Let me preface this by saying that this blog is far from my best work. That's what happens with a rant. Okay, here we go.
This is my cell phone.
I take a lot of shit about this phone. People laugh at it. They roll their eyes. They are frustrated when I don't answer, frustrated that they can't get hold of me at the exact moment they want to.
I bought it in 2007, right after I moved back to Toronto from Vancouver. At the time, it was the cheapest model available. It works and I pay about $15 or less a month to operate it. Battery life remains good. I can receive texts, though I prefer not to, and send them, though I prefer not to. Half the time, the phone is dead, mostly because I often forget that I own it, sometimes for weeks at a time. I still check my voicemail, and not just to make the icon go away.
And you know what's great about it? You don't decide when you get to talk to me. I decide. If I like you, I do my best to accommodate you, especially when it's important, because that's what communication is -- it's about more than one person. But in the end, I decide what works for me and how much and how often I'm willing to listen. It's a good system, fundamentally similar to your own (which is using your phone the way you want, for what you want). Our systems don't always mesh, but so what? Curmudgeons: We're just like you!
, for his part, doesn't even have
a cell phone. So take the crap I receive and multiply it by a million for him.
As a unit, we get more pressure about our cell phone choices than we do about having a baby. And that's saying a lot.
Is it really such a big deal? I know I'm "trapped" in 2003. I like it here! 2003 was a great time for the cell phone. Why does it bother people so much? Is it so strange/wrong that I like focusing on the person or people I'm with when I'm with them, as opposed to focusing on my phone, looking ahead for something better? And likewise, is it wrong to prefer people who focus on me? Is it wrong to be irritated by last-minute "Oops! I'm going to be 45 mins late!" texts that arrive with no explanation? Wrong to want to have a conversation with someone who looks at my face rather than at his phone? When I'm with someone or doing something, that's what I'm doing. I'm busy. I'll get in touch with you another time, when I'm not busy. Why would anyone have a problem with that? I. Do. Not. Get. It. Maybe I'm 4000 years old at heart, but I don't get it.
I also don't get this brand-new community of earnest people who are just (finally) realizing they need to cut back on the cell phone use. There are so many articles about it, so many videos, each one more tiresome than the last. All this earnest fucking realization garbage, about something that is obvious and simple if you use an ounce of common sense ... it's ridiculous.
Here's one called The amazing discovery I made when my phone died
. (Amazing? Really?)
Here's a mini movie everyone was obsessing over about a month ago called I forgot my phone
. (Gag me.)
And here's everybody's favourite comedian Louis C.K. talking mostly about what I'm talking about in this much-less-funny blog. (And I LIKE Louis C.K. Everybody likes Louis C.K. There's nothing wrong with this bit, really. He's funny and he's right. He's so very "on-trend" -- that's the bit I find tiresome. The fact that this "realization" that should be obvious is even a trend to begin with.)
Articles about easing up on the smart phone usage are becoming like articles about "millennials." Enough, already. Guess what? Ten years ago, you didn't have a smart phone. What you've just "realized" about it isn't an "amazing discovery," it's a recent memory.
Once upon a time, I had a smart phone. I had to. For work. I checked it constantly. I rolled over in the morning and pulled it off my nightstand to check it, before I could even see straight. And then I realized how shitty that was, and how awful the constant checking made me feel, the way it activated my anxiety and bruised my soul, so I stopped. First I stopped checking so much, even though I had to keep the phone for work, and then eventually, I left the job and the phone behind.
If you think you use your smart phone too much, stop. Cut back. Be a grown up and do you. Take care of yourself. And move on with the understanding that you are not a trailblazer. You are not even a person who is particularly interesting. You're certainly not a hero.
The truth is, I love technology. I use technology! I have kept up with the social networks I like (such as Twitter), and this very blog, but I don't chain myself to them. I use Facebook even though I stopped enjoying it years ago, mostly because I think it's important for my work. And like I said, I text. On occasion. When I have to. I don't answer every call I receive, or every text. But that's not because I don't have a smart phone. It's because I DON'T WANT TO.
And can we also just talk for a second about email? Email, I'm all for. I love email. If you can't get me via text, why not email me? All the people who have smart phones have email on those phones, and yet, they don't want to email. Even though I like email. Even though emailing is the very best way to get in touch with me and to ensure a response. What's THAT about? Effective communication is about meeting in the middle, isn't it? ISN'T IT?
In my opinion, email is really just an improvement to something that already worked. It's practically exactly the same as a handwritten note or letter, but instant and free. I got behind email in 1995 and stayed here. Email helped me fall in love every single time it happened. It helped to solidify my closest, longest friendships. Email is great, and yet suddenly, it's not enough.
And to be fair, I think texting might be similar for some people -- just an even more distilled type of email. For some people. For many people, at least in my experience, it's an enabler of idiocy, ruining attention spans, destroying communication skills, making people even less empathetic and understanding, and even more stupid, detached, and selfish than they already were. And I don't like it. And I'm not going to start using it. Not now, or in the foreseeable future. Maybe eventually, if the climate surrounding how it's used changes and/or if I have to, but not right now. And y'all* or just going to have to ... as the kids say.
P.S. Thank god for Nathan. If I had to date in this text-obsessed climate, I don't know how I would stand it. Instead, I got in just under the wire, and hitched myself to man who is possibly even more curmudgeonly than I am. At least while the world is going crazy with the phones, we have each other.
* Not YOU you. If I like you and we're friends and you send me a text on occasion, understand that I'm not talking about you.
