Bridgerton: A Review

Well, first I must apologize for not writing as much last year as I thought I would be. An unexpected increase in workload meant I had little time for anything other than trying to sleep and survive. But I resolve to try an start this 2021 year off with a bit of fun and fluff.

Bridgerton | Netflix Official Site
Courtesy of Netflix

Bridgerton, if you haven’t heard, is a book series by Julia Quinn set in the Regency. The books are fictional, so there is very little attempt at them being historically accurate, other than the basic facts (like who is the ruler, dropping the name of well-known and famous society leaders, etc). Now, the Netflix series has gotten some criticism for casting people of color, some in prominent roles. To me, it’s refreshing because it IS historically accurate. Sorry to burst the fragile misconceptions of every Austen Adaptation ever, but there were non white people living in England during the 18th Century (and even earlier, if we’re being truthfully honest). Theatre folk (of which I will always be), know that blind casting really is the best way to cast roles. People who are good SHOULD play parts that suit them as actors, not skin color. And we should have more diverse casting. We should have disabled actors, trans actors, etc cast based on their ability, not their looks. But I digress…

Romance novels have this reputation for being the cheesy bodice rippers published by Silhouette or Avon (for example). But Romance Novels are a unique literary form that we should never sneer at. Many of us have probably read a cheesy romance novel, or two, growing up. I myself m exceptionally fond of the Gothic romance novels of the 1960s and not just because they have fun cover art (which they do).

Vintage Gothic Romance Books Classics Paperback Novels 1960's 1970's Women  running from houses, heroines in pe… | Gothic romance books, Gothic books,  Gothic romance
Courtesy of Pinterest

Romance novels are pure escapism. Austen novels have been labeled as romance, young adult, and adult fiction in libraries and in bookstores. I myself have outlined for 6 Austen style novels (one being written and edited and rewritten and you get the picture). There is nothing wrong with writing or enjoying Romance just as long as you remember not to take it too seriously (thought it can be hard).

The 'Bridgerton' Ending, Explained | 'Bridgerton' Season 1 Finale
Lady Danbury and Simon Basset, courtesy of Marie Claire

As an adaptation, I think Bridgerton is well done and has moments of being far superior than the recent ITV Austen adaptations. The costumes are rich, colorful, and sometimes a tad ridiculous (the Feathertons in particular), but they are all well made and have that silhouette we all associate with the Regency Era. They do an adequate job of visually giving us insight into the person’s social status, mood, marital status, and degree of social acceptability. As well as mixing elements of the fantastical with the historical. Visually, it is a delight.

Romp and circumstance: why Netflix's Bridgerton is just our cup of tea this  year | Period drama (TV) | The Guardian
Queen Charlotte, courtesy of Netflix

Now, as far as the adaptation goes for being faithful to the book, I must confess that I cannot supply any information. Now, I did try to read the first novel, The Duke and I, but had to stop due to a triggering element that, while it was not the same in the series, a similar event was depicted and I do have issues with it. That element is rape. In the novel, the “heroine” rapes the Duke (he is drunk) and denies it ever occurring up until they are married. As a victim of sexual assault, I could not finish the novel. No matter how it is framed, nor that the people involved end up being “in love”, rape is never acceptable. Ever. I found it repugnant and disturbing that any author would use the disgusting and reprehensible troupe of rape, but framing it within the confines of a romance, thus trying to make it acceptable (or palatable) to the reader.

not amused puppy - Google Search | Funny animals, Funny, Funny pictures
Puppy is NOT Amused, courtesy of Pinterest

I found the rape so triggering, that I engaged in some self harm (which I will not disclose as to the TYPE other than it doesn’t involve any knives nor blood and yes, I do see a therapist and have for years). Now, the adaptation did not include the rape scene as written, but still included a rape scene nonetheless, which was extremely disappointing. Any forward thinking person will tell you that even in the midst of engaging in a sexual activity, when one person says STOP or NO, it all stops. Period. The adaptation still had the heroine rape the Duke, but now within the confines of the marriage bed, which makes it that much better.

Reader, it does not.

Spousal rape is real and it should never be treated lightly nor be filmed as one person had the right to continue. And that was how it was framed. Daphne is seen as being in the right to force her husband to ejaculate inside her because she wants a child. This is rape. He clearly tells her to stop. Not once, but many times. And yes, we should be having this conversation because no mater how much I enjoyed this adaptation, I am utterly disgusted they would still keep Daphne’s rape of Simon in. It doesn’t matter that she did it after they were married instead of before. We do not need to see depictions of rape, including spousal rape, in any adaption that is advertised as a romance. This season is framed around the book The Duke and I. It’s touted as being a historical romance.

Bollywood angered over Hathras gang rape, demand justice for victim |  Deccan Herald
Courtesy o the Deacon Herald

Rape has no place in romance novels. It has no place in adaptations. No matter how much I enjoyed this series, I cannot fathom why the producers decided it would be perfectly acceptable to include rape. The story could have worked perfectly fine without it. Simon (the Duke), in a moment of passion couldn’t have forgotten to pull out since that was his main form of birth control. Or have him use a condom (yes, they existed) and have one tear or rip or perhaps he forgets? There are so many other ways to possibly hint at Daphne being late with her period without the rape. The pull out method is known to not be 100% effective against pregnancy and considering they devoted an entire episode to them screwing each other, you are telling me that not once he might have forgotten to pull out? Seriously? I understand that this is a work of fiction. Trust me, I know because I write fiction (though I endure the added burden of trying to be as historically accurate as possible). But once you start having some structure of reality to help us believe the world we are in, logic will come into play. According to Planned Parenthood, unless you are using a condom and/or birth control with the pull out method, 1 in 5 who only do the pull out method will get pregnant within a year. So, this means Daphne really had nothing to worry about because statistically, she would have gotten pregnant eventually.

Now, the series is enjoyable and I do recommend it because it is so rare for me to see anyone who looks even remotely like me on screen (big or small) that isn’t a terrorist or a servant that the biggest draw for the series IS the diverse cast. And if you ignore (or skip) the whole rape scene, it is an enjoyable series.

There’s still the old troupe of how the fat girl can’t possibly be anything other than the friend until she magically becomes beautiful (Yes, I’m looking at you Lady Whitstone).

The Confederate Flag: A Heritage of Racism

Not that long ago on Facebook (yes, some of us are still on that cesspool of a platform secretly hoping someone like Oprah will one day buy out Zuckerburg and peace will reign once again on that platform), a friend shared a post I had found regarding the Confederate Flags and the history regarding the usage and different designs. Chad (not his real name, but close enough) decided to white mansplain that the Confederate Flag and the Confederacy was a great thing for People of Color (POC), that is was a southern state which first freed a slave, and Confederate Soldiers automatically were granted freedom if they moved to the North. I know, that’s a lot (and I mean A LOT) of compressed BS to unravel.

When I asked Chad regarding his sources, he first stated that he was a lawyer (his profile doesn’t indicate this at all, but he well could be one) and he was basing this on some law history classes and a website he said was called “American War Museum Chronicle”. Now, if you Google this, it will direct you to a website for looking up potential website names. In other words, it doesn’t exist. Now, there is an American and War Museum, but they only go back to 1917 to the present times. Disregarding all of that, let’s take a look at the actual flags themselves.

Confederate Flags: HIST 1416 American Military History Summer 2016 ...
Infograph courtesy of HIST 1416: American Military History Summer 2016 (W. Butler, Instructor) from BARTonline

Now, the image we most associate with the Confederacy is the Army of Tennessee and it’s technically a battle flag, not the actual flag of the Confederacy. The top three images are the three flags of the Confederate States while the bottom two are battle flags and were only flown during battles, skirmishes, etc. So those waving the battle flags about in today’s society either have no idea that the flag they are waving about is meant for actual battle, not the back of a pickup truck.

Official Flag Of The Confederacy | ... Confederate Veterans ...
Image courtesy of Pinterest
Pin on War Between The States
Image courtesy of Pinterest

Now, while I knew there were variations, I had no idea, until researching this specific topic, that battle flags in of themselves had a wide variety of designs. Unlike the Union, which primarily just used the American Flag, the Confederacy seemed unable to settle on one basic design. Now, I have not done much visiting of Civil War Reenactments, but from images that I have seen, it seems the main battle flag that is widely used in the Tennessee one, which is probably why we’ve come to associate that particular flag with the Confederacy and not one of the official three flags they had. Remember that Battle flags are not the same as flags pertaining to a nation.

ZFC - National Treasures - Union Civil War Flags 1861 to 1865
Union Battle Flags courtesy of flag collection dot com

The Union Battle Flags (known as the Stars & Stripes) mainly stuck with a more uniform appearance. Other than the placement and size of the stars, the overall appearance is not too dissimilar to what the US flag looks like today. In other words, the battle flag was meant to appear close to the national flag. Now, onto Chad’s assertion that the South was the first to free a slave. Vermont, which was not yet a state in 1777, was the first Independent US territory to abolish slavery within it’s borders. Pennsylvania was the first US state to abolish slavery in 1780. Neither of these is a Southern State. Juneteenth, for which Chad declined to acknowledge, is important as it was on June 19th, 1865 in Galvaston, TX that Union Army General Gordon Granger announced due to Federal Law, all slaves in Texas were free. This is important as these were amoung the last slaves to be freed after the end of the Civil War. Any slave that was in the Confederate Army was forced to do menial tasks and was still a slave, unlike Chad’s belief that these slaves chose to fight for their oppressors. Let that sink in for a moment-the Confederate Army used slaves to do the basic everyday chores needed to keep an Army running and people like Chad assume this mean they were “willing” participants. Oh honey, slaves were never willing to be slaves. Technically (because I must be as accurate as possible), the slaves were considered part of the Confederate Service, not the Army. The early wins of the Confederacy would not have occurred if not for the use of slave labor in maintaining agriculture and industrial standards for the South. Slaves forced to repair and maintain forts, repair railroads, build ships, and do everything in order to free white men so the white men could serve in the Army. Once many slaves heard of the proclamation by President Lincoln that they were free, enough fled to Northern States to make a large enough impact on the South’s economy as to make their victories a thing of the past. Many of these freed souls did join the Union Army (which also had it’s issues), BUT they were paid for their labor, they were free, and fighting for a cause they truly believed in.

A circa 1830 illustration of a slave auction in America.
A 1830 engraving depicting a Slave Auction, courtesy of TIME Magazine

Chad also asserted, quite boldly with an air of pomposity I found sad as it was ridiculous, that the Civil War was not about Slavery. I’m sorry to inform Chad and anyone with a similar lack of intellect, but the Civil War was very much about Slavery. Without the institution of Slavery, the South could not function. Slaves planted the crops, raised the livestock, harvested the fields, built the homes, made the clothes, made the food, raised the children of their owners, etc. Without Slavery, agriculture and industry in the South simply could not function.

