{ Tuesday, June 14, 2005 }

Good and Bad

Yesterday afternoon, I was peacefully sitting at my desk in my office working on something when a couple of people popped in, informed me that I was past due for a TB test, and then administered one. (It appears negative, but they will return tomorrow to confirm this.) The woman who stuck me commented on my tiny little arms in almost a whisper, like she was awed by how skinny my apendages are.

I had no idea how to respond to that.

This morning, I was driving to work and I checked out the poked spot on my forearm. I remembered what she'd said. So, then I got to thinking about my bird legs. From there, we went to total body image.

So, my arms are skinny, skinny. It's never really occurred to me that they could possibly be anything else. My legs... last night I caught sight of them in a mirror and thought "Now I understand the similes regarding twigs." But they're long and they have a good shape... I don't have knobby knees to go with the skinny legs. And my legs are by far the strongest part of my body. So, I'm kind of in love with them.

Overall, I concluded that my body image is good. I remember when I was in high school, I became temporarily obsessed with the tiny bit of fat on my stomach. You know, the stuff I'm carrying around that I need in order to menstruate. I'm largely over that now...

I'm less than crazy about my barrel shaped chest. It's just so... thick and round. But there's nothing to be done about that. So,... whatever.

After all of this, I was still driving. And I remembered one night when I was maybe eleven or twelve and I slept over at my friend An's house. That night, I ate an entire bag of mini Nestle Crunch bars. The next morning I was babbling on about the sugar high I'd had, and she grabbed the empty bag.

"Did you actually eat all of these?"

"I guess. Your sister ate a couple."

"I maybe ate four."

"And I had three."

"Okay, I guess I basically ate the whole bag."

"I can't believe you're not sick."

(It had never occurred to me that eating a whole bag of candy would make me sick.)

"Were you saving those for something? I'm sorry. I didn't mean to finish them all. Is your mom going to be mad? I'll tell her that I ate them all."

"No, she'll be glad they're gone."


"I can't believe you ate all of those. That's like [studies the bag] 1000 calories worth of Nestle Crunch bars."

"Is that a lot?"

"That's almost as many calories as my mom gets to eat in a whole day. I can't believe you're so skinny."

You should have heard the way she was talking. Like she was completely in awe of me. Up to that point, it had never once occurred to me that calories had any bearing on anyone's actual life.

This is something my mother did very right. She never once spoke of diets, calories, clothing sizes, or body image in front of her children. Okay, she did, but only to tell us that those were the domain of silly people who didn't have enough to worry about.

My mother limited what we ate. We lived a life without processed foods. We had a Treat Day... candy was limited to one piece purchased on Tuesdays. Every other week, we were given the option of trading this in for fast food, but Shelly and I had to agree to do so *and* agree on a restaurant for this to happen. After puberty, we were allowed one twelve ounce can of Coke each per day on the weekend and after noon.

This isn't to say that I didn't grow up in a home where chocolate cake was considered a very valid breakfast food, because it totally was. And most times if we were at a conveinence store so she could get cigarettes, we could each get a "10 cent treat" -- you know, like, a gumball.

So, yeah, Mom limited what we ate. But she certainly did not put limits on when or how much. One day, her weirdo children decided to see how much CranApple juice they could drink in a single sitting and stuck straws in the bottle and sat there until it was empty? Yeah, okay, we were informed that "children are so strange.", but that was the entire discussion.

You want to eat a carrot ten minutes before dinner? Have a carrot, but you're peeling it yourself. You don't want to finish your lunch? Okay. You've decided to subsist entirely on peaches? Knock yourself out, but variety being the spice of life, she recommends the plums and oranges as well.

You've suddenly decided you need to eat three sandwhiches consisting of Grandma's strawberry-rhubarb jelly on white bread every day at 8:15 pm? Wipe the counter if you get jelly on it and don't come crying to Mom when you don't poop for a month; she can't understand why her children would consider eating white bread.

And so, Shelly and I grew up into two people who eat without giving too much thought to anything other than "is that food? Or did a scientist invent it?" And neither of us has ever really understood, you know, that whole dieting nonsense.

Mom did us right there.

I grew up in a messy house. This is a fact. I knew at the time that it unnerved other people. I mean, I can remember there being comments about the state of our room or the general debris in the living room or whatever...

Mom: "The thing is, I just sort of had children. And it turned out that the children were fun to play with; they came with all these great toys. And they came with a lot of messes and dishes. Children and toys are fun, messes and dishes are not. I could spend my time cleaning or I could play. It seems like an easy enough choice to me."

And so, I had the only mother I knew who wanted us, encouraged us, to build our forts, play our board games, and generally do our strange child thing in the middle of her living room. What's more, she often wanted to play with us.

I was never scolded for making a mess. Actually, I prefer a messy to a house that's "clean" like a museum.

I'm making my boyfriend crazy, as I have many roommates before him.

I'm trying. I am. I know there's a limit to "It's all Mom's fault" and I've aged out of that category. At this point, I realize that my little chaos makes me happy. I don't actually see the problem.

But I am trying. And he doesn't even know it, because he doesn't seem to understand that when I think I dropped something and I actually stop to check, that's progress. Same goes for taking off my clothes and putting them on a chair instead of leaving them all over the floor. Or getting my shoes in the basket that's two feet from the doorway where I take them off.

Tonight we made cookies. I thought I was doing really well as I refrained from just stirring the batter with my hands and actually employed a spoon. I even used a really big bowl so the batter wouldn't end up everywhere.

Then, it came time to measure the flour. He held the cup and I was going to pour (over the sink). See how I asked for help so I could use both hands to control the flour cannister? I was thinking. And then when I suggested the sink? Thinking some more!

Seriously, I thought his little head was going to explode as I coated the sink in flour. We quickly switched jobs. Twenty million years later, the whole Earth was as hot as Phoenix and my boyfriend finished measuring out half a cup of flour. I'm never going to have that kind of patience. Flour is really, really cheap. I've never been so poor I couldn't afford to spill some.

Apparently, the issue wasn't waste. Apparently, I am amazingly, cringe-inducingly careless. But! Two hands! Over the sink! That's care!

AND when I was scooping the batter onto the cookie sheet, I moved the bowl right up next to it so I wouldn't drip. I'm really sorry if you're someone who has actually seen what I do to a kitchen when I make things and you just read that sentence and died of shock.

He thinks that I can manage to learn to put dishes in a dishwasher immediately after they are used. I've agreed to try, although the concept held me up for awhile.

"But, if you're only putting one dish in there, how do you know where it goes?"
"If I only have one dish, how can I tell how to arrange it?"
"You put it where it fits."
"How do I know where it fits if I don't have the other dishes that will be in there with it?"
"It's like a puzzle. You have all the pieces and then you have to figure out how they go together in the baskets."
"Just put the dish where it fits."
"I never know where they go. No one ever taught me how to load a dishwasher. They tried, but it didn't stick. Spacial reasoning, you know. I don't know how to do it."
"It's not something you're taught. You put the dishes where they fit."
"Okay, it's something I haven't figured out yet. I'll put the dishes where they fit. I'll try."

This is clearly not a person who has stood over me and muttered and giggled while I created havoc in a basket attempting to make the dishes clean...

posted by mary ann 11:28 PM