Why the Scenes of Ross Dancing with the Fat Little Girl at Monica and Chandler’s Wedding Never Cease to Piss me off


Look, I get it. There’s been so many pieces on Friends’ tone-deaf issues since the sort of revival of the series on Netflix. Of course, many of the show’s attitudes feel dated: it aired from 1994 to 2004, which is to say a lifetime ago. The show has issues up the wazoo: sexism, gayphobia, Ross, a complete lack of diversity for a show set in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Ross… Besides, most, if not ALL sitcoms are guilty of making fun of fat people. We are an easy target and many people fail to grasp or recognize the real issue of fat discrimination.

So… Given all the other problems with the Friends series and the Ross character in particular, why do I focus on those scenes so much?

Well, first, let me give you a refresher on the scenes in question. It’s the first episode of season 8, Chandler and Monica just got married, and we are at the post-wedding reception. Ross invites another wedding guest—pretty, tall, and thin Mona—to dance, when a little girl cuts in and asks him to dance instead. Mona ooohs and awwws, so Ross, wanting to impress her, agrees to that one dance, which turns into many when other little girls want their turn to hop on his feet for a twirl on the dance floor. When Ross gets done with what he thinks is his last dance with little girls, in comes Gert: a fat, red-haired, spectacle-wearing (I’m surprised they didn’t give her braces on top of that!) little girl asking for her turn. When Ross acquiesces without the part where she hops on his feet, she asks why she can’t have a dance like the other little girls. Ross relents, and we watch him suffer through the dance while Gert yells for him to move faster, much to the canned laughter’s hilarity.

Those scenes piss me off for several reasons, which I will do my best to explain here. I was a little fat girl like Gert and I totally understand her feeling of wanting to do what other girls get to do. I was the only fat little girl in my immediate family. I remember wanting so much to have the freedom that my pretty blond sister and my thin step-sisters had. So many things that were easy for them were incredibly difficult for me, ranging from playing on the seesaw swings to being able to wear the latest fashions. So many times, I wish I could just be like other little girls and not have that relentless worry about my body. That’s the one big thing that those scenes completely miss: when you’re the fat little girl in a group of thin, pretty little girls, you are painfully aware of that difference, and that awareness starts at a very early age (pretty much from the first days of kindergarten, if not even earlier). By my best estimation, Gert is probably around 9 years old, meaning that she would definitely be aware of her size difference. Now, that doesn’t mean that this would stop her desire to be like other little girls, but it would definitely change her expectations on that score. Yet, the show depicts her as an obnoxious little girl, expecting Ross to move faster, faster, FASTER, with zero awareness of her weight. The episode ends with Ross being supported by his friend Joey as he limps his way off the dance floor and Mona being impressed by how sweet Joey is acting, much to Ross’ astonished anger. I mean, he danced with a FAT little girl, suffered BODILY HARM in the process (so much so that he’s now LIMPING), and yet his friend might get the hot, thin woman? Outrageous!

I know that many people would argue that comedy is comedy, and that I shouldn’t take a sitcom like Friends too seriously. And I mostly agree with that statement. But the cruel way with which fat experiences are portrayed for comedy intent is yet another way in which our reality is erased and confined to a punchline. Fat people are a horrible and painful obstacle normal people have to trudge through in order to get to that desirable finish line. Here, Gert is yet another casualty in the war against fatness.


Time and time, again



The new year just kicked off yesterday.


Come on. Lie to me.

From as far back as I can remember (well, not really, but it sounds better than “Since the age of 12ish”), my dad has told me to enjoy the present time because as soon as you reach adulthood, it starts flying by, and picking up speed with every year. How right he was.

It’s funny how writing about time only seems to come out in clichés. I know clichés are clichés because they are rooted in truth, but it’s nearly impossible to talk about time without having the impression of saying things that have been said since time immemorial. (See what I mean about clichés?)

It’s been a busy beginning to the year. Busy with inconsequential things like work and household chores. With fun things like friends, and books, and cooking. With inspiring and scary things like the prospect of moving to make future projects possible, but also to find a space more fitting to who I am becoming.

It’s also been a bit of a disappointing new year with almost no writing done, except the kind I have to do to make a living. And that brings me back to time, or the lack thereof. Weeks just zooming by (look at that: it’s Thursday again) and exhaustion setting in before my brain can even muster anything creative. Just this, what I’m doing right now, attempting to update a blog I haven’t touched since last summer (holy crap): five minutes in and I already feel tapped out.

And so my time has also been partially filled with bookmarking writing contests I never enter, reading submission rules for stories I haven’t imagined. I want to go back to writing, yet I’m using the cliché of time to explain (justify) why I’m not.


