Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"What is the butt?"

So, I've asked some informants what do they think butts mean personally and socially. The responses have been very amusing. Generally, people like to shake their butts when dancing. Although grabbed and oogled at, their butts remain their own. It's not anyone else's. Socially it would seem that most are not happy with their butts but find them useful just the same.

Thus far, the responses are:

Informant 1 reflects, "The butt is a study in contradictions. Most women long for their butt to be smaller, rounder, tighter, while men seem to think that big is beautiful. The butt is very useful on the stage and dance floor, clenching it lets you spin faster and have more balance, while sticking it out and shaking it gives you the confidence of Beyonce!"

Informant 2 asks, "
What is the butt? My personal cushion I bring with me wherever I go. The largest muscle in my body, it keeps me from falling over as I trot around on these two legs. Socially? It is an acceptable thing for others to grab and hang onto (if I know you). Gives me a little thrill every time someone does. But my butt is still MINE. My butt is not a ghetto booty, but it still likes to shake and dance."

A more musically inclined person, Informant 3 notes, "
Naturally, the first thing that comes to mind is "Baby Got Back." The second thing that comes to mind is that I do not, though I am rarely bothered by a lack of moneymaker to shake. I shake it anyway."

Informant four finds butts (maybe her rear) problematic:

"here's my take on the butt:

I've never really been a huge fan of the butt in general. Probably because after I hit puberty at the end of my sophomore year in highschool, it just seemed to get in the way of my cross country and track events (not that my butt is gigantic, but we're talking pre-10th grade :)). I don't have an aversion to big butts on other people, but I have never understood the reasons behind their sex appeal, probably because I'm from Hawaii, the land of the small Asian butts."

Informant five finds that rears can be in one's face and maybe even in one's mind:

"I think that society thinks of butts as kind of like a walking personal add that others can see, read, decide whether or not they'd like to "tap that" without actually testing out the goods, and then fantasize about it (which leads to fantasies involving other aspects of the other person). For example, John may glance at Jessica's ass, and if he decides that he likes it, he will stare at it and think about having sex with Jessica. However, if John does not find Jessica's ass particularly attractive, there will be no significant response, and he will act like it isn't even there. Another example is that when I was thinner (and considered myself more attractive at the time... but that isn't the point of this discussion), I would make an effort not to wear anything ass-tight, or to ensure my ass was covered if I knew that I would be in a situation where I REALLY did not want the people I would be with to get any ideas.

My ass is also a source of my frustrations because I consider mine to be large, and I have difficulty finding clothes that will fit it properly."

Hopefully, more commentary to come!

Monday, April 23, 2007

neuromancipation of the body

The body seems to be something that is limitless, privileged, and binding throughout "Neuromancer." Limitless because it seems that body modifications are huge in possibilities. Molly has mirror lenses, knife-like objects under her nails. She can always know what times it is. She is linked to Case through the computer. It just seems like almost anything is possible to do to the body. Case, on the other hand, whose nervous system was previously destroyed can rejoin the matrix and be a cyber cowboy. Body modifications changed Cortes to Armitage with the help of the AI Wintermute. Nevertheless, this technology is for those who can afford such procedures. Case would not change his situation without the help and money of Armitage. Not everyone can participate in the huge realm of body modifications, but it appears that many can. The body is also binding. It appears that individuals are in constant search to escape the body through drugs, body modifications, or the matrix. The body is "the meat." Its urges tie the mind down. The body limits what the mind can accomplish. If the body desires sex, this "need" can override one's thought process. The body needs to be escaped, changed, in essence, destroyed so that the mind can win over it.

Gibson's dystopic scenes about the body are prophetic in such cases like Julius. He doesn't appear to be human anymore. His constant fight against aging has left him seeming timeless, odd, and unsettling to both Case and the reader. I found Case's killing of Julius in the matrix almost a relief, as if it stopped Julius' pursuit of the fountain of youth. Also, on Straylight (?), the body is a site of privilege. Gibson goes into great detail describing the fake tans, the "perfect" youthful bodies, that all come with a price. Few seem happy with the body they were born with. There is always something wrong with that body, and always a way to fix that. It seems like we can see that today in Southern California. I have never heard so many commercials or seen so many advertisements for plastic surgery or weight loss until I came to Scripps.

