Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I shoulda been a cowboy

Life is something of a crapshoot. How much control do we really have over what happens to us? Where you're born, and to whom, have a huge influence on the rest of your life. That's not to say that these things determine the course of your life, but they can (and often do) play a significant role.

Beyond that, you can live your life the "right" way and circumstances can still fuck you over. You can study hard, go to college, and then the economy can tank right when you need a job. You can eat organic vegetables and hormone-free beef and you might still sprout tumors. You can nurture a fantastic relationship and it can still go to pieces.

I know you ultimately have the last say in how you react to these things. I know I'm being whiny, and have been for the past few days. It's just frustrating when there appears to be very little "justice," as we think of it, in the world at all.

The home stretch

Can it really be my last quarter here? It's so strange to think that in 10 weeks I will be gone, possibly forever. I hope I'll come back and visit, but that's often the sort of thing one never gets around to doing.

It's not time yet for my melodramatic "college experience" reflection post. Look for that in June. But shit fire, what a four years. Not that there haven't been some lows, but on the whole I've been unbelievably fortunate. I've had the chance to do some pretty remarkable things and meet some wonderful people. I still wake up sometimes thinking I'm 14, but now when I look in the mirror I kind of believe I'm an adult. At the very least, my recent weight gain means I'm not likely to be mistaken for a boy again.

Here's my question - will the next four years change me as much as these have?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

So here's the thing

Option #1: Restrict my eating, exercise daily, and be thin.
Option #2: Eat what I want, exercise most days, and be ... smooshy.

If you've never had an eating disorder, the choice seems obvious. If you are all-too familiar with the unrelenting downpour of crazy that is an eating disorder, you probably have an inkling of what's happening in my head.

I miss my boyfriend. It's not related to the above at all, it's just another thing.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Treacherous ground - the dressing room

Going shopping for clothes after eating Mexican food is really not my idea of a good time. I wind up berating myself for those tortilla chips if something doesn't fit. But we were out to lunch as a family (all of us but my brother), and I think Mom wanted to prolong that togetherness. So I went, found a couple of deals at Goodwill before hitting the mall.

I took a pair of pants to the dressing room and overheard a conversation (you? You, Lisa, eavesdropping? Yes. I confess). It was a mother and a daughter in adjacent dressing rooms.

Daughter: Well, by then I'll have lost some pounds.
Mom: Honey, that's not very much time.
Daughter: I will.
Mom: Let me tell you, you don't need to.

A few minutes later:
Daughter: How does this look?
Mom: It looks really good, honey, it looks good.
Daughter: Would you even be honest with me? If it looked bad.
Mom: Yes, honey, and I'm telling the truth. It's a very flattering top.

Ah, memories. Because six, seven years ago I was that girl. Every time I stood in a dressing room I rued the size I had to wear. When I read about "vanity sizing" I felt shitty because those small sizes still weren't fitting me. I loved anything that made me look thinner. I thought how much better things would be if I actually were thinner.

As they were leaving the mother got a phone call:
Mom: Yeah ... yeah, I don't know if we'll make it. Oh, he told you? Yeah ... I've just got to lose ten more pounds and then I'll be happy.

Will you? Maybe. Maybe that ten pounds will give you the self-confidence you've been looking for. Maybe it will make you feel healthier, fitter. But is it going to make you happy? Or do you need something else and you haven't realized it yet?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sorry yet again, Momma

NOTE: This post contains graphic descriptions of my religious beliefs. It is not my intention to offend anyone or cast aspersions on anyone's faith, and I hope no one is. I admire you for doing your thing - whatever it is - and I just try to do mine.

My mother bore and raised five children, and one of them consistently attends - and believes in - the Catholic Mass. No matter what I try to tell her, I think she feels like a failure because of this.

I quit taking Communion in the spring of 2006. I was doing research and came across an article about the growing Catholic communities in Africa. One bishop, who had been recognized for his ministry by the Pope, held regular "condom burning ceremonies." This wasn't some crackpot report; this article is similar. Sitting in the library, surrounded by other students, I was suddenly so angry that it was hard to see. I literally got hot. I called my mother. I don't think she was happy with my decision to forgo Communion, but she tried to understand.

