It’s worse than you think… they’re not thinking of you at all… Continue Reading…
My workshop in NYC at Pure Yoga was so beautiful yesterday. I did an exercise where everyone wrote their manifestos and spoke them aloud. I promised to post a segment on my site where people could post their manifestos so here it is. This is my manifesto that I wrote quite a few months back. Add yours in the comment section. I cannot wait to read them all! And yes, I think I will be back in NYC to do another workshop in March! Continue Reading…
By Caroline Leavitt.
This is an excerpt from interview I did on the incredible Caroline Leavitt’s site. I am still giddy about it. Pinch me! Here’s a teaser…
I first heard of Jennifer Pastiloff because everyone on Facebook was talking about her essay on dealing with her hearing loss. It was so brave, so beautifully written, that I wanted to talk to her. Jennifer also is the creator of Manifestation Yoga and Karaoke Yoga (how fun does that sound?) and she runs writing and yoga retreats. I’m so thrilled to have her here. Thank you, Jennifer!
CL: What sparked you to write such a brave essay now? Continue Reading…
I’ve ben thinking about the stuff we hold onto, the stuff we hoard as humans- the lamps and the photographs and the people, and the little pieces of paper everywhere (me, specifically. I do this.) I found this jotted on a paper tonight: She doesn’t let me put my hands in the potato chip bag or anything- I have fake nails. My one extravagance. And I’m wondering who is she, and why I had fake nails, and what kind of potato chips and why is this piece of paper on my desk in between a Virginia Woolf library book I never returned from 1997 and a bottle of sleeping pills. Hoarder! I want to yell at myself but don’t because who listens when you yell at yourself? The you that is yelling hoarder or the you with her hand in the potato chip bag?
Let’s say I am the chick with her hand in the bag and let’s say they are salt and vinegars. Let’s say I have my hand in the bag and my fingers are kind of wet because maybe I’ve licked them to pick up crumbs and the crumbs are stuck to my fingers and I suck them off. (Let’s say that.) So I hear hoarder! being yelled but still, I eat the salt because it’s so good, addictive really, and there’s no way I can not not lick my fingers to get that goodness off of them. I want it all. The chip crumbs in the bag’s skin and every goddamn remnant of broken chip itself.
An old friend has had a birthday party recently and didn’t invite me. I found out and felt hurt. It dawns on me that we aren’t really friends anymore, not in the immediate sense anyway.
I think about the letter I got from one of the guys I work with. He’s trying to get/stay sober. I work with a bunch of recovering addicts who pretty regularly blow my mind. This guy gives me a letter, and one of the lines says, “I remember how many friends I have neglected as the years have passed.”
I think of this old friend who didn’t invite me to her party and I recall what a shitty friend I was to her during my shitty years.  And I wonder if this is payback or my karma, (if you believe in such a thing.) I’ve seen too many “bad” things happen without any retribution, at least not in this life, to really know if I believe in karma or not. But really, what it comes down to, I think, is hoarding. Knowing when to let go.
My grandmother, before she died, had this lampshade wrapped in plastic. For as long as I could remember, that lampshade was wrapped in plastic with the price tag dangling from it. It was never dusted, so although it may have originally been white or beige, it had long since become brown, and the price tag hanging from it reeked of despondency. Like she’d given up somewhere but couldn’t muster the strength to dust the lamp or at least to take the price tag off. And it wasn’t an expensive lamp, it was some cheap K-Mart thing, some hideous thing that had probably been on sale in 1987. She sat and did her crossword puzzles, oftentimes all day. Just sitting there, only stopping to open a can of salmon or to go to the door and blow smoke out. She offered me salmon salad once as an adult, and I was naïve enough to think she meant a salad with lettuce and maybe a piece of salmon on top.
But back to the lamp. That fucking lamp made me want to scream. Take off the pricetag, Gram. Throw it out. It’s hideous.
She didn’t listen. She, in all honesty, couldn’t hear. She didn’t have hearing loss (I’m the lucky one with that trait) but rather she couldn’t take in anything anyone was saying. She’d ask a question and talk right over you. After a while you didn’t answer and you all just sat there while she did her puzzles and the price tag dangled. Her sofa had plastic on it too. Anyway, that just gives you an idea. It’s not a character bashing. I didn’t like my grandmother and most likely she didn’t like me so don’t feel too bad.
These ramblings are mine. Locked in my head or on page, they are mine. Hoarding them, you can say. Although my attempt at sending them out into the world is the opposite of that. Here, take them away from me. Take the price tags and the time she threw a towel on me while I napped because she didn’t have a blanket. Take it all!
How do we know when to let go? Well, the signs are all around us, aren’t they?  Your friend doesn’t ever reach out, but rather you are always the one to reach out? Why do we hold on to these things?
I think on some level we think that by letting them go we will cease to endure- our potato chip fingers will evaporate into notes on our desks lodged in between books and pills and then what? We won’t have mattered- we will never be the impossible beautiful things we imagine ourselves to be. But if we hold on to it all, every last friendship and memory and price tag on a lamp, then we will have somehow survived what it means to be human and the fleeting moment we get. What’s that line from that Eminem song “Lose Youself”- You better never let it go. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance.
There’s a bit of truth in that.
Another guy I work with wrote: I remember my first girlfriend. Suzanne. She was Hispanic. She was beautiful. I wanted to sleep with her. We never did. I was in seventh grade.
I bet he holds on to that, that memory of Suzanne. Of course he does, he wrote it down all these years later and when he handed me the paper I could see there was a hesitation, like he was giving his Suzanne away. As if she would no longer be only his. In his imagination, in her seventh grade body and broken out face. He clutched the paper for a moment too long until I gave him the nod that said, “I won’t take her from you. You can keep her.”
They sustain us. Why else do we hold on to price tags on lamps and dead friendships? They trot us down the street when we feel like we have nothing. They pop up in our imagination and say, “Oh, but you do have something. You have this and this and this and this,” and even if you are completely deluding yourself- you haven’t talked to your friend in months or met her baby born last summer, you think, “this defines me, this keeps me in place.”
Well, I guess I’d like to call bullshit. Hoarder and bullshit! I’m calling it all. Why not? I’m getting ballsier and less human and more human and all the things that aging does to us and I think about how pretending I loved my grandmother so people will think I am a good person is a façade. And holding on to every single thing that has carried me to this moment in time is a like stealing. At a certain point, none of it is mine anymore.
 Shitty years: years between 21-31. Horrible self-deprecating, self-involved miserable years. Not a highlight in any friendship. Shitty years for friendships and for existence (mine.)
 but she meant a can of pink salmon, mashed with mayonnaise, split between three of us- her, my grandfather and myself. It was okay. Better than I expected.
 fact: she never once listened when she asked a question. This is not for sake of storytelling although it makes a good story. It is fact. I am hard of hearing but my grandmother never once heard a word I’ve said in the entire time I knew her.
