Friday, May 28, 2010

Inconveniently Convenient

I was really hungry after work today but was out & about for a couple of hours before getting home. It seemed like there was a McDriveThru at every intersection, promising convenience and an end to hunger. That's when I realized I had absolutely no desire for junk food (gasp!), it was the convenience itself I craved, the ability to select, pay for, and eat my food without having to move my ass out of my car. Seriously, if my seat reclined a little more comfortably, I'd never get out.

Happily, I was encouraged to discover that my desire to make healthful choices outweighed the convenience factor enough to make some mild hunger worth suffering through for a few extra minutes. Having actually shopped for more than Greek yogurt and Luna bars last week, the fixin's for curry seafood salad were lying in wait at home. That was all the support I needed to motor past the next couple of drive-throughs without a second glance.

This isn't the first time this has happened, that I've had a desire for fast food without the insatiable craving aspect, but it still amazes me. It's just as powerful every time, to witness myself not being controlled by food. I know eventually it will be so commonplace, it won't feel anything but normal, but from where I'm standing now the bloom is still on the rose and it smells very, very sweet.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Trader Joe, Trader Joe, wherefore art thou, Trader Joe?

I’ve put off grocery shopping yet again so I had no breakfast this morning. I didn’t have anything on hand yesterday, either, so I went to McDonald’s for an egg McMuffin, hash brown, & OJ. Not an ideal breakfast but not too bad, really. This morning I was running pretty late and didn’t want to do Mickey D’s two days in a row so I decided to hit up the new CVS across the street from work. I was just going to say “Fuck it” and get some Hostess mini donuts and diet soda – breakfast of champions! – but guess which donuts they DIDN’T have? The ones I wanted! I pondered the Honey Buns but couldn’t bring myself to do it, the oily condensation on the inside of the wrapper grossed me out too much.

In the end, I didn’t do too bad: a mini container of Honey Nut Cheerios with 1% milk, fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, a Luna bar (always stashed at my desk), and a small bag of this weird popcorn/puffed whole grain cereal honey cluster thing for a snack later on. So I ended up making some halfway healthful decisions, even though it was a little too much sugar for me.

Still, it took some back-and-forthing through the aisles of CVS to pull that off, about as long as it would have taken to hit up a drive through. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be more difficult to eat healthily in Connecticut than in North Carolina! It’s not like I lived in some cool hippy town like Asheville or Boone, Wilmington is only marginally cool, and Carolina Beach is like a cool, not-too-scuzzy dive bar (the BEST kind of dive bar, which will remain dear to my heart for all eternity). I don’t suffer any illusions about Waterbury but come on, do I really have to travel a minimum of 10 miles just to get to decent grocery store? Not even a cool one, I’m talking your average run-of-the-mill chain (Big Y’s my favorite); the cool ones are 30-40 miles away, and that just ain’t happening given my current car situation.

Walking back to my car in the CVS parking lot, it dawned on me that in LA it’ll be SO EASY to eat the way I want, since there’s a Whole Foods and/or Trader Joe’s in practically every neighborhood. I really think that I’ve learned enough, and have made significant enough changes in how I shop & eat, that minus the accessibility obstacles I’m dealing with now, I can really fine-tune my day-to-day eating.

Just one more reason to keep my eyes on that western horizon…

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Muting my inner critic

I got a lot done today: I cleaned, I wrote - 4 pages on downtown Waterbury and in my journal - I did two loads of laundry, and yet I'm aware of feeling stressed out because I don't feel I accomplished enough. Also, I'm overly proud of my cleaning gig and desperate for a pat on the back, "Look at me, I cleaned my room like a big girl!" Never mind the fact that it's only a 4x6 foot area that I tidied up, it wasn't a major overhaul or anything.

Still, I am proud of the work I did and the new little set-up I created for myself. I figured that since I'd cleaned the same area several times before - well, at least twice - and shit kept piling up in the same spot, I obviously needed a table or something to put all my crap on. I've been thinking this for weeks but not doing anything about it, which has probably been building up anxiety, and is probably why I feel so damn good about cleaning such a small damn space.

Anyway, I did all this stuff that I'd been putting off and it doesn't feel like enough. Oh I'll still laze around until it's time to get ready to go out tonight but part of me will be anxious, feeling like I should be writing RIGHT NOW! ALL THE TIME! Now maybe that's the part of me desperate to write trying to get out, and I try to nurture her as much as possible, but she is STRESSING ME THE FUCK OUT! Hopefully the act of posting this blog will chill her out.

