Thursday, October 17, 2013

An Open Letter To Matt Walsh


Oh, Matt Walsh… the day has finally come. I've been a fan of your blog for a while now, but knew eventually we'd have to disagree on something, and here it is: Hot Mom.


Let me begin by saying Maria Kang is GORGEOUS. Anyone with eyes in their head can see that. She’s also confident and obviously works her ass off. Literally. From what I can tell she has three happy, healthy children, and there’s no reason to believe she’s not an excellent mother.

Add all that up, and hopefully you will realize I’m not a “hater.” I had actually not even heard about this “controversy” until your latest blog post.

That said, let’s not look at this so much as me disagreeing with you, but as me simply adding some extra insight that you, as a person of your gender, might not have even considered.

First off, I do not believe the entirety of the reaction Mrs. Kang is getting is from a bunch of fat, angry trolls, as you seem to be implying. I posit the real root of this backlash is a generation of women who are so sick and tired of being told they are not good enough. All. the. damn. time.

We are not allowed to just be us - fat, skinny, in-between, or otherwise. Our boobs are always too small or big, as are our ass, arms, and legs. We’re told if we do not squeeze into whatever mold the world sees fit, we hardly deserve to serve you hot wings, let alone be loved and respected as human beings.

So did this pic sting me a bit? If we’re being honest, yeah.

Why? Well, because I’ve been "fat" since I was thirteen.

I grew up riding horses, and because of that I had these disgustingly muscular thighs. I used to stare down at them in the shower and cry because the resemblance to a Thanksgiving turkey was uncanny.

When I was fourteen I became even grosser as one of my breasts developed faster than the other. No one else ever noticed, but I did. Paired with my thick, flabby arms I was always self-conscious about waving at friends or embracing a loved one with my offensive upper body.

“Why can’t I just be pretty like the girls in Seventeen or on the cover of Cosmo?” I thought. I read all about their diets, workout routines, and beauty regimens. But there was just no fixing me. I was not enough and never would be.

In a given day I probably thought about how fat and ugly I was no fewer than 500 times. I am not even exaggerating. Sometimes they were little thoughts like, Sit up straight, so you don’t have rolls, while other times they manifested themselves as hours in front of the mirror, picking and perfecting.

I worked out, starved myself, and did every diet under the sun by the time I was fifteen. Coupled with the fact that I had a less than desirable home life and some major daddy issues, this created the perfect storm. I became such easy prey.

Any time a male would show someone as repulsive as me the tiniest bit of attention, I would pounce all over it. How can I get him to like me more? What else can I offer him so he’ll keep ignoring my giant nose, tiny lips, and huge legs? By fifteen I was sexually active. By sixteen I was pregnant and alone.

At this point the cycle should have stopped, right? I should have snapped out of it. But I didn’t. Now it was worse than ever. Now I had a body that had expanded to create a new life, then deflated all the way back down (and then some) with less than aesthetically pleasing results. I wore girdles constantly, trying to pull my skin back in, and had microdermabrasion done to my stomach to reduce the appearance of my stretchmarks.

(Do you know what that is? It’s basically a machine that shoots out these sharp little crystals from the tip of a wand while simultaneously sucking them back up in order to sandblast whatever surface it comes in contact with. And it hurt. But no pain, no gain, right? That’s what Cosmo told me.)

Cosmo was also telling me that I needed to know my best "naked angles" and be a sex kitten in the bedroom while fulfilling every one of my man’s wildest fantasies (with a fold-out section full of ideas in case he was less than creative).

So now, not only did I still have to compete with all the other girls at my high school who were so skinny and pretty and perfect already, but fat ugly me had a disgusting saggy stomach, and a matching set of boobs from feeding a newborn. Not to mention, I had to make up for the fact that I had a child, and responsibilities, and a curfew on the rare nights I got to go out. 

Needless to say, after my crisis pregnancy I became more promiscuous and vulnerable than ever. Which is so stupid. Had I not learned anything from going through this? There was this unwritten rule, though: I’ll stoop to dating someone like you, but you have to make it worth my while.

Only by the grace of God did I not become pregnant again or contract any diseases.

And with each “relationship,” whether it lasted a week or a night, I became fatter, uglier, less worthy of love and respect, and more willing to exploit myself in search of it.

While certain aspects of my story might be unique, young women as a whole are subjected to these same pressures every day. We live in a society that tells them their bodies and sexuality are where all of their value lies. They cannot escape these messages being constantly beaten into their heads, even if they want to ignore them. Billboards proclaim it, movies celebrate it, music demands it, television normalizes it, and magazines tell them how to become it.