Time to get the dinner cooking.

Exercising While Fat: A Personal History


As a kid, I used to love to run and kick the ball and skip rope and ice skate in the winter. I played outside with the kids from my small-town street and was picked among the firsts in phys. ed. because I could throw the ball hard and fast—I’ve always been freakishly strong for a girl. I used to have physical fights with my stepdad for fun, much to my mom’s dismay. In short, I was a tomboy. A fat tomboy but a tomboy all the same.

Then my first period came and brought big boobs along with it. Though I had never been comfortable in my own skin (being put on diets after diets from a very young age will do that to you), I became downright uncomfortable with it. I didn’t know what to do with those new forms that just got in the way when I tried to run or throw or skip. So, I pretty much stopped sports altogether, thinking they were not made for me—or rather, that I was not made for them.

I picked physical activity up again in my early twenties. I had just been on (yet another) diet—this one, particularly insane with its 500 calories limit per day—and had lost a lot of weight (that wouldn’t last long, but that’s another story for another time). My body felt foreign to me. In my mind, I was still fat, but I wasn’t anymore, not really. I had all this excess skin and felt weak all the time, which was the worst because whatever flaws my body possesses, never had it felt weak. I didn’t know where to start with exercise. I hadn’t played a team sport in years and as an introvert, they didn’t appeal. The gym option was looming big with its flashy advertisement, but it was also paralyzing for someone who had never even lifted a weight. I tried my luck at my local gym, signing up with a “personal trainer” who spent more time ogling the pretty girls than showing me what to do. Needless to say, I quit that fast.

Then a friend told me about semi-private training, which ended up being my saving grace. Trained professionals actually paid attention to what I was doing, but also challenged me and recognized that I could do a lot more that what my body might signal. I learned to not only understand, but to trust my body again. And after a few years of semi-private sessions, I was ready to venture into the fitness world on my own.

There’s a strange paradox surrounding fat people and exercise. We are told to exercise because that’s the “secret” solution to losing weight, but we are often ridiculed when we do. Or, perhaps worse, seen as a commodity: the before picture in a body transformation campaign, the image of what you should strive to erase forever.

As most fat people who joined a gym and go regularly would tell you, people have no qualms to come up to you, a total stranger, to give you “encouragements” you never sought. “Way to go!” “You’re making the right decision for your health.” “Keep going! You’ll lose the weight in no time!” Because god forbid that fat people would exercise just because they—gasp!—like it. Because yes, it’s good for their health, not in a weight loss perspective, but per the common principle that it’s healthy to exercise: you relieve stress, you feel better, you sleep better, your body releases endorphins, which is awesome, and you just feel good while doing it or right after (or both!). No, no, no. If you’re fat, exercise equals weight loss. Exercise is a punishment for your past excesses. Exercise is a way to fight your own body.

And if you dare take that exercise outside, you’ll often be greeted with your very own special cheering squad. In lieu of the traditional cat-calling, you’ll get people yelling at you that you’re fat (hey, thanks for this brand new information, buddy) or “Keep running, fattie/fat ass/other such original expletive” (yeah, that’s kind of what I’m doing, but thanks for the “encouragement,” I guess).

But here comes the worst part for me. I’ve been a runner for a good dozen year. I don’t run marathons or, heck, even half-marathons, but I do run on a regular basis—typically three times a week in the winter (they don’t nickname it the dreadmill for nothing) and four to five times a week in the summer. I don’t run because I’m training for something, but simply because I like it. It’s an exercise that works for me. Running regularly means needing new running shoes regularly. Like many fat people, I hate shopping, but shopping for athletic clothes poses an additional challenge: the imposter syndrome kicks in. For many reasons—including those listed here—I feel like I don’t belong in sports equipment stores. I have to enlist the help of a buddy (usually my sister) to provide me with moral support. For running shoes, I always go to the same place. It’s a shop specialized in running gear. The sales staff is mostly made of kinesiologists, and the store features a running track so you can test the shoes to make sure you get the right fit. I go back there because I normally get a good service. I still dread it, but I come out unscathed and with a brand new pair of running shoes.

The last time though was a completely different story. I ended up with a sales clerk who just didn’t believe me. He kept on addressing me as though I was a beginner, despite my numerous claims to the contrary. It took me mentioning that I took part in one of the shop’s 8-week running clinics and my sister interjecting that I also biked and swam regularly, and, oh, that I also owned a punching bag (hint, hint: back off, dude) for him to accept that I was indeed not a beginner. By then, he switched to the weight loss talk. Because of course, that must be my ultimate goal!

