Women’s garb in the Maqâmât of al-Ḥarîrî

Note the headgear!

Miriam's Middle Eastern Research Blog

All images taken from one manuscript of the Bibliothèque nationale de France’s copy of the Les Maqâmât d’Aboû Moḥammad al-Qâsim ibn ʿAlî al-Ḥarîrî, known as manuscript Arabe 3929. The Maqâmât (or “Assemblies”) are 50 stories, written in the mid 13th century C.E. in northern Syria. The prose is written in the style known as saj’, meant to be learnt by rote and recited to others by heart.

This image of of the hero of the story Abu Zayd (on the right of the image) and his wife. This is Image f40 in the manuscript.

This image is Abu Zayd and his wife being arrested. Taken from Image f49 in the manuscript.

Abu Zayd appearing as an old woman. Taken from Image f85 in the manuscript.

Another picture of Abu Zayd as an old woman. Taken from Image f88 in the manuscript.

Abu Zayd appearing before the Kadi. The…

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Starving

I read a news item the other day that clamped my throat shut with rage tears and will not fade from my brain.

Did you see this article?

https://nypost.com/2018/04/19/mckayla-maroney-how-larry-nassar-manipulated-us-with-food/

“I think I would’ve starved at the Olympics if I didn’t have him bring me food,” Maroney said.

Nassar’s simple gestures shielded a disturbing ulterior motive. Maroney claims he would take advantage of the gymnasts’ insecurities, depicting himself as a savior of sorts, in the midst of competitions.

“[He would] buy me a loaf of bread,” she said

It’s not just how deeply fucked up it is to starve children, period; or to do so because they can jump higher when they’re skinny.  It’s not just the horrible culture of child athletes being broken like ponies, and worked harder than rented mules.  The anger about all of this is real, for me; immediate and deep.

 

But it pushed other buttons, stirred some deep pots in my basement hearth.

 

Food is involved.  A child in need of food.

 

An evil man disguised as kind…who won’t feed a child for nothing.  Coaxing trust with a trail of breadcrumbs. Betraying the real gratitude and abusing the trust.  Being a savior but also cutting a kid open, taking a pound of flesh from a kid who has none to spare.  A kid who is hardworking and hungry and trying so hard…cut up for his pleasure.  What kind of monster doesn’t take care of a kid?

 

I’m just so upset about this I can’t even describe it.

 

I never told Mom about the abuse.  For a lot of reasons, but foremost because we relied on Papa (and Grandma) for food and shelter.  We lived in their house and ate at their table; they watched us while Mom worked and commuted.  My step-grandfather was kind to me.  He taught me a lot of lessons in how to be a stand-up guy, so to speak; how to be loyal to friends, how to laugh off embarrassment, how to enjoy hard work.  He taught me how to dance in the tiny kitchen.  He taught me how to joke around, and pushed back against my grandma’s overprotection and fear for me, which taught me to be fearful.  He tried to teach me to be less afraid of bees and swimming and dead things, when I was very little, and he was the only person in the family who made statements of praise or appreciation — not only for me — but it was alien to the culture of my grandmother’s family, which he joined.
He always tried to take care of me.  One time, he was framing a porch addition and a piece of lumber slipped, cutting his head open, and you know how head wounds bleed.  He needed help and ran up to the door, shouting for my mother, and seeing me see him through the side window, turned his back and tried to modulate his voice to calmly convince me that I mustn’t look out the window but needed to get Mom right away, fast as you can.
He started molesting me when I was 8, almost 9.  I started having panic attacks.  I got my first bad grades…then overcompensated and never got a bad grade for years.  And I started eating to feel calm.  Pictures of me from that era show a healthy, smiling outdoor kid with long blond hair turning to a frowning brownette chub, over the course of a few months.  I cried a lot and acted out — sarcasm, tantrums, attention-seeking, other criminal acts in a Norwegian farm environment. Family decided I was envious of my baby sister, who had stopped being a wailing red grub and became a delightful cherub wreathed in golden curls, getting all the positive attention I used to receive.  An aunt gave me a kids’ book about transactional analysis (T. A. for Tots and Other Prinzes, by Alvyn M Freed, PhD) and I read it over and over, not understanding why it wasn’t helping.
What helped was eating.  Lots of reading, too, since I wasn’t sleeping anyway.  Eating was a sensory pleasure and made me calm, through digestive torpor rather than self-regulation. I felt hungry all the time — or what I thought was hunger; I was starved for calm.  I ate and ate and ate.  And I never spoke up.
So when I read about a man who bought a girl’s trust with a loaf of bread, I wanted to vomit my every excess, consumed over decades, ever since I was 8, almost 9.
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Processing Change / Developing Self

