Out of the Loop

OotL with storyteller, Amanda Martinez Beck

April 19, 2021 The Tyler Loop / Amanda Martinez Beck Season 1 Episode 3
Out of the Loop
OotL with storyteller, Amanda Martinez Beck
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Out of The Loop podcast with Jane Neal. This week's episode features storyteller Amanda Martinez Beck.

Amanda Martinez Beck is co-founder of the Ruah Storytellers Podcast and lives in East Texas. She is passionate about the power of storytelling, particularly through podcasting. She and her husband Zachary cohost the Arkeo Camino and she is also the co-host of the Fat & Faithful podcast. Her first book is Lovely: How I Learned to Embrace the Body God Gave Me.

 Get ready for Season 2 of the Out of the Loop Podcast. Coming soon! 

Support the show (https://thetylerloop.com/support/)
Jane:

Who do you hope is listening to this podcast? Amanda?

Amanda:

Anyone who has ever felt like they're too much or not enough.

Jane:

Welcome to The Tyler Loop's Out of the Loop Podcast. I'm your host, Jane Neal. ...

Intro:

...probably made you afraid of dogs. Oh no, she didn't. Sir. I heard you say "grassy ass". Tyler will always be my home. I just love East Texas. Let's begin.

Jane:

Today we welcome. Amanda Martinez Back to The Tyler Loop's Out of the Loop podcast. Amanda told her story at our inaugural Out of the Loop show in the spring of 2019. Amanda lives in Longview with her husband and four children. She's the co-host of the Fat and Faithful podcast. Her first book is Lovely: How I learned to embrace the body God Gave Me and coming out in the spring of 2022 from Broadleaf books is Amanda's latest, The Fat Girl's Field Guide to the Modern World. Amanda. Welcome.

Amanda:

Thank you so much, Jane. Really glad to be here.

Jane:

So before we talk, let's take a listen to your story from Out of the Loop's first season.

Amanda (story):

Hey, y'all My name is Amanda Martinez Beck. The storytellers before me were trying to get my mascara to run. I am the daughter of an air force brat mother, and a Cuban refugee father, which means that growing up in East, Texas in the nineties, sometimes it felt a little hard to fit in. First of all, my parents didn't have East Texas accents. So I didn't either. Second of all, my accent in Spanish class far and away, better than the other white students in my classes, Como esta usted? And third, when I told someone my last name, Martinez, the thing I most frequently got was, "but you don't look Mexican". My white Hispanicness made it a little hard for me to fit in. Well, being the teacher's pet and the know it all didn't really help either. So , but when I finished high school, I vowed, I was leaving this place that I didn't fit in. And I was escaping never to return to East Texas. I swore except for holidays, because Cuban food at home is not something to be missed. And if you've had Cuban food, you know what I mean? Frijoles negros [inaudible] [inaudible] platanos fritos. Even just saying those words is making me hungry. The Spanish word for hungry is hambre. But one time my son mistook the word hombro, which means shoulder. So sometimes when I'm hungry, I like to shrug my shoulders as an homage to my five-year-old. Yeah . So I finished high school and escaped this landscape vowing to suppress any trace of East Texas in me. And I made it all away to far off Waco, Texas, where I attended Baylor university. Sic 'em Bears. Waco. It's a wonderful place, right? I was there before Fixer-Upper, but the Spanish word "waco" means big old hole. And I get what they mean. It took me 11 years to get out of that city sucked me in while I was there. I was pursuing my master's degree in Spanish. And I heard tell of a Cuban professor who prided himself on his ability to hide his Cuban accent in Spanish. In Spanish, in Cuban Spanish, we tend to drop the "s" at the end of words, that end in "s". So does anybody know the Spanish word for thank you? Gracias. Yes, that's right. Now, sir. I heard you say " grassy ass". Yes. That is inappropriate. Gracias. Yes. That's the word. But in Cuban, Cuban Spanish, we say, we tend to say, Oh, " graciah". Yeah. So this professor prided himself that he could hide that part of himself to have a neutral accent. And it's hard to express how sad that story made me because that was my accent. Well , at least the first accent that I ever let myself have. After that, somehow I found my heart starting to soften a little bit towards that East Texas sing-songy lit that only ever crept into my voice when I was real tired or it had too much to drink. In fact, my heart so much that I found myself back here in East Texas, contrary to what I had vowed as an 18 year old. Life has a funny way of doing that. Doesn't it? Not only was I here raising my family, but I started to draw my vowels to say in things like, "yes ma'am", stretching that word into more syllables than it ever needed to have and dropping my g's at the end of everything that ended in I N G my son Brennan , the one with the shoulders. All my children have shoulders by the way. But my son Brennan , he's five years old now, and he's in pre-K and he's learning Spanish at school, which fills my little Spanish teacher heart with pride. And he came home trying to put his learning into action. And he tried to take the suffix and Spanish "ito", which means little and put it with the English word, nurse, nurse-ito "little nurse". That's a thing right? That boy, he towers above his classmates. He's very big for his age, but I love to hold him on my lap. Even though he doesn't really fit anymore. Uh , a few days ago, he came home from school and he told me that he had to practice his "sat" words. Hmm . To realize that he meant S I G H T "sat" words, not S A T, sat words. I tried to correct him, but he insisted that his teacher called them sat words. And that is what they were. So how could I do anything, but laugh and shrug my shoulders. He's going to fit in just fine. My second generation Cuban, American boy, East, Texas native son. But what about me? Do I fit in here now? First-generation Cuban-American on the edge of Southern bell culture where dieting is second nature. I've never really fit in there either. And I'm not talking about my accent.