Laser eye surgery reminds me of Molly's eyes in Gibson's novel. Laser eye surgery can correct one's eyes if they needed corrective lenses, but some use this surgery to have better than 20/20 vision. Botox helps individuals retain the appearance of youth longer. Tanning lotion and foams one can buy at a drug store is like the spray tan that Molly uses on Case.

Unplanned/Desired(?) Body Modifications

I interviewed my mother to further understand her reactions to her own body modification journey. As a whole, I would say that my mother is against body modifications beyond ear piercing (one hole in each ear, females only!). She still reacts to my navel piercing even though it is covered almost all of the time. But beyond having her ears pierced, my mom does have other body modifications. First of all, she has birthed five children. Not having gone through childbirth myself, I would venture to say that this will modify one's body quite a bit. Second, my mother is a breast cancer survivor. I originally planned to interview my mother and some of her breast cancer survivor friends. They call themselves the Bosom Buddies. However, after one of their members passed away this past March after a reoccurance, I no longer felt it appropriate to reach out to these ladies, despite my mom telling me that it was ok. I am so proud of my mother. She is strong and courageous. Heck, when she broke the news to me and my siblings with my father, Mom was comforting us instead of vice versa. Sheila, my mom, has been five years cancer free this past March! The five year is exciting for my family because while it doesn't say that she'll never have a reoccurance, Sheila's chances of a reoccurance greatly decrease with each passing year. Besides being incredibly proud of my mother, I was also interested to hear her story about her cancer and her having a mastectomy. That's right, my mother only has one breast. She had the other one removed during her treatment. Breast cancer is scary for many people, but, for me, I will sometimes be very scared for my future and other times feel a little resigned to let fate go its course. My sister (and my brother since men can have breast cancer too) and I are in a high risk category for developing breast cancer in our life time. Whereas my mother has no family history of breast cancer, I now have this history on both sides. My paternal grandmother is a twenty-year survivor of breast cancer, and my paternal great-grandmother had a double mastectomy to remove lumps which were later found to be benign. I feel sometimes that I have my breasts on loan. I would not be surprised if I died without one of them. The idea is scary, but it's something I feel that I need to be aware of. So without further ado, I shall record for you this phone interview with my mother about breasts, mastectomies, and in the end what it means to my mom.

Amy: When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
Sheila: March 2002

Amy: What was your initial reaction upon learning you were to have a mastectomy?
Sheila: The mastectomy? Or learning I had breast cancer?
Amy: Both, why not
Sheila: I had a choice between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy. But Dr. Breaux said I had such little breasts and that he wanted to remove alot of tissue to ensure that he would remove all cancerous cells. So, in the end, my breast would have looked deformed. I chose the mastectomy because I wanted it all off. Let's see, I found out different than most people because Daddy called the pathologist at the hospital. I kept telling him don't keep anything from me. I was at the computer when he called, I remember that. I forgot the term he used, but I knew what it meant. You just go numb. I wrote it out and you keep looking at it. We didn't talk much. You're just numb; you're looking at it but you can't quite believe it. It's not real.

Amy: Do you ever miss your breast?
Sheila: Not really. No, not really. Paul Breaux tried to get me to do reconstruction. He wants me to every time I go in. No, I don't really miss it. I don't want to have my breast reconstructed. I have to be careful when I wear low cut things when I bend over. I think the biggest reason why I don't miss it is Daddy. Daddy have never blinked an eye, made me fell less than a woman. If I wanted it, he would support me, but he doesn't want me to do it for him. He let me make the decision between a mastectomy and a lumpectomy. But he was very happy I chose the mastectomy.

Amy: Does the mastectomy ever make you self-concious?
Sheila: No, but some shirts for some reason make me look lopsided, so I put extra padding. Otherwise, you can't tell. Self-concious maybe at first. I don't like to stare at it in the shower. I started to look the bathroom door after my surgery, and I still do today. I feel less self-concious in front of Daddy -- he never let on. Only thing is and that's come up from time to time if I can't wear my bra [specially made bra with a prosthesitic breast] I can't get it. I'm choosing to stay within the confines of the bra. I'm not a big fashion person, so I'm not going to pay the money for a new bra.

Amy: Do you believe your breasts compose part of your identiy as a woman?
Sheila: To a certain extent, especially when I was breast feeding and when I was dating and younger. [Overall, this researcher was under the impression that no, breasts did not compose part of my mom's identity as a woman, that her female identity was more than that.]

