A new year; the same me?

It’s January 2011, and it’s been over two months since I’ve updated my blog. Sometimes I’ve forgotten about it, sometimes I haven’t had anything to say, and sometimes I’ve wanted to say things and not known how to do it. But the only way to get back to it is to get back to it, so, well, I’m back.

A new year often inspires people to be reflective of where they’ve been and where they are going and I am no exception. As I write this, much is the same as the last time I wrote. I am still unemployed, I am still living with my parents, I am still getting a divorce – hell, just like previous years, I didn’t do NaNoWriMo.

I feel like these are facts that I should be upset or discouraged by, but somehow, even though they look bad written out, living them feels better than I’d expected.

I have had a long history of self-flagellation, of fighting myself, of wanting to be different, to be better, and my definition of better always managed to be something I never consciously chose; it just lurked in my head, waiting to chastise me for not living up to the ideal. Whether it was my body, my career, my relationships, even my hobbies – you name it, and I never thought I was good enough. And isn’t this the story of every striver, every Lisa Simpson-esque overachiever? My inclination has also been to beat myself up for not even having original angst, a self-defeating cycle if ever I’ve seen one.

This mindset has resulted in me being extremely risk-adverse. I don’t know if I ever articulated it as such, but I would think things like, oh, I would rather not get my hopes up and then be disappointed, better to just not try. I can’t even really think of any examples of things that I wanted and didn’t go after; more, I just didn’t aim for very much. The risk of rejection or failure absolutely paralyzed me.

And so here I am unemployed, the longest stretch of unemployment I’ve ever had, and as much as I am aching to get back to work, I have to say that it hasn’t been an entirely negative experience. For one thing, it has forced me to experience rejection, and realize that I can handle it. This seems so obvious, but previously, I have always gone on an interview and been immediately offered the job – I am almost 37 years old and this is the first time I’ve gone on job interviews where I wasn’t hired! I know that I’ve been fortunate in the past, but those easy experiences kept me sheltered. The thought of not being chosen always seemed like it would be such a crushing blow, such a referendum on my worthiness as a human. And yet, now that I’ve been on three interviews where I haven’t been hired, I’ve been disappointed, but it is much more manageable than I’d expected. I feel much more realistic now.

What has also been helpful has been contemplating exactly what kind of work I want to do. Again, the over-achiever syndrome – I have always had these vague feelings that I should be doing something amazing, something incredible, get a Ph.D., become a CEO, a bestselling author, something that will publicly affirm my worth. Yet this is not who I am! The more job descriptions I look at, the more I realize that I am not a leader, an innovator, a star – and finally, I feel okay with that. I am looking at jobs with titles like Program Associate or Project Administrator and realizing that that’s the kind of work I like. I like taking people’s ideas and executing them, thinking of the little details and figuring out the snags and coming up with other ways to get around them. I like working with people, and helping explain things, and providing good service. I like working 40 hours a week and not bringing my work home with me. Part of me thinks, I have a masters degree and a 4.0 GPA from an Ivy League university, shouldn’t I be aiming higher? But feeling like I should be aiming higher, according to some amorphous external standard, hasn’t made me happy, at all. And the more I accept that what I like is what I like, the more at peace I feel.

This is something I have been experiencing in my personal life as well. (And just a warning – I am going to talk about my sex life. Not very explicitly, but if that will weird you out because you know me, you might want to stop reading here. It gets really personal.)

When Carl and I decided to separate, we also agreed that we would be free to see other people. Initially, the idea seemed very academic and theoretical to me, but after about a month apart I got curious, and I started exploring aspects of my sexuality that I had fantasized about for decades, but had never dared to act upon except in the smallest of ways. (Again, no details, but let’s just say it’s kinky stuff.) I had often felt conflicted about my desires, felt like they were a representation of my low self-esteem, perhaps a way to feel bad about myself, and I often did feel guilty or ashamed or dirty for the things I wanted.

Yet I chanced upon meeting someone whose desires very closely matched mine, and took a huge risk in making my fantasies a reality. Not only was it better than I expected, but over the past few months he has been acting as a mentor of sorts, and under his guidance I have done things I never imagined I would, and it has been simply incredible. Not just physically; it has been mentally and emotionally liberating in a way I absolutely did not expect. The guilt and shame I’d felt for so long about what I wanted has melted, dissolved – I did these things, and the world did not end! I am still the same person I ever was! Again, I like what I like, and I can’t believe I fought against it for so long.