Ah, blogging. It's a bit of a problem. I mean, as you know, I like it. If I didn't, I wouldn't keep doing it, but at the same time, it has a tendency to rile people, even when I don't mean it to.
In part, this is my fault. I write personal stuff and I often mention people I know, but rarely do I name anyone. As a result, everyone thinks I'm writing about them. People say, "I read your blog post. Were you talking about me?" Or they say "I wish you wouldn't write about me." Some of these people even email their friends to say things like, "Look what that bitch Jen wrote about me." And they're always wrong. Always! People who think I'm writing about them are always wrong.
Sorry, but they are. YOU are. (And no offence, because I love you, but you need to work on getting over yourself.)
Re: This Blog -- It is not / was not / never will be about you.
I really don't write about anyone in my day to day life. That's just a fact. I rag on my family sometimes, sure, and sometimes I will mention a friend by name. If that's you, hurray! I like you! If I'm writing about anyone/anything else, it's probably about someone or something that happened a long time ago (though I might make it seem recent) or about someone who is NOT in my life and who I know for a fact does not read the blog.
Maybe this is a normal human failing. I know I do this myself -- I assume things are about me when they're not. It's sort of egomaniacal and sort of lame and mostly about anxiety, but we all need to work on quitting that shit. I'll work on thinking things aren't about me and you work on thinking things aren't about you. Because they're not. Relax, please. (And if you're someone who mistakenly decided I'd written about you and who subsequently forwarded part of my blog to anyone along with a note calling me a not-very-nice name, you were wrong and please stop doing that. You know who you are...)
To the rest of you: Hi! Thanks for not being crazy!
Well well well. It's official. Today I turn 33. Sometimes I find celebrating my birthday to be difficult. I mean, it's not like I've accomplished anything. People say "congratulations" to me and I think "For what? Staying alive? Hooray, I'm still alive. Yay me." I'm the same when someone compliments my hair or teeth. I'm always like, "Thanks! I grew 'em myself!" It's not like I worked for any of this. I'm just lucky. I don't mean to be snarky. Maybe I'm just not great at being the centre of attention.
Anyway, it's also the site's birthday. It's 8. If this site is like a baby then I'd say it's been a neglected one. Oh well, with any luck, I'll do better with an actual human.
Speaking of which, the old ladies can't stop bugging me about popping one out. Last month, I was hideously ill (see my last blog post) and my mother decided I was hiding a pregnancy. Everyone is so fucking eager. It's annoying, of course, and often rude (I mean, would YOU make obnoxiously loud assumptions on the state of someone's reproductive health in public*? No? Oh, you must be a normal person not addled by lust for a grandchild.) I try to ignore it while comforting myself by mentioning our interest in adoption. It's fun to watch their little faces crumble. Maybe that's mean. I dunno. I think it's no meaner than harassing me about having a baby, frankly. The aged need to mind their own damn beeswax.
ANYWAY. Nothing much is new, blog friends. For vague reasons (Bad for the environment! Too much electricity! Wanna feel superior to everyone!) Nate and I have never caved in to having air conditioning before, going so far as to lend our window unit (provided by our sweetheart of a landlord) to a neighbour a couple of years ago, but our resolve has faltered. I spent all of yesterday with a humidity migraine. Couldn't take it anymore. The window unit is now rattling away in our bedroom. God bless technology, I say.
I'm getting old, but at least I'm doing so in comfort.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.
Here, I share with you a Hoops and Yoyo video of the sort I used to send people before I learned that ecards were gross. YOU GUYS! IT'S HOOPS AND YOYO.
I am officially the worst.
*P.S. I initially wrote "pubic" here by accident. Thanks to Ivan for catching the mistake.
P.P.S. I actually like e-cards. :)
I'm so ill, you guys. Hideously ill. Have been for about a week or so. At first, it wasn't so bad, and then (particularly Thursday and Friday) it was unspeakably horrible, and then just horrible and now just kinda icky.
It's just a cold and I know I may be overstating it, but it's been really depressing.
Several days ago, I lost my sense of smell (and consequently, taste), which was fine at first. It was sort of nice not to have to smell anything. Every breath was a pleasure, regardless of when I'd last managed to shower.
The novelty's kind of worn off now, though. Not being able to smell anything has started to freak me out.
It's my own fault. I did a dumb thing -- one of the dumbest things -- and Googled my no-smell symptoms and the very first thing I found was an article about a lady who had a cold, lost her sense of smell/taste, and IT NEVER CAME BACK.
Never. Never ever! It's ages later -- years and years -- and she still can't smell a damn thing.
This. Is. Terrifying.
And, okay, I know it probably won't happen to me, but it could. IT COULD. And that freaks me right the fuck out.
Several years ago, when I was busy recovering from a bit fat emotional trauma and trying to learn how to "date," I went on a couple with a guy who had no sense of smell. Born that way. Other than wanting to go for sushi (because of the texture) he acted like it was a minor thing. He told a bunch of funny stories about what that meant in terms of his day to day life, and about how he rated food as a consequence, and blah blah blah. He was a nice guy, but I didn't think that much about it. In retrospect, I've come to realize that I'm a terrible person, because don't think I sympathized at all, and the fact of the matter is this: not being able to smell/taste stuff is awful. It's really awful!
