Eat This!

As I sit here near the point of copious salivation in a manor reminiscent of Pavlov’s dog, infatuated with my friend Mekkah’s ketchup laden fries,  my thoughts drift back to my younger years.  When my relationship with food was cast in the annals of my psyche.  Food was and at times still is my constant companion, my lover, my friend, my enemy.

In processing my relationship with food with my therapist, my friends, and anyone else who’ll listen (thanks for reading in advance), I’ve stumbled upon some long forgotten stories that have helped me make sense of my strange love of food. I’ll share a few here.

Food as a the spoils of war.

To say my brother Curtis and I fought as children would be severely minimizing  the fact that he saw my birth as an official act war, an affront to his very existence.  Curtis’s disdain for me probably lay in the fact that he’d been the “baby” for five years before I brought my unexpected ass along.  Our battles varied in intensity, but there was no other area where the battle got quite as hot as when the source of conflict was The Cap’n.

exhibit A: The Cap’n

In our desperate need to get “crunchatized”(which I don’t think was even a term back then), we would outwit, steal, hide and any other unsavory act we had to commit.  Alas, I was often at the losing end of this battle, but there was one triumphant morning that me and Alteric (our brother from another mother) got the jump on Curtis the sleeping dragon.  We beat him to the freshly purchased box of Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries and proceeded to remove every crunch berry in the box.
Saturday morning  cartoons were funnier, the sun was shinier, and our bellies were stuffed  full of crunchaliscious crunch berries.  This state of rapture lasted for maybe thirty/forty minutes. When Curtis awoke to find a severely misshapen  box of Cap’n Crunch sans any sign of crunch berries save for tell-tale red dust, There was hell to pay.  Quite honestly, I forgot what happened. I think I blacked out. Hell,  I probably repressed it. If I had to guess, I’d say I got the natural hell beat out of me, then he probably turned his rage on Al, sitting on him and punching him in the chest until he ran home.  I still had the day though, and as you can tell I relish the victory to this day.

The Lesson:  Food obtained through violence, aggression, or Machiavellian scheming is the best kind.

Food as an analgesic.

It’s funny how other people remember your childhood.  When the facebook revolution began and I reconnected with some of the folks I went to school with, I kept hearing stories of how funny and well liked I was.   This was odd to me as I mostly remember feeling isolated, fat, unattractive, and picked on.

Exhibit B: Rosie c. 1990

One particular year of school, my 6th grade year, I had a falling out with a group of girls that had been my “friends”.  I was tormented for the entire year. I was called fat.  They talked about my hair and my clothes. They took “children can be so cruel” to new heights.  I spent most of that year feigning illness not to go to school, on the guidance counselor or nurse’s couch, and of course eating.

I would bolt home drop everything and head straight for the kitchen. Twinkies, Krimpets, Devil Dogs, Cereal (Cap’n or otherwise), pizza … essentially anything that wasn’t tied down, locked up.  After eating I always “felt” better.  None of the things I had endured that day mattered. My addict gene mutated that year, and became something that in my adulthood would nearly kill me.

As can be seen in the photo (taken only a year or two later), I’m wasn’t nearly as hideously fat and ugly as they made me feel or than I came to believe. I can’t say I lay any blame at the feet of the children who picked on me.  It could have very easily have been me on the giving end had the circumstances played out differently. I don’t hate them, but I do hate what the situation did to my relationship with food and essentially anything else that was pleasurable that allowed me to escape.

The Lesson:  You’d better not stop until you’ve eaten all your feelings young lady!

Food as the enemy.

I have the good fortune of having a great many food snobs in my life.  They challenge me (sometimes successfully) to experiment with new tastes and textures.  You see, my brother and I were and to some degree still are very bland eaters.* We barely did veggies, and while I would indulge in fruit fairly regularly that was about as far as it went.

Exhibit C: The Food Saboteurs!

Case in point:  My mother was a single working mom of four. She worked long hours during the week which left us on a lot of evenings popping tater tots or fish sticks in the oven and Steak Umm’s or other ‘easy’ foods, on the stove.  There were some occasions that Ma would get a wild hair and decide to fix us something “special”.  Curtis and I  had an “exit strategy” prepared for  these times: a strategically cut hole in the kitchen screen.  The undesirable food stuffs were simply shoveled out onto the grassy knoll outside our window.  No harm, no foul … that is until we were finally caught.

