Monday, November 5, 2012

What's Brown and Sticky?

A stick!

It's been a while, eh? I'm a little nervous blogging after so long. I feel like a husband who forgot an anniversary. How do I get through the frost?

Speaking of frost, this is where I'm from:

It's cold there, but I love it all the same. Not love it like I'm gonna be living there any time soon, but well, I've been kind of nostalgic lately. A little homesick. I usually get up there for my birthday, but not this year due to a hearty family cold that lasted 3 weeks.

Yeh, I'm from the sticks. Here is a girlhood photo of me showing off something I decapitated:

No, that's not really me. But those are the sticks I'm from in the background. I like to think that in some small way, they are my sticks. It's not true, though. I am theirs.

Speaking of non-sequiters, I went to the library today and grabbed this album for my 4-year old son, thinking he might like it:

Oh, Man. He likes it. In fact he busted a solid African move to it for well over an hour. It gratified my heart, it did. Then I was blabbering about it to some moms after school (oh, we blabber) and the consensus was that I should get him in African dance lessons immediately.

"Gosh," I thought, "I really oughta." But I can't really afford it in terms of time, money or sanity, so...  maybe not. Then I felt bad.

Then I got an email from "My baby this week" by (I always love these emails which began when my children were still embryos) and the email totally brought me to my senses. The gist of it was that 4! is a little young to be pushing kids into organized sports and for now I should just make sure he gets lots of opportunities for active, unstructured play.

And then I felt good again remembering that I have a no-constantly-shunting-my-children-from-one-activity-to-the-next policy on purpose, not by mistake.

Do you get worked up sometimes when you hear that somebody's 4-year old is taking pottery-throwing, cello and conversational French while yours is poking at a frozen puddle with the dog's chewing stick?

I do. And I have to remind myself that poking frozen puddles is actually an important thing for a child to do and I want that for my children more than I want pottery/cello/French.

The wonderful thing about my boy dancing to "Simba's Pride" for an hour is not that he has an apptitude for African dance (truly, he doesn't - he crashed into the coffee table a lot) but that he can dance for an hour if he wants. Yay!

One fantastic thing about growing up in the sticks is that we had plenty of opportunities to poke at frozen puddles with sticks which were abundant.

Speaking of abundance, I signed up for the Deepak Chopra 21-day mediation challenge which was supposed to begin today but the site is down and so I did not receive an email detailing my first meditation challenge towards "finding abundance."

Do you think this is the first challenge?

I don't, I think it's a technical glitch. But it's kind of amusing to picture all the tens of thousands of people signed up for the Deepak Chopra 21-day meditaiton challenge reacting all around the globe to not being able to do get their Deepak on.

Heh heh.

Here's my answer to that:

10 Gratitudes Right the Hell Now:

The beauty of the North

My boy dancing

Fresh air moving through my lungs this morning in the sunshine

The wagging of my dog's tail when I took him for that run

The small kindness of a friend who is thinking ahead for me today

My legs are strong

Books and CDs are free at the library

Cinnamon scones, scrambled eggs and coffee for breakfast tomorrow morning

New boots

A warm bed

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sexual Cancers Awareness Month

I was driving around in my minivan full of kids the other day when hundreds of people ran by in their underwear.

"Oh, right," said I. "September is Sexual Cancers Awareness Month."

The last time this happened I was pushing a baby stroller. I stopped at an intersection to let hundreds of people in wigs and boxers and bras and race numbers on their legs pass by. Some were gasping, some were prancing, all were in various states of undress. Me and my toddler cheered for them while the baby slept.

"What was that?" asked my little girl. I didn't know.

But I found out later when I saw a pamphlet advertising "The Underwear Affair," a run to raise awareness and money for sexual cancers.

Their mantra is to "bring awareness to down there-ness."


As a sexual cancer survivor but not someone who is really "out" about it, I can honestly say, this sure means a lot to me peoples. When I found out about this run I had just been diagnosed / cured of cervical cancer and even though I was saved I felt awfully alone and, as my wee ones would put it, "scaredy" about it all.

Thanks for running around in your underwear, Western Alberta. It helps. I've seen you do it. It's helped me.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

To the Arctic

Oh no.

I took my 2 & 3 year old to the IMAX today while big sister was at Grandma's, cause she's just much too stressy to watch nature documentaries, and we just love the IMAX. I always have, yo, and I always will.

