Category Archives: Princess MeMeMe

It isn’t full circle

It isn’t full circle, I have to tell myself that, when I find myself in a chair no one held six years ago when I was falling apart and people asked, “Was I doing okay,” but took it at mostly face value when I said yes, then let me fall apart and drop off the face of the earth, only to slowly scotch tape, duct tape, Krazy glue myself back together with no one’s particular help (no matter how much I did try to ask, too little too late, but still, I did ask and they vowed, marital, Hippocratic, parental, but still, they all failed, when asked they unanswered).

It isn’t full circle, I have to tell myself that, that I now sit in the chair that no one held six years ago and tell the truth I did not want to hear.  ”You are not doing okay,” I say, and lay out the hard options, which are take the time off which is some hardship, or take the exit and the door will hit you hard in the ass on the way out, and trust me, that will take longer to recover from.  I don’t say, “I’ve been there,” but I do say that maybe the time off will give them time to straighten things out, and if not, at least give them time to make a more graceful exit.  It’s hard to be kind, but if it’s not kind, it’s true, and it’s a truth no one told me and a tough love I had to learn all by myself (a love for myself I had to learn, too, when the people who owed me nothing didn’t bother to extend me anything, either).

So, no. It isn’t full circle.  It’s miles and loops and six years ahead of myself. And fuck yes, it’s hard, because I want to cry with them, too, and cry for myself, for who I was then and still always will be, just a bit, always a little raggedy-broken unevenly stuck to myself in places it hurts to detach myself from to sit in a different chair than where I ever expected to be— but that is the joy and the pain of learning and growing and doing something for others that no one bothered to do for you.

It isn’t full circle, it’s a line, and it’s a line going forward. That’s better.

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Snow more

We are at record snow levels in Boston; the last time there was this much snow in a month,  much less a winter, I was barely aged 4.  There are pictures (square, faded, and now I would have to crop and choose a phone filter to get that effect) of the snow piled roof-high against the garage.  I remember the snow slide, the kids on this block climbing up the side of the snow pile while kindergarten was cancelled to slip, down, down again.  It was two weeks of snow down snow pants and up jackets and inside mittens, and then running down the block to get sleds, the six-foot plus piles of snow on sidewalks piled like tunnels, way over our heads.

It felt cold and free then, and you could go in the house to get warm when it got (rarely) too much.  Who’d ever have known that now we’d have WiFi, and there’d be no such thing as an adult snow day anymore– just breaks to go shovel snow and uncreak your back from sitting at your laptop by wearing it out hurling snow into claustrophobic sidewalk tunnels that close in your car, cold and too much.

There’s another 15 inches predicted this weekend, and all I can think is I’m glad I already have the holiday off; I can space the shoveling out.

Grace in Strange Things

Communication is one of my things.  One of the themes I’ve been talking about with my therapist is the issue of not being heard– of saying something I think is plain, and either not being taken seriously/second-guessed, or feeling like my opinion just doesn’t matter or register, and then the person with whom I’ve been talking goes and does something that’s the exact opposite of the thing that I said or otherwise shows that they weren’t interested in/weren’t listening to the things that I said.  It’s enough to reinforce one’s feelings that one is crazy, either that or really fuck up one’s sense of self-worth.

The thing is, though, there are some people with whom I have no problems talking, and they not only hear the things that actually come out of my mouth (i.e., the words that I say and which I mean when I say them, and yes, I know, epistemologically and psychologically can we ever really know the whole of what we mean? no, but we can put the truth we have hold of into our words) but seem to discern all the unspoken emotion behind them.  There are people who get me.  Sometimes it’s even the same folks who at other times are like brick walls, and I start to wonder– did I actually say those words aloud, or is it really their problem, not mine?  Then again, there are people I’ve known hardly any time at all who also seem to get me– and that makes me angry at the people who don’t because it gets my pride up.  It makes me feel like– what’s wrong with you, that you can’t just listen to and believe in the words that I say?  I always know that there’s more there, but the first line of hurt is wounded pride and the feeling of so-and-so gets me and they don’t even have to love me. 

In any event– it’s a thing.  And it’s a theme we’ve been discussing because of how I react when I’m not feeling heard (and ergo, with some, not feeling loved).

The details of who, when, and why aren’t pertinent, except that this week I was extra touchy.

