Decrepitude – a listicle.

I posted this a while ago and just ran across it again – and it made me smile! Which is nice. So I’m re-upping.

source

(I also remember using the brand of soap that Lily’s standing in front of).  source

I recently learned that Daily Mail has a fancy list telling you about how your body shrinks and withers as it ages. Big whup. Do you know how long it takes for that happen? You’ll spend years going “Am I in decline now? How about now? Is it now?”

That’s where your olds can come in handy – I am middle aged, and I know what it looks like. Hereunder, a useful checklist that you might want to clip and keep handy.

Sign #1 that you might be middle-agedYou think in terms of “clipping”.

Sign #2 – You’re attracted to middle-aged people (and a little creeped out by the youngs). If you look at beautiful people in their early twenties and think “well, aren’t they silly and cute! Will they be leaving soon?” – but a cute, gray haired, wrinkly person at the school open house elicits a quickened pulse? You’re middle-aged. (Note: Exceptions made for Josh Hutcherson, Ryan Gosling, and Karen Gillan).

Sign #3 - Certain songs bring you back to a certain place and time — you just can’t remember why. Occasionally a song from the early 80s will brush against my ear I’ll be there, man, in an instant: BOOM! Transported back to an emotional state, filled with a kind of pleasant longing. And I’ll have no idea why. If this happens to you? You’re middle-aged.

Sign #4 – They keep changing the names of shit. Creme rinse, taco chips, oleo – alas, all have gone the way of the Apollo program. But your local bodega and/or online merchant should have no problem providing you with conditioner, tortilla chips and margarine. If you can remember to call them that.

Sign #5 -  You have living memories of life being actually-factually suckier. When I was a toddler, Captain Kirk kissed Uhura, and it raised a genuine, furious ruckus across the land – a mere handful of years earlier, inter-racial marriage had been illegal in most states. Women weren’t admitted to Harvard (having been relegated to Radcliffe) until I was in junior high. And after I graduated from college, a promising young President signed into law a requirement that gay men and women serving in the US military lie about themselves every day. Funny how the day seems a smidge bit brighter when I remember bullcrap like that.

Sign #6 – The list of things that you will never, ever do gets longerSinger in a rock n’ roll band? Not happening. Cartwheels? Ditto. Actually getting all those books read? Oh, you make me laugh, you scamp!

Sign #7 – On the other hand: The list of things you actually do do gets longer, too. Don’t get too excited – most of these are pretty dinky. Like: I actually make my bed most days now, and it only took until I was past 40. And I floss. Occasionally. But I also tell people off when they deserve it, and I no longer carry disagreements & general unpleasantry in my breastbone, and I have finally found a way to get regular exercise that I both enjoy and actually, you know, do. Which I’m told makes it work a whole lot better.

Sign #7, corollary – You keep getting bigger. Sometimes this is physical – which, you know, we all need to figure out how to deal with that in this particular stage of the patriarchy – but that’s not what I mean. My mother once told me that there is no “up” – as in “grown up” (“There’s no ‘up’ to arrive at,” she said at some point in her late 50s, when you would think that, if there were an up, she would have found it) – and she’s mostly right. It’s just that “up” keeps moving. As a person, I am bigger, broader, more UP, than I have ever been and it’s kind of awesome. Who am I kidding? It’s totally awesome. The Daily Mail may declare my body to be shrinking, and whole sections of society and the economic sector may think that I should quietly bob my hair and go away – but fuck them. Cause I’m bigger now, and I like it.

Sign #8Pimples on top of wrinkles –  Cause nature’s a big ol’ juicebox.

 

 

 

Women’s bodies as a delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power.

I wrote the above headline as a tweet last week, just after reading about the recent stabbing death of a teenage Palestinian girl by her brother, “for allegedly shaming her family.”

Ever since writing those 72 characters, though, I can’t stop thinking about them. Because that’s it, that’s the whole story: Women’s bodies are used as a delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power. Everywhere. All the time.

