You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2007.

The Sun Times asks this morning: Is there justice for celebrities?

O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Robert Blake, Phil Spector… What do all of these celebrities have in common? They are all men. Three of them allegedly killed intimate partners and one allegedly sexually abused a child.

I think a better, more accurate, but harder question is: Is there justice for victims of violence at the hands of men, famous or not? Just a thought.

In other Sun Times news:Lab technician fired for allegedly biting boy

”Taking a bite out of him like he’s an apple, this is heinous,” said James Buntin, the boy’s father.

I recognize that laughing at that probably makes me a bad person.

UAW is on strike. Fucking awesome.

I surprised myself with just how calm I was when my health worker had to get the bigger sized cuff to take my blood pressure. I didn’t blink when my size 14 jeans were uncomfortably snug after a turn in the dryer, even though the last time that happened, I had a fairly solid two-day nervous breakdown. I went shopping with my mother and bought not one, but two suits, and didn’t even cry once. It’s not like I thought all my body image woes were over, but I assumed that the catalyst for my next serious setback would be something obvious, predictable… catalyst-y.

But nope. It was merely this: catching my reflection in a mirrored surface in the middle of the deli section of a Whole Foods market on Friday night. It was the end of a long day. I was tired. I was wearing what is probably not the most flattering outfit I own. It was still unseasonably hot outside.* My feet were blistering even in my trusty Dansko clogs because I had done a lot of walking and a decent amount of sweating and wasn’t wearing proper socks. And I looked hot and tired and not particularly well dressed. Plus old. Plus fat.

And with the force of a storm swell breaking a dam wall, all of the awful terrible self-destructive things that the mean little voice in my head likes to say came pouring forth into my conscious mind, starting with the voice’s favorite term of self-assessment: What a fat piece of shit. The voice went on to berate me for ever thinking that I could be healthy and a size 16, for thinking that I could dress stylishly (or at least in a way that pleased me), for thinking that I could be attractive, for thinking I could quit dieting and still have friends, for thinking that I could have both food and love in my life, for thinking that I could be a professional, for thinking that I could be successful. How could I be any of those things, when what I really am is a terrible, awful, disgusting fat person?

It’s the voice of my particular personal brand of depressive episodes and it’s fucking insidious. I want to talk about it, but when I think about the effort it’s going to take to explain it all to my husband, I just feel overwhelmed with exhaustion. I want to ask for some extra attention and affection but when I open my mouth to speak, the voice warns me of the dire consequences that inevitably befall emotionally needy women. Besides, it says, he’ll just reject you so isn’t it better to sit quietly, being dignified and sad, than it is to let on how bad you feel?

For whatever reason, Sundays tend to be my breakdown days of choice, and yesterday I was right on time. I almost ruined a baseball outing to the Cubs last home game with my inexplicable tears (actual, I could explain them if I had the energy and the courage, but lacking both of those things is all part of the fun of the depression merry-go-round), but instead gambled by self-medicating with Old Style and, this time, I won. At least until I went to bed and, despite being well-dosed with Advil PM**, found myself unable to fall asleep until close to three in the morning.

I feel a little better today. I’m crazy tired and I chipped one of my front teeth at work today*** and I’m still waiting for an employer who offered me a job to come through with the salary info so I can make a decision****, but I went to the dentist for an emergency tooth filing and took the rest of the day off, and bought two sweaters at Old Navy*****. Then I came home and, after removing half my work clothes, called and spoke to the potential employer and engaged in salary negotiations while not wearing any pants, which made me feel kind of badass because I’ve never not just accepted whatever a potential employer wanted to pay me, much less in a state of pantslessness. And I’ve got therapy tomorrow and I start a yoga class on Wednesday, so there are positive, helpful events in my immediate future. And even though it’s going to be a nasty 80 degrees tomorrow, Wednesday is going to be 70, and highs will be in the 60s by the end of the week.

