Three racks are waiting in the walk-in when I arrive this morning. It’s going to be a busy day. The holidays are coming, and everybody wants a slab of meat to serve with Christmas dinner.
Most butchers receive their stiffs already skinned, but I order mine whole. I like to know exactly what I’m getting. It’s more work, but it’s worth it because customers always have specific preferences about their meat, just like their women—white meat, dark meat, leaner, fatter, older, younger, muscular, more tender, a particular ethnicity, perhaps.
I unwrap the first cadaver. It’s an older woman, maybe fifty. Divorcée. Oriental, very pale. Her skin is smooth and hairless, almost porcelain. Her hair is black, streaked with silver. Soft. Exquisite. It will be a shame to shave. Perhaps I’ll have it made into a wig.
I lift the body off the cart and lay it on the chopping block. I drain the fluids and remove the skin. The whole process has become such a routine operation it hardly requires any conscious effort anymore. In an hour’s time, the body is displayed, unrecognizable, neatly arranged inside the case. A tender, lean selection. Sure to sell. Except the ribs, which look a little pitiful.
I save the bones and slops for later. My first priority is stocking the case. The flesh is cut fresh every morning. Once I finish stripping all three bodies, leftovers are processed into pet food. As a butcher, efficiency is the art of my trade. Nothing goes to waste.
I clean the block and change my gloves before retrieving the next body. This one is young and muscular. Dark skin. African-American. Wiry hair. Late twenties, I would guess. Very athletic. Tougher meat. Thick arms and thighs. Tight abdomen. I prefer less muscle, personally—it’s too chewy.
I lift the body up and haul it to the block. This one is heavier and taller than the first. Most butchers purvey consistency, but I prefer to offer a variety. Each delivery is a surprise. Although, certain qualities are more profitable. White meat sells for more per pound than dark meat, even though it’s all the same under the skin. Young meat also sells for more than older meat. A raw vegan diet adds value. Grass fed women always sell for more. These details are included in the invoice with each delivery. The names are, by law, excluded.
The first two stiffs should sell for about the same. The first is white meat, vegetarian, but also significantly more mature. The second one is dark but young, and standard diet. The funny part is, at the end of the day, most of the customers would never know the difference. Age and diet are detectable in taste to some degree, but ethnic preferences are purely placebo. Men like to eat the same meat they lust after. The sickest part is when they send their wives to buy the groceries, and the wives are standing there describing the type of meat their husband wants, reciting a list of their own physical attributes, knowing their wedding ring is the only thing keeping them in the kitchen, making dinner, instead of on the dinner plates.
I clean the block once more and prep the cutting station for the final body. I unwrap the last cadaver. I recognize her instantly. It’s Olivia. My ex. Her eyes are shut. Her hair is long. Her lips are purple, almost blue. Her skin is cold and gray instead of golden brown, like I remember. We lived together just a couple years ago. She would have been thirty-two this year.
Her body is as I remember it, but lifeless. I remember laying next to her in bed. The warmth and softness of her skin. Her arms and legs all wrapped around me in the morning. Us tangled together in the sheets. The salt of her sweat when we were finished. The scent of her hair.
I lean in to smell her neck, but I smell nothing. She is cold and sterile. Not herself. I gently slide her eyelids open. She stares through me. Her gaze is frozen. Unfocused. I search her eyes for any sign of recognition, but she doesn’t see me. How could she? She’s dead.
“Olivia,” I whisper. My voice sounds strange against the silence. The absence of her answer rings in my ears. I lift her lifeless body, her familiar shape now hanging limply in my arms. I hold her there, imagining the wedding day we never had, remembering the woman who could have been my wife. That wedding would have saved her life.
Ever since Congress declared a state of emergency on all fronts a few years back— overpopulation, overconsumption, overuse of precious resources, excessive waste, etcetera—numerous solutions were proposed, each remedy more drastic than the last. Conditions were critical, and each proposal was accordingly extreme. Ultimately, it was decided that too many resources were being wasted raising enough livestock to accommodate our growing appetites, and the number of people inhabiting the planet was too immense for it to support. The answer was obvious.
Women are valued highly in our society. We depend on them to have our babies and raise our children. They provide pleasure for their husbands, and care for their daughters and sons, while their husbands are working. Women who don’t marry, however, are equally essential. We depend on them for food. Since animals are no longer available to eat, unmarried women are our meat.
Women are kept alive as long as they hold marital value, and harvested when they become expendable. Women have until their “prime” to wed, and if they don’t, they’re dead. It’s extreme, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
I lay Olivia down on the block. Her arms fall limply at her sides. I trace the familiar shape of her body with my fingers. I regard her naked form in front of me, once more. I close her eyes and grab my knife. It’s time to get to work.