Today, I was working in the Religion section, preparing a bunch of books to be returned and others to be moved.  There was a man probably not that much older than me browsing New Age, and he made a joke about a particularly gravity-prone book falling off of the shelf as I was shifting stock from one bay to another.  We joked about ice cubes and “jumpers” that always head straight to the floor when you empty the tray, and then he returned to his browse and I went back to work.  He then made some comment about how he sometimes felt silly browsing these particular books.  I’m not personally into Tarot or crystals, tending myself more toward a liberal-social-Buddhist-cum-Quaker view of the world, but… more things in Heaven and Earth and all that.  And I believe in the power of books, if nothing else.  So I made some comment about how books were nice or important when they could help you find not just information that you were missing but confirm a thought or idea you’d been having but in which thought you were alone– and then you find out you’re not, it’s such a relief that you’re sharing that thought at least with the author, if not anyone you know in your immediate life.

He got really intent on me and started asking me if I had always been that intuitive.  NGL, it weirded me out just a bit, but he seemed harmless (100 lbs, soaking wet, gay as a Mardi Gras float which shouldn’t be a safety factor per se as a gendered assumption but hey, there it was) and he’d been nice and polite in conversation up to that point (plus helped me chase a toddler back to her mom) … so.  My philosophy, Horatio, all of that rot.  And he starts to tell me that he thinks that up to this point I’ve understood and known lots of things but other people haven’t believed it– or haven’t wanted to for their own reasons– and that I’d backed off from insisting that I was right because of that doubt.

It freaked me right the hell out and when he started asking me questions I deflected.  He just got more perceptive and started saying more things along those same lines until I could feel myself turning red and he backed off– verbally, I was still up on my ladder and he was still six feet away– and said he was sorry, but he just thought that I should know and he’d stop bothering me.  I said it was OK because, well– if it wasn’t, it would be, and he just smiled and said– “I think you need to tell yourself that more,” or something to that effect.  He then headed off with an offhanded smile because his phone rang.

Was he just another harmless bookstore crazy who happened to push my buttons on a bad day?  He’d been browsing the row  of books about “How to tell if you’re psychic.”  Was he something more?

Does it matter?

It’s OK, either way.

Gerbera

Gerber

Even if buying flowers for yourself can sometimes be a lonely occupation, and it’s more than just nice to have them bought for you– when you choose them yourself you get just what you want, and sometimes that’s more than enough.

(Dad bought me a Canon Digital Rebel EOS T3i early for my birthday as well as a trip to PEI that we’re going to take later next month. I do plan on doing more interesting things than OOH PRETTY FLOWERS, but hey. I’ve got to try out the macro bits, too.)

Dinner for one

When I’m alone, I often eat out.

I know.  From someone who goes on (and on and on) about food, cooking, baking, the investment of time and emotion and love that goes into the act, you’d think I’d relish the chance to cook exactly what I want, at my leisure.

But that’s the thing, see.  When I’m alone, well– it’s not so much that I don’t have anyone to share the meal with or approve of whatever I’ve cooked– I’m not so needy or vain that I can’t make something and eat it myself and say “damn, that’s delicious,” it’s just that– it’s not that often that someone else cooks for me.  I have to ask for it when I come home, because otherwise the default is that I cook, and when I do say I’m not in the mood to cook, I’m often asked to suggest the menu.  And then I have to wait, when usually the I-don’t-feel-like-cooking vibe is accompanied by I’m-so-exhausted-I’m-past-starving-and-just-subverbal-and-enervated— and so my “anything, really,” is an “anything, really,” and I just want it NOW.  But I have to be patient, because, well– I do, for reasons detailed, just not detailed here.

When I am alone, though.  I can take myself out with a book, order what I want, and if it’s expensive, well, it’s my money, hard-earned.  I get what I want when I want it.  And if I am tired, if it’s a bit of an effort to go from my couch to the chair at the bar or the takeout counter and back home if I’m not in the mood for the minimum niceties of saying please and thank you to the bartender or waitress– I’ve still asked for the thing that I want and someone has made it for me when I want it– and then I have the luxury of taking my time and eating it over my book or my Nook or my laptop or just zoned out as I enjoy my whatever-it-is.  And enjoy it, I do.  Is it something I could have made for myself?  Frequently, yes.  But that’s exactly the point.

Diminishing returns

I was reading this NYT piece  —and while I identified deeply with the emotions therein and was glad that by the end the author had found some measure of grace and understanding with her husband—I haven’t found the end of my story, such as it is:

“You really have gotten thin,” he says when he encounters me, suddenly, as I step naked out of the bathroom, on my way to the back bedroom where I’ve been sleeping this past month and more.  It’s a year, plus, after the beginning of the end of us all.  But assigning a start date is like trying to pin a wriggling worm on a hook.  You can do it, but watching the squirming is painful—like counting my ribs in the mirror was when I started losing the weight and couldn’t reconcile what I saw with who I’d become comfortable thinking I was.