This is why, as you mention in your post, a picture of a man with no legs climbing Everest can be seen as inspirational, while a picture of "Hot Mom" will provoke an entirely different emotion, even though both achievements took a massive amount of work and perseverance.

Here’s the deal: we just want to be us. We’re sick of constantly being beaten up because we’re not the ideal woman, wife, and mom like Mrs. Kang. We get it: we’re not perfect. We’re not enough. This is not news to us. It’s the record that’s been playing in our heads since we were old enough to look in a mirror and notice all our flaws.

Women, and more dangerously, girls in America are given a very specific set of instructions to live by: 1.) You should constantly be working to become perfect. 2.) Odds are you will never be good enough though, no matter how hard you try. 3.) Any love and attention you do get is charity, so don’t be picky or bother with standards, and 4.) Finally, the saving grace: if you’re good enough in bed, maybe he won’t realize how fat and disgusting you are. 

Matt Walsh, it’s my guess (and correct me if I’m wrong) that you’ve never felt this way, and if you have it was likely an isolated incident. But for many females growing up in this day and age, it’s not. It’s our constant. It’s the headspace we live in and call home, no matter how much we may hate it. And we do. We work tirelessly to be enough. 

Until one day we grow up and see a picture of ourselves at thirteen… and realize that overweight, thick-legged, chubby little girl in the picture was all of 98 pounds. And we suddenly see her for the first time. Like, really see her. Her arms were skin and bone, there wasn’t an ounce of fat there, her legs were absolutely perfect and we’d kill to have that body now. 

And you want to know why? Because the one thing in that picture that hasn’t changed is the self-hatred lurking behind her smile. It’s still there, stronger than ever. It never left her side.

And that’s when we decide to grow up. We decide that no matter how hard we work to perfect the outside, the inside is what needs our full attention now. We do it for the little girl in the picture, and we do it for the next generation of women who we want to see themselves as more than just bodies, even when the world will tell them that’s all they are. We want them to see themselves as whole individuals capable of changing the world with their minds, and so yeah, “positive encouragement” like Maria Kang's picture does strike a nerve.

She may or may not have ever been that little girl hating herself. I do not know. And while she has worked so hard, and deserves to be proud, the sting came from the words “What’s your excuse?” I also believe that’s where a majority of the backlash came from. Sure, some people will be ugly and hateful just because that’s how they are, and I am in no way trying to justify their behavior. But for the rest of us, her message perpetuates the mentality America has adopted that we, as women looking nothing like this, are not good enough because we must be lazy or gluttonous or unmotivated. And if we don’t change it’s because we're making excuses.

So, the excuses end here. The real ones, the ones I battle everyday. I will no longer hate my body because it does not look like Maria Kang's. I will no longer allow others to treat me as "less-than" because I feel I deserve it based on my outward appearance. I will no longer say horrible things to myself in the mirror because the world might see me as “less-than.” 

Screw the world. 

I will be happy for mothers who are able to bounce right back to their pre-baby body, and I will be okay with the fact that I didn’t, haven’t, and perhaps never will. My new body is squishy and striped, and whether it’s being used as a trampoline beneath little toddler feet, or a pillow for my daughter’s head, I know what this body is capable of, whether the world sees it or not. 

Strength. Creation. Compassion. Protection. And Love.

And those are all things that I’m NOT celebrating when I’m wasting my energy thinking about how inadequate I am. So, no more excuses. I will not allow anyone to say those things about me any longer, myself especially. Because I am enough.

So way to go, Mrs. Kang. I will see your meme, and raise you one of my own…




If you find this motivating, awesome. If you don't, feel free to never look at it again. And if it makes you feel bad about how little time you have to write or pursue whatever your passion is, please print it out and stick it to a dart board, because ain't nobody got time for that. (Added bonus if your passion is darts.) But I do hope it'll at least prompt you to ask yourself: what it is that you are phenomenal at? For Maria, it's 6-packin'. For me, it's writing open letters. 

Where are you sowing your time and energy? Quit obsessing over your weaknesses, and start focusing on your badassness. Stop letting the world change you, and start changing the world. 

As for you, Mr. Walsh. Sorry for getting all Tony Robbins mid-letter. But as I said, hopefully this will shed some light on why Nick Vujicic has it easier than "Hot Mom." We're not "hating" on her in particular, we're just pretty much done with this message. 

Keep on getting it right 99% of the time,

D.

37 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, YES! I absolutely love Matt Walsh, and while I could completely see where he was coming from with the Maria Kang post, I agree with you even more. And for the record, I totally laughed out loud when I saw your meme. :-)

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  2. GREAT post!! You hit the nail on the head!