Honor killings are perhaps the most obvious case (the kind of case that allows Westerners to feel that we’re off the hook on these issues) because a family’s honor is defined by how chaste the men are able to keep their women. If the women stray (or are perceived to have strayed) from a very narrow definition of proper behavior, in certain cultures and circumstances the men are not only free to kill the women, they’re expected to.

But women’s bodies are not just the delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power in Foreign Places that are Far Away. They’re used for making such statements all around the globe, every day, all day.

Rape. Sexual assault. Workplace harassment. Street harassment. Domestic violence. In each case, the attacker or harasser is making clear that his victim (and whoever else might be listening) knows who’s got power over whom. The victim’s body is a tool toward these ends.

Likewise the fight to legally prevent women from having access to the reproductive health care of our choice. When male politicians and cultural leaders declare that pregnant women are “hosts”, or that women who want access to birth control as part of their healthcare are uncontrolled sluts and/or prostitutes, or ask if women want access to abortions, why can’t men have access to rape? – they’re declaring their right to deny women physical autonomy.

When women don’t earn as much as men for the same work, and are only sporadically allowed access to the same work; when women cannot afford to better the physical conditions of their lives without the aid of a better-paid husband; when it continues to be culturally suspect if a man is supported by a woman, and culturally rewarded if a man earns enough money to “allow” his wife to not work — women’s physical productivity is a tool with which men assert or declare their power in the workplace, in society, and at home.

Polygamy; male “scoring” vs. female “sluttiness”; women as cooks but not as chefs; women as accessories but not as leads; women told to be pleasant to men who are rude; women told they’re not Real Geeks; pre-teens who can’t walk to school without hearing grown men talk about their bodies; girls and women told to shape and re-shape their bodies by an entertainment business dominated by men — all are direct examples or outgrowths of the same principle, a principle that frequently overlaps with others: Brown men may not be seen as having as much power as white men, nor poor men as much power as the rich, the cultural elite need to be protected from the unwashed, all of it in an endless cycle of social drama and jockeying for position. As is often true for oppressed populations, some women support this status quo, serving to perpetuate the very system that hurts them and their sisters — but their involvement doesn’t change the basic fact.

And that basic fact is this: At the end of the day, I cannot be sure that my body is mine. My daughter cannot be sure that her body is hers. Our bodies are free game to whatever man needs to tell the world that he is powerful. Our human right to physical autonomy is not a given.

Women’s bodies are delivery mechanisms for statements about men’s power. Everywhere. Every day.

All damn day long.

Re-up: The social implications of a cookie.

“Training the world” — my essay about little girls and body image – has kind of gone slow-mo viral since I posted it last month, first getting decent attention here, then getting picked up by xoJane, then suddenly getting *huge* attention here, then getting picked up by the Huffington Post, and then, just today, getting picked up by HuffPost Canada. I’m so pleased, because if ever there was a post that I would want to go viral, that’s the one — I believe that we do real damage to our girls when we fail to address the ways in which our social norms and mores encourage them to loathe and distrust the only body they will ever have, and we need to talk about that.

But I genuinely believe that we are doing no less damage to ourselves. And so, I decided to re-up the following (first posted this past summer). I think anyone who found this blog because of “Training the world” will find it of interest, too. Thank you so much for being here!

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chocolate chip cookieJust once, when I happen to be in a group of women, I’d like to have a cookie without having to consider the social implications of having a cookie.

This happened to me recently — I was at a little teacher-organized gathering of kids and parents, having a brief conversation with a small handful of women. One turned to the rest of us and said “I want a cookie. Does anyone else want a cookie?” and as one, the rest of us smiled and said no. The cookie-fetcher then said “Well, now I feel bad, I’ll be the only one taking a cookie!” and came back with an apple.

Now, I am a fan of apples and have nothing against them. Apples are a fine thing. And sometimes I genuinely do not want a cookie.

