I Am That Girl Now

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More OCPD things I've found

This is serving as sort of a bookmark for me at the moment-- sorry, folks.

Another descriptive article about OCPD.

A much more in-depth series of articles.

Too Perfect: When Being In Control Gets Out Of Control by Allan Mallinger and Jeannette Dewyze-- a book I've seen recommended and which I seriously have to get.

OCPD board on MSN.

Online self-tests for OCPD.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Holy crow

So, I was stewing about things this morning, trying to put together a summary of how I react to things and about how it all comes back to feelings of control vs. powerlessness, and on an odd whim I decided to check online to see if there are better ways to deal with this stuff than what I've already embarked upon.

Lo and behold, I came across this article on Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, where I read this:

Generally two hallmark thinking styles are pervasive for persons who suffer this condition. The primary manifestations of OCPD entail either a bent toward perfectionistic standards or righteous indignation. Along with perfectionism comes relentless anxiety about not getting things perfect. Getting things correct and avoiding at all costs the possibilities of making an error is of paramount importance. This perspective produces procrastination and indecisiveness. The second factor entails the rigid ownership of truth. This feature produces anger and conflict. Persons with OCPD generally lean toward one of these perspectives or another. In some cases both perspectives are of equal magnitude. Rituals, on the other hand, often play a relatively small part in this complex syndrome of perfectionistic mannerisms, intense anger and strict standards. Their way is the correct way and all other options are "WRONG".

Holy hell.

I'm not sure if it's as obvious outside of my head as it is inside of my head, but that's me, in a nutshell. Not to mention this:

It is not uncommon for a person with OCPD to feel deeply entrenched in the belief that they are a "Good Person." This belief can paradoxically often lead to feelings of depression and disappointment. The high standards which a "Good Person" is expected to live up to are often far beyond the capacity for any human being to consistently fulfill. A belief such as "I know that I'm a good person, but I hate myself for doing so many wrong things" is not uncommon. This self-hatred along with tremendous disappointment can easily lead to feeling of depression. Since ones humanness prevents an OCPD sufferer from living according his own high standards, a tremendous amount of self-hatred is imposed.

And this:

It is not unheard of for someone with OCPD to feel that he is flexible due to an occasional shift in his beliefs. If one listens carefully, the shift in position can be dramatic and equally dramatic is the degree to which the new truth is held as fact. The knowledge that abortion is "murder" can be converted to the fact that the freedom to chose represents every woman's "God Given" right to make decisions about her own body. Most examples of this particular cognitive shift would tend to go in the opposite direction.

And this:

This indecisiveness can have devastating effects on academic, professional and interpersonal relationships. From early adolescence, through college, perfectionism can take an otherwise straight "A" student and bring him to the brink of failure due to incomplete assignments. Having to get the term paper exactly correct makes for an almost impossible task. An extremely difficult time making decisions (always looking for the correct choice) contributes to procrastination. Frequently even starting a task seems impossible, due to a need to sort out the priorities correctly. If it takes an hour to complete the first paragraph of a report, because revision after revision never seems to get it perfect, imagine the anguish experienced when contemplating the completion of a two thousand word essay. The time it could take to complete a ten page report might be multiplied by five due to checking or rewording so that it is just so.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!!! I don't know if I've written it here or not, but my inability to get writing done anymore due to my perfectionistic bent has been worrying me, a lot, for quite some time. Seeing it described elsewhere, in the middle of a report categorizing a whole lot of other things that describe me to a T, has wigged me out.

Oh, and this disorder tends to co-exist with eating disorders. I am somehow not at all surprised.

I looked elsewhere. Found more exciting things, such as the possibility of this being an inheirited trait (it tends to occur in families) or maybe developing because of a certain kind of upbringing (again, this would tend to occur in families, so nature/nurture/takeyerpick) involving a lot of punishment and not many rewards, so the child develops these traits as a way of avoiding punishment.

