Archive for March 30, 2011
Thankfully, after a long, hard, and sick winter, Dave and I are finally walking every day again. Getting back to our routine is wonderful, but it also reminded us recently of how different our childhoods were from the lives of kids today.
And that’s because almost every time we walk through Kereiakes Park, we pass the playground on the far side of the park where kids play on the jungle gym, ride the swings, and—wait for it—eat fast food.
I am not kidding when I say that almost every single time we see a family at the playground, we also see a mom or dad cleaning up the fast food meal they just served their children.
We had seen it so many times that, after a while, we stopped noticing. But being away from the walking trail for weeks this year made us look at this now familiar scene with fresh eyes.
Four kids, two adults, six sets of hamburger wrappers, french fry cartons, and to-go cups.
What’s wrong with this picture?
I think we all know.
“Did you ever take fast food to the park when you were little?” Dave asked me the other day. “When I was young, there was only one McDonald’s on the entire west side of Cincinnati. And going there was a big deal, like going out to a fancy meal or something.”
And he’s right. When we were kids, going out to eat—fast food or otherwise—was a big deal. Sure, on a special occasion or holiday, our families took homemade picnics to the park, but now, for too many American kids fast food is a daily occurrence.
Though this is partly the fault of parents, it’s hard to blame parents alone for this problem when there’s a McDonald’s on over corner. When you have to drive right past one on the way to the park, it’s easy to wonder why you shouldn’t stop and feed the kids while you’re out?
(There is, in fact, a McDonald’s, a Wendy’s, a Rally’s, and now even a Dairy Queen all within four blocks of Kereiakes Park.)
It’s also hard to blame parents when it costs about two dollars to feed each kid at a McDonald’s.
What’s weird is that I really think a happy meal used to cost more when we were kids than it does now. Am I wrong or didn’t a happy meal in the seventies used to cost three dollars and now they’re just two bucks? Or maybe they’re three now, I’m not sure.
Either way, that doesn’t make any sense! We have had forty years of inflation, but prices at McDonald’s have gone down, not up. How is that possible???
It’s possible because technology is always making it easier to make our food even more processed, meaning that fast food is cheaper today because it’s less real. It’s also possible because the main ingredient in almost all American fast food is corn and/or corn syrup, and corn is heavily subsidized by the federal government in our country, which means that fast food restaurants can sell products made with corn byproducts cheaper than ever before.
Translation: our kids get fatter every time they eat fake, er, I mean fast food.
Tonight I went out for an otherwise lovely pre-reading dinner with a guest writer and some people from school.
Everything was going well until the waiter came to take our orders. He said he’d start with me, and I just assumed that at that point, the rest of the table—eight other people for God’s sake!—would pick up their conversations where they left off, as most people do when you are eating in a nice restaurant with a large group.
But, no, instead of doing that, the entire table sat there silently, staring at me and listening intently to my every word.
I felt like I was placing my order on a live YouTube feed.
In case you don’t know, this is not the way to behave. When a lady places her order—or a man for that matter—its best to busy yourself with other things. Look at your menu, re-fold your napkin, make small talk for God’s sake. Whatever. Otherwise, said lady may feel like you are judging her choice of food.
Okay, so I will admit said lady—that would be me!—has some food and body issues that may contribute to her desire to be able to order without so much scrutiny, and we all know that. But I still think that whenever a person orders a meal, it’s best if others don’t act like the most interesting thing they’ve done all day is eavesdrop on the very private conversation that occurs between a server and his/her patron.
Really? You’re going to have the calzone? But isn’t that the highest calorie item on the menu?
Okay, again, so I have to admit that no one actually said that or anything like it. But they might as well have for all the looks I got.
(And for the record, I ordered the calzone because, at $11.50, it was easily the cheapest thing on the menu.)
It also didn’t help that the waiter was a bit clueless. The menu said “make your own calzone,” so when I asked him what normally comes in a calzone, I thought he might say, mozzerella, cheese, and tomatoes. But instead, he said, “Well, a calzone is like a pizza rolled over on itself.”
Like I didn’t know what a calzone was. I grew up in New Jersey for God’s sake, home of the mafia and Frank Sinatra. I think I know what a goddamned calzone is.
