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

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Patti Rocks

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

7 comments:

Ropinator said...

well, I would use and other expression instead of vivid picture but it is only my opinion.

Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't see that picture but can visualize it now. You're right, desperation can make the most horrible act seem benign in comparison to the alternative.

the walking man said...

I guess the most vivid picture I saw in my early years was probably something Playboy or penthouse but the most vivid picture I have ever seen was a beheading done by one of the radical Muslims sects in Iraq. A man with his head held by a masked man holding his hair and pulling it back exposing his neck and using a Rambo knife to slice through the soft tissue to the spine.

That visual hardened my stance on how this war should be ended, one I am pretty sure no one would agree with. Mainly because it is that same brutality returned 150kilotons of times.

Your knowing someone with AIDS and still staying friends with them shows much about your character Michelle especially because those were the Ryan White days when knowledge of communicability was just starting to get more wide spread.

My mom as a social worker had a hell of a time first educating foster parents and then get them to take AIDS babies into their homes. She was always a red tape cutter for her clients but she made it a part of the agency's mission statement and she placed the first AIDS baby in the state because of her determination.

And yes there were plenty of off the cuff remarks before she found that first family to take in a child that could communicate the disease but she remained determined.

But God no you would never catch her laying down using a hanger to get a pair of paint on jeans to zip. The looser her clothes the better and when she wasn't working the only shoes she ever wore were white tennis shoes [$4 a pair] or flip flops, period.

I have to tell you those flip flops were benign on her feet but scary as a motherfucker when they were waiting by the door for her to put them on, she'd wear them down until they were a 1/16th of an inch thick and say go get my other pair in the closet for me...you'd go into her closet and find about six pairs in there...all brand new and waiting for their inevitable weight loss.

Now the worst abortion picture I have ever seen and if you want to know where it is I will tell you, it is in the vestry of the Catholic church in Fowlerville MI and it is a picture of a blue eyed Jesus holding an aborted fetus and weeping.

Wonder if any of those good Christian folks would take in an AIDS baby?

i need a life said...

I think I found the pic, pretty creepy.
Her name was gerri santoro.

http://www.womenonwaves.org/image/1020.383-348-222-1.jpg

whitenoise said...

I'm glad to have found your blog although I'm not even sure of how I got here.

You write very well and have an interesting perspective. I look forward to reading more of your stuff.

cheers

Anonymous said...

Actually,good post. thx

Anonymous said...

Money is so intangible, its almost like a promise and a piece of paper.