This wasn't the first time I'd struggled with religion. I almost didn't get confirmed (in 2002) because of the sex abuse scandals that seemed to increase by the day. But I took it seriously, and the sacrament was very meaningful for me. A lot has changed since then. I've made decisions that the Church regards as morally wrong. Since I'm not sorry for them - I refuse to be sorry for them - I don't go to Confession and I know I'm not in the state of grace necessary to participate in the Eucharist. I go to Mass when I'm home because it means something to my mother, but I no longer consider myself a practicing Catholic. It makes me sad, actually. I don't think the Church wants me.

Most recently, Pope Benedict's recent tour through several African countries got me heated again. Even knowing the Church's beliefs and positions on contraception and sexuality, I cannot understand why its leadership refuses to make an exception for Africa. Millions of people are dying of AIDS, and millions more will suffer as a result. Economies can't grow if the 20-to-40-year-old population is disabled or dead. Children can't be educated if they have to care for their parents or run a household. To me, lives trump theological objections to condoms.

So when Mom asked if I wanted to go to Mass last Sunday, I thought for a minute and said "No, I really don't." I said I would because she wanted me to, but she said that would be "hypocritical" on both our parts. Eventually we worked it out and I went, but I get the feeling she feels like she's failed. It's not her fault at all, though. We just have come to very different conclusions about the nature of things.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hey, someone wrote "gullible" on the ceiling!

Meet Oscar Meyer's new product, the Deli Fresh Combination pack:
It's featured in the spring issue of Food and Family, Kraft Food's self-aggrandizing cooking and lifestyle magazine. The "delicious snack combos feature thinly sliced deli-style meats and cheeses in a variety of flavors, such as Turkey & Ham with Swiss & Cheddar."

Seriously? Come on, you guys. This is a fancy-schmancy, repackaged Lunchable:
The nutrition information is almost identical for these two products. I mean, it's a pretty brilliant strategy. I just have to laugh that the gummy, salty ham slices of my childhood have been transformed into upscale snacking for adults.


I'm going back and forth in my head. Should I work out? Should I take a day off? I'm a little sore, but not terribly so. I ate my mother's pizza last night. My thighs hurt going downstairs. I feel smooshy. I should. I shouldn't.


In other news, the spider adventures continue. Except this time, instead of a dime-size critter in a mug, this one was a quarter-sized monster on the bathroom wall - at 12:30 in the morning. I swatted and missed, swatted again, saw the thing skitter under the collection of hair products my sisters have amassed, and finally crushed it with a hairbrush. I woke up my parents in the process. Go me.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I drove to the mall today. Granted, I did this frequently over the winter break, as I worked there, but today I actually walked around and looked at things. I bought some teacher clothes - including a cardigan - and a little black dress. Driving there, the whole "going to the mall," all felt very high school. Entertainment options in my neck of the woods are few, and the mall was one of them. And driving by myself reminded me a lot of going to and from school, practice, rehearsal, etc.

My "high school experience" was really not terrible. I certainly wouldn't call those four years the best of my life, and I'd definitely make different choices knowing what I know now. But I had some really incredible friends for whom I still care deeply. I was odd, sure. My high school didn't have the well-defined social groups a la Mean Girls or The O.C. I played volleyball, but I wasn't really a jock. I was in the drama club, but I wasn't a theater geek, either. My academics probably defined me to the greatest extent. I was smart, and my mother always told me not to hide it. She failed to mention that a) sometimes you come off like a snoot and b) you will scare boys like nothing else. I was pretty okay with the latter; not so much with the former. I could sit at a bunch of different lunch tables and not cause a ruckus. However, I really, really, really do not want to go back. There was so much crap to deal with, so much petty silliness to go through. The teachers gave as much as my fellow students. We were all so worked up over four years - in the long run, that's an eyeblink.

I was talking to my mother and asked, "Why did I put up with all that bullshit?"

"Because you were sixteen and didn't know any better. Because you weren't twenty-two and you weren't who you are now."

