Transcript by Rey Smith.
Jini Palmer: Welcome to Town Hall Seattle’s arts and culture series. In this episode, the Seattle podcast Deep End Friends went live in our Forum on Monday, September 9th. The Deep End Friends is a podcast that explores what it means to be free and what people of color are doing to heal themselves and the world. Co-hosts, Reagan Jackson—a writer, artist, educator and seeker of truth—and Anastacia-Renee—a multi-genre writer, Seattle Civic Poet, educator and interdisciplinary artist—dive deep with author and activist Virgie Tovar about Tovar’s work as a leading expert and lecturer on body image and fat discrimination. And now the Deep End Friends live at Town Hall Seattle.
Edward Wolcher: Good evening everyone. We’re ready to get started. Thank you all so much for being here. My name is Edward Wolcher I’m the curator of lectures here at Town Hall and on behalf of Town Hall, I am so pleased to welcome you to tonight’s special live episode of the Deep End Friends podcasts—my very favorite local podcast—with hosts Reagan Jackson and Anastacia-Renee featuring special guest Virgie Tovar tonight. So before I go further, I want to say that we gather today on the traditional territory of the Coast Salish People, particularly the Duwamish tribe. We thank them for their hospitality and for the continuing use of the natural resources of their ancestral homeland. A couple of things about what is going on tonight: so I’m hoping I’m welcoming a few people in this room back to Town Hall who haven’t been here in a couple of years, into this remodeled space, particularly this new Forum space down here. And for others of you in the audience, maybe this is your first time ever here. Welcome to this space. This is part of Town Hall’s Homecoming Festival, a festival celebrating the 20th anniversary of this organization and the reopening of this building after a two-year $35 million renovation. There is information about the over 40 amazing events that we’re doing throughout the month of September in a festival guidebook that you can pick up on the way in, on Town Hall’s website, townhallseattle.org. But in particular, tonight’s event I was excited about because Anastacia and Reagan—in addition to being two of the greatest writers we have in Seattle—have been hosting this phenomenal podcast for a couple of years now, I think, and doing some of the best podcasts interviews I’ve heard, particularly for people who are really deeply grounded in this social justice work and interviews that they’ve been putting together. So when thinking about this space, I am really stoked about live podcasts in this room. I think this is a good space for it. We have a bar, but it isn’t a bar, you know you can get a drink, but then we can be quiet and make a good audio recording for the live podcasts.
And so this is the sort of the kickoff of that. So I hope there might be some other podcasters in the room or people in the podcast community who might be interested in using the space for that. So stay in touch with Town Hall if that’s something you’re excited about. We’ve got a couple more live podcasts that I will just particularly highlight: tomorrow night, we’re bringing Vox’s The Weeds political talk show with Matt Yglesias and Jane Coaston to Town Hall. And then in a couple of weeks we are hosting the podcast Hot Takes With Hot Dykes, a really great local comedy podcast. And then hopefully many more to come. So as I say, check out more info about Town Hall and all those places, and thank you for being here tonight. But now to what you are here to see.
So I’m going to introduce the two hosts of Deep End Friends and then they will do the full special welcome for Virgie. But because they are such phenomenal writers, I want to give them a proper introduction. Reagan Jackson is a writer, artist, international educator, prayer practitioner and seeker of truth. She is currently a program manager for Young Women Empowered and a columnist for The Seattle Globalist. She’s an award winning journalist who contributes regularly to The Globalist, The South Seattle Emerald and other outlets. Her self-published work include two children’s books: Coco LaSwish: A Fish From a Different Rainbow and Coco LaSwish: When Rainbows Go Blue and three collections of poetry: God, Hair, Love, and America, Love and Guatemala, and Summoning Unicorns. Anastacia-Renee is a multi-genre writer, educator and interdisciplinary artist. She’s the recipient of the 2018 James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award for Washington artists and served as a Seattle Civic Poet from 2017 to 2019, as well as the ‘15 to ‘17 Poet-in-Residence at the Richard Hugo House. She’s the author of five books: Forget It, 26, Kiss Me Doll Face and Answer(Me) and her work has appeared in Ms. Magazine, Painted Bride Quarterlies, Seattle Review, Pinwheel Journal and many others. Anastacia-Renee has received writing fellowships and residencies and is a two-time Pushcart nominee and 2017 Artist of the Year. But together they make up, as I say, the coolest podcast in Seattle, Deep End Friends. Please join me in welcoming Reagan Jackson, Anastacia-Renee and Virgie Tovar.
Reagan Jackson: Now we’re going to have to just take Edward everywhere we go so he can just do that introduction.
Anastacia-Renee: Yes, that’s us.
RJ: It felt really cool. ‘They’re talking about me?! You?!’ Yeah. So we’re back for another live episode of the Deep End. Couple of shout outs before we get into our questions of the day. First off, I want to shout out Teen Tix for making it possible for our young people to get here and get some free tix. And Young Women Empowered. Recently a friend of mine was talking me through some job stuff and she described my job as me being on a UFO full of unicorns. I was like, ‘That’s super accurate.’ But basically, I work for this UFO full of unicorns and our mission is to contribute to the delinquency of minors— (laughter)
No, [it’s to] contribute to the empowerment of young women, femme-identified trans, nonbinary youth ages 13 to 18, and we have fall programs, which is why I’m talking about it because our fall programs are enrolling right now and the applications are due on September 14th and I want every youth who can hear the sound of my voice to submit an application. And for those of you adults who are listening too, please tell the youth that you know who need—like we all probably did when we were growing up—a community of belonging, of support and a place where they can just become the most them version of themselves. That’s what we do. We call it a leadership program, but it’s a family, and a functional family at that.
AR: Of unicorns.
RJ: Of unicorns. Yeah, I digress. Okay. We’re gonna do question of the day.
AR: Is it going to be me?
RJ: You keep track of that, so that’s why I’m looking at you.
AR: I think it’s you, meaning you ask the question.
RJ: Okay. So my question today for Anastacia—
AR: It always makes me nervous.
RJ: I mean, I’ve only been asking you questions for the last two years. Like it’s fine.
AR: I know, I know.
RJ: You will survive this question.
AR: I’m ready. I’m ready.
RJ: Okay. What is an experience that you’ve had when you felt the most liberated in your body?
AR: Ugh, body. Body. Well blessedly, I have had many, so I really gotta think about it. Just one.
RJ: No, no, you can do a little montage.
AR: I think recently a reoccurring body act of liberation has just been when I tell myself, ‘You know what, you don’t have to do that anymore.’ I think that growing up as a young person, somewhere there was just this voice in my head of all the things I can’t do, the things that I should do, who’s going to be mad or happy if I do the things and doing things just because you should do things. And it’s just been really liberating in my body—not just logically—saying, ‘You know what? I just don’t have to do it.’ It feels—
RJ: Like what?
AR: It feels like the one time that I did the thing where you almost kill yourself and fly across the sky, you know what I’m talking about? The little, what is it called? There’s a name for it.
