Theatre Thursdays - The NOT Christmas Edition!

Welcome back to Theatre Thursdays! This post has NOTHING to do with Christmas! And it's a long one (warning you now). We're on to Shakespeare once again. We're also on to more than just a monologue again. We have one monologue, one snippet of dialogue, and some spot-on contextual commentary. I just couldn't help myself.

Today's play is Measure for Measure, which belongs to the group of comedies sometimes called "the problem plays." Exactly which plays constitute the "problem" group and precisely what time frame that period encompasses are two things very much up for debate, but Measure for Measure seems to be a point of agreement for all sides of this academic tug-of-war. It is NOTHING if not problematic for nearly every main character.

Poor, poor Isabella. Gal just wants to become a nun and have done with the secular world. Not only is Isabella saddled with a horndog older brother who's landed himself a death sentence for knocking up his fiancee (because that is the law in Vienna, where we are), but she's also prettier than a daisy. That's what Angelo thinks, at least. Angelo is standing in for the Duke of Vienna while the Duke is away. Angelo, being an upstanding citizen, offers to pardon Isabella's brother... if she'll give him her virginity. She protests and declines and says "no," but he just gets nastier and more threatening, because he is a politician and a perv. Not only is Angelo sleazy enough to propose essentially raping her, he points out that, should she try to tell on him, no one would take her word over his. Here, she weighs her options in a wrenching soliloquy coming heavy on the heels of a ruthless scene:

To whom should I complain? Did I tell this,
Who would believe me? O perilous mouths,
That bear in them one and the self-same tongue,
Either of condemnation or approof;
Bidding the law make court'sy to their will:
Hooking both right and wrong to the appetite,
To follow as it draws! I'll to my brother:
Though he hath fallen by prompture of the blood,
Yet hath he in him such a mind of honour.
That, had he twenty heads to tender down
On twenty bloody blocks, he'ld yield them up,
Before his sister should her body stoop
To such abhorr'd pollution.
Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die:
More than our brother is our chastity.
I'll tell him yet of Angelo's request,
And fit his mind to death, for his soul's rest.

So that's Isabella's train of thought: very... utilitarian. ("More than our brother is our chastity?" Really? Wow, that's some commitment to virtue.) Claudio's not so keen on this strategy, surprisingly...

While Isabella and Claudio whine at each other ("Why won't you just sleep with him?" "You're so mean!" "No, YOU'RE mean!"), the Duke of Vienna (who actually didn't go out of town at all, but decided to skulk around dressed up as a friar, for some reason) enters and hears all about the perfidy of Angelo. Having known Angelo for years, the Duke knows that Angelo jilted a woman named Mariana once upon a time. The Duke-in-cognito arranges for Isabella to pull a Helena*: Tell Angelo to expect her in bed, then smuggle in Mariana wearing a veil, of course, because no one would find it weird if you showed up in bed with a full veil. Of course not. I guess some people are just kinky like that.

What with one thing and another, Angelo falls for it and sleeps with Mariana. The Duke "returns from out of town" sans religious costume. Isabella, believing her brother's execution has gone forward despite the agreement with Angelo, pleads with the Duke to listen to what a rat-bastard Angelo really is. He tells her to tell it to Angelo, because he appears to enjoy really effed up mind games:

O worthy duke,
You bid me seek redemption of the devil:
Hear me yourself; for that which I must speak
Must either punish me, not being believed,
Or wring redress from you. Hear me, O hear me, here!

My lord, her wits, I fear me, are not firm:
She hath been a suitor to me for her brother
Cut off by course of justice,--

By course of justice!

And she will speak most bitterly and strange.

Most strange, but yet most truly, will I speak:
That Angelo's forsworn; is it not strange?
That Angelo's a murderer; is 't not strange?
That Angelo is an adulterous thief,
An hypocrite, a virgin-violator;
Is it not strange and strange?

Nay, it is ten times strange.

It is not truer he is Angelo
Than this is all as true as it is strange:
Nay, it is ten times true; for truth is truth
To the end of reckoning.

Away with her! Poor soul,
She speaks this in the infirmity of sense.

O prince, I conjure thee, as thou believest
There is another comfort than this world,
That thou neglect me not, with that opinion
That I am touch'd with madness! Make not impossible
That which but seems unlike: 'tis not impossible
But one, the wicked'st caitiff on the ground,
May seem as shy, as grave, as just, as absolute
As Angelo; even so may Angelo,
In all his dressings, characts, titles, forms,
Be an arch-villain; believe it, royal prince:
If he be less, he's nothing; but he's more,
Had I more name for badness.

And do you know what the Duke does then? Do you know what he does? He has Isabella taken away under guard because he is not done with his effed up mind game yet! WTF?!

Anyway, in the end, the Duke admits to Isabella that he was the friar who hatched the Mariana plan with her. Dukey also compels Claudio (who is not dead) to marry his knocked up fiancee; forces Angelo to marry Mariana; and confesses to Isabella that he has fallen in love with her, offering her his hand in marriage. Unfortunately for Isabella, this isn't really so much a "suggestion": He's the Duke. He gets what he wants. Think Prince Humperdink. All the... uh... happy couples leave the stage together.

And that, children, is why Measure for Measure ranks as the most undeniably Problem of the "problem plays." In the classical sense, it is a comedy: everyone ends up married and no one - not even the bad guy! - ends up missing a skull. However, at least two of the three marriages (the possible exception is Claudio's) are being forced upon at least half of the new spouses.

I'd definitely call that a "problem" for someone.

*That would be Helena from All's Well That Ends Well, who tricks her husband into sleeping with her instead of a younger woman and is only able to secure her marriage by getting knocked up on that single, miraculous night. Happy ending!!!


A Room Of One's Own

Yup. Virginia Woolf. I went there, baby.

Living in a two-room Manhattan apartment is tough sometimes. Here's a good example.

My husband is buddies with a teenage kid who lives downstairs (yes, really). Sometimes the kid comes up to play video games and whatnot, and occasionally the kid brings friends. The kid's nice and all, but sometimes the kid's visit coincides with dinner time. That happens because my husband, though he has many talents and strengths, cannot think ahead for shit. His sense of cause and effect doesn't always present itself in a fully developed manner. Sometimes it's hilarious, sometimes it's infuriating. Mostly it ends up being somewhere in between.

But I hate it when it fucks with my dinner.

That's a somewhat normative reaction. I mean, who really likes to be 10 minutes away from food, really hungry, then, BAM! COMPANY!? "Why didn't you consider our general evening schedule before asking this person over? That's not polite to your spouse/living partner" is a reasonable question to have in that circumstance. It's normal to dislike that kind of situation. But you know who *really* dislikes that? People with eating disorders or related issues. We haaaaaate it. Our food is our ritual is our space is our time is our self is our identity. Fuck with our food and we will fuck. you. up. (Yes, I'm spelling it out today, as you may have noticed.)

You know the most really, truly horrible freakout I remember having? It was over some braised lamb. My dad made it in the summer of my first major recovery from anorexia and it freaked. me. out. It was a whole big scene, but suffice to say, it ended with me weeping at the table and choking down most of my meager portion of very healthily braised lamb. The point being, OH MY GOD, I have my FOOD PLAN for the day or minute or meal or week, and do not FUCK with it, because it is what helps me deal with EVERYTHING ELSE.

This still comes up from time to time, only, now it comes up when I'm, you know, annoyed that two teenage boys are at my two-room home and my dinner just got here and, dammit, I don't want to eat in front of them because it may be silly, but I'm self-conscious about eating in from of people to whom I'm not close (I don't know if that will ever go away). Am I explaining this well? I don't think I am. Well, suffice to say, now that I'm a moderate way along Recovery Road, I notice the food OMGWTF stuff pop up when it's really about something other than food. Which I suspect it mostly always was. Or so the psychologists tell me.

But you know what? Now I can realize what it's about; take the laptop into the bedroom; and "verbalize" a little later without having a meltdown over chicken parm and two teenagers.



Theatre Thursdays

Welcome back to Theatre Thursdays. This week we chalk another one up to Feminism in the 20th Century.

I was in this play in college. I played Clovis, the mentally disturbed wife. I was hilariously anorexic at the time (it was riotous!) so I definitely pulled off the sick look. What I didn't pull off, and why I think that no one under, say, 25 should be allowed to act? Emotional intelligence. First of all, being anorexic or bulimic for any length of time (clinical diagnosis only begins after 3 months of sustained symptoms) is the equivalent of shooting Novocaine into your emotional center. Second of all, to play a wife and mother? I don't think you necessarily have to be a wife or a mother, but you sure as hell have to understand the world more thoroughly than a pampered 21-year-old does.

Don't get me wrong: This is a play that intends to be something more original that what it is, inspired by a groundbreaking work of poetry (Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich), and about characters based on Impressionists including Édouard Manet. But the ideas are there, and I wish I had appreciated them at the time. It's about women with men, and women with women, and husbands and wives, and complacency and frustration and devotion. It's about girls with their fathers, and boys with the women who raise them. It's a play on how differences between us and our beloveds make and break our lives.