And in keeping with this blog’s theme, I have to say that even as positive as my body image has been in the past, being sexual in this way has been an entirely new way to experience my body, experience myself in my body. I have discarded self-consciousness I didn’t even realize I still had. I am not just comfortable in my skin; I revel in being looked at, at being seen. I move and touch and receive touch seamlessly; my body and my skin and my mind act in absolute concert. I didn’t even imagine this was possible!

It has been somewhat hard to know how to integrate this into my life; for one, it is so heady and overwhelming that I fear that for the people I do talk to about it, I’m pretty much shouting my bliss from the rooftops. And yet I have also felt unable to talk about it in other ways – some of the things I have done are so extreme and out of the ordinary that to say them out loud sounds almost like abuse, and in the beginning, I worried that perhaps I was fooling myself. I have a long history of being in bad situations that I could find any way possible to justify to myself, to convince myself that everything was fine when it really wasn’t. And I’m not cocky enough to say 100% that this isn’t the case now, but I have been making it a point to check in with myself after each time and see how I’m feeling, and goddamn if I don’t feel peaceful and blissful and just plain happy each time. And in a way, having experienced abuse in the past has been a very useful yardstick – I know what abuse feels like, and this doesn’t feel at all like that. If that changes, I’ll deal with it, but for now, it feels amazing to trust myself like this.

So. Wow. This is a lot of navel gazing, and a lot more disjointed and less cohesive than I generally aim for when I write, but so be it. My goal in writing for an audience instead of a private diary is not just to share my experiences in the hopes that they’ll resonate with someone reading, but to keep myself honest, bring things into the light of day. It feels so good to accept who I am and what I like and what I want – my initial inclination is to bemoan how long it took me to make such simple strides, but you know what? I’m just going to enjoy it.

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Staring down the blank page

October 31st is not just Halloween, but it is also the night before November 1st, the first day of National Novel Writing Month. The first year I had heard of NaNoWriMo was 2003, and I spent most of September excited about the prospect of jumping head first into a novel come November. Then I met Carl, my husband, in October, and was so head-over-heels in love by November that writing a novel was the last thing on my mind.

Last November I was in Europe, having just arrived, and as I was isolated and unemployed, NaNoWriMo seemed like the perfect way to spend a month.  Yet this time the idea of sitting down to a blank screen terrified me.  I was so miserable and unhappy and writing a novel seemed like the last thing I could handle.  I didn’t feel competent to handle my own psyche, let alone create new people out of whole cloth and hope to make them believable.

(The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to just write, quality be damned, yet somehow I managed to turn it into an exercise in self-flagellation.  I’m unfortunately rather good at self-flagellation.)

So now here I am in 2010, on the night before NaNoWriMo, and am facing my scariest blank page yet.  Carl and I have been living apart, on different continents, for two months, and today we finally spoke of our separation and our marriage and our future.  And although we are not ready to start sorting out logistics yet, it really is just a matter of time before we separate for good.  (I feel like such a coward, avoiding the word divorce.)

And as much as this is mutual and amicable and a long time coming, it really just breaks my heart.  I think of our seven years together, and all the joy and love that we’ve had together, and how much optimism and hope we had when we married.  I think of all our family and friends who surrounded us with such love at our wedding, and all the support and well-wishes we had, and can’t help but feel like I’ve let them down, let Carl down, let everyone down.  We tried so hard, and just couldn’t make it work.

I could write for ages – could write the 50,000 words in a month for NaNoWriMo – and still never say enough of how hard this is, how much I regret the way things turned out.

So here I am on NaNo Eve, and I have no idea what the next steps in my life will be, what words to put on those blank pages.  I am separated and unemployed and living with my parents and feel pretty damn lost.  But I am the author of my own life, right?  I guess I need to just start writing, perfection be damned.

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Sometimes a salad is just a salad

Living with my parents continues to be interesting.

I am not feeling as panicked around food as I was when I first arrived;  my mother continues to make comments about my eating, but I have been feeling much less defensive and just rather amused.  I have not given her the big talk that I still feel brewing in my head, but have been deflecting.

