Saturday, May 30, 2015

Real Memorial Day

Flag & Peonies

When Death Comes

It's so far
from what
you expect:
the difference
between
a "heroic battle"
and
an actual blow
to the face.
The pain:
so blindingly
sharp
and vicious,
meant
to wound in a way
you will never forget,
change
how you breathe,
leave the hollow air
reverberating
with shock.
Even when you know
it's coming,
it arrives
out of nowhere:
so quick,
so uncalled for,
such a terrible
gulf
between before
and after.


by American Poet Joyce Sidman (b. 1956)
from her book What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings

See my previous post:
Poems for Memorial Day

P.S.
June 17, 2015: In Memoriam for Victims in
Charleston, South Carolina
How Long Oh Lord?

See also
"Day of Darkness"

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Swamibabaguruishi
roshirabbaisoandso


"Once I had a dream. In the dream I was to receive a diploma
as a spiritual teacher or guide of some sort. There were two of us
being presented with such a certificate at the time. The other was a man -- Swamibabaguruishiroshirabbaisoandso.
He wore long colorful robes and had a fist full of degrees and papers.
To receive his diploma he only had to step forward and present himself
with his long titles, flowing robes, and abundant credentials.
But before me there stood an enormous mountain of laundry.
To receive my diploma
I would first have to climb over this huge heap of laundry."

~ Polly Berrien Berends ~
from Whole Child / Whole Parent

In the dream, Kyla had just entered the exam room, "when she
spied the pile in the corner. Instantly she knew what it was,
but she was incredulous, she was so ashamed. . . . She was horrified.
Those stained sanitary napkins, those bloody underpants were hers,
she knew they were hers, and she knew the men would know it too . . .
but there was no way she could conceal them."
(561 - 562).

~ Marilyn French ~
from The Women's Room

******************

You can read more about the meaning behind these dreams
on my current post

~ "Women's Room" ~

@ The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Guess It!


Between living and dreaming
there is a third thing.
Guess it.

Antonio Machado (1875 - 1939)

Spanish Poet


As with the proverbs posted on
April 7, April 10, April 13, & June 4, 2014
these lines from Antonio Machado can be found in
Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems
edited by Ravi Nathwani & Kate Vogt
Thanks to my friend Lani for her
generous gift of this lovely inspirational book!

When I was photographing the above irises in our front yard,
I accidentally broke off a still-closed flower, so I took it inside
as a "rescue blossom" and was so thrilled when it opened perfectly!


***************
P.S.

What is the third thing?

My friends Jan & Diane guessed "Blooming" & "Becoming"
[see first comment below]

My friend Cate suggesed the concept of ~ Sati / Mindfulness ~
[the first factor of enlightenment & self - mastery]

Here are my literary guesses,
[based not on any direct connection to Machado
but on phrases -- some well - known to me, some new --
that have caught my heart in my recent reading and writing]

1. an explosive, soaring joy
see Joyce Sidman
What The Heart Knows

"But we still believe in the power of the words themselves. . . .
Finding phrases to match the emotion inside us still brings
an explosive, soaring joy."


2. "a rich soft wanting"
see Carl Sandburg

3. "the fire . . . hot within"
see Virginia Woolf

4. the Japanese concept of
~ Mono no aware ~

5. the Portuguese concept of
~ Saudade ~
[sau·da·de / souˈdädə =
a feeling or state of nostalgia
or profound melancholic longing,
supposedly characteristic of the
Portuguese or Brazilian temperament]

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Getting Ready to Break My Heart


In her poem "Peonies" (1991 - 92), Mary Oliver writes that " . . . the peonies are getting ready to break my heart . . . "It happens every year -- and apparently has been happening for centuries, as revealed in this poem from China's greatest woman poet, Li Ching Chao, (1084 - 1151):

Peonies

You open the low curtains of the women's quarter in the palace.
And carefully the carved railings guard you.
You stand alone in the middle of the balcony in the end of Spring.
Your flowerlike face is clear and bright as flowing water.
Gentle, modest, your natural innocence is apparent to all.
All the flowers have withered except you.
In the morning breeze, in the glittering dew,
You make your morning toilet
And become still more splendid and bewitching.
The wind envies you as you laugh at the moon.
The God of Spring falls in love with you forever.
Over the east side of the city the sun rises
And shines on the ponds and the gardens
And teahouses of the courtesans in the south side.
The perfumed carriages run home.
The banquet tables are cleared of scattered flowers and silks.
Who will succeed you when you have become perfumed dust?
The Palace of Brilliant Light was not more beautiful,
As the sun rises through the branches of your blossoms.
I pledge my love to you in a gold cup.
As the painted candles gutter and die,
I for one do not welcome the yellow twilight.


by Li Ching Chao
translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung

Click for more poems and translations.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sharing Horizons That Are
New To Us

Happy 43rd Anniversary
To Peggy & Ron Rosenbluth!

"This road leads where your heart is . . ."

Soloist Jim Goldsby ~ "We've Only Just Begun" ~ Peg & Ron


When I asked my son Sam (recent graduate of Purdue University ~ see previous post) for some good song ideas, one of his suggestions was "Red Light." So we've been playing that one a lot lately and realized that it was also the perfect wedding anniversary song for my sister and brother - in - law.

Auntie Peg wrote: "Very nice song. Thanks for the suggestion Sam! Very low-key anniversary but I'm fine with that. Our wedding song was "We've Only Just Begun" sung by our friend Jim Goldsby, although if I was getting married today I think I would use Sam's song suggestion instead. I liked The Carpenters but that song sounds so saccharin sweet now that it makes my teeth hurt." That's okay Peg! It was the 20th Century -- a time of innocence, speaking of which, here's another old favorite: "One Love". We were all in love with The Carpenters back then and just couldn't help ourselves!

Thanks goodness for our 2st Century kids and grandkids, keeping us young with their music and poetry! Now we have a new song for new times, but it's interesting to note how similar the message of "Red Lights" (2013) is to that of "We've Only Just Begun" (1970):
Before the risin' sun, we fly
So many roads to choose
We'll start out walkin' and learn to run
And yes, we've just begun

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way

Talkin' it over, just the two of us
Workin' together day to day
[emphasis added]

Red Lights
Performed by Tiesto & Michel Zitron

Blacked out, everything's faded
On your love I’m already wasted
So close that I can taste it now... now...

So let’s break right out of these gilded cages
We’re gonna make it now...
Don’t ever turn around
Don’t ever turn around

Nobody else needs to know
Where we might go...
We could just run them red lights
We could just run them red lights

There ain’t no reason to stay
We’ll be light years away...
We could just run them red lights
We could just run them red lights

We could just run them red lights...
We could just run them red lights...

White lights, flirt in the darkness
This road leads where your heart is
These signs, something we can’t ignore
...no...

We can’t back down
We’ll never let them change us
We’re gonna make it now
What are we waiting for...
What are we waiting for...

Nobody else needs to know
Where we might go...
We could just run them red lights
We could just run them red lights

There ain’t no reason to stay
We’ll be light years away...
We could just run them red lights
We could just run them red lights

We could just run them red lights...
We could just run them red lights...
[emphasis added]

Co - written by Tijs Michiel Verwest (Tiesto)
with Carl Falk, Wayne Hector, Rami Yacoub, Måns Wredenberg

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Seek Deep

Gerry Giving Sam his Diploma
"With Highest Distinction"

The following poem and song have both appeared on this blog before; yet I think they are perfect for Sam's graduation from Purdue, so I'm sharing them again and hope you agree:

What Shall He Tell That Son?
A father sees a son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
‘Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.’
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum and monotony
and guide him amid sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
‘Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.’
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
And left them dead years before burial:
The quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
Has twisted good enough men
Sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use amongst other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is a born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.
[emphasis added]

by Carl Sandburg, 1878 - 1967
beloved American writer, editor, poet
winner of three Pulitzer Prizes
from his epic prose poem, The People, Yes (1936)


Rebel Son
performed by Survivor

You're still young, still so sure
So determined you can find a cure
You've always been the driven one
Speak your mind, rebel son

In your eyes, wildfires rage
You read between the lines of every page
Take your chances while you're young
Seek the truth, rebel son

Shatter the silence
Fill the night with your righteous defiance
While you've still got the will to run
Take your message to the streets tonight, rebel son

There's a restless voice that's callin' you
Through the darkest night, fight the fight, rebel son
To yourself alone you must be true, rebel son

Stand your ground, against the tide
The proof of history is on your side
Fight the cause for everyone
Dare to dream, rebel son

Shatter the silence
Fill the night with your righteous defiance
While you've still got the will to run
Take your message to the streets tonight, rebel son

