Archive for February, 2008

Installfest for Schools, tomorrow!

For anyone local to the Bay Area, there’s an InstallFest tomorrow in 4 locations – San Francisco, Berkeley, San Mateo, and Marin. They donate open source computers to Northern California schools, on recycled hardware from the Alameda County Computer Resource Center.

If you show up, you can help disassemble computers for recycling, or install Ubuntu (it is not hard!) and prepare the computers for donation to schools.

With a little more advance notice we could pull together some Woolfcampers or Blogheristas in force for one of these things!

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In which I learn what a fender is


perpendicular
Originally uploaded by Liz.

The front fender is the bit of the side of the car above the wheel but behind where the bumper is, and before the door! I didn’t know it had a special name. In fact, I never thought about what a “fender” was.

Anyway, tonight as I picked Moomin up from school, a big pickup truck backed into the drivers’ side of my car. I saw it coming towards me, perpendicular, and just jammed my foot harder on the brake. It seemed like I might have backed up, but the truck was coming too fast. I had two thoughts, seriously:

“Moomin is safe, it’s heading towards me and he’s in the back seat.”

and

“Oh well, my legs are already fucked up”

Oh the drama! I was very happy that I did not experience the thing which you may have imagined of being trapped in a car with your legs smushed and being pried out with Jaws of Life. Instead I spent an hour in the cold talking with insurance companies and a police dude and the hapless Other Driver, who was a really nice guy and who is a teacher. I could see him thinking that maybe he could get out of it and blame it on me but then he realized there was no way, and plus it was a moment of being honorable. I would say there was about a 2 minute window of half-desperation where he wished it were true…

After I got home I agonized a lot about making his insurance rates go skyrocketing up when he probably can’t afford it. I thought about just sucking up the cost of the car repair and also doing minimal repair, ie straighten out the dent rather than make it all shiny-new. I don’t intend to sell the car or anything. So it is not costing me anything to drive a denty scratchy car and I am a careless slob anyway. But, because we already reported it and his insurance decided very quickly he was at fault, I think the damage to his insurance situation is already done.

The insurance agent is just glad I am not claiming bogus injury as so many people do. So they are all acting like kissing my butt to make sure my “new car” is “perfect again” (as if it were perfect this morning… not.)

If he were another parent at that school and a rich one I would feel different about it. But in this case I am feeling guilty. I will get my fat cat new-ish car licked clean by insurance which could very well double this dude’s premiums for years. I hope not… he said he had not been in an accident for like 15 years or something. So I feel like it is all very strange and doesn’t make any sense. Do you see that it should not matter in this case about whose fault it is but it should weigh in what either of us could afford and what matters to us? I wish we hadn’t called the insurance.

Ugh! I should not have gotten this car anyway! It was so wasted on me. I’m not used to this at all.

If a rich person had backed into me then their insurance would have been so good that their fees wouldn’t go up anyway. But when you are poor you fuck up a tiny bit, just a hair, and you are utterly screwed. How is that fair?

It makes me think of that time we first moved here, and I was opening a bank account and had like a huge-illion dollars from me and Rook’s new awesome-job paychecks, and the bank guy was like “oh, usually there is a $25 new account fee and one for checkbooks but since you are in the PlatinumosityAccountGroup of Valued Members we will just waive those fees, whatever”. And I got boiling mad and was like DUDE how about I pay you the 25 bucks since I can afford it and your cocksucking fee-waiving is meaningless to me, and how about instead you waive the fee for someone who obviously can’t afford it and who would care.

It feels just like that. Bitter privilege – it is very hard to walk away from. The bank has no mechanism to just behave decently and neither does the insurance company.

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The musical rectal thermometer

A good day. I worked like a dog! (From bed.) I did like 8 million loads of laundry! I took care of Moomin, who mostly slept, read comic books, and ate popsicles. I read a bunch of chapters of “Farmer Boy” to Moomin. I hung around still working and then reading (an entire novel, Mission Child, which was sort of like a tranny Julie of the Wolves in space) while Rook and his Cthulhu buddies did some very solemn, devoted, silent, complicated character creation, far into the night gathered round in the living room.

And I laughed till I was crying a little at the SpongeBob Digital Musical Rectal Thermometer. Let me just say, if I had something up my butt, I would not want it to be musical, and I wouldn’t want it to have anything to do with some grotesque cartoon.

I realized as I scrambled to fix a bunch of errors that I am used to 3 things in my computery world: code that is immediately testable in a no-consequences environment, i.e. back end or development boxes or my own machine; blogging, where instant feedback puts me in a very fast edit-and-fix loop that only depends on myself; and wikis, also very “hack and fix”. It makes me sloppy and careless on the one hand, but on the other, it takes my natural sloppy and careless tendencies and turns them into freewheeling fastworking hackery virtues. But it does mean that in a Real World environment, I need to write tests, and do tests, and completely depend on tests!