So, on the one hand, I am wigged, particularly because everywhere I looked for more information on this, it indicated that it was insanely difficult to treat. That said, it appears to be insanely difficult to treat both because it involves long-term work on creating new ways of dealing with things, and because of the nature of the beast itself. I suppose that when the whole disorder comes from I'M RIGHT, YOU ARE WRONG, if the therapist or psychiatrist is perceived as being WRONG then it gives the patient every perceived right to ignore what they say.

Currently, I'm looking at the bright side. For one thing, I've known for quite a while that something in my operating system is working so inefficiently that it is bogging me down and exhausting me. I've done the vast majority of the grunt work over the past five years (oy, FIVE YEARS), digging into my brain to figure out what the hell is going wrong, and stringing together patterns. Really, I've done most of the work myself, and this is just a nice way of describing what I was flailing around, attempting to say.

For another thing, it's confirmed what I've been suspecting the past few months: what I need, more than anything else in the world, is to learn to let go. Hauling around the extra mental rocks (I'm now adding "perfectionism" and "truth-owning" to my mental list of heavy mental rocks) is exhausting, and is making it so I just don't have the energy for anything else-- like writing, in particular. I'm just hoping that if I can manage to let go enough, and learn to accept risk, that'll be half or more of the problem solved, right there.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Oh blessed shoes, and other life events

I have mentioned, lately, that I love my feet. I do. I do not, however, love my annual struggle to find sandals for the summer that will fit them and not result in big blisters all the time-- particularly since these ain't no sittin' round lookin' pretty sandals, these are for GOING PLACES, so if they're only comfortable for about ten minutes of walking, tops, they're no good. This was not an issue until I graduated from high school, because I could always find sandals of good, comfy leather, with an adjustable strap across the toes and an adjustable strap around the ankle, and all was well with the world. Then apparently the shoe industry decided that they hated me, and lo! it became impossible for me to find any of those particular sandals. All I could find were ones that had a front strap that was completely fixed in place, no way of adjusting it out to make room for my full glorious tripodal footbreadth, and so for years on end I've spent all summer with giant blisters all over my feet. (Okay, I take that back-- once about five years ago I had a glorious pair of perfect, gorgeous, comfy sandals that were lined and padded and just wonderful, but I wore holes in them over two summers and broke one of the straps, so there went that party, and I've never seen their like again.)

This weekend, however: VICTORY. I found a single pair of marvelous sandals, on sale (it frightens me that at thirty percent off the SALE price, they were still $35), and I bought them immediately and with no regrets. I've worn them every day this week, and nary a blister has developed. I am so happy, folks, I can't even express it. Proper sandals! Hooray!!! I swear, if there'd been more than one pair there (and I did look), I would've bought them, too, just to stock up for when these inevitably fall apart. One can't trust that another pair of sandals will be there again next summer.

Bad news, though: my shoulder's gone out once again. I can only guess that it's a combination of a) push-ups and b) a single yoga class in which I spent half the time doing downward-facing dog. My reaction to this is basically OH, BAAAAAAALLLS.

See, I had this figured out. This summer, I was going to work out four times a week: one session of yoga, two of lifting, and the last being our weekly trip in our little inflatable kayak. Apparently, this plan was too much for my shoulder. BAAAAAALLLS.

So... well, really, what can ya do? Back to the doctor. (I have to call Monday; today was a summer outing at work that has left me pleasantly drunk. Hooray for free beer on the company nickle!) This time, I'm going to ask about physical therapy, because I can both hear and feel my bones popping into place when I lift my arm and I am pretty sure that a) this isn't supposed to happen and b) this is what's causing the bursae in that area to get all inflamed.