DOLORES. When I was young, I went with any man who wanted me and I stayed with them until they didn't want me anymore. I kept thinking that if I had someone, someone of my very own, it would be more than happiness. It would be like discovering the reason for my existence, the very reason for being the person I am.
Then I came here. Because of a woman. The first place I'd ever come not because of a man. I'd worked at the hospital eight years when your mother was carried in bald and screaming. When I met her, she asked me who I was, and I said, all I know of myself, where I come from, who I am, is that my name is Dolores, which means sorrow. (SHE laughs.) Well, it is funny because I've always thought of myself as a rather contented person. Clovis said, I like your name. So I came here.

*These two monologues essentially open the play, and are interspersed with a scene between Dolores (Clovis' nurse), Clovis, and Clovis' nine-year-old son Mylo.

(LIGHTS fade on Dolores and Mylo and come up slowly, illuminating CLOVIS in the graveyard. CLOVIS kneels at the altar she has built around one of the grave markers. [Her creation is something similar to altar boxes or to Joseph Cornell's shadow boxes and assemblages.] CLOVIS faces a small headstone. Glued to the surface of the headstone are shards of colored broken glass. The altar piece is filled with shiny things that catch and refract light. Colored glass jars, a string of glass beads, a ladies' hand mirror, half-filled bottles of perfume, silver earrings, shiny stones, a ruby ring, a piece of Venetian carnival glass, glittering pieces, reflective surfaces. This place is Clovis' sanctuary.
SHE holds out the shiny stone. SHE fixes the bottles working on her sanctuary. SHE talks to someone she senses is there. We glimpse a vision of a LITTLE GIRL. A mirage. A flutter of a skirt, a wisp of hair, a whisper.)

CLOVIS. I like this place at dawn. I breathe easier out here away from the house.
The party is tonight. I hope I'll be fine. Victor says it's time. A year and a half. I should be able to manage a dinner.
I keep having this dream where I'm eleven and my father and I run through a field up a hill. We're out of breath and laughing. It's a beautiful sunny day and we're surrounded by light. I lean back my head, close my eyes, and smell the most extraordinary fragrance. Cinnamon. My father says to me, you can take this moment with you for the rest of your life.
That day with my father I felt I could run and laugh forever and would always be surrounded by the most extraordinary smell. (CLOVIS looks around her sanctuary.) This is now my field of cinnamon.

Dream of a Common Language, Act 1, scene 1
by Heather McDonald


Theatre Thursdays

Welcome back to Theatre Thursdays. Today we're delving into postmodern theatre. Fun!

Heiner Müller is often considered one of the most groundbreaker 20th century playwrights, but I won't pretend to know a jot about him other than his seminal work: Hamletmachine. The book of the play, depending on translation and text size, is only about 6 pages long. Usually the play itself is about 2 1/2 hours long. Yes, that's correct: 2 1/2 hours. Müller was East German and he wrote this baby in 1977 or so, at the height (or depth) of East German oppression, politics, angst, etc. The characters are Hamlet and Ophelia, with a chorus including Gertrude, Claudius, etc. and so forth, though how many actors, who speaks which lines, etc., are all arguably up to the director. (I'm sure Müller would disagree with that statement, though.) The original German text contains, where in all caps, the ORIGINAL original lines in English. (Do you see what I mean? Even if you're seeing Hamletmachine in, say, Berlin or Paris, the lines in ALL CAPS are said in English, for they are from the canon of the Western dramatic world, Hamlet.)

I do wish you'd read the whole thing, because yanking out Ophelia's monologues loses something in translation... not to mention the entirety of what little narrative there is. Herewith, Ophelia's monologues, from Carl Weber's translation, my personal favorite:

2: The Europe of the Women

Enormous room. Ophelia. Her heart is a clock.


I am Ophelia. The one the river didn't keep. The woman dangling from the rope. The woman with her arteries cut open. The woman with the overdose. SHOW ON HER LIPS. The woman with her head in the gas stove. Yesterday I stopped killing myself. I'm alone with my breasts my thighs my womb. I smash the tools of my captivity, the chair the table the bed. I destroy the battlefield that was my home. I fling open the doors so the wind gets in and the scream of the world. I smash the window. With my bleeding hands I tear the photos of the men I loved and who used me on the bed on the table on the chair on the ground. I set fire to my prison. I throw my clothes into the fire. I wrench the clock that was my heart out of my breast. I walk into the street clothed in my blood.

5: Fiercely Enduring/Millenniums/In Fearful Armour

The deep sea. Ophelia in a wheelchair. Fish, debris, dead bodies, and limbs drift by.


While two men in white smocks wrap gauze around her and the wheelchair, from bottom to top.

This is Electra speaking. In the heart of darkness. Under the sun of torture. To the capitals of the world. In the name of the victims. I eject all the sperm I have received. I turn the milk of my breasts into lethal poison. I take back the world I gave birth to. I choke between my thighs the world I gave birth to. I bury it in my womb. Down with the happiness of submission. Long live hate and contempt, rebellion and death. When she walks through your bedrooms carrying butcher knives you'll know the truth.

The men exit. Ophelia remains on stage, motionless in her white wrappings.

Acts 2 and 5


Just Like That Episode Of Full House Where DJ Skips Meals

Over Thanksgiving week in Atlanta, I took a few spare minutes to be very sad for myself as I used to be. It was a good exercise, and not as self-indulgent as it sounds (not quite, anyway). My mom swears up and down that she is finally going to "do something" to my old bedroom, so I was tasked with setting aside whatever I didn't want chucked out or sent the way of the Goodwill. I didn't find much: a coin collection from my paternal grandparents' many travels and international homes; a Renaissance fair dress that cost me the entirety of my second-to-tenth-grades savings; an old book of Scandinavian fairy tales; plays; an astrology chart set; some old spell books (yes, you read that right: spell books).

During this excavation I came across high school pictures, which turned out to be a punch in the gut. What I couldn't get over was how fat I felt at that time. Here I was, looking at these images of my 14- to 18-year-old self, probably 105-115 lbs. and 5'1"-5'3", and I remember feeling fat when each of those pictures was taken. I thought I needed to lose weight for essentially my entire high school experience. Ridiculous. How sad to have wasted so much mental and emotional energy stressing over something that wasn't even true, and that I equated erroneously with "fixing" myself. Sad, sad, sad.

My eating disorder grew from a conviction that something was wrong with me. Plenty of girls (too many) go on diets and/or obsess about every new curve or dimple. Not all of those girls go on to develop disordered eating habits, let alone full-blown anorexia or bulimia (or both). Whatever invisible and silent divide there is between girls like I was (and am, to a certain extent) and girls who go on to say, "Eff you, buddy," to their sicker impulses: that's the Rubik's Cube of adolescent (and increasingly adult) psychology. And I'm sorry (I'm not), but I don't believe that divide has anything to do with "will power" or "choice" - regardless of which side a person inhabits. The puzzle is one of those "nature vs. nurture" or "nature, nurture et al." jumbles that shrinks may never suss out.

So while that whole mess remains a mystery, and since I've already expended so much time and energy in unraveling said mystery, I will go ahead and concentrate on enjoying what I have now. On not berating myself. On mentally giving the finger to everyone who won't STFU about diet, weight, blah blah blah. On immersing myself in reality and owning my weight and shape and health and curves the way they are now, or whenever. *cue maudlin sitcom music* And on forgiving myself allllllll the years of abuse I put myself through, both mentally and physically. *end maudlin sitcom music*

Aren't you glad that all of life's problems can be solved in a half hour or a blog post? Yeah, me too.


Just Keep Swimming

If it seems that my posts have been paltry lately, or few and far between, it's because they have been. I find I don't have much to say at the moment, and can't really justify posting for the sake of posting, hence Theatre Thursdays and bitching ad infinitum about the inanity of modern American grammar as practiced in the general population.

Part of the reason I haven't been writing much is that I started Cynical Nymph as an eating disorder recovery journal (interspersed with verbal diarrhea that my former therapists would tell me is all related to the e.d. anyway), and I've actually been doing remarkably well for the past three months, symptom-wise. So, I often feel there's not much to say on that front.

Note to self: It only took about 27 years, but I finally learned to spell "diarrhea" without having to think about it. I'm so proud.

Of course, there's still plenty to say. I'm at a point where it feels natural not to think about doing unnatural things (though I do keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it very well might). However, that hardly means that I am all confidence and body appreciation and self-worship over here. I'm doing my damnedest to re-train myself and my thoughts, as I spent 4 weeks in the early autumn practicing with others like myself. (Anyone in the NYC area looking for a great, unconventional e.d. support group, email me. Seriously.)