Gospel of Slavery: The 1864 pro-abolitionist children’s book.
Excerpt from an 1864 Children’s Abolitionist Book courtesy of Slate.com

Slavery is free labor. There were no standards of how one was to treat a slave. Different owners could feed them well or starve them. They could be dressed or be forced to work in the nude. They could be with their families or be sold off on a whim. They were raped. They were beaten. They were seen as property, not people (the basis of the 3/5 of a person that’s in the Constitution is about this-Slaves were considered 3/5 of a person). No white man (or woman) could be tried for the murder of a slave because it wasn’t illegal. Let that sink in-the murder of a human being would be ignored simply because of skin pigmentation. The North had mostly banned Slavery and the movement of Society in the 1860s was heading towards abolishing slavery overall. The South could not bear the thought of transitioning towards having to pay people wages for what they were getting for free. While this is not every little tidbit regarding as to why the Civil War occurred, it really was about Slavery (which was all about Economics) in a nutshell.

Cross Stitch Pattern by SoEasyPattern on Etsy

Sorry Chad, but any depiction of the South’s flag (which are images of traitors) as symbols of pride are naught but fragile egos trying to hold onto thinly veiled images of racism and oppression and calling it “heritage.” Other than historical sites, blogs dealing with history, reenactments and museums, I firmly stand by the belief that all images of the Confederate Flag are only flown to tell people that you are a racist, misogynistic willfully ignorant supporter of traitors and should be dealt with by being laughed at and ridiculed at every opportunity. EVERY OPPORTUNITY. Oh, and here’s a Major in the Union showing you some serious shade ;D

In 1865, President Lincoln appointed Pittsburgher Martin Delany the first African American major, the highest rank of any black soldier during the war. #BlackHistoryMonth
Major Martin Delany, Pittsburgh 1865. Th Highest ranking African American Union Solider.

Sources:

http://www.warmuseum.org/america-and-war.php

https://bartonline.instructure.com/courses/2269/pages/confederate-flags

https://nationalpost.com/news/world/southern-discomfort-a-history-of-the-confederate-flagictorie a thing of the past.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/06/150626-confederate-flag-civil-rights-movement-war-history/

Bathing During the Time of Austen (or how I survived without a Shower for a week)

There’s this misconception that prior to the Victorian Era, people didn’t bathe. I myself am guilty of this false reasoning as I recall, at the tender age of 12, writing down in a notebook that “people smelled” when I started my journey of researching the 19th Century. In my current notebook (I occasionally rewrite everything with updated notes and information), I have kept the ubiquitous “people smelled” line to remind myself not only of how far I have come, but just how easily we can be led to the wrong conclusion. Yes, people smelled prior to the Victorian Era. In fact, people still smell today (it is, after all, one of the five senses). Of course, I am being a tad silly and what we truly mean by “smell” is bad odors.

Image
A Lovely period Regency Bathing room in the Chateau de Valancey, France. Photo taken by Anna M. Thane (@Anna_M_Thane) 2019

As the above photo shows, people during the Georgian & Regency Era did have rooms solely devoted to the art of bathing and maintaining hygiene. So it IS a fault (clearly) to believe people did not clean themselves. A majority of this, I feel, comes from adaptations (both TV & Film) of period pieces. Especially films of my believed Classic Era were they showed Kings & Queens arguing about bathing more than once a year (I kid you not). So little of them show bathing, we tend to have this blinded perception of people being utterly filthy. I distinctly recall having professors inform us that the use of incense in Catholic services was done because people smelled. This may be true for those who were poor and couldn’t bathe on daily basis, but the use of incense for religious reasons is as old as religion itself. So maybe, just maybe, the Catholic Church was using incense because it’s kind of the norm. Another example is the concept of indoor toilets. Many people accept that they had ancestors who used chamber pots. In fact, chamber pots are a very common thing one finds in modern period romance novels (I myself reference it once or twice-it seems very hard to not mention them). And we know that they did exist and were used. Yet, indoor toilets (yes, you read that correctly) have existed for hundreds of years and predate our modern bathrooms.

An illustration of a Medieval Era Garderobe, aka an indoor toilet. Courtesy of Pinterest.

The Garderobe is a fairly basic indoor toilet. A hole leads to a pit where the waste is collected and people do rake it (and remove it as needed). Yes, dear reader, there were people who’s job was literally shit and piss. This is really no different from campsites that have outhouses (yes, they still exist), to people who have a self-contained septic system in their yard. Yes, chamber pots (and other such devices) were used for things such as emergencies, invalids, and convenience, yet we must stop with the nonsense that they did their business out in the open. Of course, when traveling, one had no choice BUT even then, there was an attempt at modesty and privacy.

Now,what does this have to do with my week long shower-less regime? The bathroom was undergoing a renovation (new tiling) and that meant no access to the tub and shower for about a week. I am not someone who can go without bathing for very long (unless I absolutely must due to being hospitalized or very ill), so I decided it might be nice to try my had at bathing Regency style in a way. The first day, I used a bucket of warm water, a washcloth, and basically sponged myself off. I must also state I had the day off, so I wasn’t concerned with my hair (though I did run the washcloth through it as well). Did I feel clean? Well, yes and no. I can inform you that I did feel refreshed and less grimy, but I did not feel as clean as I normally would.

Serves Pitcher and Wash Bowl. Divine! Courtesy of Pinterest
Ceramic Bathtubs
Minoan Ceramic Bathing Tub, Minoan Palace of Knossos. Courtesy of JSTOR

Now, I am not so fortunate as to afford to use Serves porcelain in my experiment. My basin was a nice, gray plastic bucket. My pitcher was an old plastic cup measuring utensil. My washcloth, I felt, was at least an attempt at the homespun feeling as it was a crocheted one. Soap was some liquid Ivory (meat for bathing, not the dish one). Not feeling quite so refreshed from just the quick sponging off, I decided to up the experience by using both hot and cold water. I donned a bathing suit, went outside, and rinsed off with warm water. Washed and rinsed with cold water (a la hose). Washed and rinsed my hair with the hose, then dumped the rest of the warm water over myself. It felt like camping, in a weird way and I did feel fairly clean. Also, cold. Was this closer to how Jane Austen must have bathed? Well, perhaps.

egyptian-princess-bathing
19th C Woodcut of an Egyptian Relief depicting a Lady being bathed by servants. Courtesy of Pinterest.

Showers (well, showering), has existed since forever. Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians had indoor bathing rooms where servants would “shower” them with jugs of water. Ancient Greeks were the first to have public showering rooms (look up the Ancient Greek City of Pergamum). The Romans, of course, followed suit with their own bath houses as well. Yet what we would consider the runner up to the modern shower was patented in 1767 by Englishman William Feetham ( stove maker) and featured a hand pump. Around 1810, a much more “modern” version emerged and as to who invented it, it’s hard to say as there are disputes.

Ancient Greek Shower
Anciet Greeks Showering on Pottery. Courtesy of Pinterest
Pompeii residents were screwed before the volcanic eruption
A Public Bath at Pompeii. Couretsy of Pinterst
Life Magazine Image of an 1810 Shower. They describe it as being 12 feet in height with a pump for moving water from the bottom to the top (and to be used continuously) to shower. Courtesy of Life Magazine & Pinterest.

Now, my few days of donning a bathing suit and bathing outdoors was no where as elaborate as using the 1810 Shower, but it did feel closer to what Austen herself must have been used to. Not to say that she used a contraption like that everyday. In fact, she may have never used one. Yet it is possible that she did do something similar to what I had done in my quasi-attempt at cleanliness. Now, I must admit that once the tiling was done, I was told I could use the tub, but not the shower and could use the hot water faucet again. Dear reader, I felt like I was n Heaven!

The first appearance of the shower or "rain bath" in New York ...
A NYT Advertisement for a Shower from November 11, 1914. Courtesy of The Bowery Boys

I felt so much cleaner sitting in the tub, using the hot water as needed to bathe (and shave my legs). I felt my hair got much cleaner not having to be blasted by the cold needle spray of the hose. Or at least, I felt warmer, hence, I felt cleaner. Now the new shower head is not as elaborate as the Kennedy Needle model, but it does a decent job. But I have to admit that I felt more understanding of what it must have been like for Austen (or anyone living before the 20th Century) to bathe.

Bathing (or the ability to bathe) is a convenience we take for granted in our modern society. Bathing requires access to clean water, the ability to heat said water, soap (or similar cleaning items), not to mention time and means to do so. For my part, knowing what I know about the time it took to heat water up, to carry it, etc, it’s most likely Austen did a full bath (like in a tub) once a week but sponged off daily. She may have even sponged off more than once a day. I can see any genteel lady sponging off before dressing for dinner or before a ball. I can definitely see any person doing so after riding a horse. Hair washing probably didn’t occur more than once a week. There are people today who don’t wash their hair on a daily basis, so it should come as no surprise to think Jane didn’t do so. Hair washing probably took more time and effort than washing the grime off of one’s body. After all, they didn’t have our modern shampoos, conditioners, hair dryers, and towels.

Degas bather
Woman in Bath Sponging Her Leg (1883) by Edgar Degas. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

I imagine for most people, bathing was closer to Degas painting than anything else. In fact, for most people around the world, it’s probably how they bathe as modern plumbing does not exist everywhere and probably never will. And that’s the most important item I want everyone to take away from this posting. People have, for centuries, found a way to bathe. Whether it meant going to the pond, river, ocean, waterfall, or using a small pitcher or water, people have always found a way to keep themselves clean. Bathing is not this foreign concept nor is it a modern one. It’s clear period films and shows have done us a disservice by not showing us the daily habits of people. By not showing us, we’ve been taught to think of our ancient ancestors as these dirty, smelly, filthy bunch when in fact, it’s all a lie.

Now, I’m not going to lie. I would never trade my modern shower and toilet for what Austen had. I thoroughly enjoy being able to have hot water on demand. I completely rejoice that my waste is flushed away and no one has to rake it. I am very much at ease in our modern bathroom. Now, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t mind having a nice claw foot bathtub and a stand alone shower someday (who wouldn’t). I may even want to indulge in trying a Kennedy Needle Special ;P! But in all seriousness, what I have discovered, about myself primarily, is that when it comes to bathing, we all find a way that suits each of us. I have showered outdoors. I have used an outhouse. Yes, it’s weird but it’s only weird because it’s not part of our daily lives anymore (for the most part). For some, outhouses and outdoor bathing is still the norm and there is no shame in this. So yes, Kevin Costner showering under a waterfall in Prince of Thieves IS accurate. Colin Firth jumping into a pond after riding a horse is perfectly acceptable. Kirsten Dunst being sponged off in Marie Antoinette every morning is actually historically accurate. And that’s kind of fun to know.

From One Writer to Another: Dear JK Rowling

Dear JK Rowling,

Can I just refer to you as JK? We are Peers and, therefore, equals. Now, you may not consider me an equal, but I am. I too am a writer. I may not have had the success that you have, but I have published poems outside of this blog and am still querying an agent for my novel. Regardless of our individual successes, we are peers and like it or not, I must write to you. You recently did an open letter asking for the abolishment of “cancel culture” and got some notable names to sign it. I do not agree with your opinion. It reeks of extreme white privilege and a need to justify oneself for hurting others. In other words, you went FULL KAREN and asked to speak to the head manager of Society.

Now, before we get into the letter, I want to take a look back at your legacy, because it IS your legacy, like it or not.