Everything tastes the same. It tastes like nothing. Like mush. Like mush, sitting in your mouth, waiting to slide down your throat into your stomach and through your intestines and then out the back door. Ice cream? Tastes just like hamburger. Chocolate bar? Tastes exactly like spinach. Different texture, same taste. Essentially. I can tell when something is salty or sour, and a very sweet thing tastes a bit different from a not-sweet thing, but just a bit. EVERYTHING TASTES THE SAME! God, it's depressing.
Now, because of my (ahem) little problem, I'm kind of supposed to eat all the time. (Well, not really ALL the time, but a lot. Like, as often and as much as a regular person. Having been a weirdo about food before, it just feels like all the time.) I'm not supposed to skip meals, I'm not supposed to "forget" to eat while I'm working. I'm supposed to eat. Regularly. Heartily. And right now, everything tastes like cardboard mush.
During the first couple of days of not being able to taste anything, I tried to compensate by ordering my favourite little bits of take-out food and stocking up on junk. (I'm SUPPOSED to eat junk food. I'm supposed to eat it when I want it and then not freak out about it afterwards. You know, like a normal person.) It didn't work. At first, I ate the junk because I didn't want to waste any of my favourites, but really, I've come to think that when it all tastes the same, THERE IS NO POINT.
So whatever. I can't taste anything for now. It'll be fine.Except, I'm really worried that it's going to be like this forever.
I've always been crazy. You know this. And crazy in this way in particular. For example, I find myself suffering from the hiccoughs quite a lot (it's something to do with my weird anxiety-induced bouts of breath-holding). And every time, EVERY TIME I get them, I think, "Oh no... what if they never go away? What if I become one of those people who has hiccoughs for the rest of her life and I have to take medication, but the medication will only mean hiccoughing a little less, like once every couple of minutes instead of once every fifteen seconds. Oh god. What if that's what happens? WHAT IF IT HAPPENS TO ME?" I'm sure I read somewhere that it's possible. I think I saw a story about it in a magazine when I was a teenager.
This is the kind of loon I am.
My sense of smell is going to come back, right? Like, in a few days? Please oh please cross your fingers. I know I'm already a really lucky person and that I probably deserve more crap than I get, but send me a little good luck anyway.
And try not to judge me. I know I'm ridiculous and I judge myself pretty harshly already.
I know, you guys, I KNOW. No blogs. No blogs are being posted and no blogs are being written. No speaks blogs, no chic blogs, no reviews blogs, even! No blogs no blogs no blogs. Who knows when this drought will cease? Who knows from whence it came? Not I, my friends. Not I. Hold in your hearts the hope that this drought will pass. Be ever faithful. And in the meantime...
Sometimes, when you go out for All You Can Eat (AYCE) Sushi with your friends, you find yourself at a place that includes beverages on its AYCE menu. (Score!) And if you're lucky, said beverages include the lurid orange concoction known as Cplus. (Double score!)
Now, some might say that slipping one of these cans of delicious nectar into your purse for later is "stealing." Or, to be specific, "stealing like a crazy old lady" but you know what?
I. DON'T. CARE.
* This is not a real blog post.
** I really did pocket a can of Cplus at AYCE sushi on the weekend. Don't judge.
Howdy do, interwebbers.
It's been a bunch of weeks since I blogged last, mostly because I wanted to give that ED/SAD writeup piece plenty of time in the top spot. It's been shared hundreds of times and the feedback has been lovely and amazing and super duper gratifying. In fact, while I received many many many emails about it (not to mention comments, tweets, FB messages, etc.) I only had to deal with two instances of slightly unpleasant feedback. Note here that I'm not saying negative feedback. Even the two instances of unpleasant feedback were relatively positive. I just wasn't crazy about the interactions. I'll explain.
In one case, the person didn't want to talk about the post at all, didn't want to share her own experiences or feelings in response, only wanted to talk about how "proud" she was of me for writing it. It was sort of... well, condescending, frankly. She gave the impression of being just so above it all. Lame. Especially since this person is totally caught up in her own disordered eating issues and completely unaware of them. But whatever. (Besides that, I just hate it when people who haven't helped me or contributed to my success in any way have the nerve to say they're "proud" of me. Yuck. Pride when you've done nothing to contribute is a bit a of a joke, in my opinion.) I smiled and nodded as is my wont.
The other slightly unpleasant interaction involved someone who brought up the post, but then awkwardly trailed off saying she didn't know what to say about it. Seemed like she felt like I should be embarrassed about sharing too much. Probably because SHE felt embarrassed while reading it. Again, it's worth noting that this reaction ALSO came from a person who is body-obsessed and very invested in her own youth and thinness, so maybe that's part of it. She didn't have anything bad to say, but she made it clear the whole thing made her uncomfortable. She gave the impression that she thought her reaction was the "normal" one. I didn't explain to her that out of hundreds of responses, hers was the only awkward one. Again, I smiled and nodded. What else can you do, right? Poor thing.
To the rest of you, the ones who wrote and shared and basically just behaved like the rad, kind, wonderful people you are: thank you. And to the folks who said nothing because you had nothing nice to say: thank you too.
Life of late has been fairly domestic. I've been doing stuff like baking bread, believe it or not. (Used Mark Bittman's famous no-knead method. Came out kinda yeasty, but not bad.) Here's a photo of the dough, resting:
I've also been trying to season a vintage cast iron pan I found at a junk sale. I can't figure out anything about the brand, but I think the piece is pre 1940s because of the smooth finish. (House filled with smoke. So many black drips. Am going to have to start from scratch. Very depressing.) Here are a couple of photos of the pan before I began my failed refurbishing process:
Finally, I've been trying to get my house clean in a deep sort of way. You know, in a "I moved the fridge and washed under it" sort of way. When cleaning in this fashion, you come across some interesting items. Like REALLY old potatoes. At least, this is the sort of thing I come across. My ancient potatoes looked like this:
Cool, right? Alien-esque.