The holidays are tough. Part of this difficulty is self-fulfilling prophecy: anyone who knows about addictions even tangentially knows to be wary of relapse during the holiday season, so nerves are already on edge going in. Some of the grating-fingernails-on-a-chalkboard characteristic of the holidays is also (I think) due to the fact that they're a memorable time of year. With an eating disorder, you can remember (trust me) exactly what you looked like, felt like, fit into, didn't fit into, ate, drank, and accomplished for the previous holidays of your illness, whatever its length. I, for instance, am trying really, really hard - wading through sludge up to your waist hard - to remind myself that not only am I not anorexic* anymore, I'm also not 18 or 21 anymore, so why on Earth should I be shaped like an 18- or 21-year-old? It bears repeating (and repeating, and repeating) to myself that, "Who cares if I don't fit into blah, or have a waist measurement of blah, or have a different, larger curve to my blah blah?" My head feels like a broken record a lot of the time with the, "I am behaving naturally and healthily," and the, "my body is how it wants to be," and the, "I look great. I'm the chubbiest woman in my husband's family. I look great. I look like a cow. I look great." Very often I feel like a hamster on a wheel. But, you know, without burning the calories. Or maybe like Dory in Finding Nemo. "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming swimming swimming!" Ooh, now I want to watch Finding Nemo. What a kickass movie.

Happy Holidays. Be good to yourself. Just keep swimming. ^_^

*Not sure how to classify myself in terms of bulimia. Having been without symptoms for 3 months, I do believe that I can't be clinically classified at this point in time as having bulimia nervosa. So, ha ha ha, I'm cured! Someone tell BlueCross BlueShield! Oh, wait...


Theatre Thursdays

Welcome back to Theatre Thursdays. I was hoping to make it a few more weeks without using Shakespeare, but who are we kidding? He refuses to be shirked for too long, and three weeks is too long.

Ah, the Percy family. Gotta love 'em. They ended up on utterly the wrong side of history, yet they have the appeal of winners because they're so... zesty. Specifically, you gotta love Lady Percy, who really knows how to play what Tranny Head might call the green beans card. Her asshat husband has been ignoring her for two weeks straight while he gets up to some rebellious antics with her brother (not a euphemism). So not only is this gal not getting laid, which is basically her only power play in Renaissance England, she's also being kept out of all the fun civil war plans just because she has ovaries.

"Nuh-uh," is her take on that, "I'm a Mortimer [another feisty ancient family on the wrong side of the Wars of the Roses], and I won't take your shite. You are gonna tell me what's up, or else." So here, she butters him up but good by using the only weapon she has: green beans... and by surreptitiously calling him a little girly man for having bad dreams.

Oh, and later in the scene she threatens to break his dick off. This betty is pure pep.

LADY PERCY: O my good lord, why are you thus alone?
For what offense have I this fortnight been
A banished woman from my Harry's bed?
Tell me, sweet lord, what is't that takes from thee
Thy stomach, pleasure, and thy golden sleep?
Why dost thou bend thine eyes upon the earth,
And start so often when thou sit'st alone?
Why hast thou lost the fresh blood in thy cheeks
And given my treasures and my rights of thee
To thick-eyed musing and cursed melancholy?
In thy faint slumbers I by thee have watched,
And heard thee murmur tales of iron wars,
Speak terms of manage to thy bounding steed,
Cry 'Courage! to the field!' And thou hast talked
Of sallies and retires, of trenches, tents,
Of palisadoes, frontiers, parapets,
Of basilisks, of cannon, culverin,
Of prisoners' ransom, and of soldiers slain,
And all the currents of a heady fight.
Thy spirit within thee hath been so at war,
And thus hath so bestirred thee in thy sleep,
That beads of sweat have stood upon thy brow
Like bubbles in a late-disturbèd stream,
And in thy face strange motions have appeared,
Such as we see when men restrain their breath
On some great sudden hest. O, what portents are these?
Some heavy business hath my lord in hand,
And I must know it, else he loves me not.

Henry IV, part 1
Act II, scene iv


Theatre Thursdays

Welcome back to Theatre Thursdays. For this second edition, we're already shaking it up, because we're crazy like that. The following isn't actually a monologue, per se; it's a poem. But I 100% used it AS a monologue in a performance piece, so it 100% counts. Let's have at it.

by Maggie Estep

so don't mess with me
I've got a big bag full of SEX TOYS
and you can't have any
'cause they're all mine
'cause I'm
"Hey," you may say to yourself,
"who the hell's she tryin' to kid,
she's no sex goddess,"
But trust me,
I am
if only for the fact that I have
the unabashed gall
to call
myself a SEX GODDESS,
I mean, after all,
it's what so many of us have at some point thought,
we've all had someone
who worshipped our filthy socks
and barked like a dog when we were near
giving us cause
to pause and think: You know, I may not look like much
but deep inside, I am a SEX GODDESS.

we'd never come out and admit it publicly
well, you wouldn't admit it publicly
but I will
because I am

I haven't always been
I used to be just a mere mortal woman
but I grew tired of sexuality being repressed
then manifest
in late night 900 number ads
where 3 bodacious bimbettes
heave cleavage into the camera's winking lens and sigh:

"Big Girls oooh, Bad Girls oooh, Blonde Girls oooh,
you know what to do, call 1-900-UNMITIGATED BIMBO ooooh."

I got fed up with the oooh oooh oooh oooh oooh
I got fed up with it all
so I put on my combat boots
and hit the road with my bag full of SEX TOYS
that were a vital part of my SEX GODDESS image
even though I would never actually use
'cause my being a SEX GODDESS
it isn't a SEXUAL thing
it's a POLITICAL thing
I don't actually have SEX, no
I'm too busy taking care of
I gotta go on The Charlie Rose Show
and MTV and become a parody
of myself and make
buckets full of money off my own inane brand
of self-righteous POP PSYCHOLOGY
because my pain is different
because I am a SEX GODDESS
and when I talk,
people listen
why ?
Because, you guessed it,
and you're not.


New Addition: Theatre Thursdays

Welcome to Theatre Thursdays. I'm your host, Cynical Nymph. On Theatre Thursdays we'll take a moment to appreciate female monologues in theatre, because a modern feminist with an utterly dusty B.F.A. in Drama has to do something with it, right? Let's have at it. Theatre Thursdays, First Installment.

MRS. ANTROBUS: (She flings something - invisible to us - far over the heads of the audience to the back of the auditorium.) It's a bottle. And in the bottle's a letter. And in the letter is written all the things a woman knows. It's never been told to any man and it's never been told to any woman, and if it finds its destination, a new time will come. We're not what books and plays say we are. We're not in the movies and we're not on the radio. We're not what you're all told and what you think we are. We're ourselves. And if any man can find one of us he'll learn why the whole universe was set in motion. And if any man harm one of us, his soul - the only soul he's got - had better be at the bottom of that ocean - and that's the only way to put it.

The Skin of Our Teeth, Act II
by Thornton Wilder


And Now For Something Exactly The Same

The day after a for-real no-shit migraine, I always feel like the dregs of a milkshake: tepid, watery, and pillaged. I used to think migraines were fake. I mean, how could a headache be that bad? I got throbby, long headaches, sure, and sensitivity to light and sound, but nausea and death wishes with a headache? Sounded like the flu to me, or like a drama ploy. Yesterday's migraine was unlike any I've had since the first one I ever had (or at least the first one I ever recognized). I even took a pregnancy test just to make sure because this was so, so intense and awful. (Not pregnant. Just a for-real no-shit migraine.)


So yesterday as I was sitting on the couch just waiting to die, or possibly to start leaking brain tissue out my ears, I was reading one of the Sookie Stackhouse novels upon which the HBO show True Blood is based. (Oddly enough, reading doesn't bother me during a migraine.) (As long as I'm reading in silence and near-dark.) (Sitting upright so I don't yak onto the book.) As I've mentioned, I've been watching True Blood. In the last two weeks, I have read and re-read and re-re-re-read all eight of the books that have been published so far (of course, they're not exactly Thomas Pynchon) (and I do have antisocial inclinations, so plenty of time to read). The show is fun, but as is often the case, there's an extra layer of Special to the books because you get into all the secrets and details of these characters. The first season (which is over this week, OMFG) has been fairly faithful to the main character's storyline (and had to invent most of the secondary storylines, as the novels are narrated in the first person). The changes Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under) has made so far have been, in my opinion, mostly for the better, or at least for the neutral. Fun books, fun series, you get the point.

There's just one change that sticks in my craw.

In the books, the main character is described as variously a size 8 or 10. She's 5'6", buxom and blonde. Men (or, more accurately, vampires and shapeshifters and werewolves and men) worship her. Anna Paquin is, how shall we say, rather pixie-like compared to the literary description of Sookie Stackhouse. Now, I have nothing against Anna Paquin. Aside from the fact that I think she's a good actor and I find her characterization of Sookie pretty spot-on, she's a celebrity with whom I have things in common, so I'd even say I am predisposed to like her better than most. But she is not buxom. She is certainly not a size 8, or 10, or even 6. She looks fantabulous, but it's quite refreshing to read the books and imagine these all-powerful beings drooling over an average-sized gal.

