25 December 2005

This is the last Sunday of 2005. This is the last Sunday that will ever exist in this year. I'm not sure why this seems relevant--but somehow it does. We like to mark passings, us humans. I like it as much as the next person. I like to think it's about appreciating the transitory nature of things--but maybe it's really about attachment. I've been reading a lot of Buddhist texts lately, or rather texts by Buddhists about ancient Buddhist writings, and I've been thinking a great deal about attachment and desire. One of the writers I've been reading (Pema Chodron) writes about our human inclination to desire things, people, relationships, in the hope that somehow we will be at last satisfied or made happy once we attain whichever person/relationship/thing we want. When I read about this kind of attachment I feel strangely calm. Maybe it's because I see these very attempts in my own life. It seems to be all about seeking. Maybe it is really a way of not paying attention to what is happening right here and now, since the acts of seeking and desiring are quite obviously focused outside the present moment. In fact, is there any way to desire that which you already have? If it is present, and you desire it, does the desire become something else? I seek and desire that which I do not have. I seek and desire that which I may never have. I seek and desire that which I believe will make me feel better. More whole. Complete. But does this wholeness ever actually happen in relationship to something outside of oneself? I don't know. For me, these issues of desire and attachment are the major ones. They seem to be the ones that need the most attention. When I read this stuff, I realize how much work it is to be aware.

All of this ruminating makes me think about a line from a book I read long ago. I don't even know what book it is, but the line has always stuck with me. Two women are toasting themselves in the sun. One woman says to the other "When you have a tan, what have you got?"

18 December 2005

John Spencer died on Friday. He played Leo on The West Wing. For some reason, going as far back as when he played a lawyer on L. A. Law, I have always thought he was really sexy. He was only 58.

Thinking about John Spencer makes me consider my weird prediliction in terms of attraction. I like either really old men, or really young men who are wildly innappropriate for me. What is my problem? Maybe it's not a problem, but just a preference. Maybe it's the sex drive issue. Maybe it's some deeper psychological drive to either recreate youthful experiences or to repair my relationship with my father. This is sounding way too Freudian, even for me. What I have realized lately is that I'm only attracted to men who I perceive as really smart. Once they reveal themselves as stupid in even the tiniest way, they cease to be interesting.

This attraction thing works both ways. Old men are always flirting with me. They make comments about my toe rings, ask if they can rub my head, and generally look at me as if I am a particularly juicy piece of tropical fruit. One time a few years ago I was waiting in a doctor's office with my Mom. She was having a follow up appointment after cataract surgery. The waiting room was full of older people. I was wearing shorts and sandals, and of course my toe rings. I had just added a third toe ring. Across the aisle from us was a couple in their seventies. The male half of the pair was very pointedly staring at my feet. His wife noticed this, made eye contact with me, and then kind of elbowed her husband. He ignored her and kept staring. She finally said to him "Stop staring at her feet!" He then looked at me and asked me if the toe rings were uncomfortable. I told him no. Once my Mom and I got up to go in to her appointment, he winked at me. He was cute.

This kind of attention really intrigues me--and I often wonder about it. Why do old men like me? Why can't it be Vincent D'Onofrio flirting with me in the grocery store instead of Jimmy Carter?

09 December 2005

I'm just sitting here this morning, checking my email, reading the news on BBC and CNN, and as usual I have the television on in the background. As I'm reading about the plane skidding off of the runway last night in Chicago, I hear a woman on QVC say "It's faux fur like a beaver would be . . . " and for some reason this seems hilarious to me. What the hell does that mean?

First of all, admitting that I have QVC on my television is embarassing enough, I know. But I have to say I get a certain weird kind of enjoyment listening to the hosts babble on and on about whatever they're selling. Have you ever watched QVC? It is truly amazing how much a human can talk. I'm certain that one of their main goals as hosts is to never, ever, not even for one second, stop talking. They must speak in a continuous flow of sales talk which consists mostly of product description and lots and lots of superlatives and adjectives. I've also noticed that they very rarely say anything about actually "buying" an item. No, discussing buying would be an actual reference to money. They say things like "pick one up" or "order" but never refer to buying items. It's all part of the big consumer illusion.

Even though QVC is weird, I admit, and watching or listening to it is possibly even weirder, I have to give them credit for using plenty of models who actually seem to reflect the fact that bigger women exist and buy clothes. Sure, they also use some stereotypically slender models, whom of course are a reflection of reality as well. But in every show that I've seen they utilize at least one and usually two women who are bigger, and often are truly plus-sized. They are gorgeous and big and fat and I applaud QVC for flaunting them as models on television. QVC also charges the same prices for small, petite and plus-sized clothing. Bravo for that! Are you listening J. Jill, Nordstrom, and almost everyone else?