Speaker 3:

Let me ask you a question. When you see my body, what three letter F word comes to mind? I'll give you a hint. It rhymes with SAT. Yes, I am fat. An East Texas doctor called me back to my face over a hundred pounds ago. And it stung. I took it as the insult. I assumed he meant it as. But now I take the word fat and I reclaim it as a neutral descriptor for this large body of mine. And how do I know that I'm fat and not just big boned or something? Well, I know this because I have failed the chair test. You know, the chair test. It's how you can tell if someone's actually fat or just bloated. And this is how you take the chair test. You walk into a restaurant or the Liberty Theater in Tyler, Texas, and you scan the seating and you think there is not a seat in this place. That's not going to bruise my ample hips. That's the chair test.

Amanda:

If you can sit without a problem, you're just bloated. Okay. I have failed the chair test in a lot of places in East Texas. And I know that word fat makes you so uncomfortable. You started laughing a little quieter. Like, can we laugh at that word? I'm giving you permission tonight. So yes, I have failed the chair test in East Texas, and a lot of places. But the thing is, I don't mind being fat in East Texas anymore because I've learned that no matter where in the world, I go, my belly, my accent, my personality, and my dreams are just too big to fit into any box that anybody tries to put them in, including when it's me holding the box.

Audience:

Applause

Amanda:

My body is good. My accent is good. I've learned to embrace my body the same as I've embraced my accent. And I've learned that my body and my accent, they do more than just make me need to hide in a corner. Right? I don't have to hide any of me. My body and my accent tell my story. And let me tell you, it's a good story. Grassy ass.

Audience:

Applause

Jane:

Such a great story. You had the crowd eating out of your hand, but when I, when I hear it this time, I feel completely different. Um, and so what our listeners don't know yet is that Amanda, when I reached out to you, you requested to meet virtually, which is fine. Um, but then I was to see the rest of your message. And it said , "I recently survived COVID after a 40 day hospitalization and am relearning to walk". That's huge news. And I'm so thankful to hear you're recovering. So please catch us up on the events that transpired because of the virus.

