Thanks to the brilliant Averil Dean for sharing this today. I’m so struck I have to share it, too.
* comments are off *
Thanks to the brilliant Averil Dean for sharing this today. I’m so struck I have to share it, too.
* comments are off *
An excessively greedy eater.
• a person who is excessively fond of or always eager for something: a glutton for adventure.
The thing that struck me most about yesterday’s post and response is not, as one might imagine, the numerous angry emails I received privately about writing the post at all. Emails that ranged from, “You’re so worried about food issues, and you’re making it worse!” and “Apples are healthy!” and my personal favorite, “I’m bored with you and your food talk.”
No. The thing that struck me most is that not a single person commented on the first scene: the woman who has not eaten a carb in 18 YEARS.
Let’s think about that for a second.
Do you realize how long that is? I haven’t even been married 18 years. In 18 years, a woman may have birthed and raised a child until he/she goes to college. 18 years could be someone’s lifetime. What have I ever done, religiously, for 18 years?
I know this woman. She’s not “not eating” carbs because she is gluten-intolerant, nor is she allergic to yeast, nor does she have a serious health issue, nor is she obsessed with being healthier. She is a beautiful (and I mean shockingly beautiful) and successful executive (and I mean at the high-point-nowhere-else-is-higher point of her game) who is allergic to society’s view of who she is when Size 4 and pencil skirts and high heels are not in play.
When I was doing my research for the essay, I discovered this stat: 45 to 61 percent of top male CEOs are overweight, compared to only 5 to 22 percent of top female CEOs. When I shared this stat with an executive friend, her first comment was, “Wow, that’s surprising. I thought the female number would be closer to zero.”
No margin for error.
No margin for living.
18 years, people.
When I was working on the dog essay, it seemed everyone had a dog story. Now that I’ve finished the food essay, it’s all about the food. These are the things that make me believe absolutely in the power of thought, that we both manifest and attract, what weighs on us.
This week …
I met a woman who hasn’t eaten a carb in 18 years. As she scraped the topping off her pizza crust, she described her latest favorite “skinny cocktail.” A shot of tequila is about 60 calories, so you mix it with a packet of Crystal Light and some diet 7-Up and I swear it tastes just like a margarita.
A woman, and another woman, and another woman said she never ever touches bread. Bread, it seems, is a common enemy.
I had lunch with a friend at a Mexican restaurant. While we were looking at the menu she said, I’m starving. All I’ve had since yesterday afternoon is a cheese stick.
I could have eaten an entire tray of chicken wings, but I felt self-conscious and stopped at 4.
I heard a woman tell another woman that she’s saving 100 calories a day by drinking her coffee black. She hates it, it’s so bitter!, but …
I played tennis with 3 women I haven’t seen in awhile. Before we started and on the changeovers, we mostly talked about what we are eating and what we are not. One brought a plastic container of cut-up apples.
I heard the words “gluten” and “my Fit Bit” more than once, every day.
I talked to a lot of men too. One night I spent a good hour with an ATF agent —- we talked about guns and how he is required to spend 2 hours a week at the shooting range, about the legalization of pot, about his brother the drug addict and how hard that is for him, about how his job is to “make friends” and how none of us civilians can imagine how many idiots are out there. He never once mentioned food.
Come to think of it, none of the men mentioned food. I wish this surprised me.
On my way up to bed, I stop in the dogs’ room and tuck them in. Lea winds her body into a tight ball, so I lean over and rub her ears and kiss her on the forehead. She groans. On the other bed, JoJo leans back and wags her tail, so I crawl in behind her and lay my head on her back until she settles. Until I settle. Then I pretend to sneak out, quietly locking the baby gate into place.
I do this every night.
Last night, I said to my husband, How do parents put their little babies and toddlers to bed and leave them alone in there, all night?
I’m working on a chapter that begins: Sometimes I pretend I’m a real mother.
I’m in line at a Minnesota grocery store and the exhausted mother in front of me is wrestling with her overstuffed cart and her 3 young children and out of who-knows-where I say, It’s okay, I understand, I have three at home.
I’m on a plane, flying home to visit my dying mother. The young mom sitting next to me is traveling alone with a 2 yr old and a crying infant. I tell her, Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. When the 2 yr old needs to go potty, she hands me her baby and walks away. I am overwhelmed with her trust.
I’m with my stepson at the social security office. He’s 12, and he’s recently received his little blue card with his SS#, but his middle name is misspelled. I hand the card to the stern woman behind the metal desk and explain what’s happened, that I’m his mother, and that we need to get this fixed. I hand her his birth certificate with his correct name …. where I am, of course, not listed as the mother. I wait, terrified that she will ask me for ID, for proof, that she will send us away, that she will announce to the crowded room that I do not exist.
There’s this one of baby-me in a white dress against white space.
I think of how I tuck my dogs in at night, how I stop, hesitate, before I leave them, and how I click the lock on the baby gate but leave my bedroom door open so I can hear them if they need me.
I look at the photo of this baby and it’s like she’s been plunked down on the rug. I wonder who she’s looking at, or for, and who left her there.
In two weeks, I’ll be 49.
I’m trying not to dread that number while secretly dreading it anyway — hey, I know, I’m healthy and I’m here and all that — but at the same time I’m also reading this heavy book and writing some not so pleasant scenes, so I’ve got the urge to lighten it up around here.