This shouldn’t even be a draft, but I’m going to publish it as a reminder.

DABDA (1969):  Denial – Anger – Bargaining – Depression – Acceptance. 

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross framed processing news of a fatal diagnosis in stages of shock, denial, anger, bargaining, and depression (with parallel tracks of hope) as a sort of stairway to acceptance.  (This frame, if I recall correctly, was to inform care providers who might support the patient better with an understanding of the steps involved.)  Other people have called it a rollercoaster, with some stages more short or long or profound in their effects, with looping back to previous sections, but the author noted that it was not a linear process.  Acceptance isn’t necessarily final but is potentially long-lasting, as there is no going back from death.

Scientific Change Results from Paradigm Change (1962) : Pre-Paradigm; Normal Science; Crisis Period; Paradigm Shift; New Normal.

Dr. Thomas S. Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions to describe the history of change in the scientific community.  Pre-Paradigm (multiple incomplete and possibly incompatible theories, with no common body of agreed-upon facts); Normal Science (dominant paradigm / consensus covers everything, but unexplainable anomalies accumulate to show weaknesses of paradigm); Crisis Period (unaccountable anomalies stress people out; Normal Science tries to resolve; if it fails, move to the next phase); Paradigm Shift (old, deep assumptions are questioned and a new paradigm is established); Post-Revolution (new paradigm becomes Normal Science.) Wash, rinse, repeat.

This framework of understanding is very important to me, since I grew up in a rural area that used to admire science as a way to breed healthier livestock and produce blight-free crops with high yield…but later were convinced that science is a liar, or at best Not All That It’s Made Out To Be, because it conflicts with the Bible and conflicts with itself and things get disproven.  Sigh.

Stage of Change Model (Transtheoretical Model, 1983):  Pre-Contemplation; Contemplation; Preparation; Action; Maintenance; Relapse.

Prochaska and DiClemente conceptualized the model of change (intentional behavior change) as stages:  Not Ready to change (unaware of problem); Getting Ready to change (aware of problem); Preparation (figuring out how to approach solution); Action (making a change); Maintenance (sustaining a change); Relapse (action / change was not fully effective; time to learn lessons from failure and try again.)  Wash, rinse, repeat.

This model of change is like a personal version of Kuhn’s paradigm shift process, with the emphasis on its spiraling nature, with relapse an essential part of growth, for those of us who do not make a single correction to perfection.

Other Models:  Ohio Model; Boston University Model

Because I work in the mental health field, many of the models of change I see relate to specific problems (dealing with addiction; dealing with mental illness) but seem to follow a similar pattern.  The Ohio Model has four stages:  dependent on the system / unaware of recovery; dependent / aware; independent of system / aware; interdependent / aware.  The BU model also has four stages:  overwhelmed by illness and assessing; struggling with illness and ready; living with illness, and working on recovery; living beyond their illness, and maintaining recovery (with easy return to what worked if relapse occurs.)  Both models talk about personal change and relationship with the system of support (medical, mental health, addiction.)

These are stages of change, not development, so I’ll wait, for the time being, to integrate these essentially very similar process models into a plan of action related to stages of development.

Development of self is not a primarily corrective process, but one of evolution, or becoming something new.  Each stage has tasks and challenges that must be met for complete growth into the next phase, to meet those new tasks and challenges in a state of preparation and readiness.