For example, the other night I went food shopping with my dad, and the store had a sale on Ben and Jerry’s.  I love Ben and Jerry’s because I totally love the kitchen sink approach to ice cream – the more stuff in it,  the merrier – and so I picked up two cartons.  (Boston Cream Pie and Snickerdoodle Cookie – both flavors were fabulous.)  That evening I scooped out some into a little bowl and had it while watching TV with my mom after my dad went to bed.  I had offered my mother some, and she wasn’t interested, but after I ate mine, she said, “wow, you ate that pretty fast.”

Which is pretty hilarious – as my husband and many of my friends can attest, I am a pretty slow and methodical eater, and was even before doing the nutrition program.  And I really wanted to taste and savor the ice cream, so I definitely ate it at a pace where I was getting maximal enjoyment out of it.  (An aside:  I really want to get a collection of demitasse spoons for eating stuff like ice cream and yogurt – I swear food like that tastes better when eaten with tiny spoons.)   So I just said something like “no I didn’t,”  and went back to watching TV.  Her perception clearly didn’t have to do with reality – as if there is an Official Ice Cream Eating Speed Limit! – and it clearly was about her issues and not mine.

Now that I have more emotional distance and feel grounded again in how I eat, it actually rather amuses me to watch my mother’s reactions to my food.  The other week I was eating salad for breakfast, which I totally love and it will keep me going for hours – arugula with avocado, tomato, feta, and sunflower seeds, yum – and every morning, my mom could not help herself from saying things like “really, wow, salad for breakfast, my goodness, who ever would have thought?  I don’t think I could ever do that.  A salad.  For breakfast!  Who ever heard of such a thing?  And oh, that cheese!  What is that again?  My goodness, it is so stinky!  I can’t believe you can eat that!  Wow, salad first thing in the morning!”  I had no idea that I was so transgressive in my breakfast choices!

Then the other day, my parents decided to go out to dinner and invited me along.  Earlier in the day, I had been helping my mom in her garden pulling up weeds, and when I was done I had a late lunch (of aforementioned salad) because I was ravenous and couldn’t wait the few hours before we went to dinner.  By the time we got to the restaurant, I was a little hungry, but not very much, since I had had lunch so recently.  So I ate a small roll when they came out, but when the family style salad came out, I declined to have any, because I wanted to save my appetite for my meal, and I had just had salad earlier that day and wasn’t in the mood for any more.

And this just about blew my parents’ minds.  They just could not believe that there was salad on the table and I wasn’t going to eat any.  Even after I calmly and matter-of-factly explained my reasons, they still pressed.  “Are you sure?  Look how much there is.  You don’t want it to go to waste.  Are you sure you don’t want any salad?”  And I just laughed and said, no, I’m fine, but seriously, it bothered them until the meal came.

My dinner was a little on the disappointing side – my scallops were a bit rubbery and my asparagus dry – but I ate enough to be satisfied, leaving probably a quarter of the food left.  My mother finished as much of her food as she wanted, but then kept trying to feed me what was left of hers.  I kept having to say, no thanks Mom, I’m full, no thanks.  I eventually did capitulate and have a fried shrimp – which was way tastier than my scallops and wound up being a nice way to end the meal – but it amazed me just how invested my mother seems in other people’s food.

Then again, it’s not like my mother lives in a vacuum – the Food Police are rampant in American culture (something I didn’t miss one bit in Europe), and she’s not immune to the conflicting messages we get bombarded by.   I’m finally feeling able to step back and realize that it’s virtually all about her and her own unexamined issues, and doesn’t have anything to do with me at all.  I am feeling very comfortable in my ability to choose my own food for my own reasons without the emotional baggage any more, even around my mom’s angst.  I am delighted that my ice cream is not forbidden and sinful, nor my salad virtuous and moral.  For me, it really now is just a salad.

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Touching strangers in pajamas

So last night I went to a cuddle party.

I have been back in the US for over three weeks now, and it has been a total whirlwind of seeing family and friends and dogsitting and career counseling and traveling and living out of suitcases, and there are a million or so things that have been going through my head to write about, but the cuddling is what finally got me back to my blog.

For those of you unfamiliar with cuddle parties, they’re basically what they sound like – a group of people together in a room, cuddling and hugging each other in an assortment of non-sexual configurations.  So what on earth possessed me to cuddle with a bunch of strangers in my pajamas?

