Saturday, February 03, 2007

Weight a minute

Back on December 19th of last year, I wrote a post that I put up for about five minutes and then took right down. I was really sick at the time, and I got convinced that I'd written it out of some kind of fever-induced rant. My sidekick had read it and was strangely silent about it. When I encouraged him to explain his reaction, he said that it was such a different tone from everything else I'd written, it might seem out of place. Ok. That seemed fair. And I was so sick, I couldn't really think it through any further than that.

But reading Crazy Aunt Purl's posts recently, it made me realize posting this made/makes all the sense in the world. You know, at a minimum, to add to the dialogue.

Here's to Crazy Aunt Purl. May we all continue to speak up for what's right.

*********

I like to think of myself as a person who's pretty bright. Pretty on top of things. Pretty much, you can't really pull one over on me. Oh, yeah. I'm all that.

But then there've been times where I've felt so tricked by the ways of the world that I've wanted to crawl under the covers and never come out. One was the time someone pointed out that the peach-colored crayon being called "flesh" was inherently racist and feeling like a complete tool that that had never occurred to me. And the other time was when I heard that riddle: A father and his son are in an accident. They are rushed to the ER and the boy needs surgery. The surgeon looks at the boy and says, "I can't operate on this boy. He's my son." How can that be? And I didn't ever get to the point that I figured it out. The person asking the riddle had to tell me it was because the surgeon was the boy's mother. Damn. That shit was deep. And embarrassing. (By the way, this was all quite a long time ago. Just for the record.)

And then there was this set of tricksy, bad ideas:

Here, here stand on this machine. It's awesome! Stand on it! Watch! It's gonna give you a number. And it's not just a number. No, siree! It's a number that tells you all about what kind of person you are! Like it'll tell you if you're disciplined or lazy, in control or out of control, etc.!! It's like magic! The lower the number, the better a person you are. Isn't that awesome?! Oh! And there's no number that's too low! The other thing you can do is repeat that number over and over again in your head, and it'll help you know what you should be doing with your life -- like not eating food, getting some friends together to not eat food and talk about not eating food, and focusing on all the ways you can lower that number, including constantly surveying all your body parts to see which ones are too big. It's a really great machine! This number tells you a lot. You should let it run your life in every way. Let it be your beacon.

Many years ago, the WWNSMW/B-SNAK told me, "Unless you're a baby or have a legitimate medical reason to be weighed, there's no reason you need to get weighed every time you go to the doctor. It's not like they need to see if you're failing to thrive." This was another of those crayon/surgeon moments. If the doctor's office insists on weighing her, she stands facing away from the numbers and asks the person doing the weighing not to tell her the number.

I've been following her lead on this for years now. Sometimes I'm at the doctor for just a check-up. Sometimes, like today, I'm there because I'm sick. Not feeling well. Not my usual self. But, I don't ever get confused about this scale thing.

Woman in the Scrubs: Ok. Just step on the scale here. Let me get your weight.

I put my purse down, kick off the clogs I'm wearing, and face away from the numbers. The woman giggles. Like this is cute that I'm facing the wrong way.

Me: (quite seriously) I don't want to know the number.
Scrubs: (still a little giggly) Oh. OK.

Click, click, clack. She moves the metal pieces behind me on the scale. This takes about 3 seconds. THREE seconds from the time I say I don't want to know the number to the time she says the number out loud, in my ear, matter-of-fact. Not like to herself so she'll remember it when she goes to write it down. Like just full-voice, out loud like, "Here's your weight!"

I clench both my fists, cock my head to the side, and scrunch up my mouth and say, "I really didn't want to know the number."

Scrubs: (still too chipper) Oh. I'm sorry.
Me: (seething)
Scrubs: (realizing she just fucked up) Oh, it's just a habit. You know, it just happens. It's a habit. I didn't mean to... it's a habit.

