Friday, 10 October 2014

The Ugly Truth...

This is probably the most personal thing I'm going to post on this blog - and I don't know if I will leave it out here...

I'd be willing to bet a lot of money that when other people look at me, they don't see what I see in the mirror.

My reflection is an assemblage of parts, none of them "right".  One eye is smaller than the other, my nose is big, chin is weak, skin is blotchy and my teeth are small, yellow and broken.  Add to that being middle-aged and fat, colouring my hair every 3 weeks to keep the gray away, and the Botox every once in a while to hide that one giant wrinkle across my forehead!  (I frown in my SLEEP!  Who the hell frowns in their sleep???)

I grew up in a home where I was told on a regular basis that I was fat, ugly stupid, lazy, no good and ungrateful.  Put-downs like that occurred on an almost-daily basis for about 6 or 7 years...  The main culprit was my mother's husband - and she sat there and let it happen - until the day she started joining in.

There is a commercial on Canadian television right now about how children absorb the negative things in their life and take them with them everywhere.  One thing that commercial doesn't say is that some of us take those things all the way to adulthood.

Anyone who tells you that you can get past something like that has NO idea how much you internalize such a message!  It goes down to your bones and permeates your soul until it is as black as the hateful words thrown at you.  This isn't a bunch of strangers making you "feel inferior without your consent" (as Eleanor Roosevelt famously said), this is your family telling you are worthless - repeatedly - during the most impressionable time of your life.  These are supposed to be the people who love you and protect you - but they don't.

I'm sure I wore that perception of myself like an invisible cloak that alerted others to my insecurities and vulnerability, and it attracted those who would exploit those feelings to their own ends.

Like my first "serious" boyfriend T.

Of course I was having sex with him; I was 16 and had raging hormones.

About a year after I met him, we were at his best friend's house one summer day.  We had spent too much of the day in the sun and I lay down on the couch in the family room with some cold packs while the guys played pool.   I probably dozed off and I'm sure they thought I was asleep or I wouldn't have overheard the advice that T was giving to J.

"Always date the ugly girls, because they'll be really grateful to you and have sex with you."

That day was almost 40 years ago; and since that day I have never felt or believed that I was anything but ugly.

If I'd had any sense or self-esteem or confidence, that would have been the last time I saw him, but it wasn't.

A few weeks later, he decided to join the navy instead of continuing to work a series of dead-end jobs - did I mention he was a high-school drop-out?  It was a month later that he headed off to Halifax, after extracting a promise from me that I wouldn't date anyone else and that I'd wait for him.

Fast-forward to January, and it was time for me to fill out the applications for university.  Sunday afternoon was the only time I spoke to T, he would call for all of 5 minutes once a week.  During our call that day, I told him about the application process and then asked him if he could find out where he would be assigned that spring after he finished basic training.  He asked why and I said that I would apply to university in Halifax or Victoria based on his assignment.

There was total silence on the phone line for a minute.  And then came the words that finally broke whatever spell it was he held me under:

"You should give up on this crazy idea you have of going to university, you're too stupid to go to university."

I hung up.  And didn't answer when he called back.  Ever again.

I'd like to say that was the day I gained a sense of my self and found confidence and overcame all the horrible behaviour heaped on me (and my sister) by my mother and her husband.  But I never did.


To this day, I wake up every morning loathing myself.  My serious relationships have always been with men who were much like T - the type who use you, but make you feel that you should be grateful for the attention.

One time, I tried to talk to the person I thought was my best friend about these feelings.  She said I was always so negative and insecure that no one wanted to be around me.  I've learned to shut it all away inside me, to never talk about it, to never trust people with my heart.

I'm alone and very, very lonely.

I apologize constantly for things - even those over which I have no control.  Small errors are magnified in my mind, and if I make big mistakes - and I made a REALLY bad one earlier this year - that "good for nothing" phrase bounces around in my head for weeks afterward to the point that I feel I can't face people.  It's probable that the negative self-talk of a lifetime causes me to sabotage my own life.