I forget who asked-- sorry!-- but I am still working hard at the gym. Just at a good variety of things. And I am still smug about lifting more than a lot of those other girls-- there was a desperately thin girl doing squats holding a pair of five-pound weights, and all I could think was "holy crow, I bet I could do squats with her on my back, and her little weights, too." Numbers aren't going up at the moment because I'm transitioning into a new program which has me doing fifteen-rep sets, instead of eight-rep sets, and this makes a huge difference in what I can lift. More than cut it in half, the first time I did it-- I think it went down to 65 pounds-- which makes sense, considering that I'm doing almost twice the number of reps per set. It is MEAN, I tell you. Yeowza.

The shoulder thing throws lifting, yoga, and paddling into disarray again, so the last time we went to the gym, I ended up on the damned elliptical machine again, which wouldn't have been half so annoying except...

Okay, story time. Our gym is designed poorly. On top of that, there does not appear to be enough space to accommodate what they want to do, which apparently is to have every machine on the planet in there, so any time you're not on the stairs, the odds are good that you're edging around a machine or apologizing someone for running into them. The aerobics floor is in a big open space, so when you're there, you can hear all the noise from downstairs with the numerous noisy treadmills, and when they play music for a class, the acoustics mean that they end up playing the music louder than they would in an enclosed space, since nothing is bouncing back at them.

This time, the guy running the class apparently turned the volume up to ELEVEN [/Spinal Tap] because I, on the elliptical machine at the edge of the floor, could feel the beat in my sternum. Happily, I had special earbuds for my mp3 player, the squooshy type that are supposed to keep out ambient noise. I can't say they were successful, in this place, but when I turned off my mp3 player (TOO MUCH NOISE, so I had to do whatever I could to survive), they did serve some use as earplugs.

I spent the whole time on the elliptical working on keeping my zen, because after five minutes of this I was ready to leave. My second impulse was to make snarky comments about how loud this was. The third was to sack up and go complain to somebody in charge. I concluded that all the last two would be futile (this is not exactly the greatest gym in the world in many ways), so I concentrated on using it as a practice session for keeping my cool under pressure. Breathe in, breathe out. Relax the soles of my feet. Pretend that the back of my neck and my upper back is made of a specialty porous material that lets rage leak out, so it isn't being held in by anything. Follow the feeling of anger in my head, watch it, consider it, nod and think "yup, that's an angry feeling, all right".

I'm spending a lot of time doing that these days, mostly using internet arguments as time to practice that mindfulness. That's the one good thing about the things. There will ALWAYS be something on the internet that threatens to make me go nutty. The latest was when I came across the latest kerfuffle that has crossed many political and fandom lines-- the explosion of anger from female fans of superhero comics, particularly about female superheroes, over the way that female characters are being portrayed as helpless victims and/or drawn as a "stick with water balloons" figure. (For an excellent summary and explanation of why this pisses women off, I highly recommend this editorial.) I read, I agreed-- then I read the comments and my blood started to boil.

There are a few things that occurred to me while I was on that elliptical, one of which I just used when I read the comments on that editorial and felt myself wishing to commit more violence [/Illyria]. The biggest of these was that, for a girl who's always stressing out about how little time she has to get stuff done, I sure spend a lot of mental time stewing over things that I can't do anything about, either because it involves the opinions of others, or because it's something that occurred in the past and is over and done already. A physical equivalent to this would be willingly carrying around a bunch of giant rocks all day, in spite of the fact that they have no value and I will never be able to do anything with them. Exhausting for no reason. So I just have to step back and think-- Woman, just drop the rocks. Drop the damn rocks.

...And I just left this post sitting unposted for several hours while we had visitors over. Just now getting back to it. I'd like to add, before signing off, that the visitors we just had over are some of my most stress-inducing friends. Glorious people, but I just have reactions to them sometimes like mental allergies, which wear me out and make me a bundle of cranky before the night is through. Tonight, before they got here, I sat and meditated for about half an hour.

It was a fantastic visit. Almost no stress. I let go of a lot of things that came up-- I can remember moments where I recognized that conversation topics were flying past and that I wouldn't be able to tell a story that I'd intended to, and instead of getting frustrated, I just let go of those particular rocks because the time had passed and we were on to something else. It helped a lot.