My first inclination is to answer that self-posed question snarkily, to say that it makes for a good story to tell people at parties.  And that’s not entirely untrue – I definitely enjoy sharing the tales of my exploits with friends.  But it would also be avoiding the deeper truth, that I found it an incredibly moving experience.

I had first heard about it on a forum dedicated to ferreting out bizarre goings-on on the internet, where cuddle parties had gotten a brief mention.  I think I laughed when I read about it, but the idea lingered.  I wound up browsing on their website and found myself really drawn to the dedication to practicing honest and effective communication around boundaries.  Some of the most important rules of cuddle parties revolve around feeling free to say no when you mean it, to accept no when you hear it, and to have the absolute freedom to decide how and when you want to be touched, if at all.  Not only have I been forced into being touched against my will in the past, I have also had many sexual experiences where I effectively said yes because I feared the consequences of saying no, and that has lingered with me for years.  So I was delighted at the idea of being in a place where it was entirely safe to say no and where one’s bodily autonomy would be so unquestionably upheld.

Additionally, I’ve had this life-long struggle to learn to really inhabit my body, and touching and being touched has always been so fraught.  For so long I felt that no one would ever want me to inflict my body on them, that asking someone to touch me would be akin to asking them to eat dirty cat litter: a thoroughly revolting experience that no one would ever voluntarily undertake.  I don’t feel like that anymore, but it’s never entirely left me either, and oh boy, did I feel that when I was on my way to the party.  What if I were the only fat girl there?  What if I sat alone in a corner while everyone hugged and had fun and I was entirely left out like at dances at middle school?  What if I asked someone to cuddle and they puked on my feet in response?  What if I said yes when I really didn’t want to, just like old times?  What if I was too scared to touch anyone at all?  As much as I wanted to go, I was surprised at how much body anxiety was kicked up by the mere thought of exposing myself to potential rejection.

It didn’t help either that once I arrived, I realized that I actually was the only fat girl there, and that as we all chatted and did the opening exercises, I realized that everyone was friendly and appealing and attractive and outgoing and seemed like totally cool, fun people and I feared I wouldn’t measure up.  I was having a great time talking, but was totally nervous about what would happen once the structured exercises ended and the freestyle cuddling commenced (and yes, it really is called freestyle cuddling!)

And of course, my fears were not entirely realized – isn’t that usually the case when it comes to fear?  The room was quite warm by the end of the welcome circle, so I got a drink of water and collected myself and just sort of breathed and watched from the sidelines and chatted with the other thirsty people.  Not long after, one of them invited me to come lie down for a hug and continue our talk.  I must confess that it is quite a disconcerting experience to have the discussion of “what do you do?” while wrapped up in a big hug after you’ve just met, but I adapted to it pretty damn quickly.  By the end of the night I’d participated in massages and hugging and back rubs and foot rubs and spooning and head and back scratching and hair braiding and a massage train and a giant pile of cuddling and I kept laughing and sighing in pleasure and I totally loved it.  By the end of the night I was more relaxed than I’d been in ages, absolutely blissed out and languid and practically in an altered state from all of the stroking and contact.  I felt so fully integrated in my body, so harmonious in my skin, and so connected to everyone in the room.

I also did say no.  It turned out that I didn’t actually want to as much as I thought I might, but I was approached by someone who gave me an uncomfortable vibe, and I said no with absolutely no guilt and moved on and that was that.  I was also turned down.  I asked someone for a hug and she said no and it totally amazed me at how easy that was to hear.  I pretty much always take it personally when someone says no to my touch – it feels like a referendum on my worth as a human being – but this time I was able to really get it that I have no idea what her reasons were, or whether they had to do with me or not, and that was perfectly okay, it didn’t hurt at all.

There were also people there whom I didn’t get a chance to interact with at all, and sometimes I got a feeling that they wouldn’t have wanted to cuddle with me, that I didn’t do it for them.  And it kind of shocked me how okay that was too.  Maybe they didn’t like the way I talked or the way I looked or the way my hair smelled (I made the mistake of dyeing it that morning) or yes, even my fat body, but what a relief to be reminded that I don’t need to be all things to all people.  How liberating to think that people can be indifferent to me or dislike me or even be disgusted by me, and that changes nothing about me being a worthwhile, lovable person.