For me, that’s the most exhausting part of exercising while fat: having to constantly justify wanting to exercise for the simple benefit of exercise.

Wanting to run because I like to run.

Wanting to exist just like everybody else.

The Day I Became Invisible


It was surprisingly easy. In a way that defines irony better than Alanis Morissette ever could, fat people are all invisible. Though imposing in flesh and poundage, we are constantly ignored, pushed to the side as though we aren’t even there. That is, until we get in the way and then become a nuisance, a (large) object of mockery, a grotesque figure to despise. Oftentimes, we use that invisibility as an armour: if no one notices us then maybe, just maybe, we can get by and go on with our day. Maybe we can simply live.

I was already invisible by choice, too; opting to work from home, to wrap myself up in an introvert bubble, venturing out only when necessary and trying to limit outings to the daytime when most people are trapped in the nine to five.

But I truly became invisible the day I realised, quite randomly, over a phone chat with a long-distance friend, that time had sort of erased me. I did not matter, my life was leaving no trace, no legacy, no token, no lesson, no compelling story. I became completely see-through when it dawned on me that the only thing I will leave behind will be a bunch of stuff, a hassle to clean up and make disappear—something waiting to be rendered invisible, too.

Saturday Night, Sober


My sister and I caught a late movie.

I’d been intrigued by The 9th life of Louis Drax so I wrote down the schedule for the week of release, but life happens and I couldn’t make it to the cinema. A week later, the movie only played at 9:30 pm. Every night of the week, but at 9:30 pm.

When you’re an introvert in your 30s, 9:30 pm is late.

I told my sister about it, expecting her to nix the idea on account of lateness, but she said we were tougher than that, and so we caught a late movie on a Saturday.

This blog post is not about a movie, though I could talk about The 9th Life of Louis Drax; it was a strange experience. And Jamie Dornan is not a bad actor: don’t let yourself be turned off by that 50 Shades crap.

But this post is not about that. So here I am, a quiet 36-year-old taking the metro late on a Saturday night. On a Saturday night in mid-September when school is back in session but not yet in full swing.

The first sign that tells you that you do not belong: you are not drunk. Not even a little tipsy. You’ve just walked out of a movie theatre where you drank iced tea. Diluted iced tea at that. Walking into this wagon is akin to entering an alcohol sauna. You take a breath and liquor hits your nostrils. Alcohol is seeping through the pores of the youth—doesn’t help that the weather feels more like early August than mid-September.

You take a seat with your iPod and magazine—the camouflage tools of the introverts—thinking you’ll just keep your head down until the metro stops at your station. But it’s all right, it’s OK. You’ve been young once. Kids are drunkish and on their way to another party or club. They’ll get off at some point over the next few stations before the train leaves downtown, and then the rest of the ride will resume in somewhat normalcy.

One station over and a group comes in. You don’t want to look up but you do. Because they are a large, rowdy group and one of them is playing loud music from his phone. It’s a group made up of eight boys and two girls.

Eight fully dressed boys and two girls clad in tight jeans and bras. Not cropped tops, not sporty tops: bras. Lacy bras.

This is also not a post about fashion or about policing what women and girls should or should not wear.

So the girls are kind of staggering around, partially due to their high heels and partially because they’re drunk. They proceed to use the metro poles as stripper poles (quick aside: EW!). And they are surrounded by drunken boys who brandish their phone cameras like social media weapons. (And they are not the only ones filming. As a non-drunk passenger on this train, I noticed two more people filming, unbeknownst to the girls, including a man who looked to be in his 50s.) Now individually, those boys are probably nice, normal boys, but all you need is one bad apple, and four drunken boys to one drunken girl is not a good ratio. I may not be the best at math but I know this. Four to one means I don’t like the odds. Throw in that bad apple and shit can happen quickly.

So I guess this is a post about that.

Oh boy!

While I am firmly in the camp of those who say that, as a society, we need to stop telling girls how to not get raped and to start telling boys not to rape, in the meantime, I live in the real world. In the real world, as much as it sucks, girls and women cannot get drunk freely. Girls and women need to protect themselves. In this age where even your grandpa has a phone with a camera, they need to protect themselves even more. We have all seen the devastating results the shortest of videos can have on the lives of people.

You know what the saddest part of this tale is? I didn’t do anything. I’m not proud of that, but I felt outnumbered and, I guess, too sober to approach the girls and maybe try to give them a friendly warning. Also, I can remember what it’s like to be 18, 19, 20. Would I have listened to the 36-year-old woman with her Harper’s Magazine in the metro? The 36-year-old woman clearly on her way to bed who looks like she never had one drink in her whole life? Probably not.