One psychosocial model of development stages is from Erik Erikson:

Psychosocial stages summary table

This model means so much to me because in addition to being fascinated by ego psychology, I am a big fan of attachment theory.  The earliest lessons we learn about whether the universe is safe; where and when we can trust others, ourselves, and the world; and the importance of consistency and reliability — things being reliably “good enough” to sustain confidence that all is well and will continue to be so — i.e., hope.

(Digression:  just as an act of deliberate, serious self-harm can compromise the self — how can I feel confident in myself, knowing that I tried to kill myself?  I certainly wouldn’t rely on someone who tried to kill me! — so it might be, in a parallel way, that learning lessons of habitual reliability and consistency might help a person apply themselves to learning, or craft, or artistic expression, with discipline and confidence that doing something for an hour a day will yield fruit?  Compare this to the lessons learned by people whose motto is “Can’t Win, Don’t Try.”  What lessons did those people learn about application and outcome?)

A thing I would ultimately like to address is the neglected or overlooked process of aging, which is condemned here to a “65+” realm.  Many of the Norwegian prairie farmers in my family stayed compos mentis into their late 90s / early 100s.  I know the first five stages occur before early adulthood, and there is much less change in late adulthood, but shoving older adults in a single box marked “Wisdom” is not sufficient.

But right now Honey wants to take out the trash, and I need to make breakfast, and oh god how long have I been typing?  Another day, another distraction.

 

 

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Consent

[Caveat lector: This is a small and rubbery slice of a large and tender topic. If you can’t courteously and thoughtfully stay on my topic, I totally understand — it’s a toughie — but I am invoking the Gitcher Own Damn Blog Rule in advance. ]

So:  lately I have seen a lot of women exhorting men to STOP if the woman you are pursuing is sending mixed signals, because it’s monstrous to be with someone who is checked out of her body and not care, and if she is scared and sad, it’s not okay to have sex with her.

On the face, I get it: pay attention to those mixed signals.  If things aren’t full speed ahead, don’t go there.  Some say, at this point, “It’s not fun or worthwhile for either of you,” some say, “that’s where rape begins — not with lack of consent, but lack of wholehearted consent.”

I hesitate to disagree as loudly and firmly as I would like, since I already feel alienated from young feminists and would like to strengthen those ties rather than weaken them.  But there are so many reasons I disagree with that line of thinking, or that it invalidates my own experiences.

1. Don’t Interpret Me.  Let Me Do That.

Telling a guy not to take me at face value, but to interpret me and think he knows better than I do, is insulting as hell.  Don’t train men to patronize us, please; there is too much of that already.

2. Don’t Expect Me To Be Of One Mind About ANYTHING

I was sexually abused as a child.  There was physical and emotional abuse in the same milieu.  In order to parse out my feelings and where I stood, to derive a sense of body ownership and control, to learn to enjoy sex and move independently of my trauma, I went through a long period of having sex with people I did not have relationships with, some of whom I barely knew.  It wasn’t always easy, fun, or pleasant, but it was always profound, important, educational — I learned from it and took it to heart.  The regrets and pangs and bittersweet moments were all learning opportunities.  Mostly it was a blast, to be honest.  What I learned could only have had the value it did in the context of broad experience and taking risks, choosing to have some dodgy sexual experiences (or having some sexual interactions with a higher ambivalence quotient) simply to have them.  For science, yes; but also to follow my inner demons down their rabbit hole, to test out the stuff they whispered in my ear.  I had to do it for myself.  But any dude going into that experience with me, had he listened to the modern feminist chorus, would have run screaming, and I would not have had those chances to work out my ya-yas, would not have had those chances to experience loving generosity with near strangers who may still have fond recall of a grinning girl, glad to be grabbed, with or without the shadow behind her eyes.

3. Don’t Ask Me To Hide My Ambivalence & Mixed Feelings

Having to hide how I really feel in order to meet your excruciating consent standard isn’t just ironic, it’s absurd.