05 December 2005

Why is it that we are fascinated, even obsessed, with our own dreams, yet the dreams of others seem merely tedious? Actually, sometimes I really like hearing other people's dreams simply to verify that I am not the only weirdo in the world whose dreams often seem to be completely surreal. But really, I do like hearing the dreams of people I care about--they can lend insight to the listener if one is paying attention. This is all to lead up to my own dreams, of course, since I can be as self-absorbed as the next person.

Lately I have been dreaming quite a bit, and remembering way too many of the dreams. Just the other night I was dreaming that there was an alien invasion of some kind, and that many people were being hoarded onto buses and taken away to the proverbial undisclosed location. I of course, was trying to save Marcy and myself from the aliens. We were in some weird town, and eventually we too were on one of the buses. Somehow I escaped the bus and I was hiding in a building. I knew THEY were coming, so I was able to hide in a kind of storage room. I realized at that moment that THEY couldn't see, but had very good other senses like touch, smell, and hearing. I knew that if I was really quiet and didn't move, that they might miss us. I was hoping that Marcy would be very quiet and still. She crawled up my shirt and was silent, and I stood very still. The aliens opened the door to the room I was in, and proceeded to stick their yucky arms/claws/tentacles in to feel me to see if I was real or inanimate. I had to endure touching and not move to remain undetected. The alien even bit me to see if I would react. Of course, I did not even flinch. Then they withdrew from my hiding space and boarded their alien ship and flew off to where ever the fuck they came from. Marcy and I were safe.

26 November 2005

I used to have this boyfriend who made odd food requests, mostly late at night. Tonight, for some reason, I was reminded of his habit of eating cheap cheddar cheese on plain english muffins at all hours of the day and night. He'd always buy huge blocks of cheddar at this weird grocery store called Waremart. He used to crave really strange combinations--one night he asked me to make a pasta burrito. We had eaten pasta for dinner that night; shells in marinara with asiago, parmesan and ricotta. So I took a large flour tortilla and put a bunch of the leftover pasta inside, and heated it up a little in the oven. I didn't have a microwave then.

Back then I think I would have done almost anything for him. I thought I loved him. He used to say things to me like "You're just going to have to get used to being happy" and "Everyone else has known that I'm in love with you for a long time." He was seemingly obsessed with the idea that people were meant for each other. That's what it seemed like, at least. He pursued me relentlessly even while he was dating one of my friends. We were all in college. He had me convinced that he had been in love with me for almost a year. I believed him.

I think that I wanted to be in love. I think that the attention he paid me was intoxicating. The heady feeling I had during this time seemed to far overshadow any other considerations. During this time I neglected my schoolwork, my family, my friends, even my cat Walter. It is Walter I regret the most. When I look back on this festival of self-destruction and delusion, I can barely believe that I am the same person who made chicken cordon bleu for him. I had been vegetarian for almost 10 years at the time.

One of the things I remember the most is that both of us wrote poetry. We had this thing we did--we would compete with each other, alone and together, to overhear or eavesdrop on other people's conversations or utterances. When one of us heard a line or sentence that sounded good, we would tell the other about it. We often argued over who had first heard a line, who had first rights to it, etc. One of the lines that I still remember we overheard on the streets of Ferndale on a foggy afternoon. We were just crossing the street, and an old man said "Every day is a long day."

Towards the end of our relationship, I wrote a poem about him which really turned out to be about me. When I read that poem now, I realize that I knew even then what a shit he was and how utterly deluded I was to think he really cared about me. I think the idea of love, of being wanted, had the power to make me do really crazy stuff. Still does.

22 November 2005

Here's a major complaint. I am a fat girl--have been for awhile. I buy clothes, like any other person, and I have noticed something that really, truly pisses me off. Why is it that plus-sized clothing (women's sizes) are regularly more expensive than regular sizes? In almost every retail situation, the larger sizes cost more. Even in catalogs, like Nordstrom (a personal favorite) J. Jill, and Eddie Bauer, the regular sizes are priced one way, and then the plus sizes are always more. It is consistent throughout clothing retail, with the one remarkable exception of Coldwater Creek. I'm actually not a fan of most of their clothing, but they do have lots of nice linen pants and shirts. But my inclination is to support them simply because they do not choose to punish fatties by making us pay more for our clothes.