 That’s a sign. Stop being ingnorant.
 Many things carried me here. Death, loss, joy, trauma, friendships, starvation, stupidity, creativity, balls, fear.
By Jen Pastiloff.
My grandfather’s mother was raped by her stepfather or uncle (no one can really be sure) when she was fourteen. They lived in rural Illinois, and, at fourteen years old she had her first baby, my grandfather’s brother Sonny. A year later she had my grandfather, Donald. I’m sure it wasn’t a good time to have a baby, either one of them, yet she did, and my grandfather is still alive, plugging along. No one was any worse for the wear. She then had another son, George, a few years after my grandfather.
Never a good time.
There’s never really a good time for anything. There’s always going to be something. Something in the way, someone coming to visit. Someone leaving, someone showing up, the weather, the football game. your mother. Death. Whatever it is, there will always be something saying Wait! This isn’t right! Do it later. Not now. Now is not a good time. Now is bad.
And yet. And still.
She was fifteen and a mother to two babies in Effingham, Illinois and I am sure she didn’t say This is a good time to be a mother. She was raped and no longer a child. It was 1925 and what was she supposed to do? My great grandfather married her, a pregnant fourteen year old, and they started a life.
And they started a life.
That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Starting a life. Sometimes you find yourself in the midst of one and you think I don’t remember starting this, yet here I am and sometimes you literally have to wake up and say It’s time. Despite everything pointing south, I must go north.
People keep asking me how I did it. How I went from A to B, from waitressing and being stuck for so many years to doing what I do now? I woke up and decided I’d had enough and despite the timing being utterly horrible, I was going to go for it. And even though I had no idea what it was, and some days I am still not sure, I kept rising to the coffee pot and looking into the cup and you know what? It spoke. It said things like What are you doing? Who do you think you are? And you know what I did? I gulped it down quickly and drank cup after cup until it stopped talking and I no longer had to hush it. If it did decide to speak again, I would ask it Who do you think you are, asshole? I am bigger than you. You don’t exist. You don’t get to tell me what I can do. I created you in my imagination. And then finally the coffee started agreeing with me as if it saw the sense in what I was saying. Sometimes it was the eggs who spoke or the wine or the customer at the restaurant but always it was I who got to choose who I listened to regarding my life and my own personal clock.
The timing is never right.
Don’t believe me? Go ahead and name some perfect times for things. There’s always going to be a something in the way and it’s always going to be up to you if you swallow the coffee or just stare into it like it has something to say about this or that.
There will be people, too. People will remind you how bad things are and how bad of a time this is. Much like the coffee or the eggs, you have to look those people in the eye and say You may be right but I am going to do this anyway. And if you decide not to, which is ever as much your right, just make sure it’s because of what you want to do and not what the coffee and eggs want you to do. Sometimes you have to think of the other people as coffee and eggs or you would never get anything done, you’d be so busy listening to their mouthless, albumen, over-caffeinated voices.
I have often thought that the timing of the earth is off. Maybe I have just experienced too much death for someone so young and the only way to justify such loss is by explaining it away with a problem in the earth’s rhythm and cadence.
Maybe it’s like everything else. Maybe it’s the coffee and the eggs and everything else.
Maybe the timing is always just right and it’s up to us to decide if we keep going or not. I’ll take mine sunny side-up, please. Coffee black.
My grandfather’s youngest brother George had a wife named Bernice who had been a longtime employee of General Electric. George, in the words of my grandfather, had been a con artist. Of course my grandfather clarified that he was joking. Duly noted Pop, I said. Got it. A joke. Bernice got a nice pension from GE when she retired and with it she bought George a new Dodge Dakota pickup truck. This was in 1997. I had just moved back to California and dropped out of college, although at the time I was calling it taking a semester off even though I think I knew somewhere in the knowing part of me that I would never return to NYU. Something would always come up. The timing was never “right” to go back.
Bernice bought George the truck and he’d decided to take it out onto the country roads. My grandfather specified country roads, not highway which made me think of that James Taylor song, Country Road.
I guess my feet know where they want me to go
Walking on a country road.
Take to the highway won’t you lend me your name
Your way and my way seem to be one and the same, child
Mamma don’t understand it
She wants to know where I’ve been
I’d have to be some kind of natural born fool
To want to pass that way again
But I could feel it
On a country road.
My grandfather’s brother George had been at a stop sign in big new truck when some other guy in a truck (they knew each other, it was a country road and all) plowed into him and sent his new Dodge Dakota into an embankment. His neck snapped and he died. Just like that. Six months later Bernice died when she had a hemorrhage in her groin and the hospital couldn’t stop it.
Never a good time.
Although I think it might have been. Probably better that she went right after him and, most likely, inevitable.
My grandmother died two years ago and the last year of her life she spent on a used hospital bed in their dark living room in South Philadelphia. She couldn’t walk up the stairs to go to the bathroom so she and my grandfather spent nearly a year without moving from that front room off the kitchen. All the bathrooms in the old South Philly row houses are upstairs, which I find oddly private- you’re walking in on something holy like dirty laundry and toothbrushes. These rickety old stairs lead up to the bathroom and the whole house watches you go like you’re leaving for a trip. I’m just going to pee guys. It’s okay.
After she died, my grandfather still kept that makeshift hospital bed in the living room and used it as storage for over a year. Never a good time. There’s always something getting in the way of getting rid of it. He finally did get rid of it, sold it for twenty five bucks, and what small amount of light that room allows for returned as if it was the start of something.
She was probably better off if she’d never recovered from the stroke because what life did she have for that year or so in that bed with all her sores and darkness? But hey, she didn’t get to decide. She didn’t get to say This probably isn’t a good time for me to stay alive. She just did it without question, and, without much grace.
There will always be something to stand in the way. To tell you No, absolutely not. This is not right. You mustn’t. If you wait for things to speak, they will. Even the eggs. Even the coffee. Everything has an opinion. You know what they say about assholes and opinions. Everyone’s got one.
I have started to go off all anti-depressants. I am still on a small dosage because the timing had never been right to go off 100%. That 30mg keeps me affable enough; it stops the train wreck inside my brain, the flatness of mornings, the circle walkings, the scribblings. There was always something in the way of me going off sooner even though I talked about it often. I’m going to stop taking my meds soon, I’d announce as if people cared. But I didn’t- I was always busy or I was going somewhere, I was leading some retreat, I was in a class, I was tired, I had headaches.
I’ve finally realized that timing is an invented thing, an inherited trait, and that along with your native American roots and your penchant for sleep and for coffee, you will have inherited the ability to create the life you want for yourself.