I was in College when your books first started getting noticed here in the States. Having always loved language and the works of Tolkien , Shakespeare, and Maya Angelou, your first HP book was recommended to me by an English Professor. I was charmed by the simple tale of Good vs Evil. It fits very easily into the Joseph Campbell Mythos format. I have no qualms about stating that I did purchase your first HP book and subsequently the others as they were released. As a mixed WOC, I saw myself in Hermione. She was very clearly written in the first 3 books as having features of mixed parentage (overly frizzy/kinky hair, big front teeth speaks of someone who is African & Asian based on those stereotypical descriptions). Hell, I thought Mudblood was clearly a nod to being called “colored.” And you tended to use very base stereotypes for the other non-whites in the novel. The Patel twins are described as being silly, into fashion & boys (which, is NOT typical of Desi girls unless all your knowledge stems from watching one Bollywood film for 5 minutes). Cho Chang’s very name smacks of Asian stereotype. So yes, right from the start I had an issue with how you portrayed POC. Yet I still read the books, still purchased them, still enjoyed them. Tolkien never really has any POC in his works and I still enjoy them. I do feel it’s perfectly acceptable to read authors who don’t have everyone represented because it’s a slice of their view of the world. Just like Nella Larsen’s Passing is more about the African- American community and the restrictions placed on them by society. It may not be a novel for everyone, but many can read and enjoy it and not be African-American.

Then the films of HP came out. And Hermione was white washed but given full on kinky overblown AFRO hair. The Patel Twins were made even more ridiculous and Dean Thomas was made black as a token character. You know what would have been nice? Showing a professor or two being of color. No where in your novels does it state all the professors are white. No where. Heck, I would have been thrilled if one or two of the professors was of color, as I am sure many fans would have been as well. Your insistence on using only British actors and actresses didn’t bother me, but the insistence of only using white ones for adult roles did. In fact, there’s hardly any non whites in the films at all, and that’s just heartbreaking.

Then once the films came out, you started re-conning the hell out of your own creation to try and make things fit. For instance, you insisted there was A Jewish student there and they were allowed to celebrate Jewish Holidays. Great. But no where in your novels did you show any holiday being celebrated at Hogwarts besides Christmas. I read nothing showing Hanuka, Eid, or even Holi being celebrated. Even a line or two would have shown this. Then you were insistent that Dumbledore was gay. Ok. Great. I have no issue with Dumbledore being homosexual. It would have been nice to know if he had a long standing partner BESIDES Grimwald. Like a note in his will, a picture in his office…something to hint he had a significant other at some pint and had a healthy relationship.

Then you introduced America’s version of Hogwarts and totally ripped off Indigenous People’s beliefs, but so goddamn BADLY. Like, you DO have access to a library, right? I’m fairly certain Edinburgh has a University and a library (not to mention professors) who would have been pleased as punch to help you with constructing an American magical system that didn’t completely feel like Mickey Rooney as Mr Yunioshi in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Then you HAD to make Nagini a female Asian character who, get this, transforms into a huge snake. Did you really have to resurrect the whole Dragon Lady? Like what level of FUCKERY made you think it was perfectly acceptable to do this? Those of us who are Asian/Arab/Desi/Middle Eastern/SE Asian and female, we already have to deal with the stereotypes that we are sexually repressed, sluts, exotic, airheads, and little girls. We really did not need the Dragon Lady to come back.

Now, I’m going to talk about the main issue as to why you wrote the “let’s cancel cancel culture” letter: transgender people. Your insistence that women who don’t menstruate aren’t women. Well, JK, hate to go all biological and sciencey on you, but not all women menstruate. Before puberty, females don’t menstruate. So, by your “logic”, my three year old niece isn’t really female because she doesn’t menstruate. My mom doesn’t due to having a hysterectomy, therefore she isn’t female either. Women who have gone into menopause are also not female by your reasoning. And I myself must not be female because I did not always menstruate on a regular basis due to medical issues. Then there are women who are born without ovaries or have ovaries that just don’t function properly. I guess they aren’t women either. I guess women who are pregnant aren’t women because they don’t have periods while pregnant. Nor are women who use IUDs as they stop having regular periods for 3 to 5 years.

You cannot (and I must stress this) CANNOT base someone’s gender solely on whether or not they menstruate. You and Margaret Atwood can kiss my ass because this isn’t Gilead and I refuse to be labeled as female solely on the basis of whether or not I have a period because no where did you ever insist that men have to be capable of producing sperm to be considered men. And why is that? Is it because it never crossed your mind? Or are you going to be insistent that only men who have penises are actual men, thereby making men who have suffered injuries to that region and may not have one anymore as gender less. See the issue JK? Equating a gender on sexual organs is stupid because what exists below my waist (or anyone’s waist) is none of your goddamn business. TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN. TRANS MEN ARE MEN. They have always existed and will always exist. This is not up for debate here

You come from a background of extreme white privilege. You really haven’t had to suffer nor deal with issues like this of us who are not white and those who struggle with their gender and sexual identity. You barely struggled when it came to finding an agent to publish your book. You queried a handful of people and got an agent right away. That is extremely rare in the publishing field. Stephen King, whom you’ve decided to unfollow, was rejected over 70 times for “Carrie”, which is a masterpiece of horror and suspense. He has struggled to be heard and has always tried his best to learn from his mistakes and listen. Listening is so important here. Clearly it’s a skill you seemed to be lacking in. Your refusal to listen, learn, and accept you were ignorant on the subject of trans people shows how out of touch with reality you are.

You are upset because there’s a whole generation of trans people who sought solace in your books and have now decided that you aren’t worth supporting anymore. They aren’t cancelling you. They have decided to remove the toxicity that is YOU from their lives. Now, I won’t be destroying your books nor will I get rid of the DVDS. I’ve already paid for them and you’ve already been paid by them. But when my niece is old enough and wants to read them, I want her to ask me questions as to why she, a mixed child, has no representation in your books. I want her to ask the same thing regarding Tolkien. Or why Shylock is such a problematic character. I want there to be an open dialogue. I want her to know that it’s perfectly fine to read Austen and ask questions about the lack of representation. Because there is nothing wrong with asking and finding out. You are not being cancelled JK. People just don’t want to deal with your toxic bullshit anymore. This isn’t repressing your right to free speech. You can say whatever you wish to say on any subject. I won’t stop you. Go ahead. This doesn’t mean I have to listen to it.

Freedom works both ways JK. You have to freedom to not accept Trans people. I have the freedom to accept Trans people, support them, and be an Ally to all members o the LGTBQ+ Community.

Now, I’m not saying my novels are perfect and represent everyone. But I am trying to represent a few. I have written people of color back into Austen. I have members of the LGTBQ+ community in them as well. Are there a lot? To be perfectly honest, there are not. But the mere fact that I am trying speaks way more about my character, my integrity, and writing style than anything else. My novels won’t be perfect. But at least some one of color can pick it up and find a character like them. And a kid struggling with gender or sexual identity may find some resonance with a character that I wrote. Even if for a little while. I would rather try to put history and facts back into Austen and make it engaging, then complain to the manager that life is unfair. Though I will state it takes balls to complain about life being unfair whilst living on an Estate in Edinburgh, being a multi-millionaire, being British and living in Scotland. But hey JK, you do you.

Sincerly,

SZJR

A Brief Look at People of Colour before the 20th Century: Part 3

"Portrait of Gustav Badin" (1775) by Gustaf Lundberg

Portrait of Gustav Badin (1775) by Gustaf Lundberg; Public Domain Image

     Gustav Badin was given to Queen Louisa of Sweden as a gift. She, in turn, educated him on the same level as her children. He was in charge of 3 Royal Palaces, had an extensive library of his own containing more than 800 books, and was, at one point, the Swedish Ambassador to France.  While Gustav many have been a slave initially, it’s clear he was a member of the Royal Family and was treated as a member of the Court. His diary is currently being translated and the original is housed at the University of Uppsala. I start off with this tidbit because now we’re entering a time period that I know very well, which is the Late Georgian/Regency period. It has always bothered me that any film depicting anything from this era has no one of colour in it, expect as an oddity or experiment. Clearly, while Gustav may have been an oddity, he became vital to the Queen and her family.

General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, by Olivier Pichat (1883)

     General Dumas should sound familiar to anyone who’s ever read the Three Musketeers or the Man in the Iron Mask ( or seen the film versions). Born in St Domingue to a white Nobleman (Marquis Alexandre Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie) and his enslaved mistress (Marie-Cessette Dumas), the father did the right thing and shipped Dumas to France, where slavery had been illegal since 1315 CE, thus setting his son free. He also helped his son enter the military. Dumas was one of 2 men of colour to have high military ranking in Europe until the 1970s. He was a major pivotal figure in the French Revolutionary Wars. He married a white French woman and had a son, Alexandre Dumas (aka Dumas-Pére), who wrote the Three Musketeers, Man in the Iron Mask, etc. Dumas-fils (his grandson) was a well-known playwright. Dumas-fils’s illegitimate half brother, Henry Bauër was also involved in Theatre at this same time, as a critic. So yes, this is someone who’s never been portrayed in any film or television show about Napoleon, which is oddly weird considering how many battles this man won for Napoleon. Sidenote, “enslaved mistress” seems to convey consent where most scholars agree that consent is never given when a person is a slave. While I use the term “enslaed mistress”, it is under extreme distaste and only being used as many historical sources (published sources) list her in this pseduo state of consent while being enslaved.

Петровское. Бюст А.П. Ганнибала.jpg

Bust of Abram Petrovich Gannibal, located in Petrovskoe, Russia.

     Like Guztav, Abram was gifted to Peter the Great as a gift. There has always been a trend of “gifting” slaves to royalty and the aristocracy, but as in the case of Guztav, the “gifting” meant freedom. The Tsar freed Abram, educated him, and bestowed on Abram the status of Godson. Such a status not only made him important in the eyes of the Court, but made him a Peer of the Realm. This man was Dumas’ counterpart. He was a military engineer and General in the Russian Army. He trained in France and fought on behalf of France in the 1720s. Peter the Great’s daughter, Elizabeth, considered Abram to be a member of her family, placing him in a position of power. Elizabeth put him in charge of a large Estate in Estonia, which was one of the wealthier private Estates of the Tsars. Abram was married twice-once to a Greek woman (who proved to be unfaithful) and married (secretly while still married to wife #1) a woman of Swedish and Germanic noble descent. His oldest son, Ivan, became a well-known Naval Officer who helped found the city of Kherson and who himself attained the second-highest military ranking in Russia. When his first wife was forced to join a convent, the second marriage was considered valid and legal. Author and Poet Alexander Puskin is his great-grandson. Other descendants of this man include Natalia Grosvenor (Duchess of Westminster), Alexandra Hamilton (Duchess of Abercorn), George Mountbatten (4th Marquess of Milford Haven & cousin to QEII). Yet not many people want to learn about this man. And he’s never shown in any documentary of film about Peter the Great.