AR: No, that’s you. That’s you. I’m a little bit more conservative. You just hang on the line—zip line! It felt like less exhilarating zip lining, but continual. Like, ‘Huh, I don’t have to do this.’ And it was calm.
RJ: Will you say what it was, I mean you said just deciding not to do things, but what? Like what—
AR: Just deciding not to do too many things, like saying no to the overwhelm. Saying no to the pressures. Instead of making a decision from my heart or my gut or my mind making a decision because of that ‘Meh meh meh, well you should do this. What will people say if you don’t do this?’ It’s good.
RJ: It sounds good.
AR: Even my belly button was happy. It’s good.
RJ: Well thank you.
AR: Your question: what would Little Reagan say to you on a day like this?
RJ: Vanilla vanilla cupcakes, what!
AR: I had a feeling Little Reagan was going to come at me like that! Cause Little A would be like, ‘Yes, and pizza too.’ But what would she be feeling?
RJ: I think Little Reagan was pretty happy and pretty excited about gatherings of people and I liked potlucks. When I was growing up, for the first nine years of my life, my mom was getting her PhD and two master’s degrees and all of that. So we lived in student housing and one of my favorite things was potlucks, because we lived in international student housing and I got introduced to things like balaclava and so I was always like, ‘Ooh, people are gathered and there’s going to be food. Who knows what’s going to happen.’ But also I’m super excited and honored to have Virgie Tovar with us.
AR: I know.
RJ: So that’s like the perfect segue into the bio.
AR: Yeah. I’m going to settle in. Reagan is going to read the bio.
RJ: Yes, you just relax.
AR: I’m just going to chill and be excited and pretend like I’m calm.
RJ: Why do we have to pretend? See this is again with the liberation. You can feel free—
AR: Because we have an hour. Give me time.
RJ: Okay. So Virgie Tovar is an author, activist and started the hashtag campaign #LoseHateNotWeight. In 2018, she was named one of the 50 most influential feminists by Bitch Magazine. She’s the founder of Babecamp—which I’m dying to go to—a 4-week online course designed to help women who are ready to break up with diet culture. But also Bapecamp I want to go to, camp thunder thighs is it?
Virgie Tovar: Camp thunder thighs.
AR: Can I just say the name camp thunder thighs?
RJ: Yeah. In 2012, Tovar edited the anthology Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion. And in 2018 the Feminist Press published her manifesto, You Have the Right to Remain Fat, which absolutely changed my life, and which was also placed on the American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer List. Her new book, Flawless: Radical Body Positivity for Girls of Color comes out in spring 2020 from New Harbinger. She holds a master’s degree in sexuality studies with a focus on the intersections of body size, race, and gender. And she’s a contributor for Forbes and was awarded the Poynter Fellowship in Journalism at Yale. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, Tech insider, BBC, MTV, Al Jazeera and NPR. She’s coming to us live from San Francisco.
VT: Thank you.
RJ: Thank you and welcome.
VT: Yikes. People at home, you know what I’m doing right now I’m just processing the major bio. Where to start?
AR: Tell us about your past.
VT: I don’t know, it’s so funny I feel like all of us, we walk into a story—like we make our own story—but we walk into a context. And for me the context was the United States in the 80’s. I lived in the suburb, in the Bay area 20 miles outside of San Francisco, but it was very conservative. And I was raised by my mother’s parents—both Mexican immigrants—and everybody in my family is fat. And I walked into the context of this history of what it means to be a fat Brown girl. And for me, the moment of tension with the culture, it was happening in a lot of subtle ways but the point where it became really visible to me was around being fat. And it’s clear now as an adult that I was dealing with sexism, classism, xenophobia, racism and things like that, but we were at a point where that language had become coded. So it was after second-wave feminism we were definitely in an age of multiculturalism where it was becoming taboo to be overtly racist in certain parts of the country. And so I was experiencing that kind of dog whistle racism, et cetera, but didn’t have the tools to understand what was happening. But that phobia was blatant. There was no taboo around being—I mean, there still sort of isn’t for the most part—there’s no taboo around just literally emotionally bludgeoning fat people, and particularly girls. Before I was introduced to fatphobia when I was in kindergarten, I was a very playful, silly, funny, ridiculous, jiggly little girl, right? I knew I was bigger than other kids, but I had no shame around it. I always tell people, ‘I love telling this story’ but my boyfriend in preschool was the smallest boy in the class and his name was Ray Ray.
AR: Shout out to Ray.
VT: Yeah. Ray Ray. It’s like, where are you? Where did you go, girl?
RJ: Ray Ray, if you’re out there, please reach out to Virgie on Instagram. Be reunited.
VT: So Ray Ray was the littlest person in the class—and I still have this obsession with little things, like I love chihuahuas and stuff.
AR: Now Ray Ray, if you’re listening to this part—
VT: But just, whatever the smallest thing is, I’m going to be drawn to it, whether it’s a person or a cactus or whatever. Ray Ray was just the smallest person. I just honed in, I had my tractor beam or whatever. I grew up in a household that was totally dysfunctional and yet was a household full of love. And I think a lot of us can relate to that where it’s like, I was in an abusive household, but I’ve never been more loved in my life, right? And so part of my family was encouraging me to be ridiculous and bombastic and all these kinds of things. And so I was very self assured. And I was like, ‘You, your mine,’ like, ‘Ray Ray, you’re my boo now.’ You know? I interacted with the world in a very intuitive way. And then I was introduced to fatphobia and that was just slowly stolen from me. And I think what’s interesting with any really intense experience of education and oppression is that there’s actually a transition period from the point at which you don’t know about it—so the innocence period—and then there’s the period of assimilation, which actually feels very short. You don’t even remember that that experience happened, but it’s actually a lengthy experience. And as an adult I can now remember being confused, like, ‘Oh wait, so I don’t think anything’s wrong with my body, but everybody else is telling me something’s very wrong with my body.’ And that education was primarily coming from boys. And I think it’s interesting because what—and again, I didn’t realize this until much later—but yes, they were using the language of fat, but the rationalization for their fatphobia was that I wasn’t the kind of girl they wanted to marry. And that was a punishable offense. And so actually those are 2 lessons in 1. One is that it is wrong for you to be fat. And the other is that, ‘You are not lovable because you are not the type of woman who will look good by my side.’ So in that way, sexism was already in there and I didn’t know it but I realize now that that was rape culture, right? Like that was right there: if I am not the kind of girl who makes you look good, I am not safe. And that’s rape culture. That sexualized violence—where it’s actually about withholding attention but there was a sexual undertone—there’s so much intensity in that. The story could be very, very long, but like that was the moment of realizing that I was somehow on the outskirts and that it was my job to become normative and that, for as long as I wasn’t going to be normative, I was going to be emotionally tortured and unsafe. And so I did what a lot of fat people do and tried to lose weight.