Sookie's not the only female character who's been downsized, of course. Pretty much the only female characters' curves left unwhittled are the black characters, which... isn't that always how it is? Well, guess what, TV casting hierarchy? WHITE CHICKS GET TO HAVE CURVES TOO. So go suck on a stake.

Excuse me while I nurse myself back to health with copious amounts of cheese and chocolate. Yeah. That sounds like a good plan.


Kellogs Can Kiss My A$$

So, there's this Special K commercial out now which pictures a mom and her little son frosting a cake. Have you seen this commercial? I believe is it for this, but for the life of me, I can't find the commercial on Google video or Youtube or what have you, so you'll have to make do with some paraphrasing of the best bits. Oh. Here it is. I'm still too lazy to listen to it though. But believe me, I got the Message.

The gist is: Mom and kid are frosting a cake together in the evening. Mom eyes the leftover chocolate frosting in the bowl eagerly and is about to take a lick. Voiceover Lady helpfully narrates something about, "Now there's a snack that will let you indulge... without undoing your whole day!"

As you may have guessed (aren't you smart?), I take issue with that... er... lovely turn of phrase. "Undo your whole day?" Really? Licking one finger's worth of icing is going to "undo your whole day?" What if you're a photographer who just today learned that your work is going to be featured in the new issue of National Geographic? What if today you found out that you're pregnant with a years-in-the-making second kid? What if today you volunteered at the library for Story Hour? What if today you booked your family's first vacation in a year? What if you had an entire day of feeling rad about yourself?

One finger full of icing is going to undo your whole day? No. I don't think so. Commercials like this can kiss my ass.


Lungs and hips are equally overrated

Yesterday I had a panic attack so intense that my lips actually took on a slightly purple hue. (I wasn't breathing enough. Holding your breath and barely taking in oxygen will do that.) The real anxiety set in after I noticed this chromatic conundrum, meaning that any real "breathing" had stopped well before I even noticed the panic attack. This panic attack followed hard upon the heels of one from the previous day that was set off by something along the lines of a mess on the floor and husbands who don't know how to clean up the kitchen after they make lunch for themselves, good gravy. This afternoon I was struck with an ongoing wave of nausea so bizarre, coupled with a dull headachey feeling, that I was sure I was either pregnant (am not), or in the early throes of a Migraine of the Century (I wasn't). The nausea and headache were products of wait for it... a to-that-point-unidentified panic attack.

The only thing surer than panic attacks that come in little clusterfucks is this: Around these same days (usually, hem hem, hormonal ones) I cannot get over just how "fat" I am. I walk around avoiding reflective surfaces, entranced by the jiggle and the bounce. I stand or sit perfectly placidly, then suddenly realize that my skin must be literally about to pop open. I feel so intensely uncomfortable and disgusted.

I am never shocked, when I step on the crappy drugstore scale that hides under our bed, to see that the all-hallowed Number hasn't shot up. It's usually quite the same, if not a pound or two lower than it was a week previous (which is "the same" for all intents and purposes). Having been in the same five-pound swing zone for the past four and a half years, I know what's going to pop up on the digital display. Regardless of how accurate the scale's set point is (it weighs our ten-pound weights as 8.8, for example), the point is this: My weight does exactly it's supposed to. It stays basically the same. This is why we have a scale in the first place: So I can check in with reality from time to time to verify that I have not, in fact, gained or lost any weight (because the funhouse mirror can squeeze both ways).

It should be a given that, when I start getting these clusters of panic attacks, I must immediately stop looking in the mirror, just for a few days. I understand why the one event is comorbid, so to speak, with the other. My issue is that, hormones aside, I never see this coming, don't know what triggers these half-week-long episodes, and would prefer to REMEMBER for a change next month.

You know. So I can write "Breathe" and "Wear Sweats" and "Don't eat frosting right out of the can" on my To-Do list. Anyone want to send me an email about that in three weeks or so? That would be greeeat.


This nothing's more than matter.

There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray,
love, remember: and there is pansies. that's for thoughts.

Downtown Manhattan

Peter Pan at Carl Schurz Park, East End Avenue and East 86th Street

Bethesda Fountain, Central Park at 72nd Street

Well, you know.
As Jon Stewart said, you can't beat that view.


The Thought Process: Redux

Every day, multiple times a day, I have to reason with myself why I should or should not look/feel the way I do. Every day, multiple times a day, for instance, I have to make the choice to eat or not to eat; to purge or not to purge; and to attack myself or to let it slide. Every day, from the minute I wake up until the minute I finally (sometimes mercifully) fall asleep, I have to wrestle with a dichotomy of thought along these lines:

A: "I can get down to [blank] pounds/size again. I can do it in a healthy way this time; I can do it for good."
B: "No - I've been at [blank] pounds/size, give or take [medically reasonable amount of lbs./sizes], for the past four years, while doing my damndest to follow the advice of ED treatment professionals. This is where my body wants to be."
A: "I can do it: Cut down to [blank] for breakfast, and [blank] for lunch and dinner. It won't be that hard. I'll take multivitamins and calcium this time; it will be healthier."
B: "No - all these things will happen, instead of losing [blank] pounds: My skin will get dry. My hair will stop growing. I will lose my energy. I will further jeopardize my fertility. I will become boring and obsessed again. I will damage my marriage and relationships. I will build debt on food and diet pills. I know, because I've done it before."
A: "But you don't have to look like this/weigh this. Even the charts say you can be [blank] sizes/pounds lower than you are now and still be 'healthy.' Why not just look like/weigh that? What's wrong with you that you can't stop at the minimum?"

I think in Internet acronyms.

No one in the eating disorders world speaks in hard and fast rules or timelines. You can't say, "After five years of intensive psych and medical treatment and nutritional counseling, Jane Doe will be cured of bulimia or anorexia." You can get your weight as firmly in a stable range as you like, but that doesn't mean the disease itself stops chewing on your brain. I don't know why this is so shocking to some people, including ED patients (and me, of course). You can't any more accurately say, "After five rounds of chemo and radiation, Jane Doe will be cured of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma." More relevantly, you also can't say, "After five years of intensive treatment, John Doe will be cured of major depressive disorder," or "borderline personality disorder." It's not done with more mental illnesses/disorders, nor with most addictions. No one who knows the bare minimum of information expects it.*

And yet, here I am, among millions, wondering where the hell is my cure and what the hell am I doing to avoid it? Five years, two months and two weeks ago I started clinic treatment. (Five years, six months and two weeks ago I started individual counseling.) I figured by this point, surely, I'd be fine. Or, if not fine, then not absorbed in the ED thought process at quite such a frequency. I try my best - most of the time - but I am NOT finding the ease of "act as if" to be a naturally occurring phenomenon for me. Never did, no matter my level of counseling or medication. The pitch and frequency remains just about steady as it was, maybe, four years ago. Perhaps being a facts-oriented personality, rather than some more open-minded type, hinders my conception of the process. However, I can tell you that no matter how much I "act as if" I am secretly thinking as if NOT.

It's frustrating.

In the ED world five years is not necessarily a long time, especially when you consider that that's when treatment actually begins. My disordered behaviors started closer to twelve years ago, and those "behaviors" matched up and surpassed clinical definitions closer to seven years ago. "They" say that eating disorders are lifestyles that much resemble blood stains: The longer it's there, the better chance that it's never going away completely. I don't believe that. I won't. But that doesn't minimize my frustration and anger at not having an "off" switch for this thing, let alone a general time frame. I can't never eat again (without dying), and I can't never to look at or feel my body again (without bizarre consequences, such as really, really awful makeup and a wardrobe consisting of mumus). There isn't a precise cut-off date, like enrolling for classes each semester.

Let's just say that when President Bush suddenly came up with a timeline for withdrawl from Iraqi cities? I was a little jealous.**

* Except the recovering alcoholic father of a recovering alcoholic/fellow bulimia patient five years ago. He was curious why she was still in our treatment program after 28 days. After all, he reasoned, alcohol rehab had done the trick in that timeframe. Why shouldn't an eating disorder clinic work the same way?

** Considering it used to be tantamount to "setting a date for failure."


Eating Disorders in the Media: The Little Misconception That Could

BusinessWeek Debate Room: Anorexia: A Media-Borne Illness?

Carrie already posted about it, and I reeeeally wanted to avoid it, because I knew it was going to piss me off. (And, atypically, I was not in a mood to be willfully pissed off today. It's got to happen at least once in my life, right?)