This love goes way back to an era in which laser light shows in the dome theater set to the musical stylings of Lionel Ritchie used to make me swoon. And I'd wish, so, that I had someone to hug and kiss, and perhaps try to cop a feel up my neon pink, neon green, neon orange AND neon yellow ski jacket.

Now I have lots of people to hug and kiss, which is nice. They include my still nursing cubs who do like to cop a feel.

It's not really possible for us to look at a mother polar bear and her two nurslings without strongly identifying with them. Nor is it possible for us, no matter how much we're enjoying the splash park in a heat wave, to watch the polar caps draining into the Arctic ocean while Meryl Streep narrates, ever so perfectly, that "this gorgeous crown of ice" is disappearing and to learn how polar bears depend on ice to survive.

When Meryl explained how mother polar bears were going on epic long swims to look for food in the middle of all this wateryousness, and that the longest recorded polar bear swim was for 9 days! and that HER CUB DIDN'T MAKE IT, my son began to sob. Loudly. Un-self-consciously. Sobbing.

At the point in the film pictured above, the mother and her cubs are fleeing from a hungry male polar bear who wants to eat her babies because he's starving. That occasioned some keening wails from my little son.

"They aren't nice daddies, like our daddy," I had to explain.

And don't even get me started on the plight of baby Caribou.

Oh GAWD, they need to migrate weeks earlier now, cause of global warming, which means they have to give birth WHILE migrating, instead of before, which means they are extremely vulnerable to the legions of starving predators. And all this information is delivered while a mama is licking off her newborn to the soundtrack of the Beatles being groovy and sensitive.

So my boy wept unabashedly through the whole thing. And I held him. And our two year old ate popcorn off the floor. And our hearts are broken. Broken.

How is this borne? How do we, daily, bear this tragedy?

"The greatest gift mothers can pass on to their children is a healthy planet," is the movie's epigraph.

Excuse me while I save the planet. For my son and daughters. Meryl said I could. 

"We CAN?" my lamenting tot shouted back loudly when she told us.

I don't know though. We might need some help. And I really get the sense that no one much cares.

And it's fatiguing. And it sucks. And I'm angry and defeated. And he's all raw about it. As he should be.


Is this suitable for children? Of course not, but of course, because it's happening and it's true.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sex, HPV, Daughters and God

In my gynecologist's office I witnessed a thing: a mom and her teen-aged daughter and her teen-aged daughter's  boyfriend were there getting the girl a prescription for birth control pills, an exam, an HPV vaccine, and a "talk" from the doctor. We could all tell what was going, not just because of the configuration of those three but because the girl was quite vocal about it all, reading aloud snippets from flyers held aloft so that anyone could scan the titles, and clearly enjoying holding the floor by being hopelessly young and beaming with joy at being initiated into womanhood in a pharmacological way.

The doctor came out from his offices to hand her some pill samples and more flyers and told her that she could go now unless she had any more questions.

"Do you remember delivering me?" she asked.

Everybody - the other patients, the women in the office, all the other doctors chortled. It was somehow delightful.

"That was a long time ago," he responded.

It looked to be about 16 years ago.

Her lad was ridiculously gorgeous, well-muscled and out of place in a room full of women waiting for pap smears etc..

They oozed youth, sex, and embarrassment. It was hard to imagine that they wouldn't be "doing it".

The mom kept her head held high, but did NOT make eye-contact with another soul. She steadied her nose in a magazine until it was time to go and she could lead the couple gratefully out of the waiting room.

My kids are little and this "situation" is a long way off, but then again, not really. We mothers know how our children grow in heartbeats. There will be a blink of the eye between the time visit our ob-gyn for a prenatal exam and  a prescription for birth control pills, an exam, an HPV vaccine (or whatever they come up with next), and a "talk" from the doctor for our teen-aged daughter.

Or maybe not.

Maybe this day will never come because our daughters will choose abstinence.

Or maybe (one can only hope) nobody will ever fall desperately in love with them, and she with him, so that they can think of nothing other than touching each other everywhere, every way, all the time.

Or maybe we just will have no idea what's going on with our daughter and what's-his-name who we're not really sure exists. We'll have no clue where she's spending all her time. To me, this is kind of a worst case scenarios.Though, I know there are worse cases -- I don't feel like dredging any up right now.