I was on a diet. The word dieting I’ve come to really problematize because it’s just another word for disordered eating. And I think that there’s this [idea that] we don’t use that word, we don’t use the concept of disordered eating to talk about dieting because we as a culture just do dieting and see it as innocuous self-improvement. But I was anywhere from restricting what I was eating a little bit, to restricting entirely and only eating two or three mouthfuls of food a day for almost 20 years. And in this period I am introduced to anti-racism, I become an activist around this. I am introduced to feminism I’m a feminist and I’m still dieting, right? What’s interesting about—this is a bit of an aside—but feminism, it’s interesting what happened with fat liberation, fat activism and feminism. It’s happening again right now, actually. Fat liberation could have become part of mainstream feminism. But in 1970, the National Organization of Women approached NAAFA—the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance—and was like, ‘Listen, we really love your message but the word fat is a little bit weird. And we want to make sure everybody feels included in this conversation, so is there any way that we could have a more generalized, less deeply politicized version of what you guys are doing?’ And that was where the concept of body image came from. So I learned body image without an explicit fat critique and was a dieting feminist who understood body image. It was just wild. And it wasn’t until—I mean, I dated someone who was fat positive and that really, really was impactful—but for me in terms of this work really becoming what I did, it was really in graduate school meeting mostly queer women who were fat activists and who were anti-assimulationist. They had a critique of the system just generally. And the idea wasn’t to become palatable fat people, but the idea was to create our own little utopia on the edge of the planet, on some level. And that so deeply resonated with me. So I was doing research. I started meeting all these incredible women, femmes who were refusing to diet it and they were having incredible sex lives. They were wearing amazing outfits and they were dating a bunch of people and they were just in your face, right? And it was kind of that superlative femininity that blew my mind. I didn’t know that you could be an-over-the-top, dramatic, hyper-feminine, super cunty person and also be fat.
AR: Shout out to super cunty.
VT: And I think coming from the background that I came from—which was working-class Latinas were the people around me—that bombastic, cheetah print femininity just so deeply spoke to me and I think a lot of fat queer femmes are working class. So it was this hybridity that particular political aesthetic of anti-assimilation and brazenness. I wanted to tell their stories and that was how Hot and Heavy came to be. And at the time—I’m almost done with my story, this is a very long answer—nobody was doing fat studies. So before the book even came, I was getting booked to do lectures at universities to talk about what my research was about, what I was learning from interviewing these women. And it’s just kind of gone from there. And I’ve been working on democratizing the political education I received in anti-racism, in feminism, to a certain extent queer theory, and fat liberation. Yeah.
RJ: Can you tell us a bit more about this book that you’re coming out with?
VT: Yeah, so the new book is Flawless: Radical Body Positivity for Girls of Color. It is the first time I’ve ever been—it was really wild realizing this—but it was the first time I was explicitly invited to speak to people of color. And it was weird how I hadn’t realized that I had never been given that invitation and troubling, I guess. And it was odd that when I had to think about it, I was like, ‘Right, the publishing world is very explicit that if you’re a writer, you are writing to cisgender white, straight women in the Midwest who are between 30 and 50. That is your imaginary—for every woman who’s a writer—that is your demo according to publishers.’ I think we have learned that that’s not the case, right? The research says this, but the research, it’s like a feedback loop, right? You keep making stuff for this market this market is the only one that’s responding, and then you’re like, ‘This is the only market.’ And so this keeps happening over and over again. And it was heartbreaking and I realized that all this emotional labor from the heart—I didn’t even realize exactly that I was writing it to that demographic. So that’s what’s weird about it. And then I think the other thing that was really interesting about writing the book was: it was emotional in a way that I never had experienced before because I grappled with creative blockage I had writer’s block for the first time. Usually I’m very prolific. I’m mostly documenting thoughts that are already there. And for the first time I had writer’s block, it took me months to actually just sit down and even write the introduction and I couldn’t understand what was going on. I was like, ‘What’s happening?’ And I did all this stuff and I had to grapple with the fact that I was dealing with grief. I was dealing with grief because writing for girls of color is an extraordinarily vulnerable act to me because it was like, ‘Oh my God, these girls that I’m writing a book for, they aren’t safe. And I’m trying to imagine a world in which they are. And I’m trying to encourage them to create that world and I’m trying to tell them how powerful they are.’ And in some ways it was like writing to myself, you know? But it was more than that it was stepping into a protector role. And it was astounding to find the enormity of my ambitions, the enormity of my wishes for these girls I don’t even know, [it] was so huge. And it was like there was something and it required me to access some kind of magic that I don’t think I’d ever put on the page.
A friend—I was telling her I had writer’s block—ended up letting me borrow her apartment to do a little writing retreat and I was like, ‘Alright, we’re going to have to do this.’ And so I turned to the taro. I was like, ‘Okay, give me guidance.’ Right? And I pulled a spread, but the card that really stood out was the star archetype—which is of the archetypes of the Major Arcana—and in my deck, it’s David Bowie. It’s the Iggy Stardust image with the lightning bolt across his face, and I sort of took that card as the guiding card of the book. And when I sat down to actually just start the introduction, a thunderstorm started and it was lightning. It was extraordinary. And I felt like that was the confluence of the wisdom of the taro and the wisdom of nature and that I could just trust whatever was going to come out was going to be the right thing. And so what came out was just this very, very tender thing. And one of the first things that I share in the book is talking about this writer’s block that I have, how there’s this belief that perfection or flawlessness is something we have to constantly strive for, but it’s actually an inherent state that we already always possess that you can live in a culture that is deeply fraught and you can be dealing with internalized racism and racism and you can still build a life that matters you can still build a life that’s beautiful don’t ever believe anybody who tells you the world is unfair, that unfairness is a natural state because they’re selling something to you you have to build the world that you want to see. You have to take the risks that people who are older than you can’t even envision. And just really creating space to be like, ‘You are good,’ right? For me growing up, I feel like—both as a person who had a very dysfunctional family and also as a person of color—I already always felt like I was bad. I feel like what racism does—and sexism too, but racism more so, I think—is that it strips that deep soft sense of humanity that we all should have access to.
And so with these girls, I was just like, ‘Sometimes you have to have that armor, right? Because we need to we’re walking in a world that’s not necessarily our friend. And yet don’t ever forget that there’s this soft tender little squishy person inside, you know?’ You can kind of hear, there’s just so much in it. And so I think I’m trying to convey all the tools that I’ve accumulated over my years of being a political activist and a thinker and whatever. I’m conveying all those things, but I’m getting to have these special conversations. And one of my favorite chapters is actually about family. And it felt like it was one of the first times I was able to—it’s so special to be able to talk to other people of color about family, cause I think that there’s a lot of layers there. The chapter on family is talking about how sometimes—when you’re dealing with racism or xenophobia or both of those things—sometimes what our families do is that we kind of close in and it becomes us against the world. And sometimes being in—that’s a stress response—in that environment, we sometimes keep traditions going and we stay silent in the name of protecting ourselves as all we have. And sometimes we perpetuate things that don’t work for us. So what does it look like to actually create vulnerability and intimacy in a family? It doesn’t look like just sitting there and being silent when grandma’s fat shaming everybody every single dinner, you know? And it’s like, what does it look like—again, to encourage the people who are reading this book—to be a proactive visionary in their family? And I think that this is something that people of color—that permission is not given to us. So it felt controversial but also felt really powerful. So this book is about the body and body justice, but it’s also about not just: how do you fight diet culture? How do you not skip meals? And all of these kinds of things. But also just the body generally how do you protect the body? How do you honor the body? Yeah.
