things in the future with more positivity and a more kind and gentle approach. You’ve taught me how to find a way to stay true to who I am, as the world shows me more of who it is.

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This is Me Hurt and Discouraged

This is one of those pieces that you start to write and ask yourself, do I really want to share these thoughts and feelings with my readers?

LittleDSSpeopleFor me, the answer is a resounding yes, and let me explain why. I made a promise when I started this blog that I would share my journey with you, that includes the times when the journey isn’t fun or exciting and it includes times that I feel hurt and sad.

Today I feel hurt and sad and discouraged. I feel like this journey is teaching me who my real friends are, who really cares about me, and who really supports me. It’s funny my friend just posted a picture on Facebook as I am working on publishing this entry that said “You don’t lose friends, you just find out who your real ones are.” ( Thank you Claire you remind me so much of my Daddy )

Now let me start by saying that I realized there are lots of facets to my emotions and my feelings right now. First let’s talk about my life here in Portland. There are a lot of people in my life, people who I interact with on a regular basis that call themselves my friends and have no problem asking me to do something for them, or inviting me to do something with them. But you know what, when things start happening for me and I ask for help and support in the mere form of a COMMENT on a page that it is REALLY important to me, they can’t be bothered to help me. If you look at the page that I’ve publicly asked for support on, you’ll see the same people who have been supporting me for years in real life. My best friends Debby, Ashli and Heather, Debby’s husband Colin, and that.. is it.

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You have no idea how heart wrenching that is to me. You don’t see my family on there, you don’t see my friends on there, you don’t see local friends that I have done things for, supported, tried to help with their own endeavors on there commenting.

Now there are a few people in my life, like my “Second Father” as I call him, Tom, who is in his 70’s and just isn’t part of the social media world, and my Aunt Beverly who isn’t really computer proficient. Those people I understand, but the rest of them. No I’m sorry I don’t.

Frankly, the next time someone from my everyday life here in Portland asks me to do something for them or with them that could not bother to support me when I BEGGED for it. I’m going to say “I’m really busy right now but thank you for inviting me.” so when you get that response from me, you’ll know why.  That’s my approach, I’m not one to pick a fight or get into a big dramatic thing with you over it, I’m just the type to go away and give you back the same emotional vacancy sign you just handed me with your clear display of lack of support. Now if you feel that you fit into this box, then really, maybe you should ask yourself why you decided that something that I asked of you, something that was extremely important and exciting to me, meant so little to you, that you couldn’t be bothered to add a quick comment to a page that I asked you to.

Now that’s, the real world. But there are other spins on this too, and once again, I’m going to be honest about my feelings. But really, my online world isn’t that much different. There are people who read my blog on a regular basis, who have seen something in me from the beginning and support me. I love you guys, you are the very reason my blog exists.

529967_355878714449811_2000093436_aBlogging really isn’t my thing. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s not like I set out to be a blogger. I set out to share my story with others that were battling the same issues and that sort of made me a blogger. It’s not my dream though. I’m not after a 10,000 reader following or a blog that makes money with advertisements. I don’t make anything off my blog, the couple of sponsors I have are people who believe in me and what I am doing. NWFitness and PaceSetter, and their sponsorship isn’t in the form of cash, it’s in product. PaceSetter gives me running shoes and socks and tips on how to improve my running. NWFitness is trying to get as much of the equipment as they can for my start-up business as a personal trainer that I am lunching this year. And these sponsors weren’t even ones I found, they are sponsors my friends found for me, because they took the initiative to start looking for people to help me get started. It’s not my blog that I am focused on, my blog is my way of communicating my story to others, what I am out to do is help other people on their weight loss journey by teaching them that exercise can be fun, and to help the weight loss surgery community discover the benefits of exercise on an emotional level, as an emotional outlet, stress reliever, and, a damn good option in the battle of cross over addictions. Exercise has helped me so much, becoming a trainer and helping others find that is extremely important to me.

NWFitness125Every event I go to, everything I do right now comes out of my own pocket and of course the time that I am investing in it takes away from my normal job. But I believe in the WLS Community and I want to be a part of t, and those few people whose lives I touch and help with what I do, usually give me more motivation than I need to go on.

But I won’t lie to you, I won’t sugar coat stuff and paint it with pretty colors to make people like me. I’ve been that big girl who was invisible to the world for so long that if you decide you don’t like me because of what I have to say, that’s ok, I can live with that.