It’s as if my sleeplessness was symptomatic of the final fevered throws of an infection, and by giving the voice free reign over my mental state, I gave it enough space to burn itself out. The voice is still in there, yammering at me, but I don’t feel like I’m in thrall to it’s damaging brand of warped logic anymore. In fact, it sounds really stupid and shrill, and I’m able to drown it out by mentally yelling “POSITIVE SELF TALK! POSITIVE! SELF! TALK!” over it’s boring old litany.******

As a last ditch tactic, the voice is telling me to start dieting again. Actually, what it’s whispering is the seductive phrase, “Restrict. Restrict,” which was my particular favorite mantra during those times of dieting “success.” It’s telling me that Weight Watchers isn’t bad at all, and that this time I can really do it. I can lose weight and keep it off and have my picture featured in their dumb magazine, and that I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray is a perfectly reasonably and edible substance. And that, ultimately, is that insipid little voice’s downfall, because I may very well be crazy but I am definitely not stupid.

*I think I have some sort of bizarro seasonal affective disorder, in that I dread summer, and get seriously depressed (like depressed depressed, not just kind of bummed out depressed) when the blessed onset of fall is interrupted by a bullshit week and a half of 90 degree days. Like now. God dammit.

**My cokehead college friends used to take this stuff to put themselves to sleep after a particularly enthusiastic binge so you’d think it would put me to sleep after a day of drinking beer in the sun.

***On nothing. I was looking for a highlighter and I felt this AWFUL crunching feeling and a little V out of the middle of my left front tooth just pulverized in my mouth in a truly nightmarish explosion of grit at which point I nearly passed out because I am a champion vasovagaller.

****Which is a whole other issue, because even though it’s kind of awesome to get a job offer as the result of my first and only post-graduate job interview, I don’t know that I actually want it. I only applied because it’s related to my area of interest and concentration, and I only went to the interview because it seemed like good practice. And now look what I’ve done.

*****I hate being so shallow that buying two sweaters would actually improve my mood, but there you go.

******I suppose I’ll really be on the road to mental health at every size when I drown out with voice with actual positive self talk, but you know, baby steps. etc.

My husband and I moved to Lakeview East/Boystown a little more than a year ago from Andersonville, which is the first place we lived in Chicago. Since moving here, one of my favorite neighborhood rituals has been to scuff down to Samuel’s Deli on the corner of Broadway and Cornelia on a Sunday morning to pick up six bagels (two poppy, two sesame, and two onion (used to be two everything until my blood pressure decided to get stupid and I had to start watching the salt again)) and some lox for a leisurely weekend breakfast.

I went a day early this week only to discover, as I stood in the unusually long line (Happy New Year, friends!)  that Sam’s is closing as of tomorrow. Tomorrow! And do you know what is going to take its place? A sports bar!!!

This puts me in the unfamiliar position of being unhappy about the opening of a new bar. Usually I am all for more bars. But seriously? The last thing that Lakeview East needs is another fucking sports bar.  Plus Sam’s had delicious bagels and matzo ball soup. Is this news sports bar going to have delicious bagels and matzo ball soup? Somehow I doubt it.

So farewell, long-standing neighborhood business and Sunday morning breakfast ritual. I can’t say I won’t drop into your replacement business for a pint some afternoon, but I can say that it just won’t be the same.

Beautiful, Also, Are the Souls of My Black Sisters has a great post up about the Lesbian Seven, with a link to a story at Workers’ World, Lesbians sentenced for self-defense: All-white jury convicts Black women, as well as a link to FIERCE, the group organizing support for the convicted women.

As Queer Woman of Color and Heart have pointed out, despite the incredible (and totally necessary) support for the Jena 6, not quite as much has been made over this very similar injustice in which lesbian women fighting against street harassment were convicted and sentenced disproportionately to their crimes.

I’d like to see Racialiscious pick up this story.

More links and some background at another of Heart’s excellent posts.

Edit: Women of Color Blog points out that Racialiscious did post a link about the NJ women on 6/28/07 in an excellent list of posts about the situation, along with the well taken point that just because nobody that I or other people have been reading have posted about the situation, doesn’t mean that nobody is posting about the situation. I have also been pointing to Women’s Space as having the go-to post with background info and links, and I should have been including more links from Queer Woman of Color or this one from LDNY along with it, at the very least.