That was my insight of the day.

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Pokehacking, bunnies, and barf

It was a long slow weekend of puttering and resting and reading and hacking, and some unexpected work. I did not get to watch more of The Wire. I’m on the first season, about episode 5, and I’m completely addicted. Right now it’s a struggle not to go poking around in episode guides; Zond-7 is trying to persuade me to experience as the detective/viewer with maximal confusion and let it all unfold as it may.

We messed with Greasemonkey and jQuery. I now see the allure of Greasemonkey, now that I’ve realized I can make my very unfavorite web pages that I must look at all the time say at the top “Fuck you piece of shit monkeyfuckers!” As Zond-7 observes it is like having a giant can of spraypaint and getting to go “Psshhhhhh!” all over the web. The appeal to me is that I can mess around with code and not fuck up anything except my own browser. I am pondering things to do with storing values in about:config.

Rook wrote some code for Moomin to learn programming; since he spends so much time reading about Pokenom creatures he might as well have a web page with a little window where he can type “for $m (get (eevee) ->evolvesinto) { show $m->name, ” “, $m->types } ” Zond-7 spent hours figuring out how to suck all 490 Pokenoms out of a Flash script and some xml. I did not participate in the Great Monday Morning Pokehacking but instead did some actual worky things and got things together for an expedition to the outside world.

Meanwhile, I read Elizabeth Bear’s Dust, which I liked okay, and Permanence which had some neat ideas but was somewhat annoying as a novel. I read some kids’ books which weren’t very good, including The Castle in the Attic and uh… I can’t remember because they were so very generic.

Moomin’s classroom rabbit was home with us for the whole long weekend, so we all did some staring-at-the-bunny as it hopped around. The cats tolerated a bunny with startling aplomb. I am stunningly allergic to rabbits (and rats, and chickens, and any birds I’ve ever been imprudent enough to touch in the last few years) so spent the weekend hopped up on over the counter allergy meds. The bunny mostly stayed in Moomin’s room, which now must be decontaminated. (Not by me.) At one point I sat on the floor in Moomin’s room to watch the bunny and feed it carrots, and 15 minutes later my eyes were streaming with tears and swelled half shut, I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, and I had chain sneezed so much I had to change my pants. At that point it is time to take a shower and get out of the rabbit-dander-contaminated clothes completely. Well, thank god that’s mostly over and the bunny is gone.

It was a cute rabbit, charmingly bold, well-adjusted, affectionate and curious; despite the allergies, I liked having it for a visit.

I spent a whole day and a half being super annoyed about unbloggable things! In fact I am still annoyed! Why must people be so dramatastic! But it will blow over. I am trying to be careful not to draw too many conclusions based on speculation. I am at this point where I’m like, “I think X did a fucked up thing; if I ask them about it and try to discuss it, it will cause them to over-dwell on it AND discuss it with 4 other people resulting in even more drama; therefore it would be best to write X off as a friend to some degree.” Which might be unfair since it might have been Y or Z who did the annoying thing; but since even asking person X about it feels so wrong and impossible, that makes me question whether I should bother thinking of them as a friend. It’s been a weird year for friendships. I have almost never thought of friendships as something that I might deliberately choose to end. Reading WikiHow articles like this one has been very useful to me: How To Break up with your friend, and How to End a Friendship.

Reading the friendship category on that wiki or searching on words like “boring” or “annoying” will lead you to some very funny articles, like How to Act Annoyingly Uninterested or How to Lose a Boring Friend in 3 Days, which reminds me of Chulita, because she is an expert in that.

The expedition to the outside world was fun, and kids liked it, but it got freezing cold and then I did too much driving around (bad estimate of how much driving it would be). Even in the middle of that, cold and legs hurting suddenly a lot again, I had a good time. I wished I could run around and play in the sand and dig ditches and build castles. In the summer, I’ll do that.

I started the day walking around with no help, around the house. Moved to crutches at mid day after being in the car. Crutching in sand was difficult but not impossible. It felt like excellent physical therapy. I had to concentrate hard on where to put my feet, into other footprints and at particular angles, so that I didn’t hurt myself. Afterwards I was pretty much toast, and it was back to the wheelchair. Resting for a while and a lot of warmth (hot water bottle!) fixed me up. My legs and feet hurt, and I’m limping. My plan is to stay in bed all day… mostly working, but with naps.