Ma, for some ungodly reason, decided that it would  be a great idea to prepare a tuna casserole.  The foreign smells had our guards up already.  We already knew what needed to be done.  Time came to sup, and before us sat generous portions of  Ma’s experimental meal.  We waited. Sifted forks around.  I even became brave enough to take a bite (either that or I’d been threatened. Can’t remember which.) Eventually the coast became clear and we proceeded to the window with our plates.  One after the other we scraped the ill fated casserole out of the covert slit.  Things would have went fine, except most of the casserole ended up on the window sill.

The next morning my mother was greeted by a swarm of pigeons devouring the meal we had so generously donated to them the night before.  Our cover was blown. Needless to say we never dared dispose of another meal in this manner.  We just found other ways. >:)

The Lesson: New food bad. Old food good.

Thirty-six years of practicing this and other kind of “bad” food behaviors can’t be undone overnight, but I’m working on it.  The hardest part I’d have to say is adding new food. My brain goes into resistance mode, and even when I manage my way through the meal, it tells me I’m not full :/.  Odd indeed, but I have managed to introduce some new items that I’ve found quite delightful like: Hummus and Sushi … the cooked kind. I’ll keep eating,  you keep reading (hopefully), and maybe one day I’ll be a certified food snob … MAYBE.

Rosie.

Exhibit D: In Gorton’s we trust!

 

 

 
*I’m gonna go ahead and say that my brother was probably the source of 85% of my hang ups with food. (Sorry Curtis, pero es verdad). 

Sisterhood of the Traveling Naps

As if conversations with strangers in public restrooms aren’t awkward enough…I, upon exiting the baptism via the power flush of the JetBlue toilets at JFK, am approached by woman reapplying her make up in the mirror. She has a burgeoning cropped blonde kinky afro. She gives me a knowing glance in the mirror. It’s coming…

“It’s good be a part of.”

Before I have time to contemplate what in the hell she’s referring to, she gave a kind of “wink-nod” at both our hair dos. “Oh.” I think, “This again. The whole…’natural thing’.” I give a slight grin, and a less than enthusiastic thumbs up, and exit.

Since I’m just chock full o’ confessions these days, I’ll make another one here. I hate combing my hair. I have ALWAYS hated combing my hair. It hurts. I am as my people say “tender headed”. I can remember crying myself into a case of the serious snots whenever it came time for my sister to braid my hair. My hair and I have always been quite rebellious. Kiddie perms, straightening combs could not, WOULD NOT hold us. Going natural was ultimately more my hair’s choice, than mine alone. Little did I know that my hair’s militancy would at long last lead me to become a member of an exclusive sorority…The Sister Hood of the Traveling Naps!

“But wait…you got that good hair.”

I will slap the shit out of the next person who says that to me! (Or at the very least give them a very stern talking too.) What quantifies good? The texture? I still can’t comb this shit (see above paragraph). My hair is what it is. Your hair is what it is. I’m a plus sized woman (doctors say I’m borderline morbidly obese). Should I walk up to thinner people and go:

“Dang, you got that good body!”

Me thinkest not. Human beings will always find SOMETHING to set themselves apart from one another. To make themselves special/different. Our newest fixation “the natural”. Like having a “natural” makes you instantly deep and meaningful. Natural hair care has alas become just as complicated as getting and maintaining relaxers. Hence my addiction to Shea Moisture products. All of this of course as wonderfully backwards as can be. There was a time in our history that the way we’re currently wearing our hair would be worthy of shame…and a tub full of pomade.

Now, while I do believe abstaining from chemical straightening and using natural products for your hair is absolutely wonderful, I don’t think it’s something “in crowds” should be built on. Let’s make “in crowds” that feed homeless people, or “in crowds” based on making our children stronger readers? Meh. We’d find away to fuck that up for our own egotistical purposes as well. Okay, so let’s just, between twist outs and deep conditionings of course, try to do something nice for someone else without anyone else knowing.

It’s just hair. When I embrace the weirdness of mine I feel better about myself; when I don’t I feel like shit about something that more than likely only I notice. Life is so much bigger than that.

So, as I apply my moisturisting mask and tie town my hair for the night. I will try to remember that I indeed am not my hair. I am the soul that lives within.

Rosie

Thanks India 😉

An admission, if you will.