This brings me to my theory. The retail companies that charge more for plus sizes are punishing fat women for being fat. Being fat is one of the last taboos in our thin obsessed culture, and I believe that these companies charge us more first of all as a cultural and social sanction, i.e. "take that, you fatties!" and also because they can get away with it. I know what some people would say to this accusation. They say, well, it takes more material to make fat girl clothes, doesn't it? Maybe so. But if that logic were followed, then smaller and petite sizes would be less expensive, since they use less material to create. Bigger shoes would be more expensive. I don't buy it, anyway. Being small is a goal. Being thin is desirable. Being fat is BAD.

I also noticed another disturbing trend. Catalogs that readily (and profitably) sell fabulous plus-sized clothing, such as J. Jill, do not carry the plus sizes in their stores. Recently, at the Jordan Creek Town Center Mall here in Des Moines, I went into the J. Jill store and looked for the plus sizes. I asked the pencil-thin sales clerk where the plus sizes were, and she informed me "There isn't room in the store." Talk about a freudian slip! No, of course there isn't room in the store for a bunch of FAT WOMEN! She looked at me as if I were some kind of virus whose mere presence might add a couple of pounds to her emaciated frame. This kind of treatment makes me furious. All I want is for there to be equal treatment under the law. Is that asking too much???

19 November 2005

I will admit that I have a serious problem. I wake up before seven on saturday in order to watch Connect With English. This is one of those education shows that is supposed to help non-native speakers learn english. I started watching it in graduate school late at night after reading about 500 pages of some victorian novel. Anyway, it is done like a soap opera, and for some fucking reason I like watching it. I don't understand it. I even like the song it has. My friend Wendy makes fun of me for singing it. I'm not sure what appeals to me about this ridiculous episodic learning english series. I'm a freak.

I was thinking the other day about what makes life meaningful. I know it's probably different for each person. But what is it, really, that makes life have meaning? There is a book out right now called War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning (or something like that.) I know the author means that war creates a social or a nationalistic purpose. True enough, for some. But what is it that makes humans go forward? Is it a sheer sense of inevitability? I think it may have something to do with the idea that in order to not live you must make a decision. In other words, living is a much a choice as anything else, but to stop you have to decide to stop, so for most of us it's just what we do. Go forward. But what is is that drives us? What creates meaning and purpose? I think that many people find a form of work that is meaningful. But for women, and men too, is it human connection that means the most?

Some of my students think I'm obsessed with sex. I don't think I am, but I'll admit that it is a subject that fascinates me. Sexuality can be a source of very powerful feelings. Desire is one of the most potent emotions that humans experience. But I think what interests me so much about sex is how much we emphasize it and devalue it at the same time. We expect young women to embody sexuality, yet our culture reacts very strongly when young women act on their sexuality. I think we need to radicalize the way we think about sex and sexuality in this culture, and take the focus away from heteronormative, male-centered and misogynistic practices. Then, we can begin to liberate female sexuality and promote egalitarianism.

17 November 2005

Here in Des Moines we are experiencing an early bout of winter. It is making me question my existence on this planet, as it does each and every winter. For me, that means for three winters I have wondered why I live in a place where it is so cold I'm afraid to walk on sidewalks or to go outside or to drive. What makes it worse for me is that Marcy reacts very strongly to ultra-cold weather, and refuses to go outside to pee or poop, and then I worry that she needs to pee or poop, and then when she does go outside her body twists up into what can only be described as a contortion of sheer and utter pain in reaction to the fucking cold. I hate this shit.

I know we actually have it pretty good here in central Iowa. I could be in North Dakota. My fantasy is that I will someday build a greenhouse kind of thing for the furry swirl, a place that will have grass and dirt and be outside yet that will not be frozen or bone-chillingly frigid so that she can use it to pee and poop. Last winter I dug a lovely crop-circlish kind of poop area out of the snow in my front yard, so that the swirl could simply run out the front door and use this relatively snow-free area to do her thing. She ended up using it all the time. This year I am going to shovel it out in the shape of a chihuahua.

13 November 2005

This blog may seem like a bunch of complaints. Maybe it is. But sometimes complaining is a good thing to do. One of my favorite movie lines of all time is from Alien. When they first hear the beacon and go down onto the planet to see what's up, John Hurt's character tells Veronica Cartwright's character to quit griping. She replies "I like griping." I'm with her.

Another favorite line: from David Mamet's Oleanna (play or movie, take your pick.) Carol, the complaining student, listens to the professor's phone conversation with his wife. When he hangs up she tells him "Don't call your wife Baby!" I'm with her, too.