Moomin woke up barfing and so he’s home with me, also reading and napping. I’ve done 3 loads of laundry already this morning. Poor little dude. When he can keep down a few sips of water I’ll give him a popsicle and put him in front of the TV. (Traditional family remedy.)

Oh, and I dreamed that Minnie had another baby. She had genetically engineered it to have glow in the dark eyelashes, lips, and hair.

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A lovely day!

We had a lovely lovely morning, talking about books and sf and gender and http and REST, work and life; breakfast at boogal00s with vito_excalibur and her squeeze, (walking! sunlight!) an interlude of riffling through zines at Aquarius (bought King Cat, Cambodian pop rescued from old cassettes in the Oakland library, Betty Davis) then a nap (sort of dreamy and dozy) and listening to the cambodian music and davis and then some peruvian huaynos including one about a giant trampling/tear gas tragedy at a stadium. Now there will be juice, chocolate, hacking. I think this is the first real day I have had without being in a lot of pain. I feel fantastic.

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Letter to my body, 2006

I wrote this letter to my body a couple of years ago, after I came out of surgery. Anesthesia, for me, is an out of body experience, or hyperspace, or coming out of stasis or starship cold sleep. Waking up from sleep is like that too, sometimes, if I’ve been dreaming hard.

This is for BlogHer’s A Letter to My Body roundup, which kicks off BlogHer’s new Body Image topic.

Oh, body. I like you okay even if I crack jokes about wishing to be a brain in a jar. It can be creepy and nostalgic and connected-feeling to look at your calves and see the exact sturdy calves of my grandmother. Animals and inheritance. I can think of each part of you and what you have meant to me; times you’ve hurt me or I’ve hurt you, times I’ve blessed or cursed you, skateboard accidents where blood poured out and I felt so sorry for the careless damage to your lovely complexity; yet later, other times I’ve hated your sluggish response, the kneecap crepitations, the sparkler fuse from sacroiliac to the painful flipper of my right foot, the way you’ve been dead weight I have to lift with my hands from bed to wheelchair or drag behind me like heavy, ugly meat. Your stubborn refusals to breathe and the exhaustion. You’re so fragile & yet robust, like a car that’s utterly dependable to keep running and yet that makes worrisome mysterious noises, rumblings, backfires, leaking oil and fumes into the driver’s seat. A spaceship with a rogue AI in some of its limbs and engines, so that the wires that come out of my pilot-self in the navigation console are getting strange messages. My orders get lost on the way to you, eddying in electronic backwaters, static on the line, sensory input down. You refuse to be a perfect tool for me, you buck and protest, you’re a horse and I’m the rider, and you let me know it.

The instant my baby came out and I held him in my arms, I felt like you and I were whole. I was all together in one piece. A sense of rightness washed over me. We were solidly together, machine and brain, flexing our powers, no more static or disconnection, all the nerves and wires working right. Right. Solid. In the center. Connected. Geometric. A moment of perfect mathematical understanding. Numbers and equations mapped to a graph that I understood, beautiful algebra, numbers becoming a physical object. That was me! Connected all the way through, really inhabiting where I am. For so many months I had been not-alone, with another person in me, always conscious of that loneliness assuaged: then he was outside me but still connected by the cord, and I could see him, and he wasn’t part of me anymore, and I was alone and whole. I was me (again? finally?) and there was a shock of recognition. I welcomed my baby into the real world, I held him and realized I was me and no one else. All the parts of me that I had separated out, because I could not possibly be THAT, or that, or that other thing, or that quality, or at least not all at once… those parts met and merged and were happy. I imagine death to be like that, in the best of worlds. In labor, after labor, I was proud. My body and I worked together like olympic athletes, will and flesh.

The times I’ve cried, so rarely, after sex where like magic I am my body and understand it. When you, my body *work* and when I am you, and don’t feel so alone in my head. When I’m not fighting or struggling. When touch feels good instead of a battle for control.