Posting lets me check a couple more things off my never ending mental list: "contribute to blog and overall body of work", "foster inspiration in the hopes of building discipline", and "finish something I start". That last one's a BIG one, and I think it just might be enough to muzzle my inner critic.

Now if I could only do all these things every day while saving money and paying my bills on time, eating sensibly and exercising regularly, I might qualify for adulthood!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Starter Boyfriend

A lot's happened in the three months since I last blogged. I decided to leave North Carolina after a 4 1/2 year run and move back to Connecticut; I started, finished, and submitted (ON TIME! Woo hoo!!) a spec script of The Office for the Nickelodeon Television Writing Fellowship; and (drum roll, please) I've got a boyfriend. Talk about accomplishing long term goals! That's a big one to check off my life list, I'll tell ya. And it only took 33 years!

Of course I meet this guy a month after I decide to move 800 miles away, which is so typical of me I could just puke. It's like I set limitations on myself even when I'm not trying. I'm OK with this, though. I'm looking at it like a starter relationship, an opportunity to get my feet wet in the dating pool. Because other than two relatively disastrous first dates -- one in high school, the other with a close friend that was a bad idea from the start -- I have zero experience in normal dating procedures. There was a short-lived online romance 13 years ago, a short-lived dysfunctional just-for-sex relationship 6 years ago, and a bunch of misguided hook-ups along the way, but nothing that qualifies as an official boyfriend situation. Until now. And I'm leaving in exactly 4 weeks. Ugh. But let's focus on the positives.

The fact that I even gave this guy -- his name is Derrick, he's 43, a former Marine, loves dogs, fishing, motorcycles, boxing, and movies -- a chance reflects a major spike in personal growth. I'm very easily intimidated by romantic attention, which is ironic because it's pretty much the thing I've wanted most all my life, even more than being thin. I crave it so much, but then shrink away from it when it's offered. I credit my work in therapy for making the difference this time.

For a long time -- about 2 years -- I didn't care about getting anything done. I've spent the last 15 months focusing lots of time & energy on getting lots of things done, from cleaning my room and paying bills on time to completely overhauling my relationship with food and discovering new purpose in life. When Derrick asked if he could call me, my knee-jerk reaction was to tell him no (or worse -- tell him yes, then never answer the phone; it wouldn't be the first time). But then I thought, well hold on a minute; he seems like a nice a guy and he's interested, why WOULDN'T I say yes, except because I'm afraid? And what am I afraid of? The guy's expressing interest in me so there's no rejection issue. He's standing right in front of me, as opposed to approaching me online, so he knows what I look like, so I don't have to feel self conscious about my body, so that's not an issue. I decided that I didn't want to be afraid, that my life is about moving forward, being assertive, and going after the things I want, and I told him yes.

We exchanged numbers and I told him I'd call him when I got off work. I procrastinated for a while -- I took a nap, for God's sake, I never do that! -- but didn't want to be shithead since he'd really put himself out there, and I finally called. We had a perfectly pleasant conversation, and I spent the next day avoiding his calls. Why, you ask? Because I'm a shithead, of course! I never said I wasn't, just that I didn't want to be one. There's no good reason, I guess I was just a little overwhelmed. I DID return his call eventually, about 5 minutes before I had to walk into work, so we couldn't talk long, but that was the end of my avoidance. I've answered his calls every time since then, I'm happy to say.

One of the best things I'm getting out of this situation is his perspective of my body. He's very appreciative of it and has no problem telling me so. It's pretty difficult to think badly about yourself when someone very sincerely tells you you're beautiful. It's not like my negative body image has evaporated overnight but Derrick's attitude has done a lot to improve it. And more than anything else, he proves that I was right all along: it IS possible for someone to appreciate me for me, irregardless of my body. Take THAT, all you fuckers who couldn't bridge that gap!

Derrick met me at the video store where I work; his first impressions of me were based on the way I interact with people, just being my goofy self, talking about movies and being nice to everyone. And to him, my body isn't an unfortunate obstacle that he needs to tolerate, it's one more lovely thing about me. That's always been hard for me to believe, but he's making it easier. I decided a while back that I was done settling, and Derrick's the first guy I've opened up to since making that decision. I'm proud of myself for being brave enough to do it and I'm grateful to him for giving me the opportunity. While my time with him will be short-lived, the gifts he's given me won't be. I figure things can only get better from here!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Clean Up in Aisle 5

So I did something stupid last week, something pretty uncharacteristic of me, and I’ve felt silly about it ever since. As it turns out it created a kind of ripple effect that’s working in my favor, so I guess it’s just as well that I did what I did, but still, I know why I did it, and I still feel pretty silly.

I ran into some old friends at the grocery store a couple of days before Thanksgiving. I know them from grad school and even though they’re closer with other friends of mine, we’ve hung out several times and it’s an all-around friendly situation. I haven’t seen them in a while, probably a year or so, certainly not since I went back to the movie store in July, so we were doing some quick middle-of-the-aisle catching up.

It was all very hi-how-are-you, what-are-you-up-these-days and as I’m standing there in my movie store work shirt I sense what feels suspiciously like inferiority-tinged desperation creeping over me. These people knew me when I was an up & coming graduate student with all the promise of a professional future in the exciting world of earth science; now here I am, at the same crappy job I was working part time three years ago, not doing anything with my life, and for the first time in a very, very long time – like, maybe since high school, for Christ’s sake – I thought, “Oh my God, I look like such a loser.”

I don’t even think that’s true - I really don’t! (Doth I protest too much? Screw you! I really don’t!) For one thing, I’ve got plans and a vision for my future and all sorts of things I want to do, things that I’m actively working toward achieving. For another, I don’t give a crap what my job is as long as it pays the bills. I’m not ashamed of where I work or what I do; I like my job (for the most part, when it’s not driving me crazy) and I certainly don’t care about power or prestige or even what people think of me (for the most part). And yet there I stood in the Food Lion meat department, scrambling to make a mad dash out of Loserville.

All of a sudden I knew what I was going to say. I didn’t want to say it, knew I shouldn’t say it, there was no reason for me to say it, and yet out it came: “I’m planning on joining the Peace Corps.”

Now this is not a lie. I haven’t come to that, at least; I am not yet so pathetic that I need to make up fictional aspirations or accomplishments. I really do plan to join the Peace Corps, I’ve got the application almost completely filled out and everything, it’s just that a) I made the decision about 5 days prior to this encounter and b) why am I telling them this?? I haven’t even told my best friends at this point, so why am I talking about it in the grocery store with people who are slightly more than acquaintances?

I’ll tell you why: because I used to be a promising graduate student, until I chucked all that promise out the window and disappeared from the world they knew. I know what happened back then and while I may not know exactly why I did what I did, I’ve come through it and I’m moving forward. My friends in the grocery store don’t know any of that stuff, though, and I just didn’t want to look like a loser.

None of this is any kind of big deal, I’m aware of that. People do stuff like this – and way worse, I’m sure – all the time. Not me, though; not typically. I don’t feel bad so much as ridiculous – I think “silly” sums it up pretty well. On the plus side, the whole experience may help me move forward with my Peace Corps plans. My friends were excited to hear about my plans because hey, they’re good friends, they probably don’t think I’m a loser (probably), and said I should get in touch with another mutual friend of ours who was in the Peace Corps years ago. And lo and behold, guess whose boyfriend walked into the movie store today?

I laughed when I saw him and told him about last week’s conversation (minus the psychobabble of my inner monologue) and he was so excited for me, he gave me their number and wants to get together and talk. The best part was having an honest exchange about spinning my wheels in a convenient though essentially dead end job, a situation he can relate to. So I’m looking forward to hanging out with him and his girlfriend, especially since I think it’ll really motivate me to keep moving forward with this newfangled idea.

It still strikes me as funny that almost two years past the whole grad school experience, this one chance encounter put me right back on the defensive. I know I’m still dealing with the fallout of that part of my life and will probably continue to for a long while, but I generally do a good job of keeping it all in perspective. But if losing perspective in what seemed like a random moment turns out to have been fortune smiling down on me once again, then hey, I’ll roll with it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I can relate to the alcoholic mindset "One drink is never enough." The same goes for me: one cupcake is never enough. One of the behavioral changes I've been working on is trusting myself and trusting my body, which is pretty scary because sometimes my body wants a cupcake and I'm afraid one just won't be enough.