Amy: How long have you been cancer free?
Sheila: Five years and almost one month.

Amy: Does the place where your breast was ever hurt? Do you have phantom pains?
Sheila: No [phantom pains]. I never feel as if it's there. Now, sometimes I forget which side is the prosthesis. I'm trying to think which side so I can put on my pin and I don't want to puncture it.

Amy: Are you scared that your daughters will develop breast cancer?
Sheila: Yes, just because y'all are at higher risk. I viewed mine as a fluke.

Overall, it was a fun hour conversation with my mom. We were "off" topic quite a bit. The main thing I learned from this conversation is that I have so much respect for my parents. Their relationship is still so strong, and I'm so happy that my mom has a husband who is so supportive of her and makes her feel beautiful, loved, and desired. And, so by then end of talking with Mom, I just think my dad is a wonderful, wonderful man.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Cyborgs and "women of color," eh D. Haraway? What is the connection? Is there a link? This one forces me to think. Not identifying as a woman of color, I cannot make a personal connection to this idea. So, I shall do the best I can. A woman of color must preform many roles, contradictory roles. She is a different person depending on who she encounters. She represents so many different ideas: socioeconomic class, sexuality, etc. She is in some ways Haraway's monster. I do not mean monster in a negative sense but a monster in that the woman of color embodies so many different facets, so many different roles in life. She must be able to transfer from role to role seamlessly, automatically, machine like. To me, the cyborg reference for a woman of color focuses upon what a cyborg is. A cyborg is part human, part machine. A woman of color operating in a world that can be racist and sexist must also be part human and part machine. She must be able to deflect racist and sexist comments or be swallowed by them. There are times when she utilizes her human side: emotional, fragile, biological. But many times she must tap into her machine aspect for the strength to persevere. One of Haraway's qualifications for being a cyborg was the ability to transcend the division between animal and human. With a hierarchical society, people of color can be treated like animals. So a woman of color embodies this animal/human duality. She may not have chosen to take part of this dual nature, but society forces it upon her. The woman of color is akin to a cyborg because she plays so many roles in her life. But, ultimately, she remembers who she is despite her continual performance.

My tongue:
It tastes. It's pink but collects white plaque. It told the doctor that I was dehydrated. Swimming in my mouth, my tongue taps against my permanent metal retainer and is restrained in the cage of my teeth. It is rude or childish when I stick it out alone, but sensual when I stick it into my boyfriend's mouth. My tongue wet and covered with little bulbs that give it a textured surface. It allows me to speak the way I do. Sometimes it become tied and I lose the ability to speak altogether. My mother calls my tongue razor sharp. Tongues become so intricately linked to the term "language." A sign hangs on my mirror reading, "I speak patriarchy but it's not my mother tongue." I force it out in yoga to make my lion face. I can twist it into an "S" but not into a "U." Laura, my older sister, taught herself how to make it into a "U." I'm the only one in my family who can't do that trick. I have failed to use my tongue to tie a cherry stem into a knot, I guess that means I can't give a good blowjob. Have you even gotten your tongue stuck on a piece of ice? It feels so weird when you finally remove the ice. It's as if for a small instance your tongue is smooth. I've used my tongue to taste my way in Europe. Part of travel is the tastes. Eating different foods from different regions. At home, Louisiana, eating is practically a past time. I enjoy food so much, especially spicy food. It's not good food unless your tongue is on fire. Speaking of fire, I burn it so much on hot beverages. I hate when I burn my tongue because I lose the ability to taste for a day. It's really gross to be licked. I hate being licked. The feeling of someone's tongue across my skin is just . . . it makes me shiver. I also hate the taste in your mouth when you wake up in the morning and your tongue feels stiff from lack of motion. I have to warm up my tongue in the morning, move it around, let it be free and loose. I use my tongue quite a bit. I'm a wordy person. I give college tours. I like to talk, informally, shoot the breeze, shoot from the hip. Language is so impaired at times with our own reservations. Our tongues are powerful. One of the most powerful muscles we have. It's long too, going pretty fair down our throats. But the power, I'm referring to is the power to speak using our tongues. Language is pretty amazing, and our tongues learn the minute movements necessary to speak in our particular language. It's one of the reasons why speaking another language can be so difficult. Language is crucial to spreading ideas, and our tongues do quite a bit of wagging.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Where my clothes are from