They say love is a losing game, and they’re not wrong. But that isn’t how I see it. I think of love as a learning game, and it’s okay to love and “lose,” as long as you learn something from your loss, so come next time you toss the dice, you’re that much more equipped to cope with the next shitty relationship you roll, and again with the one after that.
It’s easy to get sucked into and stuck in a shitty relationship. I speak from experience. Bad relationships rewire brains. Good ones do this too, but differently. Bad relationships are liable to do considerable damage, some of which may heal naturally after the relationship has ended, and some of which may linger on for years, if not a life time.
Originally, I planned to write a featured list of warning signs to look for in your partner and avoid. But if the person I am now had warned Past Me not to go forward with my past relationships, Past Me would have gone forward anyway, that stubborn bitch. And she would have been right to do so, because if Past Me hadn’t “made those mistakes” (as some might call them), she would have never had the chance to blossom into the awesome person I am today.
The truth is, most relationships end, and many of the ones that last aren’t necessarily “successful.” So to define a relationship that ends as one that failed is not only unrealistic, but counterproductive. In the game of love, the points are cumulative. Every relationship, you level up. You become stronger and more resistant. More mature and realistic. More compassionate and understanding of your partner. More compassionate and understanding of yourself. More aware of what you need and what you want… and what you definitely don’t. A better communicator. Etcetera.
It can take a few bad relationships just to learn to identify them, let alone get out of them. And that’s why I can’t tell you to end a shitty relationship. You have to learn your own lessons and make your own decisions. But that’s not to say I can’t be a guiding light flickering in the back porch of your mind. There are some things in life we simply have to learn by doing. So do them, if you insist, but let yourself learn and grow, and when it’s time to end it, let it go.
Today goes down in history, because a dear and wild friend of mine is spending this morning (and so am I) in a courtroom opposite her ex-boyfriend, who faces a restraining order for violating her basic rights as a woman. Pardon, as a human* (this is Feminizm Friday, after all). My friend, who’s real name I decline to state—let’s call her MO-Money, sits opposite her ex today to defend her right to be free and feel safe in her own home, and it took enormous strength for her to do it, and a looooong time, let me tell you. So this is just to say, MO-Money: Atta girl.
Most of the women I’m close with have, at some point or another in their romantic careers, encountered the crazy one. The psychopath. Always a real charmer, sense of humor, real fun to be around… at first. And when we meet the crazy ones, to say we fall for them would be an understatement. Try a thousand-foot drop over the edge of a waterfall, plummeting to its rocky bottom. Try hurtling out of an airplane 30,000 feet above the ground just to discover you don’t know how to release the parachute. That’s how hard you’re going to fall for the person who tears you apart. And that’s why it can be so hard to leave them, and so hard to let them go. And that’s why I’m so proud of MO-Money, and of myself, and every person who’s ever had the balls to say that they deserve better than that.
I never found the strength to say that to my ex. The only good thing my psycho ever did for me was leave me, because I never would have left. But since he did, I know I deserve better now, and so now I demand it. But for those of you still stuck—if we made it through, you can too, and best of luck.
What better way to launch E.Y.’s Talk-Beauty-to-Me Tuesday series than to cannonball into a sea of radical self-love and body-acceptance, with none other than Jes Baker—blogger, speaker, writer, fat-freedom-fighter. And what better day to do it than the release of her first book (of hopefully many more to come),Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls.
If you are local to my neck of the hoods, join me tonight at The Booksmith in San Francisco to meet the famous Miss Baker in the flesh. If you are not from the San Francisco bay area, fret not. Jes might just be touring somewhere close to you in the near future (tour dates / locations listed below). And even if you’re from the middle of ass-fuck nowhere, you’re in luck. Want to meet Jes Baker? Look no further. Just scroll down to the video, click play, sit back, and soak in some of Jes’s wisdom, virtually.
As a blogger myself, and the owner of a body, Jes has been such an inspiration to me, and if this is the first you’re hearing of her, may she be as much of an inspiration to you. I first discovered Miss Baker a couple years back when she ever-so-gracefully put Mike Jeffries (CEO of Abercrombie) in his place for only offering women’s sizes fit for women who are slim. Ironically, his exclusionary attitude toward beauty was the same flame that sparked Jes Baker’s fame and success, when her “Attractive & Fat” campaign went viral. I’ve been stalking her closely ever since. You should too, but be prepared to put some miles in because, as you can see below, she’s quite the moving target.