I feel like that today. Waking up from anesthesia was a nightmare, almost knowing, almost conscious, but knowing I could not move, trying to become pure Will, pure consciousness, and wrassling your unruly mule… finally I could whimper a little.. fighting for breath… I said “help” and then “cold, please, warm” and a nurse came, told me to breathe, “What… beep… beeping…” You have to breathe, the oxygen monitor beeps, remember to breathe… the terrible weight on my chest, the squeezing. “shaking… legs… ” She brought me warm blankets and an electric warmer to quiet the convulsive trembling in my legs, which made me remember the transition phase of labor when my legs were about to explode with the twitching and shaking. Laboring in the bath like a spastic electric seal. Finally I could move a finger. I could almost swallow. I said to myself the few poems I can remember, Where like a pillow on a bed a pregnant bank swells up to rest the violet’s reclining head, sat we two, one another’s best…. We then, who are this new soul know of what we are composed and made, the atomies from which we grow, are souls which no change can invade. Beloved, gaze in thine own heart, the holy tree is growing there, from joy the holy branches start and all the trembling flowers they bear. The changing colors of its fruit have dowered the stars with merry light the surety of its hidden root has planted quiet in the night. If I were tortured I would wish to have been a better memorizer. To be trapped in my mind completely, oh it is hell and must be endured. Tools for enduring. If I wait and promise then my body will come back to me. Do not think of the movie “Waking Life”. Avaunt. I’m so glad I can hear. I can move my finger just a little. Thank you, my body. The doctor comes, I know her voice. She doesn’t know how glad I am of her megadykey solidity. My eyes open a little to consecrate her a blurry angel. I am her for a moment in her radiant body, squeezing my own hand. I hear myself croaking “Sister”…. “My sister… want ….my sister…” But she can’t come in. “Do you hurt?” “No… hard, control, not to be in control.” A sentence! Oh thank you mouth. If I had music, I could breathe. I swallow, almost. Stammering. Breath. It’s so hard to breath and then the beeping, then I remember to breath and I say my bits of poetry again. That we are tired for other loves await us, hate on and love through unrepining hours, before us lies eternity, our souls are love and a continual farewell, unloose the cord and they will wrap you round, I see my life go dripping like a stream from change to change I have been many things, a green drop in the surge, a gleam of light upon a sword. Green, muscadine. Breathe, and breathe, and breathe… I open my eyes. There’s a clock. I’m so happy, the numbers change on the clock, across the room, enormous, but I can’t see what they are without my glasses. How great webs of sorrrow lie hidden in the small slatecolored thing! The woman next to me has been moaning, I heard them say earlier “your lung has to reinflate” and I say “it’s so hard, you can breathe, you can keep doing it”. I know she hears me. She moans again. “It’s hard” she says. “Jamal…” Yes… I know… I want my sister, too, like she wants Jamal, whoever he is. She sounds old. Her son? “I’m breathing too” I rave to her. “It hurts” she says. Some nurses come back over. “Your oxygenation is 100%, you’re doing fine, you’re doing great, your breathing is great.” I know otherwise, she is struggling like I’m struggling. It looks fine on the monitors but we are fighting, will over body. I make my eyes open again and I make the head turn. She looks at me too, amazing. How? “Hurts!” I tell her. “Damn!” she says, looking like she wants to laugh, but there’s no breath for it. Yeah, she knows me, I’m glad. We are glad for nurses and monitors but also glad that other people hurt and know other truths. I moved my head! I’m looking around! There are other people! Like a basketball slamming through a hoop and into another universe, like a starship turning inside out in a black hole and coming out the other end in a spray of light somewhere it can’t imagine, I’m not “making my head move” or “making my eyes open” but I am moving my head and opening my eyes, and I am them. My body, I’m sorry… I’m sincerely sorry for the ways that I demand to be the captain. So much of the time I am your patriarch. For a moment I see how it’s wrong and I see how to be whole, all of us together in my body (me). A nurse comes to wheel me out, to the second recovery room, where someone will know me. I ask him about the World Cup. My brain thinnks in Spanish. I welcome, welcome, the effort, the enigma, the codebreaking, the healthy work of it, I could do a crossword puzzle, I could solve equations, I could parse a sentence, I could put all the parts of my body into a taxonomy, to be comforted that the gears are oiled and meshing. Sliding in and out of unity, body and mind, I’m not sure who is “I”, but am happy not to be helpless. The captain slides into his chair, I am comforted, I’m back in the saddle, I can see forever, I could fight the laws of gravity and fly off the gurney, naked, and light everything up with the fire of thought, so that in that moment everything would be permitted, for everyone, and they also would become whole. I can’t wait to stand up and walk, to pee, to talk, to look at someone who looks at me. Intense gratitude. I’m so glad.

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Reflections on family relationships and acceptance

My parents were here and I have been doing a million things. I’m so tired that I’m a little bit emotionally flat.

Physically: I’ve been walking around, but I don’t feel very confident to do more than go from my car to a cafe table. So, when I am out of the house, mostly using the wheelchair.

I’m doing some writing, thinking about translation, looking over old stuff, and wondering where to take it. Probably there will be a series of translation posts over on Composite.

I read Blood in the Fruit which continued the magnificence of the Marq’ssan cycle. Though I babbled all weekend about it, nothing coherent is coming so far. Certainly not tonight… exhaustion is total. But it’s good, and you should read the entire series if you like staring hard complex truths in the face and coming out okay (yet not unscathed).