1) Boycut Underwear - Egypt
2) Bra- China
3) Yellow Dress- India
4) Polka Dot shirt- Indonesia
5) Sports bra- U.S.A.
6) Jean Jumper- Hong Kong
7) Monkey Slippers- China
8) Pointy toe kitten heals- Romania
9) Plaid Skirt- Turkey
10) Blue Jeans- China

I wondered looking at my garments and where they are from is what do people in the countries where this labor is outsourced think of that particular garment. Do they think what I'm wearing is scandalous, immodest, perfectly acceptable. I'm not quite sure. I thought my yellow dress looks like the dresses young girls where in India before they begin to wear adult attire. My kitten toe shoes were purchased in Europe and made in Eastern Europe. Are many garments worn in Western Europe made in Eastern Europe? I do not know. I don't think my plaid skirt would be too popular in rural parts of Turkey. I cannot tell if I'm appropriating another culture wearing clothes made from that country or if my consumption forces other countries to appropriate American capitalist consumer culture. I guess there is not good way to discover that. My participation in the global production of clothing is slightly like Orlan's "cultural appropriations;" however, I do not go as far as she does. If I were to wear an "authentic" African shirt, most people would probably find my outfit not too radical. If I were to wear a sari around campus, I would probably get some unusual looks. There is a degree to which one can appropriate another's cultural image and still be within the bounds of acceptability. What makes Orlan's work so controversial is that she completely appropriates the look of the "Other" even down to the skin tone. She pushes the envelope because it's as if she is trying to become the other. She's rejecting the privilege of her white skin. I think the major link between the Orlan and my clothes is that while Orlan appropriates a look, I'm appropriating labor. It makes me feel quite sleazy to say such a thing, but that's what happening.

The Body Social

I feel that others (being a woman) view the body as something that traps the body. The body restricts how one wants to express herself or himself based on outward appearance. As a woman, I may feel safe walking home at night, but physically (my size, physical strength, and the fact I have breasts) I am in danger. The social reality at times can overwhelm the all other possibilities. At the same time, the body is a space of reclamation. I was born with a vagina, breasts, female-gendered but I do not have to accept the labels others put on me. I can use my body to reclaim my identity and combine my mental perception of myself with my physical body. In our readings, transsexuals, transgender people, and hermaphrodites appear to conceptualize the body as an entity that they need to reclaim and mark as their own. They appear tired of having other place labels on them. To reclaim their body is to create a safe space. One will always have their body. It's not exactly something we can just get rid of, so to make the body a safe space is to have a portable safe space. The body is full of contradictions, but ultimately it's important to feel comfortable in one's skin no matter how much a person chooses to alter it.

Monday, March 5, 2007

"Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails


"I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of shit
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end

You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt
If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way"

So, I'm listening to Johnny Cash singing this song, and it makes me think of our last class discussing the idea of self-harm.

This image has so many horrifying meanings to it. It makes me honestly a little sick to my stomach. I also can't handle surgery on TV and bloody movies. That is my queasiness tolerance not to compare this disturbing quality of the poster to TV surgery and bloody movies. When asked what does this image tell me, I can say that it tells me silence is never women's best option. She is ground head first, losing her ability to speak, to protest, her face. The face is what most would consider our most human aspect. It makes us unique, allows us to have expression, to show our feelings. All that is left, currently, is her lower half: the clitoris, labia, vagina, maybe half a uterus, her legs. Her ability to violated vaginally is still intact. This image makes me sad and angry. But most of all, it makes me not want to stay silent. Yes, women have come a long way, but we haven't gone all the way. This image tells me that women still have a ways to go. Hope is not lost or even ground but silence is not the answer. She may not have a face, but I still do. I still have my voice, and I can use it.

"Reading" the news

Body modifications are in the media every day, and there is not better place to find such daily indications of how the body is to look than in the news: newspapers, online news, etc. I may not read the paper everyday, but I will browse through to read headlines, scan captions, examine the photos, click on photos of the day. Like the television news, news prints have become increasingly visual with pictures taking up more and more room. Images are, as we have all begun to recognize, culturally powerful; they encapsulate an event into a finite moment. At best, a photo can present a whole story, and at worst, they can reinforce negative stereotypes or perpetuate ethnocentric ideas.