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  3. Your meme wins! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. I thought your picture was pretty motivating. I mean, juggling writing and four kids (plus God knows how much else, since I don't know you well)? One kid takes a lot of work as it is. ;) I haven't had quite the same experience you've had, but only recently have I chosen to start liking and appreciating my body and seeing it as something beautiful that God created instead of a waste of space. I hated so many things physically - the belly fat that I have (without realizing that girls are meant to build more fat than guys are), my large nose, stringy hair, acne-prone skin, hands with horrible nails, uneven skin tone due to being outside a lot (marching band)... the works. Then I started to hate my personality, too - how I can get hyper, how loud I can be, how I have the IQ of a fish tank, etc. But I realized that there's no gain in beating myself up all the time and that I'm actually dealing a huge blow to God by telling Him that I'm ugly and He made a poor choice by creating me. But if He put more planning into me than into the cat and dog that I so dearly love and the moon and stars that fill my heart with joy, then how am I ugly? I'm beautiful. I might not be Cosmo worthy or Seventeen worthy, but I'm God worthy, and God worthy is the best kind of worthy I can be. Especially when God worthy doesn't require caking make-up onto my face, eating toilet paper so that I'll feel fuller while trying to look slimmer (a technique used by models), airbrushing myself so that there's not a single pore on my face, or exploiting myself. I wish that every girl can see the worth that God gave them.

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  5. You are gorgeous! Thank you for this! I've been "fat" my whole life, kids used to make up songs about how fat I was on the school buss. After my son was born, I thought I might actually get in shape, but a year and a half later, and I haven't. I've been too busy enjoying my little family, and worrying about paying bills, to worry about losing weight.. I know my worth, but sometimes I get sucked into the Pinterest trap. Thank you for standing up for real women!

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  6. I think one of the commenters on Matt's blog hit it on the nose - that this woman is promoting a beauty ideal that most women cannot attain. That can't attain it because they have excuses. That can't attain it because let's face it most women today barely have time for themselves. They are busy running kids to soccer or piano lessons, pulling double duty at home and work etc. As a single mother to 4 kids, the youngest of whom is now 16, I WISH I had the energy to work out. I really do. I've been active all my life - a figure skater, cross country runner, cyclist, hiker, and cross-country skiing.

    This attempt to make women fit this model of perfection with glowing skin, a toned abdomen (MariaKang obviously doesn't have a heriated navel after her third child like I did) is WRONG. And it's perpetuated by the media and the Khardashians and their peers who hide for 4 months after giving birth and then tweet semi-naked photos of their "recovered" perfect body.

    Lets stop it now.

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  7. I want to just say. I was the same girl that you were. Horseback riding and playing softball endowed me with thick tree trunk thighs, even to this day. That, plus a low metabolism that started acting like a 30 year old's by the time I was 15... by the time I was 17 I had anorexia and weighed 15 lbs less than I should have. Thankfully I was raised in a happy and good home. It was my my only saving grace.

    But even that doesn't tell just how much this picture drives a dagger into my heart. I was 21 when I got married and I was just over 22 when we decided we wanted a family. No problem, right? Sounds like what most women who want to be a stay at home mom would want. Well I sit here 6 months until my 27th birthday and it's still just me and my husband. I know a lot of people look at that picture and see the mom's body and think I will never look like that. I've come to peace with that for myself and am less offended by her image, though I do think it's a little disgusting to flaunt what should be for her husband's eyes only for everyone to see. No, I look at her three children, so close in age to the three children I wanted by now and I look at her age of 32 and all of a sudden the words, "what's your excuse" sends me sobbing into my pillow. Women who have spent their whole life trying to prevent pregnancy generally don't even think about how something they say will affect women who have spent their whole lives trying to become so. In this, the picture is more painful than anything anyone could have said to me.

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  8. First of all - great meme! LOVE the descriptions!! LOL Also, I am currently overweight and can relate to many of the issues and experiences you described.

    My take in a nutshell:

    According to the articles and videos I've seen, Maria appears to be genuine in wanting to inspire people. I too have overcome challenges and try to inspire other by using the idea - "If I can do it, so can you!" Not everyone has to overcome what I did in particular, but everyone has to overcome something. Not everyone has the desire to reach the goals I have reached, but everyone has a goal or dream. The fact that hers is around health is just as great as if it were around climbing Kilimanjaro or creating a painting or increasing income!

    "What's your excuse" is a popular meme phrase, so it makes sense that she would use it. Plus it relates directly to the most important point of all - personal responsibility. Personal responsibility is the most empowering thing there is - how much personal responsibility a person has is how much power they have to create what they want in their own lives. "Legitimate" excuses are the most insidious of all because they are the ones that truly keep us from whatever we really want, whatever that is. (I mean from what WE really want - not what others tell us to want.)