But there is also the fact that getting-to-know-you sex can be deliciously thrilling due to emotional exposure — honest needs and vulnerabilities, showing and trusting, being trusted with someone else’s raw fears and needs, feeling protected and protective, feeling that collaborative joy, or even feeling the delicate sense of exposure and discovery — including some fear / sadness / ambivalence, some acknowledgment of the same in the other person.  Just because you are a raging horndog doesn’t mean you run free from all shame, sadness, guilt, whatever.  But saying DON’T DO IT IF IT’S NOT FREE OF THOSE UNSIGHTLY EMOTIONS is to deny any sex that isn’t flawlessly perfect between flawlessly perfect people.  Which I am not, will never be, and do not wish to be.  Honest intimacy must admit imperfection.

You might think Barbie and Ken in their pink plastic Hilton represent the acme of human decadence, but the real juju comes from humping on a pile of our collective emotional baggage, and keeping each other safe as we go.

4.  Let Me Own My Mistakes; Don’t Take Consent Out Of My Hands By Making It All On Him

There is a profound difference between being raped and making a decision you regret:  consent.  If I go into sex with doubts and misgivings, and end up having regrets, I learn from that and act accordingly.  If I am taught that my dance of ambivalence ended in regret and that equals rape, then consent is out of my hands, and HE should have known better (known me better than I know myself!) and I have no agency.  Unless you are perfect, freedom means making mistakes and living with the results.

I know we all feel we *have* to be perfect — some quadrants of feminism (not my own, obviously) demand perfection, and that’s a pretty raw place — but I would argue that’s a holdover from the madonna-whore/pedestal-gutter dichotomy and should be discontinued.

5. This All Changes In Relationships

My many one-night stands were lovely.  No emotional demands, but some lovely emotional dividends; sincere effort; cheerful greed; and better or worse manners, noted and forgotten, with no lasting impact other than pleasant memories.  Consent in brief clashes is great collaboration, like splitting a bottle with the next table in a restaurant.  Consent in ongoing monogamous relationships has multiple layers.  There is the assumption that, because we are monogamous, we only have each other as a sexual outlet and must always or almost always say yes.  That if we say yes, it must be to everything.  That if I have reservations, you must feel their burden, or at least care about the burden I feel.  That sex has to happen with a certain frequency Or Else We Fail As A Couple.  On and on.

This topic is uncomfortable to me, and I don’t particularly want to talk about it.  But the fact is, I had a boyfriend in and after college who made me cry at least once per day, usually when we were having sex, which we did every day.  He later figured out he had a personality disorder that made him abusive and controlling, especially in sexual contexts, but that didn’t help when we were together.  He was also a serial cheater. But when I hear women exhorting men to stop pushing for sex if you see her struggling with guilt / shame / fear / sadness under the superficial acquiescence, I would rephrase it as a plea for empathy, as well as practical advice:

You Might Not Want To Make Her Hate Sex With You.

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General Update

Exercise:

Haven’t been posting about it since my shame receptor burned out, but going to the fitness club is now painless.  Helpful hint if I ever fall off again:

  • Change your SHIRT AND BRA AT WORK;
  • Change your PANTS AND SHOES AT GYM.

Changing clothes is my least favorite part of the process.  I hate flapping my tits at the gym (terrifyingly packed with coworkers) while I try to untangle my sports bra.  I hate changing pants and shoes at work, because our floors are not safe to touch and my ride is waiting while I fumble with keeping shoe soles from touching work clothes.  It works well to split them.  Takes less time at each end, lowers stress all the way around.

Still need to find a reliable distraction.  One session on the treads was wrecked by having more than half of the TVs showing the same revolting right-wing news show, with the other two TVs valiantly screeching about the same stressful crazy-time stuff from the “please don’t kill people without good cause” / AYFKM end of the spectrum, with the rest being two-teams-I-don’t-care-about-playing-football-poorly.  UGH.  But I can’t read when I am treadmilling it, I hate podcasts / being read to, and my music choices always, always fail when I make playlists in advance.

Diet:

Failing so far, not worried for now.  I have a plan that is ready to execute, but I also have a workplace happy hour tonight.

Work:

Unhappy hour.  We’re all ready to quit or burn the place down.  One reason for the happy hour tonight is to break in a new team member, see if we’re heading toward jelling, or heading toward disaster.  The person seems like a dim shipwreck but we’re desperate here.

