Sunday, April 29, 2007

More Big Fat Invalidation

I don't know why I haven't been reading Jennifer Weiner's blog as much anymore, as I love her books and have usually found her blog immesely entertaining. I also got to meet her at a book signing a couple of years ago, and found her to be just as funny, gracious and personable as she comes across in her writing. Anyhow, I saw a link to her entry from earlier this month about how someone reviewing Leslie Bennett's The Feminine Mistake chose to focus on the author's size and use that to invalidate the entire premise of the book. Weiner:

It’s a given that her premise, and even her title, would raise eyebrows and ire. Any time you write a book telling large groups of women that they should feel guiltier than they already do because they’re screwing up their lives, their kids, their marriages, or all of the above, you’re going to raise eyebrows and ire.

I wasn’t expecting sizism.

I wasn’t expecting Penelope Trunk.

Penelope Trunk is a professional beach volleyball player turned business advice columnist with a book of her own to flog. Her thoughtful, informed critique of TFM seems to boil down to this: who is Leslie Bennett to offer anyone life advice when Bennetts is “SO INCREDIBLY FAT!!!” (Caps and exclamation points Trunk’s).

“This woman,” Trunk wrote, in a blog post she’s since deleted and replaced with a sorta-kinda apology, “"is walking around telling people you have to have a career while you're raising kids in order to take care of yourself, and she is obviously not taking care of herself. Look, I wouldn't be harping on this if she weren't so fat..."

Wow. Always nice to see a sister raising the tone of the debate.

Anyhow, this reminded me of how often I've internalized that message, that anything I've accomplished is invalidated by the fact that I'm not thin. Even at 50 years old, after having achieved success in my career, a happy marriage, and some level of competence at parenting a child with special needs, I still sometimes feel like I'm somehow "less than" because I've never been able to sustain a slender figure. There are moments when that "failure" cancels everything else out, makes everything about my life seem less real. When I was a kid, everyone in the books I read was thin, as was everyone I saw on the TV and in magazines. Not much has changed, except that now I'm able to know that my size doesn't really define me, even if it sometimes feels that way.

Though I haven't yet read "The Feminine Mistake" I have read several reviews and synopses, and Weiner captures exactly my feelings about the premise of the book.
Ever since Caitlin Flanagan unleashed her notorious “when a mother works, something is lost” screed upon an unsuspecting, sleep-deprived, hormone-soupy, guilty and conflicted nation (or maybe that wasn’t the nation, and that was just me), I’ve been waiting for the inevitable rejoinder: the woman who’d step forward and say, just as unapologetically, “Yes, and frequently what’s lost is her independence, financial security, and ability to support herself and her children once the man who’s making her stay-at-home lifestyle possible can’t or won’t anymore.”

My mother was a stay-at-home mom. That's how she and my dad both wanted it, and it was the model for most middle-class families when I was growing up in the 60's. Then when I was 14, my dad wanted out of the arrangement, and I saw first hand how unprepared my mother was to deal with the financial realities of life, and how hard it was for someone with no higher education and no work experience for 17 years to find work that paid a living wage. I also saw many of my friends' parents' marriages dissolving, and the women/kids being far more financially vulnerable. At that point in my life, I promised myself that I would always be able to pull my own weight financially, and I always have. I won't lie: it's hard working full time and raising a child. But I know that the alternative is harder.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hot ChaCha!

Remember Lisa Whelchel from the 1980's TV sitcom "The Facts Of Life?" Me neither. Remember the "hot-saucing" controversy from 2004 involving the same Lisa Whelchel? Me neither, but apparently she's a bit of a religious nut and homeschooling advocate, and has promoted as a punishment for lying to put a drop or two of hot sauce on a child's tongue. Now as cruel as this might seem for most kids, for my son it's a big treat. Because of all of the brain stuff going on with him, he has what is described as Sensory Integration Disorder. His brain doesn't process well all of the various stimuli coming in. For some kids, this means they are hypersensitive to stimuli. Loud noises, harsh light, vigorous movement are all intolerable to them, and can cause them to freak out or just shut down. Sam is the opposite; he's hyposensitive. The way his PT describes it, it's as if every sensation is passing through a layer of cotton before it registers in his brain. So the things that set a hypersensitive kid off are the very things he craves. Flashing lights, loud sounds (he goes apeshit over fireworks), extreme movement (he could ride roller coasters all day long) all delight and excite him.

So back to the hot sauce. Our nanny, who's from El Salvador and has relatives in Mexico, brought some Tapatio to keep at the house for her food. She says that Sam saw her putting some on her food and wanted some too. She figured if she just gave him a little taste, he'd be turned off and quit asking. But like any other extreme stimuli, this was like gustatorial music to his brain, and he was instantly addicted. Well, not addicted exactly, but he asks for hot sauce with just about everything he eats. In the interest of preserving some of his stomach lining, we do limit how much he gets and we try as much as possible to dilute it with something milder.
Back when I lived in San Luis Obispo, I had several friends who were into really hot food. One friend used to say "if it doesn't make your face sweat, it's not worth eating." One night, we went out for Indian food with this same friend. He told the waiter, "make my dish as hot as you can make it." The waiter responded with a raised eyebrow. Three times, the waiter came back out from the kitchen and asked "are you sure you want it that hot?" Finally when the food came out the waiter told my friend, "it's not as hot as they can make it, but it's as hot as I can eat it." My friend ate every bite, mopping his face with his towel the whole time, and drinking 3 beers with dinner. "Wonderful, fabulous!" he said. According to his wife, he was sick all night.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Background Noise

I grew up as a chubby kid during The Twiggy Years.

