Friday, July 16, 2010


I have certain fantasies about... everything. Part and parcel of being a writer, I think-- an overactive imagination that contrives a world wholly different than the one I'm living in.

One of the biggest questions I deal with on both a personal and an artistic level concerns the True Self: Is the real me the one I am right now, or the one I desperately want to be?

I often think that this Aspirational Self has her work cut out for her, though. She's going to join the gym (and actually go) and manage her savings better and get that fabulous job that will help pave the way to future creative and literary successes. She's together, drinks her coffee black, and she buys locally grown and organic foods, and she has really good posture, and she has an IRA, and she's effortless and lovely and charming and she dresses really well and clothes fit her really well (because she's been going to the gym, see) and she's probably about six inches taller.

I'm willing to admit that there are certain qualities to the Aspirational Self that will have to remain Aspirational. I've seen that Grey's Anatomy episode where the guy got steel bone implants to be taller, and it was not a pretty picture or something that I'm interested in pursuing.

But I'm sure that some of the other stuff I can be really good at. I'm confident! I'm already taking steps-- I use the reusable grocery bags, and I have a subscription to National Geographic.

Actual Self is kind of lame, sometimes, I think. She gets angry at word documents a lot, and likes to slack off in her writing (like, uh, right now). Lean Pockets are a dietary staple, and she doesn't always do the dishes before going to bed, and she tends to slouch, no matter how much her mother raps her between the shoulders.

Maybe part of this is just being a girl. I'm well aware of the many messages in the world that tell me what I Am Supposed To Be As A Woman. I'm supposed to look a certain way without looking like I'm trying to look that way. I'm supposed to be independent, and yet completely concerned with weddings and babies. I'm supposed to keep a clean house, but again, not have to look like I'm trying.

I'm not supposed to be hungry.

Here's where the blog is going to take a slight detour, because I've been thinking about this a lot, and I take issue with the idea of Female Hunger in the world.

I have this thing called a stomach. It's an organ, and a fairly important one. It's where food goes. And, please correct me if I'm wrong, I have a feeling that not all women have one of these.

Hunger seems to be one of the great Female Weaknesses in the world. Boys are allowed to be hungry-- we expect that and build whole marketing strategies around the idea that Boys Eat. But women aren't allowed to be hungry. I can personally attest to feelings of guilt and shame when thinking or saying aloud, "I need food."

What a fatty, my brain says. My gut says. Don't you have any discipline? Don't you have a small and tiny and prettily feminine enough body that a cup of coffee and a bowl of Airy Woman Flakes for breakfast is enough to last you until you sneak that chocolate chip cookie at 8 in the evening?

One of my characters, Never, rebels against this idea. She hides food in her pockets.

"It's not hard to spot you sneaking in the halls, Never," said Casca. "Especially by the kitchens."
"Why's that?" she asked.
"You're the one with the handful of olives or a pot of jam, naturally," said Gideon. 
"You can't eat just a pot full of jam, thank you," Never said, and then she put a grape into her mouth. "You need something to put it on." 

Somehow this all stemmed from the Actual vs. Aspirational Self discussion. Right, because I can't tell if the Aspirational Self is something that I created, that I truly want, or if it's something that I've been told I should be.

Though I do think that there are only three things that I would change about myself if I could: I would eat more fresh and local things, I would sit up straighter, and I would become a personal financial maven. And then I would be perfect and my life would be entirely enviable and I would rule the world.

Okay. The last part will only happen if I can grow six more inches.


Rachel Stark said...

Spot on, I think. And Caroline Knapp has an excellent book on the topic called Appetites: What Women Want. Its basic premise is that most of the oppressions of women in society are in some way an assertion of the idea that women should not be allowed to want -- whether that desire is for food, objects, or power.

On a lighter note, I totally think you're on your way!

Rachel Stark said...

Oh, I meant to link you to the book. Here you go: