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What it’s like:  an essay on food and obsessions.

OCD makes it impossible for me to eat, savor, enjoy, be full.  I never eat what I really want because there are too many rules.  There are too many OCD thoughts that govern my decisions. So, I plan, I think, I obsess.  I buy.  But I never eat.

Yet I am always hungry, always desirous.  Always want something more, or something other.  Something different.  Never satisfied.  Always afraid. Can’t be spontaneous about eating:  must plan.

It is the thing around which everything else hinges, hangs.  Where and what can I eat?

It is a large concern.

But I’ll do better, tomorrow.  This is the thought at the end of the day.

I’ll do better tomorrow.

Want to read more?  Check out my memoir, She’s So Heavy, at Smashwords:

She\’s So Heavy: A Memoir

I mentioned in an earlier post that there were several books from the past decade that changed me as a writer. Books that turned my head to a new direction.  Books that showed me I could write the book I wanted to write.

The memoir fits into the category of literary or creative nonfiction.  Prior to 2000, I hated biographies/autobiographies due to the flat chronological narratives, the factual and cold writing, the lifelessness of the genre.  Prior to 2000, I’d read a few holocaust memoirs, diaries, but did not dare venture further.  Thankfully, that changed ten years ago.

I’ll begin with Dave Eggers.  Now I know from personal conversations and from reading reviews of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius that not everyone loves this book.  Some have said the writing is self aggrandizing and self serving, and that Eggers does a lot of annoying name dropping.  True, there are parts of the book that I could have done without– namely, the interview for the Real World.  I skipped it entirely.  Yes the book has it’s flaws, as many books do.  HOWEVER:  during the entirety of my reading of this book, I had NO idea whether it was a true story or if it was fiction.  When I found, after finishing the book, that it was a memoir, I was incredulous.  A non-fiction narrative that reads like fiction?  I ate it up.  I wanted more.

AHWOSG was the book that really showed me I could write the book I wanted to write:  a narrative that was non-linear, creative, and went where I wanted it to go, without concern for convention or chronology or any other constrictions.  No, my memoir is not anything like his, nor does it read in the same way.  But this was the spark, the catalyst. This book was a platform of sorts for me.   Shortly after reading Eggers’ book, the film Girl, Interrupted was released.  I didn’t read the book until years later, in grad school.  Another heavy influence on my own memoir, due to Kaysen’s matter-of-fact style, and her ability to talk about very labile, tense situations with seeming calmness.  I also loved the kind of shock value held by the publishing of her own medical records:  not so much bragging as documenting.  This book reminds me of how truly new modern psychology is, and how treatment of mental illness changed drastically in just 100 years.  This book did not have the emotional impact as, say One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest does, but it is stark and bare and revealing.

Then came an onslaught of non-fiction that just bowled me over.  Maus changed me as well– not as a writer, but as a person.  I love how Spiegelman took his parents’ Holocaust experience and put it in such a non-conventional form, and how doing so made the narrative even stronger than could be imagined.  Powerful.  Had I any artistic talent, I would next have drawn out my own memoir as well.

On the heels of this, I was introduced to another cartoonist, Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis. This woman is UNbelievable.  I saw her speak early in 2009:  she was smart, witty, exuberant.  And yes, I DID stand in line to get her autograph.  She was just lovely.  And her story, amazing.  A fantastic book (and animated film as well).

On the recommendation of a friend (thanks again, Marjorie!), I also read Susan Orlean’s much touted and talked of book The Orchid Thief.  I really did not think I would be interested in this book; it sat on my shelf for some time before I actually read it.  I’m not sure if it’s because it was a non-fiction book about orchids, or the fact that it was about (or, at least, I assumed it was about) orchids.  A non-fiction book about plants.  (As opposed to fictionalized books about plants??)   I had read some of Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire and found it appealing, but… still.  A book on plants.  I really did not think I would be engaged.

Ha.  Now is the time that all of you who have read The Orchid Thief can laugh at me.  I really had no idea what I was in for.  I was really stunned by all the information and history of the orchid; I was amazed at all the varieties and names and the lengths that collectors will go to.  The smuggling.  The thieving.  The money involved.  Not to mention the characters involved.  And the history of Florida and the swampland.  I’ve had many obsessions and while orchids have never been one, I  felt I had been immersed into a world in which it could have been a possibility.

This was a decade full of books that changed me as a writer.  What were yours?

When I think of the ’00’s, I think of something a friend once said:  Why be with the hero when you can be with the double zero? No, I shouldn’t say bad things about the ’00’s, they weren’t all bad.

In fact, this decade brought me a whole slew of firsts.  Euphoric highs, and new lows.  Also, and most importantly, a feeling of accomplishment.  Goals were met.  I made things happen.  Not that my life (or any life) is made up of just those things, but some things do stand as landmarks on the map of my life.  So here’s my list, in no particular order:

Finished grad school.  Earned an MA in English/writing.

Wrote a memoir! Took several years, but well worth it.

Fell in love for the first time (I’m a late bloomer..).

Got engaged and was stood up for my wedding.  Gah!

Volunteered for the first time in my life.

Bought my first sex toy (did I mention Very Late Bloomer?).

