what happens most

All day long I look at people doing things they don’t want to do, or not doing things they do want to do. It’s depressing.

Obviously, most of us have to work for our living. But does that also mean that we have to talk about the weather? Eat bland food? Buy only one bag, and make sure that bag is black so that it goes with everything? Watch whatever they put on the TV at 7 PM? Stay home when we’d really rather be out, doing anything else? Drive by places we’d like to see, but tell ourselves we can’t go in, for no reason at all? Wear whatever set of something that someone put on a rack? Keep our opinions to ourselves? Keep our eyes down? Laugh at things that aren’t funny? Smile at people we don’t like? Do things for people who don’t appreciate it, and wait in vain for them to do things for us? Do the same things every day, even if they’ve never made us happy?

Why, people? Come on and love yourselves better. If you don’t, who will?

A Sad Story About Body Image

A while back I hauled my boyfriend, Tad, to the 35th anniversary celebration of MECA, the local non-profit arts organization at which I used to do artsy stuff as a teenager. Someone there had made a DVD compilation of many shows they’ve hosted over the years. One of them was West Side Story, staged in 1989, in which seventeen-year-old me played Anita.

My boyfriend Tad wanted to see the whole thing, so we borrowed MECA’s old VHS tape of the first half. (It’s like, three thousand hours long, and no one knows where the VHS of the second half is.) I told the MECAns that I would have it copied to DVD and then return it postehaste.

At home, Tad and I made popcorn (or glasses of wine, can’t remember) and settled in to watch the blast from my past. We pushed Play on the VCR (that I still keep plugged in because it’s the only way we have of connecting the DVD, the PS2, and the XBOX360 to our TV. I know — I need to upgrade.)

Just hearing the intro music made me nervous. Then, I saw myself on stage in my red satin dress with salsa petticoats, in the long, brown, curly-haired wig that covered my tacky ’90s skater hair, in the flat jazz shoes I had to wear instead of the sexy character shoes that everyone else wore, so that I wouldn’t be taller than Bernardo… and the first thing I thought was, “God, I’m so big.”

I was 5’9″, size 6.

God, I was so big.

I’m not saying that as a former or current sufferer of body dysmorphia. I’m just telling y’all that, compared to everyone else I knew then, I was very big.

Watching the show made me uncomfortable. I don’t think I’d ever even seen it before in its entirety, but watching myself on the TV that night instantly freaking transported me into the prism of awkwardness that I was way back then. I saw my lackluster dancing and it made me feel, again, the fear of putting my arms out too far, standing up too straight, and being too big for the stage, my man, and everyone else. I heard my minimalist line recital and felt again the fear of being too Latina or not Latina enough. Too good or not good enough. I looked at my own face and re-felt all the worries, fears, insecurities, and awkward, awkward, embarrassing, humiliating, shame and guilt and insecure, fearful, worried etcetera. All the time. Every day.

“This is terrible,” I said.

“This is awesome,” Tad said. “You were hot. I wish I’d known you back then. I mean, even though I was only eleven years old and you wouldn’t have talked to me. But still.”

“I’m so big,” I said. And then I told Tad everything I just told you, about the insecurity and the awkwardness and the bleh.

He said I wasn’t big at all. He said, “Baby. You were a woman, and those other girls were girls. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Why didn’t he tell me that back then? you’re wondering. I don’t know.

Anyway. I called my friend Letty, also a MECA survivor, and she told me she often felt the same way. Too big. Not small enough. Weird. Ungainly. Grotesque. Like a monster. Funny how the world can make you feel that way, while simultaneously exploiting girls your age for illegal pornography. You know?

So anyhow. I decided not to have the VHS tape made into a DVD. I don’t want that thing. It doesn’t make me happy.

I was kind of sad not to see the second half, though. The second half contained my best song — a duet with my friend Tania, who got the Maria part but wanted Anita, while I got Anita and wanted Maria so badly. I think we did very well, considering that she was the natural alto and I was the second soprano.