I had to respect this woman's pluck in handling her horny teen-aged daughter and her off-the-charts hunky boyfriend. Surely that is the way to deal with it - the team approach; the armament with facts, birth-control, vaccines and a gynecologist. Surely it's better gotten all out there under the fluorescent lights and glaringly white lab coats then all furtive and mythical from friends who embellish and whisper in privacy, without the sense of any grown-ups to buzz-kill with their sagging wisdom and experience.

I'm coming at this from a particular angle, as we all are. My P.O.V. is of someone who was raised with a proper religious upbringing. My mother gave me a sex-talk when I was 22. It caused me great despair. It was too late and it was far, far too little.  My mom had me when she was in her 40s and there's not so much a cultural gap between us as a chasm into which you could stick a whole 'nother generation. The fuddy-duddy brand of sexuality she hoped(?) I'd inherit from her just wouldn't do for me, not at all.

I slept around some.

It was mostly fun. Some of it, I could have done with out. And if I could go back again, there are definitely some things I would change. But I can't. Most of it was wonderful and fun and I think about my lovers with fondness.

I remember listening to the CBC on the radio in my car and the announcer was talking about HPV and HPV vaccines and it was the first I heard of it and I thought, wow! "Lucky me, I'm glad I got through my 20's without catching that. Now I'm in a monogamous relationship with a baby daughter, and I'm off scott free."


At a postnatal check up following the birth of my second child,  my midwife discovered squamous cells on my cervix caused by an HPV infection.

What I went through to get rid of cancer on my lady-bits was psychologically, emotionally, and physically horrible.

Sometimes I think about the consequences of the sexual freedom I tried a little too hard to embrace in my youth and I wonder if it was worth it.

If I had followed my parent's desires and expectations that I wouldn't even think about sex until I fell in love and then got married and was shocked and appalled on my wedding night to discover how horrible my "wifely duties" were, I wouldn't have gotten HPV.

If I had married another virgin, I wouldn't have gotten HPV.

The thing is that sleeping around is dangerous. There are risks. I was lucky. But not that lucky on account of, you know, the cervical cancer. That was caused by a virus that I caught that from someone I had sex with. It could have prevented me from having children. It didn't, but it could have. When I was a teenager, I don't think I would have thought of that as the worst thing in the world. Now that I have children, I think it would be. Thinking about one of my daughter's losing her reproductive abilities makes me want to sob.

I don't think God gave me HPV to punish me for being unladylike. I think viruses spread because they can and every living thing follows the directive to eat, survive and reproduce. HPV is like any other virus -- it wants to move from host to host and survive inside that environment long enough to colonize another host with its' DNA. If the virus' host survives long enough to do this, it is successful. If the host dies after the virus has moved to another body, the virus is still successful. This is why little babies in Africa can get AIDS from their mama's breastmilk -- because viruses are opportunists, not because God hates little African babies and their mamas.

Sex is a great way to move between human hosts because it's a pretty good bet. People have sex. Sex is something that people do. I am a people. I am not angry with myself.

At the end of Blue Milk's Why I Will Go Easy on the Save Yourself Rhetoric with my Daughter
 she asks: "So, how would you like sexuality to be different for your daughter, or girls generally, in growing up? How would you like your son to learn about girl sexuality differently?"

If I could pass one chunk of sexual wisdom onto my daughters it would be this:

You don't need to be too grateful for male attention. They might try to make you feel undesirable and inadequate, but that's exactly opposite to how they really feel. They can think of nothing else but you. That's how they are made.

This, and an HPV vaccine is exactly the kind of armour that would have helped me.

So, this girl in the gynecologists office: she's protected from several evils that women before her were not -- unplanned pregnancy, STD's, and perhaps most importantly, utter ignorance and blind eyes turned on her. I'm glad for her. As squeamy as imagining that day where I bring a daughter to my gynecologist to discuss her becoming sexually active makes me right now, that is exactly what I want for my girls and my boy and the young people they come of age with.

When I was young, it was AIDS we learned about in health class. Now it's HPV. In another decade, it will likely be something else.

And if something goes wrong, like it did for me, and my kids need rescue, I want it to be there, I want them to have people to turn to, including me, and I want it without judgement. I want medicine to keep on task of protecting sexual health.

This whole, "you've made your bed, now lie in it" thinking has been used against women and girls for the longest time, and it's shit. My vision for the future is more like, "you've made your bed, now start your day and know that you'll have a nice tidy bed to return to at the end of it. It's your bed to make. If there's some reason you don't want to lie in it anymore, get out of it."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Girls Got Mommy Issues: The Anti-Diet Series II

When I was a teenager our Health teacher showed us a movie about the different text-book ways people can be kind of or really fucked up. I wish I could forget the scene about what's wrong with fat chicks, anyway. Overweight girls have low self-esteem, the narrator explained, so they eat to mask the pain of hating themselves which makes them even fatter which causes them to hate themselves even more which causes them to eat more to mask the pain of hating themselves even more, and so on.

