When I was pregnant, I was amazed at how pregnancy (especially in New York, where I was living at the time) broke down social resistance to interacting with strangers. People would come up and talk to me as if they knew me. Most of the time it was sweet and well-intentioned. The flip side of dissolving this social barrier was the number of people who assumed an unearned intimacy and proffered unwanted advice or worse, wanted to put their hand on my fecund belly.
Friends have confirmed this phenomena when out with newborns or pets. Under certain circumstances, people will assume it's okay to communicate whatever pops into their heads.
When I used to walk the tunnels under downtown Houston, I mapped out a 3-mile circuit that I could cover in the hour break I took instead of lunch. It looked boring for sure, but I was mostly in my head or in my music and might as well have been on a treadmill (but for the fools walking slowly, three-abreast blocking my way periodically). I did this every day. I looked hot and sweaty for, at least, the second half of the walk. I tried not to make much eye contact or listen to my fellow walkers. Of whom, the vast majority were middle-aged women who talked for all the world like they should be wearing hair shirts and flagellating themselves. Doing penance for the sin of not being thin.
There was one woman who worked at the counter of one of the gazillion sandwich shops who would not be ignored. She had a seemingly sincere but intrusive friendliness. But the thing that used to amaze me is that every time she saw me walk by she would give me a thumbs up, as if she headed up the cheering squad for Fat Woman Walking. I say this and you demure, how do you know this had anything to do with your size? Perhaps we're being a bit oversensitive? Guess again, Pollyanna. I watched her every day and she did not do her enthusiastic gesture for naught a slender walker. Trust me, she was saying, Way to Go, Chubby! Good Job, Gordita!
While I thought she was basically decent, she felt that my size gave her the right to break that social barrier. I assume that she (or those like her) didn't give the thumbs up to the anorexia-bound teenage girls eating ice cream (one scoop in a cup, please, those cones are SO fattening). I assume that most people don't clap the Cerebral Palsied on the back for making it across the street. I would guess conversely, and maybe I'm wrong, that you wouldn't go up to a fast-food patron with acne and lecture them on the importance of keeping their face clean and their diet healthy. It's just a bit invasive, right?
So I'm walking my neighborhood. It was June. One of the hottest Junes on record. And even though I start my walk at 7am, it's clear that I'm going to be be red-faced and drenched in no time. Down the street opposite me comes an old black man wearing a brimmed hat and pushing a cart. He is, lordlovehim, sporting a friendly demeanor and just a few teeth. Fuck Me. As I get closer, he asked the ubiquitous question, "Going for your walk?" To which I reply affirmatively in my best yes-indeedee voice. Then he says, "You know, that'll help you lose weight!" Now, the urge to retort with "No shit, REALLY?" is strong. But he's old and almost surely addlepated. Yet, more than anything I want to say, "And you know, wearing that hat will keep you from getting any darker!" Because our culture's love of the thin is only matched by our culture's love of the fair. And since he thinks it's okay to join in on the bigotry chorus against the overweight, why should I let genteel mores stop me from pointing out where he falls short on the racist social scale of ideal beauty?
Because, deep down, I'm not an asshole. Even more, because I don't accept or have patience for either of those deeply flawed ideals. I just don't know why anyone feels it is their business to impose this skewed and empty viewpoint on those of us who tip the scales on this side of normal. Whatever that is.
Saturday, July 09, 2011
Almost a year has passed since I had a little tantrum over my daily walk. It was not my proudest moment. I have occasionally whined here about the Sisyphean Task I face trundling my largess up the Dead Metabolism Mountain. Okay, I know, this bullshit is unworthy of me: of all the natural gifts I've been given, focusing on this one, um, broken trait is well, stupid.
I stopped walking for a year. That'll show my unbudging Metabolism. Fucker. And of course, I've since had my ass-kicked from here to the pharmacy. What I accomplished over 3 years of daily walking, I undid and more in one year of foot-stamping childishness.
Being laid-off, with all its unexpected bliss, afforded me time to get my health back on course. A patient, slow course (of course) and about six weeks ago, I started walking my neighborhood. The Heights is chock-full of historic bungalows and Victorians so the view is pleasant. I plot out my route (to avoid boredom) on the buggy, but adequate Google Maps. Since walking for walking sake seems like a modern plague of foolishness, I use the time to gather data about landscaping, fences and porches. As if walking to window shop were any less foolish.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Nature is no flower-bedecked nymphet sprinkling dewdrops and sparkles.
Barbara and I were walking together on July 4th when we encountered a fledgling heron, standing dazed on the sidewalk with a cat in stalking position nearby. This little earthbound critter stood a foot high and was not long for this world. It had obviously fallen or been nudged out of the nest prematurely.
I am all about evolution (as you'll see in posts to follow) and natural selection. But jesuschrist, it was such a beautiful, gawky, helpless and unusual bird to find at 7:30am on a Houston street in July. Barbara shooed the cat away.
We called our friends, Lori and Mary. They used to do a lot of wildlife rescue. They are founts of knowledge about this shit and I think we woke them up on a holiday morning. They arrived shortly thereafter, much to our relief.
Mary, of the quieter and shyer ilk, walked right up to the sharp-beaked orphan and picked him right up. What a fucking NINJA she is. It pecked. Ouch. Freaked out. Yikes. But she tucked its wings down and let it clamp its beak on her fingers and talked to it calmly. I was amazed. And envious. I'm quite sure...I'm 100% sure that a frantic bird with sharp pecking beak, squawking at me would have met freedom and a loud yell for its troubles.
The next day, hoping for an uneventful walk, I stumbled onto the filming of "Possum Abattoir; The Road Trip."
Of course, there are beautiful things to see, yes. But somehow the images of gorgeous plumeria and majestic oaks don't get seared into my consciousness as indelibly as Bloody Mama Possum and her Dead Babies.
I recently christened Barbara's breasts "Lefty" and "Righty." Lefty was, as you know, where cancer was found not quite a year ago. Righty gave us a scare a couple of months ago. Both are fine now. (Well, they've always been fine but that's another post altogether.) Subconsciously, I came up with softball-related nicknames and in Lefty's case, a little western-flavored moniker as well. I love that these nicknames seem to fit her.
I'm not fond of public nicknames for people, as a rule. I prefer my, Barbara's and both of my children's names in their original form. But parts and inanimate objects? I love slinging appellations at those. Anthropomorphizing an object by naming it has great appeal.
I've heard women's breasts personified with foolishness and cleverness. In The Lover's Tongue, Mark Morton gives these examples of character nicknames:
- Mickey and Minnie
- Laverne and Shirley
- Lucy and Ethel
- Thelma and Louise
- Wilma and Betty
I tease one of my friends about her enhanced set by asking about the "twins," though to be accurate, I should be asking about the "quads." A lot of women call their breasts "the girls."
For a long time I referred to my annual check-up as "Getting my 'Mamms' Grammed." Which led to me just calling them my "Mamms." Since adopting this crazy state as my own, I realize that I ignore or mock certain traditions...like certain militaristic-sounding forms of gentility. Which is why the girls have been newly christened, "Yes, Ma'am" and "No, Ma'am." Left and right, respectively.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
It's true, it's true! When you've interviewed with the worst, the rest is a breeze. Had a great interview with another company. Have no idea whether I'll get the job but it was a pleasure to talk to people about what they needed, answer questions that made sense and ask questions that made sense to me.
Without any of that monogrammed starch.