Cherry Tart (aka Erin Kilpatrick) is a contributing author to the fat positive anthology Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion. This piece is part of the one year anniversary of Hot & Heavy's release.
Superheroes Need Love Too
First off, I have shitty luck with cars. Second, glitter solves everything (or at least makes it shiny). Third, a lot can happen in a year…
In spring, my best friend Miranda prodded me into producing my first show in her down-home diner to replace a folk singer who had anti-gay tirade in San Francisco. ‘You are Loved: A Big Gay Cabaret’ was a celebratory fundraiser featuring comedy, poetry, burlesque, drag, singers, and me fisting a unicorn piñata in my finest Toddlers & Tiara’s outfit. Mary Lambert closed the second night with ‘She keeps me warm’ to a tearful audience singing ‘love is patient, love is kind...’ It raised $3000 for queer kids’ camp because we make space for community love, not hate.
A week later, a pickup truck ran a red light going 45 mph and totaled my car (again). A witness climbed into the passenger seat, held my hand to calm my crying, and assured me the first responders would be cute (indeed). The accident left thick red seatbelt bruises across my chest so I went to the ER. My friend Liz came and held my hand for 4 of 8 hours spent waiting for CAT scan, then took me home and even procured groceries. After a week in bed, I dusted myself off, thought I was fine, and launched headlong back into saving the world one over-commitment at a time.
In summer, I drove to Portland to read my story to a room full of fabulous fatties. I spent a whole weekend at NoLose in queer body positive space, with fierce radicals, writers, fatshionistas, and food. I performed my ‘Butterball’ act dressed as a giant turkey, striping down my feathers, and humping a life-sized stick of butter while basting myself in gold glitter. Every night held a pool party full of plus-sized queers in fatkinis singing ‘I will survive’, pausing only to cheer wildly as newbies joined the jubilance. I wish I could bottle that condensed joy and keep handy for when the world gets mean.
Midsummer I wore an amazing orange sundress because I’d been hiding in frumpy invisibility. The hot bus driver pulled up to my stop, turned with a blazing smile, and exclaimed “That dress is amazing!” Thus began my ‘Summer of the Epic Sundress’ and everyone took notice. People on the street, even my most cantankerous co-worker confessed to loving my outfits.
Bus driver and I flirted until I finally presented a show flyer to vet the debauchery she was getting into (literally, Debauchery! is a queer strip show for charity). The next day she broke all the rules and asked for my phone number. We talked on the phone for hours then spent an entire Saturday in a park swapping stories. We dined at the restaurant where I had my first show because she wanted to know my world (and this was home). I gave her my copy of Hot & Heavy to know how I became a superhero. At the end of the night, she asked me not to run away.
Truth be told, I’d been shut down behind a mask of benevolently busy to hide away my heart. This girl with her wide-eyed intensity and star tattoos cracked me open on all the levels and brought me back into the world. It was time to remove my disguise and get real about feeling with my heart again.
Determined to dazzle, I worked all my femme fanciness in a barrage of sundresses and mutual seduction. We shared hushed secrets in on the daily commute, full of smiles and sunshine. I wrote her stories of my life in mix tapes, rainbow notecards, and metaphors of supernovas beneath our ribs. She complimented my outfits every day and said I had never been invisible, even before the sundresses.
The first time she saw me perform, I dressed in sparkle tulle storm clouds and sequin rain, to dance with rainbows (no really) as a love letter to the community. Before I went on stage, she kissed my glittery shoulder and told me I was beautiful, then said it was amazing we could find each other after years of circling around the city…
Of course she wrecked me, but it doesn’t matter how that story ends. Around that time, I admitted to the physical hurt too, and thus began my fall of cultivating self-care and self-love. Sometimes catalyst for change comes in the form of mixed-signal girls and speeding pickup trucks. Such is life.
This year, I’ve learned that you can’t save the world if you are keeping yourself from experiencing it. Sometimes the lesson isn’t about being indestructible and impenetrable, rather the joys (and pitfalls) of opening up. It’s the willingness to take risk teach us who we are and where our beauty lives. And even superhero fat girls need room for puffy pink heart clouds and fattie dance parties and new sundresses once in a while.
Also, you can’t save the world without the people who show up to you. As fall turned towards winter, friends and community held me as I cried until I found equilibrium against a year of epic beauty, harsh realities, and amazing amounts of gratitude. I’m finding balance between altruism and heart tending. Last week, I performed with a live jazz band and bought a ticket to Thailand. Yesterday, I was in a room full of giggling queers rehearsing a strip version of ‘What does the fox say?’ Its heartbreak and joy that make us grow.
Maybe I needed to get hit by truck and a hot(mess)busdriver to knock me back into the world. The universe can drop-kick us to where we need to be when the time is right. This year my 3rd car was totaled and I’m still alive. I’ve lucky enough to see my stories reflected in the hearts of people who wanted to listen. I’ve been reminded that I’m lovely and luminous. And this summer, I charmed an entire city with my epic sundress collection.
Link to an article about You Are Loved and the accident:
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Read Erin's chapter, "Shiny Sparkly Things," & support fat positive community and literature by purchasing a copy of Hot & Heavy and by liking us on Facebook!
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.