Family:

Has been better.  LOTS better.  Home-prime is alienated for both of us.  My best friends are struggling with marriages and illnesses and newly emptied nests and new normals.  My own reason for being is having surgery next month.  My aunt is guilt-tripping me to visit her before she dies, and my baby sister, who is still in her 30s, not only had her breast cancer return, but found that it’s metastasizing.  That gut-ache is too much to talk about now, or here.

Mental Health:

Visualizing what I look like in a state of rich contentment is depressing.  Had a panic attack at work yesterday, leading me to skip the gym, go to the store, have junk food for dinner, and not do as I had intended and make a plan for mental health.  Hell is certain.

 

 

 

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup

I don’t know what makes this Egyptian, as opposed to any other North African region or nation.  Unless it is the birthplace of red lentils, I may have un-Egyptianed it by running in my own direction.  This was primarily to differentiate it from two other soup / stew dishes I make that are very similar:  a spicy tomato-chicken-peanut stew, and a chickpeas-yam-coconut milk affair.  All are flavored with what might generically be called “curry”, albeit with highly individual profiles.

Here is my first try at the recipe I see everywhere called Egyptian Red Lentil soup:

  • 4-5 C red lentils, picked and washed
  • 2 C diced onion
  • 1 C thinly sliced celery
  • 2-3 C diced white potato
  • 3 T freshly ground cumin, maybe more
  • 1 T freshly ground Szechuan peppercorns, maybe more
  • Spices:  Madras curry powder to use as a generic base; 5 spice; freshly ground coriander seed; cayenne, paprika, turmeric, saffron, bay leaf
  • ~20 large cloves garlic, coarsely sliced (~1 head of garlic, or 1/3 to 1/2 C)
  • Butter and oil
  • Unsweetened Greek yogurt, fresh cilantro, lemon juice for garnish

 

Toast the curry spices, turmeric, and some cumin, then saute in butter and oil.

Add onion, saute briefly; add celery, saute until both are nearly tender.

Add potato.  Cover with water and increase heat, tasting and re-seasoning.  Go heavy on the cumin.

Add a couple of inches of water, then add bouillon to mild strength.

Re-season with saffron, coriander seed, 5 spice, hot spices, bay leaf, half the garlic, and even more cumin.

Add lentils and the bay leaf.  Slowly heat to bubbling and turn low to simmer.

When the lentils have cooked, they will lose their form.  At this point, add the rest of the chopped garlic and heat only until it is no longer raw.

Serve with or without blending, with or without garnish.

***********************

Let it sit overnight if possible — it’s divine the next day.  It’s spectacular with ham, if your dietary restrictions permit.

If I were going to merge this with my other favorite North African vegetarian soups, I would add carrots, integrate the yogurt and lemon juice, and blend.

As it is, I would recommend this as a warming winter soup or as a summer side dish, scoop-able with pita or mounded under the meat.

Fire-roasted cumin-rubbed lamb kebabs

Spinach salad with pecans, tomatoes, and sweet pickled red onion

Spicy red lentil stew served cold, with pita and lemon wedges

Torshi (a sort of fermented / pickled vegetable — Persian giardiniera)

Iced mint tea with honey and cucumber

Lime sherbet with pomegranate arils

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11/20/2017 – Fitness Log and Blog

11/17 – Friday.  Got off only a little late from work.  Saw that the coveted near-end treadmill was free and jumped on it…only to learn that the TV it faces was NOT turned to the coveted channel.  I do not know how to operate the remote, and am too timid to change a channel in front of a room of strangers who might be watching it…even if it is showing the same damned news program that’s on three other screens.  DAMN IT.

Learned that being able to tune out to cheerful home & garden reno shows is a big part of my tolerance for otherwise dead time on the treadmill.

Ate delicious tacos afterward, too — shredded beef toothpicked into a tortilla, frozen, and deep-fried, just like those at Juan’s (Irma’s) in Phoenix.  Sublime.  Hard to diet with a few days left to Thanksgiving.

Decided not to go to the gym over the weekend.  Every damned day is just too intrusive.  Maybe one day it will be part of my real self-care routine, along with brushing teeth and washing bod, but for now it is part of my work day:  go to work, go to gym, and my work day is not over until I’ve gone to the gym.