Somehow, I've even found a way to work for people who treat me that way; including the man who finally sent me on a tailspin into a major depression two decades ago.  He didn't want an assistant, and it was obvious from Day 1 that he disliked me intensely (I learned later that he was having an affair with the woman who had been doing my job, the director's assistant).  Two years into my job, he came into my office one day, closed the door, and told me that all my coworkers hated me and that no one in the office wanted to work with me.  He said there was nothing I could do to change this and that the best solution for everyone would be for me to quit my job.

Over the next few months, I retreated into myself, until another coworker - who obviously DIDN'T hate me - took me to the employee assistance group.  Literally took me.  She booked the appointment and asked me to go for a walk with her one day and walked me in there.

It took 6 months of therapy and Prozac to get me back to an even keel - as even as I could be.  During that time, I took several months off for stress leave.  While I was away, our director left - and I returned from my leave to find a very nasty letter from him saying things about my poor work ethics and bad habit of leaving my coworkers to pick up the pieces of my errors. Instead of taking the letter to the union (I was working for the government at the time), I ripped it up.

Nowadays, my work life is organized with colour-coded files abounding and notebooks filled with details and electronic files laid out by date, location, event, etc.  I come in early and leave late, and I foolishly come in to the office when I'm sick, which only makes things worse.

But my home is a mess, a place where no one comes.  And maybe I keep it that way so that I don't have to invite anyone in - literally and figuratively.  If I know I will have guests, I clean frantically for days, only to revert to slovenliness once they're gone.

Today is World Mental Health Day - time to acknowledge that the demons inside our heads can be as bad as the bacteria and viruses and cancers that attack our bodies.  They don't even have to be as extreme as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or severe depression.

I've been writing this post in bits and pieces since the last mental health day a year ago.  If I work on it too long, it sends me back into the black hole that always seems to lurk on the edges of my consciousness.

I would give anything to not feel this way, but every piece of available data I can find on this version of avoidant personality disorder indicates that it worsens with age - which could explain the panic attacks I started having about 5 years ago.  The data also shows that recovery from this disorder is almost impossible, with most doctors recommending coping skills, like breaking a pattern of negative self-talk, to keep the demons at bay.

I foolishly believed for years that maybe when my stepfather died I would feel some sense of release.  But in the four months since his death (and he lived to be almost 90), all the pain has come bubbling up to the surface and the panic attacks have returned worse than before.

The internet is probably the wrong forum for talking about things like this since it seems of late that the hate and trolling is worse than before, but there are also areas of light where one can seek and find solace, comfort, information and kinship with those who share whatever affliction one might have.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.  Rev. John Watson (aka Ian McLaren), circa 1890

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Law in the time of Ebola

The human tragedy unfolding in Africa, as multiple countries attempt to contain the most widespread Ebola outbreak ever, is as fascinating as it is frightening.

But I doubt many of us would consider the legal implications that would arise in dealing with a pandemic.  The situation in Liberia shows how society can break down on many levels when facing an almost-incurable contagion.  And I got a small glimpse of it through a blog post on our internal network for the government.

B.C. has asked that I not use his name and I will respect his wishes; he is a policy adviser at another ministry and is in Liberia for a year working on strategic planning in the justice sector.  I asked if I could repost his blog for my friends in the legal community to see.

It's also a stark reminder to us of what could happen to our own society should another influenza epidemic, similar to the one of 1918 to 1920, take place.  At that time, it was estimated that 3 to 5% of the entire world's population died due to the H1N1 strain of the flu.  In today's numbers, that equals almost 2 million Canadians and 16 million Americans.

Aside from what those numbers would mean to our health care systems, think about what it would mean for business productivity and civil order.  It sends a shiver down my spine, that's for sure!


When I arrived in Liberia on July 14, the World Health Organization was reporting that the total number of confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola in the country was 174 and the total number of deaths was 106.

As of this writing the total number was 972 cases with 576 deaths.

My work here includes overseeing the strategic planning for the justice and security sector reform work that the UN has been doing in Liberia since 2003.