I'm thankful for that. I'm not a tiger by any means, but I'm much more confident than I used to be. As much as the mall today felt like high school, it's a good thing I'm not there now - I'd probably be expelled for speaking my mind.

Friday, March 20, 2009


It's spring break, and my exotic travels have taken me ... to a small town in southwest Ohio. Yeah. Last night I was talking to Jim and mentioned that it doesn't feel like "home."

He replied, "What is home supposed to feel like?"

Well, that stumped me. Jim's answer was simple - "it's where you live." I think it's more than that. You can live in a hotel room; a dorm room - that's not home. Home implies familiarity, belonging. Consistency, reliability. Home is safe, secure. Ideally, it's shared with people you care for - your family, a partner, a friend. It's somewhere you want to be.

Being in my last year of college makes it hard for me to feel at home anywhere. My apartment isn't home- I care about the people in it, but it's not permanent. I don't belong there, ultimately. My parent's house is sort of in-between - I love my family more than I can say, and this house will always be a place to come back to. But I'm not going to be here forever. In a few months I'll be pretty far away, in an apartment with another person I love very much. Will I belong there? I've always thought that I belong with the people I care about, but maybe there's more to be said for the physical aspect of home than I realized.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Gatorade's slogan for its G2 drink: "Less Calories for More Athletes."

... what?

And shouldn't it be "fewer," anyway?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


It's good to know I'm not the only one who's had a nasty run-in with an arachnid or two. It's good to know you're not too self-conscious to share them, either! It makes me wonder, though - do I have any gentlemen readers, besides Jim? De-lurk, boys, and share your tales of fear or valiance in the face of spider threats.

Anyway ... the warmer weather and the end of the quarter have combined to turn my brain into fluff. I have a presentation tomorrow afternoon - the poster is done, but I haven't sketched out what I'm going to say. Still, I can't seem to get anxious about it. I have a paper to finish and I'm not worried about it. Apparently I have finally contracted senioritis. I really just want to take a nap in the sun at this point.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I hate spiders. Hate, hate, hate spiders. They scare the bejeezus out of me and they have since I was about five and read about black widow spiders for the first time. I had hysterics during the Aragog scene in the second Harry Potter movie. So finding one in a mug this morning - dime-sized, with those long dark legs that move too damn fast - was not the best way to start the day.

I know this fear is irrational. You can tell me all you want that all but a tiny fraction of spiders are harmless, that they hold an essential place in ecological systems, and that I'm a million times bigger than they are, and it doesn't help. Actually, please don't remind me of my size. Spiders scare me and I don't like them.

Living in the boonies entails some intimate contact arachnids. There are so many varieties: teeny ones that hung in corners and didn't bother anyone (even I got used to them), fat hairy ones that liked our window screens, and the occasional behemoth. Like ... Porchbeast.

It was the summer between 10th and 11th grade. Since I couldn't drive yet, it was my sister who dropped my boyfriend off at his place after our date. It was about midnight when we got back to our place. I had to pee, so I hopped up on the porch and looked for my key.

Behind me, my sister spoke in a dead, even voice: "Lisa get off the porch." At first I thought there was someone on the porch, but then I looked down. There, four inches from my sandaled food, was a spider AS BIG AS MY HAND. My OUTSTRETCHED, FINGERS-SPREAD HAND. I can palm a basketball.

In the next moment I was at the side door. I have no memory of getting off the porch. I was gibbering and I may have peed a little. Sarah and I stumbled inside and looked out the front window - it's still there. Our gibbering woke my mother, who came downstairs. Now, my mother is legally blind without her contacts, and she could still see that it was a spider. We woke my brother, who valiantly put on his boots and braved the beast. He stomped, caught a couple of legs, and chased the thing off the porch into the garden, where he finally dispatched it.

And thus was born the legend of Porchbeast. I get the feeling he can't be the only one of his giant brethren.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dear Anorexia: shut your face

Dear Anorexia: You almost ruined my day. You almost made me miss out on a wonderful opportunity, but I didn't let you.

Today was the second day of the Institute for the African Child conference. The founder of Zienzele (with which I'm interning) gave a presentation this morning and then invited a big group of people out to lunch - including me. She picked an Indian restaurant, and I almost declined. I almost made up some bullshit excuse - I'm not feeling well, I'm tired, I have so much work to do. I almost didn't go.