Got along sort of okay with my parents. I tried hard to not be a jerk. A lot of the time with them I was also exhausted and withdrawn. But on the last 2 days I perked up a little and talked with my them about books or politics and with my mom also about cooking, the brands of things that are best, listened to her Fashion Ideas for me which admittedly didn’t make me completely puke but which I still couldn’t deal with (i.e. that I must go to Ch1co’s or Barf-me-T4lbot’s to buy “fancy jeans” which would fit me “right” and which leg straightness style were exhaustively described). I dyed her red streak and I demonstrated how to make sugar face scrub with lemon and olive oil… I CAN HAS GIRLY SKILLZ.

Also she kept going “I was GOING to do XYZ for you… but looks like you already have done it.” Which was satisfying. We also all went to the bookstore and next-door-cafe, and the beach. Pi11ar Po1nt has an extremely accessible path! I had remembered it as more difficult. But gravel was minimal and the dirt packed & hard, very easy to wheel down. Then, a short somewhat difficult slope and the beach right there. I crutched down it. Up was harder. I found both up & down to be very scary and next time it would be better if I hung onto a person’s arm on one side, like a handrail. It was a little hard to be at the beach and not be able to run about and dig and climb on the rocks.

At one point we were at the cafe and my parents both were telling me perhaps pointedly of other people’s terrible divorces and how dumb they were and how divorce was a stupid idea and bad for everyone and meant that people were idiots, and divorce only justifiable if someone were like being BEATEN. I listened to this for a while and then reminded them gently that I HAD A FIRST MARRIAGE WHICH I LEFT IN A DIVORCE KTHXBAI. So then my mom shifted to talking about how sometimes people have disgusting affairs that ruin their lives and how dumb it is and how she for example would never and how pointless it would be and how she can’t even imagine why a person would either have an affair or leave their marriage for some silly attraction that would probably be over soon anyway. (Subtle!) I listened to that too and then said something like “Well, I completely disagree with that way of thinking, fundamentally, on many levels, and don’t think that having one relationship puts limits on other human relationships people can have, and I’ve always thought that and still do.”

Then we talked about other things real quick!

Then Zond-7 came over for dinner. Jo’s kids were also here and the Acrobat came over to tell us about his bridge made of popsicle sticks that he made at his management training seminar and brought us the bridge made of popsicle sticks that he made the week AFTER the management seminar when he got home, to bring his vision to life, and we tested the bridge with half gallon juice bottles, and the kids put on costumes and made a Clothing Shop at which we were forced to buy things. So, everything was lively and cheerful.

E. complained to me that she could not get on the internet because her parents wouldn’t give her the password! Just as I was going O rly no really srsly and exchanging warning looks with Zond-7 as we realized we could not teach this child how to hack (it is best learned from other children who have no grown up morals) Jo came back and it was revealed that actually this is not all the way true and it is just that the wifi station has a password. Well call me gullible! I gave her the first Runaways comic books anyway and then Zond-7 later told me stories of how he and some other 12 year olds social-engineered a 12 digit password at some demo by each watching for 4 of the digits as the grown-up typed them in.

Anyway about poly things and family, I do not want to be closeted but I also feel a bit more temperate in being in-your-face. I hope it will just become sort of accepted over time and that no one makes a big deal.

One thing that was a big huge deal for me and made me cry was that my parents used to be super super homophobic and they did not acknowledge my relationship with my ex-girlfriend Misha when we lived together and moved to CA together. (Actually, we made each other marriage certificates, which I think of without saying anything whenever people ask me how many times I have been married. Maybe I should make her a really cool and sentimental divorce certificate several years too late.) And then for years my mom would go “Who? ” in a totally fake, fake way whenever I talked about what Misha was up to (which was frequently lovely news to be proud of). And then we had some fairly hideous fights (me and my mom) when she would say things about “gay people” being disgusting or … when I would mention other friends being pregnant … she would say things like “that’s disgusting, how could anyone DO that to an innocent child” (i.e. be queer and raise a child.) This is over 15 years, please realize. Then in the last couple of years my mom has been much more mellow about gayness and seems to have relented. Progressing from “well I don’t see whose business of anyone’s it is as long as they keep it quiet” to asking me how Dr. B or Misha are doing. Not exactly going to PFLAG meetings, but major progress, meaning a major relief to me. Well when I mentioned Misha’s pregnancy and how there was a cool wiki with pictures my mom instantly was all excited and happy and demanded to see the wiki and leave congratulations on it and she referred to their little yoohoo as “another grandbaby”. That was the part that made me cry with relief and happiness. What happened there? Isn’t that amazing?