Amanda:

Yeah. Um, well, first of all, my voice is much lower and hoarser than it used to be. My lungs are pretty scarred from the experience with COVID and I'm on oxygen at home. So I'll be breathing strangely, but you get used to it after awhile . Um, I contracted COVID 19 , even though it took so many precautions, pulled my kids out of school and homeschooled them and, you know, masked everywhere. And, but I still got it and as did my four kids and my husband, but they got better. My oxygen level kept dropping when I was in regular admission . So the doctor moved me into the ICU where I was for 21 days, sedated with , uh, uh , ventilator breathing for me. So, and then 10 days in a rehab hospital after that. And I couldn't walk because I had been in a bed for over a month and my muscles were completely weak. I couldn't even hold my phone with my hands , um, because I hadn't used them for so long that I felt like , um, the frustration grew and my inability to, to connect with other people. Cause I just couldn't hold anything or have any fine motor skills, but I was discharged a couple of weeks before Christmas and it was so good to see my family again, cause we were completely isolated in the COVID wing of the ICU. So I didn't get to... I had no human touch except through a rubber glove.

Jane:

Oh my goodness.

Amanda:

For 40 days. And uh, it definitely affects you so thankful now to be walking again, I walk with a cane and a pull around a little oxygen generator. So it's definitely , um, making you take the words of my first book to heart. I write a lot about weakness and how even a weak body is a good body. So I'm trying to , uh, immerse myself again in the words that I wrote a few years ago and it's caused a deeper understanding of, of just how you think you have it all figured out and then something else happens. And you're like, Oh wow. I still have a lot of work to do. Getting frustrated with weakness is really natural. Um, some kind of figuring that out right now.

Jane:

I am just speechless. I never could have imagined that we would be having this conversation when I reached out to you to talk about your story. Um, want to dive into some parts of your story,

Amanda:

But what about me? Do I fit in here now?

Jane:

So , um, in some ways your story is so much about identity, whether that's your ethnicity, your accent, your size, and , um, we can all relate to that existential question, but now that your physical life has been in this eminent danger, I'm wondering if that's still a question on the table or has that question completely changed because you've kind of had this life and death COVID crisis.

Amanda:

Being completely unaware of what was happening for a month. Uh , and then waking up to the evidence of how loved I am has really shifted my understanding of the community that I have here in East Texas. Oh my goodness. The way that people I grew up with at my own church and friends of friends, so many people got so involved in helping my family make it through , um, it brought me to tears that they knew me. They cared about me and they were all praying for me. Um, and it kind of made it the differences, whether they were religious or political or whatever melt away. So I, I was very supported by that community, but it wasn't until I got home that I learned of all of the small acts of kindness from my local community that I was able to enjoy and be humbled by it .

Jane:

That is super heartwarming. Um, I'm going to ask you about this other part of your story, where you ask us to guess a three letter F word that rhymes with sat. (laughs)

Amanda:

Uh, yes. Which is the word fat.

Jane:

Which is the word fat. So I'm going to tell a story that only a few people know , um, who were in the room with us that day. But I remember practicing for your story with some performance coaches and when one of them was giving feedback, they said, "Amanda, when you said three letter f-word, I thought of fun because you're so much fun". Talk to us about what that comment indicates to you.

Amanda:

Uh, yes, I , I could tell it was , uh , meant as a compliment, but it really sets up how the word "fat" is viewed as a negative in our culture. Um, even though I reclaiming it as a , as a neutral word to describe my body that is much bigger than the, even the average American body, much less bigger than the people we see on the screen all the time and not being afraid to use that word. It does make a lot of people uncomfortable when I just use it cavalierly in their opinion. So people want to make sure they don't emphasize my body size or downplay it. And it's kind of like people ignoring a very large part of who I am. I don't go anywhere without my body. And , um, you know, talk about the chair test and the story and how it's a very real thing for me to enter a space that's not big enough for me.