A Quicky



I need to do better.

I need to be better.

I need to work smarter.

I need to keep my objectives in mind, all the time, even when I’m down, I’m sad, I’m disappointed, I’m tired, I’m exhausted; even when I just want to crawl under the covers and never, ever get up.

I need to be kinder to myself and others, even virtual strangers.

I need to stop comparing myself, to stop looking at the neighbour’s grass, whether it be to look down at myself or to find myself in a better position comparatively because everything is relative, especially in personal achievements, so comparisons mean nothing.

I need to stop thinking that I should be somewhere else than where I am right now—where I am is fine.

I need to do better.

I need to be better.

Biking While Fat or Driving While Stupid*

(*post renamed following suggestion from Ann Marie)


The general consensus is that it’s hell to drive in Montreal. If you don’t have the snow and ice to contend with in the winter, you are faced with the dreaded orange cones on the myriad of road works sites all happening at the same time from May until November, and all being terribly managed by our inept city administration.

The summer of 2016 is a perfect storm kind of situation. With a bridge about to collapse, an interchange falling apart and the 375th anniversary of the city looming just around the corner, everything is happening at the same time. It’s frustrating enough for drivers, but for pedestrians and cyclists, it’s downright nightmarish, because nobody thinks of them in their planning. They block the streets and sidewalks, leaving just enough room for cars to go through in a very narrow line and no alternate route for pedestrians and cyclists.

Last night, I was invited for dinner at a friend’s place on the Plateau. From my home in the Hochelaga borough, it’s a pretty simple route. I ride up to the Rachel bike path, which takes me right through the Plateau, only one block up from my friend’s place. Simple. Yeah… No.

Road works on Pie-IX and Sherbrooke meant blocking the bike path abruptly and offering absolutely no way across. I had to ride on the sidewalk (something I hate doing) and hop off whenever I crossed pedestrians to find an East-West street with no road works but also large enough for bicycles and cars.

I managed to get to my friend’s place (almost on time) and immediately thought about how the hell I was going to get back home later in the evening.

In the end, I opted for a pretty long detour but one I knew was free of obstacles and would allow me to ride safely home. And it all went well… Until I got to just three blocks from my place. A road works site that wasn’t there when I left home four hours earlier was now blocking my bike lane and much of the road. Fortunately, at this late hour, drivers were kind enough to give me room to circumvent the obstacle and join the bike lane again, which I did, only to be stopped once more—this time by a driver who had chosen to park right on the bike lane. Not only that, but also right in front of the point where the bike lane becomes a bi-directional bike path, which meant that I couldn’t bypass the car on the road side because a platform stood between the road and the path. So my only option was to bypass it on the sidewalk side (something I hate doing—repeat). As I was doing that, the driver came back to his car and so I told him, in passing, that parking there was not exactly brilliant. And those were pretty much my words. No invective, no swear words, no yelling—just me saying, “Hey! That’s really not smart to park there because you’re blocking the bike path.”

(A quick aside: I rarely, if ever, engage with drivers when I’m wearing my cycling helmet. They are sitting in a potential weapon and road rage is not as uncommon as one might think. I’m a very respectful cyclist. I stop at red lights and stop signs, I signal my intentions, I check my blind spots: in short, I always keep in mind that if an accident occurs, I’m the one who will wind up dead or, at the very least, seriously injured. The end.)

Of course, that driver could not accept responsibility for his poor choice of parking and had to stop very aggressively (or more appropriately: jump in my lane) at the next red light to shout a “What did you say to me over there?” in my direction. Because he was blocking my path, I didn’t have much choice but to engage. I repeated the same words I had said earlier in a calm voice. He made threatening gestures at me. I told him that he was the one out of line and I had been nothing but polite, but the fact remained that he had parked on a bike lane, which is illegal and—well—frustrating and unsafe for cyclists.

And of course, because you can’t bicycle while fat, that’s when he chose to call me a fattie and to stay in my way until the light turned yellow just so that I would miss my light. Thanks so much for that, best buddy! It’s not like my ride home already took an extra fifteen minutes because of the long detour I had to make or anything.

I have to ask though: Do the people who try to insult you by referring to your weight actually think it’s a great insult? The ultimate diss? The retort to kill all retorts? Because between you and me, that’s pretty weak. And honestly, I was much more concerned with the possibility that he might run me over than by whether or not he thought I was fat.