"It's a viscous spiral of self-loathing that, for the binge eater, there is no escape," said the sonorous, concerned voice-over tinged with barely controlled, but controlled disgust.

The visual was this mildly plump girl in fortrel slacks grabbing hamburgers out of a fast food bag and cramming them into her mouth by fistfuls. She would take a few bites from the hamburgers in one fist and then, without swallowing, stuff some more bites in from the burgers in her other hand. Everyone gasped and/or tittered and/or guffawed. The footage of her eating was alternately sped-up and slowed down to give it a sense of distorted reality. Her hair was back-lit for that demented look.

One guy, who was always giving me a hard time, turned around and said "Gross." He looked at me when he said it, and sneered.

It bugged the shit out of me.

Is that how people see me? A mildly plump girl in acid-wash denim who, according to The Narrator HATES myself? I don't! Is that what people think I do? Purchase giant bags of hamburgers to cram into my mouth all at the same time with a crazed look in my eyes and back-lit hair? I don't!

Honestly, I've grown up quite mystified by the fact that everyone gets to be skinny but me. It seems I have to work so much harder then everyone else to control my weight.

I am a conscientious eater. I know a lot of nutrition. I am a smart chick. I should be able to balance the books, so to speak. But it's like there's always been something I just don't get about normal eating and normal weight.

I had a very thin boyfriend in University who patiently explained to me that the way he kept himself in size 28-inch Levi's was by simply eating when he was hungry, and not eating when he wasn't.

I was irritated by this facile advice and assured him that I followed the same strategy. However, that I was obviously hungry more often than him preferring to eat, for example, regular meals that included vegetables and quite doubted that his diet of cigarettes, Pepsi and hashish would benefit me in any particular way.

He shrugged and turned his palms upwards, spreading out those long, cartoon fingers of his in a gesture of helpless gentleness.

"I'm just saying, I eat when I'm hungry and I don't when I'm not."

What did he think? That I probably ate bags of hamburgers in secret because I hated myself? Screw that. Screw him. Nobody gets me.

Now, almost two decades later, I'm slogging my way through Susie Orbach's Fat is a Feminist Issue and her advice to readers is to eat when they are hungry and not when they aren't. She encourages women to let themselves eat. And to let ourselves not eat. You probably don't know what normal eating and normal hunger are, anymore, she says, because of all the diets you've been on. You've got to find by not following any one else's eating rules for a while, just let your body's needs be your guide, respond only to your own hunger cues about when and what to eat, for once in your life. Get in touch with when you are hungry and when you are not. Nothing is off limits, there is no magic food or evil foods, just what you do and do not want to eat. When you are ready to slim down, you will. If you don't want to, you won't. Don't think about trying to slim down. Don't torture yourself with food rules. Just examine.

Dude, I've been on a diet since I was 8. Thanks, Mom. Thanks, The 80s.

Orbach's "Anti-diet guide" has been a ridiculously liberating experience so far.

I cannot believe how many rules, judgements, condemnations and little rages flash through me every single time I choose something to eat. Or not eat. It's ridiculous.

So I've been trying to take all this seriously and not judging, just honestly examining and experiencing.

Here are some things that I've noticed since paying attention:

The other day my husband put a piece of boiled broccoli on everyone's plate and, knowing I don't like boiled broccoli and find the smell positively nauseating, he gave me that look that says, "You better eat this to set a good example for our children." And I took the vile thing off my plate and put it on his, and said, "Don't feel like it." And he gave me another look and I blew a loooooong raspberry at him and said, "No way!" And it felt wonderful. We've had a similar interaction concerning microwaved leftover oatmeal.

Being around my parents makes me want to eat junk food. I feel deprived after spending time with them, and like I deserve a treat.

I spend too much money on food at the grocery store trying to buy food that is beyond impunity: organic local kale to dehydrate my own kale chips, single-origin fair-trade organic shade-grown coffee beans, and the like.