There are a couple of key areas where progress has been lagging:

·         constitutional reform
·         the reconciliation of traditional justice practices with the statutory rule of law system
·         the operation of the criminal justice system
·         the incorporation of human rights perspective in the broader rule of law instruments
·         the legislative reform agenda

It is difficult to gain traction on big issues like these at the best of times but, as you might imagine, it is even more difficult during the middle of an Ebola crisis.

Last week we met with the minister of justice, and then this week the chief justice.  They were, to say the least, deeply impatient with any efforts we made to raise issues of system transformation.  At first take, it might be hard to disagree with them.  This is a time of crisis when justice issues should take a back seat to the public health imperative, right?

Not in Liberia.

Responding to the crisis has put the health care system under incredible strain.

Before international media attention focused its capricious lens on what was happening here hospitals - unable to deal with the technical and psychological challenges of treating Ebola – had started to close.

It is a disease that targets the intimacy and dedication of family caring for loved ones and doctors and nurses tending their patients.  The vast majority of people who have been infected are related to existing patients.  And, heroically, over 60 front-line health care workers have died.

By the time it became apparent that this was not something that could be easily contained, the health care system was decimated and demoralised.

Adding to the problem are age-old cultural, geographic and economic divides that are the very fault lines that produced the conflict.  There is a deep suspicion towards government and its institutions here, and generations of mistrust between the indigenous people, ethnic minorities and the poor against the wealthy elite who rule the country.

Early efforts to communicate about the dangers of Ebola were seen as targeting traditional burial practices – dead bodies are highly infectious – or as a conspiracy.  So, when health officials arrived to remove the sick and the dead, in some villages, they were challenged or threatened.

In early August, when it began to become clear to everyone here that the outbreak was bigger and growing faster than the health system here could contain, the president declared a state of emergency.

This gave her the power to deploy the army to enforce measures to fight Ebola.  Those of us working in the justice and security sector had concerns about how this would work.

·         Would there be civilian control of the army?
·         How will their presence and role be communicated to a populace that associates the national army with violence and bloodshed?
·         What are the human rights implications of using the military to quarantine entire villages?
When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  And sure enough, last week the army was called out to help quarantine a high-density, low income neighbourhood in Monrovia called West Point.

No one had engaged with community leaders to explain what was happening and residents began to challenge the blockade.  The army started firing.  There are many different versions of what happened but, either from bullets or from the press of the crowd, people were injured and a 15 year-old boy may have died.

So the link between Ebola and justice and security is more direct than you might first think.  Part of my job is look at how the UN mission can respond quickly and effectively to these issues.

All the while the spread of the disease continues.  What started out as one of the biggest public health challenges the world has seen for some time, is now an even bigger public health challenge.

It is becoming likely that the long term effect of the outbreak in the country will include food shortages, economic devastation and the possibility of a broader humanitarian crisis.  This country’s hard won peace and security and the well-being of its civilian population will be put under significant strain.

I had plans of arranging an OPS specific fundraising effort.  I thought maybe we could raise some money to buy an ambulance or provide medical equipment and supplies for front-line workers.

But the truth is, at this point, I can’t guarantee the money will go where it is most needed.

Instead, I ask you to consider giving a small donation to one of the front-line groups fighting the outbreak.  There are many groups but I can personally vouch for the importance of Médecins San Frontières.  Visit their website to make a donation and direct it specifically to their Ebola work.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

What year is this?

I don't make any secret of the fact that I'm on the wrong side of 50; which means I grew up in the 1960s.

It was a tumultuous time both socially and politically.  CNN has been airing a series recently about the decade; even casual viewing of a few of the episodes would give you some sense of the events that unfolded during the period.

Over the past few months, events that have been taking place around the world are sad echoes of the times now half a century behind us:  civil unrest in the United States, war in the Middle East, and Russian aggression toward their neighbours being the most obvious examples.  Every night, the television newcasts would broadcast grainy black and white pictures of decimation in Vietnam, helicopters spraying deadly chemicals to clear dense vegetation where the enemy hid, soldiers toting automatic rifles, and frightened citizens gazing into the camera lens with desperation writ large on their faces.