    This is what Matt was speaking to. Personal responsibility over our goals AND over our reactions to exterior situations. In either case - if I don't have what I truly want in my life (either by not having achieved a dream or by not appreciating what I do have), I am the only one stopping myself. And if I have a negative reaction to her, him, you, the "haters," or anyone/thing else, that is a clue to look inside of myself and see where I have some clearing to do to come to a higher sense of confidence or to come to a better thought process that serves me in a happier life.

    I say good for her for achieving what is great and healthy for her and inspiring those who want that too to go get it! Good for Matt for standing up for personal responsibility! Good for you for standing up for those who don't yet have the confidence to not be overwhelmed by the ridiculous "laws of beauty" that we are bombarded by in society and in the media! If we all do our part to help ourselves and other individuals, that will expand into each individual's circle of influence, and some of those circles will include media and some of those "larger" facets of society. And if not, at least the individual is now empowered to not allow themselves to be crushed by the exterior factors.

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  9. This is fabulous, Destiny. One of the most disturbing aspects of the "hot mom" message to me is that it tells you that you need to remove all evidence of your motherhood from your body. Our standard of beauty is so divorced from a woman's fertility. Seems like in the olden days there were always different standards of dress and beauty for maidens vs. matrons, and you never had to go back. I think another disturbing subconscious message is that you need to bust your ass to look like you could go right back on the market if you need to, i.e. be hot enough to compete with the slender childless hotties your husband might be tempted to leave you for in this golden age of divorce.

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    1. i think you hit the nail on the head. i'm not "fat" but i have always struggled with body issues, mainly cuz i've been made fun of my whole life for being skinny (which i cant help) and for being flat chested (also cant help, unless i got breast implants..and i dont want them). and i've always wanted a little curve here and there.... so i think its an issue more of the grass is always greener on the other side. ppl want what they dont have. and i think ur right that its more about removing all traces of childbearing from our bodies in order to look marketable again :-P such a horrible thing, but truth in this day and age.

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  10. LOVE LOVE LOVE the meme! Also, a heart felt thank you for this well articulated response. Honestly, I think I needed to hear that!

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  11. I never comment on blogs, but I just had to say, I love your response. It was spot on! I can so relate. Thank you for writing the words that are in so many women's hearts. By the way, you are beautiful, & I love your meme!

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  12. Awesomeness, all the way around. Loved the meme!

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  13. I read Matt's article, and there is no way that he implied that the entirety of the reaction to Maria Kang came from "fat, angry, trolls". Those words, and that sentiment, come from you Destiny; not from me, not from Maria Kang, and absolutely not from Matt Walsh. From your past? Sure, that seemed to be what a lot of your article is about, but what does that have to to with Matt Walsh? By the way, he never even used the word "fat", other than in quotes to describe what the haters were saying.

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  14. I really enjoyed this article, although it made me sick to my stomach to think of you being so critical of yourself at such a young age. I hate the idea that people took advantage of a young and vulnerable person to prey upon her weaknesses. I agreed with most of your statements and I only wish that more people could self-identify the way you have. :) Thank you for the thoughts.

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  15. I think anyone who post pictures like this and ask what's your excuse are showing their ignorance. While I will say good for her, some of us have gone thru significant health issues that really do cause weight gain or prevent weightlosss until the health issue is found and corrected. I'm proof that you can be skinny all my youth, have cancer and gain lots of weight...find another health issue....then after treatment and correction of health...loose weight significantly without excersicng....oh and I have five kids and and still can flaunt it. But I don't expect others to fit in my shoes. So yeah, I HAVE valid excuses. And one more thing, my sister had her body....but her kids have left stretch marks...so this lady either has awesome skin or surgery.....

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  16. LOL, I love your picture!!! Love it! Cuz I can relate to it. Awesome and you are quite pretty. :)

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  17. Absolutely ! You look hotter (to me and probably many others) than Kang, Destiny, and you can write ! And I won't tell you to get a life, because you obviously have. Apologies for being so irreverent.

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  18. Projection? If you are reacting negatively to Kang or Walsh it is because of your own issues, not theirs. The problem is with some latent expectation that you are apparently willing to give up on. Resolution has taken you over of the not and never will be and THAT ticks you off so you bang your fist at Matt and Maria. If you are sick of the pervasive messaging in the broader culture, why create a counter message that is just as bad? The average, mediocrity and "whatever" message is a drag.

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  19. Brilliantly well-written column. And I'm biased, but you're much more beautiful than Maria Kang in every way. (Well, almost every way. That woman does, indeed, have amazing abs.) But in every other way, you're perfect.