I have a confession(s) to make. Well, let me start from the beginning, then lead into the confession(s). Maybe, that will make what I’m going to say easier. I’m a late bloomer. I’ve only began to find and nurture the creative side of myself over the last 10 years, and not consistently until 2005. As a child, and later teen, I was fairly average. Although I did go to an “alternative” school. I was never quite sure whether it was because I was genuinely some sort of child prodigy, or whether they were meeting their “black student” quota.

I was a sickly kinna kid. While out of school (and that was often by the by) I watched an obscene amount of public television. Fred Rogers was the higher power that I came to know and trust. In my tiny mind I actually had a personal relationship with him (see this blog post). I attribute much of what I did know in my early years to PBS, and to my credit, I probably was a bit of a bright egg. I’m sure it was part of the reason I qualified for the alternative schools I went to. On down the line though, I was quietly moved from the alternative program into regular ass high school.

I didn’t mind. I generally liked school, but I was by far no academic. My grades were quite average. During the first quarter of my freshman year; they were well below average. Yes. I’d become Jane B. Student. I drifted along barely maintaining a C average with little or no extracurricular activities and no nudge in the right (or any) direction from the adults in my life. Before I go on, I must say that I don’t wish to play the blame game here (well I do a little, but I’ll get to that). There was just my mom and 4 children in the 80s-90s in a housing project in North Jersey. I’m sure much of her aim was to get us to adulthood alive with at minimum  a high school diploma. This she did achieve. My guidance councilor however, Ms. Gary, was about as useless as you could get.

Ms. Gary was always one slice of triple chocolate cake away from a massive coronary. She defied death daily with her snack times and 1+ hour-long lunches. She spoke as a pig with a sinus condition might. I’m not quite sure how she got the gig of guiding the young and tender minds of the future. Sadly, I’m not so sure guidance councilors are much better today.

Well, anyway, I had the traumatic experience of having to find out through my over achieving brother who at that time wore the title of ” the-only-college-graduate-in-the-family”,  that I should have “gotten off my ass and gotten some college applications in” (and that was the kinder gentler remix). Needless to say after the verbal assault and battery I endured, I was in Ms. Gary’s office quicker than you could say “chocolate cake”.

“Ms. Gary, my brother thinks I should have applied to college by now.”

heavy nasally breathing followed by food consumption.

“Oh. Isssok. Hyou cah go ta community collegesh.”

“Huh?”

(No, the idea of community college had never occurred to me.)

“Myeah (takes another bite) isss the same two yeahz. I’m headed to lunch…”

(“Oh” I thought, “This was just a snack?”)

“…hyou nee anything elsess?”

“N-no?”

That lie caused me to waste two good years of the tax payers hard earned money on classes I never needed for a major I never pursued.  Eventually I moved south, squandered more tax payer money, got  pregnant, and realized I needed to really get serious about what I wanted to do with my life or become my own ghetto doppelganger. I went to school for real, came out with a practical career as a respiratory therapist.

In the midst of all this education, I rediscovered a love for writing that had sparked when I was in the 11th grade, but my focus, was the kid (men and alcohol ranked pretty high for a while as well.) I got it together eventually, then realized a painful truth…

***this is me getting to the point, pay attention***

As much as I love writing, as much as I love art, and artists.  I’ve never felt well read or cultured enough to be considered a “real” writer.  Anti-climactic to you? For me its plain humiliating at times. I have a fairly intellectual set of friends. I have to admit, at times, I feel like they’re  talking over my head. They’re either talking about things I never quite got around to learning about,  books I never got around to reading, music I never got around to hearing. I feel awkward and embarrassed when entire Facebook comment strings run on into infinity about a topic that I am mute to speak of. I squirm. My humiliation grows.  I avoid social media and dive into the self perceived mundaness of my existence, until something I can relate to comes up, then I reconstitute back into my witty online persona.

This, cultural retardation(?), has also contributed to the birth of a wee inferiority complex troll that dwells in the middle of my self (possibly behind my solar plexus chakra). It exists to make me feel like shit every time I’m around folks who I deem to be somehow intellectually/culturally superior to me. I wrestle with him when I find myself in situations.

I try to talk against its’ nagging little voice:

“Stacey, you’re fine.  They’re people just like you. You’re okay, they’re okay.”

(nervous laughter)

When that shit doesn’t work, I resort to grammar school tactics.  I make myself feel some how superior by picking apart their intellectual validity when or if the opportunity presents itself:

“What an idiot? He used “moot” when it should have been “mute”. How’d he get out of high school, jeez!”