But then I said fuck you, anorexia. This might be the only time I get to see this woman for a long time. I'm sure it's the only time I'll get to eat with a woman from Monserrat, a man from Zimbabwe, a woman from Nova Scotia, a man from Botswana, and a woman fromVermont. My own little mini UN, as my roommate said.

So I went. And I ate - even kheer and two cups of chai. And I had wonderful conversation. I'm inspired and energized.

Again, fuck you, anorexia. I can't believe I almost missed that.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Another day

Another day, another pair of pants that don't fit. And it's not like these were an obscenely tiny size, either.

I wish this didn't bother me so much.

I just feel like everyone who told me I wouldn' t gain too much weight - Dr. M, my nutritionist, my doc - I feel like they all lied to me. Eating normally, eating like everyone else DID make me gain weight.

Apparently my options are these: restrict my eating and have a body that doesn't give me fits, or eat "normally" and have love handles, muffin-tops, you name it.

And I know I am the ONLY one who gives a damn. My family doesn't, Jim doesn't, my friends don't. They don't think I've "let myself go."

I want to believe them. I'm trying to believe them.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I have a lunch meeting with one of the founders of the Zienzele Foundation, which I've been interning for this quarter. I won't be the only one there, of course - in fact, it might be hard for me to even make myself noticeable. Which is okay, because I'm super nervous. What if she doesn't like me? What if I put my foot in it somehow? What if she hates my hair/pants/laugh?

Okay. These are obviously silly irrational anxieties, probably exacerbated by the stress of eating in an unfamiliar restaurant and the huge amount of food I ate last night. Seriously, this woman created a non-profit organization in order to help Zimbabwean AIDS orphans. "Nice" probably doesn't come close. And if she doesn't like me that much, fine - she's not the woman I work with directly. That person likes me.

As for the eating - I really, really need to let that go. I ate a lot last night. I ate even after I wasn't hungry anymore. I ate dessert. Okay. It's done, it's over with, and I don't have to beat myself up over it. There's nothing inherently wrong with eating a lot at a potluck with friends. Okay? Okay. Now stop thinking about it.

UPDATE: The lunch was fantastic. Holy crap. The woman is unbelievable - the work she's done, the stories she told. We came up with so many ideas! Once we get the new website together, I'll post more information about Zienzele.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

If it makes you happy

I'm back up at the student-center coffeehouse, doing my distract-myself thing. Work wasn't, well, working, so I decided to eavesdrop on the conversation next to me. An instructor has been evaluating students' performance for the quarter. The class, if my ears do not deceive me, is called Career and Life Planning. It's for undecided freshmen and sophomores.

The girl he was talking to first seemed like a bit of a moron. He asked her what she wanted from life, and she said she wanted a job where she could make a lot of money. And she wanted to get married, giggle giggle giggle. "Obviously I want to marry a guy with a lot of money." Giggle giggle.

I rolled my eyes. Really? But then the instructor started in on her. He started talking about how men will take advantage of her, how men in cities are awful, and a story about his sister/cousin/friend-person was married to a rich guy, but he was abusive.


Now, clearly his grade was not based solely on her desire to marry a rich dude. With grade inflation as high as it is, the only way to get an F is to fail to turn in any assignments or physically assault the instructor. But still, he obviously thought what she wanted was wrong.

But is it? I firmly believe that you have a right to do what makes you happy, provided it doesn't harm anyone else. If marrying a wealthy person would make this girl happy, who am I or anyone else to say she's an idiot? She doesn't speak for all women; her desire to marry rich doesn't "set us back fifty years." I judged her and I shouldn't have. If the instructor wanted to take her to task for it, he should have asked her what her plan is. I know several women who have always wanted to be stay-at-home mothers. I used to think they were crazy until I stopped stomping my feminist boots long enough to listen. Marriage and kids do for them what a career and 401k do for other women; neither one is less of a woman for it. It's crappy that women can't choose one path or the other without being criticized - or unfairly judged by the nosy anthropologist next to them. Guilty as charged and sufficiently chastened.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What is normal eating?

