Archive for May, 2006

Day Six? Review of Appetites

Gender, Random, Sex & Sexuality No Comments »

I have both a good excuse and a poor excuse for not updating my site in a few days—the good excuse is that my web developer left town for the long weekend, leaving me high and dry when it came to posting my entries. Someday, my goal is to learn how to do it on my own. The poor excuse is that since I knew no one would be reading my entries this weekend, I didn’t write any at all—d’oh! 

However, my weekend was not a complete waste. I spent some quality time with myself, planning my seemingly chaotic life for the next 2 ½ years as I endeavor through grad school. Class starts in less than two days and I am feeling that combination of utter excitement and pending anxiety that always precedes something new in my life. I was also aware of blending in some fun time for myself, which I spent by hanging out with Liz and Susan, reading a few good books, and partaking in a bit of jewelry making. 

One of the books I finished was Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp. Wow. What an amazing combination of personal memoirs and psychology around women and their various vices around the topics of hunger and appetite. As I mentioned before, Knapp passed away a few years ago (right after the book was published) at a rather young age. I am so sad for her family, but also for women in general—I can only imagine what other pieces she would have put together in the future. 

The basic premise of the book, which is also covered by feminist writers such as Naomi Wolf, is that issues around hunger such as body image, anorexia, bulimia, calorie counting, binge eating, and exercise distract women from the bigger hungers in their lives such as career goals, intellectual pursuits, healthy relationships, and a fulfilling sense of sexuality. As she says on page 52, “The great anxious focus on the minutiae of appetite—on calories and portion size and what’s going into the body versus what’s been expended, on shoes and hair and abs of steel—keeps the larger, more fearsome questions of desire blurred and out of focus.” 

While this may seem like a tired topic, I found that Knapp really took the time to research and delve deeper into the meanings behind women’s appetites by studying a few distinct topics—women and culture, mother/daughter relationships, sexuality, and overall body image. She also tied her research into mini-stories and examples from women who were willing to share their stories about their appetites. 

I particularly enjoyed her views on female sexuality and our “missing discourse of desire,” which describes how females are taught all about the mechanical and scientific aspects of sexuality but never about the emotional or pleasurable parts. This is why many girls grow into adult women who have no idea how to orgasm and partake in sex because that is what sexuality means to them—someone finding them attractive enough to take them to bed. Particularly in my career, I meet many women who admit to not enjoying sex or not feeling attractive enough to pursue their own happiness. 

Besides those sections, I also read quite a few passages that really resounded with me on a more personal level—particularly the chapter around family, motherhood, and how personal and family expectations can differ greatly.

Day Five–Bird Flu Woes

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So I was enjoying my senior managers meeting at work the other day when our Director of Counseling pulled out a pile of paperwork about pandemic flu planning. It is a surreal and frightening experience to sit with co-workers and brainstorm who will run which departments if people fall ill or pass away. Someone said that they watched an episode of Dateline that stated that the first wave of pandemic flu would attack younger adults. Great. Get the girl with asthma first! As you can imagine, I am absolute last on the list of people to oversee the agency, because it will hopefully give me enough time to recover from the flu, then run the show once I’m immune. I am so torn between thinking this is another scare tactic by the government/media and preparing for quarantine in my apartment for up to 8 weeks at a time. 

I look at my own financial situation, as part of a couple and as a fairly privileged and educated woman, and realize that it is difficult to find the money to purchase extra food, first aid supplies, toiletries, prescription medications, etc. in case of an emergency. We are trying to purchase an extra box of aspirin here and a few cans of tuna there, but it is still a daunting task. And where do we put all of this stuff, if we can afford to buy it? Then I think about my clients and how they struggle, with the help of our programs and others, to make every dollar stretch to feed and cloth and provide medical coverage for their families. If the avian flu (or any other disaster, biological or otherwise) hits this country, there will be such a horrific gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.


Day Four–DaVinci Code

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Minus the fact that we didn’t encounter any religious protesters (bummer), The Da Vinci Code was quite enjoyable but not as interesting as the book. In all honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever found a film that is more enjoyable than the original text. It must be the bibliophile in me. 

I think Ron Howard did an exceptionally good job directing, especially at brining out the action-packed portions of the story while also keeping the most important historical and religious lessons in the mix. Without giving too much away, the very last scene was rather moving. He also made some wise casting decisions. I was very excited that Jean Reno, a talented French actor, made it into the film as Captain Fache. If you are not familiar with Jean Reno, I demand that you immediately rent The Professional (Leon) or Wasabi! His acting is superb in these English language films, but he was even more impressive speaking his native tongue in the film last night. And who can resist Ian McKellen? 