Brownfemipower has a post about the football program of University of Delaware, my alma mater, and its persistent refusal to play HBCU Delaware State, where my mother went for a year while working towards her BSN. I graduated with Jeff Pearlman, but I had no idea who he was. I didn’t pay attention to the football program, either. I attended one game, an away game against Navy, but only because I wanted to go to Annapolis with some friends.

When I was in school, I was shamefully ignorant about race and racism — my own, my family’s, my friends’, and institutional racism. If I even knew that UD refused to play Del State (even though I was in school the year Pearlman’s letter was published in the Review), I doubt I would have grasped the implications. I wasn’t aware when I was at UD that the minority enrollment was six percent; the predominance of whiteness seemed perfectly normal to me, which is no surprise given that I grew up in a town that is 98% white.

Anyway, I don’t know where I’m going with this, exactly, except that in as much as I think about UD at all, I feel sorely disappointed at how little progress they’ve made. Like I’ve said before, Delaware in general tends to wallow in its white privilege. During my most recent visit to my parents, I decided that my strategy for coping with my racist family was to call them out on their racism. When they would make sweeping generalizations about Black people or Latino/as, or use racist words, or tell racist jokes, I tried just saying, “That’s racist.” And wow! You would think I had accused them of being murderers for all the denials and offense that they took, because my family, like so many others from the area, have never really had to examine their own racism. And that’s really sad.

I’m reading through the coverage of the Del State shootings, and might make a post about that soon.

Is it just me or is anybody else noticing this new trend in commercial storylines: a man and a woman are engaged in some sort of joint venture that involves an element of danger. The woman expresses, either expressly or impliedly, fear or apprehension and the man completely ignores her, disregarding her opinion and endangering her life so that he can continue some sort of pleasurable pursuit.

There’s a Bud Light commercial in which a man picks up a hitchhiker holding an ax over the objections of his girlfriend because, hey. The guy has Bud Light! The other commercial is for the Honda Odyssey mini-van in which a leering man is driving fast on a curvy road while the woman in the car clutches the “oh shit” handle and smiles nervously at him in between apprehensive glances at the road.

Women have worked hard to empower ourselves to speak up on our own behalf, and to refuse to shut up until we are heard, and yet both of these commercials make light of women’s expressed sense of danger. The message to men is that it’s acceptable to disregard what women say, because men have superior judgment and reasoning capacity. Plus, these commercials tell us, women’s lives are not as important as beer or being able to drive as fast as you want.

It’s not a big leap from the pursuits of fast driving or beer drinking to sexual gratification. In the Honda commercial, the camera cuts from tight shots of a woman’s hand grasping the handle to tight shots of the leering man’s face, lending a vague odor of sexual predation to the plotline. Picking up hitchhikers is the quintessential “don’t” for women travelers; rape or murder, we are told, are the logical consequences for women who extend assistance to strangers. Once you internalize the concept that it’s okay, even desirably masculine, to disregard women’s voices when driving fast or getting your hands on some beer, it’s pretty easy to apply it to a sexual context and justify disregarding a woman’s protestations of a man’s sexual advances. What these commercials are telling the largely male audience (they air during sporting events) is: “Women’s opinions don’t matter, so even if she says no, it’s totally okay to keep on doing whatever it is that you want to do.”

Rape culture, anyone?

Retraction! The Beer Guy about whom I posted after the cut was kind enough to comment to correct what I had written about him and his beer back story. I apologized in the comments, but I will do it up here, too: John, I am sorry for misunderstanding what you said regarding the role of Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware’s annual Punkin Chunkin contest. I also deleted the offending part of the post. If it’s any consolation, we have at least $75 worth of Dogfish Head beer in our refrigerator right now, so you are clearly doing something right. 