I don’t require that a person realize that when they are hating-queers to me it is like they are stabbing me personally since they are talking about ME. It is quite a relief when that finally eases up.

I have often wondered at my own motives and worried that it was wrong for me to establish a relationship with my parents again after twice being thrown out of the family and then the years of painful semi-inclusion and tension. And in some ways for years it has felt like a mistake-ridden compromise that might be more painful to me than it is worth. But in the long run I think it’s good (and it would also of course have been horribly painful to keep my distance and to know how much it would be paining them if I had.) Also, I felt (and still somewhat feel) that it is just a matter of time before some other Outing (like poly relationships, or blogs that are certainly easy enough to find once my anonymity was unfixably broached) would mean another confrontation, and being thrown out again. I understand it must be hard to find yourself a parent to someone like me (not because of queerness so much as because of annoying relentless uncompromising unquiet passionate uppityness, set permanently on public broadcast turned up to 11.) On my end, I think I have learned to throttle myself down a little bit when around them. (I was very interested to see Zond-7 do that same kind of muting around his family and how well it worked, and it struck me as being a very kind thing, difficult to do with sincerity, but not impossible.)

Rook had a cold the whole time and so did Zond-7 (who slept for almost 2 whole days, freaking me out somewhat.) I keep getting the feeling of almost-a-cold.

The weekend was as low key on the surface as possible, most of the time, but very intense underneath the surface.

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Trying to get off the high horse

But probably failing… My sister has pointed out that I am full of shit and so is my post. As usual she cries bullshit and calls me out on hypocrisy. True, I was on my high horse and a bit polemical and self righteous. She says, if I have such a good body image then why did I wear men’s shirts and big baggy pants while I was fatter than I am now and then suddenly in past years bust out the miniskirts again? I got a little on the defensive and said that I started wearing butchy body hiding clothes in Chicago when I was working in tech, because no one took you seriously if there was any femminess, and same for Hurlvine when I lived there and worked as a programmer and in tech support; and then when I moved back to SF (and lost my job in the dot com crash) that I got back into frivolity and wearing spangled tights & combat boots. I think that is partly right but I also thought maybe if I talk about the body image negativity I *have* had then it would be more honest.

I thought of the times when I was 14 or so and in my gym class (“drill team B”, which I made a D in ) I’d be there in my leotard and we’d all examine our own and each others’ bodies in the wall of mirror and would vow not to be fat… ever. Around that time, I remember looking at my Grandma Hemulen’s pooched-out belly (4 kids) in her polyester pantsuits and think “Never! That will never be me… that is disgusting. If I ever felt like *that* was happening I would *do something about it*.” That moment actually has haunted me for many years. It was the expression of all the disgust that my mom was saying about her own body and then about mine once I hit puberty. I confronted this absolute terror that I would develop the body of an actual mature woman. And I felt total desperation to keep the body of a 14 year old.

I don’t think that there was a single turning point where I rejected that thinking, and I agree that it’s an ongoing process. I certainly preen myself in front of a mirror and think that a thing “looks good” on me or not which is probably full of “does it make me look fat” style thinking which is exactly what I just railed against and said we shoudl fight. Have you ever been sitting or standing and then realized you have the impulse to suck your stomach in .. and then checked yourself… I mean not for posture or your back but for looking skinnier? What I’m saying is that when I catch myself doing that I feel a little embarrassed because it doesn’t line up with my principles.

I don’t really know how to go on, but it seemed best to try to answer my sister and my conscience right away and not act all holier than thou.

I want to add though that even when I was almost 200 pounds other women were still telling me they were so jealous I was so little and thin and was so lucky i could eat whatever I wanted and not worry. and they would do it with this sort of hostility; clearly not based on reality; and I would go “but i am 180 pounds and 5’3 which is not skinny” and I think what they were really reacting to was my *lack of self hatred as evidenced by my not talking constantly about dieting and my weight*. (Okay this is defensiveness again… must stop it…)

It is true that when I seemed to go more or less back to pre-pregnancy state of being, I felt a sense of relief that I wouldn’t have to worry about it (though, I am claiming not to have worried about it.) So, I hope that is honest enough. To complete the attempt at non hypocrisy I hereby vow to wear miniskirts or whatever, no matter how fat I am if I feel like doing it. Just, not at my techy jobs if I have to crawl under desks and deal with anti-femmy jerks. Also, as usual, i will have zero modesty and will do a nakedjen any time I feel like it.