Jane:

I actually have another memory that happened just , um, behind the wings, just seconds before you went on, I kind of came over and checked in with you and you looked up at me and you said, "I'm channeling my inner Mrs. Maizel", which I think at that time there had been only one season , um , of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel out.

Amanda:

I was more referring to her like onstage persona of, "I don't care if this makes you uncomfortable", I'm going to say it because it needs to be said and the way she carries herself on stage , um, I love playing a role. It's one of the things that gets me excited being on stage and communicating to people is, is this something that really gives me life? And I think Mrs. Maizel also discovered that as she started to unleash her wit upon unsuspecting New Yorkers,

Amanda (story):

My body is good. My acccent is good. I've learned to embrace my body. The, same as I've embraced my accent.

Jane:

When you said that line, I remembered an earlier phone conversation we had as your script was, or your story was taking shape. And I asked you, "how has this happened? How have you started embracing your body?" Because we don't learn this. Um , it's not something that you would have just picked up in our culture. Can you recall those shaping influences for us?

Amanda:

And I shared the story of St . Lawrence, the deacon in Rome, when Roman Christians were being persecuted and the emperor, who spared Lawrence's life saying, "no, you go and gather the treasures of the church and bring them back to me". And Lawrence asked for three days to do that. And then he gathered the sick , uh , chronically ill , um, people who couldn't walk, people who are blind. And he brought them before the Roman prefect and said, "These are the treasures of the church." And that my body and it's weakness, struggling with anxiety and depression and body shame from a culture that worships thinness. I couldn't ignore the fact that weakness is not a bad thing in the eyes of God. So , uh , that was part of my conversion to Catholicism. And when Christmas time came around , the TV was on and an Oprah was talking about the new Weight Watchers , um , system and how she was looking for things like peace with food and acceptance. And I heard in her message something that sounded a lot like the Christian gospel, like peace and acceptance of love. I, I just took the commercial and broke it down and , and realized that the good news is that in our today bodies, we are accepted and we are loved and our bodies. Aren't good.

Jane:

I want to ask you, if you were to tell your story again, would it still be this one?

Amanda:

I think the story would look different now being in a , uh, a disabled body. Um, for one, I can't stand for that long anymore just to tell a , a short story. And so a lot of my stage presence is different. My body's much weaker and our culture just doesn't like weakness, but I would probably be maybe less jovial because of the ways I've seen discrimination against people of size enacted during COVID. When I was discharged from the ICU, the ICU care was amazing. They saved my life and I was treated with caring and passion there. But when I was discharged, a nurse was , um , helping me get into a regular room , uh , when I was not discharged from the hospital, but taken out of the ICU. And she looked at me and she said, a month on a feeding tube, can you imagine how much weight you could lose? It was set up as a good that I had just almost died and been on a feeding tube play as if that were a silver lining. And that's just very insensitive.

Jane:

Amanda is , Is there anything else important that you want to share with us?

Amanda:

I have an Instagram account that I use to share about good bodies and , um , my handle is @your_body_is_good with underscores between all the words. I know that it's okay to be weak. And even though our culture does not value weakness, humans and weakness have worth and dignity and so much so many stories to share. And we've missed out on a lot because we've prized thin bodies over fat ones and, and healthy bodies over ill ones. And it's part of the tapestry of humanity that we need to survive as the stories of those written off by society.

Jane:

That's such a beautiful message. It's wonderful to see you through the zoom screen. Um, thanks. Thanks so much for being with us.

Amanda:

Thank you, Jane.

Jane:

The Out of the Loop podcast was recorded at the Innovation Pipeline in downtown Tyler by Preston Hutto with technical support from Neal Katz and Leah Wansley. Music is provided by the Tyler, Texas duo Gypsum and the Travelers. Out of the Loop is a production of The Tyler Loop, a nonprofit news and culture magazine and storytelling platform for Tyler and East Texas. We run on memberships from informed, engaged residents like you, who value in depth , inclusive reporting. Check us out at thetylerloop .com .

Intro
Story
Interview
Outro