Also, the second half contained the “struggle” scene, which was pretty much an attempted rape scene, in which Ziggy Garcia played a white guy Jet who wanted a taste of spicy Anita, and in which I regularly fought Ziggy off, sometimes to the point of hurting him, and once to the point of my wig falling off. That was a fun scene to play. It was cathartic, at least — all that angst getting channeled into violence. Getting to be angry in front of everybody. Being glad, for the moment, that I was big.

A Sad Message for Twenty-Something Women

I’m going to tell y’all something that a thirty-something woman told me, back when I was in my twenties. Because it was something I never would have known, otherwise, and because I love y’all. Here it is:

The first part of you to get old is your stomach.

Your digestive system, to be exact. That’s the first thing on your body to fall apart. When you turn thirty, something on that trail will start slacking on the job. Acid reflux. Constipation. Gall stones. Flatulence. Etcetera.

You’ll think back to all the times you heard older people make weird, random-seeming complaints like, “I need more fiber” or “I wish I could eat processed meats” or “Today’s one of those mashed-potatoes-only days for me.” And you’ll be like, “ZOMG! Now I know what they’re talking about! And therefore, I am turning old!”

And you’ll be right. And you’ll be sad.

I’m just telling y’all because I love y’all, and I don’t want you to be scared when you turn thirty, thinking that it’s only happening to you. It’s not. It’s happening to us all, and we will all end up eating nothing but mashed potatoes and oatmeal. It’s the cycle of life.

Toby Update

1. Starbuck still doesn’t like Toby.

2. Toby still feels a need to dig in the houseplant, although I couldn’t tell if it was for waste products or just for fun.

3. Toby discovered that food and water taste even better when they come from Starbuck’s bowls.

4. Starbuck kind of hates Toby’s guts, actually.

5. I forgot to tell y’all the other day that I think Toby’s part Siamese, or some other kind of Asian cat ethnicity. You can’t really tell in the pics I’ve shown you, but he has the Asian cat eyes and head shape. When we got him, he didn’t really meow a lot. When he got home, I noted that he would meow once, in response to his name. (Smart boy.) But then, last night, at 1 AM, Toby decided he needed to meow. A lot. It was like, “Meow. What’s up, y’all? How come everyone’s lying down and all the lights are off? What’s everybody doing? Why isn’t anyone petting me? Hello? HELLO-O-O-O!”

And I was like, “Oh my god, someone’s on fire!” as I jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen to warm a bottle or catch vomit in my hands or fight off a monster or whatever. But it was just Toby, speaking his mind. He got quiet as soon as I came out and found him. He even stayed quiet when I tripped over his giant cat body in the dark. So I pet him half a time, told him to play quietly, and went back to bed.

Thirty minutes later, it started again. “Hello! You guys! What’s up? I thought y’all woke up and were gonna play with me! How come I’m the only one talking? Meow!”

I ignored him so he wouldn’t be rewarded for his noise-making. He quieted down. Then, an hour later, he piped up again. But this time it was more like, “Meow yow yow, doo dee doo… Here I am, walking around. I think I’ll eat from this bowl. Mm, that was good. Hmm. Why’s that other cat hissing at me again? Man, it sure is quiet in here. Hey, what’s that out the window? Man, I sure am awake now. Funny how I’m the only one…”

And then I thought that he sounded Siamese. Because isn’t that something Siamese cats do? Talk to themselves?

6. I took more pictures of Toby and Starbuck, with a Mexican piggy bank next to each for scale. Didn’t have time to post them, though. I’ll have to do that later today, after the day job is done.

Shimmy Update

I’m still doing the Shimmies. However, I’m starting to realize that belly dancing in sweatpants and a t-shirt could never be as fun as belly dancing in a hip scarf and sequined bra.

That’s how they get you, see. That’s how they get you hooked. They make you shake your hips to the too-mellow music, and then you wish you had fake gold coins to keep the beat. Next thing you know, you’re spending all your money on costumes and spending all your weekends at the Renaissance fairs.

It’s a racket, I tell you. “Sensual dance with mystical origins, as old as the sands of time.” Sure. That’s how old the hip-scarf-selling racket is. I should have known.

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Posted in cats, Letty, lookism, Shimmy, venting on 01/30/2008 11:21 am

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