Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Two days ago I wrote a blog post The Parade about buying flowers for our second bedroom. When I wrote the last line:

And I rode beneath them (the flowers), hearing their confident shouts. And in my heart, I joined them. "Look, look, and see ... aren't we beautiful."

I thought long and hard about pushing the 'publish' button. I wanted to absolutely, perfectly sure that I was being authentic and saying exactly what I wanted to say. I knew that what I was saying would be seen as almost outrageous by some and completely unbelievable by others. I braced myself for how people might have responded. I will admit that that particular blog is one of my favourite pieces of writing, one that I, personally, will read many times over the next few years - I was almost frightened to let others see it.

As I predicted I did get a negative comment. Some wrote and asked me why I put it on the blog. Since I moderate my comments (for spam, not for any other reason) some thought I simply shouldn't have published it. But I didn't even slightly hesitate to allow the comment through. The comment may be shocking and ugly to some, but it's pretty much a common thread in my dealing with others. Any fat person will tell you the same. Unspeakable cruelty, unfortunately isn't silent. Here's the comment:

This is a great story except for the end. You aren't beautiful. You are fat. Maybe if you admitted that you might be motivated to lose some weight. I saw you lecture once and you are very talented but I was too distracted by your weight to learn anything.

What saddens me about this is the way that people have a paucity of understanding of what 'beauty' is ... equally, it saddens me that beauty has been made shallow, cosmetic, skin deep. To live in a world where beauty is experienced only on billboards and advertisements seems tragic.

I have experienced beauty ...

reading a book wherein I am caught, suddenly, by the astounding beauty of words ...

listening to a lecture wherein I am struck, suddenly, by the astonishing beauty of an idea ...

watching a crowd of people and seeing Joe's particular walk and I am struck, suddenly, by the amazing beauty of the man I love ...

I experience beauty, lots and lots and lots of kinds of beauty.

I imagined myself, with flowers towering above me, beautiful. A fat old man in a wheelchair carrying a bunch of fabric blossoms to decorate the room for two little girls - strikes me as a beautiful sight. I know so because I've seen it - Grandparents doing silly walks to make a child laugh - parents wearing silly costumes to join in a child's fun - big sisters patiently letting little sisters win races. That's beauty.

And that's what I thought about when I wrote how I felt. I was proud of myself for doing something that I knew would draw more attention to myself, believe me I get enough for just being, just because I really wanted Ruby and Sadie to experience a moment of joy.

And they did.

They loved the flowers.

And because I was honest about how I felt, someone else was honest back. And because I made my heart visible, someone saw it as a target. I know that whoever wrote that knew that it was hurtful, and they chose to do it anyways.

I'd rather live in my world, where beauty is a word with multiple meanings, where beauty is more often experienced than seen.


Lori said...

Dave, your post was beautiful, the visual you brought to life was beautiful, the flowers and the thought behind them was beautiful, and I'm sure the joy on the girls faces was beautiful.

I'd rather live in your world too and your definition of beauty is spot on!

You have a gift - the ability to eloquently paint a picture in just a few paragraphs. I come back to your prose many times as some of the most beautiful words written. "The Parade" post is one of the Top 10. For those who get distracted.....their loss.


B. said...

Yup. That comment was a bit shocking but such a contrast to your theme that it strengthened what you said of beauty. Lots of people can't get it,- sad.

For me the word bliss(ful) is similar to what you described. It can take only a moment to experience bliss or recognise beauty. I think I'm fortunate that I've had to sit on the sidelines so much and watch others and life that I get to see things others miss.

Kris S. said...

Not surprisingly, I like your definition of beauty more than the narrow-minded, mean-spirited commenter's. thanks, Dave.

wendy said...

How incredibly sad that someone feels that fat and beautiful can't co-exist. This person has utterly missed the point.

I have seen you lecture many times and I don't think I could have been distracted by a marching band!. If they were so distracted because of your weight that they couldn't concentrate on your message the failing is theirs, and so is the loss.

When iread your original post I had vivid image in my mind of what you were describing and thought that I would have liked to join your parade, not rained on it.

Jan said...

Dave your definition of beauty is one I love. I'm sure I would have thought it beautiful to see you coming down the street with the flowers. Like one of the other commenters I am saddened by the person's narrow definition of what beauty is and their inability to see beauty in any person. I hope they are not in a situation where they support people because they would not be able to see the beauty in the people they work with. When all you see are the flaws, it must be a very dull colourless life. I am glad I can see the parade.

Louna said...

Yes, that comment was hurtful, and missed the point. But there is one reason why I find that it is good you let it through. Whether you had blocked it or not, you saw it and probably felt its sting. But because you let it through, commenters got to answer to it, and I found the answers beautiful. I especially loved Andrea S.'s comment. And your answer in today's post is also spot on.

Karry said...

Dave, you ARE beautiful.

Defying Gravity said...

Sometimes I wish the old saying "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" could be enforced on the internet! I mean, really, starting an anonymous comment to an actual live person with "You aren't beautiful. You're fat." Who would write that and think "yep, perfect, hit send"? It's no wonder we're hearing now about teens killing themselves because of online bullying.