I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't want to be thinner. The effect of this has been to generate a constant kind of background brain static that never fully goes away, a dog-whistle whine of constant dissatisfaction. Even when I'd lost weight to the point where I was quite thin, the static remained. "Just another 5 pounds" was the seashell noise in my ear. And there really isn't a particular weight for me that's the Holy Grail, it's just always "thinner" than what I currently am. When I weighed 160, I thought it would be great if I could weigh 140 again. Now that I weigh about 130 (well within a healthy range for my height), my "ideal" has shifted to 120. I'm sure if I hit 120, I'd want to be 110.

From the time I was 14 until about my early 30's, I was either always on a diet, or bingeing my way off a diet, or planning my next diet. It felt like weight was the one constant "wrong" in my life, even though I drifted ambivalently through college and ultimately quit a couple of quarters short of graduating, slogged through some bad relationships (including a couple of poor marriage choices), struggled along in jobs that barely paid enough to cover rent and food, and dealt with more than a little familial dysfunction. Life had its "ups" during that time too: some great friendships, some adventures that helped build my self-sufficiency, some really fun and joyful times. But the constant theme that ran through it all was dissatisfaction with my body and weight. Even after I stopped dieting, stopped bingeing, and stopped thinking about food all the time (thanks to stumbling onto Geneen Roth's books as well as "Overcoming Overeating" by Munter and Hirschmann), the desire to be thinner has remained a part of me.

The upside is that at least I'm conscious of this now, and know it's not in any way rational. I'm not actively trying to lose any more weight (and honestly at my age it probably wouldn't be achievable or desirable). As much as I wish I could turn off the static, at least I'm at the point where I can tune it out to some degree, and not let it drive me any crazier than I already am. I also don't apply the same harsh standards to anyone else, either. In other people, I'm able to see beauty in all shapes and sizes. I don't hate how I look (on most days) and don't have a problem wearing a swimsuit in public, though I do buy the "flattering" styles and have left the bikini's far behind. I can eat one bite of dessert and stop. I crave salads pretty frequently. This thing doesn't run my life...much. Maybe it's just a form of OCD; I need something to fixate on. Maybe it's just habit, like a deep-rutted track in my brain. At any rate, accepting that it's there, not fighting it, not beating myself up for feeling this way seems to be the best way to deal. At least I know it beats planning to start a diet on Monday.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

You say "Cliché," I say "Classique"

Maude help me, but I love roses. Absolutely love them. It probably dates back from when I was a kid and we visited Butchart Gardens in British Columbia. I walked, entranced, through row after row after row of every type and color of rose imaginable. One of the reasons I always wanted to live in a house was to have a rose garden. And now I have one, a small one. Most of our yard is far too shady to be optimal for growing roses, but a patch alongside the driveway on the side of the house is perfect. When we were having the landscaping redone, the landscaper planted these for me. I'd asked him to put in a wide variety of colors, but he stuck with pinks, reds and lavenders. Oh well, they're lovely anyway and blooming like crazy right now so I thought I'd share. Enjoy!


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Updates and a little middle-of-the-night excitement

Don't worry, this post is definitely rated "G"!

Still feeling just not quite myself after almost two weeks after resuming normal meds and diet following my radioactive iodine treatment, I called my doctor on Monday to let him know I was still feeling a bit more weak and tired than normal. He gave me the option to up my Synthroid dosage which I jumped on. According to what he told me, the increased dosage is "more the usual" for someone my age and size. Today was the first day on the increased dosage, and I'm definitely noticing a difference. I've lost that weak-like-low-blood-sugar feeling, and the ravenous hunger that seemed to accompany it. My energy levels felt far more normal today. Even not having slept much last night, I'm not nearly as tired as I've been for the last few weeks.

So over the weekend, Doug finally decided that our mattress (15+ years old) was indeed worn out and in need of replacement, and we bought a new one. It was delivered on Monday. It's about twice as thick as the old mattress, which means that the top of our bed is now about 8" higher than previously, and too high for the dogs to be able to scale themselves. They haven't figured that out yet, though. Last night around midnight they were getting restless, so against my better judgement, I let them outside for a potty break. When I let them back in, Byron took a running leap at the bed, and didn't make it. He fell, yelped and ran away holding his right back leg up. I immediately feared he'd caught his leg and broken it, and cornered him. I couldn't feel anything amiss, and it didn't seem to hurt him when I felt up and down the leg, but he continued to hold it up and not put weight on it, so I feared the worst. I put both dogs in their crates in the kitchen (so he wouldn't move around in case it was broken or injured) and lay awake all night worrying about him. This morning I got up, let him out of his crate, and he was fine. No limp even. What a drama queen he can be! Looks like we're going to have to invest in some kind of step up for the dogs. My current idea is to get a chest to put at the foot of the bed; we can use it for storage for linens and the dogs can use it as a step. We'll see.