I plan to cultivate a gym routine that decompresses me from work, but for now, getting the routine in place is the key step I have to complete before I can move forward.  (Realizing that there are steps in life, one BEFORE the other, is a big deal for me, and new enough that it might slip away from my awareness.)

But the gym is not yet helping me decompress.  First I will need to lose a LOT of weight, and I will need to improve my cardiac strength.  The doctor says I’m fine based on healthy blood pressure, but when I exercise, the chest pains and overall feeling of weakness is real.

Over the weekend, I ate too much, drank too much, and didn’t sleep nearly enough.  When I did sleep, I had nightmares about work.  Part of it is the stress of my workplace, period, which involves high expectations and low support, and part of it is the misery of one of my clients.  It’s weighing on me heavily.

Over the weekend I cooked and played video games — didn’t sew, didn’t clean — and did run errands including holiday groceries.  But I woke up at three this morning and never got back to sleep.  Had to call in sick to work — I was so groggy / logy that I was not in a position to make it to work safely, maintain environmental awareness, or perform to the minimal degree of competency.  Tried to nap earlier, but I was cycling hot and cold; the best I managed was a few hours of horrid dreams (involving my job AND trying to find my lost mother AND going to a loved one’s funeral) followed by lying in bed, shuddering in and out of sleep, finally giving up and getting up.

Today I am grateful for mind-numbing video games and TV shows that are total fluff.  Chores are good therapy, but some days I don’t have the energy.  Id est quod id est.

11/16/17 – fitness log

Stress level:  Left work two hours late, still behind, high stress.  Bawling my head off for a suicidal client as I entered the gym, only to run into chipper coworkers…one of whom followed me into the locker room and chatted at length as she peeled outer layers to a bathing suit underneath, and I unpacked and repacked and re-un-packed my workout clothes to avoid flashing my tits at someone who outranks me.

There should be a special stress modifier to amplify running into coworkers in public, with bonus gold star and oak leaf cluster for being cornered in a changing room.

Exercise:  light day due to short sleep, high stress (chest pounding before I even started) and kept the incline and speed low until the end.  I cranked both a few minutes before cool down and moved my heart rate from moderate to borderline high.  Honestly, the distraction of home and garden shows, Jeopardy, and the sportsball makes the time pass for me.  36.5 minutes at 2+ mph / 2%, 3.5 minutes at 3 mph / 5%, 110 – 140 hr.

Feelings:  a little shame and self-loathing, possibly residual from work, not specifically linked to any gym activity or incident.

Breakfast:  two eggs and a tsp of butter, ~200 kcals

Lunch:  mug of saffron rice made with rich stock, probably an easy 500 kcal (~300 rice, ~200 schmaltz)

Dinner: big bowl of leaves (negligible), chicken lunch meat (100?), a mushroom and a two-inch section of small zucchini (who cares, call it 25) and some oil and vinegar dressing (200? I don’t care.)  400 total?

This would put me in good shape, but I’m about to have a large cocktail and something crunchy, so add another 400-500.  Still might be lower than usual.

Wish I could exercise hard enough to work out my ya-yas without giving myself a stroke.

 

 

11/15/2017 – fitness log

Workout status: 40 minutes walking, 5 minutes cooldown, steeper incline today, higher heart rate (120-130), currently having chest pains.

(Didn’t work out yesterday due to working two hours later than anticipated. 😦  )

Feelings:  looked forward to going to the gym; bored on the treadmill; worried about those chest pains.  Not an iota of shame.

[Maybe there is something to this whole idea of letting your feelings run their course without trying to stifle / smother / repress / out-think / overanalyze / reduce / diminish / discount / etc. those feelings in a way that most people would (inaccurately) call gaslighting.  If you would condemn your crummy ex-boyfriend for treating you that way, why are you treating YOURSELF that way?]

Body:  taking it easy means very little soreness.  Here on Day Two, we are glad to be setting a good new habit, not trying to overdo it and break routine to recover, not causing damage that will lead to delay.  A good habit can be made better.