You think that when my great uncle George was cutting down logs to sell to the whiskey companies to make their barrels that he thought what a great time it was for him to be splitting open wood, to crack into black walnut trees? No, he just did what he had to and kept going until one day his truck rolled into an embankment and even then he thought to himself just before he died I have had a good life.
Don’t wait for the coffee or the eggs or the shmuck in the front row to tell you how it is. You’ll wait your whole life and then end up in an embankment with a heart full of sorrow and I could have done it betters.
I don’t know what time could have been better for me to embark on this weaning off my meds adventure. Perhaps next year. Perhaps last year. Maybe never.
My grandfather jokes and says that his brother was a con artist, but the way I see it, time is the con artist. The con artist telling you that this isn’t a good time, that you should wait. The right time will never exist. Like so many of the things we think are perfect and in the end turn out to be just some scrambled eggs and a hot cup of coffee.
By Jen Pastiloff.
I used to play this game in my twenties with men. I don’t like you but I want you to want me it was called. I was insecure and wanted all the attention I could get from men but I didn’t want to have to give anything up for it: sex, intimacy, love. I wanted to feel pretty and desired without having to look into anyone’s eyes or have them claim me as theirs. I felt ugly and short and I overcompensated by wearing high platform shoes and low cut shirts which showed my cleavage. And a lot of makeup. I was a master at flirting. I could make men want me.
Then I would panic. I would avoid. I would not return phone calls or emails. I would hide. I would be distant. I was a fraud. I couldn’t hold my own.
I didn’t want to hold my own.
A good friend of mine has been in a situation where a man was flirting with her and showing signs of attraction. She was attracted to him. She was confused by some of his behaviors and she told him as much. He then called her up to say: Just to be clear, I have no romantic or sexual interest in you.
(Easy there, cowboy!)
What an asshole I said over the phone. Until I realized he was playing the game I used to play, or a version of it. I want you to want me but I want no responsibility. I don’t want to take this any farther but I want to feel desired by you. I want you to fall in love with me and I want to have zero accountability. In fact, I will be somewhat shocked when you call me out on my behaviors was the name or names of his game.
I remember after I got dumped in my 28th birthday I agreed to go on a date with a guy I had been waiting on for years. I had known he’d had a crush on me and I wasn’t attracted to him at all but I was trying to get over heartbreak and I thought it would be a good idea to get out. I wasn’t interested in him but the date was fun. He took me to a big famous Hollywood television producer’s house for a Christmas party and I felt funny and pretty and after we left he told me the big famous Hollywood producer kept asking about me. Who was the cute little Jewish girl? he said the producer kept saying. I’d felt flattered.
I wasn’t into this guy but I tried to make myself because I thought he would be good for me. He was a successful television writer and he was smart and funny. And he liked me. (I had been with someone for two years who didn’t like me very much.)
I just didn’t want to kiss him. Ever.
We went out on a few dates and finally he emailed me and called me out after I sent him a forwarded joke via email. He told me that he had enough friends. That he wasn’t interested in me as a friend and I needed to be straight. Was I interested in him or not?
I panicked. I wasn’t. I stared at the computer, horrified. I couldn’t bring myself to type the words. I admired him for his straightforwardness. Here I was sending him dumb emails just to keep him at bay, hoping he would disappear but not without pining for me.
I forget what I said exactly but it ended with No, I don’t want to date you. I probably beat around the bush. I probably made it sound nice and fluffy and a little dishonest.
I never heard from him again.
Look, I get it. He didn’t want to be my friend. He wanted to love me. He was being honest and fair.
I remember being shocked at his email. It was harsh, as I’m assuming his feelings were hurt, but I had never received such a blunt email before. He was so willing to speak what he wanted, to say what he felt and what he needed. And a friendship with me wasn’t any of those things. Fair enough.
I cringe when I think of the things I used to do for love. I hated myself and thought that if enough men wanted me it could fill that hatred with something. Even something I didn’t want.
Why so many lies?
I don’t want you but I want you to want me. Or even the I don’t like you but I can’t stand that you don’t like me. I want everyone to love me.
Oh, there it is. I want everyone to love me.
It’s so ugly and horrible and smelly that I throw it down the basement stairs before it burns my eyes and blinds me with its filth and stench.
There’s a roomful of people who are all nodding and digging what I am saying. They are into it. Then, there’s one who isn’t. I focus on the one.
I want you to like me.
I focus on the one.
I sent an email to someone the other day which included my newsletter. I wrote about it the other day. He simply replied “unsubscribe.”
When I got really down and dirty with myself I was willing to ask Why did you send him the email in the first place, Jen? I’d had a hunch he didn’t like me. I had known. And the answer came. I was again in my twenties wearing a low cut shirt and high shoes to hide. I wanted him to like me was the wimpy little 5 year old kid answer.
The thing is, I only sent the email because of that. If I get down real low and look where I am afraid to look like under the bed and in the basement. It’s disgusting. Want me want me want me want me want me from the darkest crevices you can imagine.
Here’s the great thing about being honest with yourself. When you finally are, you leave the basement. The ugly truths about you aren’t so ugly once you face them. You just get a little wet washcloth and move forward with your day dusting off whatever needs dusting. It’s just that most of us are afraid to look inward so we keep throwing things under the bed and down the basement stairs.
I would be scared to go down there after a while too.
So that guy, the one who was leading my friend on, I don’t know what his deal was. (And yes, I still think he was an asshole for saying that to her.) I do know that he flirted with her and sent her every signal that he was interested and then when she called him out, he balked. He wanted what he wanted without having to be there for it.
Who wants to live that way? It’s ghost living. It’s like lying your way through your life and knocking people over with your big bag as you walk down the sidewalk. It’s like making a mess and walking out as you yell Someone else will clean it up without so much as even glancing over your shoulder.
There is a fine line between being honest and being an asshole.
Don’t get me wrong. At times I have been both. What I am concerned with now is the former.
I want to love you is a revision of I want you to want me.
I want to love you.
Imagine the world where we are all concerned with what people think of us and if they like us and how much better we feel when they do love us and how we don’t want to have to actually be in our bodies but rather parade them around looking perfect.
Oh wait. Right.
We live in the world. You and me and all the other pots calling the kettles black.
We get to create what the experience is like for ourselves. I want to love you. I don’t care if you like me.
Except that’s a lie and we all know it.
How about this: I want to care less.
I want to care less about the things that don’t matter and the people who don’t love me back (there will always be some so get over that now.) I want to care less about who is loving me and more about who I am loving.
We live in the world. There’s not much we can to to change that fact except not live in the world and that choice seems grim. We live in the world and we live in our bodies and the capacity to love is great. It’s so great that we don’t even have to do anything about it except acknowledge it and ask it to sit down for a glass of wine. It has a dog’s nose and can smell shit a mile away so don’t worry about that.
Your capacity to love is so great that it will carry you through most things in this world.