No, really. I don't have a clue. I know my nutritionist gave me a short essay about it, but I'll be damned if I can remember what was on it. I remember at the end there was something about eating one more cookie because "they taste so good when they are fresh," but at that point I was vehemently NOT a cookie-eater, so I figured it didn't apply to me.

I can pretty much count on what I'm going to have to eat every day. I eat on a schedule. I really, really, really like Honey Bunches of Oats. I can be adventurous on special occasions - witness my trip to DC and my global eating adventure - but my daily intake is pretty uniform. Heavy on vegetables.

But is this normal? Is there one "normal" way of eating, even? I'm in college and witness to some very strange eating habits (not counting my own). I don't know if I ate normally before I developed anorexia and I have a good feeling I don't eat normally. Is it eating "intuitively?" Is it three squares a day? Does anybody really know?

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I put on springtime pants today and they are ... snug. Around the waistband, which actually sits at my hips given the kind of pants these are.

Okay. This does not make me a bad person. It does not make me fat. I means that my body has changed shape since last ... when was the last time I wore these pants? May? It means that my hipbones are no longer the most prominent thing about my torso. It means that it is possible to have pants that actually require one to unbutton them before taking them off.

I decided to leave them on - they aren't cutting off circulation. I'm trying to get used to the idea that clothes can actually touch my body and it's not a bad thing.


For the next few days, at least. A high of 74 degrees today? Sign me up!

I really enjoy spring, if only because I hate winter so much. Walking to class no longer requires the lengthy ritual of gathering hat, scarf, boots, coat. The price of strawberries comes down. I get to see the full range of fashions among my classmates - hipsters in floaty ragdoll dresses and gladiator sandals, jocks in shorts, sorority girls in really shorts. Tattoos peek out just like tulips. College Green is suddenly swamped with people and their impossibly small puppies (yesterday I saw two little Yorkies who together could have sat comfortably on my laptop). The hippie teachers take their classes outside - I don't know why, because attention spans drop like a rock. Perhaps for the benefit of passing tour groups?

It's a little funny, because I used to actually fear spring. I was deathly afraid of tornadoes, and it didn't help that ever March through elementary school, we started our weather unit learning about them. I would dread days that were warm and humid. I'd check weather.com's Thunderstorm Forecast - if we were in the "severe" region, I'd feel sick the rest of the day. I used to shake whenever we had severe weather. Once I had a session with Dr. M while we were under a tornado watch (back before the ED), and that was pretty much all we talked about.

Needless to say I don't do that anymore. The summer I lived alone, I think, was when I stopped being so irrationally scared of some things (some things, mind you, there are still plenty). There was no one around to listen to me or take care of me - I had to do it myself. So I kept the TV on, I watched the sky a bit, and I knew I could dive into the little hidey-hole under the stairs if I needed to. I didn't panic, I didn't shake, I didn't get sick. I just knew I had to take care of myself. More than that, I knew I could take care of myself.

Hmm. Maybe that's something to keep in mind.

Friday, March 6, 2009

This time around

Starting up the meds this time around hasn't been going so well. I get nauseated sometimes, and aside from the aforementioned weird-ass dreams, I feel like I'm in a fog. Maybe it's because the urgency and anxiety I was feeling was at such a high level that I feel empty now that it's gone. But it's not all the way gone, that's the thing.

I'm trying to stay positive. Or at least even.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

In sleep

I had kind of an awful dream last night. My aunt had an eating disorder. I'm not entirely sure which aunt it was - my mother has six sisters - but clearly she'd been dealing with it for years and was in really horrible shape. Something happened - she had a seizure, I think - and she looked awful, black and blue and misshapen. I can't remember much beyond that, except urging my mother to get her on a feeding tube and explaining there are two different types, ones that go through the nose and ones that go right into your stomach.

Obviously the dream bothered me because I'm still thinking about it. Eating disorders are so common, and it kills me to think that so many other people have gone through what I did - and often their experiences are much, much worse. I hate the thought that anyone has gone through that, much less a family member or someone I love and care for. And I know that some of my relatives have experienced an eating disorder, and I know that some of my friends have. I wish there were more that I could do.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I'm probably creepier than I think

Once on the Metro Jim asked me what I was looking at. I sheepishly replied, "People."