As I wrote in a blog post last fall, it is a sad fact that the earliest memories I have of my life are of the events surrounding President Kennedy's assassination, the first of four that rocked the landscape of civil rights in the US.  During the year of Canada's Centennial, I watched Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, defend her country's preemptive attack on its neighbours; less than a year later, I sat in my grandparents' living room as they made desperate phone calls to Czechoslovakia - calls that couldn't be completed - while watching tanks roll into Prague on TV.  Shortly after that, I was on an airplane travelling from London to Dublin when it was announced that Senator Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated in Los Angeles.

The Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana famously wrote " Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".

Watching the news these past few months, is it any wonder that I might feel that I have been transported back to the 1960s and we are, indeed, repeating our past?

How I know I'm NOT back in 1968:  the American protestors are almost uniformly black - back then, they were mostly white; the lack of protest music on mainstream radio (yes, I mentioned 60s music, so sue me); and the fact that television coverage is 24/7, thanks to our instant-news age, rather than doled out in 30-second bites of sound and fury.

Most importantly - most of the nuclear arsenals of the world have been dismantled and we no longer live in fear of atomic bombs dropping on us.

I have no answers - I wouldn't know where to begin to find them.  While I don't believe in god, the words of PF Sloan, songwriter of the 1965 song "Eve of Destruction" and member of The Grassroots, hold true:

"The song contained a number of issues that were unbearable for me at the time. I wrote it as a prayer to God for an answer."

If I don't stop now, this blog entry will begin to ramble, but the situation in Ferguson, Missouri spurs me to think of these words of Winston Churchill:

" is the people who control the Government, not the Government the people."

It's time for the governments in the United States, in Russia, in Palestine, in Israel, in Iraq, even in "Red China" (to reference that song again) to learn this lesson; learn it well, and learn it FAST!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

In the beginning...

Several years ago, when I first registered this blog, I thought that I would write about my adventures in Middle-Aged-Dating-Land.  I have been uncoupled since December 2007, never married, no children.  My experiences with internet dating go back to 1993 - and, no, that is NOT a typo!

One would think I would give up after 21 years with no luck, and I have gone long stretches with hiding my profile(s) on whatever internet dating site(s) I've been working with, only to once again decide to test the waters.

That's an apt metaphor since I've mostly been active on Plenty of Fish, but I've also tried Lava Life, Match, OK Cupid and a tiny Toronto-based site called Casual Kiss.  I have been rejected by eHarmony TWICE!  (Which probably isn't a bad thing.)

(The stories I could tell about my emails from Casual Kiss alone could entertain you for hours; I'm sure most of them were scam-related.)

In addition to perusing profiles, I've spent a lot of time these past two decades reading the forums of several of those dating sites, old Usenet newsgroups, and blogs - those published by dating sites, those written by so-called dating "experts" and those written by the average person.

As time passes, one fact has become glaringly obvious:  when it comes to men, how a woman LOOKS is paramount!

It is the rare man who will consider dating a woman who is outside of the "norm" of North American "beauty standards", i.e. young, pretty and thin.

Public post after public post by men in several countries of many ages, races, income and education levels have driven that point home to me.  And to countless of other women of size (and, now, age).

The perception of the dating scene for overweight women in general, and especially overweight middle-aged women, is basically that you are NOT ALLOWED to say "no".  After all, this man has paid attention to you and you're an awful FAT girl who barely gets attention, you should be grateful for the attention and have sex with that guy.  And it is about sex, because these men aren't looking at you for anything long term, they certainly wouldn't want to be seen in public with you.

A very small sampling of my emails over the past few years are revealing (I've left them intact):


Very nice skin. You look very lovely. I am pretty active and fit. I might be a good influence.


if you look a little deeper and overlook my facial hair, I am sure I can overlook some extra weight. Find your face absolutlely beautiful.