But I then caved. I still wasn't going to write about it after reading the piece, because, what else is there to say about such idiocy? The article itself isn't worth talking about, except for the fact that it got published at all. The guy they have writing the "Pro" side of the argument, Matthew Lawyue, is a reporting intern for BusinessWeek. Intern. INTERN. The gal (Oriana Schwindt) on the "Con" end (astutely titled, "Blame the Eaters") is a recent graduate. In journalism. NOT PSYCHOLOGY. Or NUTRITION. "She writes for the Innovation and Managing channels of" Yes, she's very innovative: They switched it up. Have a female excoriate people with eating disorders, and a male stand up for them. I get that these are "kids" trying to launch their career, get their foot in the door, get their name out there, etc. and so forth, so after making some scorching comments in my head, I'll give them a pass, this once. Plus, Carrie already got 'em.

But I then read the comments and I said to myself: "Self," pausing to appreciate that I'm so terribly original, "We have to write about this one." "You're right, Self," I continued, undaunted by the cliché, "Someone has to point out the utter futility of improving the human race, and thus explain the title of this blog*." "Let's get to it." "Yes, let's."

Most of the comments are insightful and factually correct. The comments by parents of ED patients are heartbreaking. I wish I could find the mother of the 11-year-old boy (anorexic) and give her a long hug. But there are also idiots in full bloom. The one that provoked my Self's realization that We must write:
If eating disorders are simply inherited diseases, why is their occurrence so great in actresses and other women in the public eye --Terri Hatcher, Calista Flockhart, Princess Diana? And why was there no anorexia or bulimia problem in the 1940s and 1950s, when being beautiful wasn't all about being thin? And why does anorexia suddenly become a problem when people in the developing world get their first access to U.S. television shows? Oh, right, they must have experienced a collective genetic mutation that prompted them to get eating disorders in unison.

-- RR, Nobel Prize winner for Psychology and Logic.

A) Eating disorders have been around for a long, loooooong time. As another commenter points out, at LEAST since the 1600's. Only recently (fluctuating since about 1920, actually, RR) has extreme thinness been obsessed over in the media at large. Meanwhile, if you do something as easy as read Jane Fonda's autobiography, you will learn that anorexia and bulimia didn't go anywhere during those idyllic decades you cite.

B) No one is saying that EDs are "simply" inherited - only that there is a genetic COMPONENT. Has it occurred to you that eating disorders, like other mental illnesses, can be tripped by specific environmental triggers? Certainly Princess Diana, suddenly thrust into a pressure cooker of public attention and criticism, is more at risk than her imaginary/hypothetical identical twin (for genetic similarity purposes, you see) who remains shrouded away from public scrutiny? As we like to say in the ED world, genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger. (Oh look - Harriet, right below RR, uses that very phrase.)

And above RR, joemama makes the astoundingly astute observation that most women in New York look "chubby" rather than anorexic. Really? REALLY? *God.*

Okay, I think I'm sufficiently pissed off and dejected to carry me the whole weekend. See you on the other side.

* cyn·i·cal /ˈsɪnɪkəl/ –adjective: 3. bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic. ... Sounds about right.


Because we all know who the victims are here: the companies.

Since I can't really bring myself to total up the amount of money I've cost my parents and myself trying to "just get over it already," I viewed this article with a mix of hope and resignation. Relatively speaking, my ED tag isn't even that pricey (no long or repeated in-patient stays). Over the course of 6+ years, though, it's hard to think about where all that money coulda woulda shoulda gone.

To summarize, some parents are suing BlueCross BlueShield of New Jersey (hey! that might be relevant to me in 2 years! I'd better read this!) for coverage of their daughters' eating disorders as biologically based illnesses. However,

"In a ruling released last week, [Judge] Hochberg refused to dismiss the case or abstain from decision[.]"

Yay! Oh, wait:

"[B]ut she threw out a significant chunk of the litigation."

Hm. Which part, I wonder?

"The result was to knock out those plaintiffs' claims under the Mental Health Parity Law and the Consumer Fraud Act, along with common-law claims for breach of contract, breach of implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and tortious interference with contract. They are left only with their claims under ERISA, which does not afford a jury trial and often requires review under an arbitrary and capricious standard.

"On the other hand, the plaintiffs insured under policies not subject to ERISA can go forward with most of their claims. It is not clear, however, whether they can assert a claim under the Mental Health Parity Law. Hochberg left undecided the novel question of whether there exists an implied private right of action under the 1999 law."

BC/BS (and other insurance co.'s, historically, won't pay, which means (intuitively, but maybe not in legalese) that BC/BS thinks that eating disorders aren't "real" diseases. Thanks, Insurance Industry. You've got your priorities really straight. Next you'll have Bill O'Reilly in court for you, testifying how he doesn't want his premiums to go up because of some rich, white teenager's "choice." Speaking from a standpoint of total ignorance about the actual legal angle of this, I'd just like to say that an insurance policy not covering mental health benefits, including eating disorder treatment, has always seemed like "breach of implied duty of good faith and fair dealing" to me. And speaking from that same perspective, "arbitrary and capricious standard" doesn't sound... um... hopeful. Yeah. But if you ask me, however, what the above paragraphs *actually* mean, I will stare at you with a glassy look in my eyes, while secretly thinking about Alexander Skarsgard.

Mmmmmmm. Sweeeedes. Mmmmmm.

And one last thing, about one of the statements made by a lawyer for the "defendant" [i.e., bloated corporate machine]: "He emphasizes that the company did not deny coverage and that the plaintiffs seek unlimited coverage, beyond what the policy provides."

Dear Mister Lawyer Person: I may deal with a different state plan of BC/BS, but under my plan - all my plans ever with BC/BS - I have never been given ANY coverage for eating disorder-related costs. My doctors have had to jump through hoops so EKGs would be covered, of all things. We won't even get started on the lack of therapy reimbursement or the laughable response my parents got when submitting for outpatient benefits a few years ago. However, HAD you paid, you might have avoided, by this point, quite a bit of pharmaceutical costs from THIS particular account number, which I'm sure have run way up for you, being that I've never been prescribed a generic. You know. For my "depression." Not to the "eating disorder." For the "depression." For which you "offer [a pittance of] coverage." Ha. Ha ha ha. That's all I have to say about that.

For some general context, here's a good two-liner:

"Pending legislation, S-607/A-2077, would eliminate disparate treatment for nonbiologically based mental illness. A similar bill in the last legislative session passed the Senate and two Assembly committees but was never brought to a vote in the Assembly."

"Never brought to a vote" sums it up nicely, I think.

This also sums it up nicely:



"It's not like a real disease or something. It's a choice."

Quote from my husband's asshole friend, having no idea whatsoever to whom he was saying that sort of shit...

The next time someone tells me that my eating disorder is not a "real disease," but a choice I made because I wanted to be thinner, they're getting this, verbatim:

"AN (anorexia nervosa) and BN (bulimia nervosa) affect only an estimated 0.3% to 0.7% and 1.5% to 2.5%, respectively, of females in the general population. This disparity between the high prevalence of pressures for thinness and the low prevalence of eating disorders (EDs), combined with clear evidence of AN occurring at least several centuries ago, the stereotypic presentation, substantial heritability, and developmentally specific age-of-onset distribution, underscores the possibility of contributing biological vulnerabilities.
"... Twin studies of AN and BN suggest there is approximately a 50 to 80% genetic contribution to liability accounted for by additive genetic factors. These heritability estimates are similar to those found in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, suggesting that AN and BN may be as genetically influenced as disorders traditionally viewed as biological in nature."
Those bits of Unmitigated Awesome are from the study "Neurobiology of anorexia and bulimia nervosa," by Walter Kaye. It appeared in Physiology and Behavior this April.

I'm serious. I'm memorizing all of that. Particularly the twin study part.

I have actually met people (mostly older or male) who would be surprised to learn that eating disorders may be as genetically linked as bipolar disorder. Similarly, I've met people (of all ages and sexes) who think that anorexics (and bulimics) are "lazy" in that they "don't want to get on the treadmill to stay thin," so THAT is why they restrict their caloric intake (or engage in purgative behaviors) and keep at it with the eating disorder.

Regardless of why/how they begin (that's a whole different post), there is clear evidence showing that eating disordered behaviors and symptoms continue not due to some superficial choice, but due to changes in brain chemistry and structure. There is less research into bulimia than into anorexia on this subject, but reading this study was the first time I've been able to see actual numbers in the context of for-real, no-shit hard evidence. Not that I totally understand what:

"increased 5-HT1A postsynaptic activity has been reported in ill BN subjects,"
"PET imaging data suggest that such behaviors are related to disturbances of 5-HT and DA neurotransmitter function in limbic and executive pathways,"

mean, but I get that there are measurable changes in brain chemicals/synapses/what have you during (and sometimes after) an ED. And I understand that chemical change in the brain is not the same as a strict "choice." At least, anything in a study that talks about brain function alterations, then says, "tend to be present in the ill state and persist after recovery," doesn't sound like much of a choice to me.