But I have no idea if I wanted a cookie in that moment or not. I just know that when I’m in a gathering of women (particularly if I don’t know them very well), I almost never reach for sweets. I am a woman of Joan-esque proportions, minus all the foundation garments, and I know that I live in a society that has a lot of opinions about women of my size and the consumption of baked goods.

I do not talk about it, will not bond (as so many of us are trained to do) over self-hatred, will not discuss anyone’s weight, exercise program, dress size, or shape (unless it’s to be conspicuously comfortable with the fact that I am large-bosomed). I know that sometimes these conversations can be perfectly healthy and self-affirming, but they too often are not, and I lack the skills to judge each and every conversation on the spot, so I participate in none.

But I am too good at hearing the whispers passing through people’s minds (or the whispers that I fear might be passing there, or the whispers of girls with whom I went to junior high, or the ones on TV) — and so while I will not engage in the body-shaming, neither will I engage in the cookie-eating.

Unless I do. Unless I make a conscience choice to make a political statement and have a cookie in front of God and everybody. Nearly as soon as the apple-bearing woman returned with her apple, I was sorry I hadn’t said some suburban-mom version of “Hellyeah I’ll have a motherfucking cookie!!” Because women need to see each other eating normally, enjoying their food, not weighing every bite. We model behavior for each other, we owe that to each other. I don’t know if I wanted a cookie, but I should have had one.

I always have one when there are kids around, especially if those kids are girls. If the kids are girls, I’ll have two cookies, and talk about how good they are, and counter any self-hating, food-limiting, body-slagging talk that may bubble up as quickly as I can. Because I’m the adult, and I need to model behavior for them, I owe that to them, to show them that women can eat normally, enjoy their food, not weigh every bite.

I don’t blame Women. And I certainly don’t blame the women I happened to be with today, or any women with whom I happen to find myself. I blame All Of Us. I blame society as individuals and society as a collective. I blame me, I blame the magazines at the grocery store, I blame 100-calorie packs and the corporate mind that conceived of them. I blame the air we breathe. I even kind of blame religion, because we have forever bought and sold a terrible, soul-killing notion that our bodies are bad, that they must be controlled, that not controlling our bodies in some vague, amorphous way (because we have to eat something, there’s no avoiding that, so constant vigilance is the only way) is a failure, a sin, something to be condemned, to be shunned, to be mocked, to be shamed. As if God did not know what He was doing when He created us. As if God did not make each and everyone of us to love and be loved, for who we are. For who and how He made us.

All of this, on every cookie (or piece of cake, or scoop of ice cream) that I eat in public. All of it.

Sometimes, I wish I could just eat a cookie.

Training the world – on little girls and body image.

I maintain something of a bi-cameral approach with regard to writing about my children: I write about them, but I don’t use their names (their last name is different to mine, which helps); I write about them, but I write only happy things, or uplifting things, or things that are far in the past. Nothing that would embarrass them, nothing that is truly personal and private. I owe them that, I think. They didn’t ask to be born to me.

Today I’m going to break down that wall, though, because I believe my own daughter’s well-being actually, in a very broad way, depends on it. If you know my girl, or if you ever meet her, I’m asking you here and now: Please don’t discuss the following with her. It would, genuinely, make her sad.

The girl.

The girl.

But how am I to remain silent, when she sits in the back of my car, tears streaming down her face and wondering, in a tiny and strangled voice, if anyone will ever love her?

The girl is tall, and broad, and strong, and round. She is 10, and as she has throughout her young life, she has a belly. It’s not small – it’s a real belly. The kind of belly that many young girls have until they reach puberty, and which is usually eclipsed by the appearance of breasts. As girls grow into women, our shapes change — but they don’t usually change entirely. Mine didn’t. If you were born big and soft (9 lbs 3 oz, and she was four weeks early), you’re never going to become anything much different, unless you literally do physical damage to yourself in the effort.

“Do you think I’ll ever be skinny?” she asked in that same car ride.

No, honey, no. I do not think you will ever be skinny. “Skinny” (like “fat”) has no real value, it tells us nothing about the worth or even the health of the person, it’s a descriptor. It’s like “tall” or “blue” or “left handed” – it describes something, it doesn’t tell you that thing’s worth. Or, worse yet, we’ve made “skinny” (and “fat”) into a weapon, a weapon we use to wound people.

These are almost exactly the words I used with her in the car, words very similar to words she’s heard her whole life — or, at least, since the first time she was called “fat” and understood it to be intended as a cruelty, when she was 4. When she was 9, she could already use the phrase “objectification of women” correctly.

And the other day, in that car, tears streaming down her face, she finally said “I know, but you’re training me. You’re not training the whole world.”

My daughter is exactly as God and her genes intended her to be: She is funny and lights up a room and won’t take no for an answer. She is very smart and loves being very smart and can sit in a corner and read for two hours at a stretch. She will spontaneously dance to just about anything, and will run around the playground with her friends all afternoon if time and homework allow. She is a person of healthy appetites, in all senses: She would like a bigger bite of the world, please, and also some more ice cream, while you’re up. She thoroughly enjoys her food, except when she doesn’t, at which point she can’t be bothered to have another bite. She knows that too much ice cream isn’t always good for her body, and she is learning that sometimes “no” is the best answer — but she’s always heard “no” from time to time, and always had that “no” acted upon. Her diet is healthy, and she knows that, too, and likes it. She is also, if I may, beautiful. Gorgeous, in fact, with milky-peachy skin and deep brown eyes and hair that falls in waves all around her beautiful smile.

But the girl lives in the world that her father and I cannot reach, she doesn’t live within our arms. She lives in a world where 10 year old girls are already so bone-deep aware of how we treat women who do not fit a certain, very narrow, paradigm that they worry they will never be loved. She worries — a lot — what strangers think of her when they see her from a distance; she worries that the people who know her are kind only because they know her.

She is 10. She is healthy. She is strong. She is wicked smart. And she sat in my car, weeping about her body.

There is only so much her father and I can do, only so much real science we can bring to bear on the lies and misapprehensions peddled by the diet industry and swallowed whole by those around us. There is only so much we can do about the fact that every adult woman she comes in contact with is steeped in the same lies and misapprehensions, the vast majority of them openly bemoaning their sacred bodies and bonding over self-loathing. “I’m getting fat!” one of the girl’s friends said at school the other day, a friend who is so slight she might blow away on the next strong wing.

There’s only so much I can do. It’s already in her. And even though I never say it out loud, it’s in me too. I hate it, but there it is, telling me how little I’m worth because I refuse to punish my only body for being something other than that which I am told it should be. I cannot tell you how much it hurts me, how furious it makes me, to know that this is what she feels and what she faces. I’m weeping as I type. And there’s almost nothing I can do. I cannot train the world.

But maybe, maybe – if we all work together, maybe if we’re kinder to ourselves and each other, more loving toward these fabulous machines that move us through our lives, less willing to accept shaming that cloaks itself as wisdom – maybe together, we adults can make the world in which our little girls are growing into wonderful women a better place. Maybe.

Please help me. We’re the adults. My daughter, and probably yours, needs our help.  They need our love.

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UPDATE: My Twitter friend Kris Lindbeck sent me the lovliest essay I may have ever read about human bodies — all of them. Please click through to read. “I’ll tell you what people look like, really: they look like flames. Or like the stars, on a clear night in the wilderness.”

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UPDATE 10/6/13: All of a sudden this post is getting a ton of love from Facebook, and I’m very grateful — and Facebook is not the easiest thing to search, so I honestly don’t have any idea why today, or what the source(s) is (are). If it’s you – thank you!

In case you missed it, here’s the memo.

Women, no matter how successful, powerful, or influential, must display their bodies for public consumption, and direct their gaze toward men.

Mika Brzezinski posing with Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough.

Mika Brzezinski posing with Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough.

There is a bright, shining line between the above, and Miley Cyrus’s routine at the VMAs (a bright, shining line that appears to have eluded Mika Brzezinski).