Your eyes do look a little crazy .. Are you crazy? Just curious.


wow no wander u been on here here 3 years you will die a lonely old lady hope a cat sneezes on you.thank god u never had kids ,now go get a drink


you sound like a real bitch, why would anyone want to contact you.


There was the one from a man who said he was going to a concert at the JLC and would I be interested in giving him a massage before the show.  When I declined, the vitriol was swift and disgusting.

And one from a woman telling me that I "owe it" to men to post a full-length picture of my body so they know I'm not lying about my weight, despite the fact that I lay it all out on the line in my profile.

That is the tip of a big iceberg...

and yet, I continue to put myself out there.

I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Red & White All Over…

You always knew the biggest party of the year was upon you when the flags started to appear all over the city.  Large, no … HUGE, Canadian flags adorn office buildings across the whole of Ottawa.

The main floor at Giant Tiger’s flagship store turns into a sea of red and white: in one stop you can get your patriotic t-shirt along with all the other necessary acrôutements – maple leaf deely-bobbers, temporary tattoos, flag picks to stick in burgers, those umbrella hat things to protect you from the sun’s rays beating down on your face (which can also block your view of the Snowbirds fly-past if you’re not careful), sparklers, family packs of fireworks and the necessary flag for your home (or to wear, as many do).

My sister and I used to affix a 3 by 5 foot flag to the front of our balcony; it was clearly visible 2 kms away if you were crossing the Mackenzie King Bridge by bus and happened to look our way.

And you would look that way, trust me.  Our apartment had a view straight up the Rideau Canal to Parliament Hill and the Laurentian foothills beyond.  The private boats would be lined up stretching south from the locks almost to the bend at the University of Ottawa.  And the tour boats did a booming business heading down to Dow’s Lake while providing history lessons to unsuspecting tourists.

My sister and I hosted many a fireworks-viewing party in our apartment until my permanent job in London necessitated moves for both of us.

After work on June 30th, or on the morning of the 1st while on their way downtown, our friends would drop by our house with their drinks and food contributions to the potluck dinner that night.  We filled one of the bathtubs in our apartment with ice to keep the wine and beer cold.  Off everyone would go to join the throngs pouring on to the streets in a great throng of red and white.  There’s music on the street corners, folk dancers in the parks, popcorn and poutine to be eaten.  The Snowbirds swoop and The Big Names of the Canadian music scene light up the stage on The Hill.

Around 6pm, everyone would start returning to our place to crack open the libations and cool off from the often-steamy weather.  The "Oh What A Feeling" compilation cds would spin and we'd turn CBC to the evening show on the massive stage in front of the Parliament Buildings so we'd know when to go outside for The Big Show.  By the time the last bite of flag-themed strawberry cake was consumed, friends and family would gather on our huge balcony to watch the sky light up in spectacular colours.

The day I left Ottawa at the end of February 2006, the last thing I did before leaving my aerie over the city was stand on my balcony, in a biting wind, watching the skaters on the Rideau Canal.  It was a perfect, clear, sunny winter day.

That beautiful view, of the most beautiful city in the most beautiful country on the planet, is forever locked in my mind.

Happy Canada Day!

Monday, 10 March 2014

How do you thank someone...

(Reposted from my work blog with some "judicious" - *ha* edits)

When I arrived at the Ministry of the Attorney General in early June 2011, I was a middle-aged woman with no self-confidence and no idea of how to manage the rest of her working career.  Both of those had been sucked out of me by the demoralizing management at my previous job once I came to London.

However, I LOVE it here!

This is in no small part due to the working relationship I have developed with the man I call “The Boss” (NOT Bruce Springsteen!).

I got this job as a direct assignment after the department I worked at in my previous Ministry was being handed over to the federal government and I had no desire to work there.  A co-worker on secondment from the Courthouse suggested I apply for this job (which I was required to do for every position I wished to be assigned to).  She told me that the director was new and from Northern Ontario.

The day I came to meet my manager and The Boss was the day I knew everything would be okay.  It was pretty simple, actually.  The Boss came into the room and we introduced ourselves and I said to him…

“I hear you’re from Northern Ontario.”