RJ: That sounds amazing. I can’t wait for it to come out. I want to read it. If there’s a ‘How to address family members’ craziness,’ that would be helpful. Like a little workbook.
AR: Extra footnotes.
RJ: ‘Talking to your uncle over Thanksgiving dinner.’ ‘How to say it without using the f-bomb.’ So speaking of family though, what do you feel is the greatest gift your ancestors have ever given you?
VT: Yeah, I mean, that’s huge. It’s interesting because on the one hand, I was thinking about life purpose and one of the things that came to mind was: I feel like one of the reasons that I’m on this earth is to heal my bloodline. I guess we’re all kind of here for that on some level, that’s what we’re tasked with—
AR: Wait a minute, that is very big. I can’t just let you keep talking over that. To heal your family bloodline?
VT: Yeah. And I’m sure you’re already doing right. I feel like both of you are already doing this.
AR: I never say it as a thing. I’m about to milk some eggs, heal my family bloodline, you know. So I just had to pause. Because that’s—
RJ: I don’t think it’s always working, that’s the problem. But that doesn’t mean I’m not doing it.
AR: Right, both the working and the saying. So I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I just needed to take a pause. That’s huge.
VT: Yeah. Well, I mean, to be honest—I think this actually goes back to the original question—I have this theory and it’s intuition-based,I don’t have any empirical evidence for this, but I kind of have this—
AR: We’re not?
RJ: Not in that way.
VT: I have this belief that each generation, there’s this wish that is imbued into each child who’s born on the planet. And I think the healing that needs to happen in each of our bloodlines lives in each new generation and the potential of that is always there. And sometimes that person, it’s not the right time. Like the history isn’t right there’s too many wounds or there’s legal restrictions, right? I was telling my friend the other night—and this is going to sound quite poetic but I also think it’s true—my grandmother, when she was 9 years old, her mother died. And at the time they were practicing home funerals, that was still a thing. And so her mother’s body was in her home for many days and she woke up in the middle of the night and was wandering around the house and saw her dead mother and she screamed. And then for a year she was catatonic, which in the 1930’s and 40’s—I mean, I think about a little girl at that period arguably choosing not to speak. That’s such a powerful act. And in a lot of ways, I feel like my voice came from that year of silence. I just feel like—I don’t know how to explain it—the power of her silence at that time feels related to my outspokenness at this time. So I don’t know, I feel very connected to the women in my family. Very, very fraught, complicated relationship I mean, I’m completely emotionally wedded to them and it’s often deeply, deeply unhealthy, so to speak. But I think that they took all the love they hadn’t been taught to have for themselves and they gave it to me. And they also deeply hurt me and they also deeply scarred me it’s all connected. I think that that’s my answer.
RJ: That’s a beautiful answer. But I mean, that’s a healing and an answer.
AR: Yeah. I feel like you started answering the next question, which is: what do you hope your legacy will be then? You talked about generational, like that person and now you’re speaking. What do you want? What’s your legacy?
VT: Yeah, that’s a good question. I don’t think of legacy that much. I guess the thing that I’m thinking of is: I identify really strongly as a public intellectual. I’m someone who is a product of academia, but decided to leave academia because I felt like the price of staying was my sanity. And I was like, ‘I will not choose white heteropatriarchy over myself ever.’
AR: I’m sorry—
RJ: Say it again. Say it again.
AR: Could you repeat that?
RJ: Quote of the day, mantra. Repeat after me: ‘I will not choose white patriarchy over myself. I will not.’ Same with me.
AR: Thank you, thank you.
VT: So for me my legacy is this wish for thriving, this wish for rebellion, this wish for the possibility of—I’m reading this book called Proposals for the Feminine Economy and it talks about anticapitalist feminist ways of creating business and exchange and things like that—so being a model of the fact that you will thrive when you abdicate your allegiance to systems that seek to eradicate your spirit. I’m one piece of evidence and if there’s one of us, then there’s more of us. If there’s one of us—
RJ: What a novel idea. I mean, just that there is an option that you can opt out of allegiance, I think is a radical concept.
AR: The word opt-out is radical. I mean, no, thank you.
RJ: I don’t want to anymore.
AR: No more for me, sir.
RJ: I’m full. Yeah. Well, we were going to ask you about your life purpose, but I feel like you just—that was it.
AR: You don’t need to tell us we got that.
RJ: I mean, if there’s more than that, I don’t know if you’re going to have time.
AR: Well, what’s a ritual or experience that has or does help you heal?
VT: Yeah, I was thinking about this question. The first thing that came to mind was eating with gusto. I just did it over there. I was like, ‘He is coming.’ And I feel like you were like, ‘So you’re saying it sounds like—’ and I was like, ‘Hmmm, hmmm, cream cheese, chocolate. I was like—
AR: You should’ve heard it it was a really good conversation she was having with herself.
VT: So yeah, I think for me it’s like as a fat person—I mean, first of all, we live in a culture in which our relationship to food is characterized by terror and anxiety. But especially if you’re a fat person, you’re supposed to be terrified of food. You’re supposed to not eat food, certainly not in public, not with joy. And so for me, reconnecting to the just inherent deliciousness of food is this very basic act of embodiment. The body was designed to enjoy food and to just surrender to that and not fight it.
AR: This is like, ‘We’re not fighting it.’
VT: To reconnect with that is actually a deeply anti-colonial act. It’s a deeply anti-racist act. It’s a deeply fat liberatory act. And on the colonial thing—I was chatting with you before—but fatphobia has a very deep connection to colonialism and diet culture has a very deep connection to colonialism. Essentially what happened—just in U.S history, which is only about 400 years old-ish, right? Like the era that we’re in right now—what happened was that there were these white people, white men of influence who had this desire to justify extraordinary violence in an attempt to, one: clear the land so that they could take it, and also, two: enslave people in order to build the world they wanted to see. And they were able to reconcile these extraordinary acts of violence by arguing that darker skinned people—both natives and Africans—had a troubling relationship to the body, had a troubling relationship to morality and were morally inferior because of their relationship—that was much more peaceful—to sex and food and the land.
So I see fatphobia as a direct descendant of this, because white men of influence who sought to assert their superiority through saying, ‘We have a disciplined and governed relationship to our bodies and to the earth, and anybody who doesn’t deserves to be exploited.’ And so that white supremacists, colonial—and yes, also a puritanical—attitude lives on today in our relationship of anxiety and terror to food and to sex and any number of things that our bodies are designed to enjoy.
RJ: I heard her say subjugation.
AR: Y’all can see my face deep endlessness [inaudible]. Cause I’m listening and I’m agreeing and I’m also mad and you know.
