Tempted by Convention

Mr. Mezzo and I spent the weekend up at the lake house with my Mom. One of the benefits of moving to Boston was the fact that we can have more regular weekend access to the place, so the promising weather forecast made it seem like a great time for the first visit of the season. Besides, what with yesterday being the fifth anniversary of my father’s way-sudden passing, it just felt best for Mom to have company rather than to be left alone with possibly-gloomy thoughts.

feelings-pieNot that we talked about any of that. Not the anniversary, not about my motivations for coming up this weekend, not about what she might be feeling/remembering, not about my own feelings and memories. None of that was discussed.

Though truth be told, I didn’t expect anything different on that score. There’s a reason for all those cliches about emotionally reticent, laconic New Englanders. And the superficiality of conversation among families in the corporate/country club set.

But I did tell Mr. Mezzo, as we were breezing through the Hampton Tolls Friday night, that I was wondering whether Mom would say anything about my weight loss. After all, if my body looks different enough for hairdressers and co-workers to notice, one would think that the change would be obvious enough for one’s own flesh and blood to be aware.

Mr. Mezzo predicted that she wouldn’t say anything. At least, he figured she wasn’t going to bring up the topic independently. As he explained it to me when I asked, he thought she might say something if the subject came up organically, but he knew he wasn’t gonna bring it up, and he knew for damn sure I wasn’t gonna bring it up. So, he concluded, silence was likely to rule.

I wasn’t so sure. Yes, she’s been nice and polite about not nagging me for becoming fat, but it felt like there might be a chance of her going to the super-enthusiastic place about how much better I look now, how great it is that I’ve finally gotten thinner — the kind of compliments I wrote about previously, and the kind which would inspire an internal wry smile and a silent monologue about “Oh, so there’s the judgement about my body type she’s been polite enough to keep hidden all this time.”

So I just wasn’t sure whether or not the topic would come up, and then I wasn’t entirely sure how explicitly I was going to talk about my detox journey if the topic arose. (Somehow, I don’t imagine my mother being all that open to the subject. I rather imagine her being in the whole narrow-minded Industrial Age “quackwatch” kind of place.)

But when all was said and done, I needn’t have wasted any time wondering or rehearsing what I might say. Because Mr. Mezzo’s prognostication won out and the topic of my body shrinkage remained as subterranean as any consideration of my father’s passing.

I am mostly deeply relieved at that turn of events.

But I am aware of a small part in me that is disappointed.

I get it. I know I still carry a small kernel of my younger self with me, that little girl who naturally wishes for her parents to show their affection and approval.* And even if there’s lots of reasons that I find compliments about weight loss to be deeply problematic, I know my mom’s not even remotely aware of FA/HAES, and she’s really not likely to be agreeing with that perspective. So, that part of me which yearns for acknowledgement would kinda sorta be okay with taking in a problematic compliment, because sometimes that feels better than no compliment at all.

[SIDEBAR] There’s also a whole other angle in contemplating how deep the cultural programming around body size goes. Kate Harding once wrote about the “cognitive dissonance” phase of the fat acceptance journey, “thinking it made perfect sense that the OBESITY CRISIS hype was way overblown, and even if it weren’t, dieting doesn’t work anyway — but still wanting to lose weight.” And Cat observes that for a fat person to want to lose weight “is the sane choice when you live in a world that finds you disgusting.” So, I also wonder if there’s a piece of me that would kinda sorta be okay with weight loss compliments on account of the residual weight of all that cultural baggage. [/SIDEBAR]

So whichever way you slice it, there’s lots of feels, some of it self-contradictory. ‘Twas ever thus.

* I’m guessing I’m not the only one, but I’m not going to assume I know about anyone’s soul but my own.


Image credit: http://static.someecards.com/someecards/usercards/MjAxMy1jYzgzZjk3NDA2YWRiODA1.png

Tipping into Jealousy

This morning, I spent some time writing in my pen and paper journal* to study the eruption of anger and envy I was wrestling with last night. Given everything I said — even in the moment of my emotional tantrum-ing — about my heartfelt wish for a full-society evolution past the chokehold of patriarchal, misogynist structures, then why was I so quick to fall into that resentful funk?

As best as I was able to sort it through, there are two primary threads to it: a sense of distrust and, more prominently, my addiction to being accepted and acknowledged.

First, the distrust. I’ve already written about the eerie sense of similarity I feel between Elliot Rodgers and George Sodini’s actions, and the ways both those mass murders are part of a long and ugly tradition of misogynist crimes. So even as I try to hope that things might finally change in the culture, I’m also feeling a lot of distrust that anything really will. Maybe there will just be this temporary explosion of rhetoric which quickly sinks back into complacency and the status quo.

I very much hope that isn’t the pattern that unfolds. And for all my snarky distrust, I have some portion of hope in my system. The tone of the discussion just senses different this time around. I’m not naive enough to think that everything will unfold as uninterrupted progression from today forward, but I wonder if we’ve reached (or if we’re approaching) a tipping point of cultural awareness. Once enough folks wake up, I believe, the old opiates won’t work to stop evolution.

blue-ribbonBut the deeper, darker piece of self-examination has had me taking a really close look at how my addiction to being right and being acknowledged is so strong that part of me is really envious and resentful around the idea of the culture reaching this tipping point.

Like, I get that the awareness of misogyny has to become common knowledge for things to change, but if it becomes common knowledge then those of us who were at the vanguard, thinking and talking about these issues ahead of the curve, then we won’t get credit. And the truth is, even if I can claim a place in the vanguard, it’s probably only a molecule’s worth if real estate. But man, the desire to “get credit” for that molecule’s worth of territory is hella strong.

Ultimately, I tried to boil things down to the essence and asked myself baldly and bluntly: “What do I care about more? Humanity’s evolution or getting the credit?”

The answer is that the soul-force me DOES care more about evolution occurring than anything else. But it’s a closer race than I would prefer it to be, measuring my investment in evolution against my investment in acknowledgement.

It has been really sobering to see how virulent this addiction is, and then to force myself to face up to the truth of it. Facing up to the real truth — that yes, even this thing I am so tangled and addicted to, this yearning for acknowledgement, yes, even this I am willing to give up if it means the culture can shift.

But, of course, the giving up of the addiction is a day-by-day (minute-by-minute?) practice, rather than anything as simple as turning off the faucet…

So, as with so many things: more to study. Progress rather than perfection, ongoing awakening rather than an arrival point.

* Yes, I keep an analog journal in addition to a blog. Why? As with so many of the dangling participles I leave around here, that’s a story for another day.


Image credit: http://nursegail.com/nursing-profession-most-trusted-gallup-poll/blue-ribbon/