There’s a reason that the following picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono remains so odd, and so powerful.

lennon ono

Ashton Kutcher on opportunity, being sexy, and living life.

I’ll be honest, I never thought that I’d be quoting Ashton Kutcher at length — not, I stress, that I have anything against Ashton Kutcher.

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I really don’t. I mean, I know that all the hip, indie-type kids are supposed to eschew all things mainstream, and there’s little more mainstream than being a hugely successful TV and movie star, but the dude is just doing his job and doing it well. Plus which he is, if we are to be frank, very handsome. So I have nothing against him – he’s just not my jam. (Who is my jam? Let’s not discuss that here *cough*Tom Hiddleston*cough*).

But, that being the case, I never really expected to be quoting Ashton Kutcher at length. And yet here I am, about to do just that. He said the following at the Teen Choice Awards, so that room + those who watch the Teen Choice Awards were his audience — which is to say: People who don’t often hear the kind of thing he’s telling them here. The video of him saying all of the following (starting at about the 1:59 mark) is above, and it’s worth a watch, because it’s nice watching people being passionate when they say good things.

I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was 13 I had my first job with my dad, carrying shingles up to the roof, and then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant, and then I got a job in a grocery store deli, and then I got a job at a factory sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground. And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job. And I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.

Number two: Being sexy. The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful. And being generous. EVERYthing else is CRAP, I promise you. It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less. So don’t buy it. Be smart, be thoughtful, and be generous.

The third thing is something that I just relearned when I was making this movie about Steve Jobs. And Steve Jobs said when you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is. And that your life is to live your life inside the world, and try not to get into too much trouble, and maybe get an education, and get a job, and make some money, and have a family, but life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing, and that is that everything around us, that we call life, was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own things, you can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life, don’t live one, build one. Find your opportunities and always be sexy. I love you guys.

Everyone’s already focusing on the middle bit, where he said those wonderful things about being sexy and the crap that we’re sold to try to make us feel like less, and I absolutely love that bit (and yes, Ashton Kutcher makes his money from selling things and being presented to the world in a conventionally attractive manner, plus he tends to date/act with women who are conventionally beautiful. That doesn’t make what he said any less true, and I would submit that for the audience in question, it gives those words a powerful added punch. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the kids who watch the Teen Choice Awards aren’t reading this blog).

But I also really loved the bits on either side of the middle bit. Now, I’ve already written about successful people talking about striving for success and how frustrating that can sometimes be to hear, and of course, in an extemporaneous, three minute speech at the Teen Choice Awards, no one is going to hit all the important points (like the ones I made right here, if you’re wondering), but whatever: He’s right. Opportunity looks like work, and often like very hard work. Not always, but often. If you really want what you want, it will almost never be handed to you, and I think that’s a good thing to remind people from time to time, especially young people who might be venerating The Famous.

And building a life rather than just living it — finding the things that you want to build and that are meaningful to you, because you are capable, too — that’s really powerful, and really important.

Have I gotten everything I wanted in my life? Do I always feel sexy (despite the fact that I am, in fact, really smart, and try hard to be thoughtful and generous)? I think that my writing on this blog is testament to the fact that no. Because I also try to be honest.

But that doesn’t make any of the above untrue, it just makes it part of a larger whole. We cannot expect anyone to deliver all of the truth in three minutes — but we can be grateful to those who tell some of it, particularly to an audience in particular need of hearing it.

Thanks, Mr. Kutcher. You may not be my jam, but you are A-OK. If you ever see Mr. Hiddleston, please tell him I say hi.

Barbie’s a real doll!

barbie

The doll on the left is, of course, Barbie, freak of plastic. The doll on the right was created by artist Nickolay Lamm using CDC figures to create a 3-D printed model of an average American 19 year old woman.

It’s been referred to as “normal” Barbie, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, nor how I feel about CDC “averages” — “normal” can be a very problematic word, and as a social scientist I can assure you that “average” is often useless.