By Jen Pastiloff.
Lie to me.
That’s what I might have well have said by saying I don’t look like I gained any weight, right? It’s going to be okay, isn’t it? You are not having sex with anyone else, right?
Tell me what I think I want to hear.
Some people like it straight. They want to be told what is. They want what is and what can be without any embellishments or I will make you feel betters. State the facts, please.
I want to be appeased. Make me believe I am safe.
Recently, I decided that the truth is a much better version of the truth than a lie.
In my late twenties I had this boyfriend, the one who wouldn’t let himself be called “boyfriend”. I loved this not-boyfriend boyfriend . I went on the birth control pill for this not-boyfriend boyfriend. We’d been together a year, albeit a year where I was unsure of my standing with him beyond the fact that I knew I loved him and that he made me feel like I was crazy. Birth control pills meant no more condoms and that made the not-boyfriend boyfriend happy.
The first thing I remember about the garbage bag incident that red wrapper invading me with its plastic face. Everywhere I looked: red. His carpet, red, the inside of my eyelids, red. The (unfortunately for him) clear plastic trash bag had fallen over. Inside, grays and whites of innocent I will not hurt you trash, and then there it was: a Lifestyles condom stuck to a chicken take-out container. Nothing but the torn red of the wrapper visible through the clear plastic trash bag.
Of course I will take out the garbage on my way out.
The significance of images, powerful enough to place two people right there inside my mind, naked on a bed. Maybe they’re in a dark room, the blue glow of the television bobbing on the wall. The woman with him (not me), imagined as perfect and leggy.
And then there he was on top of me. All I could see were red Lifestyle wrappers like sheep jumping fences. Rows of them. One condom, two condom, three…
(Wow, all that work you’re doing, for nothing! All that huffing and grunting
and straining and pushing and pulling and I am not even here with you. I am an eyeball in a trash bag searching for clues of infidelity.)
I am lying to you. I am not here. Only my body is.
But as long as you have my body here, does it matter that you don’t have my mind too?
I wondered how many women lied in this way? Making love to someone with their body
while their mind drifts I’m fat, who else is he having sex with, what can I eat for dinner? I wonder what time the movie starts, do I even love this guy? I wish he would hurry up, why would he want to have sex with anyone but me? Why don’t I satisfy him, Am I not enough? I’m not good enough for him, what’s wrong with me? I’m fat. Shit, I never called my mother back. I have to remember to pay the electric bill., Damn it, is he done yet? I am good enough for him, he’s not good enough for me….. No, not like that, like this! I can’t even say that to him because he will get offended. Maybe I should try being with a woman. No, I couldn’t do that. He is such a selfish lover. I wonder what time it is, I wonder if I could fit into those jeans? Did I shut the stove? What day is it? Do I smell bad? I wonder if he thinks I smell bad? He smells kind of musty. It’s so gross when a guy smells bad. Is he done yet? Man, what is he doing? Does he think he is King Kong? Why does he play so many video games still? What? Is he five? I’m tired, Ouch, that hurts, what is he doing? I wonder if they have a class for men to become better lovers at The Learning Annexx?
His eyes, red burning slits. All I could see was that condom wrapper. Obsessed by a red remnant that was most certainly not my remnant, I couldn’t move. I was that paralyzed with not wanting to know the truth. You love me, right? You love me, right? Right? You love me?
My mind can be made to believe anything.
I’d known this all my life but the trash bag incident finalized it for me. Everywhere I looked I waited to be convinced of I love yous and You’re safes and nothing bad will happens and I am not going anywheres.
My face in his pillow (do I smell another woman? Whose hair is that lying there?) The red wrapper actually turned into a body and that body turned into his body and his body in someone else’s body. Metamorphosis. Isn’t this, the chain of events, absolutely astounding?
How quickly the mind latches on to what it wants to believe is the truth. How little it takes to seal the deal.
You love me, right?
This logical procession of things is survival of the fittest. Except the fittest know how to survive, they know how to dispose of any evidence instead of asking me to pick it up with my own two small trembling fists. The fittest aren’t as stupid as you I thought as I waited to be convinced that the condom wasn’t his, that he didn’t know how it got there, that he swore it, that he loved me and was sorry.
I used to think reality was relative and irrelevant. Tell me what I want to hear. Tell me it wasn’t yours. Make me believe.
Mine, and perhaps yours too, is a mind that filters everything through a vicious process of hypothetical situations, of beautifully formed sentences, of what ifs. Images left in a room of the brain to ferment will create an alternate universe where no matter what time it was with my not-boyfriend the time in my head was a red red world where he was having sex with someone other than me.
You love me, right? It wasn’t yours, right?
That really was the end of the not-relationship although it probably ended before that if I don’t lie to you. Of course he convinced me that it hadn’t been his condom. That it had been old or that it was his cousin’s and I’d nodded and said okay and shook from the I’m going be sick adrenaline in my body but I’d stayed. And I stayed.
And for as much as I wanted him to lie to me to make me feel better in the moment, I’d known the truth all along.
We always know the truth.
If he hadn’t lied, if he’d just said Yes, yes it’s mine and I am sleeping with someone else. Or, aren’t you at least glad I am using protection? I would have had to leave him. The lies gave me permission to stay. They gave me permission to hate myself more. The lies got me off the hook.
I am writing this from an airplane where I get some of my best (read: distraction free) writing done. I just ran into a man on the plane, who, along with his wife, sent me to Atlanta 6 years ago to visit my nephew when he was newborn and in the NICU. There were complications and he was having his little tiny blonde head scanned. He couldn’t eat. He was floppy. I didn’t even know what a floppy baby was back then. He might not survive were words nobody wanted to speak. They’d been my regulars at the restaurant where I’d worked for years. As I walked away with tears streaming down my face to get their Arnold Palmers they’d decided they would send me to Atlanta the next day. You have to be with your family. No discussion will be had. I simply had to say yes, they’d said over turkey sandwiches. And so I did.
Six years ago I went and held my sweet floppy buddy for the first time, once he was released from the hospital in Georgia.
When I walked onto the plane this morning, the husband was on the flight, because you know, the world is really quite small like that. It’s so small that people who did for you the kindest things will pop up on airplanes Houston. He’d tried to jog my memory as if it needed jogging. As if I could ever forget them and what they did for me when I was a destitute waitress with a sick nephew. He kindly asked So, everything turned out okay then? With your nephew?
The lies. The lies when he was born and until he was two years old, when he finally got diagnosed with Prader Willi Syndrome and Autism. The subtle lies. The bold faced ones. To ourselves mainly. He is just taking his time. All babies develop differently. He’s fine.