The other day my mom and I were driving around the park while my 2-year old had was napping in her car seat and I don't know how "breakfast for supper" came up but we were chatting and I was saying that "breakfast for supper" is always a hit with everyone and it's so easy when you don't know what to cook for dinner. And then she went on about how my father liked "that kind of thing" too, and that's why she didn't make it very often, because he could just "eat and eat that kind of food" and she herself knows better than to "indulge" in "food like that" but my father is just "an eating machine who would stuff himself with bacon and sausage and eggs all day long if she let him." And I "let my kids have jam on their toast" and that's one "mistake she never ever made," because kids will "just eat jam if you let them" but she "knew better than to have those kinds of foods around the house."

And I was so mad and annoyed with her. Like, really? There's something so wrong with omelettes for supper? And you don't make food "like that" because your husband would enjoy eating it? And is that why we're all just perfect, the no jam rule?

Luckily a pair of Canada Geese choose exactly then to cross our path, all haughty like they were going to church in their Sunday best and were at a cross-walk looking down their beaks at us commandingly, and it was so cute that it was easy to change the subject to stopping to let the geese cross. Cause she would have gone on and one while I got madder and madder.

When preparing a meal, I picture my mother criticizing my food choices and I launch an internal dialogue where I defend them and she keeps attacking them. I do this way too often and when expecting a visit with her, it goes into overdrive.

So, yeah, I have a lot of mommy/food-issues. How predictable, really, in hind-sight I'm shocked that it's taken me so long to realize it.

That thing my mom does, where she prepares a big meal, say Christmas dinner, and a saskatoon cheesecake for dessert, and then when people compliment her on the meal, she goes on about how it's all for us because she doesn't like food that's "rich and fattening like all this rich and fattening stuff." It's hard to enjoy meals with her because of her insistence that we are all morally obligated not to enjoy it, unless we're "just like our father" who is sitting right there.

That voice that tells me I'm a bad person for enjoying food and, in fact, enjoying it greatly, is my mother's voice. I have been working all my life to ignore that voice. I am quite successful at it. I am a shut-the-fuck-up-that voice ninja.

"Of course I should enjoy this food," I think. Of course "I deserve a nice meal" or a treat, I think. Or, "I better eat this now, who knows when I'll get another opportunity to enjoy this, cause really, next week I should really start cutting back".

I rarely (never) say no to offered food. I don't like to deprive myself. I don't binge on bags of hamburgers, but neither do I only eat when I'm hungry, and not when I'm not.

I have this feeling like my relationship with food and my body is so complex but the thing about Orbach's book that is a revelation to me is that she acknowledges this complexity. It resonate with me in a way that the whole "fat chicks eat because they have low self-esteem" thing does not, not at all. In fact, the whole bag of hamburgers because you hate yourself is profoundly insulting to my intelligence. Eating, to me, is a an act of self-love, not of self-loathing. It's the permission to love myself and treat myself kindly. I have always thought of it that way, though I've never really allowed myself to think it out loud.

But now, I have a desire to tease apart all these complex relationships between food/body/self/mother/sex/rage etc. that Orbach talks about. Maybe it's not as complex as I fear. Maybe it doesn't have to completely mystify me. That would be kinda nice.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What happens when I poke here...

I imagine in my Honest2Betsy head that I don't even have to update you on what I've been up to, because, certainly, it's horribly predictably obvious that after posting about how angry Betty Draper in a fat suit and the other Evil Robots make me and about skinny memes etc. etc. that you just know somebody recommended I read Susie Orbach and so I put a hold on Fat is a Feminist Issue at the library and now I've got it and am stuck somewhere in the middle of it, like a woman startled to discover she has squeezed into a pair of jeggings that are two sizes too small, and now has to get out of them without making a clamor in the change room.

Except that I am making a clamor, peeps. I'm having my own personal anti-diet revolution.

Fat is a Feminist Issue: there's not one, but too f-bombs in that title. So, despite that I'm, you know, feminist, and, you know, foluptuous, or more accurately, because of those two things, I've resisted reading that book before now because I've assumed that it was about how much society hates both females and fat people and also about how the two things are very intertwingled. I just don't need more information, thought I, about how much mainstream culture despises me and those who are round like me and sexed like me.

But it's not about that. It's subtitled "The anti-diet guide for women." I've never noticed the subtitle before, or heard it talked about, probably because there aren't any f-bombs in it. But because of a recommendation from a bloggy-friend and a flourishing loathing for diets and diet-culture, I've been gingerly making my way through Fat is a Feminist Issue, like a size 14 beauty in a new summer-dress, stepping nervously out of a mirror-less changing stall to timidly see how the thing looks. I've been discovering a lot of sore spots and clingly bits and too-tight spots and just earnestly trying to figure out what hurts, how it got that way, and how I can maybe make it better.