Lately, reading the paper, I have become more aware of the pictures I examine. I see subtle messages and influences that dictate to me "how things are." Hearkening Foucault's knowledge/power idea, pictures on the media present cultural ideas as norms, naturalized and inarguable. Scarily, they can transmit powerful ideas to a large group of people or, specifically like the New York Times, to a particular class. In a way, these images police and curb the actions immediately of those who read them and a little bit later on those who interact with the readers. To be fair, I admit to "reading" two forms of print: New York Times (paper) and the BBC News (online news.bbc.org). Both forms of news cater to specific audiences both socioeconomic class defined and regionally defined. I began to read the BBC news when I was studying in London so I could be abreast to European affairs. But the audiences is not what I wish to discuss. The aims of this post is to cause any readers to be wary of what they see.

The news is "objective." The images one sees would never say, "In the Business section, we see men (Asian or white) in suits. This is the appropriate uniform for business people. A business career is typically a male profession." Or better, "In Fashion today, we see more very thin, young, white models. They frail frame makes them the perfect hanger to place clothes upon. This way designers can objectify them so that their clothes are the "true" show and not the people displaying them. She has a dead bird on her head, she is wearing clothes that resemble a garbage bag. This is the image that many young women look up to as the perfection of beauty." No, the messages we read are rather informative. They give a face to the story. To decontextualize the news print images, one must examine with a particularly harsh eye. Not all the images presented are negative. The new Burkini allows women who follow hijab to wear swimwear and be lifeguards. At the same time, the only women shown in this attire are thin and Western perceived as beautiful. Images of "exotic" lands either show colorful happy people in traditional attire or desolate locations with young children wearing torn and dirty Westernized clothes.

Scanning the New York Times for the past week, the only times, I see images of minorities is A) African or African Americans who have passed away, who are playing sports, or who are in court B) Asian males who are in business suits and participating in the stock market C) Asian immigrants who have horrible living conditions. Women are models, mothers, or teachers. I don't think that the reporters use these images to say, "This is how things should be." But to look at them at face value, one can think, "This is how things are. And how can I change this?"

I will post some images, and even post a photo of my own. See what you think. What story can you say about this image. Look beyond the happy faces, the colors, the tears. What is the story really saying. A picture holds within its borders a proverbial 1,000 words. What do you read?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

the "Modern Primitive's" Mistake

While Daniel Rosenblatt presents many ideas about the body modifications such as resistance acted upon the body, mainstream and its constant flux, and therapy/self realization through body modification, I found his discussion of the "modern primitive" the most enlightening.

"'Primitives' or 'others' have long had a hold on the Western imagination. It is de rigueur these days to put the words in quotation marks, indexing the author's awareness that whatever it is that obsesses our imagination is as much or more a product of that imagination as of encounters with other societies" (Rosenblatt 1997: 293).

I think that the context he placed the idea of primitive and primitive-ness is especially crucial to his research. While primitive is currently not considered very politically correct, ethnocentric, and wrong, it is essential for this research to proceed. Identifying tattoos as tribal or having "primitive" like qualities sits in a specific Western ideology which illuminates more about Western cultures and those who practice these body modifications than the elusive "primitive" society who apparently has none of the problems of Western society. Through placing the definition of "primitive" within the Western context of imperialist nostalgia and first in his article, Rosenblatt allows the reader to follow the progression of these specific body modification practices in a Western context. I enjoyed the historical aspect of Rousseau and Benedict.

It was easy as time to get lost in the rambling prose and to sometimes wonder where a particular point was going, but overall article was enjoyable and very thought provoking. From an ethnographic standpoint, I found there was a lack of fieldwork examples since he mainly relied on the text Modern Primitives. The ideas were unpacked somewhat disarrayed, but very thorough. He moved his information both "in" and "out" focusing upon both the intricate aspects of this research within the community and broader social implications. The dialogue of mainstream, resistance, and self discovery all interwove to establish a rambling picture of the situation.

Again, ending with the idea that the "primitive" modern primitives identify with is their own construction, Rosenblatt ends with his own research with the Maori of New Zealand saying the the tattoos they receive are a unifying marking rather than marking out an individual. If there were more examples such as this, I feel that the author would have better expressed his point, because while he research is obviously very extensive and well thought, he was not present in the text save the beginning and the end. This, overall, gave the text a floating and at times distancing stance.

