She looked out of the little window. The boat was sailing very slowly and going nowhere. She was beginning to get impatient.
On the shores she saw all her friends. They called out to her cheerfully but formally. She could feel that they were hurt. “And no wonder,” she thought, “they must have sent me many invitations and I have not answered them.”
Then she passed Roussel’s place again. Now she was sure she had travelled in a circle. He called out to her: “When are you coming home? The Farinoles need their garden tools, and the trunks, too.”
"I would like to know," she called out, "what you mean by intuitional reasoning?"
"You can’t understand," he called back. "You have run away from life."
"It was the boat which sailed away," she said.
"Don’t be a sophist," he said. "It sailed away at your own bidding."
"Do you think that if I came ashore we could have a real talk? I feel then that I might not be wanting to travel."
"Oh," said Roussel, "but it might be me who would want to travel. I do not like perfect intimacy; you might write an article about it.”
"You’re missing something," she said. "It would be an interesting article." And she drifted away.
I’ve just had a nice long soak in the tub, WITH the jets blasting into that knot in my back I can’t reach AND 3 handfuls of Epsom salts and I’m feeling pretty fine. I stand up, towel off, remark to myself that this towel is looking rather shabby and it’s then that I notice something out of the corner of my eye. In the tub, still full of water, a spider. I lean in for a closer look and am shocked to see him flail his little legs as he tumbles through water-space, a wee astronaut. He’s at least 3 or 4 inches submerged, there’s no way he can still be alive. But there! Did you see that? He’s moving, isn’t he? Thus ensues a 5-minute debate with myself to fetch him out versus let him perish, punctuated by several “I’m pretty sure he’s dead already“‘s. But he’s not, I can see it now. He twirls, arches, all his lovely legs flick out at once, searching for something, anything, to grab hold of. And I can’t. I can’t let him die. My back scrubber is lowered in, held as far away from the reaching end as I can manage without dropping the thing. He latches on instantly, and I set him on the edge of the tub. Miraculously, after about 30 seconds, he climbs off. I let him crawl back into the far corner, way back behind the candles. Most days I’m the spider, but today is better. Today I got to be the brush.
Happy-go-lucky ne’er-do-well. I like dancing, deep thinking, not talking, old jazz, new shoes, opera, thrift stores and sleeping in*. Must be adept at corset cinching (mine, weirdo!), impromptu duets, and carrying me over puddles.
*Also apparently thrill to obey the imaginary people who command me to meme from inside my computer, Monkeyfraaahg.
“Nor is there any embarrassment in the fact that we’re ridiculous, isn’t it true? For it’s actually so, we are ridiculous, light-minded, with bad habits, we’re bored, we don’t know how to look, how to understand, we’re all like that, all, you, and I, and they! Now, you’re not offended when I tell you to your face that you’re ridiculous? And if so, aren’t you material? You know, in my opinion it’s sometimes even good to be ridiculous, if not better: we can the sooner forgive each other, the sooner humble ourselves; we can’t understand everything at once, we cant start right out with perfection! To achieve perfection, one must first begin by not understanding many things! And if we understand too quickly, we may not understand well. This I tell you, you, who have already been able to understand. .. and not understand … so much. I’m not afraid for you now;”—
Place your finger in my mouth and I’ll speak slower than baby teeth (say love). South of the boundary rock we touch the land barehanded. We gather spider lilies by the Catawba for our sweethearts. We hollow out gourds to store our wrens. We help the raccoons gather piles of silver teeth. Turn alligator claws into amulets. Wrap red threads around carefully broken branches.
- from Alyson Sinclair’s The Invention of the South in TinHouse #44.
Trying a new pea soup recipe. I stop at the part where it says “skim the scum off the top of the soup for several minutes, until the scum ceases to rise”.
Hmm, that’s odd. I’ve been making pea soup for years and haven’t seen anything remotely scum like. Surely I would have noticed something as egregious as scum. In my soup. I remain skeptical while it comes to a boil. And then, lo and behold, THERE IS A SCUM LAYER. It’s right there! So I skim it, and then I skim again, and again until it ceases to rise, just like the recipe says will happen.