When of course we knew. But how much safer it felt to be nestled inside a world where there is nothing wrong then thrown out into the wolves and the world of missing chromosomes. The wolves would eat us. Let’s stay safe. The baby’s fine. There is nothing wrong. He is healthy. Swimming with sharks was safer than telling the lies, but what did we know? We were scared, and I, for one, was used to lying to myself. It was not a foreign country. It was home.
I’d said to the kind husband It did turn out there was something. He has a rare genetic disorder. That is actually where I am going now. It’s hard, but he’s doing great. I will never forget what you and your wife did for me back then. I think of you all the time.
We hugged and took a photo together and I thought about how many people have done kind things for me along the way and how many untruths I have told myself about not deserving them.
Watching my friend Emily Rapp deal with the impending death of her baby boy I see how liberating the truth really is.
She could flail her arms and curse God and fate and Tay Sachs. She could tell lies about herself and her luck and what is in store for her (she might do this on occasion, she is a human being, after all) but the truth is what seems to keep her tethered. Without the truth she would float away into You’ll get over its and He’s going to be in a better place and everything happens for a reason.
The truth of what is happening now and now and now.
That is all there is.
She, nor any of us, knows what is going to happen beyond his death and that is the truest true. What keeps her writing and breathing are the sure facts of what is true now and now and now. In the moments her son has a tube in his nose for medication and some fluids. In the moments he sleeps and in the moments he is choking and in the moments she sits down to write when maybe all she wants to do is beat her fist at the sky and scream but she writes anyway.
If you face what is so, you will be the roar that wakes up the sun. You will be the day and the night and then the day again because it is the one thing no one can take away from you. The truth of what is will make you the strongest mountain lion.
The truth will set you free some say. The truth hurts.
I don’t know, I think lies will set you free too. They will unglue you so much that you will have no idea who you are anymore as you float above everyone else with your own set of facts and knowledge. The lies hurt more than the truth but in that slow and painful death kind of way.
The truth hurts too, at times. But, it’s what keeps you knowing this one very important fact: who you are. The fact of who you are in the world.
The truth was that I was a girl who didn’t love herself enough to leave someone who hurt her again and again. The lie was that it was all I deserved. The truth was that my nephew has a chromosome missing and he could possibly eat himself to death if not carefully watched and cared for. The lie was that nothing was wrong. The truth is that Emily loves her son and that yes, he will die. The lie is that anyone knows what that means for her or for him.
We think we are protecting ourselves when we lie to ourselves or when we have someone lie to us. Oh, our sweet unquiet minds, so prone to crave safety. So willing to cling to what is not real, to trade in lovers who don’t love us, missing chromosomes, death.
11 years ago my childhood friend came out to California to visit me after having hiked the Appalachian trail for 6 months by himself. I remember thinking it was the craziest thing I had ever heard, and also being slightly jealous because I knew I didn’t have the balls to do that at the time.
I might have the balls now.
I am the mountain lion.
I have finally been able to turn on the light and invite it in. The Truth, shivering and lonely. And unafraid.
My friend had told me he’d started with a huge backpack and that by the end it was almost empty. All the weight he’d shed during the hike. He said he’d gone to find himself and I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t know any guys that talked like that. Find himself? Find the truth?
I asked him how he’d managed though, at the end, with almost nothing in his pack? Didn’t he need stuff?
Nothing is lost when you dump the untruths. It’s the letting go, the starting out with so much weight and ending up with water and a sleeping bag.
The truth is your sleeping bag. It’s your water.
It’s what carries you the rest of the way from here.
It’s what says Yes, I do love you and I have been here all along. Waiting.
It’s what takes your quivering body lying there in the corner of your kitchen floor and picks it up. It’s what turns you into the strongest mountain lion.
Speak the truth.
You know what? Fuck that.
If I Do, Then It Will. That was the name of a game. How it went was like this: If I lose 20 pounds, then I will be happy. Or my father will come back. The people who have been lost to me will reappear like they’d been out having massages or dinner, perhaps just stepping in from the cold, Hello Jen! We’ve missed you. You look so thin.
If I am a good person then it will fix me. If I do, then it will.
I have notes scattered throughout all my old college notebooks regarding the rules of this game. Don’t eat. Be good. Do your work. Run for one hour.
The game never worked. If never preceded then. In fact, it usually precluded it. I starved myself and instead of the desired effect of being happy, I became a zombie. I’d sleep walk through my days and eat in my sleep. I hated myself. The revenant never woke. My life never became ordered like I’d imagined. I was a bad person and as soon as someone found me out, that’s it, I’d be done. I was a game-player, sleeping-walking and night-eating my way through my pathetic life.
The game is so tempting. It’s like gambling. This time I will win and it will all be different! This is the last time.
The truth is that there is no reward system.
You do or you do not and it’s all for naught. There is nothing waiting for you.
There is no If I do, then it will so you must do and do, or not do, for whatever reasons you have or don’t have, and not because you think there will be any sort of prize. Let me be the last to tell you, there won’t be.
The game I invented will break your heart.
No one comes back from the dead. And no matter how skinny or fat you are, you are there, right there. See yourself? That’s you. You. You are the same you. The pain doesn’t disappear unless you take it by the throat and talk to it. It does not go by way of bribing. The game does not work. The game sucks.
There is no game.
You must do things because you love.
The other night I read on Facebook that an old friend, a man I’d known casually for over 15 years, had been evicted and was homeless. He’d written that he desperately needed somewhere to sleep that night. My husband was still in London but I couldn’t not do anything. I’d called the friend, who is 70 years old by the way, and offered him my couch. My husband wasn’t happy, as I’d knew be the case, but I’d made a choice.
It was an awkward two days. He is 70 and I actually don’t know him that well.
I did it out of love. I saw someone who said I am desperate and I said I am here.
All of the times I was playing The If I Do, Then It Will game it was never out of love. It was out of necessity. I was so miserable that I was willing to gamble anything to find pockets of happiness no matter what I had to bet.
Often I would forget to breathe and then I’d spend the next few breaths catching up on the last ones so I was always behind a breath or two like someone that seemed desperate for air.
Like someone who was always almost dying.
So I took my friend/aquaintance in knowing there was no guarantee after this. That is what the game was about, isn’t it? Guarantees.
If I starve myself, then I can achieve things.
All I hoped to achieve by taking him in was giving him a bed for two nights. Much to the chagrin of my beloved husband, who was not at all happy with me, although he thought I was kind and compassionate. He didn’t want men in the house that he didn’t know when he wasn’t there. Which I get. And to which I still say You would have done the same thing.
Look, I can’t see that someone is desperate and walking the streets when I have a couch. Someone I know. It’s colder in L.A. then I can ever remember. The low today was 39 degrees in Santa Monica. I couldn’t let him just wander.
My friends said they could have.
We all went to dinner the other night (as the “homeless” friend was at my apartment without me being there, in fact) and they claimed they probably wouldn’t have done the same thing. I told them that they would have.