RJ: But for me it’s pleasant, it’s a pleasant experience because you’re saying the things that need to be said. I don’t know about you but I’ve experienced a lot of dissonance, cognitive dissonance between what my lived experience is and what people are willing to articulate and what people are willing to express around that. So to me I’m like, ‘Woo, we’re finally talking about it. We’re talking about this thing that I’ve been living in for all this time, that has impacted me negatively, that continues to impact me, that I watch impacting the youth I work with, that I’m continuously strategizing on how to dismantle and how to like—’ And the first step, I think, is actually just to name the things. To name the things.
AR: And I’m like, ‘There’s a lot of things.’
RJ: Well yeah.
AR: I’m tired of naming the things. And there’s a lot of things, and still we’re naming the things? So I am with you but—
RJ: But there’s still things to be named.
AR: Right, and there’s still things to be named.
RJ: So, yeah, but let’s start here. Let’s start with these things.
VT: But yeah, I mean I think—to go back, if I were going to add something to legacy—I think giving language to what is a feeling for most of us, and that feeling kills us. That feeling makes us feel insane, right? That feeling, that’s gaslighting. And so for me, to be able to—I’ve gone through all the really intense horrible hours and hours of being trained to deconstruct all of this stuff, and I really feel like it’s about giving voice to a deep down feeling that we think is wrong and when we don’t have the language to articulate it, we think that feeling is us. And I feel like there’s a lot of things that people do, but dieting is one of the things that people are trying to do to shut that feeling up. It’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll accept the blame for what I feel something’s wrong and it must be me.’ And that way of thinking is very derivative of being a traumatized person. The only way that you can stay sane is if you believe that something bad is happening to you because you did something wrong, otherwise the world is just fucked up, you know? And it’s so deeply disempowering to have to accept that there’s something really heartbreaking about that and we would rather blame ourselves and starve it out or whatever than to bet on ourselves—again, to bet on the likelihood that our experience of what’s happening is actually correct.
RJ: Have you ever been in love?
RJ: And if so, how has it changed you?
VT: Okay, I have to say: I’m an earth sign. Everybody I’ve ever been in a relationship with is also an earth sign.
AR: Shoutout to earth signs.
VT: Yes. I’m currently in love with a virgo. It’s Virgo season friends.
RJ: Aw, virgo season.
VT: People have a lot of strong feelings about virgos. And I’m Virgo positive, I want to say that right now. So I’m in love with a virgo right now and I feel like it’s so interesting. I kind of want to peek at my notes cause this felt like a really important question that I wanted to give justice to. So for a long time I felt numb. I had a fear that I was incapable of loving or being loved. And because of that fatphobia, sexism, racism, et cetera, but also because I grew up in a dysfunctional family—and I identify as an adult child of alcoholics—and it was a friend and mentor, Michelle Tea, who I was working with. She had hired me to help run her nonprofit Radar Productions and we would meet at her house with her tiny infant next to the dining table and we would just talk about work and stuff and life. And in, I think, our second meeting she was like, ‘You know, have you ever thought that you might be an adult child of alcoholic and dysfunctional families?’ And I just love a person who can say something like that it was totally nonjudgmental, loving. She’s was like, ‘Yeah, I’m in AlAnon (alcoholics anonymous) and I’m happy to go with you to a meeting if you want to go.’ And it just blew open my world. And I came to understand that what I felt was part of a legacy and a pattern. If you grew up in a family that is touched by alcoholism, even if it’s not in your direct generation that raised you, if it’s the one above, you still come from that legacy. That legacy still shapes families. And so I was, what is called in the literature of alcoholics and dysfunctional families, the hero child. The hero child is the one who makes everything better, who’s an overachiever, high-performer, type A perhaps. And my job was to make everybody happy. And so for a lot of people who occupy that space in their family, they often have a very difficult time getting into relationships because they have created a very intense external armor. And there’s not a lot of vulnerability because that’s how we’re surviving. So falling in love was something I didn’t think that I was capable of doing. And I remember a couple of years ago on my 35th birthday, I was sitting in—I think I was at a hotel—in a bathtub and I was just crying and just asking the universe, like, ‘God, please, before I die, let me be able to love another person.’ Cause I felt like I was getting into relationships where I was self-sabotaging. I was getting into relationships with people I knew I couldn’t possibly fall in love with or who wanted to see me and I wasn’t ready to be seen. I met someone really extraordinary in my mid-20’s who was warm and kind, and he was everything that I needed, but I wasn’t ready to be seen. And I deeply resented his ability to see me. And I had this persona and I wanted him to want that persona. I didn’t want him to want this uncurated, messy, trauma-informed person. And so I ended that relationship right as my Saturn return was beginning. It was wild, right? We were engaged. And then I was about to turn 30 and literally I think it was the day before I turned 30, I woke up and the truth just became illuminated. It was like, ‘You cannot marry this person, you do not look forward to like—you only ever feel dread when you think about marrying this person.’ And again, when you’re disassociated that data doesn’t feel like information that needs to change your behavior. Do you know what I’m talking about?
AR: Oh dread, you know.
VT: Hashtag relating. So that was where I was at, you know? And so I was very concerned that I had this—I began to get deeper in the literature. I began to go to ACOA meetings and things like that. And then I just did everything I could, everything at my disposal. I was reading self-help books, I was doing plant medicine, I was doing tinctures, I was doing the taro, I was just wishing and praying and wailing and telling my friends—I mean, I think of all this as magic, right? This is just whatever’s in our sack, whatever’s in our toolkit. We’re just doing it and we’re just trying to go boldly in the direction of our desires. Anyway, through a lot of work and wishing and all these kinds of things and sacrifice, to be honest, I met this person—the virgo that I was talking about—and I want to say the way that it changed me was: I do not see his love as dangerous. I do not see his love as something that I don’t deserve. I do not feel like I need to be armed. I don’t feel like I need to have the armor on. I used to think that love was a very high risk, low yield gamble. I was like, ‘Well, the risk of failure is very high.’ And I think for the hero child, that kind of hyper-logical black and white thinking is very common. And so I was like, ‘Well, in the Excel spreadsheet, this makes no sense, therefore no resources will be allotted to that.’
RJ: That feels right to me.
AR: Reagan is like, ‘Of course.’
RJ: There’s a different way to think about this?
VT: I think also a big thing that this relationship changed—and, to be fair, other relationships, so this is the in-love relationshipUm—I really believed that all straight men were trash.
RJ: Where is the lie?
VT: And I also believed straight men could not be magic, there was no way. And I think in my mind I was also like, ‘Well, there is no way that I will be happy. As a straight woman, there’s no way that I’m going to be happy. And so I should just date someone who has the most access to resources as compensation for my lifelong misery.’
AR: So deep end friends, if you’ve been listening, you know exactly what’s going on. [inaudible]
RJ: Okay. But you changed your mind at some point.
VT: Yes, there was some kind of catalyst.
AR: Please, please tell us about the change.
VT: Yeah. I think I also believed that I have to be totally done healing to get love. I have to graduate from therapy or something—
RJ: Why are you looking at me? Mind your business Anastacia.
AR: I’m just saying.
VT: And my partner now, Andrew, he didn’t—
AR: Shoutout to Andrew.