There's a restless voice that's callin' you
Through the darkest night, fight the fight, rebel son
To yourself alone you must be true, Rebel son

In the dark, thunder in your heart
Can't you hear the sound and fury in the night
Feel the heat, risin' from the street
Passion runs so deep
To match the fire in your eyes
Take your message to the streets tonight - rebel son

There's a restless voice that's callin' you
Through the darkest night - fight the fight - rebel son
To yourself alone you must be true
Rebel son

by Jim Peterik, Frankie Sullivan, Jimi Jamison


Samuel Jerome McCartney
Bachelor of Science in Management & Finance

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Fire Was Hot Within Her


Jane Gallop's assertion that the burden of sexual difference is borne by women alone is a concept aptly illustrated by Virginia Woolf's well - known image of Judith Shakespeare. Judith, trapped by her gender, is denied the free use of her limbs and her talent; her brother Will is the one whose "incandescent, unimpeded" work has risen "to the universal human, beyond gender" :
" . . . Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her . . . She died young - alas, she never wrote a word. . . . Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word . . . still lives . . . in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. . . . For my belief is that if we live another century or so - I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals - and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves . . . if we face the fact . . . that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality [i.e., "the universal human, beyond gender"] and not only to the word of men and women [the world of "sexual difference"], then . . . the dead poet who was Shakespeare's [imaginary] sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. . . . she would come if we worked for her, and so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while" (118).
concluding paragraph
from A Room of One's Own
by Virginia Woolf

******************

You can read more about Virginia Woolf,
body image, and gender bias on my current post

~ "Room, Board, and Body" ~

@ The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony


Plus related posts on
KITTI'S LIST


Try to See It, Try to Feel It: The Body in the Text ~ Part 1
Try to See It, Try to Feel It: The Body in the Text ~ Part 2
A Girl and Her Book

And previously on
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT

Throwback Letter to Editor
Too Beautiful to Go on a Diet
Weighing In
The Student Body in the Text

P.S.
Favorite Room of One's Own quotation:
" . . . could she have freed her mind from hate and fear
and not heaped it with bitterness and resentment,
the fire was hot within her
" (63).

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Student Body in the Text

Mannequin in the Window
(view from my hotel window in Bruges)


" . . . for whatever else we are or may pretend to be,
we are certainly our bodies"
(19).

"To refuse hobbles and deformity
and take possession of your body
and glory in its power, accepting its own laws of loveliness.
To have someting to desire, something to make,
something to achieve,
and at last something genuine to give"
(328).

Germaine Greer
from The Female Eunuch

"What would happen
if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open"


Muriel Rukeyser
from the poem "Käthe Kollwitz"

"Men have had every advantage of us in telling their story.
Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree;
the pen has been in their hands."


Jane Austen
from Persuasion

" . . . phallocentrism . . . raises the masculine
to the universal human, beyond gender,
so that the feminine alone
must bear the burden of sexual difference"
(163).

Jane Gallop
from Thinking Through the Body

When I gave a paper, "The Student Body in the Text," at the Indiana College English Association Conference, "New Insights for the Nineties" (University of Notre Dame, September 1991), my presentation was preceded by a paper which inadvertently illustrated a number of the problems I was attempting to solve. The paper preceding mine concerned the rhetorical analysis of speeches with some historical or social significance (either as written text or speech act) as a topic for freshman research papers. First, the names of no women appeared in the list of speakers / writers given as exemplary of this tradition (Jesus, Gandhi, Churchill, Nixon, etc.). When asked about this omission, the panelist hastened to explain that indeed many students had chosen female subjects (they were absent,apparently, only from his script, not from the entire tradition).

Second, every successful rendering of the assignment described had been written by a male student. The single example of a "troubled" approach, on the other hand, had been the work of a female student. Again, when questioned, the panelist was quick to say that many of the best results had been produced by female students (it's just that these particular success stories were not mentioned in the script of his conference paper). In his presentation, the female did not bear the burden of sexual difference so much as the burden of struggle and failure to master material in the academic setting -- as well as failure to produce material worthy of study.

I couldn't help thinking of how the term co-ed is impossibly gendered, despite it's implication of balance and equity. On my permanent taboo list, this unfortunate word (kind of like co - pilot: are they equal or not?) should point to an integrated student body, men and women educated together; but instead co-ed, the word -- and co-eds themselves -- "must bear the burden of sexual difference," often in a belittling (old - fashioned girls in sweater sets) or insulting (irresponsible party girls) way.