At least for today.
If you didn’t see last week’s article “In Praise of 42-Year-Old Women,” put me on pause while you link over. It begins, Let’s face it: There used to be something tragic about even the most beautiful forty-two-year-old woman.
And really, how can you stop reading after an opening like that?
I’m pretty sure my almost-49-year-old, cataract-ridden eyes read it while screaming, but …
Thankfully, Tom Scocca at Gawker did me one better with his response essay: “Esquire Writers: We’re Willing To Fuck Early Middle-Aged Ladies.”, which says in part that, Now 42 is awesome. Tom Junod can name several famous women who are 42 who he would be willing to fuck. Right in their 42-year-old vaginas. Cameron Diaz. Sofia Vergara. Leslie Mann. Amy Poehler. He would fuck these women, despite their age, and even share a joke with them, because the 42-year-old woman, she is a person, or at least a person-like idea.
I laughed hysterically.
You know, because I’m not even close to 42 anymore, so I must be hysterical. I am a woman after all.
* comments are OFF *
It’s dark today, dark like the sky’s about to burst into storm, which is weird because it never never ever goes daytime-dark or rains one drop in this town from May through October. Still. It’s dark, and I’m reading Roxana Robinson‘s SPARTA.
SPARTA is my latest favorite book of 2014. If you’re a reader, you can’t stop reading. If you’re a writer, you can stop trying to figure out how gracefully, and naturally, Robinson eases the narrative through time. As if that’s not enough, I’m learning more than I knew (and I thought I knew a good deal) about the early stages of the Iraq war —- from a smart young Marine’s perspective — and about ancient Sparta. Most importantly, which I did not expect, I’m learning how and why we choose to place our faith, or time, our allegiance, here or there. Robinson opens the 4th chapter with this:
The difference between a cult and a religion depends on what’s being worshipped. It’s a question of whether or not the object is divine, and whether or not the worship is excessive. But the definition of divinity is subjective, so the answer will depend on who you ask. Zoroastrians or Jews, for example, might consider Christianity a cult. Civilians might consider the Marine Corps a cult. But true believers know that what they follow is a religion.
Becoming an initiate into anything involves instruction, ceremony, belief. It means yielding certain personal freedoms in exchange for the power, knowledge, privileges, and protection offered by the group.
It’s that last sentence that stings.
It’s like Robinson hit me with a bat with my often-vehement rejection of groups, of organized religion and clubs of any/all kinds. Organizations are inherently both inclusionary and exclusionary. Such dichotomy. I forget who said, “I’d never want to belong to a club who would have me as a member,” and while that’s funny, it’s also something I feel deep down. I find myself recoiling at the idea that I’m “in” somewhere. A church group. A golf club. A tennis team. A dinner table. In essence, belonging to a group makes me feel I’ve failed somehow, that I suddenly have to exclude what’s “other” and, frankly, it’s the “otherness” that I’m most drawn to, most interested in, most desiring of knowing. The minute I’m accepted or “in” somewhere —- and of course it feels great to be accepted, included, wanted —- I can’t wait to get the hell out.
We’re Catholic, you’re not. We’re Jews, you’re not. We’re poor, you’re not. We’re Republicans, you’re not. We’re gluten-free, you’re not. We’re educated, you’re not. We’re not educated, and you are. —— the list goes on and fucking on -—– I’m reminded of going out to dinner with my kids when they were young. “Why are you talking to those other people?!” they would say, cowering, embarrassed. And I would think, “Because they are so interesting!”
In THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, Joan Didion mentions Roxana Robinson, that maybe she could call Robinson, that she’s met her briefly and believes that Robinson knows something she doesn’t know about grief. I can see this while reading SPARTA. That Robinson knows something I don’t know: about grief; about what it’s like to be estranged from the world that’s most familiar to us; about what happens to us when we know we can never get that world back again. How do human beings survive (and even thrive) after that?
This is one of those books that makes you think you’re reading about a young Marine and his time in Iraq, but really you’re learning about your own humanity. Questioning your beliefs. Both the story and the writing are outstanding. If I had 5 stars, I’d give this book every single one, and maybe even one more.
How do you feel about groups? Do you like being “one of them” and protected, or do you rebel like mad?
A writer friend was staying with me this week and we talked about exposure. About how (especially with memoir) you have to decide how much of yourself you can bear to put up for public consumption. That whatever your choice, the final decision comes down to one thing: You have to be willing to stand by your book — your story — over the long haul, and within that comes one question: What is your threshold?
My birthday is one month after my mother’s. Every year she would say, “I feel fine on my birthday, but then yours comes and I feel so old!” Which may not have been, since I was due to be born BEFORE her big day, on the 4th of July, and arrived a whole month later.
Tomorrow would have been my mother’s 69th birthday.
For the longest time, I have fought to remember my mother as she wanted to remember herself. Young. Vibrant. Sexy. Thin. Capable. Strong. Sassy as all hell. But this year, for the first time, I choose to remember her as I want to: in that last year. About six months before she died, the whole family got together at her house for a barbecue. We drank champagne, of all things. We laughed openly.
This birthday, I miss my mother’s sassiness. The way she held her ground. I miss her giant laugh. Her irony, and her look on life. Here’s to you, Mom. Here’s to the real you, the fully exposed you. You are beautiful in all your exposed self. And you are missed.