Transcribed verbatim, minus some ums, likes and you-knows.
ESPRESS YOURSELF: Dakota Snow from EspressYourself.coffee here with Jes Baker. Jes, my first question for you is what is body love? For those of us who’ve never used those two words together in the same sentence, what the fuck is body love?
JES BAKER: Body love. Body love is actually kind of controversial because it kind of seems like the opposite of what we learn to do, and also it’s a huge step, right? It’s a hundred and eighty degrees. A lot of people talk about body acceptance, body neutrality. I think those are really important. They’re the kind of in between steps. Body love is when you really learn to literally love your body, instead of loathe it, and it’s really important. For some people it’s a lifelong journey. Actually, for me to love my body a hundred percent will probably be a lifelong journey.
Body love is the ultimate destination, I suppose. There’s an article by Melissa Fabello that talks about body neutrality on ravishly.com, and I would really encourage you to look it up. I think it’s really important.
Body love is really extreme. It’s something that I think it’s great to aim for. It’s not something that comes naturally, because we’ve been conditioned to hate ourselves. But I like to talk about body love because what a wonderful thing to have, right?
E.Y. Jes, I knew I wanted to be a writer for a while, but it took me multiple blogs and several years to narrow down the things I want to write about. So my question for you is, which came first for you, the blog or body love? Did you know you wanted to blog about body love when you first started blogging?
J.B. I never knew I wanted to blog. I started to blog because I was in a horrible relationship, to be honest with you, and really needed an outlet. So I started this blog and it was really unimpressive. It was called “The Kitschen.” K-i-t-s-c-h-e-n, right? Kitschy, kitschen? It was about vintage baking—I was a baker at the time—and it was really insignificant. But it introduced me to blogging in general, and lifestyle blogging. And I read this really amazing article called “Better Homes and Bloggers” in Bitch Magazine, and it talks about how we think that blogs are going to be a little more honest than magazines, but really they are also glossed over and Photoshopped and all of that. You know, we take the most amazing pictures, and then we brighten them and make them look amazing, we talk about the really great things in our life—and how different is that from Photoshopped magazines?
And so I thought about that for a while, and I was like well, fuck, I’m going to make something real and honest. So I started blogging about, you know, my dirty dishes and my shampoo mohawk in the shower, and it felt really amazing to be transparent in a very glossed over world. And I came across a blog by Rachele, called “The Nearsighted Owl,” which doesn’t exist anymore, but she blogs under “Rad Fat Vegan,” and she was everything in lifestyle blogs that I loved—she had purple hair, she loved cats, she loved thrifting, and she was really super fat. And I was kind of, morbidly curious about this because I’d never seen such a thing before. And I was really in denial about my body at the same time, as well. I didn’t know that it was possible to like yourself. But after going back to her blog over and over and over again, I had this realization. And it’s sad that I had this realization, but it really was a moment where I thought, ohmygod… I don’t have to hate myself for the rest of my life. Ohmygod, I don’t have to hate myself for the rest of my life! Wow! And you know, once you kind of, sort of experience and know something, you can’t unknow it.
And so that continued to grow and blossom. I started to read books. I started to find more body positive blogs. It really was like the starting point for me, and the more I read and researched, the more obsessed I became with this concept, that self-loathing was an advertising hoax, and that you really could love yourself the way you were. And then, of course, because blogging is personal, the more I became invested in body love, the more it took over my blog. So when I really wanted to try and do body love and honesty, I changed it over to “The Militant Baker,” and it took off. And I’m incredibly fortunate that it did. I never expected this to become a life career in any sort of way, but it just happened that way.
And for me to be able to be honest and open with the world, to portray vulnerability, which is incredible and very important (something Brené Brown talks about that I really agree with) has been a dream come true. Because we all need to know that no one’s perfect, that we all struggle, and so it’s a gift to be able to talk about that.
E.Y. Writing, in my experience, has been a slow and mostly unrewarding process of drafting, editing, finally publishing and ultimately wondering if it was even worth it for a couple views and likes. But maybe, eventually, your views pick up until you have a following, and then one day you wake up and realize you’re famous and the Huffington Post is reporting on your Tedx Talk. I don’t know about you, but I consider you a pretty big deal. So at what point, or what milestone, did you realize you made that shift from just-a-blogger to a pretty-big-deal?