Dinner:  bowl of micro greens topped with the meat mix for PF Chang-style lettuce wraps: pound of ground turkey and med-small onion fried in a little oil; 2 T *each* minced garlic, minced ginger, hoisin sauce, shoyu, rice wine vinegar, sriracha, and finely sliced scallions; can of water chestnuts, matchsticked; drizzle of sesame oil to finish, dressed with more splashes of vinegar and tossed with the leaves.  Tasted very good, but enough sodium to knock you down.

SUPER short sleep last night — woke at 4:13 and never went back to sleep — but I bet I sleep like the dead tonight.

 

 

11/14/2017 – morning thoughts, late for work

Working out and paying attention to fitness is reminding me of my timelines:  relationship to food, others, self.

I was a skinny, happy kid.  I liked being fancy AND I was a total tomboy.  The nature of kidness for me was minimally gendered and all about fun.

When my grandfather started molesting me, I started gaining weight.  (Family photos show a sudden transformation from a laughing, long-haired sprite to a bulky, short-haired brick with a frown and tired eyes.)  I had already been discovering sexual feelings on my own, thank goodness for that, but I was also being heavily gendered and sexualized by an adult who bought me my first pair of heels and thigh-highs when I was nine years old.  We lived in the country. I had precious little human context, so whatever I saw from people seemed like what it all must be.

Moving around made me the new kid, not fat but chubby.  My first defense mechanism was brains — staying in at recess, reading books all the time, making friends with teachers and getting their approval.  I played sports for a while, but not well.  My second defense mechanism was humor.  At that age, it was a withering sarcasm, suitable as shield AND sword, a habit it took a long time to outgrow.

Junior high unpopularity waxed and waned.  I was borderline hysterical, going from a school an hour away (where my aunt was a guidance counselor, hissing at me between classes about letting her down, she bragged about me, the teachers aren’t seeing it, I’m a laughingstock and it’s All Your Fault!) to a home that was terrifying.  We were back living with my grandparents, and I was sleeping on a cot at the foot of my grandfather’s bed, tired all the time, scared to use or leave the bathroom or be alone with him, trying and failing to do my algebra homework, crying in the shower, getting chewed out by my mother and grandmother, thinking about the night time to come.

The summer before high school, I determined to be thin, funny, vivacious, blithely indifferent to anyone’s regard for me, and keenly aware of the effects I had on others.  There was no secret hope that this would make me popular; only that I would be loved by all. (I used to think that’s what popularity was; now I know better.)  I did it.

Skinny waxed and waned in college, but morale was sunk by my first boyfriend being a churl, and second boyfriend being a charming abuser with a scorching case of borderline personality disorder.  My looks were a comfort to me, as was the admiring attention of strangers.  I loved the interim times when I could just have anonymous encounters with strangers — relief, reassurance, gallantry on both sides, a pleasant memory, without strings or feels or fuckups. Occasionally running into “silent partners” in grocery stores or social situations, with nothing but a secret smile or open chuckle of acknowledgement, a grin to the host and inside joke with a fellow guest. My hat is off to you all; you did me more good than that one night!

Weight waxed and waned with depression in my first marriage, which was a mistake, but we did the best we could until giving up in 2000.  I didn’t get TRULY fat, EXTREMELY fat, until my current relationship — which started gloriously and turned scary for me, moving to a new town, struggling during the cementing phase of the relationship, fighting a lot, having no support or resources or career — but having access to a bottomless well of beer and quality Mexican food.

Wash, rinse, repeat until 2010-2011.  Relationship happy and smooth; grief from leaving my beloved and profitable first career behind as it was no longer either; beginning grad school.

It’s 2017.  I’ve finished grad school and associateship and am now licensed.  Still very happily married, but lots of personal stuff put to the side over the years…nearly 18 years now.  Enough time to grow up and get my shit together, I hope.  But what a colossal mucking out I need.  What an enormous debt to work down.  What austerity awaits me during what should be the prime of my life.  So much starting over.

But I did my best, did what I had to to survive.  I always said I’d pay for it later, and later seems to be now.