Anyway. It's not much, but that's what's going on here. (Domestic adventures and little else.) Talk soon. x
Well, here we are in February of 2013 and I have yet to write anything new for the year. Actually, that’s not really true. I’ve written lots of new things, just nothing for the blog. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, or haven’t been thinking about it. I have. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, but hesitating, for various reasons.
The thing is, this blog has evolved a lot. When I first started out blogging, in 2005, I was writing mostly about pithy work stuff. I was so self-conscious. Every post was a name-droppy mess. One week I wrote about interviewing Feist at the Vancouver Folk Festival. Another time, I talked about working a junket for the movie Crash and interviewing Paul Haggis (at the Four Seasons… I believe I made sure to include that oh-so-scintillating fact). This is embarrassing for a lot of reasons. First off, being a name-dropper is inherently gross. (If you’re someone who does it, stop immediately.) Besides that, it just seems … sad. I was sad.
Anyway, after I left that line of work and went back to school to do my MA in Toronto, the blog started to evolve into something more confessional. And okay, that was fine. I like memoir and confessional writing. Always have, despite the fact that the writing scene (literary and less-so) turns a collective nose up at this sort of thing. But my posts were often vague. I can see, looking back, how my posts were a bit like long Facebook status updates where I shared enough to let people know something was going on, but not so much that they would actually know what that something was. I was (and often am) too self-conscious to tell the complete truth about anything. (Again, more on that later.) But on occasion I’d write a post that was truer than others and the response would mushroom. When I wrote that post about high school
for example, about how I felt bullied by the girls in my social group … holy crap. People responded. A lot. In fact, though that post went up a full two years ago, I still get comments on it. (I recently had to close the comments section because I didn’t feel like moderating anymore.) In the same vein, I wrote a post about my grandmother’s death about a year ago that, as many regular readers know, caused quite a stir. I took that one down to appease family members who thought it was unfair (and evidently, that I was a horrible, disgusting person for writing it, if you’re to believe the bilious comments they left), but despite that, as with the high school piece, I still get positive feedback. People get in touch to say they loved the piece, and that they wish I’d left it up. Others write to tell me about their own complicated family relationships and the way the older people in their lives have inspired a mix of love and frustration.
(Sidenote: My own family doesn’t appear to have forgiven me, despite the fact that I took that post down. This has been hard to come to terms with. I try to comfort myself with the idea that I told the truth. My mother-in-law gave me a book for Christmas that addresses this very issue. In her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal
? Jeanette Winterson writes "Unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven. He or she has to learn to forgive him or herself." Maybe this is true. I know many members of my own family would interject here that they are
and that I should just shut up
or some such thing. So anyway. I guess I’ll shut up about that.)
Anyway, back to the mainline. Truth-telling, especially about difficult subjects, seems to be what people respond to, at least in my case. Never was this more apparent than in the response to the post I wrote near the end of 2010 called The weight
. In that piece, I talked pretty frankly about my body obsession and weight cycling and again, people responded. HUGELY. The post was picked up by several other sites, including at least one from overseas written entirely in a Scandanavian language I don’t know. (So I have no idea what anybody said about it, but they sure seemed to say a lot.) In the States, the blog was found by an organization (HealthyPlace
) that focuses on mental health issues and I was invited to speak on one of their podcasts about eating disorders. The comments flooded in, both on the post itself and privately, via email. People wrote to tell me about their own feelings on similar issues. Many people wrote to tell me about their eating disorders. Some just wrote to say hi and to say that the piece made them feel less isolated. (That was nice.)
And ultimately, thanks to the comments and the feedback, I came to see that The weight
was probably the most important thing I’d ever written to date, not because of the feedback itself, but because the feedback gave me perspective. And here’s the big thing that came out of that: I finally faced the fact that I myself have an eating disorder.
Yep. I have an Eating Disorder (ED). And there’s more!
I’ve HAD this disorder for about 20 years. And I didn’t even know it.
Now, to be fair, I knew the way I ate and exercised was (sometimes) questionable, but at the same time, my “disordered behaviours” (this is the way we talk in recovery) all felt relatively normal. I was just dieting. I didn’t have Anorexia because hey, I ate (most of the time). And I didn’t have Bulimia because I didn’t really purge (most of the time). As for those periods of crazy exercise, well, that was just being healthy
. No pain no gain, right? Sigh.
Basically, like a lot of people, I thought Anorexia and Bulimia were all there was. (I bet many of you think that right now, in fact. Nobody tells us about the dangers of sub-clinical disordered eating in general, not to mention Orthorexia, or Anorexia Athletica, or what I have: Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)
. It’s a real thing – a clinically recognized eating disorder with defined diagnostic criteria. EDNOS is, I believe, the most commonly diagnosed ED out there. And before 2012, I’d never even heard of it. Just one more thing to write in the “society is totally fucked up” column.
