Friday, December 15, 2006

Eat a Cheeseburger Yourself, Jackass

Lately, I've been thinking about bodies.

Let me explain. The other night, I was working late, with the oldies station playing in the background. The DJ came on and announced that Nicole Richie had been arrested for DUI, and that she had a height of 5'1" and weighed 85 pounds. The DJ then proceeded with one of those "eat a sandwich/cheeseburger/other food" jokes that are never half as funny as the teller seems to think they are.

And that's what got me thinking. Why does this guy feel it's ok to have a negative opinion about a complete stranger's body? Particularly if it's a thin person's body? Why are women's bodies considered public property in America? Men simply don't undergo that level of scrutiny.

My experience in Colombia was different, but no less bizarre. Women there are in love with plastic surgery, and seem to take it as casually as American women treat hair dye. Looks were paramount, and there was no shame in getting a bit of work done. Several of my girlfriends were sliced, diced, and repackaged during their time in Bogota. Several shopgirls out-and-out told me to undergo a breast enhancement (which would make me resemble two bowling balls strapped to a two-by-four.)

Bosnia, by comparison, was a tremendous relief. I don't recall anyone mentioning plastic surgery, or even discussing their bodies at all. Which might be why I find America's relationship with women's bodies so weird. It was a big shock to come back to.

First off, women can't win in this country. One week in the supermarket checkstand, there was a tabloid featuring famous-yet-pudgy women in swimsuits, with all sorts of mocking headlines. Down with Fatties! The very next week, there was a photo essay titled "Way Too Skinny!" Look at the Freaks! What an odd message: if you do what Hollywood tells you, you're instantly grotesque. If you don't, you're merely ugly.

Second, and even weirder, women's bodies are regarded as public property. This is especially true for slim women. Why do I know that Ellen Pompeo is 5'9" and wears a size 0? I can barely remember what show she's on. Why do women I barely know ask me what my dress size is, or what I weigh? Sometimes, they even make guesses! Why is that anyone's business but mine? I am always tempted to guess their dress size in return. "So, you're about a 14?" But, of course, if someone is plus-size, their weight is this huge taboo.

All of this brings me back to Nicole Richie. Why are a two-bit socialite reality star's eating habits so important? Leave the poor girl alone. Let's make "eat a cheeseburger" jokes as taboo as "fat jokes".

Confidential to Trish - hey girl, I'm updating more often for ya. Happy Hanukkah!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

So Long, and Thanks for All the 2006

I’ve been thinking about gratitude a lot lately. Maybe it’s because of Thanksgiving. But I doubt that, since I never celebrated Thanksgiving growing up (when you were raised by an Australian and a Cherokee, the Pilgrims just aren’t that big a deal). I think it’s because we’re coming up to the end of 2006, which on paper is the worst year I’ve ever had: I got divorced, moved back to D.C., had to start my life over from scratch, find a job, and keep my kidneys from killing me. Plus, I went to see Marie Antoinette, and there’s two and a half hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

But, in a strange way, 2006 has also been the best year of my life. I’ve always said that change doesn’t come cheap. I have a fresh slate and a new life, and I even entered a new decade (I turned 30 in November). I gave up a lot of things, and got a lot more in return. So, to close out 2006, I’d like to talk about all of the things I’m grateful for:

I’ll start with my friends, who I also consider my family. You never know who your real friends are until you go through hell. My gang loves and supports me, even when they don’t necessarily agree with me. I always know if I’m living right or screwing up, or even if my outfit is a bit on the frumpy side. I have a wide assortment of people I can nurture and annoy, which I love to do. And let’s not forget my sister, who always comes up with something kind to say (even if it’s, “Take care of your kidneys. You can’t have mine!”)

Then there’s the basic stuff. I have a job with health insurance, a roof over my head, and food to eat.

But then there’s the petty stuff: Flexcar. Good posture. Gerbera daisies. Newspaper home delivery, high-dose antibiotics, beer nuts, Lean Pockets, bargain shopping, hair dye, chivalry (bonus points for knowing which side of the sidewalk to walk on), matinees, mousse with leave-in conditioner, Yeungling, cheeseburgers, and the ability to run in heels.

And there’s everything I shouldn’t be grateful for. I’m glad that I don’t have a lot of money, because I enjoy living simply. I like beer, cheeseburgers and a decent jukebox much more than I’ve ever liked fancy dinners with multiple forks. I’m glad I got so sick, because I’ve learned to take better care of myself. And, oddly, being divorced is awesome. Once you break out the D-word, you’ll know right away if the person you’re speaking to is cool…or a judgmental freak. It’s a handy B.S. detector. Also, it means that no one ever pesters me about when I’m getting married.

Last of all, I’m grateful that I’ve survived the last year with my karma intact. Sometimes it takes a bad year to bring out the best in you, and I think I passed the test.

So, have a merry Christmas, Festivus, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, and I’ll write again soon.