Yup. It's a habit. No one even pays attention to it anymore. It's just built in and incredibly influential. That machine, its number, and all that goes with it take you completely out of your actual relationship with your body and with food, and into a relationship of self-scrutiny. If I were a woman with an eating disorder, if I had any history of problems with anorexia or bulimia, just hearing that number could send me into a series of life-threatening behaviors. Life-threatening. No joke.

As it is, it's already had a ridiculous effect on me. It's is echoing in my head, almost non-stop.

My thoughts: {That number} {Number again} I should've been clearer with the scrubs lady. I should've said, "You're gonna be tempted to say the number {number} out loud. Don't say it out loud. I don't want to know it. {Number} You can write it down, but don't say it." {Number}

I'm not crazy. I've just been raised in a culture ruled by that machine and the habits associated with that machine.

Oh, but hey! You know what I want for Christmas? I want to know what happens when you step on the scale backwards. Next time you're at the doctor, test it out. And let me know what happens. Nothing would please me more. {Number}

11 comments:

Kristy said...

Bravo and three cheers for you!

This is a brilliant post. Thank you for posting it. You have an exquisite, insightful voice and I'm glad you were persuaded to post this honest, articulate post.

And furthermore, a big hurray for you for not wanting to know that number.

The Calico Cat said...

FYI I just quoted you on my blog... (I hyper-linked you too...)

Very right in the middle of my brain right now!

kim said...

Thank you so much for posting this. The first time you posted, my webcrawler found the first line, but when I went to read more, it was gone. Gone! I thought I must surely have missed something and continued to check back periodically. Who could possibly have pulled one over on Dr. B?, I wondered. Great post. Seriously.

I gained two pounds over the holidays, and I've convinced myself that I am not only fat, but I'm not aging well either. It has totally ruined my self esteem. In fact, my doctor commented, "You know, I'll bet those dogs could use a walk too. It wouldn't kill you."

Both you and Aunt Purl rock.

tiennie said...

Great post. I'm glad you put it back up. I think the Yarn Harlot has said that your blog is like your living room. You invite us in and can share anything you want with us so blog away!

Nano said...

I couldn't have said it better. No, really... I couldn't. I'm glad you posted this. And kudos to Aunt Pearl!

Nano said...

Jeez... I hate typing and the thoughts that twirl in my head faster than I could ever type.
Of course I meant Aunt PURL! I probably shouldn't go back and read my posts, but ego you know.

alib said...

You rock. I know your sidekick had your best interest at heart but I think this post adds breadth and diversity to your blog... yessiree folks--this is a place to come for many things, not the dominant worldview that 'everyone (every post) should look the same'. Its blather magather, emphasis on the 'gather' :-) you can ALL come here....

and as I am sure I have told you, I have had that exact thing happen to me. It is amazing--as you said, so natural to just say it out loud.... somehow BOTH as if it is something everyone must know/the most relevant thing to your personhood--and as if it has no meaning at all-- cough-bullshit!!
The whole thing makes you dizzy.

You gotta write a book Miss L. I'll be the first person in line...

mue said...

Thank you for this. I agree with alib - a book from you would be a wonderful thing. I would buy several copies and give some away.

Anonymous said...

plug your ears is the answer to the riddle

vt said...

I'm so glad you posted that. It's awesome and a good reminder to all of us. If I think about it, I already KNOW all the stuff you said. But do I hold onto it? Every day? It's really hard, what with all the billboards, adds, diet foods, and other guilt-provoking nonsense we're bombarded with. So thank you. I'm having a hectic day and reading that was a nice reminder of values and human-ness.

Imaginary Maggie said...

A good friend of mine is (mostly) recovered from Anorexia. She got married and got pregnant with her first child, and the doctor forced her to get weighed at her appointments. She sternly told everyone in the office that she could NOT be told her weight, for the sake of the health of the baby, and stepped on the scale backwards. She stared at the nurse sternly, and the nurse wisely did NOT say her weight out loud. Ever.

I guess they are trainable.