I’ve found a new person I want to start to try to become.  In the meantime, I wonder who it is that he finally sees, now, after all of this time.

When my boss at work tells me to eat, she says it like a Jewish grandmother, half-scolding, but then, she’s been there to see me when I haven’t felt well, when colds and flus have lasted for months, hot days when I have felt faint—seen, too, how I’ve gone from depressed and size sixteen to depressed and barely size ten, “your backbone, look at you, eat something,” she clucks when my shirt untucks as I’m heaving boxes of bags onto the handtruck in back.

“You’ve lost a lot of weight.  Is that a good thing?” a friend asks after not having seen me in a while.  It makes my eyes water that she just gets it, like that.  I can tell her it’s a side effect of some medication, that it’s taken a while to get used to, that I’ve felt a little conflicted.  “You have to learn to be a new you—or an old you, except that you’re older and different;” she understands.  I’m blessed she’s so wise.

The physical transformation is only part of it, just the obvious symptom, but of course it’s symbolic, how I’ve come to deal with it all.  The way I’ve shrunken and shifted.  The way my wedding rings don’t fit anymore and have gone unreplaced for reasons that are an essay to themself.  The way I’ve come, over time, to accept that I need to stop hiding in clothes that don’t fit me, give them up to those to whom they might be better suited, go out and get things that work—even though it all takes effort, requires me to look straight on at myself in the mirror and say, this is who I am now.  Change is neutral, but it is still change, and there’s comfort in stasis.  When I acknowledge that well-padded body is gone, I have to acknowledge other things, too.  Things that aren’t limited to re-discovering that I used to like real lingerie and silky pyjamas, or that I look good in bright colors and a touch of lipgloss and mascara.

He still doesn’t touch the new, slimmer body aside from the occasional hand pat or brief kiss.  He wasn’t touching the old, fatter, one either– not in the ways a husband touches a wife as I define it.  I have brought up the issue.  A lot.  He still doesn’t look at it—me—as someone for whom passion’s a virtue, though he passionately protested my cutting off all of my hair.  I did it regardless, and found I cared less that he found that he liked it, after, than I did that others said in advance that I should do what I wanted because hair always grew back.

Yes.  I am aware.

I know that there are times in our lives when all of us turn inward for all sorts of reasons, some depressive, some reflective, some yet inarticulate that may be answered some day.  The gods know I’ve done it myself and not just when I’m crazy.  But when we notice the turn, those of us left alone on the outside can do—say—beg– plead over and over for our other half to do (or so we hope that they are, that they still are, that we are still) is turn outward and toward us again.  We hope for that warm gaze, that lingering hand, to return– much less everything that comes after, and not just on the physical plane.  The physics of it is one aspect of sharing a life—the “how was your day” that means it, that wants to hear all of it, not just the good parts, the “are you feeling okay” that may be worried about whether there’s anything they can do to actually help, but asks nevertheless, the volunteering of bad news that may cause you worry, but still doesn’t treat you as if you’re too fragile to even have a conversation about things, the doing of things that aren’t what we would prefer, but “a compromise would surely help the situation” but again, it’s often the most obvious things that drive everything forward and the failure to notice in a subjective, personal way?

I know that he knew I’d gotten thin in a general way.  He’s defended me when comments by his sister about my weight loss and antidepressants were uttered in a thoughtless manner.  But those are different from the frank or rude remarks I get when I’m at work or the “you look hot in that skirts” I get when I go dancing (if a gay man says it, it’s got to be true)—and his “you look nice” isn’t followed up with any heat, much less lingering glances or hands.  Remarks regarding customers’ passes at skinn(ier) girls who wear glasses don’t generate interest—if it’s petty of me, if he’s aware, I don’t care.