Similarly, "Women's Studies." Intended to signal enlightenment and equality, it is just as likely to make the history and literature of women bear the burden of sexual difference. Insead of highlighting, it marginalizes, implying that these gender studies are secondary to the real, universal studies, that women's literature is a subsidiary of the real, universal literature written by men. How about adding more novels by women to the curriculum without singling them out and calling them "women's fiction." Like "doctor" (male, universal) and "nurse" (female) -- "nurse" must bear the burden of sexual difference. Hopefully the days of specifying "female doctor" (and I don't mean gynecolgist) and "male nurse" (a la Greg in Meet the Parents) are coming to an end as both professions welcome both men and women.

Gallop's observation of raising "the masculine to the universal human, beyond gender, so that the feminine alone must bear the burden of sexual difference" occurs in her discussion of pink for girl babies / blue for boy babies:
"If blue, outside the infantile realm, is no longer a particularly masculine color, might not that relate to the phallocentrism which in our culture (as well as in most if not all others) raises the masculine to the universal human, beyond gender, so that the feminine alone must bear the burden of sexual difference? Pink then becomes the color of sexual difference, carrying alone within it the diacritical distinction pink / blue. Sexual difference itself becomes feminine" (163).
Disclaimer: I have to say that my husband and sons -- Renaissance Men, to be sure -- have never shied away from wearing the color pink. With a little help from Mom, Lands' End, and Brooks Brothers, the fashion world urges us a step forward in sharing the burden of sexual difference. A baby step.

Spring 2008 ~ Gerry (far right) wearing pink silk tie
with (l to r) Provost, CFO, and President of Purdue University

Spring 2009 ~ My Funny Valentines

RELATED POSTS:
Try to See It, Try to Feel It: The Body in the Text ~ Part 1
Try to See It, Try to Feel It: The Body in the Text ~ Part 2

Throwback Letter to Editor
Too Beautiful to Go on a Diet
Weighing In
The Fire Was Hot Within Here

Friday, May 8, 2015

Weighing In

The Birth of Venus, 1480s ~ Sandro Botticelli, 1445 - 1510
Wikipedia observes that
"Venus' body is anatomically improbable, with elongated neck and torso."
However, look at her tummy: round not flat;
and her breasts: neither implanted nor pushed up.
That's realism enough for me!

Another Throwback:
My thoughts from the late 20th C, sadly still relevant.

It seems impossible to avoid the statistics. Articles everywhere tell us that sixty percent of Americans weight too much or twenty - five percent of American women weigh too little. Once I read that even though more adult men than women are medically overweight, a woman who takes large portions or second helpings at dinner is perceived to be unfeminine -- even if she is noticeably thin! (Unless he has extremely bad table manners, a man's sexual attractiveness is apparently not dependent on his eating habits.) What is the quizzical reader to make of this confusing array of figures? What adjustment is the frustrated dieter required to make in her eating plan? And, most importantly, what is the bewildered woman to see when she looks in the mirror after exercise class -- or after lunch? Is it at all possible for her to see a normal, healthy female? Does such a vision even exist in the fun - house of our dietary - obsessed society, which encourages us to overeat and overdrink and then punishes us when we gain weight? Must we always appear too short, too tall, too thin, or too fat for our own good? Do only fifteen percent of the women -- those remaining when we subtract the too think and the too fat -- appear to be the right weight for their height?

What determines the perfect height - weight ratio of this small group? A chart on a website? A graph on the giant weighing scale that tells your fortune along with your weight? Or is the concept of the perfect figure derived from the vital statistics of any number of fashion models and beauty queens who list themselves at "Height: 5'10"; Weight: 105 pounds" -- as if this were an enviable, achievable, or even attractive combination, as if a truly healthy person of this height could possibly weigh so little? In Backlash, Susan Faludi wrote that in the late 1980's, "Fewer than one - fourth of American women were taller than five foot four or worse a size smaller than 14 -- but 95 percent of the fashions were designed to fit these specifications" (171). We must not let such discrepancies fool us into believing that we need to be smaller than we are. In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf writes that "A generation ago, the average model weighed 8 percent less than the average American woman, whereas today [1992] she weighs 23 percent less" (184); and in Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher observes that "even as real women grow heavier, models and beautiful women are portrayed as thinner" (184). This divergence from reality cannot possibly provide a healthy role model, nor is it something we should emulate or model for our children.

