Friday, June 20, 2014

I Hate Myself for Hating Myself

I am sick of posting the same old pictures on Facebook for Father's Day and what Himself now understands is Throwback Thursday. I am organized to the extent that all of the family photographs are in one place but there are only a couple that I've scanned. My pop had a penchant for Kodachrome. There are scads of great photos of my parents in the forties and myself in sixties splendor. I'm sure there is at least one photo to represent every year of my pre-digital life. This is perhaps why I've waited so long to take on the scanning project.

I break down and fill a shopping bag with photos and hook up the scanner to my work computer. I love the old pictures of my parents and sister and of course my kids. There are lots of snapshots of me grinning with my arm around people I have no memory of whatsoever. I get a sense of how long my life has been. Overall though, the bitterness of the experience out weighs the sweet.

There is a picture of me with my dad that I like. I was about four and wear a floral dress with a bright red belt. I scan it and put it on Facebook. I remember loving this dress and oddly, it is the same style of dress that I prefer to wear now. As I drift off to sleep though I remember also telling my mom that I didn't want to wear the lovely dress. At age four I noted that it made me look fat. My mother eyed me up and down and agreed. Henceforward there were no more belts or bright colors.

Over the last decade my weight has stabilized and I keep pretty much between twenty and thirty lbs overweight depending on my self control and what chart you look at. Before this there were periods where I'd get my weight down via some method of extreme deprivation like Optifast or the Rice Diet. I go through fifty years of photos and am stricken. Fat. Not so fat. Fatter than I ever remember being. I only scan the relatively normal pictures but even these sadden me too because I remember a measure so radical that my hair fell out to get my weight below the category of morbidly obese.

I managed to find relatively decent looking clothes but it was a huge challenge. At my heaviest I resorted to having dresses made. I realize, looking at a lifetime of photographs, that despite my herculean efforts to find non-hideous garments, it didn't matter what I wore. I was fat, and only that.

Even at my very fattest, I smile in the pictures. What if I were to wake up tomorrow and look like that again? I don't think I could bear it. I wonder how, looking like I did, I could have experienced even a moment of pleasure. But in the aggregate, I know my life has not been tragic or a waste. It is enormously challenging to navigate the world with nearly 200 extra pounds. You have to be smarter, funnier, more generous and jump through a million hoops to assure the species that under the blubber you are essentially a normal person. I guess I am a better equipped as a mildly overweight person for having been a morbidly obese one.

Our anniversary approaches. I pull out our wedding pictures. I went on to gain about fifty pounds more with each kid but I am flabbergasted at how fat I was as a bride. My mother-in-law scowls in all of the photos, which now makes sense. I would have been deeply unhappy if my son married someone who looked like I did. I had a dress made out of beautiful silk brocade and a short jacket made out of an antique embroidered piano shawl. These still hang in my closet. I suppose someday they can be cut down to outfit some Mormon brides. I guess the kids will find the pictures after I'm dead but until then I will show them to no one.

I think it's taken a decade of being closer than I've ever been to normal to realize how very massive I was. I'm sure I saw these photos soon after they were taken but some sort of self preservation instinct probably kicked in and I perceived them differently somehow. It's weird to think that the person who saw the photos that I cannot bear to look at, soon after they were taken, is the same person I am now. Instead, I guess, of obsessing over finding clothing that would somehow magically make me look cute, now I fret constantly about what I eat, ate or will eat and how much exercise is required to mitigate this.

I have spent more very fat years than not so fat years on the planet. Sometimes I see my reflection in the mirror and don't recognize myself. It is weird to not feel compelled to buy any garment that isn't disgusting just because it fits. Air travel is less traumatic now that I don't have to bother the flight attendant for a seat belt extender. Plus it is no big deal to fit a couple weeks worth of clothes into a small suitcase. I can sit in a chair and not worry that it will break. I appreciate the perquisites of being closer to normal as much as I worry about staying this way.