In fact, that’s the reason I was asking. I didn’t want some Americanized version of a calzone. I wanted the real deal. According to the World English Dictionary, a calzone is “a dish of Italian origin consisting of pizza dough folder over a filling of cheese and tomatoes, herbs, ham, etc.”
That’s right—cheese, tomatoes, and ham. That’s how they make it in Jersey. But as those of you who’ve been to any branch of LaRosa’s in Cincinnati know, one person’s calzone is another person’s fill-in-the-blank. And I didn’t want any cheddar cheese in my calzone, thank you very much.
Of course, our poor waiter did not know I hail from Jersey, but still. It seemed like a simple question. You’d think I could have gotten a simple answer. And all of this happened while I was still on stage, performing for the rest of the table like a tight-rope walker.
So I felt a bit uncomfortable when I had to explain to the waiter that I wanted a calzone with mozzarella, ricotta, tomatoes, and ham.
Ricotta and ham, you say? I might as well have ordered a chocolate cake for dinner. With brownies on top.
And that’s now where it ends either.
Because when the waiter finally brought my calzone, he presented it by apologizing for burning the end of it, saying they were currently making another in case I wasn’t happy with this one. Of course, his comment caused all eight pairs of eyes to look down the table at my plate and see the newborn-sized slab of dough he had placed in front of me.
Wow, that’s huge!
I can’t believe the size of that thing!
Boy, do you think it’s big enough?
Unlike the previous words, the ones that had only been said in my head, these words were said out loud. By actual people.
I wanted to die.
Or crawl under my monster-sized calzone and hide.
I also wanted to shout, Haven’t you people ever seen a calzone before??? They’re always freaking huge. What, have you never been to Jersey before???
But most of these people probably haven’t been to Jersey, and if they have, I’m sure they’d have no idea where to find a good calzone.
(Here’s a hint: if you can add cheddar cheese to it, it’s not a real calzone.)
Here’s another hint: when a lady’s food arrives, and it looks a bit oversized, it’s best not to comment on the girth of the meal in front of her. We worry enough about our girths. We don’t need to worry about our food being too fat too.
As it turned out, the calzone was amazing and completely authentic. Sinatra would have been proud of the people at The Brickyard. But the truth is I’ll think twice before I order another Italian turnover as big as a small child when out with other people. Which, in the end, kind of makes me sad.
When I’m in a pessimistic mood, I think there must be a black cloud hanging over me this semester. . . after all, the semester started with death, was followed by illness, and now—after a brief respite over spring break—has been followed by yet again another illness.
Yes, I am sick for the second time in six weeks.
But I’m in an optimistic mood today (brought on by lots of new miracle drugs), so I’m not even thinking about the black cloud and instead am going to choose to focus on a spring-like forecast—I’m getting better by the second and, by Monday, I will feel like myself again for the first time in over a month.
(If I keep saying it, maybe it will come true.)
Still, in order to get to this place of optimism—and secure previously mentioned miracle drugs—I had to go to a place of fear and loathing: the doctor’s office
Nobody likes to go to the doctor, but truthfully, I have amazing two doctors—my girl doctor and my GP. The latter, who I saw today, is smart and funny. He also reads YA books with his teenager daughters and likes to make nerdy Star Trek jokes with my husband. That makes me like and, more importantly, trust him.
Also, he is current on everything, which makes me happy. Except, that is, when he tells Dave that new research shows it’s good for him to drink two—not just one—beers a day.
(Our fridge already has too much beer in it anyway.)
But no matter how much I like my doc, I was just not up for another visit to sick-ville today. I’ve been coughing since the beginning of February and this would be my third visit to the Medical Center in just as long. I simply did not want to go.
And it showed.
Because while I was there, my old insecurities reared their ugly head, which of course was ugly and uncomfortable.
This happened after my examination, but before we had left the examining room.
Since he had the opportunity while we were there, Dave asked the doctor if he was due to have his cholesterol checked, and for some reason, this made me furious.
“You don’t need to have your cholesterol checked!” I insisted even though I had been too sick to speak a moment before. “You’re a freaking model of health.”
“But I want to stay on top of it,” Dave explained. “I have bad genes.”
“My God, look at you!”