As a more humorous and much less ladylike example, I also used mindfulness this week when stuck in the car and needing very much to pee. It was wacky. I completely let go of the frustration of "dammit, I should've gone before we left" from the past, and the "oh my God, it's going to take us forever to get home" in the future, and just sat with my mind on my very annoyed bladder, letting it yell at me for all the stress it was under, not freaking out over this. I won't say it was the most pleasant ride home, but I did manage to keep things together and stay remarkably calm about it, which is a change-- usually I'll be furious and stressed out, all on top of dealing with a very stressed bladder, so I'm generally a basket case by the time we get to a bathroom. This time, though, I calmly walked up the stairs and got the keys out and opened the door, without dancing all over the place or shrieking or otherwise losing it. Hooray! At the age of thirty-one, I've succeeded not only in mastery over my bladder (which, really, is old hat by this point), but in being calm and adult about having to wait to go potty! Huzzah!

Man, I'm telling you guys, individual mileage may vary on this mindfulness meditation stuff, but as far as I'm concerned, it's working very, very well. Which reminds me: we're a week out from my next step down on Zoloft, where I'll be taking half a pill (25 mg) every three days. At the end of July, I'll stop altogether. Based on how very well I'm feeling these days, I think this is going to end up being a success.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I think they got the wrong message out of Cinderella

It just so happens that I was reading the last part of the Cinderella story last night-- not the Disney version, but ye olde version complete with the stepsisters hacking off parts of their feet in order to fit into Cinderella's shoe. So it made my jaw drop completely when I read this:

It is 8 o’clock on a serene blue morning in Beverly Hills and Dr Ali Sadrieh, a podiatrist, has just performed a 45-minute operation on a client, cutting a section of bone out of her toe to shorten it. She was awake during surgery, watching a film; next week Sadrieh will do the same thing to the second toe on the other foot. There was nothing medically wrong with the toes, but his patient didn’t like the way they protruded over the lip of her high-heeled Manolo Blahniks.

Welcome to the wilder shores of La-La Land, where cosmetic surgery has finally travelled the full length of the female form. Down the phone line from California, Sadrieh’s voice is upbeat: “Toes are the new nose,” he tells me happily. “Just a little marketing phrase I’ve coined.” His demographic in Beverly Hills, he explains, includes a high percentage of young attractive women who take care of their feet: they have regular pedicures, paint their nails and wear shoes that expose their toes, and they are unhappy if the second one hangs over the edge.

There's another chick in this article who was so unhappy with her feet (which, truth be told, sound like they looked just like mine, isn't that a cheerful thought?) that she had freakishly extensive surgery that they called a 'full foot lift'. They basically changed the whole shape of her foot. Her FOOT. That she uses to WALK. Because she felt that her feet were ugly, she chose major surgery (including for the love of God FAT REDUCTION ON HER TOES) which left her unable to walk for weeks, wracked with pain, and she's still on crutches and hobbling around.

The part that really killed me was the end, where it was indicated that this is the new plastic surgery fad that's sweeping the nation (or, at least, the parts with too much money and not enough common sense or self-esteem), because even pretty girls are discontented with how their feet look. So, I guess, yay for them, because now they can get surgery for that and finally move on to finding some other imaginary quality about their bodies unattractive.

Wow. People, I have seen a great many feet in my time, because they're the one thing that (up until this point, apparently) haven't haven't had the "approved proper shape" declared by the powers that be and thus forced people to be exceedingly self-conscious of them. Folks let the feet fly free all summer long, even people who cover up all other body parts, and so it's easy to get a look at a whole lot of feet and get a realistic view of what the range of "normal" is for human feet-- and that's a pretty damn wide range. I think what I'm trying to say, here, is that this may well be the only body part that I don't have some kind of issue about, because I've really never seriously thought that there was a "right" way for feet to look.