Dido Elizabeth Belle - Wikipedia

Dido Elizabeth Belle (cropped from a larger portrait by David Martin)

Dido Elizabeth Belle has become a more well-known woman of colour in recent years due to a new interpretation of the David Martin portrait of her and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray. The film Belle (2013) is an exercise in trying to tell her story but also explain slavery during this time in English History. This is what we do know: her father was Sir John Lindsay (he passed in 1788) and her mother was a slave Maria Belle. Dido was technically born into slavery in 1761. She was brought to live with William Murray, her great-uncle, in 1765. Her father let her to be educated as a free person. Very little is known about her life, except she was educated and even though treated as a member of the family, was still technically a slave in the eyes of British Law. She lived with her great-uncle 31 years, and seemed to take on the role of a secretary according to observations by Thomas Hutchinson (former governor of Massachusetts) and in the second volume of James Beattie’s Elements  of Moral Science. For now, these are the only contemporary insights we have into Dido’s daily life and existence. William Murray seemingly ruled against slavery in 1772. Dido married Frenchman John Danvinier in 1793. She was left money by her father, her great-uncle (who also confirmed her freedom in his will) and by his wife, her great aunt. She died in 1805 at the age of 43 and her last decedent died in 1975. While not much is known, the mere fact we do have a film about this person clearly shows that people of colour existed in England prior to the 20th Century.

There is another person, or two, or three, I wish to include in this posting. Yet I feel that because these people were influential and important, they each deserve their own write up and not to be included with the ones I have listed here. I did consider making a post just about the Dumas’, and may yet do so.

The Cult of Karen & Chad: Extreme Privilege

To be a “Karen” is to be, generally, a white privileged cis woman. While it is a slang term, it’s been the inspiration for many memes and gifs that multiply almost as much as cute cat video on YouTube. Chad is the male counterpart. However, I have firmly come to the conclusion that both terms are more universal as I have come across many Karens and Chads (in person and online) over the past two years. Now, I have considered calling WOC who act this way “Candace” after the ubiquitous Candace Owens. And have thought Kayne really needs no explanation. Yet, both are merely just a Karen and a Chad beneath it all.

Karen | Know Your Meme

The typical Karen image courtesy of Knowyourmeme.com (the image is actually of Kate from Kate plus 8, who seems to exemplify the term Karen)

I’ve come across a slew of Karens whilst working with my uncle in his shop (a convenience store for us Americans). I should note that the shop deals primarily with minorities, yet this doesn’t mean that there are non-minorities who visit daily. Once such Karen is always insistent that she should get free cups of ice simply because she sends her kids to the shop multiple times a day. Now, a free cup of ice now and again is not a big monetary loss. However, when one person comes in and is taking 4 to 5 cups of ice four to seven times a day, every day over the course of  year, it’ not only a large monetary loss (each cup costs, on average, 30 cents out of our pocket, on top of the water and electricity it takes to generate the ice), it’s also wasteful because the cup, being plastic, is thrown out and not recycled. This, I would state, is an example of Karen behavior. The Chad version of this is to take a cup of ice, but throw the money we charge for this item on the counter and complain we are ripping him off while making suggestions that I should be willing to engage in a little hanky-panky. Yes, the Chad behavior combines the rudeness and privilege of the Karen, but mixes in the assumption that being male makes them irresistible to any female in a five-mile radius of their good self.

Controversial national 'white privilege' conference coming to ...

Image from Madison.com of a real honest to God conference (seriously, this is not a joke); the ultimate gathering of Karens and Chads.

Now, online dictionaries deem that a Chad is a man in his early 20s to mid 30s. Usually white, it has now been associated with Neo-Nazis, Incels, and just truly awful men. While a Karen is a woman in middle age, Chad is more of the frat boy persona. I feel that this is unfair. Regardless of age, any person can be a Karen or a Chad. And while it has been aligned with white privilege, the past few years have shown me that this cult like attitude has spread (and has always existed) across the racial divide.

Dress code for 18yr frat boys : uofmn

Image courtesy of Reddit (no, really) showing how a frat boy (or Chad) should be dressing.

Most people can agree that a Karen is a woman who is demanding and is used to getting her own way. Some examples of this are women who demand to speak to a manager over every little thing. Women who demand sale prices after the sale has ended or special treatment because they deserve it. Women who even think they should be able to do anything they want because Society somehow “owes” them. This, to me, is the true definition of a Karen. None of these behaviors are regulated specifically only to white culture. Many of us can recall seeing women of all backgrounds and levels of society who exhibit this behavior. Having worked in retail, bartending, waitressing, and even as a teacher, I an assure you, dear reader, that Karen knows no color lines, no monetary barriers, nor is confined by any known border that exists. Karen is everywhere and we’ve all suffered her wrath.

Let's Agree to Agree Wallpaper by JoeGPcom on DeviantArt

Artwork by JoeGPcom courtesy of Deviant Art

Likewise, Chad is not just a glorified Frat Boy. Chad is an overpuffed man who thinks he is the ultimate example of manhood and, therefore, entitled to everything and anything he can possibly think of. Lets face it folks, we all know at least one Chad. We’ve all met at least one Chad in the past year, if not numerous times in our daily lives. Chad can be an obnoxious high school student trying to buy smokes or booze illegally because he wants to or a man in his fifties making sexually suggestive remarks to a younger woman because her being pleasant MUST mean she wants him (she really doesn’t).

So, why write such a post? Firstly, because I’ve noticed an uptick in obnoxious boarding on vile behavior ever since the outbreak began here in the US and Europe starting around January to February of this year. People online becoming truly heinous with deciding to “educate” others on all sorts of topics such as medical advice, body shaming, and even sending death threats because a parent deleted a child’s Minecraft game. This post stems from an experience I just had recently (and recently, as in today).

I was part of George Takei’s fan group on Facebook. Had been a follower and fan for years (what can I say, I love Star Trek). While a rule of this fan group is no trolling, over the past few months the trolling has gotten excessively worse. The Comic Sands article was posted. I read it after coming off of a late shift and made the comment that while the punishment was excessive, it seemed equally, if not more so, for people to demonize the parents for deleting what is, in effect, a video game. I was bombarded with numerous comments from the parent destroyed the child’s artwork (because a game is art now), to I should be thrown out and abandoned like the bitch I was. I even was privately messaged on Facebook and Twitter with images of people holding a printout of my profile picture, with red X’s on it, hold guns to my image, and even one person had a knife sticking through it. Every single person who sent it to me has been reported (please give me a modicum of sense here) and a majority of them were white. Notice I said a majority of them, but not all. I had an African American woman inform me that I needed to be taught a lesson (yes, she actually private message me via Facebook). I had someone who I am going to assume has some Hispanic or Latino background (I am basing this on his name, which is Spanish sounding, and from the fact it stated his hometown was near or around Mexico City) inform me he would be only too glad to teach me and my niece a lesson sexually because we needed to learn our place (my niece is under the age of 3). Now, my profile on Facebook is private. But, as we should all be aware, anything we post to any online database can be found.

Angry Mob Illustrations, Royalty-Free Vector Graphics & Clip Art ...

Royalty free image courtesy of iphoto.com

I was appalled, scared, and most of all, disgusted by this trolling shark frenzy which was occurring. Over a video game. Let this sink in-a video game. During this time where people are dying (children, the elderly too), people are out of work, going hungry, etc, the riotous mob came for me, and for anyone, who couldn’t fathom why these parents were receiving death threats over a game. Are people that much entrenched in the Cult of Karen & Chad that deleting a video game is now seen as priceless artwork along the likes of the Sistine Chapel? A game ranks higher on being vitally important than life itself? This cult of extreme privilege is a cancer on our modern Society. No one should think that having access to a video game (which is not a free game, but costs money) is a right that cannot be taken away. Sorry Karen, Chad, Swedish Karen, Mexican Chad, Candian Karen, German Chad, Karen-Candace and Kanye-Chad, but I don’t think a video game is as important to existence as actual existence at this point in time. Thanks for telling me to go back to whence I came (please, Swedish Karen, you might want to brush up on Biology 101 and how birth works). Sorry Mexican Chad, but I have a boyfriend who won’t want to bugger my three year old niece. Sorry but not sorry Karen-Candace for sending your information to the FBI as I do think threatening to shoot me is a bit much for not thinking Minecraft is on par with Michelangelo’s David. And to all the other Karens and Chads I have neglected to mention, I do hope, that in time, you realize that there is more to life than the privilege of  playing a video game. But, like any cult, blind willful ignorance and mass idiocy will no doubt continue to reign as they induct newer and younger members into their cult of extreme privilege.

 

Sources:

https://madison.com/ct/news/local/writers/pat_schneider/controversial-national-white-privilege-conference-coming-to-madison-in-march/article_bdc7052c-92b8-11e3-ae53-0019bb2963f4.html

https://www.dictionary.com/e/slang/karen/

https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/the-day-i-deleted-minecraft-a-letter-to-my-son

https://www.comicsands.com/parent-deletes-minecraft-world-punishment-2645886872.html

 

Gastric Sleeve: One Year Reflection (well, close enough)

Image courtesy of nashvilleweightloss.com

May 14, 2019 was the day I had my Gastric Sleeve Surgery. This was performed at Good Shepherd Hospital by Dr. C (who is awesome). Like many people who struggle with their weight, this was not an easy decision. Like I had mentioned in my previous blog post (New Year: Who Dis), I researched and really looked into what any weight loss surgery would entail. My mother, years earlier, had lap-band done (different doctor from mine). And while, at first, it seemed to be working (as in, she lost weight), too many issues started coming up and she easily regained the weight (plus more) not to mention having terrible heartburn and other issues (such as vomiting on an empty stomach-Dr C. removed her lap-band this year). Lap-band was and still is touted as an acceptable weight loss surgery. There are still doctors who are willing to perform it and places that still consider it as being viable.

Lap band

Image courtesy of Tijuana Baritrics

The pitfalls, however, are that lap-band has a high failure rate. According to NCBI, the failure rate is 13.2% at 18 months. That percentage goes up dramatically as time from when it was put in continue (to a whopping almost 40% at 7 years). Gastric Sleeve (and Bypass) have a failure rate of less than 5% at 2 years, with 16% at 7 years. Now, like I had mentioned in a previous blog, “failures” for Gastric Sleeve range from gaining 15 pounds to having a baby. Yes, a woman getting pregnant after having this surgery is considered a “failure” by every study that I have been able to come across and read, which I find ironic and very misogynistic considering that fertility issues (including PCOS) are considered acceptable reasons for having these surgeries. And anyone who has seen a pregnant lady can attest that most women gain at least 15 pounds, if not more, during a normal pregnancy. I feel that pregnancy after surgery should be seen as a success, not a failure. Also, gaining muscle mass (muscle weights more than fat), is also a failure. We really should, as a society, rethink the whole BMI chart as it doesn’t take into consideration body structure. The Perelman School of Medicine (University of Pennsylvania) stated in an article from 2013, that the BMI is inaccurate because it doesn’t take into consideration body mass, body shapes, bone density, overall body composition, and the basic differences between the sexes as one chart is used for both sexes, meaning that the height and weight for a petite white female will not work for a petite white male.

BMI charts are bogus: real best way to tell if you're a healthy ...