So. The last time I was on a diet was long after I'd sworn off diets for good. Some reputable source instructed me that I should "Never diet while pregnant or breastfeeding!" I first became pregnant more than 7 years ago. 3 babies latter, I've been breastfeeding and not dieting ever since. It's been wonderful.

But... I had such bad skin for a patch there, I just couldn't help going to the library (I do that) and reading up on how nutrition could solve all my skin problems. I ended up on this evil diet:

I know that diets, statistically, cause the vast majority of the people who follow them to gain all the weight back plus a  little more. I've never been able to quite wrap my head around why this happens -- especially to someone as sensible as me, but I know that to more than 90% of people, that's just the way it goes. But since this diet wasn't about weight loss, it was about "Clear and Healthy Skin at Every Age", I thought that probably, certainly, that wouldn't happen. 

Um. It did. 

I'm not sure I can explain the mechanism entirely but it all started off well enough -- eating salmon for every other meal wasn't that big a deal, 'cept expensive and yeah, the novelty of salmon for breakfast wears off pretty quick, and the complicated dinner recipes were very difficult to prepare with several small children at my feet and finding all the ingredients in the stores was even harder -- where are the hearts of palm? And the hazelnuts? And the Tilapia? And the chard? And why isn't there any fresh tarragon in Northern Alberta in November? In any case, the middle part had me sobbing, at one point, on my kitchen floor because I was working so hard to follow this "Acne Prescription" and I just couldn't believe that tonight's recipe had led me through the complexity of making a roasted-red pepper puree from scratch only to discover that there was an hour more of cooking to do on the next page for the Hazelnut encrusted Tilaipia and the puree was just to daub on top as a garnish along with a sprig of fresh tarragon which I just didn't have, and besides, I wouldn't be able to make the salad without verjus and what the fuck is verjus and ohmigod I better make something for the children before they eat me and I haven't had any carbs for two weeks and am breastfeeding and NOT FUNCTIONING WELL ON THIS DIET WHICH IS FOR RICH PEOPLE WITH HOURS TO PREPARE MEALS AND A PERSONAL ASSISTANT TO GET THEM VERJUS

Shockingly, I did every thing right only to discover that all my skin problems were not solved by the unfollowable diet nor by the REDONKULOUSLY OVERPRICED SKIN PRODUCTS that Nicholas Perricone, M.D. must be soooo rich off of selling along with his books to people hoping to make up for their moral failings as a human being, or why else would they have such bad skin? And it was quite depressing. And I ate far too much Almond Roca at Christmas time and also drank far too much red wine. And yeah, I gained weight and I've still got it.


My first diet? Honestly, I'm too young to remember it. But I just spent the weekend with my mother and she was talking about how her kids were picky eaters like mine are until she put everyone on Weight Watchers, and then, boy howdy, would her kids eat up whatever she served for supper and no complaining, just hungrily grasping for whatever she put on the table. I vaguely remember this period. I remember helping her prepare broiled grapefruit. I was 8? 9? 10?


I was complaining to my middle-sister, the one who has always been thin (why can't you be more like that, Betsy?) that it really bothers me to hang out with mom because she just has so damn many food issues.

She laughed and assured me she's noticed no such thing.

Really? I was shocked, truly shocked, that anyone could describe my mother as someone without food issues.

Could it be me?

My oldest sister, however, describes my mother as someone who fed her kids junk food all the time and was always overweight.

Really? I don't remember that person at all. 

In my mind, my mother is someone who has always been on a diet, who always is on a diet, who won't shut up about how morally superior people like her, who have their weight under control are, and how easy and sensible it is, and how blah blah blah blah. It drives me nuts.

And I've noticed that spending time with her makes me want to indulge in "emotional eating" afterwards. I just think, after all that, I deserve a bowl of ice cream, okay? 


She's recently read The China Study and I should read it to because if only everybody followed the simple nutritional advice contained within that book, they would be lovely, thin and certainly disease-free. It's animal proteins, apparently, that are causing everyone to be fat, ugly, and tumorous. 

Now it's animal proteins. Before that, as I'm sure you recall, it was carbs. And before that it was improper food combinations, and before that, it was simply portions. 

Sigh. I don't want to hear it anymore.