But seriously folks, I don’t think you understand how disheartening it is to ask your community to do something for you and pretty much get ignored. I don’t pretend to be one of those people who has a following of 5000 or even 500, but I have a couple hundred of followers on the social media networks and you know what. EIGHT of them, took the time to post a comment on this page when I literally begged. And really… I wouldn’t think asking people to go to a page and encourage a famous fitness guru to get involved in our community and come to our events would be such a hard thing for my friends in this community to do. But apparently it is, and I’m not going to lie folks, it’s hurt my feelings.
DSS-PostLogo3bFor the first time, I honestly am second guessing my involvement in this community. For the first time, I am wondering if I want to continue pressing forward to build a fitness career focused on the WLS community specifically. For the first time, I’m starting to think that maybe I should just be focusing on building my new career in general and not so much on just the WLS community, even though I am extremely passionate about it and care about the people within it.

One thing that I know right now is that for the last 6 months I have written letters to my Hero Chris Powell that were answered. He was listening to my voice, I had gotten his attention.

So many things were happening for me, and when I was Honored with the Ms. Fabulous 2012 title I thought, OK  here is my big shot to make a go at this and actually write Chris Powell and ASK him to come to some of these events and recognize this community. I thought it was really a good shot to work on fighting the misconception that weight loss surgery is the easy way out, and of course, help promote fitness in the WLS community because that is what I am all about.

DSS-PostLogo4bI feel right now, like I sort of wasted my one big opportunity. I feel like I should have waited to ask Chris Powell to do something. I feel like instead of asking him to support a community that can’t take the time to show him that they WANT to be supported I should have just kept that little open line of communication with him to myself and held on to it until there was something I wanted for just me, not the entire community. I know that sounds selfish, so be it, that’s the truth about how I feel right now. I feel like I’ve really pushed to get his attention, his wife’s attention, and his management teams attention, and I asked for something big, and got a pretty positive response. But, even when this community could SEE that positive response ( I mean you can see his responses to my letters on my website and obviously on the post on his Facebook page that I asked for support on. ) only EIGHT people who are not 5-10 year-long friends of mine could be bothered to support me. It hurts my feelings a lot because there are so many people in this community that I thought really cared about me and respected me, and when I see that they can’t take 5 minutes to make a comment, or share a post for me it just really hurts my feelings.

I pay close attention. Especially to those that sure has heck don’t mind it when I do that for them. I’m very good at hitting the like button, commenting, sharing, retweeting, replying, and let me just tell you honestly guys, the lack of support I feel here, it’s not encouraging.

Now I will be the first to admit my own issues and own my own stuff. Is my reaction to this warranted?  Is how hurt I feel right now justified? I’m 100% positive that I am even more sensitive to the lack of support I feel from the WLS community because of the lack of support I get from my own Family. But you know, I’ve been honest about the lack of support from my Family and my poor relationship with them. I’ve been very honest about my “chosen family” and about how I very much see the WLS community as part of my family. And the fact that I didn’t get the support I thought I would from my WLS Family really broke my heart.

I’m going to be taking a few days to lick my wounds and re-evaluate what I am doing, how I am doing it and whether I need to go into a different direction.

My best friend Ashli arrives for a week-long visit on Wednesday and you won’t see any blogs, or social media presence from me while she is here. I’m going to take some time to consider where I am going to focus my energies and spend quality time with the women that have supported me for years.

DSS-PostLogo5I feel like my dream is unreachable now. I realize that after what I asked Chris Powell to do and how hard I tried to show him that the weight loss surgery needed him, he’ll likely never respond to me again now. The fact that I probably lost the ear of my biggest hero by asking him to get involved with this community rather than just get involved with me and potentially blew any chance I ever had of meeting the one person whose words of praise mean as much to me as my Father’s is just crushing to me.

Right now, my instant reaction is to withdraw, to go focus on my education and my life and not worry so much about blogging, Facebook and Twitter or being friends with people who don’t really care about something that meant so much to me. But I know that reaction comes from a place of hurt and emotional response and I won’t make any decisions until the smoke alarm stops sounding and I have time to really analyze all the emotions involved in what I am feeling.

For those of you that did support me, and did comment. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for taking the time. I will never ever forget the eight of you that tried to help me, and as always it’s an action I will pay forward somehow, someday, someway.

My blog has gone silence once before when my Father passed away. I felt like I needed time to grieve and heal before I could move forward. This time it won’t be as long but I feel like a dream of mine died with this part of my journey and I need some time to get over that.

People often ask me what I do when something happens that hurts me or discourages me. This is it, I step back, reevaluate and re-approach, I’ll see you all in a week or so when I have my head back on straight and the hurt is a little less new and raw.

Related Links:

Chris Powell answers my letter. Please help make my dream come true.
My spin on WLS Advocacy – What I am doing to help
A Letter to Chris Powell
Chris Powell Responds to my Letter

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