Last night the husband and I went to a beer and cheese tasting at West Lakeview Liquors. If there are four words that will motivate me to sit in a hot cab in rush hour traffic for an hour to get from the Loop to Roscoe Village/West Lakeview, they are: “free beer and cheese.” The beer was courtesy of Dogfish Head, which was born in my hometown and is brewed in the hometown of stepfather’s gigantic family, so I always get excited when there’s something Dogfish Head related going on outside the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.

We tasted their Midas Touch and Chateau Jiahu, both of which are reproductions of ancient beer/mead recipes. I thought those were a little sweet, but I have a pretty serious distaste for sweetish beers. The next was their Black and Blue which is a “Belgian Strong Ale fermented with blackberries and blueberries.” That was good, if a little high alcohol for me at 10% ABV. My favorite by far was their Punkin’ Ale, which is my favorite pumpkin beer in the world. Actually possibly the only pumpkin beer I really like, since it’s brewed with pumpkin and has a delicious spicy, warm flavor as opposed to having pumpkin syrup squirted in there at bottling time and tasting like pumpkin bubble gum. Finally we tasted the Raison D’Extra, which at 18% ABV (for comparison, Bud Light is 4.2% ABV) is more like drinking port than beer. As far as Dogfish’s high alcohol beers go, I prefer their World Wide Stout, again because Raison D’Extra (and it’s lower alcohol little sister Raison D’Etre) are really sweet.

All the cheese was courtesy of The Cheese Stands Alone, where I have never been but plan to make a serious pilgrimage to one of these days. We were so inspired by beer and cheese that we decided to have beer and cheese (and crackers and grapes and apples) for dinner, and so that is exactly what we did:

Beer and Cheese for Dinner

First, if you didn’t hear, the conviction of Michael Bell, the Jena 6 defendant who was sentenced to 15 years for aggravated battery, was overturned. This is not only fantastic news for Bell and his family, but also for the remaining defendants, and a really fantastic example of how collective action can work to address social injustice. Now let’s do the same thing for Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson, and the New Jersey 7.

Second, this Marry Our Daugther site that I fretted about earlier is, as fillyjonk pointed out in the comments, a fake. There’s a post up about it on Feministing, too.

And third and on a more personal note, my parental visit was a surprising success, both in the suit-procuring sense and in the general familial affection sense.  Although I missed the Renegade Craft fair, I did get to hear my grandmother the unwavering Democrat proclaim that she would “rather vote for [her] own ass than that damn Giuliani,” and that was a pretty good trade.

Kate at Shapely Prose and Good with Cheese both have interesting posts today about “accomplice eating,” or the inability to eat food just because you want it unless somebody else eats it with you. It’s a normalizing behavior. You can justify feeding yourself what you crave but only so long as somebody else (and preferably somebody thinner) will eat with you. Because if you eat it by yourself, it feels like cheating or sneaking or lying to your boss about an illness so you can sit at home locked in your room doing drugs all day. But if you eat with a friend, that’s like cutting class to smoke a cigarette or having sex in a department store fitting room. Together, eating becomes illicit and exciting, while alone it’s just pitiful and slovenly and sad.

Or at least that’s how it worked for me.

And being on Weight Watchers made it even worse. I was already so limited in what and when and how much I could eat that when my husband, who is thin and very much a free spirit when it comes to eating actual meals, would remark that he wasn’t particularly hungry for dinner, or just wanted some soup from a can, I would nearly have a nervous breakdown. I would want to shake him and yell, “Don’t you know that I haven’t eaten anything since lunch? How can you not eat when I need you to eat so I can eat!” And it wasn’t a long leap from “How can you not eat when I need you to eat so I can eat” to “You clearly don’t love me or else you would let me have dinner!” He would offer to cook for me, or to order anything I wanted, or go to the store to buy whatever I might feel like eating but what he didn’t understand was that I didn’t need food. We had food. What I needed was for somebody else to eat dinner because eating alone was just not okay. Eating alone meant that I was eating when I shouldn’t be eating. I had become so removed from what my body actually wanted, so dependent on points and food journals that I couldn’t trust myself to eat without a guide.

Taking my husband’s appetite personally? That’s just oozing with crazy. It’s still a challenge, but it’s getting easier.