J.B. Really the thing that catapulted me into being visible on the internet was the “Attractive & Fat” campaign. And that was kind of also supported by this blog post I wrote a long time ago called “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls So I Will.” That started to gain some popularity on accident, right. It was just revelations I had and I wanted to put it out into the world, and it started to be shared a lot, and so I gained some followers, and then when I shared “Attractive & Fat,” that went viral. It just happened to be good timing, it just happened to be well done, and that ended me up on… woo! Oh my goodness, English. *I then ended up on the Today Show, and it’s never been the same since then. So I would say it’s a combination of experience and talent and mostly luck, and I feel really grateful to have that.
At a certain point it becomes normal, which is really interesting. And I’ve really come to appreciate that because every time I’m covered by anything, whether it’s small or large, it puts me out into the world again, and I feel really grateful that my message is shared that way.
E.Y. Let’s talk about Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls. Your book hits the shelves October 27, I believe, and if I understand correctly, you cranked out your first draft of this book in just three weeks. For you to power through that much work that fast, with that much determination and that level of commitment, something must have driven you to do it. So what prompted you to write this book?
J.B. I did crank out my first draft in three weeks. Terrible idea. I do not recommend it to anyone. But the reason I did, and I can’t remember who said this, but my partner had shared that he was listening to NPR and there was some sort of screenwriter where he was talking about this voice, the voice that tells you you’re not good enough—“Everything you write is shit, why are you even bothering”—and he said the only voice that trumps that voice, is the voice that says, “Ohmygod this is due tomorrow.” And so that’s really what happened for me. I was like, “Oh-god, I’m not capable of writing this book, this is so difficult, what am I going to write, is it gonna be good enough?” But it eventually came down to a deadline, and I was like, “Well shit, here we go—I’m gonna write this whether I like it or not.” And so I did spend twelve hours a day on my bed with this plank that carried my computer, Netflix in the background, and I just typed my heart out. And it was really amazing—it was really clarifying. I really had to decide how I felt about a lot of political items, and I wasn’t allowed to beat around the bush. I had to talk about it.
So, it was really incredible… Still don’t recommend it. Some people spend three years writing a book, and I wonder what that’s like. Three weeks? Not recommended, but it worked. If people write a book in three weeks, I would recommend planning the next nine months and knowing that you’re going to be editing the shit out of it.
E.Y. As a writer it’s always nice to get lots of likes and supportive comments, but I won’t consider my website successful until I raise some kind of hell in the comment section. If you’re not writing something that pisses people off, you’re not making your readers think and you’re not challenging the norm. All my heros earned their place because they had to rise above the opposition to stand up for what they believe in, and so do you. You have a lot of opposition, and I say that as a compliment, but I do want to address their leading argument: that you promote obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle. So what do you think? Does your campaign for body love promote obesity?
J.B. Oh, the obesity-promotion question. I think that—you know, I had to do a lot of research for Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls—and what I came to realize is really that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter—your health status. It doesn’t. We could talk all day about medical politics and how much money they make by treating weight first, which is something that they encouraged in 2015. We could talk all day about it, there’s chapters written about it—it’s in my book.
Ultimately what I have come to realize is that “obesity” doesn’t fucking matter. Your health doesn’t determine your worth. Your medical charts do not determine your value as a human. And so do I promote obesity? I promote happiness. I don’t give a shit what your health is like. You are a valuable person, you are worthy of love and affection and visibility no matter what. And that’s very controversial to say. A lot of people—as The Beauty Myth today, for those who are familiar with Naomi Wolf’s work—the beauty myth today revolves around health. We determine a person’s worth by health, and I just believe that it’s just as much bullshit as having a thigh gap. It doesn’t really determine who you are as a person. And that’s all I have to say about that.
E.Y. So, looking back at your accomplishments so far—your blog, The Militant Baker, your Attractive & Fat campaign, your career as a speaker, and now your book—you’ve done a lot of work you should be proud of already, but what’s next for Jes Baker? Any new goals on the horizon? A talk show, perhaps? A clothing line… a vacation?
J.B. You know, as far as what’s in the future, I think I’m gonna be riding this book wave for a little bit? I have no idea what’s going to happen in the future, and I never do. I kind of have the six-month plan in my life as somebody who does freelancing. You can call me an activist, you can call me a speaker, you can call me a writer, you can call me a blogger… Whatever it is that I do. I really don’t know what I’m going to be doing six months from now, and it’s terrifying and exciting because I never know what’s going to end up in my inbox.
And so, I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that this fall I’m going to be promoting my book, and we will see what happens. It’s going to be very controversial. I wrote it to be a basic introduction to fat liberation, to body positivity, to acceptance in general, and so it’s going to reach a lot of people that either agree with it or very much disagree with it. And I anticipate a lot of controversy just because of the world we live in. So we’ll see how that plays out. Maybe people will ignore it, maybe people will love it, maybe they’ll hate it, maybe it’ll end up on a really big television show. I don’t know, but we’re gonna see how that plays out, and I’m really excited.