Of course it's a literal choice to eat only 500 or 2,000 calories a day. Of course it's a choice to go ahead and finish the macaroni and cheese, and the mashed potatoes, and the biscuits, and the cornbread, and some Oreos because your husband is out for the night and ohmygodfirstopportunitytobingeinmonthsandmonths, or to eat a well-balanced dinner until you are full, and then stop, even if you are home alone and free to indulge your most disordered impulses. Those are choices.

But much like there will always be people who don't. under. stand. why alcoholics can't just NOT have too much to drink*, there will always be people who are convinced that anorexia and bulimia are essentially about being thin, and that they're about a deliberate choice that was made and is being made. Or essentially about being lazy. Or about not liking food. Or liking it too much. And search me why, but I wonder if I will ALWAYS be like a fricking magnet for this type of person (because sometimes it really feels that way). Well, the next time my hidden polarity somehow attracts such an ignoramus, at least I'll have my handy little phrase all tucked away inside my warped, crazy little brain.

*There are studies that indicate alcohol as the MOST brain-changing dependency/addiction, even more so than heroin, so I'm not comparing ED neurological side affects with those of alcoholism. I'm bringing up alcoholism as another disease.

(By the way, my favorite section title in this study: "Clinical symptoms and puzzling behaviors." Yes, they are puzzling, aren't they?)


Two-Trick Pony

I've got the eating disorder commentary, and I've got the reproductive rights commentary. That seems to be about it. Oh, and language or arts commentary. So, three. Guess which one is on the plate (hint hint) for this post?

I've been spending more time than is strictly necessary reading and commenting on Broadsheet, Feministing, The Curvature, and Feministe. And I find that I [almost] always. go. back. to. my eating disorder. [say in circular voice. that's hard to describe. nvrmnd.]

This community post at Feministing rocks my world. I've never been at a weight one would call "fat," but jeeeeez did I get all sorts of "HELL YEAH!" reading this. I think it was the section on ASSUMPTIONS. People assume all kinds of damn things about you based on your body (no matter what it looks like), and we all know what happens when you assume. (Everybody together: "You make an ass out of you and me." Good job, class.) In the past 7 years since my eating disorder really kicked into high gear, I've gotten maybe two judgmental (negative) assumptions about my internal health based on my outward appearance - at least those assumptions that were shared with me, not including from parents or health professionals. That's NOT. FAIR. It's incredibly not fair to anyone who's not an "acceptable" weight or shape, and it's maybe a little unfair to me (and others like me). Let's just generalize and say it's unfair to everyone to assume that they're healthy or not based on outward appearance.

With that abbreviated conclusion, let me share with you one of my favorite, possibly relevant vignettes. It's very short. It took place about a month before I was made to go into intensive treatment for anorexic bulimia.

Scene: Apartment part, West 47th Street. The kitchen. CN's sitting there with two best friends, L and M. One of L's friends, E, comes in away from the living room crowd.

L (to CN): So how are you doing?

CN: Eh, I'm okay. I mean, I'm trying to not lose anymore for a month. It's not really working though.

M: Yeah, you look mad skinny.

E (just tuning in): Yeah, you look great! I remember seeing you last year in school. You've lost some weight!

CN (deadpan): I have anorexia. My parents are making me go into a semi-residential treatment program.

E: Oh. ... That sucks.


So. Yeah. She assumed that I was healthy? (At at 16.5 BMI. Are you kidding me?) And then I, in an uncharacteristic display of I-don't-care-if-this-embarrasses-youness, told her what was up. Because she assumed that I was, I don't know, on a regular diet or something. Was I a bitch for blatantly embarrassing her in front of people and clearly making her uncomfortable? Maybe. Should people make unsolicited comments on other people's bodies, just because they feel they're allowed to comment on weight? NO. NO, NO, NO AND NO.

End. Scene.


News relating to the English language

In today's NY Times crossword, the answer to 48-Across is "Edward Gorey." The answer to 49-Across is "Lye." What a great freaking crossword. (That's because "J is for James who took lye by mistake," for you non-Gashlycrumb Tinies readers.)

And in news not related to the English lanuage. We got a Wii. According to her, I'm pretty out of shape, but as far as I'm concerned she's not in a position to say anything about that. Look how skinny she is. She's clearly got an eating disorder. Get some help, Wii. And get me a donut.

In more English-related news, I just typed "Rook" and "creary" the first time I typed the above lines. This may have something to do with my having "I'm So Ronrey" stuck in my head. No complaints here.


In the effort to remember that it used to be okay to have a 27.5-inch waist.

I love going to the Met. (That would be the Metropolitain Metropolitan Museum of Art, not the Metropolitain Metropolitan Opera. Applesauce!* but I hate opera, unless I'm listening to it on my iPod and can stop and start it at will. Actually, I take that back. I legitimately enjoyed Carmen and La Boheme. And Don Giovanni. But I hated The Magic Flute. So, I guess you could say that I've enjoyed 75% of the opera I've ever seen in person. But I'm pretty sure that, horsefeathers!* I hate opera! Anyway, the point being that we're talking about "the Met" the big museum in New York, not the big opera house in New York. Hem hem.)

Last weekend, I was there for about two hours just wandering around 19th Century Painting and getting lost and losing my breath over Van Gogh and Degas. And Monet. And Renoir. After the Impressionists, I headed to the new Greek and Roman galleries, where I was tickled to see patrons being scolded for talking on cell phones, but not for palming the ancient works of art. I also did a quick dip into the Medieval wing to see some of the "treasures" on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum. All in all, my tour left me feeling all sorts of copacetic.

Now, this is about the least, LEAST original point to make about art (particularly non-Modern art), but isn't it refreshing to see real bodies reflected in the marble and oil and wood and watercolors? Take this little filly, for example:

Not quite the same thing as, say, Angelina Jolie since she went from her Hackers-era body to her Wanted frame. Yikes.

My simple and for-once-brief point being that I think I'll spend less time at the movies, and more time at the Met. But not the opera Met. The museum Met. Because opera is boring. And also on the other side of town. Which would necessitate paying for a cab. No-ho-ho-ho way. Hahaha, twelve dollars. Riiiiight. (Oh, and the price of an opera ticket, which, riiiiiiiiiiiiiii, etc., ght.)

[* Trying to curse less now that my nephew, whom I only rarely get to see, even though he lives 6 blocks away, is turning 1, and will theoretically start to remember words like "fuck."]


I dyed my hair red brown today

I did a Google blog search for "eating disorder," just to see what popped up.

There were, of course, plenty of "personal journey" blogs that came up, but I wasn't really looking for that category. I wanted to see what kind of facts and figures someone searching for eating disorder facts might find in the blogosphere, as defined by Google. So, among the blogs not being written from a patient's (or former patient's) perspective, what helpful info did I find?

... A lot of misinformation, e.g. "People with anorexia have distorted body images that cause them to restrict calorie intake." That's a bit like saying the egg had the chicken, but whatever.

The Royal We also stumbled across a blog written by someone claiming to be a clinical psychologist whose raison d'écrire is the belief that all women have some form of an "eating disorder." Well, We hate to prove her wrong, but We know fully TWO who do not. (One is Our nana; one is not Our grandma.)

We found some blogs stating that if one is fat, then one has an eating disorder. Um. No. The analogy "Fat Person : Eating Disorder as Male : Y Chromosome" does not work.

Our favorite was the blog We read suggesting that pregnant women who are concerned that their pregnancy may trigger an eating disorder (due to weight gain fears)... SHOULD CONCENTRATE ON EATING A LOT OF SALADS.

GAH. GAAAAAH!! GAH!!!!!!!!

Reading these "facts" on easily available media was like reading in the New York Times that the relationship between eating disorders and substance abuse is a New Discovery. In other words, it made me feel all stabby.

I'm not trying to pick on the writers of these blogs, per se... I mean, at least they're trying to get awareness of the issue drummed up, right? Except, NO, no, NOT right. Eating disorder awareness in the above forms is like... it's like my husband trying to pick out who's the stronger singer: Fiona Apple? or Miley Cyrus? ... and guessing WRONG, so wrong. A for effort, my tone-deaf love, but ur doin it rong.

So. What to do, what to do? Well, let's start with some fact correction on a couple of the points above:

1. Many low-weight eating disorder patients did not start out with distorted perceptions of their bodies; in many patients, the distortion progresses with the illness. Additionally, anorexics as well as bulimics can suffer from body dysmorphic disorder.
2. The pregnant woman afraid of developing an eating disorder should see a nutritionist or talk to her doctor, rather than getting info from a blog. Obsessively eating salads can trigger a diet cycle that is more likely to lead to anorexia or bulimia than generally being uneasy about weight gain. Telling a pregnant woman to mostly eat salads is like telling someone afraid of slipping into alcoholism to cut out 70% of their daily fluids. Or maybe that's just what it seems like to me.

Okay, now that that's that, how 'bout some WEBSITES WITH ACTUAL INFORMATION. Jeez.

Aaaaaahhhh. I feel much better now.