The way Susie Orbach explains the problem with diets (like about how they don't work) is that they are a cause, a spur, and a type of compulsive eating. Dieters, while dieting, are evangelical. They are high on dieting. They are the Kings of their own Castle. They think constantly about what they can/can't eat, about what they will/won't eat about what they can/can't eat. They want to talk about it. They want you to be like them, to see the light too. Until they crash. Then they hate themselves. And eat too much.

And I just don't want to hear any of it. Ever again. From anybody. I'd rather hear about someone's bowel movements than the latest diet they are on. I'd rather hear my mother talk about her sex life, for the love of sweet Jeebus, than about how she has eating right all figured out and such a healthy relationship with food. 

I met a group of women for a picnic/playdate at the park the other day and it was lovely until one of them starting going on about The China Study and how she's vegan now and blah blah blah. She had that look in her eye. Like she might as well be talking about ourlordsaviourJesusChristwholovesus and blah blah blah. She wanted to save our souls/midsections. It was the same tirade my mother had been on at me the week before.

I left. 

I un-pryed my children from the monkey bars and left. "Naptime," I explained, instead of, "You are making me angry at my mother by sounding just like her right now with the blah blah blah."

Betsy is never going to diet again. Betsy is not a dieter. Betsy is an anti-dieter. Betsy is pissed about it. Betsy is not going to take it. Betsy is better than diets. Betsy doesn't know all the answers, she knows very little, but she knows the answer is NOT to diet. Betsy is awesome in so many ways, but none of the ways she is awesome has anything at all to do with dieting. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Evil Robots? Yeah, they're after me. And yeah, I'm fighting them.

You know Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips? Whattasong.

I've listened to it hundreds of times and it just gets more meaningful over the years, despite that the meaning, for me, hasn't really changed at all in more than a decade.

There was a time when I worked way up high in a gleaming office tower in the sky. I spent most of my full-time hours there with ear buds in, listening to and building and organizing my music collection. I did some work too. My anthem? Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

And I've gots to tells yas, I'm quite a bit likeYoshimi in the song because, hellsyeah, I battle the pink robots. We all do. They're at us, from all corners, all the time. Here are some:

Fight them! They are not real. They are computer generated images with human heads glued on top. They are evil and we can't let them destroy us.

Women and robots can be hard to tell apart. But they are different in fundamental ways. The one is capable of feeling, thinking, philosophizing, childbearing and buying clothing. T'other is capable of making you feel vaguely uneasy, making you wonder why everyone looks like that except you, distracting you from thinking about anything worthwhile, is cloned (has many twins but no daughters), and sells sells sells clothing. 

How the gob-smacked pickle-munching lucky-strike slinging Hallelujah has the fashion industry convinced us that we should fit into clothes instead of the obvious fact that clothes should fit us?

Evil robots. That's how.

The person on the left is a woman who works in the fashion industry. The thing on the right is a robot. Her ribs have been photoshopped out to make her appear less frightening and more alluring. She is not real, she is a digital cyborg. 
Clothing is a thing. It is a useful thing. We need to wear it. You know that. You also know that besides just being a useful thing, clothing is a system of signs, a semiotics. We need to navigate both things -- the utility of clothing and the semiotics.

When I was a little girl, I experienced a crushing thing: whenever I would grow out of clothes, or clothes wouldn't fit me, I would say, "These pants are too small," or "This shirt isn't big enough." And my parents would diligently correct me by explaining that I was too big for the pants, or that the shirt was perfectly fine but that it was my size that was problematic.

When my slim older sister would grow out of her clothes, they would concede that it was the clothes that were wrong. But with me, with my body, with my wrong-sizedness it was important that they communicate to me that it was my obligation to fit into clothing, not clothing's obligation to fit me.

Most women, I know, experience that feeling of not fitting into their clothes like they are supposed to.
This is a thing to rail against. Clothes are supposed to serve women. Women are not supposed to serve clothes.

If you read my last post you might erringly conclude that I despise thin bodies. This is not true. Honest 2 Betsy does not endorse battling, besmirching, or devouring supermodels or any other spaghetti-sized people. It's not people and their people-bodies I have a problem with. Not at all. I like people. I wish them well. It's the cyborgs that piss me off.

A robot e-mailed me recently to see if I would like a guest post by it.

"Hi Betsy,I really enjoyed reading your blog - it's great! Most women really have insecurities concerning their figure and appearance but we should always remember that it's not always our outside appearance but we must also consider who we are as a person inside is the best." 