The concept of pigging out in moderation is completely foreign to me. Those scenes in movies and on TV where girls are depressed or upset and eating ice cream out of the carton have always baffled me. I thought it had to be one of those exaggerations that seem realistic but don't really happen, like girls showering together after gym class or having pillow fights at a sleepover. I mean, those girls are never fat, so they obviously don't eat like that all the time (and they can't ALL be bulimic), and if you're eating out of the carton you're obviously eating the whole thing, right?

Last week I had what I'm starting to realize - and trust - was a "normal" food experience, though at the time I was freaking out because it felt like old times, and not the good ones.

That day I skipped breakfast (which never bodes well for me), ate a small lunch and then a light - though very satisfying - dinner. Leaving my friend's house around 10:00, I started jonesing for something sweet. The craving escalated quickly to near-manic proportions - I wanted junk food and I wanted it NOW. This is not a new feeling, in fact it's very familiar, but I haven't experienced it in so long that I hoped it was behind me. This is the feeling that has led to countless bakery thrift shop benders and 24-hour convenience store junk food runs, countless stomachaches, countless shame spirals. So yeah, I approached Food Lion with more than a little trepidation, though not enough to make me turn back (also familiar).

I had my sights set on pumpkin pie and sure enough, they were on sale. Again in typical fashion, I tore into it in the parking lot with the vigor of a junkie who needs his fix NOW. I continued eating during the five minute drive home but before I got there, something unexpected happened: I STOPPED EATING. I parked in the driveway, brought the rest of the pie (approximately half) in the house, and pretty much forgot about it for the rest of the night. THAT is not typical of my old behavior, I can tell you that much. The old me would have finished that bad boy before I got out of the car.

What it comes down to is this: I wanted pie. I ate some pie. I didn't want pie anymore. I stopped eating pie. I imagine that to a "normal" person, this is normal behavior. To me? It totally fucking blows my mind.

Sure, I ate the rest of it the next morning, which maybe isn't the healthiest breakfast but at least it served as a meal - pie for breakfast, not pie and breakfast. And two days later I got another pie, which I again ate in two sittings, but by then I had figured out an important piece to the puzzle: I was PMSing.

Now that I don't eat junk food all the time, I've been able to recognize a specific craving for it in the week before I get my period. I tend to panic a little when it happens because I fear I'm reverting to old habits, but when I satisfy the craving, whether it's for ice cream, chocolate, or pumpkin pie, I am in fact satisfied and don't lose control. This has been happening with a fair amount of regularity over the past six months, so you'd think I'd have stopped panicking by now. Of course, I would probably be less surprised if I paid attention to the calendar.

I think the panic is related to fear of losing control. The urge for pie that night was overwhelming but I didn't fight it, didn't try to exert my will - we all know how exercises in willpower tend to go - instead I trusted myself and in the end I got what I wanted without feeling bad about myself.

That's my goal, really: to eat what I want and not feel bad about myself. I've always hated diets largely because I'm just not organized enough to follow one successfully; eating food just shouldn't be that difficult. Plus I've never been one to deny myself something I really want (and if you've ever eaten my grandmother's Christmas cookies, you understand the futility of trying). Slowly but surely, I'm learning to trust that the changes I'm making are very real, and that trusting myself is the best way to get what I want.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Slipper socks - MEDIUM!

OK, that heading (a Christine Baranski quote from The Ref) has nothing to do with my post, it's just a phrase that always springs to mind when I hear the word "medium", which is what my post is about.

I've written about the behavioral changes I've been making with regard to food over the past 11 months and while weight loss has not been my focus, it has happily become a side effect. I don't know what I weighed in January when I started treatment and when my food therapist weighed me the other day I told her not to tell me the number; if I start thinking in terms of numbers I have no doubt that they will hijack my focus and all the old expectations & anxiety will come flooding back and derail my progress. So I don't know what I weigh, but I do know that I've lost 35 pounds.

I didn't need to get weighed to know I was losing weight. All my clothes fit differently - thank God I never throw anything away, I don't have to buy new clothes because I'm starting to fit into my old ones! - and I can feel the difference in my hips and belly. I'm happy that it's happening but it's not what my life is about; my life is about making healthful choices and positive changes (and movies & television, of course).

That being said, I had a pivotal clothing experience today: I FIT INTO A MEDIUM SIZED T-SHIRT! I whole-heartedly believe that size is just number; I don't aspire to a specific weight or size, that's not what this is about - this is about not owning a medium sized garment since I was about 12 years old.