Let me tell you about my feet. I have feet like my mother's, only longer, which only makes sense since I'm taller, too, so my feet are proportionally different from hers. They are short in length, size six and a half, and are majestically broad; I don't so much have regular feet as I have tripods. They're pure hell to try to shove into those pointed pumps that people like so much for some reason (I do not get it, I may never get it, and I am grateful that due to the natural shape of my feet I have never worn them and so don't have my toes permanently jammed into that wedge shape). They have very high arches and lovely narrow heels, qualities which once made a dance teacher of mine very jealous. They have massive callouses, almost entirely on the ball of each foot, which adds to the fun of getting the things shod. They are very sensitive on the arches, and I have found that if I can relax the arches of my feet, I relax everything. They are goddamn strong. They are tripodal, which gives me an extra boost in balance. They have forcibly kept me away from entire species of shoe which, if I had fit into them, would have hobbled me or left me mincing along, unable to stroll across the Loop in the mornings, unable to put on a burst of speed to get to the elevator right before it closes, unable to walk for walking's sake any time I choose. They have, in doing so, shaped my life and my personality. I'm sure that some people would find them very ugly, but I find them to be similar to the rest of my body and my personality-- elegant in spots, broad and unashamed in others, scarred and rounded and curved and cute and cheeky. They are my goofy, rolly-polly adorable feet, and I have to say that the thought of having them surgically altered startles the hell out of me, because...

Well, first of all, because they're FEET. People: feet look funny. I may experience blind spots to anyone's body issues but mine own, but feet? Feet I understand as being very individual and exceedingly random, because, well, LOOK AT THEM. Feet! Even the word is great fun to say. FEET FEET FEET.

I admit, I still have a lot of issues about my body, and about what other people think about it, but on this particular topic I seem to have found a place to stand. (Er. Pun.) Feet are made to carry us, to hold us up. Feet are extremely utilitarian. Sure, you can dress them up, and that's great fun, but at the end of the day these suckers are meant for locomotion, baby, and I respect that. If I hold onto that firm respect for my very utilitarian feet, and start looking at the rest of my body, I find very utilitarian awesome bits everywhere.

Check this out, for example. I know this ought to be an obvious concept, but it still blew me away: bones in different people are different sizes and shapes. I mean, maybe I knew it on one level, but I had absolutely no idea that the same bone from two different people could look THAT MUCH different.

Your hip sockets can point at a very different angle from someone else's! Your femur can have a drastically different bend at the "neck" than someone else's, which really makes a big difference in whether or not you can do the splits! Bones grow on a SPIRAL! Did you know that? I sure as hell didn't. And once I started thinking about how different just our bones can be, it occurred to me that all the other stuff on top of the bones is able to be just as different.

Back to feet for a minute: what really astonished me was just how different my thoughts on what feet "should" look like (i.e., a huge range of possibilities) to what other body parts "should" look like (a much more limited concept). It makes me think that there must have been a point back in my childhood, before puberty and all the issues that came with it, when I felt about my whole body the way I feel about my feet: vaguely aware that there's some stuff I can't do with it because it's just made that way, and that there's other stuff that it's pretty awesome at, and feeling pretty good about it on the whole. And-- the thing is, yesterday I didn't know what that would feel like at all, and now I have something to base it on. Which is pretty cool, you know?

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Perfect Girls, Staring Daughters: a review

I've read this almost twice now, some parts more than that. I've told my Hub all about it. I am, in a number of ways, still digesting the whole thing, but I feel like I need to talk about it in order to work it through my mind properly.

First and foremost, this is a great book. Courtney E. Martin will be here in Chicago to do a reading (at Women & Children First, up in Andersonville) on June 27, and you bet your ass I'm going to be there. I want to shake that woman's hand and thank her. Frankly, if I had the money, I'd be buying up copies of this book and handing them out to every woman I know.