Anyway. The good news is, I’m getting better. Without going into too much detail about that part of things, I can say that I’m officially “in recovery” and have been for a while. It’s going okay. But EDs, from what I’ve leaned, can be a lot like substance abuse issues in that relapse is always a possibility, and of course, I have shitty days where I hate myself and I am really REALLY tempted to do the things I used to do to “fix” my body, but for the most part, I resist. I’m trucking along. I’m lucky. I’m a “middle class” person who often passes as “white” living in a big city with a lot of resources designed for and made available specifically for people like me. A lot of people aren’t as lucky as I am. (People can and do die from EDs like mine. Or they lead really sad lives chained to their disorders forever.) I’m getting better.
I’m also fat. Have you noticed? People do. Just last week, I had the pleasure of a longish conversation with a stranger who wanted to know when I was “due.” (I said March, by the way, because it just felt so much easier that saying, “Actually, I’m just fat.” *) I get comments about my “still” pretty face. I am faced with friends who are obsessed with their own bodies who look at me and clearly think (sometimes even say) “What HAPPENED?” They’re obviously terrified that whatever it is might happen to them. Others are fond of chastising me for identifying my body as fat at all. “Oh, Jen, you’re not fat!” they exclaim, with so much speed it’s obvious that fat is the worst thing they think a person could be. (I do this too. I can't help it. We all do. We're all trying to be nice.) The thing is, I'm trying to get comfortable with the notion of fat as fine and to let go of the constantly repeated idea that fat = disgusting, lazy, greedy, ugly, etc. etc. etc. ** but people think that way, even though many don't realize it. It makes a lot of folks uncomfortable when you challenge that. It’s all pretty ridiculous. Fat really scares people. (And the truth is, while I’m fat, I’m not even especially fat. I can’t even imagine the absolute horror show of abuse and shame heaped on people who are fatter than I am. It’s truly terrifying and extremely unjust, but that’s another topic and this blog is already long enough as it is. ***) All I’m really trying to say is that since taking real steps to recover, all this body-talk has made social interactions hard. Or rather, harder than they used to be.
Supportive or not, fat-positive or not, kind or not, other people are “triggers” for me. (There’s that recovery language again.) And this might mean that in the last year, I’ve started seeing less of you. Or maybe I deleted you from Facebook or something. This brings us to the second big mental health revelation in this post:
In addition to my super fun ED, I also have pretty pronounced Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Hooray!
As with my ED, I’ve had it for a long time, but my diagnosis is pretty recent. I spent most of my 20s fighting this because when combined with my naturally introverted nature I was seen as “anti-social” and “no fun.” I was embarrassed by my desire to be alone or to spend time with friends one-on-one instead of at parties, so I worked hard to hide that. (Note here that being introverted is not the same as being shy. And neither of those things is the same as Social Anxiety Disorder. There’s lots of literature if you want to read up to better understand the differences.) Anyway, like I said, I worked hard to hide both my natural introversion (which is really no big deal, not an illness or even a problem, and which I’ve learned to accept) and my anxiety (which IS a big deal and can be debilitating ) and I got really good at it. People comment all the time on how gregarious I seem, how good I am at talking to strangers, how confident I am (especially on 5+ drinks). What can I say? When I seem gregarious, I’m really wishing I was dead! Ha ha! Fooled you!
I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience (because everyone’s mental health issues are different, even when they’re ostensibly the same), but in my case, my ED and my SAD are related, and from what I hear, this is often the case. In recovery support groups we talk a lot about how, for some people, the ED is a reaction to stress – a sort of maladaptive coping mechanism that, at least at one time, helped to relive anxiety and dial down the autonomic nervous system response. (Science talk! Woot woot!) This is probably why you’ll hear people who know nothing about Anorexia, for example, talk about how “it’s a control thing.” I assume they heard something along those lines from a high school gym teacher or a teen magazine. It’s not really that simple, but I digress. Certainly, in my case, my ED appears to be a symptom of my anxiety and I’m working on both things concurrently. And I tell you this to explain my rather strong feelings about what is and isn’t okay for me in social situations anymore, which is, I suppose the driving force behind this entire post.
I'm just out. I am out of patience for most of what constitutes “normal” conversation, particularly between women, but really just in general. Your “juice fast,” your New Year’s resolution to “get in shape,” your “jiggle wiggle,” your “cleanse,” your “awesome workouts,” your “Paleo-Atkins-MediFast-WeightWatchers-BiggestLoser-Homeopathic-GlutenFree-Whateverthefuck” – I can’t talk to you about any of that anymore. I can’t hear about it. I can’t take you moralizing about how “bad” you’re being for having that brownie, or how “good” you are for eating that salad. Personally, I can’t because I’m sick and I’m trying to get better and those kinds of conversations contribute to making me worse. Politically, I can’t because I’m just over it. I’m over women being expected to conversationally bond over shared self-hatred. I’m over hearing people congratulate each other for weight loss, even when the weight loss is a result of an illness, like a severe flu, Cancer or an ED. (When I was at my sickest and most engaged with my ED, people were ALWAYS congratulating me, telling me how good I looked, etc. “Good for you,” they’d say. Sometimes, I’d even tell people about my “diets” – I’d confess about how few calories I ate, or how I used to squirt dish soap on food I didn’t want to be tempted to eat (a little trick I learned from a weight-loss guide I ordered from the back of Seventeen magazine when I was 14. I remember the same trick shown on Sex and the City, by the way). People would just keep congratulating. The sentiment was this: Hmm… 500 calories a day? That sounds weird, but stick with it! It’s working! You may be killing yourself, but you look “good” and that’s all that matters!)
So I’m over it. I’m over the whole insane, sexist, scientifically unsound dialogue about health, weight and appearance.