It is not always easy, however to accept reality. Rarely does a grown woman in the public eye, regardless of her height, admit to weighing over 110 pounds. Rarely does a female citizen list the weight on her driver's license as over 115 pounds. Why is this? Do we feel that we should weigh for our entire lives what we weighed at age sixteen? Have we been taught that to attain and maintain a reasonable and healthy weight for our size is somehow taboo? Are we afraid to grow? Or afraid to grow up? Why should we deny the truth that for many women life events such as child - bearing and turning thirty and menopause bring about changes in our bodies?

The issue lies not so much in studying the various (and quite often contradictory) statistics, hoping against hope that we can squeeze ourselves into that magically normal and perfectly proportioned fifteen -- or whatever -- perfect; rather the root of the problem is found in the messages which do come through loudly, clearly, and consistently, regardless of the numbers which accompany them: "You need to change your weight. Your body is not right. Eat more. Eat less. Don't be squeamish. Don't be gross. Join a weight - loss program. See a shrink. There is something wrong with you.

Unfortunately the gist of these messages goes way beyond such helpful advice as "visit your docor regularly and seek counseling when necessary"; or common - sense tips like "eat more fresh fruit and fewer late - night snacks, drink more skim milk and less soda." In fact, even an explicit height / weight chart would do less harm than the broad generalizations and subtle accusations which seem designed to shift as many woman as possible from one unhealthy group to another or, worse yet, from a healthy, stable position to one of insecurity about their genetically coded and basically unalterable -- not to mention perfectly acceptable -- body shape.

How many of us, in response to the weight - conscious media which attacks us from every angle, feel needless guilt for "man - sized" portions and second helpings? How many feel convicted not of eating too much junk food and exercising too little but of being too fat? How many of an ideal weight (or perhaps even already underweight) resolve daily to consume fewer calories or to step up an already severe exercise regimen in order to achieve inhuman thinness? how often will the seed be subtly planted in our minds that we should weigh only 105 or 110 pounds -- as if 125 or 135 were unthinkably heavy numbers, regardless of our shape and height? Of course, it is not just one tribute to an artificial standard of female attractiveness or one skewed statistic which leads to physical or psychological trouble; it is the pervasive appeal to fear, doubt, guilt, and insecurity that leads in turn to constant worry, over - focus on eating, and distorted body image.

Perhaps an objective height / weight chart would ease some of the consternation caused by all this ambiguous information, all these conflicting messages. Faludi provides a more stable, more logical, more realistic perception of the female body. She says that the average American woman weighs in at 143 pounds and wears a size 10 or 12 dress (see Backlash 171). Similarly, U. S. Census statistics show that the average American woman, from age 18 - 44,is approximately 5'4 3/4" and 140 pounds (see Glamour, April 1989, 63). Now here's a figure we can live with and work with, one we might well see reflected in the glass. This is the body of a woman who may take a second helping, or a bowl of soup instead of the smaller cup, if she is hungry. She might even have dessert in a restaurant. Or she might eat only a salad (though it could be a large one) if she is conscientiously monitoring her calorie consumption. She is not afraid of growing up; and without a doubt, she can be attractive and feminine. Although, like me, you may not always avoid the rocky road ice cream when you should or you may be tempted to pick up the kids in the car instead of walking, don't let yourself forget the words of British columnist Laurie Graham: "You're too beautiful to go on a diet!"

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Too Beautiful to Go on a Diet

Actually, make that
"KEEP CALM and STOP DIETING!"

Another Throwback:
Here is an essay that I saved from
The Sunday Telegraph ~ May 17, 1992 ~ p III

"Too beautiful to go on a diet"
by Laurie Graham

As the mother of three teenage daughters, I'm concerned but not at all surprised to learn that cases of anorexia are becoming more common, and that they are appearing in younger and younger girls.

Nor am I surprised when I read the list of precipitating factors, because they've been recited many times before, and they do make sense -- refusing to eat is a very powerful weapon against over - controlling parents; wasting away to under six stone [84 pounds] and messing up your ovaries is a very effective way of evading womanhood; and relentless exposure to the emaciated norms of the fashion industry is a surefire route to a warped self - image. But something is missing from this list: Mother.