If neither of these work, if I can’t bare the feeling of that fucking troll walking up and down my fragile little ego, then I seek comfort in vices.  Thankfully today they do not include drugs or alcohol, but I do have to confess that I am guilty of Netflixing until I pass out or I feel my eyeballs melting. *Feelings your judgmental gaze*

Granted, this is not some horrible physical affliction from which I suffer.  It’s actually on some levels pretty shallow considering there are people who live deeply meaningful lives having never been educated past elementary school. So in some respects I need to get over myself and go read a fucking book if I want to be able to hold proper dinner conversation (whatever in the hell that means.) On another level though, I have to stop comparing my insides to other people’s outsides. I’m valuable. Period. If I never read another book. Listen to another note of new music, my life is and has been meaningful.

So what I never got the push some kids got. I never read or went where some kids went. I was  fortunate enough to get a very good education that put me on the road to being a  writer. I was fortunate enough to have a mother that set an example that did not reflect the others I saw around me. I’m good right where I am. I will stop (eventually) allowing my lack of knowledge about a topic keep me too embarrassed to ask questions for fear of looking: stupid, uneducated, not in the “loop”, unhip or simply S-Q-U-A-R-E.  I will (eventually) learn to determine if really even want to know about a topic or if  my desire to know is based in a desire to be accepted. Then act accordingly.

Ok. Cats out of the bag. I kinda feel better now, :). I hope someone besides me finds this useful.

Stacey Rose

(Rosie’s off-line identity.)

A Lesson in Watermelon Consumption.

Yesterday Afternoon:

I’m at a patient’s house.  She is polite and southern. I am…well I’m a Jersey girl.  Anyway, I walk into her home and I am welcomed…I mean REALLY welcomed. Greetings are had and I sit down for the business for which I came.  I’m digging her so far. Sweet woman, a lil on the saccharine side, but she means well. Then she begins her story:

“If you smile, the whole world will smile with you.”

I humbly agreed. It’s true. Optimism is awesome.  I smiled, trying to stay on track as I am already way behind and the heat is beginning to make my head swim a little.

“I was at a restaurant one day, and a small lil’ white man behind me said ‘You have got the most beautiful smile!'”

Red flag! I have “a shit ton” of experience in conversations like the one that was getting ready to go down. That experience has taught me that 9.5 times out of 10 when people begin to identify skin colors during anecdotes it’s a segue  into “inadvertent” racist land. We were going there, and we would have having lunch with the mayor.

“A tall black man in front of me in the line paid for my lunch.”

She grinned.

I wanted so badly for her to stop.

“When I got all my stuff I walked right up to him and said. ‘Well, since you bought my lunch, I’ll sit here and eat with you if you don’t mind.'”

The remainder of her story is a bit of a blur. Something about him working on a golf course as a caddy and he’s in his 60s. There were sepia toned pictures of lunch counter sit-ins dancing through my mind. The slide show ended just in time for me to hear her say:

“They gave him two huge slices of watermelon, and he says to me ‘I’d like you to share this with me.'”

I died a little. It wasn’t over.

“Yes, that was a great experience for me. My neighborhood is multi-cul…what do you prefer to be called?”

“Black?”

I whimper.

Why is this happening?

“I’m part Cherokee Indian.”

If I could kill her legally, I would.

“You should bring your kids over here.”

Kids?! She’s assuming I have kidS plural! And that I would dare bring said children to her home!  I’m done. I block out anything and everything she says and shot gun through paperwork as she goes on about giving the neighborhood coloreds rides to the store and the lil nigglets calling her Grandma.  Well, I don’t know if she actually said “coloreds” or “nigglets” but it’s what I heard.

Okay, so she’s probably slightly crazy, and her case is a little extreme, but sadly I’ve had conversations like these with perfectly sane white folk. Why does it happen? I’m not sure. My best guess? It’s that unspoken residual racial awkwardness that we as a society continue to refuse to deal with.  The preconceived notions that we all carry about race and racial identity. If you feel the need to prove that you’re not prejudiced, then you might want to take a look at the fact that you might be.

This does not instantly make you a monster, it just makes you a product of the society you were born into. We are all given information by our parents, by society, whomever, that we use to get us through life.  There comes a time that we have to reassess, look honestly at that information, and determine whether or not that information is still useful to us.  Process that shit, work it out, let it go, and stop assuming I got a house full’a pickaninney’s I’m just dying to bring to your house!

Ok. Alright. I know she’ll never read this. So I’m digressing.

Rosie.