trust my gut advice by brittney pugh

Trust My Gut: December 2021

Dear Brittney,

I need your advice about communication. I am a person who easily forgets to check in or to see how someone I care about is doing. People say I should communicate with them more often but it rarely crosses my mind. How can I do better if I am not good at checking my notifications? Is there something I should worry about changing?

Dear Radio Silence,

I want to first assure you that everyone is on mental and emotional overload, everyone is feeling like they are dropping the ball, everyone is feeling the way you are. It is to be expected with all that we are currently facing.

Here is my best suggestion: I have a group chat with two very close friends, I highly recommend it. We send photos, videos, voice notes and texts. Some days, we are all in there in real time having a ball, some days we don’t have the mental energy or the actual time to check the notifications. We come in when we can because we all know that we love one another and want to celebrate each of us going through different life phases; one of us is planning a wedding, one of us is falling in love, one of us is considering a move and potential new job. These are huge life moments that we get to share in on our own way, in our own time and we don’t pressure each other.

Friendships are important and require communication on both sides to work and no one person can carry half the weight equally the entire time. Sometimes one person is doing the lion’s share and sometimes you meet in the middle, that is perfectly normal. If your friends trust and love you enough to ask for more, could you confide in them the way you have me? Could you ask them what specifically would make them feel validated and cared for and then make actionable plans to do those things? If you don’t check your phone regularly, consider turning on read receipts so that they know if you are away from your device vs feeling like they might be being ignored. Perhaps you set up a day to video chat or call? If once a week is too big a commitment, do a biweekly wine down or maybe set up scheduled check in texts.

It is also okay for you to ask for breaks. I joined a massive group chat of girlfriends during the height of the pandemic and it gave me so much anxiety trying to keep up that I had to leave. I felt badly briefly, but I loved being able to pick up my phone and not see 185 missed notifications. You can tell your friends what you do and don’t have the capacity for and work around it. I decided to write postcards and letters to those friends instead, for instance. I could work at my own pace and it felt like more of a personal connection for me to do that.

It sounds like you have people in your life who love you and want to hear from you, what a gift! I hope you can make them feel heard, even if it pushes you a little bit to switch up your normal way of communicating.

Dear Brittney,

Can I get your thoughts on using the word fat in a classroom? I talked about anti-fat bias in class last week (Intro to Psych, covering prejudice and discrimination) and I used fat and anti-fat throughout. My dept chair was observing the class and afterword asked if it was okay to use the word fat in this setting and I am now unsure. I normally preface with a quick sentence about fat being a descriptor, but forgot this time and I am worried that using it over and over might have felt really bad for some of my students-especially if they haven’t decided to use it as a neutral descriptor for their own bodies. Should I find another way? I want to do right by my students.

P.S., After reading one of your previous columns, I decided to approach the administration about seating in my classrooms. I just noticed a few days ago that my fat students do not have enough comfortable seating options. Thank you for helping me become a better educator by making me aware of what types of supports my students need.

Dear Professor Do Right,

This is my favorite message I have received so far. I understand your concern and the question from your department chair. To know that you both want to make sure you are providing a safe and comfortable learning environment for your students is really moving.

I would feel the most comfortable hearing my body described accurately as fat, but I also don’t mind “person of size”, which is the language many public facing companies have adopted in recent years. I know that while many fat folks have embraced this word, there are still some people who are resistant and offering other options to ensure that they feel safe is a great idea. Could you provide them with a way to anonymously tell you if they don’t like the word fat prior to your lecture? Maybe a survey once at the beginning of the year before class would be a great way to check in and see.

I am positive based on my experience in school that having a teacher who thinks and cares about these things will be an incredible gift for your students. Seating was something that occupied a lot of my thoughts and concern every day, even though I was much smaller than I am now. It would have been a gift to use all that mental energy on my studies instead of having to worry about my comfort level, I cannot emphasize enough how much of a positive impact this is going to have on them! Thank you so much for reaching out.

Dear Brittney,

Sometimes I wonder when conventionally attractive people show interest in me if I am being experimented with or settled for. What do you do when you think someone is into you despite your body, not because of it? Should we settle for what we get?

Dear Settling,

This is a doozy! There is a lot to unpack here. For me, until I was in my 30’s, I exclusively dated people who were into me despite my body. People who loved my personality, loved my heart, but tolerated my size and my weight. I thought this was normal and I felt uncomfortable in my relationships and in my own body for many years. Once I dated a person who loved both me and my body, a new level unlocked for me and I have not been able to go back.

As a super fat person, I have absolutely been fetishized and I can tell pretty instantly if someone is just into fat bodies or someone is into me in my fat body. Definitely do not settle for this. Not only is it incredibly weird, but it will never last. You recognizing the difference means that you need more from relationships. An actual connection, not just the physical part. With all the sex toys on the market right now, you can please yourself while you wait for someone with more to offer to pop up, for sure.

Ask yourself why you feel like people who you find attractive are “experimenting” with you? In my humble experience, I am approached romantically and sexually more by what society deems conventionally attractive people. I am not sure what the phenomenon is about the buff gym bro wanting to get his grubby little paws on my heft, but it is a thing and permitting they are not creeps, I definitely advise to lean into it. Not too hard though, don’t wanna knock ‘em over.

All jokes aside, there are plenty of people out there who will like the full measure of you, not just your heart, not just your body. Self confidence and self love are hard won, don’t allow someone to destroy your peace just because you think anything is better than nothing—it never is.

Thank you to everyone who reached out for advice! To see your question possibly answered in our next issue, please write to:

Brittney Pugh hasn’t been published since 2009, but her Mom framed all her old articles and she is pretty confident that she hasn’t lost her mojo. If she isn’t writing poetry in her Notes App or practicing self care (read: avoiding house work), she is probably hanging out with her family. How else would you expect her to have the inspiration to generate content? She legitimately googled “hire a bot to write a bio”, found nothing, so this will very likely remain-as she ever is-a work in progress.