VT: He didn’t teach me this I learned this in another relationship. But I think another thing that really was helpful was that I didn’t have to change my body. Not only did I not have to change it, I could actually worship my body. That was a criteria I had on my list.
AR: Shoutout to body worship.
VT: I want to end talking about—I think my relationship with Andrew taught me that the universe is abundant and full of grace. I think sometimes I felt like I wanted too much, but he’s all the things I was too shy to sometimes even admit I wanted. He showed me that we can have exactly what our heart desires. He is a hybrid. I’m a hybrid weird creature. And he is too, like he’s a flannel-wearing, handsome, handy fat-positive feminist who loves nature and my orgasms and he has excellent taste.
RJ: Oooh, I’m like, ‘Does he have a cousin?’
AR: I knew it! I didn’t have to say it. Shout out to cousins.
RJ: Just saying. A 6 foot tall black cousin.
VT: Can I talk for a second about my vagina?
RJ: Oh, sure.
VT: Okay, great. The first time we had an oral sex experience, he sent me the flavor profile of my vagina. It was like a poem. He was like, ‘Pink peppercorn, little bit of lavender,’ it was really wonderful. The rest is a secret.
AR: I love that you just said it was wonderful. It sounds wonderful.
VT: And he’s somebody who makes me coffee in the mornings and supports women. On the drive to the airport today, he was like, ‘Oh man, while we’re driving, I would love to share with you this new album from possibly, I believe, the best rapper of our generation, Rhapsody.’ And it was an album of all these songs dedicated to black women who have changed her life. And on one of the tracks, Phil Collins is singing backup. I’m just like, ‘Yes.’
RJ: Ok, update my spotify.
AR: He’s Andrew, right? Go ahead Andrew.
VT: Andrew was like, ‘Listen to this. This is a really important part about Nina Simone.’ And I was like, ‘Ok.’
AR: I love Andrew. I want to meet Andrew.
RJ: I know, right?
VT: I think the last thing I’m going to say about him is he showed me that life is magic and unexpected and mysterious. I knew I wanted to really be with him the first time that we were just—it was a sunny day and we went out to have coffee and I felt we were both staring in shocked, amazed silence at the colors of a bird. And he was like, ‘Wow, look at that.’ And it was this moment and I was like, ‘Oh my God, we’re the same weird person.’ So yeah, I think he showed me a lot in that way, and being in love has taught me those things.
RJ: Last question.
AR: Oh, so much pressure. [inaudible] You know, I was like, ‘Should I set another one?’ Okay. When do you feel the most free in your life? You know, just the catch-all question. When do you feel the most free?
VT: I think there’s a lot of potential answers, but the one that I was thinking about—the one that comes to mind—is I love being around fat women who are unapologetic and we’re just being ridiculous. There’s like red hot tubs and there’s tiny dogs and there’s margaritas and we’re wearing muumuus and we’re farting and—
AR: Shoutout to farting.
VT: There’s just something really special about that. So I would say that that’s the thing that comes to mind.
AR: Yeah. Wow. I feel happy. I guess it’s a delayed reaction to what you were having earlier. You were like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m happy to hear it.’ I feel that way.
RJ: That’s a thing.
AR: It is a thing. I’m still tired of all the other stuff.
RJ: Yeah, but this is a moment of respite. So for those of you who are just now tuning in to the Deep End, we’ve been doing this for about 2 years almost. There are 2 anniversaries we’re celebrating tonight. One is: happy anniversary to Anastacia Naa Akua
AR: Shoutout to Naa Akua.
RJ: And the other is: happy anniversary to the Deep End. So this journey of this podcast really began with the central question of liberation, of what does freedom taste like, smell like, feel like look like? How can we both identify it but then also embody it? And from there we’ve expanded into a series of other questions that—for me, asking these questions has felt liberating. So this season, season 2, has been an exploration of time, the color people’s time machine, asking the questions of what are the legacies we want to leave behind? And what are the greatest gifts our ancestors have ever given us? So each of you should have—or it should be coming around—some question cards. We want to do two things. One is: as we’re ending our second season and about to embark on our third season, what are the questions that would feel liberating for you to hear? So we would love for you to write down some questions that you would like us to ask our guests. And next to those questions you can put an L, like ‘liberation question’. And then if you have any questions for Virgi—we’re going to do a short Q&A—put a V and make them legible so we know the difference between your L and your V. And if it’s a Virgie question, we’ll try to get some of those answered. So in the meantime, while you’re thinking, I’m gonna read you a poem so you can be writing and doing something and we can be not in dead air. This is a poem that I think of as one of my more expensive poems. It’s pricey because I feel like it costs me a lot to go through in order to get to the other side, to get to this phone. It’s called “Less of Me” and you can read it in the Emerald Reflections if you want to, if I’m doing a shout out to this book.
AR: Shoutout to the book. What’s the name of the book?
RJ: Emerald Reflections. So this is actually a collection of poetry and essays written by people in the South end, in South Seattle, and published and curated by Marcus Harrison Green. And this poem is called “Less of Me.” “Touch me gently with voice and eyes and hands that long to learn me. Tell me that if I become more than who I am now, your love will grow to match, that your heart is made of something akin to stretch denim, large enough to hold these hips and thighs. Make me believe it. There should be less of me. That has been the general consensus of medical professionals, well intentioned gym teachers and kids on the playground since I was 7 and baby fat became just fat. Treadmills and lion tamers, WeightWatchers and food journals all failed to take this body and make it into a suitable after picture. Run little girl, run faster. If you can’t run the mile in under 12 minutes, how can you ever expect to outrun the unlove that is coming for you? The teenage insecurities that will wrestle you to the ground, the parade of men who will tell you you’re simply too much woman. Where will you find solace when skinny blondes wield their mirrors like knives from the tops of every billboard and no one notices when you start to bleed, no one notices. There is something wrong when loving your body as it is becomes an act of political subversion. I would love her anyway, wrap her in silks, paint her in glitter and shimmy, this reflection cast in the mold of every woman I had ever loved, but I would do it knowing I wasn’t supposed to. ‘Keep nothing of this place,’ they whispered. And in those dreams, my other mothers would come to me, touch me gently with voices and eyes, spirit hands soothing the love back into me, rocking me in their laps, even when I was grown, reminding me that I could never grow too big to be held by God. ‘Keep nothing of this place.’ They knit their prayers around me through the nights, but in the harsh light of day, I would awaken to this impossibility. How can I unsew the shadow clinging to my heels, shed the very air around me? We were born into one another, my America and the body of my circumstances. This body is my anchor. My declaration that moving me will be difficult, that I can sustain myself for a season of lack, that I am prepared to never have enough of what I need to sustain myself. This body is my airplane crash survival kit, the granite beneath the ideals graffitied across my mirror, the mountain that shrinks for no one. There should be less of me and what is left should be lighter-skinned in skinny jeans with long blonde hair because Barbies come in black now, and Beyonce is beautiful. The height weight index was not the first to measure me, to quantify the exact percentage of how much of me was too much to be allowable. I wake up wondering when the anger won’t awaken with me, but I could no sooner peel the nerves from my skin. I could no sooner dissect my country from my pupils then disconnect the veins that run through my heart. This love is expensive. Still I ask from others what I can barely afford to give myself, touch me gently with voice and eyes and hands that long to learn me. Tell me that if I become more than who I am now, your love will grow to match.” (applause)
And I see some questions coming my way, maybe. Thank you. Ooh, these are liberation. Virgie, do you see marriage in your future? And sub question, how do you feel about marriage as an institution?