And yet, having said that — more of this please! It’s remarkable how initially odd the “average” doll looks (or, at least it did to me!), and then how absolutely right.

More pictures of Lamm’s process and a link to his blog after the jump.

(more…)

Because I’m pretty sure that in its heart, that coat is brown.

wendy davis big damn hero

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Obligatory link for those who don’t get the reference: Firefly, “Big damn heroes, sir.”

Photo source: Patrick Michels /TexasObserver.org 

UPDATE: Please note this comment by Neocortex just made in the previous thread – all those folks in the gallery last night who yelled and stomped and cheered and brought it home in the last 10-15 minutes are giant Big Damn Heroes, too. Can’t stop the signal!

Texas Senator Wendy Davis literally standing up for reproductive choice.

wendy davisI heard over the Twitter that Texas Senator Wendy Davis needs more material for the heroic filibuster she’s undertaken today in an effort to kill a really, really bad anti-choice bill that otherwise stands to be passed by the Texas state legislature, so I edited my now-thrice posted story of my own abortion. Following you can read what I sent – I hope it helps, but I really wish I could just go and stand in her place for a few minutes. I’m so grateful for what she’s doing – she’s absolutely an American hero.

She has to make it until midnight tonight, a little less than three hours from now – if you have a story you’d like to send, you can send it to Jessica Luther who is in Austin and will pass it on: luther [dot] jessica [at] gmail. (If you don’t live in Texas, just don’t mention your locale).

I’ve had an abortion. Have you?

The current legislative effort to essentially eliminate abortion in the state of Texas has generated a great deal of raucous argument; as usual, the argument suggests the existence of clear-cut opinion, the “supporting” or “opposing” of the act itself.

What is never discussed are the gray areas.

Of course, women within the reach of this story know their own answer to my question; what many of the men in their lives don’t realize is that they would be surprised by the truth.

Many men don’t know that their wives, sisters or mothers have, in fact, terminated a pregnancy. They don’t know because the women they love fear their response. Will he see me differently? Will he — figuratively or literally — kill me? Witness how shocking it was when Wyoming State Representative Sue Wallis, a Republican, disclosed her own abortion in 2011.

As a result of these fears we – as a nation and as individuals – largely don’t talk about abortion. And when we do, we’re often not honest. The shadow of perceived opinion is very long. Publicly we speak as if there were two clear positions — but in private, most of us know this isn’t the truth.

My abortion is a thing of which I’m neither ashamed nor proud. I wish that I hadn’t had to do it, but I did.

The average person might want to know why — because most of us have a sliding scale of morality. Even some staunch opponents will agree in cases of rape; others where there is genetic defect; a larger number, if the abortion takes place early in the first trimester; many, of course, think it’s always a woman’s choice.

I believe there is a vast middle ground made up of most Americans, those who feel abortion is neither irredeemably evil, nor free of moral implication. Witness polls conducted recently by the Pew Research Center: just over half of Americans think that abortions should be legal in all or most cases; 25% are willing to countenance the idea in very specific instances. Only 16% want to ban abortion outright.

At least some of our national ambivalence reflects more about our culture than anything endemically human: Japanese society, for instance, maintains a standard ritual, mizuko kuyo, to memorialize aborted or miscarried fetuses and stillborn babies. In a paper discussing the rite, Dr. Dennis Klass, a Webster University psychology of religion professor and a grief expert, writes: “The abortion experience is seen as a necessary sorrow tinged with grief, regret and fear which forces parents to apologize to the fetus and, thus, connect the fetus to the family.”

This describes my own experience well — but I’m an American. I carry a different culture, and I fear that in apologizing, I accept some notion of personhood that somehow “makes” the entire thing — murder. So, I hesitate.

I ask myself: When I aborted my first pregnancy, did I kill a baby? No. But did I stop the potential for life? Absolutely. Insofar as life itself is simultaneously the most mundane and most divine fact on our planet, this means something.