I don’t believe in diets or in negative body image

Thank god I’ve never been on a “diet” and bought into all that crap. A couple of times I’ve bothered to be thoughtful about drinking less soda, replacing it with milk, juice, and water. I gained lots of weight when I was pregnant and then over the next few years slowly returned to my usual baseline with no effort; my body shape was different but that’s about it. When I got ulcers I lost 20 pounds and was starving and miserable; I saw how people treated me with vastly increased respect because I was thinner; this only increased my resolution to fight that kind of thinking.

I think I’m the only woman I have ever known who has never been “on a diet”. Is this true? Am I the only one? Speak up if I’m not… or even if you know for sure that you know a woman who has never in their life dieted.

I will never starve myself on purpose to comply with some fucked up pseudoscience and with the equally fucked up patriarchal control tool of fatphobia and misogyny instilled in all of us. I put my fingers in my ears and went LA LA LA about that issue a long time ago. I refused the message of self hatred, guilt, and torture. It was not just about fat; I also rejected the idea of braces for “cosmetic” reasons. About 99% of those “cosmetic” reasons were to teach you to hate yourself and to torture yourself and that if you hated and tortured yourself every minute of the day for years, maybe you would achieve a particle of worth. No… just absolutely not buying into it.

It’s good to read articles like this one: How We’ve Come to Believe that Overeating Causes Obesity. This post from Junk Food Science tells a story of research done in WWII in which healthy people were put on a “starvation diet” of 1600 calories per day.

“Diets” for women regularly recommend 1200 calories a day, by the way.

So, what happens when you starve yourself for 6 months like the men in this study?

As the men lost weight, their physical endurance dropped by half, their strength about 10%, and their reflexes became sluggish — with the men initially the most fit showing the greatest deterioration, according to Dr. Keys. The men’s resting metabolic rates declined by 40%, their heart volume shrank about 20%, their pulses slowed and their body temperatures dropped. They complained of feeling cold, tired and hungry; having trouble concentrating; of impaired judgment and comprehension; dizzy spells; visual disturbances; ringing in their ears; tingling and numbing of their extremities; stomach aches, body aches and headaches; trouble sleeping; hair thinning; and their skin growing dry and thin…

They suffered psychological disturbances as well:

But the psychological changes that were brought on by dieting, even among these robust men with only moderate calorie restrictions, were the most profound and unexpected. So much so that Dr. Keys called it “semistarvation neurosis.” The men became nervous, anxious, apathetic, withdrawn, impatient, self-critical with distorted body images and even feeling overweight, moody, emotional and depressed.

They suffered lasting effects.

The best part of the article is here when Junk Food Science’s author, Sandy Szwarc, quotes Dr. Keys, who led the study:

“Starved people cannot be taught democracy. To talk about the will of the people when you aren’t feeding them is perfect hogwash.” This was also what led early feminist activists to see dieting and weight concerns as a way to keep women preoccupied with food, filled with guilt and self-hatred, more easily influenced by others, and too mentally and physically exhausted to succeed professionally and politically.

I understand the pressures that make women (and a few men) “diet”, and the struggle to gain control and to get the huge amount of increased privilege you get if you conform to the current standards of control over & obsession with your physical body that constitute “attractiveness”.

But… I wish they wouldn’t buy into that pressure and that model of the world and themselves… AND especially I feel for the damage young girls go through as their parents and caretakers, role models and peers, create an atmosphere where it is normal for young girls to replicate this medical experiment of STARVATION on themselves.

Fight harder. Look deeper for information. Some women get mad at me for saying this, and feel I’m not respectful of their agency, or they act like mock-afraid that I’m going to “yell at them” for dieting. I’m not saying you suck for “being on a diet”. I’m saying you decided to do that based on bad information, based on a foundation of lies and misdirection. And… yes… I do consider myself to be right on this issue… and it is a harsh message… hard to hear. Fight harder. Fight against something that’s not your own body.

It is a deeply political and feminist issue for me. I am happy to see my stance expressed, and supported, so well in Sandy Szwarc’s article.

I believe in trying to be fit and healthy at whatever weight and body shape a person happens to be in.

(Thanks to janni for the link.)

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Over my limits

Well that was annoying and humiliating. After a day of mostly being able to do stuff, feeling fairly robust, I hovered in my car for 20 minutes to get a parking space in front of That Cafe so that I could walk in instead of wheeling. Then I sat in the car for a few more minutes thinking, “Can I do this? Should I? Have I hit my limit for the day? Can I be in there and manage everything and make it to the bathroom and back and get my coffee and find a place to sit?”

I had been picturing how I would be in there looking very vertical and might run into someone I know and be all nonchalant if they were surprised, gently buffing my fingernails against my imaginary velvet smoking jacket and saying “Oh… yes… walking. It’s nothing, really.” So I crutched in and immediately ran into someone I know who looked surprised and I acted nonchalant and put my stuff down.