Not to sound like a Scientologist, but...*

This week and weekend I've been thinking that I'm terribly, terribly gross, and expanding at an exponential rate. Not to say that any of this is out of the ordinary on the whole, but it's been pretty consistent for over a week. As you may imagine, it's uncomfortable to have that suite of feelings performing in your mind's eye like an over-emoted iteration of Puccini... especially for that long.

The relevant facts: I stopped taking my SSRI a month ago or less. These last ten days leading up to and encompassing the visit of a best friend who hasn't seen me since I gained some weight have been Tough. Like, Let's Capitalize The Qualifiers That Refer To Them On My Blog tough. Welcome to the eating disordered/former anorexic/former (or present?) body dysmorphic mind. 2-to-5 pounds is the end of the world.

Anywho. I'm incredibly happy to see my friend, YET I can't get beyond the fact that Oh my God I look so fat and she and her boyfriend and her mom and dad and brother and sister-in-law are all looking at how fat I look now. Despite the fact that her mom (who last saw me when I was in treatment and, oh, a BMI of 16.5%) said today, "You look great!"

"You're so big!" is what my mind heard. I know, I know.

It sucks. Unequivocally. I wish I had a big handful of my beloved Lexapro (actually, I do, on the top shelf of the medicine cabinet) to shove in my mouth and then feel all, "aaahhhhh," like, "I forgot what I was worried about. Um... what?"

Except, I'm not ignoring what I'm worried about and preoccupied with right now. I'm acutely aware of it, and in some way thankful for that awareness. Since I went off my meds, this is my first string of significant social interaction with a friend who's known me a long time and who is incredibly important to me. (Yeah, I don't get out that much.) I'm living through the most grueling obsession with my hip/arm/thigh/stomach/lower back/shoulder blade/chin fat since probably November. November was the last time the number on my shitty drugstore scale went up. So I may be seeing more bulges in my mirror and feeling a lot - A LOT - more mental anguish about objectively ridiculous things, but I KNOW why those feelings are surfacing now, during my friend's visit. And if my clothes are feeling tighter, the scale number is also staying the same. And while I would never have thought a number might be helpful, it is right now.

I don't know if I would have appreciated all this while taking my meds. The only upside: My "symptoms" might have been less frequent. (I hate that word - "symptoms." I learned it from my first-ever eating disorder group, and it has stuck, and I think it's ridiculous. But clearly I still use it, which is proof to me that e.d. centers are, in their own way, retrograde.) So I'm not on meds, and I may not feel as emotionally even, and it's tougher right now not to punish my body for being in league with my mind, but doesn't it count that I'm paying attention? I don't pay attention on my meds. And that's got to count, right? I hope. I started this blog as an e.d. outlet, so it's about time that I write about it point-blank again.

I have no intelligent closing to this post. I was typing something about the importance of self-awareness and how that affects one's empathy and actions toward others, but I am tired, and absolutely giving up on typing THAT one without sounding any more like a melodramatic weirdo than I already do. OMG depressing post. Awesome. Okay, going to bed now, and trying not to look at my stomach in the mirror on the way there. ... But if I do, accepting that I maybe looked with an evil eye, and hoping that maybe next time I can look without a second thought.

Here's everyone: "... Wut?"

Night night.

* Everything written here is a personal opinion. Please don't use my words in a "Pros and Cons" list of whether or not to stop or start psychiatric meds. For the love of God, ask a doctor, if for no other reason than going off meds without one is A LOT HARDER than quitting with one. (For me, at least, speaking as a spaz who psychosomatizes** everything.)

** Not a real word.


The Blah-Blah Politic

(Like "The Body Politic?" Get it? My God, I'm so clever.)

It would appear that I have nooooo idea for whom I'll cast my ballot in November. I had thrown my hat in for Hillary, but, well, such is life. Of course, she's not officially out, but let's face it... it's looking grim.

Unlike so many people of my generation, I am NOT crazy about Obama, but like so many registered-Democrat swing voters, I am somewhat... queasy about McCain. In fact, I can barely differentiate between my trepidation and curiosity about both of them. So, like a good little citizen, I'm doing my darnedest to learn more about Obama and McCain. Without going into what I think of their actual stances (mostly), here's what I've gleaned about these two upstanding senators so far:

John McCain
Notes from
"A Pro-Growth, Pro-Jobs Strategy To Get Our Economy Back On Track." Interesting. I wasn't aware that there were actually Anti-Growth, Anti-Job economic strategies out there. This is probably why I barely passed AP Macroeconomics.

"John McCain believes that we must not fail in Iraq." Whereas Obama, presumably, believes that failure would be a great excuse to be an executive producer for a film that would hopefully do much at better at the box office than Rendition.

On hopefully overturning Roe v. Wade: "Once the question is returned to the states, the fight for life will be one of courage and compassion." Gah. Gaaaaaah. Even if I were a mega pro-lifer (I think you can guess on which side of this issue I sit), I'd still feel compelled to print out this entire blog, and shove it in his face, page by page. Courage? Compassion? Are they lacking there? Methinks not.

On "protecting" marriage: "The family represents the foundation of Western Civilization and civil society." Actually, the foundation of Western Civilization mostly came from slavery, revolution and disease, and the victors' and survivors' prerogative to re-write life as everyone knew(knows) it. But that wouldn't be as effective of a soundbite, I don't want to nitpick.

"John McCain thinks it is especially important to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps to defend against the threats we face today." Is this code for "draft?" Because my husband would go without pause. So before he went, I'd be forced to conk him over the head with something heavy and blunt, and when he woke up, we'd be in Tahiti or someplace, and then he'd be pissed, and I'd be a felon, but whatever. Don't make me do that to our family, John McCain. I thought you wanted to protect families?

The Straight Talk Express: Apparently, this is some sort of new Amtrak line on which McCain gets right to the point and just says it like it is. Apparently, he isn't on it during most interviews, since he mostly hems, haws and screws up simple, vague lines provided to him pre-interview by his speechwriters. I haven't heard this guy give an actual answer yet. See last night's episode of The Daily Show for proof.

Barack Obama
Notes from
"I'm asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington... I'm asking you to believe in yours." That's sweet. But I don't believe in mine. I don't think I ever will, as long as there is an electoral college. Sorry.

"The Problem: Tax Cuts for Wealthy Instead of Middle Class." Here's the deal: My household is smack in the income bracket that gets clobbered by taxes NOW and LATER, if Obama (or Clinton, for that matter) has his way. STOP TAKING A LARGER PERCENTAGE OF MY MONEY THAN OTHER PEOPLE'S. The idea to tax the "wealthy" at a higher percentage sounds nice, but just because I make over a certain amount doesn't mean it's easy. I don't make $1 million - not even close - and I get no tax relief now or later. So this is not going to win me over.

"The "Making Work Pay" tax credit will completely eliminate income taxes for 10 million Americans." As a small business owner I do. not. like. this. one. bit. This sounds Scary. This sounds like code for "Small business taxes and self-employment taxes will skyrocket."

“When I am this party's nominee, my opponent will not be able to say... that I wavered on something as fundamental as whether or not it is ok for America to torture — because it is never ok…" Because John McCain thinks torture is just peachy. He'd raise a hand to vote "yes" to torture, but he can't lift his arms that high anymore. I wonder why? Also, it's "OK," or "okay," not "ok."

The Blueprint for Change: I've got your number, Obama. You're the slickest salesman since... well, I don't know since whom, but you're slick like... like a slicker. Or an oil slick. Or black ice OMG NEW NICKNAME! (I want credit.) During your 60 Minutes interview, you veritably oozed smoothness. Your blueprint sounds very... pretty. Anyway, here's the problem with slick salespeople: They're usually so slick because they're experienced at overcompensating for a crappy product. As someone who deals with salespeople all day, let's just say that I have a healthy scepticism. As far as being attacked for not having enough experience, I too have a gut worry about that. Then again, George Bush had plenty of gubernatorial experience, and look where it got him.*

*The husband is fond of saying he'd rather have Bush/Cheney for another four years, because he thinks Bush is generally a good president. I am fond of miming the tearing out of my own eyes when he says such things.


Possibly THE most offensive article I have EVER read

Bea, beach bodies and the thorny problem of the Mummy gene ...
by Stupid McBitchface Amanda Platell
at the Daily Mail

See the link to the article above? Go read it, then come back here. I'll wait.


Did you read it? Okay, good. Now we can continue. I'll start with the obvious:

"... a young woman can run, she can hide, but there's no escaping The Curse Of The Mummy Gene."

Gee, Amanda Platell, I had no idea a) who you were, or b) that you were a geneticist. Please, continue!

"Puberty can be a cruel thing, but there is a time when a young woman must take responsibility for her own thighs and accept that whatever genes you inherit, you can - and probably should - make changes to your lifestyle and diet in an effort to do something about it.

I suspect that for all her natural beauty, when Beatrice sees these holiday snaps, she may think that moment is fast approaching."