So, what does this mean? Well, any good doctor will use is as a guideline, not as absolute truth (as in you MUST weight this amount). Especially when one keeps in mind the BMI chart (yes, the standard one) was invented/complied in the 1830s. Diets (as in what we eat), activity, and also heights of people have drastically changed in the nearly 200 years since it was created. There are variations of it, tailored for men, women, and children, but the basic data used still stems from this initial chart from the 1830s. See why so many of us get frustrated by this chart? Now, in all honesty, at 330 pounds and being 5’8″, I was obese. I was extremely obese. I knew it at the time and I accept this fact. But I do find it laughable that according to the chart, a healthy weight for me would be between 120 and 150 pounds. Based on my bone structure, and very wide hips, that weight range would make me look sickly. Not to mention that I would be, in Dr. C’s opinion, underweight and unhealthy. Now, my goal weight is between 165-180 (I’m shooting for about 170-175). The chart states that this weight range makes me overweight. Now, keep in mind that insurance companies still adhere to this chart and they also compile statistics for those percentages when it comes to failure and success rates of surgeries. So, I would be considered a “failure”, yet my doctor would consider me a success (FYI, he currently hails me as a success because losing over 50 pounds in the first year is a success in his eyes). So, that’s where I do take any failure rate with a slight grain of salt. Now, lap-band does have a high failure rate only in that there are so many health issues which arise with it. These range from the basic improvement of the person’s health (i.e., losing weight) to increase of heartburn symptoms and even a twisted band (yes, those things can twist and shift about in there). This doesn’t mean every lap-band surgery is going to fail nor do I believe every single one will fail. My personal opinion, based on seeing how it affected my mother and from research, the cons (such as increased heartburn, vomiting on empty stomachs, etc) outweighs the pros (weight loss). To me, this made lap-band surgery a non-viable option (and one my surgeon doesn’t do nor recommend because of these issues).

Now, Gastric Sleeve & Bypass have both fans and haters too. There are people who have written about the failure of their surgery and why they regret it. And I get it. This is not an easy decision to make and it’s not easy changing how you not only look at food, but how you eat and cook. And I do not want anyone to think I am bashing or poking fun at those who do regret this. I feel for them and I wish they had the support I have been lucky (and I feel very lucky) to have had in terms of research and making this decision. I only want to point out a few alarming issues some of these people have in common so those who read this and have questions, can be better informed. One such trend is the belief their life is going to drastically change like some pseudo Hollywood film makoever.

Everything We Know About a Possible Princess Diaries 3 Movie | E! News

Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries

The sad reality is that most of these miraculous Hollywood film makeovers are simply excellent makeup and costume designers who can transform a relatively attractive person (usually white and female) into being slightly to overly unattractive, in order to have a “makeover” in the film and be revealed as drop dead gorgeous. That’s not real life and while I enjoyed The Princess Diaries, I did cringe at the obvious ugly ducking to swan troupe being used. This troupe is overused and harmful to our Social Psyche. Another trend is the need to rush into having this surgery by flying abroad (generally Mexico) and having it performed there due to cost. The average cost of Gastric Sleeve & Bypass is $23-30K, Lap-Bands average around $14-16K. Compare this with the low (incredibly low) cost of $3-6K for Sleeve or Bypass and $2K or less for Lap-Band. Some sites state they can perform surgery (after receiving payment) anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. So, if one is desperate and feeling like they HAVE to do this, waiting a month does seem like a better option than waiting 6 months to a year. I get it too because once I made the decision to go an speak to a surgeon, I really couldn’t wait to have the surgery. Yet I am so glad I was forced to wait. And I waited abut 2 months more than I should have due to a hold up (waiting on the psychiatric letter took 2 months longer than expected). Yet I don’t regret this whatsoever. I researched for at least 3 months BEFORE going to see Dr. C and continued to research after meeting him. I have two binders full of information (one was given to me by the surgeon, the other I started and is full of recipes and meal ideas, plus any information I deemed important to have on hand this way). So, while I was more prepared than most, I still wasn’t fully prepared.

ENIL – European Network on Independent Living | Introducing ENIL's ...

So, why Mexico? The main factor is probably based on finances. The low cost of surgery in Mexico is meant to draw in people who are desperate to lose weight. And unlike the standards set by insurance companies here in the US, Canada, and Europe, Mexican Bariatric centers will take anyone-including those who wouldn’t qualify under insurance guidelines. What? Yes, anyone. There are stories and photos of men and women who underwent surgery to lose as little as 20 pounds with no underlying medical problem. People who wouldn’t qualify because they didn’t have any of the main health issues which would deem such a surgery as being medically necessary. These factors (and this is not a definitive list, but the general accepted ones) are Diabetes (Type 1 & 2 though there seems to be more Type 2 who undergo it than Type 1), PCOS, High-Blood Pressure, Sleep Apnea, Asthma/COPD, Acid Reflux Disease, limited mobility issues, and other Endocrine related diseases. This is by no means all the health factors by which insurance companies will approve of such a surgery, but these are the basic ones that tend to help build a case for surgery. Which makes it excessively frustrating when people are choosing to undergo surgeries (most seem to get lap-band or sleeve in Mexico) to loose 20 pounds or less. Listen, these surgeries are not meant for those who just want to shed a few pounds. It shouldn’t be seen as a “quick fix” nor an inexpensive option to constantly yo-yo dieting. These surgeries are meant to help those of us who cannot (and I cannot stress this enough) lose weight through diet and exercise alone. 

Do Different People Really Need Radically Different Diets?

Image courtesy of forksoverknives.com

I’ve been on a diet practically all of my life. I recall at the age of 8 or 9 a doctor recommending my mom start me on a diet as I was a bit too chunky for my age and height (thanks to that blasted BMI chart). I have been involved with Weight Watchers at least 3 times in my life, Jenny Craig, Overeaters Anonymous, Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Alli (those pills you can by OTC), Slim Fast, Nutrisystem, HMR, Sensa, Mediterrean Diet just to name a few. I have had doctors lecture me about my weight. I have had nutritionists lecture me about not eating well. I could not lose it by normal means. This doesn’t mean those programs, diets, etc don’t work because I know people who are very successful on WW, and I know people who are doing well on Noom. There are people who do well on Keto and others who have been successful using Jenny Craig. The simple truth is not one plan will work with everyone and not everyone can lose weight by traditional means. We are all individuals and are all diverse. And that should be OK. As a society, we need to accept that there are other factors which lead to obesity and not just eating too many calories. 

So, yes, I do have an issue with those who seek out surgery because they think this is a quick fix and an easy way of shedding a few pounds. I take a modicum of malicious glee in how many of them regret undergoing the surgery in as little as a few hours post-op. Now, having one’s stomach butchered, not stitched correctly, and other glaringly obvious bad surgical errors (due to the rapid turn around in Mexico as they are in the business to make money, not provide healthcare) are issues which enrage me as no one should have to endure botched up surgeries. That, sadly, is a case of getting what you paid for. Surgeons in Mexico do not have to undergo the strict training (and ongoing training) that exists elsewhere. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t reputable Bariatric surgeons in Mexico. There are people, with the underlying medical conditions, who go to Mexico and have decent outcomes. It’s a case of not knowing who is going to be reputable and who isn’t. This is why I do think, until stricter standards are installed in places like Mexico, one should look for a good surgeon that is covered by their insurance. And in case people comment on here that this doesn’t help those on Medicaid and Medicare, I regret to inform you that both Medicaid and Medicare do cover this surgery as well. They use standard guidelines as to what medical conditions would qualify and go from there. 

dr. now, diet, Nowzaradan, plan, daily | Dr nowzaradan diet, 1200 ...

Image courtesy of Pinterest

For those who do have medial issues, one alarming reason they flock to Mexico is they don’t want to follow the insurance (and surgeon’s) prerequisites for having the surgery. Like any basic College course, one cannot sign up for English 201 if one hasn’t had the 101 course. Think of these requirements as building groundwork. One such requirement before approving the surgery, which seems to be prevalent, is being enrolled for a minimum 6 months of physician guided diet & nutrition program. Basically, you see a nutritionist affiliated with the program or hospital every month for six months-a whopping total of 6 visits minimum. And most doctors (Dr. Nowzaradan on My 600 lb Life, for a prime example), will expect a certain amount of weight to be lost prior to getting approval. It seems cruel but there is reason for this: they want to see if you can follow directions. Many people struggle with following basic rules.Now, I have been fairly good before and currently, but I do screw up.

I'm not perfect, i'm only human #quotes #motivation | Mistake ...

Image via Pinterest

One such rule I had was no soda (pop depending on the region of the US). I had my last Coke Zero in October 2018. I have not had any since. Now, if I let one go flat, I probably could tolerate it. I have bought these packets (sugar free of course) which promise to mimic the taste of soda (Root Beer, Cherry Cola) when added to water. Instead, I added the root beer (along with some root beer extract-yes, it exists) to a vanilla protein shake (and ice). It isn’t exactly like a root beer float, but it tastes similar and it satisfies that particular craving. Now, if Vernor’s could come out with a similar powder, I would be most happy (the mark of a true Michigander is whether or not you can tolerate Vernor’s Ginger Ale). 

Antique Advertising | Vernors Ginger Ale Sign • Antique Advertising

 I had been seeing a nutritionist for Diabetes previously and had this requirement done (in a year, I had gone from 330+ to around 300, which helped prove to the insurance company that I could adhere to a plan and was willing to change to improve my health). I was lucky that I had this recent medical history already in place. At the same time, my A1C numbers kept going up, and medication was changed from Metformin (which made me sick to my stomach the entire time I was on it, which was years) to insulin and Victozia. No lying, but the thought of daily injections scared me until I did it for a few times and felt better. While I was feeling better, I grew increasingly frustrated as the insulin went from 15 to 30 to 60 to 80 units in the span of a year. While a side effect of insulin is weight gain (and weight loss with Metformin), the opposite actually occurred in my case. My weight went down as I grew to be more active and eat a healthier diet. Yet instead of the weight loss improving the A1C, it kept getting worse. I am one of those rare people that cannot tolerate Metformin, can tolerate insulin and yet be insulin resistant at the same time (insulin resistance means you require more and more insulin to keep blood sugars in check). 

Causes of Diabetes - What Causes Diabetes?

diabetes.co.uk

So yes, I really did need this surgery.  I didn’t want to keep having to increase the insulin in order to keep it under control. My greatest fear was having to take 100s of units a day to stay alive. A unit is the standard way of measuring insulin and I have not found any information that this is referred to as anything else. The average insulin pen (regardless of kind) holds 300 units. I don’t know how much a vial holds, but I suspect it’s a similar amount. Yet this is a digression of the tale. I was on 80 units at the time of surgery (along with 1.8 units/dosage of Victozia), which means I needed 3 insulin pens a week. And yes, it was frightening to be on such a high dose. But, within 2-3 months of having the surgery, I was off of insulin completely. My last A1C was at 5.9 (it was 10.3 before surgery).  I currently am only on the 1.8 dosage of Victozia and I am hoping that will lessen with time. Even if I am ever completely off medication for Diabetes, I will always have to check my blood sugars, have my A1C checked, and be careful of what I eat for the rest of my life. And you know what, I don’t mind a bit.