Out of all of the components of the film, I was least impressed with Tom Hanks as the main character—and I’m not talking about his greasy mop of hair. I am almost always impressed with his acting, but I left the cinema last night saying “eh.” When I read The Da Vinci Code, I had a stronger character in my mind for Robert Langdon—someone who seemed to have a little more academic and spiritual depth. 

Oh, and back to the topic of religious protesters. The fourteen-year-old girl manning the ticket counter got really excited when we asked if there had been any religious protests at that particular theater. She said that some people had tried to stage a protest, but that her manager told them they would have to leave immediately “or be arrested on the spot!” If only all people could be that excited about their places of employment.

Day Three–Crappy

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Wow, talk about a complete turn around in less than 24 hours! As the title implies, I had a rather miserable day—mostly thanks to events at work that make me cranky. Tomorrow is another collection of crankiness—seven meetings (yes, I said seven) over the span of ten hours. And one of those meetings may include up to 50 teenagers. Save me! 

On a more positive note, I will probably be catching The DaVinci Code tomorrow night—if I can make it into the theater without encountering a religious brouhaha. I read the book a few years ago, and I can honestly say that I don’t understand the uproar over this. It is a piece of fiction! I could maybe understand if Dan Brown wrote a non-fiction book uncovering the mysteries of the Catholic church; but I think people can find something better to protest than a fictitious story. I’ll post my review tomorrow night.

Day Two–A Perfect Kind of Day

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I had an absolutely fantastic day because I finally gave myself enough time to visit Borders to read dozens of magazines at once. My coffee (the new raspberry mocha freeze) earned two thumbs way down, but I really enjoyed the magazines. I caught up on this month’s issues of Mother Jones, Self, Boston, Everyday with Rachael Ray, Bust, Ms., Writer’s Digest, Real Simple, Psychology Today, Curve, Utne Reader, Yoga Journal, and several bead magazines. Even though I really wanted to purchase Mary Pipher’s new book on writing for social change, I walked out purchasing only two magazines—Boston because the issue includes a lengthy feature on home buying in the Boston area and Everyday with Rachael Ray because I want to make almost every recipe I read! 

When I returned from Borders, I decided to get a little domestic in order to prevent a backlog of chores during the workweek. I chopped up all my fresh veggies and fruit, and cooked tandoori chicken, low fat tuna casserole, grilled zucchini, and barbeque chicken pita pizzas. Hopefully this food can last through Thursday at least. 

I have also started reading Caroline Knapp’s Appetites: Why Women Want. I’m only on the first chapter, but I have already highlighted the hell out of it. Knapp tells the story of her own struggles with anorexia, unnamed hunger that many women experience within, and society’s messages about women and beauty. So far, it’s an excellent read. Unfortunately, the author died before the book was published.

A Challenge to Myself

Gender, Pop Culture, Writing 1 Comment »

So I’ve become increasingly upset with myself for not keeping up with this website more often. This should be a vessel for me to practice my writing skills and I seem to have lost sight of my goals as a writer. In an attempt to end the laziness, I am going to challenge myself to thirty days of entries in a row. Yes, that’s right—thirty days in a row. I believe that if I accomplish this, I will have populated this site with more entries than the previous year combined.

I just finished reading Wally Lamb’s I Couldn’t Keep It To Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters. For a few years now, Lamb has taught creative writing classes to the women of the York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut. I was intrigued about reading this book for several reasons, including: 1. The fact that I love Wally Lamb’s writing. For those of you who aren’t familiar with his novels, I would suggest She’s Come Undone and a rather super sized box of tissues. 2. The York Correctional Institution is right down the road from my future father-in-law’s bookstore. I’ve driven by the facility many times and have wondered what it must be like to live there. 3. Because of my work at a non-profit organization, I have constant contact with adult women who have been previously incarcerated and also with youth who may be headed towards prison in their future.

The stories in this book, all but one by the prisoners, are equally insightful and heart wrenching. Although the media always mentions the strong correlation between female prisoners and a history of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence, it never truly hit me until I started reading these stories. Every single one of the women featured in I Couldn’t Keep It to Myself was a victim of rape or sexual abuse, usually by a stepfather, uncle, or other male family member. Almost all of them grew up and married abusive men; many others also dabbled in alcohol and drug abuse to ease the pain. 

What I found the most interesting is that while most people see prison as a punishment, the York Correctional Institution seems to provide the right amount of structure and a supportive enough atmosphere for these women to pick themselves up and get on with their lives. During their incarceration, many women spoke of their ability to earn a GED or Associates degree; the opportunity to tutor other prisoners or volunteer for rewarding community service; many others, through the encouragement of prison staff and their fellow inmates, drastically improved their self-esteem. 

While I hope that none of my young clients ever end up in the justice system, I also understand the difficulties of becoming an outstanding citizen when one lives around crime, drugs and overall neglect. I only hope that they find the type of support listed above through my program, or any other positive means possible.