He replied, “Yes, Cochrane.”  I smiled and responded with one word:  Kapuskasing!

That told us most of what we needed to know about each other right there; a shared background of small-town life meant we understood each other on many levels.

I came to Court Services knowing nothing about the Ministry of the Attorney General or the inner workings of the court system.  Over the past 3 years, The Boss has answered every question I have asked of him, no matter how strange, silly or innocuous.  If there was something he couldn’t say due to confidentiality, he said so; no tap dancing around.  He explained the history behind policies and procedures so that I would also understand the “Why”, not just the “What”.

More than that, though, he always asked me what I thought.  We have extended management team meetings a couple of times a year; afterward, The Boss asked me to sit down with him and tell him what I thought of the speakers and presentations and to answer any questions I might have after the event.  The same applied to meetings, training and special events.

For the first time in years, I felt valued – part of the team.  I made contributions to management meetings based on my previous experiences in other Ministries and always felt that they were welcomed.

The Boss recommended me for the inaugural Administrative Professionals Development Program – and the ADAG picked me!  Late last year, he nominated me for the Ministry’s Excelsior Award (I didn’t win).

Above all else, he has believed in me – even when I didn’t believe in myself!  And that’s made all the difference in the world to me.

Last week, I learned that he has been appointed as a Justice of the Peace; today is my last day with him.  I only wish that everyone – inside and outside the public service – could work for someone like His Worship Paul Langlois.  Luck and good fortune brought me to be his assistant for an all too-short while.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

...people look like...the stars on a clear night, in the wilderness.

Earlier this year, a friend of mine re-tweeted the post of a mutual co-worker.  It was the blog post of a gentleman who works as a massage therapist in Portland, Oregon.

In one of the most compassionate works I've ever seen posted in my 20+ years online, Dale Favier reassured and comforted every average person out there; people like you, and me, and anyone with any tiny bit of insecurity about how they look.  He wrote:

"... nobody looks like the people in magazines or movies.  Not even models.  Nobody."

He ended by saying:

"I’ll tell you what people look like, really: they look like flames. Or like the stars, on a clear night in the wilderness."

With all my heart, I wish that I could be one of those stars.... just a point of light in the cosmos, glittering and shining down on a benevolent Earth.

But the truth is that I don't feel that way, and this Earth is not benevolent - especially not to people like me who don't "fit"the standard of beauty accepted in Western society.

When I first started to gain weight 20 years ago the instant response of the medical professionals around me was "stop eating - exercise" and then to throw the infamous Fen-Phen combination at me, without a single test.  It was 2 more years before surgery revealed the cysts on my ovaries pumping out excess testosterone, causing me to gain weight, my skin to darken in patches, and my hair to fall out in clumps.  The next "solution" was high-dose estrogen coupled with prednisone, which is noted for causing people to have a "moon-face".

To say that I ballooned would be an understatement.  As two doctors fiddled with the combination of medications to control the development of the cysts, my size 6-8 self quickly went to a 10, jumped to a 14, and then, size 18 by the time I moved from Toronto to Ottawa in the summer of 1996.  I also went from being one of those annoying women with short, painless, clockwork periods to weeks-long, severely painful episodes that kept their own schedule.  My Ottawa doctor tried other drugs that failed to control my symptoms before recommending surgery to at least stop the periods.  It also meant I could ditch the drugs since I wouldn't have the side-effects of the cysts.

The weight has stuck - no matter what I do short of starvation.

So I made the decision to have my body mutilated just so I would stop being such an affront to the society I live in.  Grown men think it's sport to oink at me as I pass on the street, or hang out their car window and yell "hey fatty, get off the street".  Other women feel free to comment on what I eat: "why do you eat salad all the time?" from someone I used to work with.  I wanted to say that if I didn't eat salad she'd probably ask me if I "really should be eating *that*?"

Being single all my life and using internet dating has been especially soul-destroying.  Unsolicited messages from men telling me to get off the site and leave it for the thin and beautiful girls.  And heaven forbid you turn down a man's overture:  "I was just going to throw you one since you're so ugly, I'm sure you're desperate for it".  Strange women telling me that I "owe it to the men" to post full-length pictures of myself to prove that I'm fat, despite my bluntly-worded profiles through the years.