APOD: 2018 October 2 - Supernumerary Rainbows over New Jersey

Image courtesy of NASA

This surgery has given me a new lease on life. I can easily keep up with a rambunctious not yet three year old niece and will be able to keep up with her forthcoming sibling. I enjoy exercising at the gym (sadly, on hold due to COVID). I enjoy shopping for clothes for myself, a task I used to dread. I still enjoy food. God knows I still love to eat. Food is something we cannot ever stop needing, which makes obesity harder to deal with than drug addiction. One can avoid drugs and alcohol, but one can not avoid food. But know I really, and I do mean really, take a closer look at the nutritional label. Things I used to eat and thought were healthy turned out to be as unhealthy (if not more so) than things we all consider to be bad for us. Talenti Sorbet, for example, should be healthy. After all, it’s fruit that’s been blended, perhaps with some juice, and frozen. Talenti also adds over 30 grams of additional sugar. Eating Ben & Jerry’s is healthier in this instance because B&J has actual protein in it. And that’s scary, sad, and incredibly eye opening. So not only do I have to make sure I eat more protein and less carbs (basically I eat a low carb-high protein diet that is similar to KETO, but not quite), I have to look at the amount of sugar that’s included, trying to avoid harmful fake sugars (laxative effect), but also try to have a balance that includes fruit, vegetables, dairy, etc. Do I always succeed? Some days I do really well and others not so well. There are products some patients love that I cannot tolerate (taste, etc), and some that I enjoy and others don’t. And this is perfectly normal. Even though I know people who have had the same surgery, or similar, to mine, we are all still individuals with different tastes. 

The point of sharing all this is very, very simple. People, even people who have known me and my struggle to lose weight for years, think having Bariatric Surgery is a quick fx and an easy out. There are people, high profile too, who blast those of us who have undergone such a procedure. This is wrong. Bariatric Surgery isn’t like having an elective plastic surgery to do a face lift. One, for the most part, can live with having wrinkles and laugh lines. Such things do not, and I mean this wholeheartedly, DO NOT improve anything other than one’s ego and vanity. I’m not talking about plastic surgery that has to be done for medical reasons (because that does exist and valid medical reasons are VALID for a reason). Weight loss surgery is done because it improves the life of the patient who will otherwise suffer ongoing and worsening medical issues. This is a surgery which is done to save lives because it does.

Details about Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life - Lyrics ...

Monty Python via Pinterest

Without this surgery, I knew I would probably not live past 50 without having issues such as blindness, limb amputation, etc. Now, I feel like I can live to be 100. I am happy. My depression is better. My anxiety is better. I no longer have to take medication in order to sleep because of my anxiety. I don’t have to take medication to help the depression medication work better. I’ve gone from 3 pills for Depression to 1. Two medications for Diabetes to one. I used to take 10 prescriptions a day. Now, I take half that. I used to go through a rescue inhaler a month (at the bare minimum). I haven’t had to refill my rescue inhaler in 7 months. I still have it and carry it. But now I don’t feel chained to my asthma. So, if you are considering having this done, talk to a doctor. Reach out to the various support groups that are out there. Research, research, research. If you decide to go for it, I am happy for you. If you find you cannot, but want to try a different program to lose weight, I am happy for you. No matter what, I am happy for you because you are the one making the decision. I only want to share my experience and my reasoning. If this ends up helping one person, then I am glad.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16839478

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265215

https://www.businessinsider.com/bmi-is-bogus-best-way-to-tell-if-youre-a-healthy-weight-2016-9

https://www.bariatricpal.com/topic/346977-why-getting-sleeved-was-the-biggest-mistake-of-my-life/

https://www.obesityhelp.com/forums/amos/5250564/Gastric-sleeve-biggest-mistake-of-my-life/

https://www.gastricsleeve.com/forum/showthread.php?t=52900

https://www.abc15.com/news/region-phoenix-metro/central-phoenix/weight-loss-surgery-in-mexico-might-not-be-as-safe-as-advertisede

New Year-Who Dis?

It’s been a long while since I’ve last done any writing. My long standing HP laptop of 11+ years finally gave up the ghost. I had prolonged it’s life by using a USB mouse and keyboard (as both had long since stopped working circa 2014). It was a powerhouse of a laptop and even had one of those ancient things called a DVD/CD Burner & Reader with a glorious 17″ screen. Yes, dear reader, I loved this laptop. So I started to look for a replacement and had found one in another HP (this one geared towards gaming BUT it had more memory and better RAM than those geared towards writing). So I waited until my tax refund came in only to have it all confiscated by the US Dept of Education to pay off loans (previously owned by Navient) that were on deferment until January 2021 (or so I thought). Now with the virus and all it entails, I waited for my stimulus check and with that, headed to get the laptop I wanted only to find that practically everything out there had been bought up. The only ones left were three versions of ACER, the more expensive HP ($700 versus the $300 one I wanted is a bit much right now), a Lenovo touchscreen, some other inexpensive/unknown name, and a Samsung Chromebook. I like Samsung. I’ve had a few other of their products. And at $200, it was cheaper, decently priced, and most of all, the last one left. I bought it and it’s taken me all of a week to sit down and write this new posting (getting used to typing on an actual laptop is a bit weird, OK?).

Since last year, many changes have occurred. Some for the best and some not so good. May 2019, I underwent Gastric Sleeve Surgery. My biggest weight (pre-surgery) was probably 340-350lbs. I had been 300 when surgery was approved and had lost an additional 12 to be 288 the day of surgery (the pre-op diet is a killer, but worth it). Now, 6 weeks ago, I was happy to report that I was 215. Today, I am at 229. Yes, I have gained 15 lbs in 6 weeks. I am not alone in this regard as many of us are stressed out, bored, and eating more comforting things, like sugary and carb laden items, because of the stress. Some are turning to drinking-heavily. Some are turning to smoking. We all have our triggers and we all have our go-to methods of self soothing. I tend to turn to things that are crunchy-salty (think crisps, pretzels, nuts, popcorn) and also sweet (cookies, donuts, chocolate, etc). I am also very tired and stressed as there are currently three of us running a 24/7 store at the moment, which means sudden blood sugar drops and lack of energy have made me turn to things that can give me a quick boot of energy. My coffee has gone from using a protein shake as creamer with some stevia to sweeten it to using regular creamer, hot cocoa, and stevia. Now, I worked this morning, and will be working this evening (yes, a split shift) and instead of coffee this morning, I opted for mint tea with one stevia packet. Oddly enough, I tend to drink tea as it is, sometimes a little lemon or honey. Rarely anything else (splash of milk if it’s an Earl Grey). But I had over brewed the tea bag, so as it was a tad bitter, a little stevia made it bearable. Plus it gave me that hint of sweetness I have been used to having lately.

Now, I could have cried, gotten more upset, and possibly turned to food over the realization that I have gained weight. Not to mislead, but I was upset. It’s been something I have suspeted for at least a month as pants are a little more snug and bras seem to be a bit fuller than they should be. My face looks a little more round than I want it to be. And you know what? That’s ok. Losing all the weight that I have is a major accomplishment. This globl pandemic is something none of us expected to occurr. I went from working out 3 to 4 times a week to not being able to work out at all. Now, I have been able to increase my steps. I went from doing a little under 2K to averaging 5K 3 times a week at the onset of this pandemic. I now easily do 7-8K a day. I am happy with that and hope I can keep walking 8K a day after everything returns to a more normal state of existence. I do credit the increase in walking with not gaining more weight, so I do know if I stick to  more rigid eating plan the increase in walking will start to show in a loss at the scales. So, to day, instead of curling up in a ball of defeat, I went and purchased two 12 packs of high protein shakes (30 grams protein), along with three 4 packs of like items (mainly, different flavors). Now, I do have some unflavored protein powder on hand, but haven’t really experimented with it. I have, to great success, added a scoop to a batch of homemade vanilla berry Chia seed pudding in the past. It’s something I plan on making again tomorrow (or Saturday) as it’s filling, high in protein and fiber, and low in calories. The most I should be eating is between 4-6oz a meal and I should be at 1000 calories or less until I reach my goal weight. Having looked at my food tracker (I use 2 different ones, Baritastic & Fitbit), I have been averaging closer to 1600 calories a day, which would be fine IF I was working out still and burning twice that a day. I am still learning and will own up to eating more than I should. But I will do better because acknowledging one’s mistakes is key to rectifying this issue.

So, why write about this? Because I reached out to a fwe people in an online Bariatri support group (I was part of three, ow only 2) and I was bombarded with notifications that I needed to see my Surgon and look into getting a revision done. Now, I’m not going to bash anyone who’s had to undergo a revision surgery. There are many reasons as to why someone goes from lapband to sleeve, or sleeve to bypass, or lapband to bypass, etc. Lapbands are not really done anymore due to complications that occur, one being that the band itself can twist and can cause serious gastirc pain. So, yes that is a valid reason for having the lapband removed and possibly undergoing a different baritric surgery afterwards (some do this at the same time, others wait for the body to heal). And I have read blogs and postings from others who regret ever underoing weigth loss surgery. It happens. Not everyone is mentally prepred for all this is going to entail. You must hange the way you eat and look at food for the rest of your life and that is scary. Now, I love to research so I did a lot of research. By a lot, I mean I have two or three Pinterest boards full of information, not to mention 2 binders (one given to me by my surgeon). I have topics ranging from information to meal ideas to hints, to notes taking in meetings, to little tidbits sch as products that are good r ones that I tried and hated. It’s a journey and I was determined to do my best. And I do feel that I am. Now, getting back to the group that I have left. Many in the group (I will not snitch) felt that any weight gain less than a year out from surgery indicated that my surgery was a “failure” and I needed to either have my stomach made smaller (a revision of the original surgery) as my stomach has clearly stretched out (I doubt it as if I drink 6 oz of water too fast, I will vomit) or I need to undergo bypass because I am gaining weight. Now, I am not aware of anyone is aware of this, but it’s perfectly natural for weight to fluctuate. I know the week before my period, I start to feel bloated, my breasts swell up and hurt, and the scale will go up 2-5 pounds (I should also mention that it’s THAT week for me, so 15 pounds may only be 12 plus 3 from this). It’s something that I have had to get used to (as well as having HORMONES, CRAVINGS, and, uh, NEEDS) that I have never experienced before. Unlike most of my fellow females out there, I have never had  regular cycle from the start an never really experienced things like PMS as others did. A month after surgery, I started. And yes, people in this group thought I was joking and made fun of me for it. It’s nothing to be laughed at as one of the main reasons women undergo Bariatric Surgery is PCOS and other hormone/weight related issues. I was always diagnosed PCOS (most women, FYI, are diagnosed with this) but my Endocronologist conducted a test that proved while I didn’t have PCOS, I was borderline. She also is the one who brought up having this surgery and has been really, really, awesome (I see her for Type 2 Diabetes and for birth control).