Later, after we got home, I apologized to Dave, explaining that I’m just not comfortable with him being so obsessed with his health. I even admitted that sometimes it makes me feel bad about myself.
“You’re in great health,” he said. “I mean, except for being sick. And you can’t assume I’m healthier than you are just by looking at me.”
But the truth is no matter how much I’m told that I’m healthy, I still look at other people—Dave included—who are thin and think they’ve got one up on me. I still feel as if at any moment I’m going to find out I’m dying of some weight-related disease and my doctor is going to tell me—wait for it—that I have to go on a diet or some ridiculous thing like that.
The truth is that I’m insecure. Not about how I look. But about my health.
At the doctor’s office today, we found out that the number that determines if you’re pre-diabetic has been lowered. And even though I’m not in that category or anywhere near it, sometimes it just feels like we’re all fighting a losing battle. That every time you accomplish something with your health, you are met with a new challenge.
Oh, you lost ten pounds? Great, now you need to lose ten more.
Oh, you cut out trans fats? That’s good because now you need to cut sugar.
I know I started this post by saying I’m feeling optimistic, and I am. (As it turns out, my tests showed there’s nothing wrong with me except a bad sinus infection.) But I wasn’t in a good space earlier today, and I guess my point is that it’s normal to have moments when you feel like everyone is out to get you—or at least tell you to drop a few pounds.
I guess that’s part of body acceptance too—knowing that you’ll never entirely let go of those issues. Especially when a black cloud has spent more than its fair share of time in your atmosphere.
Actually…no. I just read the “offending” comments of Mr. McKinley. The complaint is that he “gave ink” to the opinions of some idiots from Texas? He’s a reporter for Christ’s sake. He’s SUPPOSED to present all angles of the story. Looks like responsible journalism to me. Attack the idiots in Texas for this. Attack the wretched perpetrators. Why in the world is anyone mad at The New York Times for telling the whole story? If anything its GOOD that they reported on those folks as well. Its important for people to know that there are idiots like that everywhere. This is wildly misplaced rage here. Wasting time on things like this is why no real problems ever get solved in this damn country. Let the public burning commence. I’ll be tied to the stake willingly. =)
… in a very real way, ignoring “the little things” in favor of “the big stuff” makes the big stuff that much harder to eradicate, because it is the pervasive, ubiquitous, inescapable little things that create the foundation of a sexist culture on which the big stuff is dependent for its survival. It’s the little things, the constant drumbeat of inequality and objectification, that inure us to increasingly horrible acts and attitudes toward women.
EMILY THRELKELD is a newlywed living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s also a writer and a photographer who supports herself being a bridal consultant at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.
EMILY THRELKELD is a newlywed living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s also a writer and a photographer who supports herself being a bridal consultant at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.
Like most women, I’m not a big fan of having my picture taken, but over the years, I’ve tried to have a better attitude about it. After spending my entire life watching the women in my life groan every time they see a photo of themselves—and immediately pointing out their worst flaw—I grew tired of the pessimism and negativity.
For that reason, I have tried as much as I can to have a good attitude when my picture is taken. It’s never easy, but I do my best, and for a few years now, I’ve been pretty good about noticing what looks good rather than what looks bad when I see a snapshot of myself.
I do the same thing in my daily life—when I look go shopping or even just when I look in the mirror each morning—so I had naively started to believe I had kicked the low self-esteem habit.
But while sitting in front of a high definition camera with a professional photographer, all of my insecurities came flooding back to me. When I looked at the images on her three-inch screen, all I could see were the flaws—why was my nose so big? my hair so flat and dark? my lips so thin? After years of teaching myself to focus on the positive, I was suddenly and completely only able to see the negative.
Not only was my inability to see my assets gone, but so was my ability to see myself at all. When Victoria showed me the images she’d captured, I could not even recognize myself. I looked that strange and unfamiliar. It was as if I was suffering from a severe case of amnesia except that the only thing I couldn’t remember was what I looked like.
I would glance at the images on her screen and frown. Who was the person staring back at me? Where was the person I saw in the mirror every morning? The person with a few stray blonde highlights from her youth? The person with a normal-sized nose?
