Prickly Things

I’m trying to read the collected short stories of Angela Carter and I’m embarrassed to say that I just can’t get into it. This is why I’m always suspicious of the “women are this way, men are that way” stuff, as if there’s some universal experience of womanhood that men just can’t share. I think that there’s a tension between knowing, intrinsically, what your gender is (even if your body doesn’t match) and the idea that sharing a gender means some kind of shared set of experiences.

I don’t know, for instance, what it’s like to hate my mom or feel in competition with her–not as an adult, which is one set of things, but I mean, as a stage in a woman’s development, which seems to be very common. My mom and I were never at major odds with each other. I sometimes felt like she didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand her, but it was never tinged with the undercurrent of betrayal I hear so many women talk about.

I also don’t have sisters and I know I don’t have some basic sense of that relationship.

And there’s something about Angela Carter’s worlds that I feel not quite able to access, some knowledge about or shared assumptions about women I just don’t have access to.

I had a strange trip to the endocrinologist on Friday, along with everything else. I think everything’s fine, the doctor thinks everything’s fine, but it’s just a reminder that the relationship between what I eat and what I weigh is still weirdly fucked. Apparently I lost fifteen pounds since I went to the gynecologist a month ago and I’m the lightest I’ve been since I started seeing the endocrinologist. I haven’t been doing anything different–not eating better, not exercising more, nothing. So, there was the weird moment when he’s all “Good job! What have you been doing?” “Um, Dairy Queen?” “What?” “I mean, nothing. Nothing different.” Long pause, concerned, wrinkled brow. “Okay, well, you look good, so let’s not worry. You’re not having any other health problems?” “No, I feel fine.” “Okay, I really think this is fine. Nothing to worry about. I’m going to run this extra blood test, though, just in case.”

I don’t feel any different than usual. Nor do I think I look any different. So, I’m trying not to put too much stock in it–either as a good thing or as a bad thing.

But it’s funny how those old weight-loss scripts come back to you, like “Oh, what I’m doing is working! I will keep doing that and more!!!! Then I will be thin and pretty and everyone will love me!!!” I mean, I know better than that crap and I still, oh, I still was like “Well, if I could do that in a month, think of what I could do if I was really trying!” But I wasn’t only kind of trying, you know? I wasn’t trying at all. I was eating the same as I always eat. Get two cookies with your Jimmy John’s sandwich and promise yourself you’re going to save the second one for later in the afternoon or maybe tomorrow, but eat it anyway? That’s my  big secret?

No, I think the big secret is that my metabolism is still deeply fucked and though the metformin makes me feel a ton better and stuff, it hasn’t fixed anything. What goes in is still weirdly disconnected from what goes on in my body. Well, not disconnected. But the connection is not as straight forward.  And won’t ever be.

It’s funny, and kind of embarrassing, so I’m going to stick this way down here at the end where no one ever reads. But the truth is that, while I got that the PCOS means that, while it was uncontrolled, I really was eating normally or dieting and still gaining weight. And I accepted that, as long as that was screwed up, I didn’t really have that much control (if any) over what I weighed.

But I’ve been harboring this dark fantasy that, eventually, everything would be straightened out and my weight would be a direct reflection of my status as sinner, as over-indulgent and excessive and undisciplined. That I finally would be deserving of the “no man will ever love you if you don’t get your weight under control” bullshit. Isn’t that weird? I wanted it to finally be true–that this was something that did reflect on my willingness (or not) to do what it takes to deserve love. Maybe “wanted” is wrong. Maybe “want.”

I don’t want someone I love to have said such shitty untrue things about me. I would prefer, a million times over, to believe instead, that he said such a shitty thing to me, repeatedly, because it was true and it was something I was deliberately failing at.

And maybe, a little bit, I thought that day was coming–when I could know with confidence that I controlled how big my body is, and thus I have earned every bit of derision or lust it inspires.

But, I really don’t. Even now. This many years into the metformin. I still try to eat as well as I can and I have two cookies more than I should, and the body does what it does. As always, the animal and I are not in perfect alignment, just compromising under the illusion that we–it and I–are, and are only I.


2 thoughts on “Prickly Things

  1. That last sentence is shivery gorgeous. But the weight-loss scripts as Redemption and as knee-jerk reaction to thinking you might control your weight and corral your body into socially acceptable thinness even though you know so much better–Oh god yes. Eating disorders are similar. Something external that is really internal, but eventually will shatter the illusion that you, the brain, control you, the sinew and guts and meat.

    I loved Angela Carter-but haven’t re-read her for a long time now. In fact, I loved her so much that i got my hardback copy of Burning Our Boats in trade from Davis Kidd for doing a kids’ story hour reading of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats while dressed up in a mall-knock-off Cats costume. Um, yeah. Maybe try reading Nights at the Circus or the book about the twins? She does better novels than short stories.

  2. I’m honestly wondering if I might not like her better in the fall. I know that’s kind of strange, but some art is really weather related for me. Like Madonna’s “Ray of Light’ is not a song I like at any time other than right now–when it’s bright and hot and it somehow makes that song the best thing ever recorded.

    I wonder if Carter might need the hint of winter for me. Maybe I’m just unabashedly going to set her aside until September.

    That’s something I hadn’t really considered about eating disorders, but i have to thank you for bringing it up, because it kind of clicks into place a couple of things about the that I hadn’t really got.

    But yes, if it does go back to the animal not falling in line with the brain, I feel like I have a place, not just of sympathy, but of real empathy. I don’t know what it’s like to have the animal decide it can’t eat, but I know what it’s like to feel like the animal is not quite under my control.

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