Anonymous said...

The person who shared his ill informed opinion frightens the hell out of me. I can only hope that when he/she heard you lecture it was at a big hotel and that person was employed by the hotel. If not then that person was likely involved in supporting people who are living with some kind of difference. I can not fathom the damage that could be done by this person who only is interested in physical beauty. Seeing beauty in our world and in ourselves is a gift. I hope that this person is gifted someday.

Sarah Wheatley said...

You are beautiful and you see the beauty in the world. I think the biggest gift a person can have is to reflect people's beauty back at them. Everyone should have people in their lives who show them they are beautiful

Flemisa said...

I think your kind of beauty only gets better with age as you learn more about yourself and dealing with the world around you.

Did they ever think you may need your size to hold the love and caring?

I didn't comment on your first post but had the wonderful image of you rolling along the street that I was smiling all day long.

Tom R. said...

If anything posting that mean-spirited comment made you and your blog post that much more beautiful.

Jayne Wales said...

I loved the post. I could see it and all the joy and indeed beautiful moments with just happiness and love.
It's a sad operson who is so narrow in their view of beauty and sadly they will never understand true beauty and will therefore have a less well lived life and will only cherish transient things.
Lets feel sad or that person. Dave I'm not going to feel sad for you because you are great and the one I would want to spend time with.

Shan said...

People who post stuff like that are usually looking for the backlash that comes in the later comments. So that person is reading all these comments with a certain amount of satisfaction.

I am not a pro photographer or anything, but I do spot good stuff and when I have my camera around, I shoot it and post it (no faces). If I had been walking down the street and passed you with the flowers (I love the vivid mental image) I'd have snapped a piccy or two, blurred the background with Photoshop, and posted it as a different, interesting, and artful streetview.

Carolyn said...

It’s never OK to purposefully aim words at another individual in the attempt to hurt, and I’m sorry someone did that to you, especially when you were sharing about a private moment that brought such happiness. I won’t chastise this individual as I think it has been done by others and, hopefully, that message was received by this person and gave them reason to stop and think.

Now with that being said, I do have to say that his comment in combination with the blog you wrote the next day, caused me to stop and think.

When I read your blog Beauty (and then the comments) I thought it was sad that this person made that comment and I didn’t really understand why you posted it. Then I read your blog The Big Ship Cuts Through where you wrote “Such is the fact that it is easier, way easier, to advocate for another than it is to advocate for oneself” This made me think that this really must be true about you, because it seems that you would not tolerate people attacking each other on your blog however you allowed someone to say those things about you. Now after I read today’s blog Beauty, I realized, that maybe I was wrong about my thoughts of yesterday because you did stand up for yourself, and you did it in a fantastic way. You did it by doing exactly what you said, being in your community, doing what you wanted to do, and enjoying the time doing it. That to me is the true meaning of self advocacy!

Anonymous said...

i'm with you.

CapriUni said...

While I understand why you included that anonymous comment, and respect your decision to let it through, on the grounds that it reflects the reality of your life (which is the focus of this space), I admit to being among those surprised it made it past your filter.

After all, it says, right above the text window in which I'm typing this: "comments which personally attack or bully another will be removed."

And I can't help but wonder how you'd have reacted to that comment if it were directed at someone else, instead of yourself. Just because you're used to it doesn't make it any more acceptable.

As for beauty: I think joy is the second most beautiful thing; the most beautiful thing is wishing to give joy to someone else.

Deb said...

Dave, I didn't comment on that post, as I had an appt and was rushed, but it made me grin from ear to ear.

It made me think of my friend Dan in high school, mid-60s. Dan was Mexican and he had Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. He was a large bulbous lump in a motorized chair who could have given up but wouldn't.

We talked in quiet moments (we both worked on the school's weekly newspaper) and I know he had his black moments. He was 17 and knew he was unlikely to see 20. But he was the one person you always wanted to be with.

He coached the football team from the sidelines, but at homecoming, in a monumental mix-up, Dan was somehow crowned Homecoming *Queen*.

How that "mistake" happened will never be disclosed but he got a crown, a bouquet and up onto the float in his chair - the whole nine yards, to the astonishment and delight of the thousands of parents and friends attending the game.

He went along with the joke and played it to the hilt. He had a HUGE bouquet of those brilliant Mexican paper flowers with three foot stems, which he carried with grace, like an umbrella. The crown, was a paper bag with glitter and stars. We swirled the cape around to cover the chair and off they went down the field.

Dan was loved, and because he was loved he was beautiful. He was beautiful because of the kind of person he was. And you are beautiful, because we love you, and because of the kind of person you are.

Jeannette said...

Dave, when I read your post the other day, my heart soared. The image stayed with me, sneaking up and making me smile all day.
I've been there, kind of. Most of us have been there. We choose to do something that for the moment makes us feel that we are participating in beauty. And you, dear Dave, had the courage to share that with us. Bravo to you, and thank you.