Poor Victoria had to put up with my inability to see the pictures clearly for two hours before she was finished. Every time she showed me a new shot, my face would drop, and she and Dave would have to reassure me that the pictures were good.
Now, over a week later and after posting the new photo on Facebook (and getting a dozen positive responses to it), not only do I know that the photos are good, I also know they really really do look like me.
So why couldn’t I see this while they were being taken? What happened to make me so unable to see my own image?
I’m really not sure, but I think it has to do with how slowly we change.
Whenever I look at anyone in my family—my husband, my parents, or my sister—I don’t see them as they are now, in 2011. Instead, I see a compilation of who they’ve been over the years. I see my husband’s longer hair and too-big concert t-shirts, my parents’ young faces and rich brown hair, my sister’s glasses and pigtails. I don’t see them as flat images. I see them as fully developed people with complex pasts and interesting histories.
And I think that’s also what I see when I look in the mirror—the little girl with the boyish haircut, the teenager with the perfect bod, the young woman with blonde highlights. So when I looked at the photos Victoria was taking I was confused—where was the girl I used to be, the young woman I was only a few years ago?
In the end, I’m thrilled with the photos Victoria took, but I have to admit, it’s also a little bit scary to realize that I’ve let those parts of me go. But it’s letting them go that allows me to see that beauty can change and evolve just as we do as people.
So much Oscar gossip, so little time.
If you didn’t watch, probably the most dramatic thing about the Oscars last Sunday (because nearly all of the winners were known in advance) was James Franco’s unbelievably lackluster performance, which even he predicted in this video he posted on Twitter. Not a half an hour into the ceremony, Franco was so out of it that Twitter and Facebook were inundated with questions about his sobriety. The main question being, is Franco high????
I have no idea if Franco was high, but I know he was not exactly into hosting the Oscars, which was the polar opposite of his co-host Anne Hathaway, who worked hard enough for the both of them. He was so not into that he didn’t even go to his own after-party, instead flying back east the same night.
I know Franco is going to school right now—studying to get his Ph.D. in literature (at Yale no less). And I remember a few weeks ago, he was on The Daily Show talking about his Oscar nomination, which had been announced that morning right before he’d gone to class. Stewart then asked if anyone in his class had congratulated him on the nom, and without even thinking about it, Franco said no. “No one said anything?” Stewart asked, skeptical, and Franco had to admit that his classmates at Yale couldn’t give a shit about the Oscars. (At least that’s how Franco read it, but it’s also possible they’re pretending not to care, which is what I really believe.)
I guess this brings me to my point—maybe Franco didn’t care about hosting the Oscars because he has bigger fish to fry—or if not bigger, then at least better. This is a guy with serious aspirations—he’s an actor (in three different venues—film, television, and daytime television), a short story writer, a filmmaker, and a scholar. That might explain why getting dressed up in a thousand-dollar tux to go to the biggest party of the year to honor a bunch of people who are honored every day may not seem like a huge priority. Sure, Franco should have said no if he wasn’t going to do his best, but I can see why it wasn’t that important to him. Because in the big scheme of things, it just wasn’t that important.
Fun, yes. Important, no.
Which might be why Franco was at his best in the ridiculous skits in which he dressed up like Marilyn Monroe or donned the tights of a ballet dancer a la Black Swan. (By the way, if you ever feel bad about the way you look in a dress, just picture Franco as Monroe, who looked wonderfully absurd.)
Franco’s uninspired performance doesn’t directly relate to the topic of this blog, but in a tangential way it speaks to the same issue. That is, the issue that there are more important things in the world than how you look in a tight dress or how white your teeth are. On the red carpet the other night, Natalie Portman claimed that, though she likes attending these ceremonies, it’s the rest of us who are lucky because we get to sit at home and watch in our sweats. I have to say, Franco’s resurrection of his Pineapple Express character was pretty entertaining from my spot on the sofa, but I imagine it might have felt mighty awkward—even scary—from the seats of the Kodak theatre.
For years, I fantasized about going to the Oscars and still a part of me wants to go some day, but lately I’ve come to realize Portman’s point—it’s probably more fun to watch on the sofa than attend.