Really?? Wow! It's a good thing she had you and scum sucking pseudo-journalists like you to point this out for her! Otherwise she might never have noticed! She might have looked at her vacation pictures and thought, "Ouch, that was the day I got sunburned," or, "Oh, I hope I still have the email of that cool painter I met that day; I'd love to buy some of her stuff to decorate my flat." Amanda, I'm so glad you can really prioritize. I'm also glad that millions of young Brit girls will read this article and be reminded that they should probably do something about the horror of their developing curves. I mean, God forbid that they one day wake up and look like a Botticelli or the Venus de Milo. That would be awful.

But I shan't forget your strongest point in the whole piece! Rather than neglect the Windsor men, you pointed out that:

"Of course, the Princess has always lived with the double-edged sword of the Windsor genes. Double-edged in the sense that they bring undreamed of privilege and wealth - but also troublesome and rather unfortunate physical characteristics. Charles was quite dashing until he hit 25 - but then he started developing that pear-shape that's so unattractive in men."

Now, this was really my favorite part of the entire piece, Amanda dear: You completely cut off the mention of Charles and Andrew and the other male Windsors who are at less than their physical peak without submitting them to the petty and superficial criticism to which you subject Fergie and her daughter Beatrice. You don't mention that men can exercise just as well as women, or suggest that men are 100% in control of their own DNA, as you suggest women are (and you should know - you're the journalist genetics expert). You just gloss over that and get to what a human being actually can't control:

"Sadly, the bald gene has also passed on to poor William. If his hairline continues to recede at its current rate, he'll be as bald as a bandicoot by time he's 30.

But there's nothing you can do about that. Thighs you can do something about - as Beatrice may need to find out for herself."

I also find it really sweet that you offer such keen observations as:

"If and when she sets about changing her body shape, Bea will discover there is no substitute for sensible eating and tough exercise. Something that Fergie knows better than most.

Beatrice does not have to carry the sins of the mother on her thighs."

Because there's nothing classier than pointing out that one female who's beyond out of control with her food and body must produce another female who's out of control with same, and that a less-than-ideal physique is actually a moral issue. I looked it up and it's actually a Newtonian Law. You never heard of that one, right?! I know! It came right after the apple plunked him on the head. He brought a bunch of apples home, his wife baked two apple pies, and they each ate one. Everyone called her a fat heifer, and he got off scott free.

Forgetting Isaac Newton for a moment, I think you and your editor were really ingenious in omitting any mention of the extra mother/daughter bikini pictures accompanying your article. I mean, no one really needs to be reminded that supermodel Jerry Hall and her daughter Lizzie and Princess Caroline and daughter Princes Charlotte aren't just thin from "sensible eating and tough exercise;" they're also thin from... let's face it: The Mummy Gene. I bet those mothers and daughters are roughly the same height, too, with comparable shoes sizes, like my mom and I are. And all my friends and their moms are... But pointing that out would ruin the entire thesis of your Cambridge-worthy piece, so I'm really glad you left out that little tidbit. I mean, some things you just can't change, right? Without steel bolts in your shins, or slicing off a heel and a toe here and there, that is.

Then again, if you'd felt like including a mention of the acceptably shaped mothers and daughters, it would have been as simple as a paragraph about liposuction and gastric banding! Not that I'm suggesting any of the svelter royal women have had these procedures; I'm suggesting that those surgeries would be great options for Princess Bea.

Yeah. And Wills can use Procede by Giuseppe Franco. But you probably don't need to mention that.


How to Give Yourself an At-Home Brazilian Wax*

*This gets a little graphic, depending on your boundaries (i.e., if you have a problem reading the correct names of girly bits). You have been warned.

1. Look at the stock market and all the Op-Ed articles talking about unemployment rates, plummeting retail numbers, and all the foreign capital buying America.
2. Realize that, maybe, you should save the $80-plus-tip and give yourself the Brazilian that you so desperately need. (Your Vagina: "Hello? Is anybody there? I can't see. Helloooo? Hm. It's dark in here.")

1. Buy some Sally Hansen Extra Strength Brazilian Bikini Waxing and Shaping Kit (with No Mistakes Mirror) ($10.99)
2. Grab your spiffy Tweezerman tweezers (already purchased: $20)

1. Read directions. Remember especially to a) always put the wax on in the direction of hair growth - remember that in certain areas hair grows more than one way, b) not work in sections of more than 2 inches at a time, and c) work from the outside in.
2. Start at the outside, toward the back, with an appropriately-sized two inch region. Apply wax. Allow to cool to just the right consistency, then remove, quickly, against the hair growth.
3. Congratulate self on what a quick, clean job you did. Note that you don't know what you were doing wrong last time you tried this with a more expensive product, because that time you didn't even make it beyond the basic bikini line.
4. Continue with a second small region, then a third. Tweeze the stragglers as you progress. Realize you are possibly the best self-waxer ever, and should probably write on contract for Marie Claire and Glamour, because you obviously have a lot to offer.

1. About half way through your right side, realize you are getting to a tricky part.
2. Choose this juncture to slather on too much wax, so that you accidentally put it on against the hair growth, over a large area, where the hair grows every which way.
3. Try to remove the wax strip. Try again. Try again. Start to cry a little, thinking about living the rest of your life as That Chick Who Got Sally Hansen Bikini Wax Permanently Glued to Her Vajayjay. Realize that you could probably get on Oprah or something, to warn other of the hazards of self-waxing.
4. Get your thumb nail caught on the top of the still-not-cooled wax while trying to pry if off for a fifth time.
5. Spend the next five minutes tugging up the wax in sixteenth-of-a-centimeter bits of progress. Genuinely ponder how likely it is that you might seriously maim yourself.
6. Finally get the godforsaken gob of wax OFF. Notice that, despite what you thought, it is apparently possible to give yourself a labial hematoma.

1. Realize that the wax has congealed to something resembling Nutella. Evil Nutella.
2. Straighten up from your weird hunched-yet-standing position to reheat the wax. Realize that your neck and back are now permanently stuck in a shape that resembles Quasimodo.
3. Return from the microwave and glance in your No Mistakes Mirror.
4. Realize that you did your genetically less hairy side first.
5. Wonder if you could rock an '80's-style half-short-half-long hairstyle... down there.
6. Realize you just... can't. Not matter how much you'd like to. Cry.

1. When your spouse inquires, tell him that you are, despite what it sounds like, not committing hara-kiri.
2. Ask your spouse whether there is possibly some vodka or other hard liquor in the house.
3. Unleash at string of colorful curses when he tells you, "No."
4. As you progress on your second, more daunting side, convince yourself that every little bump or blemish you see is probably vulvar cancer, and you are probably dying. Then realize your tumor is actually a spec of wax, or a spot of skin irritated by all the tugging and paiiiiiiiin.
5. Admit to yourself that no matter how flowery the idea of natural childbirth is (when the time eventually comes), you are not cut out for it.
6. Reheat the damn wax again, OMFG.
7. Daydream about becoming a professional waxer, but only taking appointments from women whom you know... and hate.
8. Resolve to tip your usual waxer, Ninetta, 50% next time you go. (Instead of 20. Not that you ever tip less than 20%. Because only assholes do that. In New York, at least.)

1. Take off the last strip of hair. Stand there in the kind of unbelievable relief probably only felt previously by, say, POWs upon their release from captivity. Or by other women who have been boneheaded enough to attempt this self-Brazilian thing.
2. Feel a surge of pride at the fact that you actually. gave. yourself. a full. Brazilian. wax.
3. Realize that you have probably just ruined your twenty dollar ($20) Tweezerman tweezers, because the wax, she is not coming off.
4. Leave the bathroom and beeline for the kitchen. Glance at the stove clock and realize that you were at it for an hour and a half OMG.
5. Pour yourself a large glass of wine. Emphasis: Large.
6. As you walk, realize that your entire genital area is... well... numb. Pray to God that this is not permanent.
7. Invent a time machine. Go back in time to yesterday. Make an appointment with Ninetta. Pay her the $80 + 50% tip (because now you know how much she truly, truly deserves it). Avoid the whole At Home Self Brazilian charade.

Post Script (October 2012):
You know what I've JUST FOUND OUT?  After ALMOST FIVE YEARS of doing this?  (Yeah, I never bit the fiduciary bullet and went pro again.)  If you let the wax cool ~just enough~ but ~not too much~, the pain factor reduces by at least half.   With the Sally Hansen wax, I'd ballpark this point at "when the wax is still warm and malleable under your fingertips, but no longer makes an effort to attach itself to your fingernails."  Sorry, that's probably not very helpful.

Also, the post-wax oil?  Use it on your fingers and nails during waxing to keep the wax from sticking to them.

Post Post Script (Updated October 2012):
I hope you found this post educational, or at the very least, entertaining; it was certainly fun to write, if not so fun to research.  It is, however, a departure from my normal focuses on this blog.  Check out the Who, Why, What, and Where pages above to read more about what the blog is usually about.  I hope you stick around!