Best movie song and dance, ever: "Welcome to the Dollhouse" from Welcome to the Dollhouse.
Why is it that media reports always refer to the death of human beings who happen to be soldiers as troops? They say "three troops were killed today," for example. Why not say three more human beings were killed? Using the word troops seems euphemistic to me. Why make the choice to say troops instead of people, or soldiers? It seems to me that using this term blurs the violence of war and minimizes the truth that people are killed every day in Iraq. It's a form of doublespeak. We have always been at war with eastasia--we have always been at war with eurasia. Operation Enduring Freedom? What the fuck? Operation continuing profit, more like it.
As I was making my Morningstar Farms www.morningstarfarms.com veggie breakfast bacon strips the other day, I was thinking about the bizarreness of the name of this product--veggie breakfast "bacon" strips. They used to be called simply breakfast strips, if I remember correctly. Why the insertion of bacon in the name? It made me think about the current argument in the vegetarian/vegan community about meat analogs. See www.vegnews.com Some argue that we shouldn't eat anything that is even a representation of meat, as this reinforces the primacy and importance of meat as food. These adherents would say that it is offensive to eat something that tastes like and looks like actual animal products. I see their point, really I do. But--I also like veggie burgers, fake bacon, and even the dreaded tofu pups and soy chicken nuggets. I really like fake corn dogs! Try them--they're fucking amazing! I admit I have never eaten a real chicken nugget, so I don't have anything to compare it to. But, while I understand the idea of eschewing even mere representations of dead animal flesh, I also approve of anything that draws people away from eating meat. My friend Carmen tried soy sausage in my black bean chili and declared it delicious! She now buys it all the time, in a gesture that is certain to reduce the frequency with which she buys real chopped up animal sausage. So, in that respect, the argument about meat analogs seems almost silly.

Making and enjoying my fake bacon and better than burger sandwich on Milton's multi grain bread, I also thought about the questions that carnivores ask me when they discover that I'm a vegetarian and have been for over 20 years. Mostly they ask me why I'm a vegetarian. I used to try to answer them truthfully, with a variation on my process from a failed macrobiotic diet to a vegetarian-aspiring-vegan diet. But lately I've been tiring of the usual, and often I invert the equation and ask them why they eat meat. Yes, I'm aware that I'm on the verge of being an obnoxious vegetarian. I'm certain some already consider me extremely obnoxious. So be it. But part of me wants to challenge meat-eaters to think about their choice to eat meat. Will my questions make a difference? Maybe not. But I like to make people uncomfortable about eating animals. Most people would never eat their companion animals. So why eat a lovely cow or pig?

One complaint--what bugs me to no end are lapsed vegetarians. Give me a break. They have such good excuses. "Oh, my new BF/GF/partner/husband/wife eats meat--it's too hard." "I was eating too many processed foods--isn't that why I became vegetarian in the first place?" The worst excuse is when they say "It's too hard to be vegetarian where I live!"

10 November 2005

Why is it that people love movies like Sideways and American Beauty? The people who love these movies often say things like "It's so beautiful . . . it's a universal story . . . it's about love . . . it's about life. . ." What I see is that these particular movies that people absorb as if they are some kind of commentary on american culture are really about protracted male adolescence. The main characters in AB and Sideways are men who have not grown up, are obsessed with fantasy females, and are not very interesting. What this says to me about our perceptions is that we fail to recognize this male adolescent fantasy as a depiction that is anything other than the norm. That is, it serves as the default for "universal" in our patriarchal culture. Some might say that these films are a critique of protracted male adolescence. Bullshit. They celebrate it. One more thing--to those who might argue that Sandra Oh's character in Sideways is a tough female character who doesn't accept male manipulation, I would say that her character's behavior is pathologized. That is, once she learns that her new BF is an asshole, she beats the shit out of him in what can only be read as a crazed, irrational, hysterical fashion. Thus her character becomes the "hysterical" angry female, the stereotype of normal woman in patriarchal culture.

What I love, almost more than anything else in the world, is the smell of my dog. She smells like a combination of dryer sheets and freshly baked bread. No kidding. She only gets a bath about once every three months. She is a prime example of the chihuahua specimen. Her name is Marcy, and she is ultra-fabulous. What makes me laugh is when people make fun of my devotion to her. She is feisty, snarly, sassy and a real bitchy kind of creature. Kind of like me. My Mom calls her the intimidator. My good friend Mina calls her little piglet. I call her the love of my life.