That’s how our hearts our wired: To care. To hurt. To bleed. To fall in love. To want to play the game of If I do, then It will because that game is meant to bring happiness. The goal is always May I be happy.
Most of us anyway.
I promised my husband that when he got back my friend would be off the sofa and I’d kept the promise. I can’t take my friend’s plight on but my instinct is to want to fix and help and heal and offer my sofa.
The revelation I had when I stopped playing my game of If I do Then It Will, was that what I operate from a place of love, there are no guarantees beyond this moment.
There’s the: Here’s my sofa.
There’s the: Here, have nice hot shower.
There’s the: You need a couple bucks?
There’s the: I love you. What can I do for you?
There the: I am doing this because I love myself now not because I think someone who has been dead 20 years will rise back up or I will suddenly be free of sorrow. It’s because I love myself now, in this moment. Not because I am waiting for a prize for being good.
If you or ever ever catch ourselves doing any of these things for any other reason than I love you or I care about you or I just want you to have a warm bed and maybe a hot chocolate then look in the mirror.
When you get to the mirror, reach out. Touch your face. It will be flat and cold as mirrors are. It will look like you but it won’t at the same time. You must know that beyond that glass, if you were to break it, is nothing. You are not there.
You are here.
So, fuck the mirror. Reach up and touch your face. And close your eyes.
What you feel is the face of someone who knows that no matter what is done, unless its done from love, it might as well be undone. Feel your own face. If you don’t love it by now you better realize that the game doesn’t work. That there is no prize. That you doing this, that, or the other thing won’t bring you a new face or a new heart or a new anything at all.
That if you do anything at all it must be for this.
What is this? you might ask. Or maybe you already understand.
This is love.
This is it.
Promise. The word itself is sleazy. Hard at first, then sizzling out at the end like something that can’t last. A snake. A word that can’t get up off the ground.
You promised though.
I promise you.
In 1983 we lived in Pennsauken, New Jersey, after having moved from Philadelphia a couple years earlier. Across the street from our house was a little store called Kirk’s Newsroom. The store itself a tiny animal, nestled next to an appliance repair shop and a Jersey highway called Route 38.
There was nothing pretty about it. We bought American cheese there, thinly sliced, and egg nog in December. Kools for my dad, Almond Joys, sometimes a newspaper. I played PacMan in the back in the dark little room where there were two video games shoved against a wall.
We had a “house account” at Kirk’s Newsroom. My dad would send me across the street to get him a hard pack of Kools, cheese, and half-n-half. I don’t remember what Kirk looked like besides having a mustache and a thin face, he was always behind the counter. Put it on my dad’s account I’d say like a lady to the mustache behind the counter. And can I get a hard pack of Kools?
I think about that now and how a child could never walk into a store and get a pack of cigarettes and also, do house accounts even exist anymore? It was the early 80’s however and most things were possible until they weren’t.
I hated that store. It felt dirty and old and every time I was sent there to retrieve things I’d felt as if I was being delivered into the arms of a rat. Go, my child! Go straight into the den of vermin! Be gone now! Come back with cigarettes and cheese. Don’t let the snakes eat you!
Kirk was nice enough, I guess. He’d leave egg nog on our doorstep around the holidays. We’d wake up and a frozen carton would be there waiting for us or we’d open the door and step on it, not knowing it had been there. Either way, I hated the place like I knew it would kill us in the end.
And it did.
I’d flushed a pack down the toilet because I’d been so angry that he’d promised to quit smoking and hadn’t. He’d promised! I was ballsy and triumphant at 8 years old. I’ll show him! Flush.
He smoked 4 packs of menthol cigarettes a day. Now that so much time has passed, I often wondered what has turned to myth, as so much does, but, nonetheless, he chain-smoked a shitload of very-bad-for-you cigarettes daily. He was not happy with the flushing incident, he did not think it was cute. You are being bad and making me not feel good. Now, please go get me a pack of cigarettes across the street.
Did he really say that?
You’re asking me? As if. As if our minds can be relied upon. As if history doesn’t fold in upon itself and change over time. As if our memories are safe. As if Time hasn’t ravished them and then polished them before putting them back into the wrong compartment.
You always break your promises! I hate you.
He died that night, and yes, that was the last thing I ever said to him. I. Hate. You.
Things and people I have tried to blame it on: Kirk: the bastard who sold cigarettes and newspapers. Myself: I killed him with my words. I was bad and made him not feel good. Speed: his heart, his poor heart racing to keep up, a fist in his chest, pumping five times faster. Downers: the confusion his heart must have felt daily, up and down, up and down. My mother: why couldn’t she save him? God: God hated me and this was proof. The woman he’d had an affair with: if he’d never met her this would never have happened. Promises: if he’d never promised to quit smoking, I would never have told him I hated him and the night would have played out differently. He would not die. I would not walk 17 times around the block in an effort to not cry. We would not pick up and move to California. We would be safe.
There is a promise when a baby comes into the world as you hold them for the first time. I will care for you. I will be here. You are safe. We are safe. But how can you know that?
How dare you promise anything?
When I lived in NYC I used to promise myself nightly that if I didn’t die during the night I would stop abusing laxatives. I didn’t die and I would do it the next night and the next and the next in my little single apartment owned by NYU Housing. I would take 10 laxative tea bags and put them in a few ounces of water until it was brown sludge. Sometime in the middle of the night as my eyes were wildly dilated from the diet pills I was taking, my stomach would begin to gurgle and I would rush to the bathroom and pray Don’t let me die.
I couldn’t even keep a promise to myself.
I promise I will do better.
Can you remember all the promises you’ve made to yourself? I can’t.
What is a promise called when you don’t really mean it? When you just say it to get you to the next tier? Is it a lie?
I lied to myself over and over.
Maybe you’re cringing or maybe you pity me. Maybe you don’t care at all since promises to ourselves are the worst kinds of promises because no one is holding us accountable. Or perhaps you’d pick up your own coffee cup, the one right after you’ve sworn off coffee, and nod with I promise I will do better before you put it back down and go off to brew another pot. The newer lies I tell myself stacked on top of the old ones all along the edges of my life in places nobody would care to look. All the years I lied to myself about not wanting to be a writer. The lies I told myself about who I was. The lies themselves innumerable and ugly. What’s most scary about these lies we tell to ourselves is their proximity to the truth.
Such a strange sense of satisfaction being so close to the truth. Holding it in your hands like a thing with weight, until you realize that lies are slippery and wet, unholdable at best, and that they have no weight. They carry nothing but themselves.
They will not carry you.
I couldn’t keep up with the promises I told myself.
Every year that I stayed at my waitressing job was another year I had promised and failed to: go back to school, to try and get acting work, to do something, to get out finally from waitressing, to make a change, to stop hating myself so much, to stop starving myself all day and only eating at night. There were so many promises, all as empty as I wanted to feel at night when I would lie in bed and make sure my ribs were protruding by pressing into them hard like something I wanted to make disappear.