Seeing a very fat person is disconcerting as I am flooded with conflicting and powerful emotions. I do indeed feel sorrow and compassion. There have been some improvements since I was at my most expansive, as a much greater percentage of the population is now obese. It is easier to find clothing and fat teens at least have a handful of fairly decent role models. Still, fat bashing is commonplace and for all the lip service to fat acceptance I truly believe there isn't a person on the planet who would choose fat over thin. Except maybe a sumo wrestler. There is a brilliant episode of the show Louie that is dead-on in its depiction of a fat woman's plight. I will always identify as a fat girl, yet when I see one I feel more than sorry for her. I feel ashamed. I feel angry. It is a challenge, even knowing that I am no more or less lovable now than when I was at my heaviest, to feel anything but contempt for a fat person. I hope that some day I overcome my hatred and shame for the person who I was and will always be.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Spell it Backwards

Joe College has landed gainful employment, although his position requires him to work weekends. I fear that despite our “welcome to the real world” reaction, this might be a deal breaker.  He is an apprentice attendant at a doggy daycare center.  The facility also provides transportation, grooming behavioral therapy, field trips and massage for the butt sniffer set.  There is a celebrity client, a corgi who sports in a lobster costume.  Photos have gone viral. The facility operates from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.   There are typically between 40 and 50 guests. The daily rate would nourish a third world family for about a week. 

Joe College studies a fifty -page handbook of rules and regulations issued by what, at least as I write this and as far as I know, is his employer.  This addresses topics like humping and eye boogers.  Joe College is required to memorize each of the canine’s names, medical needs and behavioral quirks.  As a novice, he is forbidden to engage in play with dog toys but this will be permitted after his two- week training period is successfully completed.  Only the most senior employees however, drive the van or chaperone doggie beach days.

Paying someone to walk a dog used to be in my catalog of the hoity toity  and inaccessible, along with  car phones and caviar,  maybe for the dogs of Jackie O or Conrad Hilton. Now we often see professional dog walkers circling the Silver Lake Reservoir at 5:30 a.m. shepherding the first shift.  Manhattan pros often wend through the crowded sidewalks with half a dozen or more charges. 

I fill a prescription for myself and my co-payment is $5.  After, I stop by the vet and refill one of three medications that Taffy, our own and not famous, corgi requires to ameliorate the symptoms of hip dysplasia.  The tab is $58.  This is not the most expensive of the medications he requires. 

We are going to a new veterinary practice in Echo Park.  It is sleek and modern and doesn’t have, like our previous vet’s, that disinfectant odor that makes me dry heave. There is a tasteful and commodious waiting area with a huge TV, coffee, a big bowl of candy and jars of organic dog treats. In fairness, after a lifetime of pet ownership and having patronized a variety of veterinary practices, we have never had a vet as sensitive to our financial considerations as the current one. And for all the comfort the practice affords, the prices are comparable to those at the former stinky place.  The practice is also committed to pet rescue and there is a room full of adoptable kittens you can play with.  The doctors are attractive, tattooed, and savvy about social media.  They have picked up on how our relationship to our pets has subtly evolved over the last decades and the expectations of our service providers have changed.  I believe these young vets truly love animals but also that they have their paws on the pulse of what will make the practice commercially viable. Many pet owners now have the same standards for their pets as they would for their children.

In 1994 pet products generated about 14 billion in revenue in the U.S.  Even in the years of financial crisis spending on pets increased astronomically.  55 billion in sales is projected for 2014.  Commerce indeed is a driving force on culture.  When I was a kid Halloween meant carving a pumpkin, buying a mask at the dime store and trick or treating for an hour. Now it seems that the product pimping starts right after the 4th of July.  And what is all this crap about “The Big Game”? In my lifetime it seems like every holiday has gotten bigger and more expensive and much of this is indeed spurred by advertising and promotion. 

Advertising for pet related products is an enormous business and the “if you REALLY love your pet, you’ll buy this….” message is wildly effective but I wonder if this is soul cause of the elevation of pets to regal status.  Himself was raised at a kennel.  I have always had dogs and my sister bred them.  Nevertheless, we have been rejected in attempts to adopt a dog for amazingly specious reasons by several rescue organizations.  Friends were declined by the Pasadena Humane Society, solely because they both work full time.  Unless you are willing to adopt a hard-to-place big black dog or one that obviously has a tad of pit bull, it is easier to adopt a child.