It was also so wonderful to let go of the cynicism that is so frequently my default state.  We closed out the party by talking about what the evening allowed us to appreciate about ourselves and I said how much it clarified for me that am a warm, affectionate person who loves touching and being touched.  I don’t need to be ashamed of that.  I get the impulse to be uncomfortable and joke about the earnestness of it all – we all were at the beginning, giggling like 6th graders in sex ed class – but dropping my defenses didn’t leave me vulnerable to pain, just open to pleasure.  And who couldn’t use more pleasure and joy in this world?

At the beginning of the party, the facilitator talked about how she found cuddling to be absolutely transformative in her life, and it seemed to me at the time an overstatement, but now I understand.  I can’t wait to go back.

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What a difference a week makes

I have been back in the US and back living with my parents for almost a week, and although I suspected it would be difficult, I am a little thrown at how unmoored I feel after just this small amount of time living in the house where I grew up.

Case in point: I am writing this entry on my father’s computer (because he doesn’t have wireless in the house, I can’t get online on my laptop) with the private browsing on so there is no record of my blog or what I am writing.  I am alone in the house and I feel like I am sneaking around.

I think back to this post and realize that I am going to have to tap into those skills HARD.  I really had no idea what living with my folks again was going to do to my eating, but whoa boy, it has been triggering being here.  The second night I was here, I asked my mother if she had any ice cream, and she said “oh, have a yogurt, it’s better for you,” and I capitulated and ate the yogurt.  It was yummy, it was fine, but I’m a grown woman and I can eat the ice cream if I want to.  Did I say that out loud?  Of course not.

Then my mom started showing me her book on mindful eating and how it’ll get you to lose weight, and I just sort of brushed it away with some kind of distraction.  Did I mention, oh by the way, I’ve been working with a nutritionist and know all about mindful eating?  Of course not either.

On Michelle’s advice, I bought some food of my own to have in the house, but I felt scrutinized buying it and I feel scrutinized eating it.  Last night I sat in the living room waiting for my mother to go to bed so I could eat some crackers in peace.  I eventually decided I didn’t want the crackers because I had heartburn, but I hated getting wrapped up in all that drama around whether or not I should or shouldn’t want them in my head. 

Now my parents are out grocery shopping (as they do every Monday night, as they have done for the past 25 years at least) and I am home alone and I just ate 7 cookies in a row that I didn’t necessarily want all of out of mild hunger and raging defiance.  I am finding that I am a little hungrier during the day than I prefer to be because I am not eating all I need to stay satisfied because I don’t want the big old judgy eyeball from my mother. 

So I know that this isn’t working for me the way it is, but I am not yet sure how to handle it.  I can certainly work alone on eating what I want out of desire instead of rebellion – I really have no desire to feel 15 years old again – but lurking in the back of my head is the idea that I might have to have a conversation with my mother where I lay down what’s what with me in an adult and reasonable manner, and that is so far from the way my family communicates (or doesn’t communicate!) that it is intimidating the socks off of me.

I guess if nothing else, this is an opportunity to really get to work on being an adult, because this feeling like a kid again really bites.

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Going home again

In exactly one week, I will be living with my parents for the first time in 13 years.  It is meant to be a temporary situation – a stop-gap place to stay while I look for a job and then get an apartment of my own – and I am incredibly grateful that they are offering me a safety net that I don’t take for granted.  Yet, living with my parents again is bound to be a challenge.

My parents are the primary reason that this blog is pseudonymous.  I wanted to feel free to write about lingering issues from my childhood that hold me back, and I don’t want them to find this blog and feel hurt by what I say.  (My mother is not very internet savvy, and my father does not frequent the same spaces online that I do, but I am wary of the magic of Google.)  On the other hand, I have really let that fear of what my parents think hold me back for quite a long time.

My mother taught me to read at a very young age – I was able to read independently by the age of 3, and was reading Nancy Drew books when I was 5.  My verbal skills spilled over into writing, and my family and my teachers always praised my writing, telling me that I should be an author one day.  My parents used to say all the time that they thought I should write a book about “our crazy family,” although it was always understood that they meant the extended family – our nuclear family was positioned as the lone island of reason in a sea of intergenerational dysfunction.

When I was in high school, I was incredibly lucky to attend a 5-week creative writing program at a local university.  It was the first time I had ever spent the night somewhere that wasn’t a friend’s house or my grandmother’s, and 5 weeks was such long time away from home at that point in my life, just a year before college.  It was exciting and heady and overwhelming at the same time.  I had never experienced independence from my family before, and while I had a few good individual friendships, I got to quickly bond with a group of friends in an intense way that was a wonderful novelty for lonely loser Claudia.