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  20. (Added bonus if your passion is darts) ... i LOVE that line ... the whole thing is great ... but that line is awesomeness.

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    1. me too! i laughed out loud at that! :)

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  21. ' “Why can’t I just be pretty like the girls in Seventeen or on the cover of Cosmo?” I thought. I read all about their diets, workout routines, and beauty regimens. But there was just no fixing me. I was not enough and never would be. '

    Well, for starters, your problem was reading Cosmo and Seventeen. Cosmo's advice cycle usually works something like this...

    1) Rock your man with these twenty HOT new sex tips! (that may not be fun or become so invasive that your man will stop you cold and tell you take a shower right before he bolts out)
    2) Is he cheating on you? Find out! (may or may not involve actually confronting the situation like an adult)
    3) Of course he's cheating on you! I mean, come on, look at you (even though you might be a perfectly healthy weight for your height)
    4) Buy all of the crap from our advertisers!
    4)

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  22. Just wanted to say, I think you're quite lovely. Whatever you feel you looked like as a teen, you're a very pretty woman now. :)

    And here's to strong mom bodies birthing new lives into the world -- go us! :D

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  23. Loved every word you wrote. Thank you.

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  24. loved your whole entire blog post destiny :) you rock! i take inspiration from you, as an aspiring writer myself. if you can do it, i certainly can! i only have one kid not 4 lol

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  25. I don't know who Matt Walsh is, but this makes me not want to like him. What's my excuse, Hot Mom? For one, genetics. It's just easier for some people to look like that. It just is, it's not a myth. I know at least 2 individuals who can eat ice cream with cones made of Cinnabon for every meal and appear to be fit. Too, for most of us, looking like "Hot Mom" requires a huge amount of dedication and devotion to fitness when most of us want to/ have to do lots of other things with our 24 allotted hours in each day. Even if I could look super hot and fit, it's not worth it to me to, for example, to either force my family to eat meals that are obsessively measured for carb content and contain whey protein powder, coconut flour and stevia , or prepare all separate meals for myself. That's just one example.

    Another thing this reminds me of is one of the many ironies of "fauxminism": pressures and expectations on women to be physically perfect for male approval is in some ways worse than ever. Take Sex in the City as an example. We're powerful and stuff because we attract a lot of male organ. But you'd better believe we're pretty and skinny too. You can't be fat, ugly and empowered, apparently. Because what does "empowered" mean, really? I guess it means men want to do you.

    Now that I have a daughter, it sends a chill down my spine to think she might go through some of the self-hating I still go through just because of how I look. So it's good to be talking and thinking about this stuff. Your little guy is ridiculously cute, btw!

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  26. When will men have the pressure to get kids into a good college while maintaining a 6pack? Until then this stuff is trite..

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  28. Thanks so much for writing this! Out loud I was congratulating Maria, but inside part of me was irritated. You helped me understand why! Now I can say, "Way to go, Maria, for achieving your personal goal of having a six pack, an achievement that should not be universally applied as an expectation for the rest of us, who shockingly may not have the same life goals and priorities as you do!" You can be healthy without having a six pack - the end.

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  29. This was another amazing post on the subject, by the way: http://speakingon.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/virtuous-strength/ She points out in some detail how "What's Your Excuse?" uses the language of obligation, and that it has indeed become an almost moral obligation in our society for one to be fit and hot. So creepy. Like we've substituted this fake moral obligation for all the real ones...

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  30. What irritated me is that she didn't really have anything to overcome. She's a bikini model. She been in shape from the beginning, before she had kids, and simply kept doing what she was doing. I was slender too once with a nice body with fairly little effort. Then I had my first pregnancy and it was HARD. I ended up going into preterm labor due to toxemia and had to go on bedrest for the last 12 weeks of my pregnancy. I ballooned from 126 to 201 pounds. My metabolism went from cheetah to tortoise. I dropped most of it, eventually getting back down to 140 but after my divorce being a broke single parent meant what precious little time I had apart from work and home responsibilities was with my baby girl. I am sure at 140 pounds, Ms. Kang would consider me "fat", despite what I overcame. Sorry, but not every woman has the luxury of being a married, upper-middle class bikini model with six pack abs and hours a day to spend working out and despite what society says, that's just fine.

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  31. That's funny! Never been a fan of Matt since his days at WZBH in DE. Nice to see someone challenging him.

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  32. That's funny! Never been a fan of Matt since his days at WZBH in DE. Nice to see someone challenging him.

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  33. That's funny! Never been a fan of Matt since his days at WZBH in DE. Nice to see someone challenging him.

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