It's not about eating disorders, exactly. It's about what makes us susceptable to them, what starts us down that road-- the deep yearning for acceptance, both from ourselves and from others, and the conviction that unless we're perfect, we can't get that acceptance and won't deserve it. I'm sure I must have met women who have utter buoyant confidence in themselves from top to bottom and all sides 'round, but I swear I can't name any off the top of my head. Which, really, is a shame, because the number of women I've met who have brainsmacked me with their sheer awesomeness is a number which would have to be written in scientific notation, it's so damn big.

The point being: Are you a woman and/or do you know women? Do you feel driven to perfect yourself, or ashamed of your own imperfection? Do you watch others with an eye to cataloguing their defects and comparing them to your own? If any of that rings a bell, then, regardless of your relationship to food and exercise and body image, READ. THIS. BOOK. If for no other reason, do it because I want to hear what you think.

I can remember crying for days after I found out that I got a scholarship, because it was only for $500 per semester. The ones that covered more, and particularly the full-ride scholarships-- I thought I was in the running for those, and when I didn't get them, I was devastated. I actually ended up getting three different scholarships for my first year of college, but I thought I was a horrible failure because I hadn't managed to scholarship my way out of having my parents pay anything.

I don't think I've ever mentioned that before, to anyone, because I'm aware of how it makes me sound like an ungrateful twit. (So now I post it on the internet! Hooray!) Not to mention, it makes me sound ridiculously full of myself. It's not so much that I thought I deserved those scholarships, as that I felt that I was expected to get them, and when I didn't, I felt like I had disappointed my family and my teachers. Any comments to the contrary sailed right over my head.

I'm not sure how I got it in my head that I was expected to achieve at that level, but I do remember my senior year of high school being a crushing horror for my sense of self, as I filled out form after form that basically asked why do you think you deserve this? and I couldn't think of a single damn reason. I abandoned whole applications just because I couldn't face the question anymore. Lord only knows what I might have achieved if I'd believed in myself a little more and expected a little less.

The thing is, I've been caught in a version of those applications since I was eleven or twelve. I was a "gifted" kid, a straight-A student, and ever since I can remember I've been told a) that I have great potential, b) I need to live up to that potential, and c) currently I'm not living up to that potential so I need to stop fucking around and get a move on. I've had great guilt for not being a published author by eighteen, not paying for my own college education, not getting the lead roles in the musical and the opera, not going on to grad school, not using my degree for my job, and, oh yeah, not being a size six. Nobody actually told me that I had to do any of that stuff, but I felt the pressure nonetheless: I was special, so I had to achieve special things, or I wasn't any good at all.

I never expected to read a book that laid out that mentality, that said, "look, this is common, you're not alone in this, and it's okay"-- much less one that was written by someone who's in it herself, who's part of this generation, who's seen what it's done to her friends, who's had the same pressures and fears, who can honestly say "there but for the grace of God go I" because she was the roommate of, cousin of, teammate of, friend of, so many of these women that walked a very similar path and walked it into darkness. That gives her credit, in my eyes, that an older woman wouldn't get. She's here with us. She knows what it's like. She's written our reality, spoken it out loud, made it admitted and real and something we can talk about and analyze and work with. I'm more than a little bit awestruck.

Even more impressive, this book is written with love. With compassion and empathy. Every woman whose story is told, here, is not a clinical subject described in terse terms, but someone seen as strong and beautiful and fiercely intelligent, someone with whom the author had a connection. I've seen reviews some places, obviously by older people from other generations, where this technique is sneered at, but if this had been a more clinical book, a more detatched book, it would be a lesser book. It would not have had the impact on me that it did. There's real mourning and real loss here, real anger, real fear, all of it spoken without shame.