E.Y. Alright Jes, last question. If you were not a blogger, writer, speaker, slash body love activist, what would you be instead?
J.B. If I wasn’t a blogger or body love activist, I would still be in mental health, and I actually miss it, a lot. I’ve been contemplating going back just because I miss it. I really love working with people who have serious mental illness—the people who are invisible to the rest of our society, people who are so strong just by getting out of bed every single day. Mental health is something that’s overlooked, it’s underfunded, and there’s a lot of stigma around it, so I really have a lot of respect and admiration for those people. I love being able to sit down with them, help them self-advocate, help them work through life barriers. It’s so fulfilling to me, and so I know for sure that if I wasn’t doing this full-time—if it didn’t take up all of my time—I would definitely be working one-on-one with the individuals that have a serious mental illness. They’re incredible people, and I love them so much.
You must have the smallest cock in corporate history. It’s obvious you’re compensating for something. Not only do you have the nerve to call your small a “tall,” but I can’t drive a mile in any direction without passing a dozen of you on my way. There is nothing you can say to justify the fact that the first thing I see when I walk into Safeway is a Starbucks, and the first thing I see on my way out of the same Safeway, less than fifty feet away, is another fucking Starbucks.
But all that aside, I write to you today in regards to the closure of your recent acquisition, La Boulange. I worked for La Boulange before you bought them out in 2012, and again last fall, after the buyout. I was never a huge fan of La Boulange, to be honest, but I don’t support your choice to shut them down. It’s the principle of it. You saw an opportunity and took it. That’s just good business, you might say. You saw a profitable product, swooped it up, implemented La Boulange pastries in every Starbucks pastry case, and simultaneously shut your competition down.
You acquired La Boulange in search of “something special,” according to Brian Kelly, a Chicago retail consultant who told SFGate that:
“The problem with Starbucks is they weren’t generating enough revenue… They brought (La Boulange) in to add some brand power, and to suggest a more premium product…. Often in mergers and acquisitions, the larger company winds up negatively affecting the smaller company by squeezing out the very thing that made the smaller company desirable” (Lucchesi).
Now, the claim that you weren’t making enough money to begin with is bogus as far as I’m concerned. Nothing necessitated the acquisition. You just wanted it, and your rich daddy bought it for you. And the fact that you felt the need to “suggest a more premium product” in the first place tells me you’re well aware you’re serving total shit. Be real, Starbucks. You’re not selling quality. You’re selling consistency. People are loyal to your company because, despite the diabetes, they know that anywhere they go, they can get the same venti “nonfat” quad-shot, half-caf mocha with extra whip and chocolate drizzle on the top. Your success is founded on conformity, not quality.
But ultimately, the joke’s on you because the whole reason you conquered La Boulange was to offer a higher quality product, yet in doing so, that very quality you sought has suffered. As usual, you’ve taken something that’s supposed to be gourmet and mass-produced it, compromising its excellence and artistry. So now we’re left with a global infestation of Starbucks coffee shops, plaguing our planet with substandard pastries and espresso.
It’s corporate colonialism. It’s like a losing game of agar.io, and your circle is the last one standing, now that it’s swallowed all the competition. Ever since you took the throne, your sovereignty has marked the dawn of a Holocaust against the moms and pops, a genocide of independent coffee shops. The little guys are easy targets. We all know they don’t stand a chance, but all my worst fears are confirmed when you go dissolving entire chains in one fell swoop. Almighty Starbucks, I ask you: If corporations are people, does that make you a murderer?
The La Boulange that paid my bills (the one I worked at), the one on University in downtown Palo Alto, closed its doors for good last month on Thursday, September 3rd.
Gone without a trace. The famous ceramic bowls in which La Boulange served their lattes will be displayed in antique stores. Old macaron boxes will collect dust under the beds of grieving La Boulange customers. The friendships that formed between the staff and customers will fade to memories. Buildings will be vacated. Ex employees will be jobless, or worse yet, forced to work at a Starbucks.
I’ve always suspected that your expansion plan extends beyond the reaches of this earth, and ultimately, “Star-bucks” will eventually become intergalactic currency exchanged across the universe. The massacre of La Boulange cafes is just a preview for what’s to come, no doubt, but I’ll fight to the death to preserve the diversity and dignity of independent coffee shop culture. Years from now, in a coffee shop of my own, justice will be served.