I'm probably never going to be a research anthropologist. As much as I would love to, I'm never going to dive into a community, live as one of them, and do my damndest to understand the world as they do. There's not much money to be made that way, and I really can't stand the thought of being in academia forever.

But I'll always be a people-watcher. I'm up at the student center coffeehouse and there's so much going on around me - so many lives moving and shifting and changing. The sheer diversity - even within a relatively homogeneous population (mostly white college students in Ohio) is staggering. If I could, I'd sit down with each person here and ask them to tell me a story, to tell me about their lives, what they want and think and feel. I'd love that. And then I'd write a book about it.

As I always say, you're more interesting than you think you are.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Did you drink plenty of water today?"

No, I never drink as much water as I should, but that didn't keep me from giving blood today! There's a pint of me in a red cooler somewhere that'll hopefully help someone. I don't know why I get so much out of giving blood, but I really do.

I am feeling ... a little bit better today. Not 100%. But better.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Adventures in research

During my studies of anthropology and medical anthropology, I've come across some weird stuff. Actually, I should say "things that appear strange to members of post-industrial, post-modern Western cultural systems." Anyway. Sometimes these things are humorous (intentionally or not). I present to you a series of limericks about syphilis, stumbled upon during research for People, Plagues, and Pestilences: The Anthropology of Infectious Disease.

From Webster's Dictionary online:

There was a young man of Back Bay,
Who thought syphilis just went away,
And felt that a chancre,
Was merely a canker,
Acquired in lascivious play.

Now first he got acne vulgaris,
The kind that is rampant in Paris,
It covered his skin,
From forehead to shin,
And now people ask where his hair is.

With symptoms increasing in number,
His aorta's in need of a plumber,
His heart is cavorting,
His wife is aborting,
And now he's acquired a gumma.

Consider his terrible plight,
His eyes won't react to the light,
His hands are apraxic,
His gait is ataxic,
He's developing gun-barrel sight.

His passions are strong, as before,
But his penis is flaccid, and sore,
His wife now has tabes
And sabre-shinned babies,
She's really worse off than a whore.

There are pains in his belly and knees,
His sphincters have gone by degrees,
Paroxysmal incontinence,
With all its concomitants,
Brings on quite unpredictable pees.

Though treated in every known way,
His spirochetes grow day by day,
He's developed paresis,
Converses with Jesus,
And thinks he's the Queen of the May.

The lesson here, kids? Don't get the syph. Because if you do, someday someone will write a nasty poem about you.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


My boyfriend has been telling me to do that for two weeks. I thought about it yesterday and realized the last time I was really relaxed was lying on the couch in the hotel suite, watching What Not to Wear. We were too full from lunch to do anything else. Since then I can't remember a time when I just vegged, when I thought of everything and nothing. There's always something to do, or something to worry about, or some part of my body that needs attention and pinching.

Some people can relax easily and are good at dealing with anxiety. It's part of their makeup and who they are. Some people are also naturally gifted at basketball or painting. I am none of these things. I have to make an effort.

I've been trying to think of things to do to relax. One is to take a nap. Another is to hang out with some friends, but recently even that has been intruded upon by my body issues and anxiety. One is to watch a really good movie, one that sucks me in and doesn't allow anything else to intrude. I watched The Way We Were last night with my roommates, and aside from loving Robert Redford and thinking both of the main characters were kind of annoying, I didn't get much out of it.

Going for a walk is probably my favorite way to relax, but it's 27 degrees right now. Maybe if I talk about a walk it'll give you an idea. Jim and I used to go for walks in the spring. There's a biking/walking path that runs by the Hocking River (or "river," seeing as it's about 4 feet deep at most), and we'd head out there when it was starting to get dark. At first I got unnerved by the quiet, but eventually I learned - with some effort - just to relax and enjoy how everything felt and smelled. One night we passed a grassy hollow that was filled with fireflies - it was so beautiful. Those walks always made me feel better.