Granted, it's a large medium. My friend Linda gave me a couple of shirts a while back because they didn't fit her right. I literally laughed in her face and told her it didn't matter how big they ran, they would never fit me. I tried one on just to be sure and it was airway-restricting tight. The only reason I didn't throw them away was because I figured I could use them as car cleaning rags (and also because, as stated above, I never throw anything away). And there they've sat all these many months - geez, maybe even over a year - crumpled up in the backseat of my car - until tonight.

One of the perks of having a ridiculously cluttered car such as I do is that there's often a solution to any last-minute wardrobe emergencies. I wasn't planning to go out after work tonight so I didn't bring a change of clothes. When my plans changed and I was too lazy to drive all the way (i.e. 3 miles) home, I started excavating.

Since I recently (i.e. in May) cleaned out my backseat (i.e. reduced a 3 foot pile of clutter to 1 foot), my options were limited to a yellowed white T-shirt and the aforementioned medium. There was also a zippered sweatshirt back there, so I figured even if the medium was too tight I could cover most of it up with the hoody. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the shirt not only did NOT restrict my airway anymore, it actually FIT! Like in an I-don't-necessarily-HAVE-to-cover-this-up-with-a-hoody kind of way. Mind you, I still wore the hoody, but it looked better that way and besides, it was chilly out.

There is no real point to this story, only that I fit into a medium sized T-shirt today, and it was extremely gratifying. I'm also reassured by the fact that I had a stronger emotional response to how I felt in my clothes than to learning exactly how much weight I've lost. I don't need or want my existance to be validated by weight loss but the fact that something so mundane affected me so profoundly is significant, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I feel a sense of accomplishment.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fat Girls Laugh Last

There were two major reasons I was skeptical about watching the Steve Carell movie Get Smart. For one thing, film adaptations of TV shows are often mediocre at best. For another, the previews highlighted an over-the-top dance sequence featuring Carell with a Very Large Woman. All I could think was, “And now for the 'Let's Laugh at the Fat Girl' portion of tonight's entertainment.” Ugh. I got the same feeling in my gut that I used to have in high school approaching a group of kids I thought would make fun of me.

Luckily the cast and my love for the show won me over; otherwise I would have missed out on a very funny movie and one of the greatest Fat Girls in Film moments I've ever witnessed.

First of all, it's more of a “laughing with” than “laughing at” type of scene. Trying to one-up his partner, Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), on the dance floor, Maxwell Smart (Carell) approaches a group of blond girls.

“May I have this dance?” he asks.
“No,” the alpha blond sneers at him.
“I wasn't asking you,” he says.

The crowd parts and we see that the object of his pursuit is the Very Large Woman mentioned earlier (Lindsay Hollister, who has fabulous hair and wears a stunning gown).

It is revealed earlier that Smart was formerly 150 pounds overweight (those were the “Let's Laugh at the Fat Guy” scenes), so it's fair to say he knows how this girl feels. The implication of choosing her in his effort to impress 99 is that her weight is not a liability, it doesn't diminish his confidence in achieving his goal. Sure, the big lift at the end is meant to be funny because of its absurdity but it's the situation that's absurd, not the girl.

The best part comes after the dance: Walking past those same snotty girls, our heroine pauses to smirk and flip them the bird. Take THAT, bitches!

It seems like in most outcast fat girl scenarios in books, movies, and on TV, the “happy ending” is either the fat girl getting skinny (a la Smart) or winning over the cool kids by proving herself. What does being fat have to do with a person's merit? What is there to prove? This girl doesn't try to win anyone over. She doesn't want to be friends with those blond bitches; why would she? She knows what they think of her. She has her great little “Eff you” moment and goes on her merry way.

In Get Smart, the fat lady doesn't sing, she gets the last laugh.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Convenience Store Epiphany

So back in April I had a major epiphany that has completely & irrevocably changed my life and, for reasons I don't fully understand, "fixed" my relationship with food. There were two major results of this experience: I am no longer a compulsive eater, and for the first time in my life, I can say without any hesitation, "I know what I want to do with my life." Actually it's more like "I know what I was meant to do with my life," but that sounds a little woo-woo and I'm trying to maintain a grounded, rational discussion here.

Prior to April 15, 2008, my thinking was, "I want to be a writer." After that day my thinking was, "I AM a writer." I was not published on that day, I did not "sell" a screenplay, I was not accepted into the fellowship program I applied to in February; in fact, I received no validation from any outside source that this was the path I should take. It was like a bolt of lightning out of the sky - a sudden and unwavering awareness of who I am.