I do think I would have chosen a word other than scum. I mean, I’m cooking here! It’s more like a bubbly layer of froth. I wonder about these delicate little puddles that I dump into the sink. What IS pea soup scum exactly? Maybe all the deliciousness is in there and I’m botching it royally? (Final verdict later tonight).
So there it is, the pivotal moment of my life highlighted in sharp relief. Scummy soup. Years and years of scummy soup. And the day I first saw it. Suddenly, it all makes sense.
There are submerged little parts inside me. I can’t figure out what they’d be called. I’m lying on a blanket at the beach and I’ve spent the last hour trying to quantify them. It’s chilly today. Gray and June gloomy and windy as hell. The people wandering by look grim and determined. But I’m laid out almost in a reverie. The sand is radiating up warmth and wave crashes. My back is soaking it all in. And it’s here and now that I sense those little ambiguous spots. I feel them all clicking back into alignment. Mysteriously. Thunk.
This prompt sponsored by imaginary internet friends in real need of real help:
Many of you know that Jason, aka Gorillasushi, lost his wife after a long illness this week. With his permission, I’ve created a Pledgie account for those of us who wish to donate to help him with the astronomical medical bills and other expenses he’s now facing on his own.
Here’s a link to the Pledgie site where you can donate if you’d like. No amount is too modest, and any support will be greatly appreciated. Feel free to share the link to the donation site here, on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
I was 30, I was going through serious shit, and I needed something in my life, anything, I could make containable, configurable, controllable. For me, that thing became food. It started with an innocent diet, but as the numbers on the scale started to plunge, I felt the oddest fascination creep up and overtake me. A morbid curiosity. How low could I go? How little could I get by on in a day? In a week? I had always been “normal” sized, with a bit of roundness, and OK with it, but now here I was, starting to be the skinny girl. And I kinda liked it. Kind of a lot. There is incredible power in being the skinny girl and that’s what drives women to insane, ridiculous lengths to get there. This is the ultimate trick the devil ever played, in my book. Getting girls to think their fat is a curse and not a blessing.
My benign little diet turned into hardcore calorie counting turned into weighing on a food scale and logging every apple and broccoli spear in a notebook. This really works by the way, if you are trying to lose weight. For me, it became pathetic. Weighing lettuce? Weighing lettuce is pathetic.
Soon I was finding ways to edit or eliminate giant swathes of calories altogether. The fasting literature says “once you don’t eat for a few days, you don’t think about food anymore”. They lie. ALL you think about is food. There isn’t room for any other item of information in your brain. I would pore over cookbooks and food blogs like a cast member of Gilligan’s Island. Grocery shopping would take 2 hours because I had to linger, I had to touch everything. You know how in cartoons, a person’s whole head will turn into a piping hot turkey? Like that. I gathered a vast collection of vintage cookbooks, the ultimate one-two punch of kitsch and comfort. I would bake and bake and bake, getting contact-high off the smells coming out of my kitchen but never allowing myself a single bite. Meanwhile, I could use this new baking kick to distract people from my arms. And their veininess. Here, have another triple-chocolate mocha bar!
I got smaller and smaller. 128 became 117 became 111 became 105 became 101. People that saw me every day continued to question me. I continued to blame the stress of divorce and then wow, all that ballet I was taking and then, oh hey, I got a dog, I walk it a lot. People who rarely saw me would recoil in horror. Was it cancer? Did the doctors seem optimistic? I dismissed every utterance of “Oh my God, girl, you’re too thin!” as jealousy, pure and simple.