Almost everything you believe about health and weight is probably wrong. Sorry. I know it might annoy you to hear that, but it’s true. It’s a hard fact for people to swallow in general, because most of us have been hearing lies about body appearance our whole lives and we’ve internalized those lies as “common sense.” (For example, “everyone knows” it’s healthier to be thin. Except it’s not. Scientifically speaking. But try to tell people this and then raise your shield because half the people listening are going to want to kill you. We’ve also been told the lie that being “healthy” is somehow the gold standard for personhood. Except, think about that. Do you really believe that someone is a better person who deserves better treatment because he or she is “healthy?” Isn’t that just a bit ableist? Does it really make a lot of sense?) It’s messed up, folks. That’s all there is to it. I’m not going to go into all the evidence and reasoning and science because there’s already a solid community of activists out there doing that and I’d just be paraphrasing them anyway (see footnotes for more on that), but I do want to point out how messed up it is, and how hurtful. And just FYI, hurtful things are stressful things. (And stress really IS unhealthy, physiologically and psychologically. I’m a perfect example of that whole problem at work.)
There are so many ways in which we all (or okay, maybe not all, but many of us) contribute to a completely fucked up culture of disordered eating and distorted body image and we’ve gotta quit it. Even things that seem on the surface to be “normal” and “nice” are really damaging. Even all that “Ooh, you look so great, I hate you” cutesy nonsense is a problem. All that talk talk talk about your gym schedule, etc. is a problem. **** And it’s a problem I’ve been part of. So don’t get me wrong – I’m not accusing you of anything terrible. I’m guilty too. But as I get better I understand more clearly than ever before that this whole conversation – the one that is about the way people look instead of about anything meaningful or important – needs to end. Period. We’re all trained to be judgmental about our bodies and the bodies of other people. I’m not saying that’s going to magically cease if we stop talking about it, but not talking about it is a nice first step. Keep that shit in your head and talk about anything else. There are so many other things that are more worthwhile.
It isn’t always easy, of course, to hold to all these new ideals as I start to get better and try to stay that way. And I make it harder for myself. Just recently, I appeared on a new show on MTV (hey, remember when I used to be on TV all the time?). Someone I used to know from my days on The After Show
invited me to be on this new series called Losing It
. It’s simple, really. You sit on a stool and tell the story of how you lost your virginity. Now why, WHY would a person like me agree to do this? Hello, I have an ANXIETY disorder. I am introverted. Doing a show that would be super exposing, both physically (me as a close-up talking head and torso) and emotionally (sex stories are pretty loaded for most people)? It sounded like a TERRIBLE idea
. And still, I agreed. I agreed because on some level, I believe that my anxiety disorder and my body image issues, etc., all of those things pale in comparison to the importance of telling the truth about things. I knew I would feel self-conscious and embarrassed and awkward telling my story and I knew waiting for it to air would generate a lot of unnecessary anxiety, but on a more rational level, I also know that I don’t really have anything to be embarrassed about. Not about my story, not about the way I look, not about how smart or articulate I am. There’s NOTHING wrong me with. So I did the show. And then I waited for it to air. Sweating
And then it did air and it was fine. I was fine. I came across as sort of funny, and charming enough. There’s nothing wrong with what I said or how I said it. And while my memory of what I was talking about is pretty dim, I still think I fairly represented the spirit of how I felt as a 17 year old, which was, I suppose the point. It was fine. Except… I looked so fat. Hideously fat, I thought, especially compared to the photo they showed of me at 17. And despite all my lofty goals and my political feelings about fat being fine, I freaked out a little. It didn’t help that I followed the online feedback about the show via Twitter. Most of it was complimentary. People love Losing It. The MTV audience (teens, mostly, I’m guessing) think it’s hilarious and that’s great. Almost ALL the comments online are positive. But I saw one (JUST ONE) comment about how some of the storytellers (like me) had obviously let themselves go. Look how unhealthy [read: fat] you’ve let yourselves get since high school, said some little Twitter twit. And because I’m crazy, that’s the comment that stuck. I felt ashamed and like I wanted to argue, “Um, actually, I’m fat because I’m overcoming an eating disorder, so SUCK ON THAT, you heartless bitch!” Seriously. This is the impulse I had to stifle, because really, whatever my issues, I don’t want to be overly-defensive. I don’t want to be that guy. That guy is a fun-sponge. *****
My point is that it’s hard. It’s hard to maintain my recovery in the world, the world being what it is. It’s hard enough for me to attend social events because of my anxiety to begin with, but pile on the fact that 99% of events include some form of weight, appearance, faux-health, diet and/or exercising conversation and it’s even harder. It makes me want to stay home 24/7. And stop reading books, watching TV and looking out the window too, because this body-lunacy, it’s everywhere. But of course, total isolation probably isn’t a good solution. Truth might be. Or it might help a bit, which is, I guess, why I’m writing this.
Sadly, telling the truth about any sort of mental health issue means living with stigma, which is definitely difficult. That’s the idea I struggled with when deciding whether or not to post this epic truth-spew. Sharing any of this opens the door to a huge amount of judgment and advice from the often-well-meaning, but totally-ignorant public. (And as a result, comments will probably be on moderation, FYI.) And I’m sure some of my more pleasant acquaintances are rubbing their hands with glee at my revelations. (Nice folks, those.) But still, I did it. I’m anxious, but I’m trying not to be ashamed.
