Monday, September 24, 2007
In Fighting Trim
The most vivid picture I ever saw in my early years was the famous one of the woman in a pool of blood on her knees in a hotel room, wire hanger at her side, having died trying to give herself an abortion. This picture appeared in Our Bodies, Ourselves, (and still does in the new editions) and did more to keep me away from sex than a thousand abstinence campaigns ever could. While I grew up in a time of legal abortion, my fear of pregnancy was intense, and I could imagine being driven to such extremes. Of course, AIDS was on its way as well, making an already fraught activity even more scary. I knew someone with AIDS before I was twenty -- he'd married despite his affliction only to be left because in the words of his wife, "He didn't die fast enough." She'd lost a lot of weight, in fighting trim to date again and asked me if I was pregnant when we saw each other in a chance encounter on campus. I'd gained some weight given that I was eating like a maniac out of depression and loneliness, being married at the time and thinking maybe I shouldn't be. "God no," I said. And then lost twenty pounds and got a divorce myself. It's strange how much a chance comment can change your life.
One of the earliest memories I have of my mother getting ready to go out for the evening involved her lying on the bed, zipping her jeans with a wire hanger. These were the seventies and jeans weren't doing their job if they didn't look as if they'd been painted on the body. She and her friends laughed as they drank Wild Turkey and prepared for a night on the town. As they sat around and ate and gossiped, I don't remember anyone talking about how much she hated how she looked. Her generation did not seem to suffer from the intense body hatred that would be the legacy of mine. Our Bodies, Ourselves didn't even have a section on eating disorders or self-mutilation yet. It was all about getting out of abusive relationships with other people, not about what happens when you absorb enough abuse and turn it inward. And that creepy abortion shot with the wire hanger. I think about that woman sometimes, how alone we are in our problems, what extreme actions we take when we feel cornered. And my mother and her friends laughing as they used their hangers and tried to suck in enough to get into their jeans. About how one thing can be so scary one minute, so benign the next.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us all without words?" Marcel Marceau
Drinking movie suggestion: Patti Rocks
Benedictions and Maledictions