Indeed we are being shamed into overspending on gluten free, organic, non-gmo food, cashmere sweaters and Posturpedic dog beds but I think too, the lives we live are generally less peopled then back in the day when dogs were simply dogs.  The digital age affords many comforts and conveniences but often leaves us bereft of contact with living creatures.  We are less vulnerable when we relate to pets, particularly in an era when we have less practice forming relationships, beyond a keyboard with other human beings.

If I added up all of the expenses we’ve incurred after decades of animal companionship I’m sure the figure would be staggering so I’m not doing that math.  However, except for an occasional Halloween costumes our animals subsist on cheap Costco beds and plain wrap food.  We do what we have to medically to keep them comfortable but would never consider spending for any extraordinary measures or costly surgeries.  I wonder though, if my life weren’t well peopled with husband, kids and friends if my affection might disproportionately transfer to a dog or cat.  

Still, even as a hardcore pet person, I find the idea of doggie daycare more than a little venal.  I do hope that Joe College hangs in.  I’m sure that if he does he’ll look back on this as a really great first job.  Even these soignee massaged and field tripped dogs are probably easier to get along with than most people.

Friday, June 6, 2014

High Paying Summer Jobs for College Students


Help clients select brews with a real down home and proletarian feel.  Perfect candidate has good beer tolerance and a slightly ironic post-hipster vibe.

Vinylrama needs clerk.
Must be able to pontificate about obscure experimental bands and audio delivery formats and make interminable playlists. No need to pay attention to customers who are losers. 

Taco Taster
Survey Southern California food trucks and taco tables.  You don’t have to write reviews just give a thumbs up or down.

HBO-GO Monitor    
Watch all the shows, except for Girls, which trivializes your generation.  Memorize plots and help people figure out what episode they’re on in the event that other people in the household are watching the same series.

IMDB Tester
Look up your favorite actors and movies. Compare reviews with Rotten Tomatoes. Count how many of a director’s films you’ve seen. See what movies were released in the year you are born.  Note: This research best completed in conjunction with the use of cannabis.

Custom made but not pretentious clothing.  Just wear our duds to cool places like the Lucky Boy and 101 Noodle Express.  Includes generous food and beverage allowance.

Multiplex Ambiance Ambassador  
Become irate at people who text during movies.  Give skink eye to patrons who are waiting in line for films lacking gravitas.
Correctly pronounce Jim Jarmusch and Cannes.

Skateboard Safety Study Subject
Perform skateboard tricks with state of consciousness altered and without pads or helmet.  Excellent coverage for pain medication.

Dodger Historian
From a field level seat .  Name the former teams (including minors and college) of every player in the dugout.  Explain why after three strikes the batter can hit the ball and not have it count as a strike.

Echoplex Quality Control
Bouncer will let you jump long line for cool show and not check your id.  Waiting crowd resentful but pang of being made to feel small enhances the concert going experience.

Sociological Research Assistant
Visit friends’ houses at 3 a.m. Create spreadsheet as to quantity and quality of food and alcoholic beverages available. Whose parents are sound sleepers?  Which have medical marijuana cards?

 Television Technician
Assist in switching from ROKU to DirectTV and the fast forwarding of programs on the DVR but the programs watched are to be selected based on your recommendation and the convenience of your schedule. You will be provided with refreshments, including alcoholic.

College Advisor
Give our students a realistic idea about what college life is really about.  For private girls high school.

Health Department Hygiene Study
For a two month period, remove no garbage from your chamber.  Use half filled beer bottles as ashtrays.  Do not fold or hang any garment.  Instead, sling onto the floor so clothing obscures dirty plates and silverware.

Completely Personal chef
Start cooking one hour before family meal is to be served.  Find and use artisanal products which have been hidden and every pot and pan in the house.  Mix everything together.  You are an experimental chef.  Add bottle of hot sauce.  Tastes yucky, probably due to weird ingredients purchased by mother.  Dogs won't even eat it.  Make packaged macaroni and cheese. Clean up nothing.  Spoil your dinner.