This isn't a book about abnormal people, and it doesn't treat us that way. This is a book that looks at what is normal in our culture today, by an author that's experienced it. This is normal, and that's just not right. We should not be expected to hate ourselves for being imperfect. We should not be expected to attain perfection, and shouldn't be treated as if it's something we could do if only we get off our lazy asses and work just a little harder, kill off those weaknesses, ignore our bodies' messages. This shouldn't be normal. This should not be what we expect of ourselves, or of each other.

I cried, reading this book. Nobody in this book is me, and none of the stories are quite like mine-- some of them are so vastly different that I wouldn't have read them for themselves, had they not been part of this text-- but the emotional thread going through all of these stories was almost identical to my own. I looked in here and saw myself, saw my sister, saw my cousins, saw my high school friends and my college friends and the friends I've gathered, online and off, since graduation. I identified with this book, almost to a fault.

I think the main thing here is that this book has so much hope in it, so much complete conviction that we are worth more than what we think, that we are all so beautiful and so talented and so brilliant, all in our own imperfect, fragile, messily human ways. And because the author has that credibility, that knowledge of what it's like, it's like she knows each of us and is showing us our own potential-- not, for once, the potential to be thinner, or the potential to accomplish something, but the potential to love ourselves and find peace with our imperfection.

Go to the library, or the bookstore. Get the book. Read the book. Courtney's last chapter indicates that she believes that this won't be an issue to be solved by a large social movement, but instead via millions of individual stories-- and I was struck instantly by the fact that these stories are already being written on blogs. Ladies, go read this book, and come back; we have a conversation to begin, and I want it to begin as soon as possible.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Gotta write this down before I go to bed

I keep running into things today that I want to share with you guys.

1) We threw the inflatable kayak in the trunk of our car after work, along with our life vests, and went to the lake. Lake Michigan. As my Hub intoned, "the big lake they call Gitchi Gumee". Granted, we were just in the harbor, but I felt very small and ridiculous, trying to face such a big expanse of water with a little boat made mostly of air.

I got kind of freaked out very quickly, because my instinct was to paddle around in very shallow water, whereas my Hub decided immediately to strike out across the water toward a buoy. For a while, neither of us got our way, because it turned out that we had the seats in the kayak backward and were also holding the paddles upside down (two realizations which led to a lot of thrashing about and quite a few uncomfortable moments where I thought I was going to end up being pitched into the water), but eventually we got it all hashed out. There as still quite a lot of going in small circles and accidentally smacking each other with paddles or splashing each other with water, though. And I promptly decided that okay, I was done now, I had had enough of being uncomfortable and off-balance (lordy, what a core workout) and being nervous that we were going to be yelled at (again) by lifeguards at the swimming beach (which, apparently, we were way too close to), and being anxious about the possibility of falling into the drink (and yeah, we had life vests on, but I would get WET and COLD), and mostly being generally anxious about trying a new thing and not knowing how to do it right and not being very good at it. Oh, and because I was stuck out there, because my Hub was having a really good time and had no intentions of going back to shore.

As I told my sister tonight, it quickly turned into a hilarious metaphor for our marriage. Remember my use of paddling on the water as a good description of what can and can't be controlled in life? Well, I forgot about the other person in the boat, which is a very big thing. Sure, the water has the most influence on what's going on, but if you can't get the other person in the boat to agree on a direction or figure out how to paddle together, this is a doomed enterprise. I would love to have a video of the two of us squabbling and shrieking and laughing in that boat tonight; it's us in a nutshell, particularly because we finally did get it all figured out and managed forward motion in a more-or-less straight line. Because my Hub talked me through my nerves and was smart enough to keep me out in the boat until I started having a good time in spite of myself. Because I realized that I was going to be out on the water for a while, and I realized that I could either do my deep breathing and get around to enjoying this thing that I'd been looking forward to for weeks, or I could freeze up and freak out and weep and have a miserable time and fuck up our brand new hobby. Because we argued and flailed about with our paddles in a very unprofessional manner and ended up having a whale of a good time.

I just-- wow. It was phenomenal. I was scared of it and I did it anyway, and it was great.