Now, weight gain after sugery is also fairly normal. My goal weight, according to the BMI chart (which is laughable in how inaccurate it is) says for my height of 5 feet 8 inches, I should be between 125-145 to have  normal BMI. Now, this chart doesn’t tkae into considertion body shape, especially bone structure, hips, and geneti disposition. My surgeon and I agree that an ideal weight for my height and body shape would be about 165-185, which according to the BMI chart would still make me overweight. Of course, at 125, I would look skeletal and not at all healthy. My goal is to hit about 175. Why 175, you may ask? Because almost every paper and medical study I was able to read (and get access to thanks to friends at universities who sent me PDF of medical journal articles), it’s common and normal for Bariatric patients to gain 10-20 pounds one to two years after reaching a goal weight. Now, a few studies from Europe concluded that gaining more than 10 pounds was considered a “failure”. Some of these same studies also felt that women who got pregnant after surgery were also “failures” because they gained weight during pregnancy. One of the guys whom my surgeon touts as a success story would be considered a failure be cause he gained probably close to 30 lbs since reaching his goal weight. Yet his weight gain has been muscle, not fat and I think he looks better now than he did when he first reached his goal weight.  That’s one area I feel should be studied more and that’s people who have undergone the surgery, and then have gone on to do things like build muscle, and toned, etc., as all experts will agree that muscle weighs more than fat. So if I reach my goal weight, but then build muscle and tone, yes I may go up in weight, but I may also go down in size and will also be healthier, and happier, than I was before surgery.

I don’t think it’s a failure. When you reach a goal weight, it’s a feeling of success. Many people have actually dropped close to 5-10 pounds after reaching their goal weight (so, they are under the goal weight) until they stabilize. Remember, to lose the weight, we tend to be on a strict 1000 calorie diet (60-80 grams of protein, under 100 carbs daily). And being on this kind of eating plan can last as long as needed until the goal weight has been reached. For some, it’s about 16 months. For others, it can last 30 months. Some choose to stay on it forever. My surgeon has state once a goal weight is reached, you then increase your food intake (yes, you start to eat more) until you are at a maintenance level. For me, that is probably somewhere between 1200-1600. And when I was working out so much, eating 1200, or even up to 1300 wasn’t too bad. Now, eating closer to 1600 is not good, but I am only human and I am still LEARNING.

So far today, I have consumed 840 calories, had 24 oz of water (plus the shake gives me a total of 35 fl oz out of 64 needed), but I have also walked 3500 steps and burned 1700 calories so far today. Now, if I can keep my calories under 1400 today, I can try to keep it under 1200 tomorrow, then work my way to being between 900-1000. Yes, it’s hard. I’m still stressed out. I miss going to the gym but I am going to look into some workout videos on Amazon Prime that I can do. I miss my boyfriend (yes, I met a terrific guy at the end of January/beginning of February and I am very happy and very much in love; he’s also super super supportive, a writer, and loves classic films). We fit together very well and I miss being able to just be with him (he suffered an AFIB attack 2 weeks back, so out of concern for his health, I have stayed away because he’s slightly immune compromised at this point in time. But you know what? I’m ok with this because I realized when he had his attack that I couldn’t imagine my life without him and knew that I loved him. And that means we must deal with this little inconvenience (and that’s all it is, an inconvenience) for a short while.

So, life has been a series of ups and downs since I last posted. Mainly ups, but few downs. Besides gaining a little wight, and losing my laptop, I broke a tooth that needs a crown. My Fitbit Charge 2 broke completely, so I purchase the Inspire HR (same features and cheaper) The lilacs are starting to come out. The grass is green and flowers are blooming. Henry is a year old (the new kitteh) and roughly 14lbs (he’s a chonky ginger boi). My niece will be three this year and she’ll soon have a little brother. Close friends of mine are also expecting their second, so life goes on. Yes, this epidemic is horrific. Yes, we are all stressed out. But we can survive, we can learn, we can be kind.

Prior to May 2019, the most I weighed was 350lbs. My A1C was over 10. I was on 80 units of insulin a day. I was taking a pill to help me sleep and another to deal with anxiety on top of the antidepressant. I had to take Iron and Vitamin D supplements because of an ongoing deficiency. I was a size 24/26 dress size, 44/46DDD Bra Size. I routinely had hospitalizations due to Asthma and Diabetes issues.

As of April 2020, My weight is 229lbs. My A1C was 5.9 and I am no longer on insulin, only on Victozia. I take 2 Flintstones Chewables plus 2 Calcium gummies a day along with Biotin (for hair loss, which is common after any major surgery). I only take an antidepressant. I have only used my inhaler twice this month (both times due to strong bleach smells). I wear a size 16/18 top, 12/14 bottoms, 40DD bra. Last fall was the first fall I can remember not having to go the ER for a bad asthma attack. I still am prone to Anemia BUT no other issues. I can keep up with an active 3 year old.

So, take care. Stay safe. And for goodness sake, it’s OK to be human. It’s OK to make mistakes.

A Brief Look at People of Colour before the 20th Century: Part 2

Horae ad usum Parisiensem, dites Heures de Charles d'Angoulême | Gallica 87v

Image from the Hours of Charles d’Angoulême; courtesy of Gallica.bnf.fr

I am not an expert in Medieval nor Reinassance history, but I do have an appreciation for those who are experts in those fields (and i am being very broad in using tose terms, for which I am quite aware of). But I do also have a penchant for Art and this period in human history was rich in Art. Above is an image cropped from Plate 87 (I believe, my French is a tad rusty at the moment) from the Hours of Charles d’Angoulême, which was complied (that is, drawn and written) around 1475 to 1500 CE in France. The full image depicts Christ and possibly other religious figures, but the focus on this is the the knight (or solider) being shown here. There is a fallacy to assume that artists at this time didn’t know what people of colour looked like. And most art history courses (and I have taken at last 1 or 2 in my day) tend to focus on religious imagery and rarely show anyone who isn’t white. It’s this issue which has led to the belief that there weren’t any non whites in Europe until after the 20th Century. But look at the care, the attention to minute detail that has been rendered here (rendered being a very posh term for drawn and/or illustrated). This man is wearing hose and you can see the folds of his top/surcoat. His hair is curly/kinky with a lovely gold scarf. His skin is darker than the hose and he’s wearing a large gold hoop earring with a ruby in it (yes, it’s hard to see in this picture, but if you go to https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b52502694t/f184.item.zoom, you can zoom in on the image and really appreciate all the detail in this one plate). This soldier is also not depicted as ugly, which I think is very important. He’s humble, in awe of Christ (not shown in this image). The artist clearly had seen a person of colour before and did, in my opinion, a decent job drawing them. That’s not to say that every piece of illustration from this period is drawn this well. Because it’s not, BUT the important take about this is clearly to illustrate that there were non whites living in France at this time. They may have been servants or slaves, this is true, BUT they did exist.

The Queen of Sheba, Fresco in a Church in the Lalibela region of Ethiopia (dating from 1100-1200s CE); courtesy of the National Geographic.

The Queen of Sheba is a figure from the OT and most biblical scholars do agree she came from an African country. In Africa, she is from Ethiopia, which is the only Christian country in Africa. She has a long history and presence in that country. However, what I like about this fresco is that they show her being more of a mixed-race person rather than just being dark skinned. Other images from this period, or later, tend to make her look darker but this one has a more Middle Easter feel to it, which seems to fit with who she may have been historically. Again, it’s another figure who isn’t white, but the difference is this time the image hails from a predominately non-white region so I find it interesting to see the Middle Eastern influences. I mainly included it because it’s different from the other images I will be showing and discussing.

Lorenzo Lotto c. 1532 Saint Lucy Altarpiece (detail)

Detail from an Altarpiece depicting St Lucy by Lorenzo Lotto (dates from 1532 CE); Wikipedia Commons Image.

This image from an altarpiece done by Italian Reinassance painter Lorenzo Lotto is an incredible piece (do Google it) which only has one person of colour in it-a servant girl looking after a child. Now, contrast this with the image from the Hours piece and you will notice that she is not as finely dressed, clearly indicating her status as a servant (and she is the only servant in the piece besides being the only other female). Yet she wearing earrings and a veil, meaning she has some status amongst the servants (perhaps). Now, the reason I chose this image was to show the beauty in rendering this female figure, but the care the artist took into detailing her hair and how it contrasts with the child’s hair and that of Saint Lucy. There is a gentle beauty in this figure, which again shows the artist clearly has seen non whites in his area. I am again trying to show that, let’s say the character of the Nurse in Romeo & Juliet could easily have been a woman such as this, yet she is always portrayed by an elderly white dame (and there’s nothing wrong with this), but a case can be made to have the Nurse be non white and back it up with historical evidence. I chose Romeo & Juliet as an example because firstly, I love Shakespeare (the downfall of being both an English & Theatre major I suppose), but I once had a teacher inform me that my looks would always regulate me to the roles of Nurse, except he didn’t believe anyone would cast a non white woman in that role (he was a grade A jerk).

“Portrait of a Moorish Woman” from the School of Paolo Veronese. Made in Italy, ca. 1550.

Portrait of a Moorish Woman attributed to the School of Paolo Veronese, Italy (dates from around 1550); Wikipedia Commons Image.

This is another portrait, done not that far apart from the previous image, but I love it because it’s not associated with religion (which the previous three were) and it’s attributed to a certain style of an artist (so Veronese could have painted this, or started this, and it was finished by one of his apprentices). She is stunning and being referred to as a Moor means she is of Italian and African decent. The Moors, in case anyone doesn’t know, did occupy a large part of Italy at one point (think of the crusades everyone). It’s a very beautiful and powerful portrait. She’s dressed more like someone from Ancient Rome than Italian Renaissance. She’s got large pearl earrings, a pearl necklace and a jeweled turban on her head. Her skin is richly glowing. This could be a young Cleopatra meeting Caesar for the first time. Or the Queen of Sheba. The point I am trying to make is while some of these models may have been servants or slaves, there is also the reality that there were also free people of colour, occupying the same space.

Alessandro de Medici, Duke of Penne and Duke of Florence, who was commonly called "il moro," Italian for "The Moor". In his day, he was officially recognized as the son of the powerful Lorenzo II de Medici (1510-1537) and an unknown African woman. Alessandro was the last Medici to rule Florence, having assumed the throne at the young age of 19.

Alessandro de Medici, Duke of Penne and Florence (dates from 1530s); Wikipedia Common Image.

Alessandro de Medici was the last Medici to rule Florence (he was assainated by his cousin, Lorenzino in 1537). He was nicknamed “il moro” (the moor) for his complexion. His father was Lorezno de Medici, one of the most powerful Medicis and an unknown African (or Moorish) woman. He attained his Dukedoms at the tender age of 19, started construction on massive forts in these areas, then was murdered by a cousin. He ruled for 7 years and was a free person of colour in Italy. Not only free, but a powerful person was well. This is where history has failed us. Most history books that I have read on the Medicis don’t mention why he was called the Moor, but only he was assassinated after ruling a short period of time. Granted, these books were written prior to the 1970s, but remember that popular show on the Medicis? You can find it on Netflix now. Knowing NOW that the de Medicis had illegitimate children with a variety of skin colours, and that there were people of colour in Italy at that time, the show is fairly whitewashed. Which is a pity because the Medicis are a fascinating family. The last Medici to rule Florence deserves his own biopic at this point in time. I’d love a Ken Burns special on the family at this point in time. I highlight this particular figure because most people, if they do acknowledge that there were people of colour in Europe at this time, don’t want to believe or tend to think there was no way any of them were in positions of power. This is inaccurate as it is saddening. Skin colour should not determine one’s ability to rule and so far, we haven’t been shown historically accurate depictions of our past in film, television, and even in books (especially fiction).