It’s about intimacy and attention and laughter and the whole package—all of it,  crows’ feet and frown lines and stretch marks where my fat used to be on thinner thighs now included.  So I carefully choose my outfits for work and dress for myself and for others; just not my husband.  I thank customers for compliments and flirt back with coworkers and enjoy the proximity and body heat of standing next to and laughing with my good friends.  Sometimes I get a hug or a “you look hot in that skirt,” or “hey, pretty,” and I try not (and probably fail) to look like a cliché and hug those attentions to my palpable ribs or my jutting hips for the rest of the day.  I don’t always succeed, because there are days when friends seem to go out of their way to tell me silly jokes to what must be an unhappy expression on my un-hair-shielded face, and one of my coworkers makes me rings that fit my fingers out of coin wrappers from the cash registers “because we’re hot babes.”  If I sniffle every time she does it, well, that’s okay.  I made a decision when I started cleaning my closets and cut off my hair that it was time to stop avoiding dealing with the things that made me squirmy.  If I squirmed a little, I would still live.

But then I ask myself, because I’ve tried to be patient but I’m so very tired of trying to be clear, of explaining and asking and begging and not getting any further than an emptying closet.  Is it mean to make others squirm, if what I say is true?  And if it’s mean, is it still okay?

“You really have gotten thin,” he said, when I came out of the bathroom.  I nodded.  And then I turned and went into my bedroom.

All the control in the world cannot hold fast the reflection—or the best little girl in the world

There was a book called The Best Little Girl in the World that she read when she was a teen—an overweight one at that, about a girl with anorexia nervosa who saw herself as fat and both starved herself and was bulimic in order to get her body to the weight that her body dysmorphia-affected brain told her was good enough, best.

The doctor who wrote it very much got the teen’s need for control over something, the lack of feeling of control over anything else—and to the not-so-physically small girl reading the book at the time, the idea of being thinner appealed, and not just because she was called fat every day and had really only one or two friends. The idea of throwing up her food to lose weight had never occurred to her before—but now, she knew it would work, because a doctor had written it down in a book.

Books had always been a source of true consolation when she was lonely. They did not judge, criticize or demand attention she didn’t have the energy or emotion to give—they accepted tears or the need for some quiet.

So like the book said, throw up she did, but she didn’t stop there. She also started to exercise—run—eat yogurt instead of cake for her breakfast—insist on chef’s salad for dinner instead of the highly caloric food her heavy-set mother would cook—but she threw up the heavy food (free, U.S.D.A food tickets she had to go accept from the teacher in front of the class) she ate for her lunch right afterward, and she didn’t keep the chef’s salad down all that long, either. Her mother never suspected, because wasn’t it good hygiene to brush your teeth after dinner?

And just like the book said, she began to get thinner. She could feel the ladder of ribs under her fingers, see the ends of her clavicles jut up in the mirror and the ends of her elbows point sharply when she crossed her arms over her chest, her always-small breasts looking like barely inflated balloons. When she’d lie in her bed at night, her hipbones would crest over the trough of her belly, the gap of underwear elastic between hipbone and flesh letting fingers slide over pubescent skin, a body she had no regard for except to make it get thinner.

People noted that she lost weight, but you understand, see, she’d always been heavy, and she had these healthy new habits that the adults could observe, and she was a straight-A student, such a smart, quiet, sensible girl. Just as she was getting a bit scared about the heartburn she was getting from throwing her food up all of the time, she went to sleepaway camp and was bit by a tick who left a bullseye-type bite—and got really sick, really could no longer keep her food down, some days couldn’t walk, her knees hurt so badly, and by the time all was over and done, she was 145 pounds, 5’6”, pale and if not totally wraith-like, then looking like she’d come out of the end of one of those Gothic romances, more Jane Eyre than Sweet Valley High.

She was twelve, and it was the fall of eighth grade. She made another girl friend that year when her first (only) best friend discovered boys more seriously—and she and this other friend were both bookish in the same ways. They were happy to read together, sometimes—and our Jane Eyre was thinner than her new friend, which, though not kind, was a source of private satisfaction to her.

In high school, she discovered sports and the fact that with running, a high school student can eat pretty much however she wants, and even a nerdy, bookish one can manage to score a couple of dates, including with boys who didn’t know her when she was fat—because with the loss of baby fat, it turned out she was rather good-looking. (The boys who didn’t know her before and therefore let her be whomever it was she felt like being right then in the moment, were the ones she liked best. It was her first taste of what it meant to have some sense of self, apart from wanting to be liked or at least not tormented by others.)

She has been panicked about being fat ever since, and while she certainly has been fat—as much as 230 pounds at her most—she hasn’t ever thrown up her food since. She has learned that much control, if not over her eating. She blew up, then at the advice of a doctor and some other, different books and a new diagnosis or two, lost the weight, gained the weight, lost the weight all over again.