2) Talked to my sister on the phone tonight and not only has she heard of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, but when she found out that I had the book, she squawked in delight and demanded that I tell her all about it when it's done. I should mention that my sister has always been the overachiever in our family; the skinny one, the runner, the vegetarian, the straight-A student, the one with the full-ride scholarships and the overwhelming amount of bad-assed determination. I was completely baffled that she'd heard of this book, let alone that she'd want to read it, because... well, she's skinny.

Yeah, okay, I'm kind of a dope. More on that when I talk about the book.

Still, it was fascinating to realize that we have a whole big batch of knowledge in common on body issues; she's come across this stuff when it drifts up against her main field of study in grad school, while I've done it purely because, well, I gotta figure out how to get my brain screwed on straight. We started swapping information we'd read in articles and encountered in our own lives, like how she's heard about men having a false idea of the male ideal body and how more and more boys are working out compulsively and taking steroids just to look like that, while I've got this information secondhand from my Hub from the guys he talks to online and the general knowledge in their community about how steroids work (even if they don't act on it, they seem to know, just like all women seem to know how eating disorders work even if we don't have them). We've both seen the thing in Jane where they'd discovered that 75% of women are unhappy with what their breasts look like, and they suspected that it's because most of the time the only thing we see are "perfect" breasts on TV and movies and whatnot, so they had readers send in boob shots. It's an amazing thing to see, because I didn't really realize how ingrained the "perfect" look had gotten in my brain until I saw picture after picture of these normal, imperfect boobs, all different, one after another after another, and it's like something went sproing! in my head.

It really made me realize something. We all talk about how the airbrushed, impossibly thin, impossibly primped women in the media are fucking with our ability to recognize our own bodies as normal, but it wasn't until I saw that parade of boobs that it really hit me just how much it had messed with my head. I mean, I'm a smart woman. I'm an educated woman. I know the tricks the media plays. For some reason, I thought that this meant that while I was affected by this stuff, I wasn't really affected by it.


Go back to the Dove ads that were so screamingly controversial last summer (or was that the summer before?): normal women of various imperfect body types, proud and happy and posing in their undies. I still remember that my first thought when I saw those ads was OH MY GOD FAT, and that it took me a second to realize that, no, these women looked like the women I saw on the street, in the office, in my family; these are perfectly healthy women who just don't happen to be a size zero, and who are too tall or too short and have big hips and narrow shoulders and too-small or too-big boobs, who have a normal amount of fat stored in their rear ends, whose torsos are too short or too long, whose thighs and calves don't match up.

Every once in a while I really need to go back and remember: yeah, this affects me. It affects me right now.

3) I have started reading Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, have made it to chapter 3 and have wept all over the place. Oh my God, you guys. It's all of us. It's all of us. There's this dichotomy that's been put up between the skinny girls and the fat girls-- the dichotomy that made me surprised that my sister had ever heard of this book, let alone would be interested in reading it-- but it's not there, it's fake, we're all the same. I'm seeing myself in here, and I'm seeing my sister. I always thought that she escaped all of this, that I was the one it happened to, but-- she's just showing it in a different way. None of us learned how to be happy and love ourselves, and we just have to, we really do, or else we are going to continue beating ourselves in hopes that our morale will improve [/USSR].

You have to read this, you guys. You absolutely have to. Put it on your summer reading list. It's one thing to know that the rest of us in the fat-blogosphere know and share certain thoughts and experiences-- realizing that it goes so much further than that is priceless.

I'll write more about it when I finish and am, er, coherent. Don't wait for me, though. Go find this book and read the damn thing.

4) My Hub grabbed my butt this evening while he was hugging me. "God, I love your body," he said happily.

"Me too," I said, and I started laughing because while that wasn't what I meant to say-- it seemed too proud, too inaccurate-- it sure as hell sounded good. "I love my body, too."

Cut for length-- click to read more.