Thursday, March 14, 2013


My dearest D,

Over the course of our acquaintance, which I think is approximately 2 months old if one counts the text messages you began sending me before we met face to face, you have more than once teased me, or called me to task, or somethinged me, in regards to what you apparently see as my penchant for advance planning.  

Truly, this has taken me aback.  I don't consider myself to be much of a planner at all.  Quite the opposite, really.  Most of the time, I just feel like a barely-contained mess of impulses, a something-or-other of symptoms, like that person says about Zizek in that Zizek documentary, do you remember that quote, because I can't find it right now?  I certainly do not generally feel as though the ability and/or inclination to plan things are distinguishing features of my personality except in the sense that being both a stay-at-home AND working parent of two young children forces me to be rather uncommonly thoughtful as to the apportionment of my time.

I have been accused, at various times in my life, of being careless, disorganized, flippant, and inattentive, and also uptight, anal retentive, humorless, and overly punctilious.  There seems to be no real pattern to these accusations, apart from the fact that the characteristic in question is usually the opposite of a characteristic possessed and/or valued by the accuser.  So: I am a Rorschach me, endlessly pliable to fit whatever sort of displeasure my interlocutor would like to experience.  Perhaps this is true of everyone to a certain extent, but I tend to believe it is rather more true of me than of most other people.  Because when I used to be a waitress at French Roast - (remember, you asked to hear stories of my "waitressing days"?  well, here's one) - one of the other waiters was very skilled at drawing caricatures. And one night, he drew caricatures of every waiter at French Roast.  This was back when you were approximately 9 years old, by the way.  He had each person dressed in a characteristic outfit, making a characteristic gesture, saying a characteristic thing, and they were all very good likenesses and very well-observed.  Except for mine.  Mine was a decent enough likeness in the face, but really not as like as the others, and he had my outfit delineated in vague lines ("This is a long skirt - you like long skirts, right?"), and worst of all, the speech balloon coming out of my mouth just said "?????."  He explained: "I couldn't really think of anything you say."  And this was a guy with whom I got along really well!  We were both half-Japanese, for gods sake!  I was mortified.  Was I really that much of a cipher?   I wanted so much to be KNOWN.  

Of course, this was partly because I was so young, and kind of hesitant and mixed up (in addition to being enormously impetuous and stubborn).  If someone were to draw a caricature of me now, things would be clearer: the artist would most likely put me in a scoop-neck top with skinny pants and clog boots or possibly my silly muppet-butt feathered skirt, and they'd have me saying "Indeed," or "Lovely," or "Newborns have weird skin," or "In Persuasion, Jane Austen wrote," or "I was at American Apparel yesterday," etc.  But while this incident may point partly to the vagueness of youth, I also think that it illustrates a core truth about me.  To wit: there is a fundamental obscurity and complexity to my personhood such that I am uncommonly unknowable to others, and such that even I get rather muddled sometimes and find myself engaging in certain behaviors only because they match descriptions or ideas that I have heard from others about myself.  Like, for instance, that I enjoy planning ahead.

Anyway, I know that this issue does not matter in particular in the sense that it is not occupying any mental space for you: because seriously who cares if I am a planner or not, and as far as I can ascertain, you are happy to enjoy our friendship in any case.  But it has made me think some interesting things about myself, and I thought I might as well tell you about them.

I hope you are well; I am truly glad that your new roommate has been so lovely; I am not certain that I will have the chance to see you again before the month is up (planning!).  You will most likely see my husband, though, and he will bring you my greetings.

Much love, 

Friday, March 1, 2013


Today, I found shelter from the storm at my friend HA's house.  By "the storm," I mean the fact that I am homeless on Fridays: the babysitter and the kids are at the house, so I can't stay there to work.  So I have weird, peripatetic days, and woe betide me if my computer or phone or iPad runs out of batteries, because guaranteed, every electrical outlet at every cafe with wireless is already being jealously guarded by other strange no-office nomads just like myself.  But today, I happened to be texting with HA just as my computer ran out of batteries only 20 minutes into my morning's work, and she invited me over to her place.

The ceilings in her stunning home in Mott Haven are high, and there is a full-wall window looking into the back garden.  She cooked mushroom soup and her son watched "Wonder Pets" (her son is the same age as my older son, but it's just him, so one can work, talk, etc because he is not romping and screaming and arguing with another, younger child who needs constant supervision and keeps tugging at your shirt and asking to nurse).  I leaned on her counter and watched her cook, and I cried a little, because I am always sad when I've been drinking the night before, and because I was - and am continuously - upset/confused/miserable about the declining health of a family member.

We ate soup and I drank coffee.  We opened our computers and worked - me on email correspondence related to my childbirth ed classes, and she on her textile designs, because she is a beautiful artist and designer and I am sure will be famous one day, at least among the most cognizant of the cognoscenti, and I'll be so proud to say that I knew her back when.  I finished that stupid post on weight, the one immediately preceding this one, which I didn't even care about anymore but had been dogging me for over a week, and she helped me choose new colors for both of my blogs.  The cat climbed on the table, we talked about henna and xiao yao wan and microchimerism, and her son showed me his favorite games on the iPad.  Some time during all of this, one of the three of us said something very special.  It was funny and jarring and changed the mood of the room for a moment, and we laughed as though we were not tired.  "That is what I will write about today," I thought, but I did not jot it down immediately, and I found that when I turned my mind to it about 30 minutes hence, I had no memory of what, precisely, that moment had been about.  I tried to get HA to tell me, but she didn't even know that there had been a moment.

Finally, when the time came, I packed my things up and took a cab back across the river to Harlem.  When I got home, my older son was standing on a stool at the counter, making a sneezy sort of witches' brew with herbs, spices, water, and dish soap.  My younger son laughed and laughed, shrieking "MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA," taking my hand and leading me to the couch to nurse.


A little while ago, in my other, stupider, blog, I gave my weight as 110 pounds.  I would just like to note here that that was false.  My current weight is actually 105 pounds, or at least it was when I last weighed myself a few days ago.  Of course, it doesn't really make that much of a difference.  Either way, I am a skinny little bitch.  I've pretty much always been a skinny little bitch; with the exception of during my pregnancies, I have weighed between 100 and 115 pounds since middle school.  (At full-term pregnancy, I weighed 126 pounds, which really freaked my first midwife out.  At the time, I didn't really get why she was so freaked out.  But after three years of doula work, I realized that I had only had one client that weighed under 135 pounds at full-term.  My first baby was born at nearly 9 pounds, though, so during my second pregnancy, my midwives paid very little attention to my non-gaining, secure in the knowledge that I can grow a monster fucking baby without growing very much myself.)

Because I am a skinny little bitch, I have been known to take an annoyingly cavalier attitude towards calories, exercise, dieting, and the like.  "It's so SILLY to count calories," I have been known to say, hand resting firmly on out-jutting hipbone.  This is like a 23-year-old pooh-poohing the notion of a person coloring their white hair.  "Why would she DO that?" I used to bleat, caressing my own jet-black mop. "It looks so PRETTY with the white!"  I'd like to reach back in time and slap myself for that insouciance, but I really don't need to, as I am already being roundly punished for it by my mother's family's genetic propensity for early whitening.  Recently, a friend ran his hand through my hair and assured me there was no white visible at all.  This was a sweet gesture, but he was either drunk or lying or both; most of the inner layers of my hair are shot through with white, and I literally grow more white hairs every day.  If I follow the pattern set by other women in my family, I will have gone mostly white by the time I turn 45, which will be 10 years and 2.5 months from now.  In any case, I try not to be that way anymore about weight matters, because I recognize that I am an awful, lucky little pixie, and that many (most?) other people really do need to think about jogging and limiting ice cream intake and suchlike.