Staring Squarely at Square One


Though a good friend said it’s not exactly square one because yes, I’m going back but going back to address something I neglected before. Neglected is actually not the right word: I overlooked it, I ignored it, I mostly pretended it wasn’t there. Because I know it will hurt like crazy when I bring it to the surface—just glimpsing at it makes my heart ache and tears flow.

So I make excuses, and they are not bad excuses exactly.

I’m not ready—well I wasn’t a year ago. One appointment with the therapist had me bawling for one hour straight and her simple, straightforward plan filled me with pure dread.

I’m too busy—that one might be true. Work is crazy. That’s how it goes for freelancers. You can’t pick project timelines for your clients; they impose them on you. If you like the client, you do your damndest to make it work. Truth be told, you do almost your damndest even for the ones you like a little less.

And there’s this excuse I never quite pinpointed before. I knew it was there and I blamed it on a more general concept. Well, I live in Canada, a part of the world that is rich, comparatively speaking, where there is no war or famine or terrible hardship. I make a decent living, I own my place (though the bank is still an important co-owner), I never lack for anything (except vacation), I’m free to go wherever I want, so how terrible can it be really? Then I picked up this book. In truth, I ordered this book over a year ago but I’m only now finding the courage to take a closer look. In this book addressed to adults like me or adults with similar issues, there is this one paragraph on page 13 (interestingly) that spoke directly to me. Like all other paragraph titles in the book, this one is printed in a bold font, but in my case, it might as well have come with a flashing arrow leaping out of the book. “Feeling Guilty for Being Unhappy.”

Head, meet nail.

The author writes that individuals who’ve been through a trauma similar to mine are quite competent adults. Actually, the fact that we function so well makes it hard for us to take our pain seriously. That’s where the guilt over feeling miserable comes to play. Oh boy, is that ever true! How many times have I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should go back to therapy?” only to have my second thought be, “But why? You’re fine. Everything’s OK. Why can’t you just be happy? Look at the countless number of people who have it SO MUCH WORSE than you!” And so I stopped myself, put my head down, and kept at it, because it is true: so many people have it so much worse.

But now that I’ve read that paragraph…

In my work, I often translate projects that have to do with normalizing a concept, breaking people out of their isolation by making them understand that what they feel is normal, common; basically telling them that they’re OK. I’ve been translating about this concept but never applied it to my own life. This paragraph managed to do that for me in a way and, strangely, gave me permission to go and look for help.

So now I’m back to square one, but perhaps with better tools to tackle it?

Failing at Life

Imagine being told over and over—in words, in looks, in gestures, in subtle and unsubtle ways—that whatever you do, you are wrong.


You grew up doing pretty well in school. You had a good group of friends, even best friends who stood by you and loved you for who you are. That’s because you have a pretty wicked sense of humour and you do love to laugh and talk about nothing and everything. You’ve also been told that you’re a great listener and give decent advice.

You wound up going to university and you graduated with distinction. You found a job in your field even before you got your degree. You’ve been working in that field successfully for fourteen years now.

Even though you were a woman and single, you decided to invest in your very own condominium. A year into your mortgage (much to your mother’s dismay), you made the big jump to freelancing. And succeeded. To this day. It’s been eight years.

You faced your fear of cars and learned how to drive.

You faced your fear of the gym and signed up for semi-private training sessions so you would learn to do things right.

You picked up running. You’ve been running for over ten years. Oh, and you love it.

You bought a bicycle and are now enjoying biking everywhere from April to November (you live in Canada and biking in the snow just ain’t for you).

You started a blog (years after they were in fashion, but hey! Everything’s cyclical, right?). You began to write short stories.

You faced your fear of judgement and hired a private trainer to learn how to swim. You’ve been swimming for over three years now and you can butterfly stroke like nobody’s business.


Private. That word. Twice.



Because even though you do all of this; even though you always strive to better yourself, to push your limits, to not let other people dictate how you should run your life, you go against the grain because you’re fat, and fat people are not supposed to run, to bike, to swim. They’re not supposed to like who they are. They’re supposed to engage in a constant fight against their body, day in, day out. Oh, and they’re also not supposed to go against prejudices. Fat people don’t run. When fat people run outside, it’s totally OK to yell insults at them. But also: if fat people don’t run, then it’s OK to yell insults at them, too. After all, they’re being lazy, right? They should be called on it, yes? They need to be reminded of their fatness, just in case they forgot about it for a second. It’s not like they live in their bodies every single day of their lives.

So fat people cannot do anything. Fat people should disappear.

All my life, I’ve been fighting against my body. I’ve been told that it’s not right; that I should not be OK with it; that I should not be complacent; that happiness could only be within my reach if I lost weight.

All my life, I’ve been told that I’m failing at life.