Sitting in my room that night, I knew a fundamental shift had taken place, I could FEEL it, but I didn't know what it meant or how it was going to manifest itself. Would I stop being a slob now and be able to keep my room clean? Start being responsible with money? Stop procrastinating? For days I tried to pinpoint the effects of my experience; it finally came to me suddenly a week and a half later, in the unlikeliest of places.

For the first time since that fateful night, I found myself in a convenience store. I was going to Burgaw with my friend Bridgette, who runs karaoke out of a bar up there on Wednesday nights. I had to wait over an hour to have dinner but I was hungry right then and if I waited an hour, my hunger would be out of control and so would my eating. So I was going to get a snack at the convenience store where Bridgette was getting gas. I stood about fifty feet from the entrance, psyching myself up for the experience, repeating my healthful eating mantra to myself: I can eat anything I want, I just have to want it. I was about to be surrounded by all the delicious junkfood that I love so much, that I can never trust myself around, that I have so often gorged myself on -- it requires a lot of trust in myself to be able to make healthful choices and historically, trusting myself is not one of my strong suits.

I stepped forward, the automatic doors slid open, I entered, and was immediately overcome by an overwhelming feeling of...NOTHING. Mrs. Freshley's Honeybuns to my left, candy bars to my right, Hostess snack cakes dead ahead, and I felt...NOTHING. A chill radiated through my body as I stood there, stock still, in the middle of the store, looking around in wonderment, a semi-hysterical chuckle bubbling up and out of me. I swear to god, I looked like a CRAZY PERSON.

Prior to that moment if you asked me how convenience stores made me feel, I would've looked at you like you were crazy. Don't get me wrong, I've always had a deep and abiding love for convenience stores, particularly the 24 hour variety and even more so the ones that sell Slurpies, but feelings? Not so much.

Well, standing in that store that day, I became aware of those feelings in their absence: I felt no ecstatic elation at the prospect of so much wonderful goodness to choose from, no anxiety that I wouldn't choose exactly the right items to make me feel the way I wanted to feel, no sinking feeling that I was about to once again lose control and once again disappoint myself and once again prove that I have no willpower.

I roamed the aisles in a daze, afraid to trust this odd new detachment. I forced myself to stand in front of the snack cakes, saying to myself, "OK, you can have ANYTHING YOU WANT -- what's it going to be?" Shock and awe followed when the answer came back: "Not this." WHAT?! I am giving myself permission to eat ANY yummy snack cake I want with no judgment or criticism, and I DON'T WANT ANY?!?! Who AM I???

I wandered around that store for 5 minutes, uninspired by any of the myriad choices, finally settling on a diet Mountain Dew, a pretzel/chocolate granola bar, and peanut M&Ms (my go-to junkfood because it pairs protein with the sugar). I ate the granola bar and half the M&Ms in the car, then put the candy away when I wasn't hungry anymore. I put them in my purse, and then FORGOT ABOUT THEM FOR 3 DAYS. I promise you, that's the first time in Jennie history that THAT'S ever happened.

When we got to the bar I went next door to the Chinese place to order dinner. After choosing my main dish (chicken chow mei fun) I looked at the appetizers, of which I usually get one or two or three, but found myself uninclined to order anything (since WHEN???). Thinking healthfully, I checked out their veggie selection but remained uninspired, so ended up with just the noodles. Another first in Jennie history: ordering a single item off a Chinese menu. And another: when we left, I THREW THE LEFTOVERS AWAY. I didn't do it to "be good" or for any other bullshit will-power related reason, but because there wasn't much left and it would be a hassle to carry it in the car. Normally the anticipation of having more yummy Chinese food for later outweighs any and all practicality but on that night, it didn't matter; at that moment I was no longer hungry, therefore I did not care about food.

And that's how it's been for me ever since. I was really, really scared that it was just a phase, that it would eventually pass, but Chaundra assured me that it was for real, and she was right. For the first time in my entire life, food has lost its power over me. As far as I can tell, repressing my desire to write has been fueling my compulsive eating behaviors and in the instant that I embraced my passion, my compulsion was lifted.