I was so bitter when I couldn’t get down to 99. For some reason, that was what I had determined would be my stopping point. Then I could say I had done it. Don’t try to find the sense in this. Logic doesn’t come into play when you’re eating iceberg lettuce with salt sprinkled on top and calling it dinner. My body just staunchly refused to go lower and for that I couldn’t forgive it. I ate less. I exercised more. In an attempt to break the 100-pound sound barrier, I began checking out stacks of anorexia memoirs from the library, for “research”. These books really do exist and they are, sadly, mostly read as how-to manuals for would-be Karen Carpenters. Keep that in mind if you catch a friend toting around a book like Wasted. As I delved into my reading pile, my bitterness turned to a dawning realization. The truth of the matter. Eating disorders kill. They don’t prettify, or empower, or make better in any way. They kill people. And they would kill me if I didn’t stop.
Stopping, and subsequently gaining weight to normalcy is one of the most mentally destabilizing things I’ve ever done. This is what you need to realize, if you are entertaining the thought of restrictive eating. You can’t ever go home again. You were happy, momentarily, at 117. Once, on the way down. But on the way up, 117 is going to feel like the biggest, fattest, most hideous creature alive. You’ll hardly be able to bear looking at yourself in the mirror, let alone cope with feeling your thighs touch each other again for the first time in years. Watching as your teeny little ridiculously skinny skinny jeans shrink before your very eyes, and then one day you can’t pull them up over the knees. Having to eventually give your sick clothes away. Realizing you will never be that tiny waif ever again. That switch from unwell to well and realizing you’re doing the right thing with every bite of bread is a really heavy switch. It’s a switch you have to keep switching for awhile until it stays clicked.
In the end, my brief flirtation with relatively borderline anorexia was just that, brief, and within 2 years I was back to a normal-sized, healthy me. Lots of girls aren’t that lucky. You probably know someone right now who is battling an eating disorder (estimated to be about 8 million Americans) and I’d like to point out some warning signs.
There might be no red flag. A great portion of girls who are bulimic look “totally normal” and maintain a healthy weight. That doesn’t make what they’re doing any less deadly, so watch out for other indicators besides looking emaciated.
Food obsessions, especially sweets. The designated bake sale person on your block probably has a closet eating disorder.
Food restrictions. Vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, raw are all used as avoidance tactics to beg off eating or eat their own food.
Secretive eating habits and compulsions about controlling the preparation of their food. Watch them in a restaurant. If there are 7 steps to ordering, and then 5 steps before the food is “OK to eat”, that’s a bad sign.
Wearing baggy and layered clothes to disguise just how thin they are getting.
Issues with infertility, no periods, random periods.
Thinning hair, a bluish tinge to the fingernails, bad breath, and generally looking like death warmed over. If they are bulimic, you may see abraded knuckles from purging. Sexy, right?
Claiming to be full, or having just eaten, or going to eat later, when invited to join you for a meal. Another tactic will be ordering something sinful and gigantic and eating it with much gusto, to throw you off the trail, a personal favorite of mine. Little did my fellow diners know that double serving of cream-cheese stuffed challah bread french toast would be my only meal of the day, probably two.
If you have a daughter, start talking to her, and early. Talk about societal images of thin and fat, and the characteristics we ascribe to them. Discuss how advertisers play on people’s insecurities for their own gain. Point out every instance you see, and you will see a lot. Talk about fashion. About celebrity. Talk about how cultural ideas of beauty have morphed throughout history. Take her to museums. Seeing a 10-foot marble statue of a goddess with an ass for days will drive home a point more than mom or dad blathering on about how it’s what’s on the inside that counts and everyone is a rainbow. If you have a son, the same applies. Boys need this message equally as much as girls. Use the museum trip to point out some Rubenesque versions of Megan Fox, dimpled knees and all.
So that’s my cautionary tale. I didn’t know Jason’s wife, but I do know her story. A little too well. So go tell your daughters that their miraculous ability to store an extra layer of delectable fat is the reason we’re all here, and it’s magic. Pure magic. Go tell your sons that you’re not sure how the delectable fat layer of magic works but, oh it works, and one day they’ll discover that first hand and just wait. It’s pretty much better than anything.