VT: Yeah, I guess I do see marriage in my future. Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve thought critically about marriage, I mean, all the stuff that we already know. And it’s funny cause for instance, I have a much bigger critique of having children than of marriage, in my own body, like about my own life. So I guess the short answer is yes, I do, interestingly, see marriage in my future.
RJ: Oh my God, these are so good you guys. Thank you for—
AR: There are more.
RJ: There’s more. I’m really liking these questions. Trying to read some of these—have you been confronted with the fetishization of your fatness and if so, how have you dealt with it?
VT: Yes, I have and I’ve mostly been really into it. And I’m sort of in the minority in the fat movement. I’m always the one who’s holding it down. I’m like, ‘Have you had sex with this person? Cause it’s probably great, just saying.’ It’s interesting cause I’m somebody who has long identified as a fetishist and so to me fetishism is not some spooky boogie man person, like some creeper in a trench coat the person is me.
RJ: Oh my god I love this so much.
VT: And I’ve had extraordinary relationships with fetishists—I don’t think I’ve ever had a relationship with a fat fetishist—but I’ve had relationships with other fetishists and I’ve found that they’re one of the most fulfilling sexual relationships I’ve had.
RJ: I’m like, can we ask what fetishes?
AR: I guess we can.
VT: Yes. The last person I was dating very seriously is just really into pain and had really sort of some specific ways in which he liked to play that out. And one of the things that’s so fantastic about dating a fetishist is it’s like every single time you have sex, it’s the exact same thing, you’re always at an 11 and it never stops getting old. That’s what’s so great. As a person who gets that, it works for me.
AR: I can see why it would work.
VT: Yes, my brain is wired that way, so I understand completely someone else’s brain that’s wired that way and it feels very fulfilling. And I have had sex with fat fetishists and it’s been really great. And I think what’s interesting about having sex with people who haven’t explicitly articulated a desire for fatness is that there’s a bit of an unknown, right? It’s like, are they comfortable with my fatness? Are they comfortable with every part of my fatness? Especially if it’s a casual sex, right? It’s like, well, are they telling them? For me, casual sex, I don’t need to have a political questionnaire moment with them. I’m just like, ‘I’m radically accepting you as you are. The only thing that I need to know is that I want to have sex with you.’ But what’s great about a fat fetishist is, they just are here for all of it. And it’s so freeing, actually. And what’s really fun about fat fetishists is, there’s different areas of the body it might be the stomach, it might be the arms, it might be back fat. And it’s just all fantastic to have those different parts of your body celebrated, it’s really neat. I know that there is a really big taboo around fetishism and I sort of understand it, but I think the people—okay, this is kind of a long answer, but I think it’s important to go into—number one: thin fetishists are far more common than fat fetishists. So if you need your partner to be thin, you’re a thin fetishist and that is a prevalent fetish in our culture. I don’t know why that’s not being pathologized. So for me, I’m like, ‘Why is it called fat fetishism? Is my question, number one. Is it only standing out because desire for fat people is already always pathologized? The next thing is, I think for some people when they’re using the term fat fetishist, they’re talking about a cis het man—like a cisgender, heterosexual man—who is targeting them because of their marginalized status, which is just an exploiter, that’s not a fat fetishist necessarily. That’s just someone who is looking to exercise power and control over another person based on their status. So those are my thoughts.
RJ: You want to do some or do you want me to do some?
AR: This is such a big question, but I’m curious too: what has been your relationship with money?
VT: Yeah, that is really big. Yeah. I guess the place I’m going to start is—actually, let’s start with love. I think this actually is connected to dating and romance and love. So one of the things that I was trained to do as a hyper-educated straight lady was to look for a partner based on educational compatibility, which is a stand in for class. What I found was I kept doing that and then being like, ‘Oh my God, I hate this person. What’s happening? The formula’s not working.’ And then I went back and kind of reverse engineered the formula and I was like, ‘Oh, right. Data indicates that women, particularly women of color, go into higher education for radically different reasons than straight men do. Straight men go in to get master’s degrees, et cetera, beyond that, to get more money and more influence. Women and women of color go into these fields because they want to make a change in the world. That is value misalignment of the highest order. So trying to date based on educational compatibility if you’re in a straight context means that you are likely ending up with value-incompatible partners over and over and over again. And once I figured that out—that I had a radically different relationship to money than the people I was dating—very powerful place to start. Meanwhile, I was growing my business and making realizations about how I was like, ‘Wait, all these rules that everybody’s acting are from God’s mouth and everybody has to just follow these rules and that’s how you succeed.’ I was just finding one after the other after the other didn’t make any sense to me. Something like, if you can make money, you should always do it, like you should always scale up if you can. I found that that was not true and not useful. The idea that you should go after the client who can pay the most money, that didn’t make any sense to me. I found that I was relating most deeply and enjoying working with clients who did not have a ton of disposable income. I found that those were the clients who were likeliest to have a relationship that was reciprocal and respect-based in which they saw me as a full person and were down to have me see them as a full person, not as a service provider and a helpless client. So I found that people who were more working class, middle class were likely to have that ethos.
And I was not looking for clients who are trying to have an exploitative relationship with me. The other thing about money was women of color money versus white women money I work in a field where according to market research, only thin, straight, white women who have an eating disorder background pay for services around body diet healing. That’s the prevailing idea, right? And I remember colleagues telling me, ‘Just be ready when you start doing work with your clients face-to-face, you’re going to be dealing with this particular kind of person.’ What I found was: my client was not that person. My client was likelier to be fat, likelier to be a woman of color. The first time I did a retreat, it was international and it was somewhat expensive, and again everybody was like, ‘Just get ready, it’s going to be white, straight women who have come through eating disorders,’ which, there’s nothing wrong with that client, but that was the only client I was told was going to come to my thing. And then who showed up was like—half of the cohort were women of color and three quarters of the cohort was fat. It was, again, one of those myths, like those market fallacies of—going back to publishing—where it’s like, ‘Actually, did y’all make anything for anybody else? Cause if you did, maybe they’d buy it.’ So just finding that a lot of the common knowledge in these areas are based on the person who is the outward-facing brand representation, being that exact person. And I’m not. And so what does it look like to create business that makes intuitive sense to me? I think I’m somebody who has always been, just in a grander sense, I’ve always been very good at saving. I’m a big believer in living below your means. One of the first things that I learned as a young adult was that if you want to be a creative, the number one thing you need to do is have affordable housing by any means necessary. And I really took that to heart and I’m somebody who really loves the idea. One of my closest friends just moved into my apartment and I’m a big fan of the resource exchange of like I have a place and it’s big enough for more than one person and I want to share it and she has enough income that she can help contribute and keep my costs low and it’s really—we share breakfast sometimes, it’s fun.