Among the dozens of teenagers who cross my doorstep, I know of only one terrifyingly full - blown case of anorexia. But I know plenty of border - liners, hovering around the limits of a healthy diet and not helped in the least by having mothers who count calories. I have just done a head count. Seventy per cent of the mothers of teenage daughters that I know are chronic dieters, lurching from one desperate regime to another, weighing themselves daily, and never, ever liking what the scales tell them.

I object to dieting mothers. First, as members of the human race in general, because their obsession is so tiresome and because, to me, there is something faintly indecent about well - fed people wishing loud and long that they could eat less. Second, as role models for tomorrow's women, who are bombarded with incitements to be slim and sexy, and need every bit of help they can get if they are ever to live in peace with the body they have been given.

Teenage girls are mainly fit, happy, busy people, and many of them carry the promise of future beauty. But most of them look in the mirror and see a hideous, pneumatically - inflated monstrosity with over - active sebaceous glands and completely the wrong kind of nose. In my day, that period of lumbering awkwardness was explained cheerfully . . . Girls today need more assurance than that. And most of them actually get less.

They live with mothers who know the calorific value of everything, and who sincerely believe that if they weighed 10 pounds less, their lives would be transformed. That is to say, they believe that if they were slimmer, they would become lithe objects of desire, and men would flock to their side.

I don't know what would happen after that, because most of them don't seem like the kind of women who could handle tangoing with a lusty stranger down the aisle of Safeway. But that doesn't matter because it isn't going to happen. And neither is the worst - case scenario, in which their husband abandons them because they failed to get down to a size 10. A husband may leave home for many daft reasons, but hardly ever because of the size of his wife's hips.

Teenage girls don't know this. In their minds, desirability is firmly linked to an image of slenderness, and slenderness is linked to Mum's [dieting]. It's a measure of how supine we've become that mothers would rather make rich men richer by buying meal substitutes than eat a normal balanced diet, and that they're happy to recruit their daughters, like lambs to the very same slaughter.

I propose to make this my campaign for 1992. I propose to out - bore the diet bores. From this moment I refuse to engage in any conversations about weights, measures, metabolic rates, cardboard biscuits, cottage cheese, or meals in a glass. Neither will I be drawn on cellulite, liposuction and flab - busters by mail order 9.99L.

My lifelong ban on bathroom scales will remain in force, and every time one of my daughters stops to admire an outfit in a shop window, I shall point out to her that on a normal female body it may look just as pretty as it does on a severely anorexic mannequin but it will certainly not look quite the same. [More thoughts on Body Image]

I shall continue, unapologetically, to serve bread and pasta and potatoes with melted butter, and porridge with maple syrup. And if any of my daughters, or any of their friends with dieting tendencies, announces that they're going to try the Grapefruit Juice and Chocolate Bar Miracle Ten Day Regime, I shall them, "Not in my house. You're too beautiful for that. And so is my cooking."


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Throwback Letter to Editor

Back in the day when everyone read Time and Newsweek, it was a happy event when my letter to the editor was published! Too bad that the problems of distorted body image and objectification are still with us today, worse than ever, it seems. Here is my observation from eighteen years ago:

Letters Editor
251 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019-1894

RE: "Is Fat That Bad," by Laura Shapiro, 21 April 1997

Your article concludes with an inspiring description of Alexandra Beller, but where is her picture? Perhaps it should have been on the cover. I would have preferred the sight of a "gorgeous" and "round" dancer, known for her talent and "strength of spirit" rather than the faceless, female hourglass that appeared on my magazine.

Why perpetuate the harmful stereotypes of size and shape? Shapiro writes that "there's not much else out there." Too bad Newsweek didn't take this opprtunity to provide something else, rather than pandering once again to that "rarefied world of ideal bodies" where "skinniness rules."

Kitti Carriker
Philadelphia, PA

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I had not been familiar with Alexandra Beller's work until I read Shapiro's description in the Newsweek article: "And that's why the sight of Alexandra Beller in action is so invigorating. Beller, a member of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company, is a gorgeous dancer and a round one . . . heavier than most women dancers . . . although various teachers tried to discourage her, she persisted in studying jazz, ballet and modern. When she auditioned for Jones, she was one of 400 hopefuls and the only one selected. . . . Beller is the wrong shape in a rarefied world of ideal bodies, but her dancing breaks the mold. Shelooks great, and her strength of spirit glows. . . . Here's a welcome role model for being just the size you are -- and running with it."
Alexandra Beller
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Too Beautiful to Go on a Diet
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