I had lost faith in promises, their meanings slippery as the years I had stayed at the restaurant. All through my 20’s and I couldn’t tell you one year from the next until all of a sudden I was 30 and then 31 and then Oh My God, I promised myself I would be Something by now. I would be Somebody.
Who was I promising anyway? It sure wasn’t God. I’d mutter the promises to myself or write them down on random slips of paper and then scribble them out and throw them away so nobody would see. After my father died, I had decided that God hated me. I constantly searched for evidence of this. Bad things happen to me, I’d think. I walked around waiting for that fact to shake up my life, to turn up at a street corner and snatch me away.
Bad things happen to everyone sometimes.
That is what I now know. This too is innumerable and ugly, as so many things often are. But it is also a testament to life, one that we are born into whether we like it or not. As soon as we are held for the first time by our parents, as soon as they whisper into our new soft baby heads: I will care for you. I will be here. You are safe. We are safe.
Promises are tricky: when they break, when their shells crack and they fall all over the kitchen floor like a fallen glass, your heart goes along with it. Be careful when you pick up the glass to throw it away that you don’t throw a little bit of your heart away. It can happen like that. And then the digging and searching through garbage to find what remains.
I spent years digging through crap to find my missing parts.
Don’t make a promise you can’t, or (don’t intend to) keep. I say this to myself as well as to you. I write it here, and instead of secretly scribbling it out and crumpling it up so nobody can read it, I share it with you. Stop lying to myself I write, on my mirror in red lipstick. Don’t make promises to yourself that you know you won’t keep just so that you can slump yourself on the floor validating how rotten you are and how bad you suck, yet again and yet again and yet again.
Don’t do it.
I always know when I am lying to myself, that’s the thing. Always. I always knew I wouldn’t stop taking the laxatives even as I promised that if I didn’t die on the toilet, I would never ever do it again.
I knew I would do it again.
So, what is the point of the promises that know themselves so well, that know they are untrue things?
I think they actually think they are keeping us safe.
My father thought if he told me he’d promised to quit smoking he’d be safer than if he said I never want to stop. I love smoking. It makes me happy and I don’t want to quit now.
We all want to be safe.
If I didn’t tell myself all those lies I would have easily sank to the bottom of the ocean. By telling myself the lies, I became equipped with a temporary life jacket. I am safe in the world right now because starting tomorrow I will stop abusing myself. Starting tomorrow I will ______. Starting tomorrow I will not _______.
Tomorrow would never come. I would carry on doing what I did until I finally did sink to the bottom of the ocean. I finally had my breakdown. There weren’t any more promises I could think of that hadn’t broken me.
I got up and took off the platform shoes I had been wearing for over ten years to pretend I was tall. I waitressed on concrete for over ten years in really really bad platform shoes. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and put on some nice supportive sneakers. It took a while to get used to my frame of reference being 5 inches shorter but I did it and when people balked at me You are a midget! I had no idea you were so short I just smiled and fought every urge that said Dig those shoes out of the trash and put them back on as soon as possible.
I didn’t ever put the platforms back on.
Eventually I stopped taking the laxatives and abusing myself. Eventually, after over 13 years, I left the restaurant. Eventually I admitted that I did not want to be an actress.
It wasn’t because I promised myself. It was because I finally woke up one day and realized that lying was harder. That who I am was far more beautiful than who I was pretending to be or promising I would become. I woke up and said Enough. And then I said it over and over and over Enough Enough Enough.
I didn’t want any more promises or lies. I wanted what was rightfully mine, my birthright, as it were, and that was the knowledge that I was whole. That I wasn’t missing any parts.
It’s true that there are many things in life that are innumerable and ugly and inconceivable. But it is also true that what is on the other side is a whole world of glittering NOW.
There is nothing to promise NOW. You and I are here now. I am writing this now and you are reading this now and we are here and alive and what else could matter? What future based promise could possibly touch that irrevocable fact?
I suppose almost everyone who writes is afflicted some of the time by the suspicion that nobody out there is listening ~Joan Didion
Its like this: You get on the bus, you get off, you get on. Its red. Its blue. It doesn’t matter what color it is.
It’s trudging along down the Putney High Street in London. Its speeding down the expressway in New Jersey. You’re on it. That’s the point.
You’re on it and you are always getting on and getting off and taking bags unless you have none but the day you have none hasn’t happened yet, so you get off or on with your bags and you find a seat and you go where the bus takes you. Again and again.
You didn’t know when you got on (not at first, anyway) where the bus was going. But when you see the other passengers, when the lady next to you tells you she talks more, I talk a lot, since my husband died. He was 82- you know. You know exactly where this bus is going.
You tell her: It’s ok. That you will listen.
So you listen.
Here’s what she says: We were married a long time, four kids, nine grandkids. He had an affair, twice. I forgave him. You ever forgive someone like that? Do you know what it’s like just to outright forgive someone like that?
There was the time in ninth grade when you walked in and your best friend was kissing the guy you were sort of dating (but totally loved!) and you forgave her. That same guy, whom you reunited with ten years later, after seeing a video camera on his desk the whole two weeks you stayed with him in Philadelphia, you nervously suggested: Why don’t we, you know, video ourselves the last night I’m here? Then watching the tape he sent in the mail (in the mail!) and Oh My God I can’t believe I’m watching this and then realizing that the last night wasn’t the last night at all, but the first and the second night and every night thereafter.
He’d recorded the entire two weeks without your knowledge. A fluke that you happened suggested it that last night. But what if you hadn’t suggested it? He would have still been recording you those other nights and what then? A betrayal you don’t know about- a betrayal nonetheless. Or is it?
If a betrayal falls in the forest and no one knows, does it make a sound? If he records you having sex without your knowledge and you never find out, not when you are thirty, or forty, or say, even on your death bed- does it affect the natural order of things? Have you been betrayed if you know not of it? Does the betrayal still exist?
It was your idea he’d said, you wanted to do this, when you confronted him with all the gumption you possessed in your late twenties. And you forgave him, but you didn’t really, you didn’t know what else to do, you’d never done anything like this before and maybe this is the punishment you got for wanting to be intimate with someone you thought you (totally!) loved by fucking in front of a video camera. Maybe this is what you got? All your kisses and blow jobs recorded without your knowledge and maybe you didn’t forgive at all but rather, stuck that little VHS tape in your back pocket so you could throw out the window of the bus, down into the river? Maybe you didn’t think you had a right to be angry, or that you deserved to have a voice? Maybe you thought you were the one that had to say I’m sorry? So many maybes when we look down the barrel of the past.
Watching yourself on that dumb mailed VHS tape and thinking: That is me.