The writing was harder.  I have an unfortunate competitive streak, borne of deep insecurity, and it was intimidating to be surrounded by people my own age who were spectacular budding writers, flowing forth with words and ideas and creativity in an unbounded river.  I was much more tentative, hesitant, stuck.  But I plugged away at my work and charged my batteries with the electric energy of all the creation around me.

A few weeks into the program was Family Day, where parents and other family members came to visit the campus and the students displayed their works of art, their photography, their concerts and plays and in my case, readings.  I had a number of pieces in draft form, but most were not polished enough for public consumption, so I chose to read an innocuous little poem that I’d written about a day with my best friend Nathaniel (a wonderful man who has been one of my dearest friends for 25 years and is still going strong), which was the same poem I had chosen to publish in the literary magazine as well.  I was scared and nervous but the reading went fine.

Yet as my parents were leaving for the day, they berated me for humiliating them and wasting their money on the program.  That I had the gall to choose a poem about my friend.  That I was the only person who had the same piece for the literary magazine and the reading.  That it wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t good enough.  I am still not sure why such a small thing set them off in such a large way, but my mother told me that she was glad that her own mother was unable to attend Family Day, because she would have been ashamed to have her there.

They left and I was heartbroken and completely bewildered.  My lovely group of friends comforted me with words of support and a full-on pile of hugs and hair stroking and as I look back I think this was one of my first steps of detaching from my family, as unwelcome the need to was at the time.

When the five weeks of the program ended, I came back with my portfolio and a written assessment of my work and progress.   The feedback was honest and helpful and indicated that at the time, I had promise and worked hard but my work was not at the range of the very best.  I was devastated not by the feedback but my father’s reaction.  He was angry, ragingly angry, that I had wasted his money that we couldn’t spare by not coming back with straight A’s and I don’t know, a publishable novel?  He was angry that I wrote letters to my friends from camp on the computer in the basement instead of watching TV with the family.  He was angry that I spent so much time talking to Nathaniel, and threatened that if Nathaniel went to the same college I did, he wouldn’t pay for tuition.

Ironically, after I returned from camp, my writer’s block loosened and stories and poems poured out of me the way they hadn’t at camp.  I submitted my revised portfolio along with my college application and received a merit scholarship that paid half of my tuition for all four years.

Yet after that, I stopped writing – the words and the desire to use them dried up.

I don’t blame my parents directly for it, but here I am, talking about it still, 15 years after the fact.  So obviously it’s still with me.  The knowledge that sharing my writing with my parents isn’t safe, the disappointment in how much they failed me in that respect.

I understand it better with time.  My family is so tight-knit as to be unhealthily enmeshed, and I’m the oldest child, the oldest grandchild, the oldest great-grandchild on all sides.  The first member of my family to go to college.  The precocious straight-A student.  I carried the weight of innumerable expectations on my head, and my parents sacrificed a great deal so my brother and I could have so many things that they weren’t able to.  My struggling baby steps at independence and self-expression must have been very emotional and volatile and stressful to the family system in a way none of us were prepared for.  And my parents didn’t handle it very well.

I’m not a parent myself, so I can only guess at how difficult the job must be.  But I think about how easily overwhelmed with emotion I can get, how hard it is for me to process it healthily, how quick I am to lash out in words in anger and frustration within my marriage, only to regret it later.  Add that to the constancy that parenting requires, the 24/7 nature of the job, and the responsibility of being the grown-up, the role model.  I don’t know that I would handle it very well myself, and I can empathize with my parents in a way I couldn’t when I was younger.

Yet it is still important for me to declare its impact on me, the fact that I was ill-served by their reaction, no matter how understandable their mistakes were.  I am writing about it because I want to be done with it and move on, and unequivocally stating that this was not right seems to be the way to do it.  (My friends who have heard this story of woe multiple times will likely be happy if it works!)

I think of the things that I write about here and shield from my parents’ eyes and I have avoided naming them outright for decades because deep down, I was afraid they were right.  I am afraid to discuss issues of growing up and creativity and food and eating and weight because I am afraid that they will say, “You know, we were right.  You were a hideous child and a terrible writer and we were right to shame you for your body and force you to diet and march up and down the driveway for exercise and we only regret that you grew up to be even uglier, disgusting, and have disappointed us in every way possible.”