For that reason, I won’t join the hordes of Americans who are bemoaning Franco’s performance this week. Instead, I’ll thank him for reminding me that though watching the Oscars is a lot of fun, it’s also pretty darn silly and something none of us should take too awfully seriously.
Last year, I spent the days after the Oscars and Golden Globes talking about how much curvier the red carpet was, how women of all sizes should dress, and how Hollywood allows women of color to be curvier than white woman.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t talk about any one of these issues this year even if I wanted to because there were almost no curvy women or women of color on the red carpet this year.
So what happened? Where were all the women of color? And what about the curvy women? Where were they? Because the only curve I noticed on the red carpet Sunday night was the moon-shaped baby bump under Natalie Portman’s plum-colored dress.
Last year there were nine curvy girls on the red carpet— JLo, Mo’nique, Meryl Streep, Gabby Sidibe, Molly Ringwald, Queen Latifah, Mariah Carey, Sigourney Weaver, and Kate Winslet (FYI… I wouldn’t call Winslet curvy, but since one reporter called her “big” that night, she deserves to stand with us)—and eight women of color: Mo’Nique, Gabby Sidibe, Queen Latifah, Mariah Carey, Zoe Saldana, JLo, Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz. This year, real-sized woman dropped to two—Cruz and nominee Jacki Weaver—while women of color were down to just three: Cruz again, JHud, and Halle Berry.
And that wasn’t the only place women were missing. When Spielbeg introduced the award for best picture, the girls at BitchFlicks rightly pointed out that he mentioned eight films that had been previously nominated for—The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, The Graduate, Raging Bull—and won—On the Waterfront, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather, The Deer Hunter—the best picture Oscar, but not one of them was about a woman or a person of color.
This was in stark contrast to last year’s Academy Awards, which, as I said then, was an evening focused on strong women—Sandra Bullock, Mo’nique, Meryl Streep, Gabby Sidibe, and of course Best Picture/director winner Kathryn Bigelow to name a few—and that those women thankfully had bodies of all sizes
And if women were more of an afterthought this year and women of color and curvy women glaringly absent on the red carpet, I can’t help but wonder if this means we are regressing.
Reese Witherspoon showed up in a look that was frighteningly reminiscent of a Playboy bunny (see picture above), and I visibly shuttered when I saw her on my TV screen. Are we going backwards instead of forwards? Will we be breaking out the corsets and bonnets next year?
The irony is that one of the only women of color on the red carpet was Jennifer Hudson, who, over the last year, has famously replaced her ample curves with ones that are more Hollywood appropriate.
Maybe the lack of curves on the red carpet was the reason why JHud’s new bod seemed to be all anybody could talk about when they saw her. Even the normally infallible Tim Gun felt the need to point out Hudson’s “amazing new figure.”
Even worse, when Ryan Seacrest interviewed Hudson, he said, “You must love getting dressed up now that you have that new body.”
It’s bad enough Seacrest felt comfortable giving Hudson such a back-handed compliment, but his comment is also offensive to the rest of us non-Red Carpet walkers because his message is that if we aren’t skinny, then we shouldn’t enjoy dressing up.
Guess what, Ryan? Real women—whether they be curvier than celebrities or more flat chested than them—like to dress up too!
The bottom line is that the more we talk about Hudson’s “new” bod, the more we reinforce the idea there was something wrong with the old one. And, my God, the woman is gorgeous at any size.
After the Golden Globes this year, I wrote about how Seacrest’s superficial and sexist banter on the red carpet hurts us more than Ricky Gervais’ raunchy ribbing of celebrities, and this year’s color-and-curve-free red carpet makes me think it’s time for another course correction.
Over the past few years, we have seen a resurgence of curvy women and women of color, but last Sunday proved that, unfortunately, we’re falling back into old habits. This means that we have to re-double our efforts by continuing to demand more magazines and models with real women and by continuing to vote with our dollars and spend money on female artists of all stripes.
Recently, when asked if the new emphasis on curves would continue, a world-famous designer said that, in fashion, trends come and go pretty quickly, and he imagined that the curvier women we’ve seen on the runway over the past year would not return next season. But if trends come and go that fast, then we wouldn’t have seen the same Kate Moss heroin chic bodies for the past fifteen years. From my point of view, this sounds like an excuse—and one we cannot accept.