The line, which is part of what I was worried about, was just one guy. After I stood there behind him for a while (and apparently he had some complicated things to discuss about fancy varieties of coffee from somewhere specific to the person behind the counter, who looked annoyed) I realized the standing in line thing was not so much going to work and my legs were all wobbly. I scooted around the coffee-bean-snob to lean my elbows on the counter and hope that maybe another person would come take my order.

(In retrospect, maybe the barista thought I was trying to cut in line or was acting huffy and impatient?)

So after a while longer I asked for coffee and a donut. I wanted to ask them if someone would mind bringing the coffee to me but then I figured that would be too hard and I would just ask someone else to get it for me or do it slowly on one crutch. I paid and stuck some money in the tip jar and sat down… Then got up a couple of times to check if there was a donut for me… and realized I had indeed made an enormous mistake and shoudl just go get my wheelchair. But meanwhile the guy I knew asked me if my legs were getting stronger and stronger. I said yes and then felt stupid that I was about to haul my ass back to the car and come back on wheels. And finally got up again and asked about the pastry. The barista told me abruptly that I hadn’t ordered one. I said I had. They said I hadn’t. I didn’t mind… just figured I’d order it now if it didn’t register the first time… but I said “But, didn’t you give me 2 bucks back, so I must have ordered it since I paid like 7 or 8 dollars”. They said no and so I went back to the table & then realized the 2 bucks was actually a 1 and a 5. So I went back to tell them that, and to order the pastry this time for real and pay for it. I said something like “Oh sorry it was 6 bucks and i thought it was 2, no big deal…” Then they yelled at me and said I needed to wait my turn (there was only one person; not a giant line I was cutting in front of; and I was endeavoring to make some eye contact with that person to get tacit permission, which I expected, since I am obviously fucking crippled.) But instead the person behind the counter continued yelling at me and saying that they did not appreciate being accused of stealing and that I was rude.

I said I was not accusing anyone of anything but that as far as I knew I had ordered a thing.. and was just asking for it, because I had expected it, and it wasn’t important, and I had mistaken the amount of change. It was all kind of dumb and overwhelming.

Meanwhile my legs hurt like fuck and I was about to cry from that and from frustration that I had misjudged my ability to be walking around. I really had to pee but I realized I couldn’t cope with the bathroom, getting through the crowded room, getting the coffee which seemed impossible now, on legs. So as I sat there in the chair next to my acquaintance I realized also that if I went and got the wheelchair it would look sort of weird or like I was doing it on purpose to make some kind of point. Soooooo… I tried to explain a little to P. that I just needed to leave but flubbed it.. could not explain… did not want to cry… felt suddenly angry at myself for not asking him for help… and at the whole thing… and just sort of overwhelmingly angry and humiliated and unable to explain. So I drove off and cried a while and Zond-7 rescued me. Now we are both working from bed, a good place to be. And there are delicious tamales. And pastries.

I remember that it was rough trying to transition out of the chair, and this is why. Once you are used to using a wheelchair it is all totally fine… and I also adjusted to popping in and out of the chair without too much judgement on myself for it, very comfortably. But once I decided I am trying to get out of the chair, it’s all difficult again.

Also, I’m feeling so shitty because I made up an artificial goal for myself and then felt like I failed. In front of a lot of people (who didn’t notice, or care, of course; but maybe just a little, and that makes it so much more hideous.) And then I think “But I’m not the kind of person who cares what other people think of me, so why do I feel humiliated and bothered?” But I did feel it, and do!

And partly I’m bothered because .. as Zond-7 just pointed out so helpfully… you accept yourself how you are, and then you make up your mind you want to change, so you’re essentially saying “I want to be this other thing, because I like it better“, which is unsettling to identity and certainty.

If I’d just decided to go into there in the chair, everything would have been fine, I would have been happy and been able to get my things and wait in line and carry stuff and use the bathroom and be social, without any fuss or worry.

I hope this explains also why I get so anxious about whether to use the crutches or chair in various situations. Usually, I use the chair unless I have someone with me for support and back up (since they can always go get the chair for me, and do the difficult line-standing and fetching activities.)

Well, as usual when I feel turbulent and embarrassed over something fairly trivial the solution is to process it thoroughly in public to make sure I’m being entirely honest.

The people in the cafe were mildly jerky, but I don’t blame them for the bits of things that have to do with me pushing my own physical limits and not quite making it.

It’s lovely to be in bed now. I feel all perturbed and raw from having cried and felt so annoyed with myself and everything and it is best to hug a pillow for a while and perhaps have a nap.

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