I've got a long way to go on the road to getting my shit together so I hesitate to use definitive terms, but honestly, my food issues -- the main aspect of my life I was seeking to address when entering therapy -- are resolved. Not only that, I've noticed other compulsive tendencies have diminished as well, and for the first time in two years, the burden of my failure to complete grad school weighs less heavily upon me.

Honestly, I thought it would take a lot longer to get here than it did. I mean, I was thinking a year, minimum, and there I was after four months. Now, I can walk into a store, a restaurant, an ice cream shop, and if I'm not hungry, none of that food means anything to me. And it's all because I stopped fighting, stopped hiding, I stopped lying to myself and faced the truth, and now I know who I really am. I feel like I've been let out of jail.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

RIP George Carlin, You Old Fuck

It's funny the way things happen without us even being aware of them. When I was a senior in high school my friend Ed introduced me to George, who quickly became one of the most powerful influences in my life, though I didn't know it at the time. I listened to Ed's "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" tape until it broke. For months I played it on a loop, flipping it over again and again, to the point where I knew most of the act by heart.

It's not just that Carlin is funny or even that he's clever; it's his brutal honesty about the world around us that makes his voice so powerful. I had never heard such a cynical point of view before and I really, really liked it. He articulated thoughts and ideas I was barely aware I had but when he spoke, I knew he was right about EVERYTHING.

My world view was formed in large part by my father, beginning very early in childhood. While I wouldn't describe him as a cynic, his views on government and the church certainly lean that way. I very clearly remember him saying to me, "Do you know how many homeless people they could feed with the money they'd save on heating bills if they put a drop ceiling in one of these fucking churches?" How could I NOT be a Carlin fan with a dad like that?

A few days ago I saw that his show "Doin' It Again" was on HBO, so I sat down to watch and lo and behold, it was the same show I listened to on tape 15 years ago under a different title. His material is just as funny and relevant now as it was then and I could still recite most of the lines, but what was totally and completely shocking was the direct correlation between his world view and my own, particularly in terms of language and the way we use (and abuse) it.

After reciting a string of racial slurs, he makes the point that there's nothing wrong with any of those words:

"It's the context that makes them good or bad. For instance, you take the word 'nigger'. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word 'nigger' in and of itself. It's the racist asshole who's using it that you ought to be concerned about."

To my mind, that is a completely logical argument. I might not have been able to articulate it at 18 but I recognized its truth when I heard him say it. Hearing it again all this time later, it's amazing to realize that he really taught me something, he pointed my brain in a new direction, he contributed to the foundation of my blossoming adult perspective.

I had no idea his influence on my life was so profound until I heard those same ideas and arguments again across the distance of time and experience. That was also the moment I realized that this blog owes its title to George Carlin, because his demystification of language is directly related to my embracement of the word "fat". It would be a couple of years before I could actually say the word out loud, but he planted the seed.

When I first started using the word "fat" it did not trip lightly off the tongue. I was embarrassed to say it but also pissed because there's nothing wrong with the fucking word - it's just a word! How is "fat" worse than "overweight", "heavy", "chubby", or "big"? The truth is, my problem was not with the language, my problem was with ME. I didn't accept myself as a fat person so I used any other word but the actual definition of my body type to describe myself because I DIDN'T WANT TO BE FAT. By using euphemisms I was lying to myself, distancing myself from the truth. As the man said:

"I don't like words that hide the truth. I don't like words that conceal reality. I don't like euphemisms, or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. 'Cause Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent the kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it."

It's not like I was hiding anything from anyone, least of all myself; changing the language didn't fool anybody into thinking I was something different than what I was. Not that my weight defines me, though I've let it do just that for most of my life. I started using the word "fat" when I was ready to stop deluding myself.

As a culture, we're pretty good at deluding ourselves, particularly when it comes to body image. Think really hard: when's the last time you heard someone use the word "fat" as a descriptor when there was a fat person within hearing distance? I love the pause you sometimes hear as they desperately grasp for a euphemism midway through their sentence: "You know who I'm talking about, the...big girl from two doors down." "So Phil, have you always been...overweight?" "It's too bad you're so...heavy, you've got such a pretty face!" What other subtext is there to a statement like that other than, "Too bad you're such a hideous, fat-assed monstrosity."?

Life's too short for that kind of bullshit. Carlin knew that, it's what his life's work was all about, revealing the truth buried under the bullshit. The greatest lesson I learned from George Carlin was this: "You can't be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it's an unpleasant truth." Who's gonna tell it to us now, George?