But I’m willing to say that I don’t know what that something is. I can only function in the cold reality of my own world — and as such, I alone can judge whether my abortion was a moral choice. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t happy, but it was the least-bad of two bad choices. It was moral.

I don’t know anyone for whom abortion is easy; I don’t know anyone (any woman, at least) who sees abortion as birth control. These choices are stunningly complex. When we deny that, when we talk as if we are all 100 percent clear on this issue, we deny our humanity. And we deny our grief.

And why, in the end, did I have my abortion? I’m not going to tell you that—as Rep. Wallis said in 2011, it’s “none of your damned business.” You and I don’t know each other, and my reasons are personal. I don’t need to defend them.

And neither does your neighbor, the stranger at work — nor, perhaps, your wife.

 

The social implications of a cookie.

chocolate chip cookieJust once, when I happen to be in a group of women, I’d like to have a cookie without having to consider the social implications of having a cookie.

This happened to me just now — I was at the park at a little teacher-organized end-of-year gathering of kids, having a brief conversation with a small handful of women. One turned to the rest of us and said “I want a cookie. Does anyone else want a cookie?” and as one, the rest of us smiled and said no. The cookie-fetcher then said “Well, now I feel bad, I’ll be the only one taking a cookie!” and came back with an apple.

Now, I am a fan of apples and have nothing against them. Apples are a fine thing. And sometime I genuinely do not want a cookie.

But I have no idea if I wanted a cookie in that moment or not. I just know that when I’m in a gathering of women (particularly if I don’t know them very well), I almost never reach for sweets. I am a woman of Joan-esque proportions, minus all the foundation garments, and I know that I live in a society that has a lot of opinions about women of my size and the consumption of baked goods.

I do not talk about it, will not bond (as so many of us are trained to do) over self-hatred, will not discuss anyone’s weight, exercise program, dress size, or shape (unless it’s to be conspicuously comfortable with the fact that I am large-bosomed). I know that sometimes these conversations can be perfectly healthy and self-affirming, but they too often are not, and I lack the skills to judge each and every conversation on the spot, so I participate in none.

But I am too good at hearing the whispers passing through people’s minds (or the whispers that I fear might be passing there, or the whispers of girls with whom I went to junior high, or the ones on TV) — and so while I will not engage in the body-shaming, neither will I engage in the cookie-eating.

Unless I do. Unless I make a conscience choice to make a political statement and have a cookie in front of God and everybody. Nearly as soon as the apple-bearing woman returned with her apple, I was sorry I hadn’t said some suburban-mom version of “Hell yeah I’ll have a motherfucking cookie!!” Because women need to see each other eating normally, enjoying their food, not weighing every bite. We model behavior for each other, we owe that to each other. I don’t know if I wanted a cookie, but I should have had one.

I always have one when there are kids around, especially if those kids are girls. If the kids are girls, I’ll have two cookies, and talk about how good they are, and counter any self-hating, food-limiting, body-slagging talk that may bubble up as quickly as I can. Because I’m the adult, and I need to model behavior for them, I owe that to them, to show them that women can eat normally, enjoy their food, not weigh every bite.

I don’t blame Women. And I certainly don’t blame the women I happened to be with today, or any women with whom I happen to find myself. I blame All Of Us. I blame society as individuals and society as a collective. I blame me, I blame the magazines at the grocery store, I blame 100-calorie packs and the corporate mind that conceived of them. I blame the air we breathe. I even kind of blame religion, because we have forever bought and sold a terrible, soul-killing notion that our bodies are bad, that they must be controlled, that not controlling our bodies in some vague, amorphous way (because we have to eat something, there’s no avoiding that, so constant vigilance is the only way) is a failure, a sin, something to be condemned, to be shunned, to be mocked, to be shamed. As if God did not know what He was doing when He created us. As if God did not make each and everyone of us to love and be loved, for who we are. For who and how He made us.

All of this, on every cookie (or piece of cake, or scoop of ice cream) that I eat in public. All of it.

Sometimes, I wish I could just eat a cookie.

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