Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Implosion of Excess

I was just thinking about an old place mat menu that's in a box of stuff that gets saved. It's from the 1950's. A lot of the fun we have had with it is looking at the prices: a WHOLE breakfast for fifty cents! The last time I looked at it, I looked at the portions. The meal proudly touted as the Big Country Man's Breakfast consisted of 2 eggs, 2 strips of bacon, a bowl of oatmeal, and 2 pieces of toast. That wouldn't even suffice as the diet plate at today's local trough.

I passed a billboard the other day that pleaded with parents to play with their children and teach their children how to play. Teach your children how to play? Quickly... don't think about it.... what was the "call" you heard in the neighborhood that you knew instinctively was your mother's or father's call for you to come IN from playing? Okay, now... what was the call when you knew they really meant it this time, or else?

A chicken in every pot, and a car in every driveway

2 full sized SUV's in every driveway

A home mortgaged to crisis... Foreclosure

The latest gaming system in the console

A TV in every room

Warehouse stores... MORE for LESS!

Live to Work! Work to feed the habit!

Cue the old timey radio music... go ahead and add some sounds of birds singing.
A neighborhood in the 1940's and 1950's
You can think about it in black & white or in technicolor, whichever works for you.

Mom's at home working in the kitchen or talking over the back fence to the neighbors as she gathers the laundry. She has to leave soon to go get Dad at work. The kids are playing safely in the neighborhood somewhere. In a little bit they'll eat some supper and listen to their favorite radio program together. The kids will go to bed and Mom and Dad will have a cocktail and read their favorite periodicals.

Okay, now cue the record needle scratching across this little soundtrack and remember...
Police turning hoses on our fellow human beings
A glass ceiling so low, women can't get past "sexetary"
Blind eyes at lynch mobs
The atomic bomb

Where is the middle? Where is this American Dream?

Our children know how to use "Type II Diabetes" in a sentence and play has gone on the "to do" list. Our need for oil and more oil is gushing uncontrollably from a gaping wound in our mother earth. Entire cities lie stagnantly speckled with the shells of homes, vacated in foreclosure. We have it ALL! We must have it all and have MORE! The TV in our kitchen or in our bedroom or our living room or our media room or in our child's room tell us it is because we deserve it and that we're worth it. Who is telling us we're worth it? Only those who will profit from us believing it.

The truth is what you get other people to believee.
- Tommy Smothers

Our excess is imploding.
The American Dream has clogged our arteries and made us ill.

I've been researching how to eat organically and ethically on a tight budget. I read an article about how a woman
made a "scrawny" chicken stretch for 3 meals. Let's be honest. Let's replace the word "scrawny" with the truth: a chicken that was not so genetically altered and pharmaceutically overloaded that it was able to walk on it's own without falling down after two or three steps. Chicken McNuggets, anyone? More? What-a-Size, Super Size, Extra Value Meal it?

How much car do you need? How MUCH inconvenience is it to add 15 or 20 minutes to your morning so that you can carpool? How much food do you need? How many TV's do you need? How much is the health of your child worth? How much is the planet worth to your child?

It's a huge problem. I can't change the world.

I can change a handful of things. I think you can too.

Go ahead.

You deserve it.

You're worth it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Beautiful Like Me

"If you would just lose five pounds, you could be really pretty".

That's what I heard when I was in high school and had to be soaking wet to weigh more than a hundred pounds. I heard this from my mother. She hates herself and always has. And, as I reflected her, she taught me to hate myself too. I put myself on a diet for women over 35 when I was 17 because I wanted to be pretty. My mother gave me the book and told me to try it.

I don't want pity for this. I don't want to be told that I'm beautiful just the way I am. I don't want to be coddled or pampered, and I don't want my friends to feel like they need to boost my confidence. I don't want to be told I'm beautiful. I just want to be. And I want that to be enough.

I now have a little girl. When I was pregnant, we discussed all of the genetic parts we hoped she'd get. I hope she gets your legs and your smile. Well, I hope she gets your eyes and your laughter. When she was born, she looked like a complete stranger to me because I had all of the genetics worked out in my brain. She is stunningly beautiful. She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and I haven't been able to stop staring at her since she first took a breath of air.

I know that self loathing was modeled for me. I know what not to do. Now what DO I do? I read an article about a woman facing the same question. No Barbies, no fashion magazines, and no beauty stereotypes around. Appear as though you are enjoying each bite of food, be it broccoli or be it chocolate pie. When this woman's daughter turned 4, she said to her mom, "please don't get f-a-t". It's out there. It's going to be out there, and we have to be out there with it.

This same publication had in its fashion section an article about a slimming men's undergarment, but we weren't to call it a corset. Why not call it a corset? The author was pleased that men may now have to suffer what women have had to the first time they go to the bedroom with someone. That someone sees that things may have been covered and aren't what they appeared to be.

It's so out there, and I can't close it down for my girl. I can't make it okay. If she's beautiful, that means ugly exists. Then what is ugly?

I'm not going to lie. My child is beautiful. There is something about her appearance that draws people to her. My sister-in-law suggested, in jest, that we get her an agent. I also know that a few years living with my self loathing will kill all that she knows to be beautiful about herself. I know my subtle refusal to accept a compliment, my posture, and my discussion about what is ugly about me will be absorbed into my beautiful girl. Sure, I'll never tell her anything but that she is beautiful. She'll never hear what I heard out loud. But if I don't change, she'll hear it in all the ways that count. But she won't be able to name it and call it out to fight.

Sister-in-law, I'm the one that needs an agent, because I'm embarking on the greatest acting role of my life. I want to act it so strongly that I lose myself in it and believe it myself. I want my daughter to be beautiful like me.