Got pregnant (and had subsequent miscarriage).

Got first nephew and niece.  Thanks, little sister!

Attended first presidential inauguration.  Witnessed first black president being sworn in. Thanks Marjorie for putting me and ex up for a few days!

I could go on.  There were of course the gains and losses everyone suffers:  deaths, births, other losses.  I’ve gained and lost friends, family members, etc. I’ve read books that changed my life and changed me as a writer. I have a list of books from the decade that I will hopefully write more on later.

This decade has been witness to some wonderful and tragic things.  I won’t go into any of that; I am not the person to write of historical events.  We all have a personal and public history; we also have a need to document that history, to write it down.  To keep record.  This is just a short list of highlights from my history; but, as with any list, I’m sure I’ve left something out.

Size is all about perspective in the end, isn’t it?  Maybe that’s just me.  But I have perception/size issues anyway– can’t guess weight or age on anyone.  Ask me to guess your weight, height, or age, and I will simply tell you I don’t know.  My perception is slightly skewed:  I’m a fairly small person, weighing in most days at around 100 pounds.  But I’ve spent most of my life thinking that I am the same size as everyone else, on average.  This may seem strange, but honestly, I carry myself as if I were taller and heftier.  There was a time when I was extremely underweight, and I did notice a difference then– hard not to.  Later on in grad school, I wrote a short memoir which, while not focused specifically on weight issues, was heavily punctuated with issues of weight, body image, food, etc.  So when a friend posted a link to an article quoting Diablo Cody talking of these issues, I had to respond.

The article, posted on The-F-Word.org ( http://bit.ly/oygmR) excerpts snippets from Diablo’s recent interview in Bust magazine (which I have not read yet but will be raiding Borders tomorrow to get) regarding her latest screenplay.  The blog goes on to quote Diablo’s thoughts on the naked female form and how she feels nudity is confrontational.  Coincidentally, I’d just had a conversation with my friend M (found at BRT in the links list) about how a co-worker had called HR to report the fact that her undies were visible under her skirt, instead of just confronting her & saying something casual like hey, I can see your thongs, do you mind?!! Is it really that big of a deal that this co-worker had to run and tell on her like it was 5th grade?  Honestly, are we that uptight as a society?  Anyway, to get back on topic, I totally agree that nudity can be confrontational, on numerous levels.

What most piqued my interest was what Diablo Cody said about invisibility and being seen.  It seems that most people want to blame Hollywood for what is deemed attractive in women.  There are of course multiple facets in the argument over beauty, but I think, in reality, it is the consumer who drives the beauty industry as well, not just because we buy into what companies and marketing folks tell us to buy into, but because we really believe it.  Marketing and the beauty industry have changed what we all consider to be beautiful.  Okay, no, that was wrong– not ALL of us believe in the ‘beauty myth.’  But it’s no coincidence that all of our movie star/tv idols are thin and sparkly and pretty.

So is it any wonder that someone who does not fit into what is deemed “acceptable” and pretty is somewhat invisible?  That they are not actually seen? This is what I think she is talking about:  forcing others to see someone who is not “typically seen.”  This is the confrontation.  It’s not the nudity, necessarily, but more the confrontation of the skewed perception of what is deemed beautiful or not.  There is such disparity between real flesh & blood women and those we see on the silver screen.

My thesis mentor and I discussed this problem of being invisible vs. being seen quite a bit, as this theme seemed to punctuate my memoir.  I was at the opposite end of the spectrum:  underweight.  Ghastly, horribly underweight.  And I felt completely invisible, almost like a ghost.  People walked around me all day, seeing/not seeing me, acting as if I were not there.  I literally looked like a skeleton in clothing, yet no one (save one or two strangers) gave me a second glance.  Not adults, anyway.  There was a frightening experience with a child in a mall one day, in which she freaked out & whispered/screamed to her mother across the shoe store “mommy mommy look at that girl– she is soooo skinny!”  Much to my utter embarrassment.

So, it seems that anything too far on either side of the spectrum of what body size is considered the right or more attractive body size is subject to this relegation to being unseen.  I think it’s utterly sad.  But I’m glad to see at least someone is out there talking about such things.  We need that visibility.

*waste of a naked girl

when I think of it, of our naked bodies lying together on
the bed, in his apartment,
it is far away.  It was another lifetime.
afternoons and beers and long nights and his hands on my
body… that could not have been me, there is disparity
between me and her.  Me and Her.  Different girls.
She is naked and happy and lush.  I am — what?

A waste of skin.  A thing to be abhorred.

Nakedness does not become me anymore.
I have tried to stare this body down in the mirror,
tried to lay another picture, one I keep in my mind, of
this lush girl, over top of my reality.  It does not work.
The mirror cannot see what’s in my mind;
I can no longer look into the mirror.

What a waste of a naked girl.

(i used to have a body that men adored. slender, not
skinny, shapely.  flat belly, small but firm tits, killer legs.
i would kill myself if i weren’t dying already, if there weren’t
already a downward spiral happening.
there is a burden, a burden of memory, weighing me down:
it is the only weight on me.  i can remember a life before this
living walking disgusting hell and it is a goddamn burden.

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