It’s rather liberating to write that out – I had to laugh, because our relationship has changed enough over the years that I know that they wouldn’t say that.  And I don’t even think they think it.  But what I have finally come to recognize is that as much as it would hurt, I could live with it even if they did think every single one of those things or worse.  Because I don’t believe those words anymore.  I’m just Claudia, living my life the best I know how, and I don’t have anything to be ashamed of.  So while I can finally admit that my parents fucked up without making excuses for them, I can forgive them and love them still.  And I write.

(Just an FYI – I’ll be offline until Thursday, so any comments that need moderation will be stuck until then.)

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Pikku Nälkä, or hunger personified

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been living in Europe for the past year.  (I’m not naming the country so it can’t be Googled, but if you’re familiar with the language, you’ll recognize it from this post.)  I have found it very entertaining to watch TV here and see the differences from the US, and something that stood out to me is this yogurt commercial that I totally adore.  It personifies hunger as this so-ugly-it’s-cute troll figure, Pikku Nälkä (Little Hunger) that bugs you during the day.  The way to get it to stop bothering you?  Eat!

I am reminded of the Weight Watchers commercials that Brian talked about here, where hunger is also personified as a monster.  This monster is even cuter than Pikku Nälkä, but the message in this commercial is that dieting is the way to get rid of the monster, which is completely nonsensical.  When I dieted, hunger followed me around all day long – diets just prolonged and amplified my hunger.  As well as made me feel like there was something wrong with me for even having an appetite!  I was really struck by the difference between the two commercials – eating to satisfy one’s hunger seems like such a no-brainer, but it certainly isn’t a message that gets much play in US mainstream media.

I am also intrigued by the personification of hunger as a monster in both commercials.  Certainly hunger seemed monstrous to me when I dieted, and I fought against it so fervently as if it were an enemy.  Now my hunger is so useful.  It lets me know when I need to refuel, and it sparks my appetite so I am able to enjoy my food.  Were I to personify it for myself, I might think of it as a guardian angel of sorts, tapping me on the shoulder to wake me up to the need and desire for food.  Except that I think there is something to the image of the cute monster – it makes me think of when I get too hungry and start to get cranky and snarly and out of sorts, and a cute-ugly troll seems the perfect representation for that feeling.

Then I eat, and me and my Pikku Nälkä settle back down, soothed and satisfied.

As I’ve mentioned before (https://fatbodied.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/happy-returns/), I’ve been living in Europe for the past year.  (I’m not naming the country so it can’t be Googled.)  I have found it very entertaining to watch TV here and see the differences from the US, and something that stood out to me is this yogurt commercial that I totally adore.  It personifies hunger as this so-ugly-it’s-cute troll figure, Pikku Nälkä (Little Hunger) that bugs you during the day.  The way to get it to stop bothering you?  Eat!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHH24meVmqc&NR=1

I am reminded of the Weight Watchers commercials that Brian (http://red3.blogspot.com/) talked about here (http://red3.blogspot.com/2009/01/hungry-is-my-friend-and-yours.html), where hunger is also personified as a monster.  This monster is even cuter than Pikku Nälkä, but the message in this commercial is that dieting is the way to get rid of the monster, which is completely nonsensical.  When I dieted, hunger followed me around all day long – diets just prolonged and amplified my hunger.  As well as made me feel like there was something wrong with me for even having an appetite!  I was really struck by the difference between the two commercials – eating to satisfy one’s hunger seems like such a no-brainer, but it certainly isn’t a message that gets much play in US mainstream media.

I am also intrigued by the personification of hunger as a monster in both commercials.  Certainly hunger seemed monstrous to me when I dieted, and I fought against it so fervently as if it were an enemy.  Now my hunger is so useful.  It lets me know when I need to refuel, and it sparks my appetite so I am able to enjoy my food.  Were I to personify it for myself, I might think of it as a guardian angel of sorts, tapping me on the shoulder to wake me up to the need and desire for food.  Except that I think there is something to the image of the cute monster – it makes me think of when I get too hungry and start to get cranky and snarly and out of sorts, and a cute-ugly troll seems the perfect representation for that feeling.

Then I eat, and me and my Pikku Nälkä settle back down, soothed and satisfied.

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