That is me and that is me, and right there? That is me, without me knowing its me.
What an asshole, you think.
You have permission to throw him down the river, although with time the asshole-ness will fade and you will shake your head at the outrageousness of it all, and the I can’t believe I got that upset-ness of it all. He will still be an asshole although he may be less of an asshole now that he has kids and has grown up a bit, but that is neither here nor there, is it? He betrayed you and you forgave him, but not really. Not fully, not until you throw him from the bus in the rain and watch the stupid VHS tape drown in the dirty river while people watch and wonder what did that chick chuck from the bus window?
And you think that if they knew you were throwing away anger and resentment and betrayal and not speaking up for yourself and drunken sex that they would understand and clap there on the sidewalk but the truth is that there are no people- no one really cares, they are all too busy fussing over their own scandalous sex tapes and lies and misgivings, and in fact, you threw nothing from the window at all. You just stuck your head out for a little air.
Then there was the woman your father was screwing. Before he died. She’d done it with other men as well. You knew. So young, seven years old, and you knew. You know her name (but you won’t say it, not so many years later, not here,) because she probably has her own grandkids now, it was so long ago. She could be like the woman sitting next to you on the bus, for all you know. She could be chatting up a stranger on a bus, trying to talk to anyone who would pay attention. Isn’t that what most of us spend our lives doing anyway? Someone please listen to me? Pay attention.
She started like a cold. No big deal. Then all of a sudden, a full blown flu, like a I think I need to leave my wife and kids flu except that isn’t how you and your mom and sister are left. You are left in the he dropped-dead-in-the-middle-of-the-night-by-choking-on-his own-vomit kind of left.
You forgave that. At least his death.
The woman, the affair, and let’s face it, his death- they’re still with you on the bus with all your other shit.
On the way to London my suitcase cracked. The airline damaged it and claimed responsibility. They offered to replace it and send over a new suitcase. I was tempted to say: No, I don’t want to take anything back. Let me leave it all. Every last thing. All my dirty underwear and sweaters and mismatched socks. Who needs it anyway?
My husband: Babe, you need it. You need a case.
Literal, logical, loving husband.
I told the woman all of this on the bus. The beautiful black woman who was 80 but looked 50. The woman whose husband had been with her all of her life (but cheated twice that we know of) and had just died. And now she was left talking and talking and who was listening to me now? she often asked no one in particular, in bank lines and bus stops.
New suitcase came. Black with purple satin inside. Like I was royalty. My old case was orange and plastic with wine stains from when a bottle of red wine cracked in it in Paris. It was ugly and stained. And broken. But hell, if I wasn’t sad to see it go. How I wanted to fix it, salvage it, and drag it on and off every bus for the rest of my life.
The old woman on the bus says: Take your shit back with you. Take what you need. Leave the rest.
I lean over and touch her nonchalantly. She’s real.
She says: Get off.
This is your stop.
Or maybe she didn’t say that. Maybe she didn’t say any of that. Maybe it was just time.
By Jen Pastiloff
As I was standing in line at Trader Joe’s yesterday, minding my own sweet business, I opened a package of dried seaweed (the new wasabi kind which is very, very spicy). An older (very much older, like born in the 1800’s older) man in line in front of me starts staring at my breasts first, then proceeds to look me up and down. With what sounded like a Russian accent comes, “You sure like to eat!!”
What the what?
“I am not sure how to take that,” my reply.
(Why I dignified him with even so much as a word is beyond me.)
Russian accent, “You’ll put on weight if you keep eating.”
Then he walks away.
Off to offer his sage wisdom to another unsuspecting seaweed eating stranger, I suppose.
I felt the old need to yell, “But it’s just seaweed! But I am a yoga teacher! But! But! But!
Are you calling me fat?”
Then I got angry at myself. Jennifer, you know better! I think I said this out loud but the people that work at Trader Joe’s are totally cool (I hear it’s not a bad place to work, you get good benefits) and my cashier didn’t even acknowledge it, but rather says “You look great.”
Again, besides the point. Nothing needs defending here. This creepy old fart, all of a sudden, has taken my power away, and, like magic, everyone, on cue seemingly, needs to make excuses and defend and justify the very, very evil: FOOD. As well as commenting on my figure and it’s curves or lack thereof.
(And side note: food is NOT evil. I have had some very literal-minded folks read this and write me how food is not evil. Yea. I got that. It’s so exhausting how much we can be at war with it though, isn’t it? The other day in the car my friend goes, “It’s not the issue you know, Jen. It’s how you respond to the issue that’s the issue.” So, it’s kind of like that with the food/evil thing. It’s not the food, it’s our fucked up beliefs and past and childhoods and things people said and heartbreaks and losses and weird behaviors and stories about our bodies and self-worth but whatever. Another blog post. Another day. Another pack of seaweed.)
But, it’s a fitting statement on our weight/food obsessed culture, isn’t it. That even from an old nosy man, I am getting flack for being too fat or too skinny or eating too much or not enough.
Here is an excerpt from that article:
I had a fear that people would stop asking me “Are you ill? ” It made me feel like I stood out. Like I was special. When someone told me I looked “healthy,” I panicked. (I know that this is hard to believe for the people who know me now. I am so at ease with my self
Okay, some days.)
Had the COF (Creepy Old Fart) said this to me ten years ago, I would have gotten back into my car and had a full blown panic attack. I would have decided that he was right and I eat too much so I would stop eating and lose weight and why was I such a loser and why and why and Oh My God and I can’t breathe and I am a pig and Oh My God and I will just exercise for 4 hours tomorrow and I do like to eat, he’s right, I am bad….
(The pleasant imitation of said panic attack.)
So many things ran through my blood besides ice after this incident with Mr. Nosy.
Incidentally, he was buying 3 frozen dinners and a case of water. That can be analyzed later. (Of course I peeked. You would have too.)
The way he said ” You like to eat!” as an accusation, like I should be burned alive at the stake. I realize a lot of women live like this (I’m sure men as well). I used to. Still do at times. When I am depressed or under tremendous stress. This notion that eating is something to be ashamed of or forgiven for. I cannot believe the thought crossed my mind to defend myself with it’s just seaweed.
Forgive me Sir, It is just seaweed with a little wasabi. It’s not much? I am so sorry. So sorry. So sorry. So sorry. So sorry.
And so what if someone gains weight? So what? Then what? You are no longer you? You will no longer have your job or your kids or your thoughts or memories? No one will love you?
I suppose that’s it. Equating our beloved self worth with our oh-so very temporary bodies.
I wish I had dug into my car for my Salt & Vinegar Chips, which I would have done had I been able to reach them.
And just a side note which I would like to make very public: YES I LIKE TO EAT! I LOVE TO EAT!
I would love to hear your thoughts, an open dialogue of sorts on this incident and the feelings it triggers.