In one of life's fabulous ironies, it seems that I fall into that odd category of "in-between" - too fat for the "normal" people and too thin for the men who like larger women.  It also made me a target for some pointed comments when I went to the orientation for weight-loss surgery.

Where I live, a team of medical professionals must assess your fitness to have the surgery.  Your family doctor sends an application to an assessment centre and you then go through physical and psychological testing for these individuals to decide if you will be one of the lucky few.  They play god with your life.

However, the assessment centre for my location is in another city about 2.5 hours away from me - and I don't drive.  Due to cutbacks in trains and buses, travel times are at odd intervals, and with appointments scheduled during working hours, I certainly can't ask any of my friends to drop everything to drive me.

I arrived at my orientation session after a long, nausea-inducing bus ride, got a ginger ale, and settled into my seat at the front as I wanted to be able to read the slides and take notes.  After detailed explanations of the surgical procedures involved in weight loss, a dietician went to the podium to talk about how to eat following surgery.  She was going through a long list of what could and could not be eaten and then stopped and looked pointedly at me.  "You will never be able to drink another carbonated beverage in your life," she said.  "This means no beer, no champagne and definitely NO ginger ale", the last said loudly with a glare in my direction.

I was taken aback, but that didn't prepare me for what came next.  We had taken numbers when we arrived and were called up to get our packages of documents to be filled out for the ensuing appointments before surgery.  The nurse who had explained the surgery to us took down information on each person and, asked each if they had any type of weight-loss surgery before.

Until she came to me.  I provided my name and address and, then, without looking up, she said "and you've had weight-loss surgery before."  It was not a question, but a statement.

"No, ma'am, " I replied.

Her head shot up and she had a clear look of disbelief on her face.  "YOU haven't had a lap band?" she asked, in a tone I can only describe as a sneer.

"No, ma'am," I repeated, as levelly as I could.  I was the smallest potential patient in the room.

She showed me where to sign that I had received my package and handed it to me without another word.  I made my way out of the building to a taxi stand to go back to the city centre, where I waited 5 hours for the bus home.

With a few words, these two women had made me feel that I was unworthy of their time and attention.  I shrank inside in a way that my body refuses to follow.

It was several weeks before I got the letter detailing my first set of appointments.  We had been advised that for those from out of town, every attempt would be made to schedule two appointments in a day.  Mine were one each Thursday for a month.  Each visit would require my taking 2 days off work to travel to and from the other city, plus hotel, taxi and meal expenses.  None of which is covered by the universal health care plan in my province, nor by the private extended insurance I have through work.

I called to explain my predicament and ask them to reschedule and was told that was impossible.  The woman on the phone said that if I couldn't afford to attend the 20 or so appointments that I wasn't a good candidate for the program.  That shocked me, because we were informed that there were a dozen appointments involved before surgery was scheduled - and that would be in yet ANOTHER city several hours in the other direction from my home!

I was informed that 12 was the minimum number of appointments, but there could be twice as many and they would deny the surgery if THEY felt you wouldn't be an appropriate candidate.  At a minimum, I would be out-of-pocket over $2,500, possibly more than $5,000, with nothing to show for it.

When I put the phone down, I realized what millions of Americans go through with their health care system on a daily basis.

After talking to my doctor, I called them back and cancelled the appointments.

I haven't complained about my treatment to either the Ministry of Health or the board of directors at the hospital.  At this point, it would be ridiculous to do so since a few months have gone by.

Shortly after all this happened, I learned that the medical profession has once again revised the BMI calculations.   Taller people have lower numbers than previously calculated, but short people; they've revised our numbers upward.  My BMI is now calculated at 49 instead of 43.

I am in awe of anyone with the strength of character to accept themselves at any size.

But the truth is that I can't.

I go through contortions of self-loathing on an almost-daily basis.

And that's no way for anyone to live.