She gained the weight once more, didn’t notice because her mood was beyond her control (something she noticed but didn’t, because, well, the medications she was taking and mood she was in prevented her from having that bit of control over herself, despite her best efforts, and oh, how hard she tried, always tried so very hard because she needs to be the best at everything that she does, even if it’s just being the best compliant crazy little girl in the world) and then– it was years later and she was blinking, crawling out of the Cave and into the sunlight on the other side of the mouth, looking at herself as she wondered how she’d gotten so fat.

In the pictures of her brother’s wedding that summer—the one she could barely bring herself to attend because if she’d shaken off enough of the Illusion to crawl out of the Cave, well, she was still on her knees—she looks just like her overweight mother. Just like—double chin, sad eyes, wattled upper arms, cankles and all.

The new job—on her feet all day, forty hours a week, melted twenty pounds pretty quickly, much to her satisfaction. How nice to feel like she could lug boxes of bags, armloads of tills, without getting winded. To feel capable, strong, in control. It brought a smile to her face, not to mention new clothes to her closet.

A new medication, though—the old one abandoned, since the funk it had put her in had really only been snapped out of when she’d (don’t repeat this at home) stopped taking it on her own—well, when it said anorexia was a side effect on the side of the bottle, the label writers sure weren’t kidding. She hadn’t anticipated the extent, though. A little weight loss, she had expected—but now she stands—strides over the store and can’t stop moving because it’s a busy job and some days she crawls right into bed when she comes home—and her pants literally fall off her pointy hipbones without the aid of a belt while all the while she’s got no appetite and has to remind herself to eat as one more task to accomplish during the day, even though she always feels better after she does. But with no blood sugar reminders, not even a headache or mere salivation, no outward controls, the medicine is that strange and bizarre, sometimes she forgets.

After twenty years of thinking of herself as one of the fat girls, worrying about eating enough to keep up with the calories she burns during the day—she’d thought she was being so good, getting up, going to work, taking her meds, playing nicely with others, but apparently not.

The ladder of visible ribs under her fingers—the jut of clavicle at the edge of her shoulders, the way the ends of her humerus stick out of her elbows—it’s not funny at all how she looks in the mirror, because she’s got no control, none, no control over any of it at all anymore. She’s got stretch marks on her thighs now that she didn’t have as a teen—her skin’s less elastic now, and her deflated balloon-breasts, her once rotund belly, though not quite so big as her mom’s– they look sad and abandoned.

Kind of like her, because damned if she knows what’s (who’s) going to be left of her when all this weight loss is done. If it’s done. Maybe she’ll just keep getting thinner and thinner like in that Stephen King story, except she can’t recall any gypsy woman she ran down with her car, any great sin she’s committed except to be one of the many flawed humans who thought and felt a little too much about some things and not nearly enough about others.

Others, though, have commented favorably—or jealously, snarkily, concernedly, or in several other moods, dependent on source—upon her weight loss, and while she knows most mean well, it’s not a discussion she wants to get into. So she says thank you in most cases—or says that she’s fine or working with doctors in others—the first is a lie, since she’s well aware that losing seventy-five (now almost eighty this week with the flu that she’s got) pounds by any cause, much less one beyond her control, is nothing to be blasé or giddy about, but she tries not to complain too much aloud because being skinny? Nothing anyone wants to hear as a subject of complaint, even when the complaint is more meta and something she’s still struggling to define.

It’s just that—as she loses her meat, she feels like she loses her me.

Every time she goes to try on clothes in a store to replace the ones hanging and bagging from her, she never gets far. Size 14, 12, 10? She doesn’t know anymore, can’t trust what she sees in the mirror because it doesn’t seem real. It’s a different kind of dysmorphia, a different disconnect, but it’s there all the same. The lights are too harsh, and she doesn’t like to look in the mirror, not even just at her face until the clothes are all on, because her face looks tired and thin and she’s sure people must see the same things she thrashes toward with her therapist week in and week out. So she hangs on to the clothes hanging on her, and at last begins to understand why—in reverse, though the reasons are surely the same—why her overweight, depressed mother never bought any new clothes, money reasons aside, when they were children.

When you don’t like what you see in the mirror—don’t know who or what the reflection is, much less who or what it’s going to be next week (size 10 still, or will another two pounds lost make her that same grade eight, post tick-bite size 8?), why would you wrap it in something that might again have to be replaced?

At least the (baggy, ill-fitting) clothes are familiar, even if everything else is too new. And whether she liked her old fat self (at all), she at least had some idea who she was.

The girl in the mirror’s a stranger, and Lewis Carroll was never one of the authors in whom she found consolation.