#326: MY RIGHT FRONTAL LOBE RUNS AMOCK WITH MY EMOTIONS
We have been living without the internet at home for six days. I do not generally talk on the telephone unless I absolutely have to, and the television does not interest me too terribly, so the internet is my primary tool for contact with the larger world. Not having the internet hooked up in our new place is like it would be for most people to have their phone and tv taken away for a week. I feel cut off. I didn't even know about the bombings in Egypt until late last night.
I have had many things to write about, pictures to post, and e-mails to answer. Hell, I even had a poem about suburban moms on bicycles in the 1980s that I was thinking of sharing with you. Now you get none of that. Those moments have passed like so much dust in the wind.
No, today you will get something I just thought about now after reading Finslippy's latest entry. I spent all of last Wednesday with my parents, who came down for our very tiring move. I want you all to know that I am still feeling intense and deep appreciation for the work they did in helping the Fiery One and I move into our new apartment. I want you to know that they drove for a total of six hours round trip to come down from Cosmopolis and carry incredibly heavy things and scrub dried shrimp off the floor under our stove. I want you to know that they are, by and large, very nice people.
But..... I, like many other adults, carry strange little neuroses around with me that are triggered in the presence of my immediate family. It's like I have a miniature hydra in my brain that's activated by like DNA. I become this completely pattern-driven beast, easily distracted by normally insignificant things. Anything that was once a pattern of behaviour in my family is buried deep within my right frontal lobe, waiting for their catalysts to reawaken them.
My parents have always made a big deal about people that are overweight. Ever since I was a little kid, they have made open remarks about large people, and especially large women. They have also always made remarks about my weight. As far as I remember, it started in grade four. That is when I was first admonished for eating cookies and told to hold my belly in when I was standing. As an independent adult, I have had to endure their comments about my body almost as often as I see them. Over the years, it has begun to feel like a major part of my relationship with them, this body of mine, and I alternately cover or tart it up depending on my mood when I know I am going to see my parents.
During the months leading up to my wedding day, I gained thirty pounds. I was living with them at the time, so on a near daily basis I would hear about how my ass was filling out. If my father felt playful, he would call it my caboose. My mother told me not to wear stripes. I lost quite a few pounds after the wedding (I am twenty less now), but I can tell that I am not thin enough for their tastes. I am occasionally asked if I can still wear that cute dress or skirt I used to have, and if not, have I saved it for when I can fit back into it? It made me look so feminine, you know.
When I was getting ready before they arrived on Wednesday morning, I took my time considering my wardrobe. There would be no tarting up, but there would be no hiding under a giant sack, either. I dressed comfortably and practically for the move, stood straight, and thought to myself if any negative comment is made about my figure, I will politely ask that it not be discussed. Then I took two extra-strength Tylen0l.
Guess what? For the first time in what is probably years, neither of my parents commented on my body at all. They commented on my friend's Willendorfian figure, they commented on the generous size of a young mother at the restaurant we went to, but they made no mention of mine. What does silence surrounding one of their favourite subjects mean?
My neurotic little brain raced to figure out why. Were they so let down by my lack of child-bearing that they avoided body talk with me? Was the five pounds I had gained back so shameful? Should I take this as a sign of their personal disappointment with how I live my life? I became paranoid and dysmorphic, trying to avoid catching glimpses of myself in mirrors for fear that I would see what they surely saw: a bloated, unkempt figure, my fat a tell-tale sign of inherent sloth.
Later in the day, though, things changed. My parents, the Fiery One, and I took a break in the living room to have a beer, and my mother started telling us about all the procedures two of her friends are submitting themselves to in an effort to retain a beauty that they are certain they are losing. They are having eyelids nipped and veins lasered, skin tanned and limbs waxed, hair dyed and lips filled. My mother told us how painful some of it was and how little effect most of the procedures seemed to have. She talked about the fact that she is in her sixties and her confidence in how good she looks even next to her over-processed friends. She talked about the unnecessary time and energy spent on such things, about how many hours and days would be taken up every month just to maintain these temporary fixes.
I realized that simply because I had not heard a positive comment from them did not mean that they were thinking otherwise when they looked at me. Maybe the comments weren't being made because they are in their sixties, and their bodies have begun to betray them bit by bit. Maybe the pattern we have always played is not the capital-A Always I think it is. Maybe it started when I was seven and ended this year, twenty-five years later. Or maybe it hasn't. Maybe they have Alzheimers. Maybe I've made all of this up in an effort to justify my own obsessions. Maybe they realized it was upsetting to me. Maybe the subject just got boring.
The point is that they didn't talk about my body, and the body-related conversation we had that afternoon was positive and healthy. They did not do what I have always expected them to do. I was not treated to having my belly pointed out to me as though I were not aware of it or the size of my butt in my jeans or that I have arms like my father's mother's side of the family (large).
We spent the day working hard, chatting, and catching up. Eventually I stopped feeling as though I were livestock at auction and relaxed enough to enjoy my parents as people rather than appraisers. I even managed to sneak a glance or two back at myself in the mirror without cringing.
My thirty-two-year-old ass is hot.
I mean: things change, even patterns we thought to be solidly cast and immutable.
Like my ass. It actually looks better than it used to.
And my parents? They're getting better with age, too.