In any case, the reason that my weight is currently towards the bottom of its usual range is that my body has recently embarked upon the precipitous weight-drop that often comes with extended breastfeeding.  Here's what happens: your kid hits 12, or 18, or 24 months, and you're still breastfeeding him, and suddenly, it seems like every little bit of excess flesh in your body is melting away into the breastmilk that flows into your baby's mouth.*  I am thinner than I was when I complained, in December 2008, of getting thinner.  In the mornings, before I have eaten anything, I am positively emaciated, ribcage rising like wings from my torso.  My breasts, while still steadily making and dispensing milk, are past that first-year-of-breastfeeding plumpness, and they are suddenly tiny and soft like sweet sleepy mice, and there is no roundness at all to their upper curves unless I wear a padded bra or something else that forces the issue.  (My nipples are still enormous, though.  "Those are Asian nipples," my midwife said, nodding for emphasis.  Midwives know from nipples.)  My corduroys keep falling down; I just bought a new belt to help keep them on.

As I wrote in that December 2008 post, I have been known to find the experience of losing weight to be enormously unpleasant.  What's even worse, though, is that I sometimes enjoy it.  Sometimes, when I have dropped a few pounds for some reason or another (it's never on purpose, I'm not that organized), I start feeling extravagantly attractive, and seriously toying with the idea of actively curtailing my food intake in order to maintain the extreme boniness.  It is always kind of horrifying to find myself thinking this way, buying into the enormous cultural misogyny inherent in how highly we value female bodies that appear to be starving to death.**  BAD FEMINIST, I say to myself, BAD BAD BAD FEMINIST.  And then I pose in the mirror, turning this way and that to see how many bones I can pick out.

Luckily, I am too lazy to do the hard work of actually starving myself, so I always eventually glide out of extreme-bony territory back into run-of-the-mill skinny-little-bitchiness.  (In fact, I just stepped on the scale and found that I am already back up to 109 pounds.***)  But the impulse lurks, and I sometimes grudgingly sympathize with other skinny little bitches like Cat Marnell, or one or two of my very close female relatives, who take stupid/crazy/unhealthy measures to maintain themselves at 10-plus pounds below their biologically ideal weight, even though their biologically ideal weight would still have them wearing the smallest size that any store carries.

You know, looking back at this post, I am kind of wondering why I started writing it in the first place.  What did I have to say?  My original motivations have kind of escaped me.  I did definitely want to tell you how weird it is to be an intelligent, analytical feminist and still be unable to shake the notion that a starving body is attractive.  In fact, I've been meaning to discuss that here for awhile, and was glad to get the chance to do so.  But I suspect that, on the whole, I wrote this in order to talk about how skinny I am.  I wrote it because I re-read that post in my other blog and noticed that it said I was 110 pounds, and I thought, "I'm not 110 pounds.  What if people think I am 110 pounds now?  I need people to know that I'm not 110 pounds."  So that's it, really.  I wrote this to be sure that you understand that I am a skinny person and capable of getting even skinnier.  I know that this is not interesting or important at all.  But it is true.
Monkey sox: gift from my husband.

*Actually, it doesn't just SEEM that way.  It's literally how breastmilk production works: the fat in breastmilk is made with fat mobilized from your body.  So, the longer you breastfeed, the more fat you lose.  This can be good if you've got some to spare, and maybe less good if the only excess fat you have is in your tits and ass.  Because: bye-bye, tits and ass.   

**My friend T points out that this is, of course, not a UNIVERSAL cultural value.  She is a Black American chick who mostly dates African (like, from Africa) men, and that particular dating pool is not at all interested in the starved look.  Once, T says, she dated a man who habitually called her fat when they were in bed together, you know, like as a complimentary expression of sexual arousal.  Like, "Oh my god, your thighs are so fat." 

***I don't want to give the impression that I weigh myself all the time.  I don't at all.  In fact, I never even owned a scale until I got pregnant with my second baby, when I had to buy one because, if you are having a home birth, your midwives require you to keep track of your own goddamn weight, thank you very much.  The only reason I thought to check my weight a few days ago is that my friend HA said I was looking kind of waste-away-ish, and she speculated that maybe I was entering that starving phase of extended nursing.  And the only reason I thought to check my weight again just now was because I was writing this post.  Normally, I don't look at a scale from one year's end to the next, so that any "weight" anxiety is actually not so much about weight and more about concavity as manifested in the mirror.