To paraphrase this communique from a pink robot: it would be happy to write some blog posts for me about looking pretty and weight loss. Would I like that? Also, could I click on a link?

No. Because I fight pink robots. Evil robots! They're everywhere! They are programmed to destroy us!

Do you watch Mad Men? It's the damnedest. There are all these fantastic female characters in fantastic outfits. And the show reveals, like a just-below the knee A-line, how very crappy it can be for these women to be judged on their looks and every so often you can peek through the artful cracks in their well-coiffed composure what it costs them to be so wonderfully "packaged" all the time in a lovely semiotics of hosiery and pearls, slimness and deference, chauvinism and constraint.

There's quite a few moments when the human cost of all this "fuss" over women's bodies as things that must be rigidly controlled so as to be at all desirable is exposed. Moments like when Peggy overhears her male colleagues laughing about how fat she is, when in fact she's concealing a pregnancy. Moments like when Joan, ever so composed and good-natured about having another abortion, is assumed by a mother in the doctor's waiting room to be waiting on a teen-aged daughter like she is, and decides not to go through with it because she wants a baby and it's her body.  There are moments when the female characters behave like people, not well-put together props. Then, mind you, the pink robots do like to take center stage.

Now here's the part in the blog post where I was struggling to say something deep and intelligent about Mad Men but went to bed instead, thinking some gem of wisdom would probably be waiting there for me in the morning. But it wasn't, so I carried on with my day, shopping and packing for a weekend trip to the Rocky Mountains where we stayed in a gorgeous hotel with outdoor hot pools, went skating on Lake Louise, went X-country skiing, went for an Alpine hike up on Sulphur Mountain and then through the Fenlands below, etc. etc. etc.

When I came back to real life and this post I still didn't have a satisfying conclusion for you, dear Reader, or for me. When I watched the new Mad Men on my PVR I was expecting a little inspiration but I got, HOLY EVIL, BETTY DRAPER IN A FAT SUIT.

I was so viscerally repulsed by the suiting up of this bitchy character in every fat-loathing stereotype possible (her husband likes fatties because his mom is one, she hates herself, she's depressed because her husband re-married a skinny hot French chick so she eats ice cream to make herself feel better, etc. etc.)

The point of the episode, Tea Leaves, sort of, is that Betty's lucky to be "Just fat" and not to have thyroid cancer like her doctor suspected.

But of course that's not the point. The point is to loathe this female character who smokes in front of babies and slaps her daughter and is a really poor sport about her husband sleeping around on her. We've loathed her for all these reasons before but now we can really get our hate on because she's getting her just deserts. She's getting what she had coming to her, the worst possible fate a pretty woman can possibly be consigned to: she's a fat housewife now. Ha ha. Ha ha ha.

But she's not a fat housewife. She's a very thin actress named January Jones in a fat suit. Here she is finishing off her fictional daughter's ice cream sundae because she's a fat, disgusting pig.

Here she is all photoshopped up in GQ to look exactly like the computer generated models in an H&M catalogue. Robots. Evil pink robots.

It is my fear that all this is getting much, much worse instead of better. It is my fear that my daughters are growing up in a world full of pink robots, and Yoshimi isn't going to defeat them for us. It is my fear that Yoshimi just might let those robots eat my daughters.

I know it's going to be demanding, to fight those evil machines. But it's worthwhile. Because so much of it depends on women being "good sports" about it. I don't want to be a good sport about it. I don't want my daughter to be a good sport about it either. So much depends on women playing along with the notion that we're supposed to fit clothes, instead of vice versa.

The Fat Suit episode began with Betty not being able to zip up one of her dresses and refusing to go out with her husband because of it. Her mother-in-law came over to visit a house-dress clad Betty and urge her to do something about her weight so that she could get "back into that great closet."

So much of it depends on women literally "buying into" it because that's what IT is all about -- getting women to buy shit we don't need. There's really nothing else there.

But it hurts people. It really hurts real people. Once upon a time a small girl, about 5 years old, approached me in a public park and told me that her father would kill her if she ever got fat. Sigh.


And now, an Honest 2 Betsy pledge: I am enrolling myself and my six-year old girl in an all ages karate-class.

I'm just looking for some practical ways we can fight the pink robots together. We're going to need lots of vitamins, and to discipline our bodies, because we've got to be strong to fight them. Maybe we can get our black belts in karate.