It’s interesting because for a long time I thought, ‘Oh, someday I’m going to grow out of being a Bohemian. One day I’m going to wake up and all I’m gonna want is a Mini Cooper and to wear Eileen Fisher scarves and that day is coming.’ It’s just hilarious because I feel like at one point I had the realization that I was like, ‘No, this is just who you are. You’re just a beach-dwelling Bohemian and Oh my God, how extraordinary that you get to live this life.’ And so I think my relationship to money has been deeply informed by not only—okay wait, I have so many thoughts. I want to share so many things. So I’m an entrepreneur and I’ve just found that the common wisdom, pretty much all of it is wrong. I don’t think you should scale at any cost. I don’t think you should scale up any more than you want to. I think that you should turn away money that doesn’t feel right. I think you should be very, very clear on your values and build based on those values. I think you should have a goal of zero exploitation and I think that’s possible. I think that you can create products and services that are your dream products and services and I think—God, before I go on for another 100 hours—the last thing I’m going to say is: one of my big challenges was actually around pricing, like how do I price my products and services? I couldn’t figure it out because, again, the wisdom is you charge as much as you possibly can.
That’s the prevailing business principle. And for me, I sort of tried to do that. Then I was like, ‘This doesn’t feel right,’ and I feel, again, when things aren’t aligned, when they aren’t aligned with your values and your boundaries, you’re likelier to make poor decisions because you’re disoriented. When you’re not grounded, that’s what happens. And so I kept fishing around in the dark, trying to figure out what I needed to. I was like, ‘What is this about? What is this pricing block about?’ And I realized that it had fundamentally to do with the fact that I hadn’t articulated the relationship I wanted to have with money. And so I finally landed on, ‘Okay, money is about boundaries for me. Pricing is about boundaries.’ It’s about saying, ‘This is the money that I need to feel like you are honoring the totality of what I am bringing to the table.’ And okay, I lied, there’s one more thing. Even in the recovery world—which is primarily serving women—even in that world aggressive, exploitative, gaslighting sales tactics are the norm. And it is considered totally fine to make women feel their scarcity, to feel like they should jump on a sales call and convince them even if they’re not sure. And I have an enthusiastic consent model, which is like: this product isn’t going anywhere and/or if you can’t afford it or you’re not sure, just wait till you are, it’s okay if that day never comes. But when that day comes—when you’re stoked about it—there’s going to be the right product and service for you. It might either be this one or I might’ve come up with some other better version or different version. But enthusiastic consent, never taking advantage of someone who’s in acute distress. And for me that’s a big point of integrity and I think that people should not be giving money to businesses that do gaslighting tactics to women.
RJ: I think we’re about out of time. Yeah. I really did want to hit this last question, cause it’s: how do you exercise without it secretly being about losing weight? Yeah. I just feel it’s such a good question. Sometimes I say I want to get stronger, but I don’t think that’s true. How do you change that mindset?
VT: This to me is a question fundamentally that’s very common, which is some version of the most—one of the most common questions I get is: when is this idea going to move into my body as truth? I know fatphobia and diet culture sucks in my brain, but when is it gonna move into my body and feel like my reality? I mean, essentially what people need to realize is that this is a trauma. It’s a wound. And if you think of emotional wounds in the same way that you think of physical wounds, it takes different amounts of time for different people depending on the size, the intensity of the wound. I think what’s important is to be honest about what’s happening: don’t lie to yourself about what’s going on. And forgive yourself. It’s okay to be like, ‘Today I’m going to say this is about being strong, but it’s really about this.’ And I just want to be honest with myself because when I stopped lying to myself, other people stopped lying to me too. Or, I am no longer fooled by other people’s lies. And I think that radical honesty and then continuing the practice of just leaving room and space to be imperfect, and to just have patience. And I think—the last thing I’m gonna say about it is—first of all, I think it’s totally normal and okay to be in that place in your process. And I think not freaking out about being in that space is actually going to give you room to expand out of it. Cause I think what happens is we go from food restriction mode and diet culture to then we’re in healing restriction mode, like when we’re in healing, where it’s like, ‘Okay, I have to be the best, I have to bootstrap my way into successful healing ASAP.’ So don’t bring that same messed up bootstrapping attitude that you had towards food into your healing process. And then use the tools that you like if you like journaling, journal. If you like touching plants and trees, do that. If you like drawing weird things, do that. And a lot of times it’s just a process of very slow healing that happens. And I know it’s a little bit cliche, but trust the process. Keep doing the practice. The metaphor that I often use is like, think of this as learning a second language. If you’re doing fat liberation, you’re literally training yourself to speak another language and you’re fluent in fucked up body shit, completely fluent. So on your absolute most wonderful day when you’ve done all the sleeping and all the self care things you might be able to get through some conversational liberation for five minutes. And I think that—similar with language—the biggest learning curve happens from when you go from beginner to intermediate. And then it’s a little bit of a smaller hump to go from intermediate to advance. But really think of it in that way: how long would it take you to become fluent in a whole nother language? A long time, right? It takes 5 to 7 years, perhaps, maybe 3 for someone who’s very good. But have that level of patience, right? Find conversation partners who are going to talk with you in that new language, create realities in which it’s easier for you to practice it and recognize that there’s just a learning curve and it’s different for every person. Yeah.
RJ: I love it. Well, thank you so much for coming. I’m sorry, you guys wrote fabulous questions and I’m sorry we don’t have time to answer them all, but yeah, we don’t. So we’re gonna take these questions though and apply them to other guests as well. Thank you Virgie. Thank you for being here.
VT: Thank you.
AR: I had so much fun.
RJ: We usually end with a round of gratitudes. For me, thank you for saying all the things. Yeah, I really appreciate just your sensibility and your style and your depth and it’s felt like a healing to be here and just have this conversation. I’m like, ‘Oh, this is a conversation in my dreams.’ Like
AR: Thank you for not being afraid. I think fear is big even if we don’t talk about it. The fear of talking about fear. So thank you for saying all the things without fear.
VT: Thank you. Do I get to do one?
VT: Thank you for being wonderful and generous and having such open spirits and for bringing the spirit of like inquiry into our conversation.
RJ: Thank you. Deep out.
JP: Thank you for listening to our Town Hall Seattle arts and culture series. I’m Jini Palmer. Our theme music comes from the Seattle-based band Hibou and Seattle’s own Barsuk records. A special thanks to our audio engineer Moe Provencher. Check at our new season of Town Hall Seattle’s original podcast, In the Moment. Each episode, a local Seattle correspondent interviews somebody coming to Town Hall. They get you excited about upcoming events by giving you a behind the scenes look into a presenter’s content, personality and interests. If you like our arts and culture series, listen to our civics and science series as well. For more information, to check out our calendar of events, or to support Town Hall, go to our website at townhallseattle.org.