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Clipart Image

Part of the reason I started this brief series on people of colour existing in Europe proir to the 20th Century was partly my exasperation at hearing complete nonsensical bullshit reasons why a non white person shouldn’t be cast in the upcoming Dracula, or Dr. Who (people made such a fuss over Bill Potts being a woman of colour and a lesbian). People get upset if you show a person of colour existing in the 19th Century and who wasn’t a slave or a former slave (in the US) and how they don’t believe these people were existing outside of the US and Africa (and Asia). Another is that I have routinely gotten rejection letters from literary agents (up to 35 currently) stating that someone with my name (meaning, not white) has no RIGHT to be writing as well as I do. I’m not kidding. I was asked, in all seriousness, who my translator was because my English was just “too good to be true.” I’ve also gotten rejection letters simply because they inform me that no one will want to buy an Austen type novel from someone with a non-English name. Forgive me, but I didn’t realize that Jane Austen and the Regency were supposed to have been marked WHITES ONLY when it came to writing and appreciating. Austen herself, in all her letters and novels, never mentioned once that her works were to be the domain of only White People. Yes, it’s offensive and it’s wrong. It’s also extremely frustrating as a writer to be told my ethnicity makes me unpublishable. Now, somewhere out there is an agent who will look past my name and actually take the time to read my novel. So far, I haven’t found this person. And in case you think this meant people of colour ONLY existed in Italy, well…

Gerrit Dou Portrait of a Man Netherlands (1635) Oil on Wood, 22.5 x 18 cm. KØBENHAVN, Statens Museum for Kunst. The Image of the Black ...

Portrait of a Man (region, the Netherlands) by Gerrit Dou, from 163 CE. Courtesy of the Statens Museum

Oil on canvas from the school of Francois de Troy in Toulouse, France- Portrait of A “Mulatto” Aristocrat in Armor probably painted between 1680-1730

Unknown Aristocrat (yes, a mixed race one) from the school of Francois de Troy (located in Toulouse, France) from 1680-1730 CE; Wikipedia Commons Image.

ca. 1651 Elizabeth Murray, Lady Tollemache by Sir Peter Lely (Ham House - London UK)

Elizabeth Murray, Lady Tollemache by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1650; courtesy of Ham House – London UK. Notice the servant is a man of colour and this was painted in ENGLAND.

Portrait Of Lady Charlotte Fitzroy With Her Indian Page

Portrait Of Lady Charlotte Fitzroy With Her Indian Page Boy by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1673; courtesy of Artfund.org & Wikipedia Commons Image. In case you thought there weren’t any people with my ethnicity floating around…

Portrait of a Gentleman with a Young Servant, possibly Sir George Thomas Bt (c.1695-1774), by Charles Philips Portrait of a Gentleman (possibly Sir George Thomas) with a Young Servant (clearly an Indian) by Charles Philips and possibly from the 1740s-1760s (Sir Thomas lived from 1695-1774); Wikipedia Commons Image.

So yes, when I mean people of colour, I don’t just mean people of African decent. While it’s easier to find those of African decent in art images prior to the 1800s, this doesn’t mean other people (from India, Native Americans, etc) weren’t around as well. Pocahontas famously came to England in the 1616 and died in March 1617 (contracted an illness). So this assumption that if there were people of colour, this means only those were could have been slaves is also a false narrative.

Pocahontas by Simon van de Passe 1616.jpg

Pocahontas was on exhibition when she came in England in 1616. This engraving is the only known portrait of her. Engraving by Simon de Passe, 1616. She was 21 when this was done.

A Brief Look at People of Color before the 20th Century: Part 1

I was very excited at the news that Moffat & Gatiss were doing a modern take on Dracula, but then became disappointed when the cast was revealed and it had no people of color in any of the lead roles. Now, the people cast are good at what they do, but I was hoping at least one lead would be someone who isn’t White. For someone like me, who’s only seen 2 major stars like her in films (Merle Oberon and Sir Ben Kingsley), it’s sometimes hard to believe that with all of the resources out there, all of the talent, casting people of color as leads is still an issue in Western Film and TV. Please don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Sherlock and enjoyed Moffat’s turn writing Dr. Who. I also follow Gatiss on Instagram & Twitter and think him an excellent writer and actor. I believe some of these issues is the lack of knowledge of history. Neither man is at fault here for not knowing much about the history of colored people in Europe. It’s not taught in schools in America and probably isn’t really taught in schools in Europe either.

Nefertem - Goddess of Perfume Also known as she Who is Beautiful and Water Lily of the Sun, was goddess of both healing and beautification

Nefertem, Goddess of Perfume, Healing, and Beautification. Also known as She Who is Beautiful, associated with Water, and is referred to as Lily of the Sun.

I thought I’d start with Ancient Civilizations because there is a bad habit in Hollywood to cast White people in ethnic roles (cough cough Ridley Scott). Now, Egypt is a country on the continent of Africa (yes, I explain this because I know adults who think Egypt is in the Middle East and Africa is a country). Egypt is close to the Middle East, so there are many cross cultural shifts that have been going on for centuries. However, it may come as a shock that Egyptians, both ancient and modern are not 100% African decent, but are a mixture of all the people that have conquered it over the centuries. Cleopatra, perhaps the most infamous female rules (next to Nefertiti), was a Ptolemaic and of Greek decent. Now, she may have had some native Egyptian DNA and ancestry, but her father was Greek. So while people get upset over someone like Elizabeth Taylor being this Queen, in terms of skin tone, it’s probably close to reality than we’d care to admit.

King Tut and his sister-wife

But also keep in mind that some rulers were of African decent. Like King Tut, his father and mother and the man who ended up as Pharaoh and erased Tut and his father from history. While the Greeks came later, the original rules of Egypt were of African decent. There may have been trading and marriage with the Middle East as well during these centuries, which would lead to a diverse population. The Greeks coming would produce even more diversity. Then, of course, the Romans also brought a different culture into this region. Now, if they did a new Cleopatra film and cast someone who looked more Arab or more of a modern Egyptian, I wouldn’t mind. There are many different thoughts on who her mother was, one being an Egyptian concubine, so there is a possibility of Cleopatra being a person of color. I do have an issue with films like ‘Gods of Egypt” which show a primarily white Egypt in terms of the Gods and the populace. It was a slap in the face to Egypt and it’s rich history.

Fayum mummy portrait of a woman,Roman Egypt

Portrait of a Mummy, Roman Egypt., Notice how she resembles women of Middle Eastern in our modern era.

This brings us to Rome. There is a cult of Whiteness when it comes to Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome by Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and Proud Boys. They base this beleif that the ancient world was ruled by white people by the statues. Except the statues were originally painted to represent different parts of the population. What we have, because paint chips off, is the raw material (aka, the stone) left to us from those times. Anyone who paints understands the need for a neutral background and all white marble is fairly neutral.

The Myth of Whiteness in Classical Sculpture | The New Yorker

Reproduction of what a classical statue would have looked like. Courtesy of the New Yorker.

Head of a Roman Boy, Roman, 150 – 200 CE Marble

Head of a Roman Child (they believe it is  boy) from 100-200CE. Look at how finely detailed this is with the curly hair and roundness of face. Most researchers do think this statue is portraying a person of color.

This doesn’t mean that all the white statues were colored. Some may have been left white and allowed remain in that neutral state. However, research is showing that a majority of them were painted, proving that Ancient Rome wasn’t this bastion of whiteness, but a rich, culturally diverse population that spread across from Turkey, Egypt, to France and England. That’s a lot of people and from all kinds of varying backgrounds and races. So, while I enjoyed The Gladiator, I cringed at how a majority of the Roman Populace was white because they wouldn’t be. Rome would have people from all the areas that they conquered represented in that city. Either by having these people in the army or to be representatives of their area for the government.

"If people say, 'What kitsch,' it annoys me but I'm not surprised," says Brinkmann, who, with his wife, archaeologist Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, colored this reconstruction of the c. 550 BCE "Lion from Loutraki." Its stunning blue mane is not unique on ancient monuments. Lions often sat atop tombs in ancient Greece, where ornamental details such as the animals tufts of hair and facial markings were painted in bright colors that accented their fur.

Lion reproduction based on a statue dating from 550BCE. Courtesy of the Smithsonian.

So, what does this mean? Well, for one, history isn’t just white people and it isn’t just people of colour. History is PEOPLE. There are fake history websites trying to erase people who weren’t of colour from history. This is just as dangerous as White Supremacists believing that the ancient world was just populated by white people. Again, as I have blogged about previously, revisionist history is a dangerous, slippery slope towards a skewed outlook on life. Of course, I am all for a re-telling of Cleopatra with an all Egyptian (and Middle Eastern) cast. But it also should include people who were of Greek or Roman ancestry as well as Nubian ancestry. Ancient Egypt was a cosmopolitan place. But this means I also want Ancient Brits to be depicted with a range of skin tones as well.

A forensic reconstruction of Cheddar Man’s head, based on the new DNA evidence and his fossilised skeleton.

A reconstruction of Cheddar Man, courtesy of the Guardian UK.

When the reconstruction of Cheddar Man was revealed over a year ago, many racists lost it. And I mean they LOST IT. Some white supremacy websites today claim this to be a fake image. I’ve even come across a few on Pinterest that link this image with the “deep state”. Cheddar Man was unearthed over a century ago in Somerset. Obviously the nickname “Cheddar Man” is just that, a nickname. This gent hails from about 10,000 years ago (roughly the last major ice age) and when people first starting immigrating from the Continent to England. Earlier depictions had him looking like a figure from Norse mythology with flowing blond locks and piercing blue eyes. Thankfully due to scientific advancement, they tested his genome (his DNA) and it revealed he had dark skin, dark curly hair, blue eyes and still shared similar DNA to people living in Britain today. Now, this may be interesting to some of you, but I think it’s vitally important to realize this. Now, this doesn’t mean every person he traveled with looked just like him. We all contain the genetic code for a variety of looks. But it does make any Clan of the Cave Bear type film woefully and pitifully inaccurate with everyone pale, white, and having no variety in skin pigmentation.

Image courtesy of Panorama NYC

Basically, I am trying to get across to anyone who’s listening (or reading in this case) that we can no longer just blindly accept adaptations or stagings of any novel, biography, etc to just contain only white people. It’s a fallacy to think that there are no people of colour in existence in any and all historical re-tellings. I still come across articles written today about all non-white castings of Shakespeare plays and how “edgy” that is. Or a critic complaining that not having any white people is “pandering” to the non existent God of Political Correctness. Gatiss, while I still admire him, famously didn’t think there should be a non-white Victorian soldier on the moon for an episode of Dr Who because he didn’t believe there were non-whites living in Britain at that time. Remember, Dr. Who is a Science-Fictional 50+ years show and he objected to one minority solider on the MOON. Please Mark Gatiss, I implore you to do some reading into history and the existence of non-whites. Don’t get me wrong, I will probably watch the Dracula adaptation and will enjoy it. I will also silently weep and cringe that if there are any minorities on screen, they’ve been regulated to background characters because no one bothered to hire a historical consultant before writing and casting the show.

Pity.