Shame is the worst, guys. It’s awful and toxic and it contributed to me being sick for a really long time. I was ashamed of so much about myself, especially my repeated “failure” to “fix” my body. (A lot of people think body “fixing” is possible, by the way. It’s just diet and exercise, they shout. Calories in, calories out. ****** Bleh. It's not. Not for everyone. Not all of the time. And besides that, please please please BE QUIET and MIND YOUR BEESWAX.)
Shame made me a liar, too. ******* Before I was married, I lived with a past boyfriend for years and he had no idea that I was sick at all, let alone how sick I was. (To be fair, we had issues. I probably could have died in that apartment and it would have taken days for him to find me. We weren’t exactly caring toward one another.) But also, he didn’t know because I didn’t tell him. I was ashamed, so I lied. I even managed to lie to myself. That’s the power of shame for you.
I’m told, however, that truthfulness detoxifies shame in real, tangible ways. That’s something I’ve heard in recovery. Telling the truth is one of the things that works when you’re trying to get better. I guess that’s one of the reasons support groups are popular. Telling the truth reduces shame.
So here we are. ********
This week (February 3rd to 9th) is Eating Disorder Awareness Week here in Canada, by the way. So this is all pretty timely, wouldn’t you say? (I’m patting myself on the back right now, in fact.)
Hey, remember all those asterisks? Brace yourself. Here come the footnotes.
* There’s a whole movement to reclaim the word “fat” going on, though you might not have heard about it. So before you start up with the “oh, you’re not fat” comments, that I’m sure you mean to be kind, consider this sort of thing. I’m okay with the way I look. Or at least, I’m trying to be. Saying, “Oh, you’re not fat! Don’t be hard on yourself!” isn’t as helpful as you think it is. It would be more helpful to get your head around the idea that there’s nothing wrong with being fat in the first place. Don’t be afraid of fat OR of the word fat, if you can possibly help it. I know it's hard. It's hard for me too. We're trying to undo a lifetime worth of teaching here, people.
** You might think you aren't participating in this idea that fat people are gross, stupid, lazy, smelly, greedy, etc., but the next time you see a fat character on television or in the movies, pay attention. Is that character smart? Kind? Friendly? Or is that character drawn as evil, dumb, mean, etc.? This kind of repeated stereotyping is rarely challenged, but it's bigoted, plain and simple.
*** Want to learn about fat-activism, size-acceptance, fighting bigotry and/or HAES (Health at Every Size)? I suggest blogs/websites like The Fat Nutritionist and Dances With Fat. Or just get Googling. You have internet access, I know you do.
**** It’s totally cool if you love the gym. More power to you, gym-rat! Love boot-camp? That’s cool too. Talking about these interests and pleasures to like minded individuals who’ve agreed to participate in such conversations is fine. Constantly sharing (and thereby upsetting and even inadvertently shaming) other people for living differently, in real life, on social media, etc. is way. less. fine. Your experience is yours. Hooray! Applying your experience to anyone else, foisting it on anyone else? It's not nice. (I know you didn't mean to hurt anyone, but hey, now you know.)
***** A fun-sponge is someone who sucks all the fun out of social interactions. Do you have a fun-sponge in your social circle? Most of us do.
****** Hey, that rhymed!
******* Eating Disorders are incredibly easy to hide. Lots of mental health issues are. I can promise you, most of the time you CANNOT tell who is sick based on the way they look. Now that I'm in recovery, I know people with eating disorders who run the gamut: women, men, transgendered people, fat people, thin people, racially diverse people, sexually diverse people, socioeconomically diverse people, etc. You have no idea. It surprised me a lot when I started treatment, but it’s a fact. You can't tell. Don't want to hurt people by accident? Don't talk about bodies. Easy peasy!
******** FYI, I’m probably not going to be blogging about this sort of thing often. I don’t think this is going to become some sort of mental health/eating disorder blog. It’s probably just going to keep being what is was: rambling, sporadic and emo. And occasionally, true. Or as true as I can make it on any given day. Make of that whatever you will.
P.S. WEE UPDATE 05/02/2013: HealthyPlace, the org that had me speak on its podcast/radio show after I wrote my initial weight post invited me to participate in its Stand Up for Mental Health campaign. So, sure! Here are the buttons:
So, as some of you may already know, I have become carless. I have a car no more. The car is gone. It was never really my car to begin with. It was little more than a loaner, really, but it was a costly loaner. It required too many repairs, too much gas, too much stress. It was necessary and really helpful for work a couple of years ago, but now that I'm largely working from home, it started to seem possible to do without. And if we can all agree to understand the notion of "cost" as something more than financial, let's just say the darn thing cost too much and leave it at that. It's gone.
So I am without wheels. Unless you count my classic bundle buggy, which is my new go-to for transporting groceries, packages for the shop and other sundries. I am OBSESSED with my buggy. Using my buggy makes me look like a little old lady (especially when I'm rocking a babushka - it's happened), but it makes me feel like a city-dwelling super-person. (Granted, my powers are lame and minimal, but nonetheless.) As I roll along, pushing my buggy topped to the brim, I find myself thinking a string of self congratulatory and positive thoughts like "Look at ME and my BUGGY! Look how much stuff I've got in here! I'm getting much done! I'm, like, the most effective, practical, environmentally-friendly, getting-stuff-done sort of person ever. Basically. I mean, look at all this stuff. And look at ME, pushing it along like it's nothing. I'm the best. Me plus car = totally average. Me plus buggy? Amazeballs! I love MY SUPER AWESOME BUGGY. My buggy is my new best friend. Me and my buggy. Together forever. Buggy buggy buggy."
You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. (Okay, maybe I am a little, but I'm mostly serious.) Pushing my buggy makes me feel great. Strangely confident. I have no idea why.
And then there's taking the TTC (that's what we call Toronto's public transit system, for you out of town readers). I have historically HATED the TTC. Mean bus drivers, motion sickness and a touch of agoraphobia means public transit and me aren't a great mix. Or so I thought. I've remembered something in these last few weeks without a car. I don't fundamentally hate the TTC. I hate it during rush hour. As long as it's not a peak time, the TTC is fine. Riding the city's subways, buses and streetcars reminds me of being a kid, in a good way. I often felt chained as a child, and long before I knew how to drive and certainly before I had my own vehicle, public transit lengthened that chain. It gave me a tiny little bit of freedom that I was desperate for at a time when I felt trapped. It was a way to go where I wanted to go. Far away, if that was my desire. And who could stop me?
I had forgotten how satisfying it was to be able to get miles away from home, where nobody knew me and nobody seemed to notice me, for just a few bucks. I had forgotten how much I loved the anonymity. Sure, it may have seemed odd to the drivers -- to see a kid travelling alone all the way across the city -- but not one driver ever bugged me about it. This is a big place after all. People mind their own business. (A good thing and a bad thing, I know, but for my purposes, a wonderful thing. A relief and a joy.)
There is so much I've forgotten. When you combine that thought with the idea that there's also so much I don't know, understanding the world seems like an overwhelming feat, but these little re-realizations are comforting nonetheless. The city is a living, breathing thing. It's dirty and frustrating and frightening, yes. And it's teeming and strangely beautiful. I'd forgotten. I was outside of all that, shielded by the comforting bubble of my own car, my little protected space. Mine mine mine. But now I'm back in the mix, where nothing specific is mine and I can have a little bit of everything all the same. I'm part of the masses crawling over the surface of this place that we have to share, and it feels good. Crisscrossing the city on foot, seeing it from the window of a streetcar, climbing down into the subway ... I feel like I'm right inside the belly of the world, close to its beating heart.
Over the past several years, I've been in the process of letting things go. Giving things up. Some of the things I lost in the early days of this went of their own accord, leaving me terrified and worried about how I would get them back. I felt like I'd dropped several rungs on the ladder of success. That feeling passed. It passed slowly, but it passed. And eventually, I started giving things up by choice -- the "career" I thought I wanted, complete with the salary I imagined was necessary -- for example. And every time I made the choice to have "less" I felt better. But still, I've had trouble learning the lesson at the heart of this. Just weeks ago, I was struggling with the idea of giving up the car. What if I'd become to used to it? What it not having it felt too hard? It offered so much convenience. What would I do without it?
I worried and worried and worried, but ultimately, I let it go and now, all those frightened feelings have evaporated. Because, as has happened every time I've lost or given up this sort of thing in the past, EVERY SINGLE TIME, I've gotten more or better back in trade.
Having less, for me, provides a fundamental feeling of relief. It makes me do things I wouldn't otherwise do. It's how I ended up back in Toronto in the first place. It's how I found Nate. It's what made me finally open the store I'd been thinking about for a decade. And now, it's what's getting me out of the house and back in touch with the world. (I think this is called "connectedness.")
This is something worth remembering. For next time.
*Photos from today's post were snapped from the left windows of the northbound Bathurst streetcar.
I don't really have anything to blog about. Sorry about that. But you know what I keep seeing? That Dior commercial from last year with Charlize Theron in it. Do you know the one? It's strangely compelling. I was chatting with someone about it recently and they mentioned that it kind of makes them want to buy the perfume, which makes it a successful ad, of course. But, said this friend, it's not because of Charlize, but because of the song that's playing.
She liked the song, and it made her want to buy a perfume. (Advertising is totally freaking crazy, right?) And she's not the first person to tell me this. People love that song (Heavy Cross by The Gossip). Here's the commercial:
Anyway. You know what I think EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE THIS COMMERCIAL? I think, "Why did Dior go to the trouble of buying the rights to an awesome Beth Ditto/The Gossip song and then spend a billion gazillion trillion more dollars making a commercial to go along with it in order to make people buy perfume, when The Gossip had already made a gold-heavy video that could have worked just as well? And people probably would have bought the perfume regardless. WHY?"
The answer is this: because Charlize is thin. And her body (at least in this video) resembles the stupid bottle the perfume comes in. And they wanted to reference Marilyn Monroe. That's what "they" (the silly group of people who came up with this ad) thought would get people to buy the perfume. And that makes sense, I suppose. Advertising is what it is. (It's CRAZY - see above.)
Nonetheless, Dior has spent a bazzillon jillion pillion dollars and they probably didn't need to spend. And now they're spending additional crazillions buying ad space to keep airing the commercial, more than a year after it debuted. And since I think most branding/advertising is basically evil, this makes me kind of happy. Or at least, if I spin it this way in my mind, it makes me a little happier.
Spend your money, Dior. Spend it all. If you really want to make me happy, go bankrupt.*
Anyway. I love Beth Ditto. That's all I really wanted to say.
Wow. That post was totally random, eh? And SO not timely. Oh well.
* I'm not really being serious. I know Dior and the likes of Dior are just going to spending gazillions on stupid shit and it won't matter because they have gazillions to spend and spending said gazillions in such a way just means they're going to make additional gazillions, because a lot of people are stupid/thoughtless and advertising works. But a girl can dream, right?