Future Body Modifications

Despite my mother’s horrific reaction if she knew, my next planned body medication is a tattoo. The image I wish to place on the inside of my forearm is a triskele – a Celtic symbol of three interconnected spirals drawn with a single line. I chose this figure because it is simple in design but complex in meaning. The triskele represents womanhood, the interconnected experience, reincarnation, and continuous movement of time. The tattoo would ideally be pink because my mother is a breast cancer survivor. I feel that this would be a marking that I could grow with since tattoos are permanent and that it is vague enough to have personal meaning to me without others ascribing it meaning. The placement of the tattoo may change depending on when I receive the tattoo, but I am fairly certain that the image I have selected will remain the same.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Splitting Hairs

I've known for a long time that both of my grandmothers and my mother greyed early: meaning that they started to have grey hairs. Early is, of course, relative. When I say early, I mean in their early 20's. Shortly before my 21st birthday about a year ago, I pulled my hair back to wash my face. To my surprise among my dark brown hair, something stood in stark contrast. It was small, it was singular, it was white. My first white hair. I wasn't sure how to react to it. I wanted to make sure it wasn't a random blond hair that I find from time to time, so I pulled it out. Checked against the white porcelain sink, the hair was beyond a shadow of a doubt white.

I wasn't sure how to take it. It bothers me slightly, but not in the fact that it makes me old, I just don't know how to deal with my white hairs. Yes, I have found more. I do have about 5-10 white (not grey) hairs scattered about the top of my head. My hair is changing on me, and I'm not 100% sure that I want it to change. The white hairs give me conflicting emotions. I think it's rather neat to have little white hairs about. I think they confuse those who see them as much as they confuse me. Some tell me to pluck them out; I don't see why, they'll just grow back. Other people tell me to dye my hair. As much as I enjoyed being a red head, I want to see my hair change color on its own, and not be surprised when the white hairs begin to take over.

The white hairs, I must say, take me by surprise. There is something inevitable about them. How does one alter that biological change? Do I even want to?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Changing the outside from within

My dieting narrative:

So, in short (and this will be the shortest statement of the narrative), I tend to ramble. I will go on and on, but so it goes (as Vonnegut would say in Cat's Cradle).

In second grade, students would sit in front of their classroom doors waiting for their teacher to come. My teacher, Ms. LaVerne, had a large bench for all her students to sit on. As usual, before class, I would sit next to my then friend, Sarah Lobdell. Sarah was always a petite child. I remember thinking that my thighs were so much larger than hers and not liking my thighs. But I did not diet. I don't think I really knew what a diet was. My mom was always on a diet. But like curse words and drinking alcohol, diets were for grown ups. I could diet when I was a grown up. Diets meant eating salads and not eating desert. And well, I could wait to grow up because I did not like salads.

Going for my regular check up years later, the doctor informed me that I was under the average height for my age group. I was strangely pleased with this fact. I enjoyed the idea of being smaller than other people. Starting middle school, I realized that I was not as tiny (weight wise) as the other girls. While I didn't start to limit my food intake, I did start watching what I wore. Fat. That's what I felt. I forgot about it some days, but I never liked for alot of skin to show. I wanted to wear baggy clothes. And I stopped feeling cute.

As middle school progressed, the feeling of ugliness and fatness went hand in hand. Now one might think that since my mother with her constant dieting and quest to be thin would project that feeling onto her three young daughters. However, I did not feel this was the case. Mom ate salads because she was a grown up and that is what grown ups did (this in and of itself can be examined and picked apart. My mom was insistent that we did not have access to a scale. She felt that constantly weighing ourselves would be negative for our self esteem. I do think that she had a point. But when a boy told me that I was ugly in sixth grade and I felt that no boys liked me, I "knew" in my head that it was because I was ugly (since my face was covered in acne and I was, according to me, overweight. I started playing soccer in seventh grade, and one of my teachers asked me if I had lost weight and that I looked good. It was such a high. I felt like a million dollars. I was validated, and the feeling immediately disappeared when I started eating. I felt that every bite was me gaining weight.

I try to take a philosophy that if my clothes fit than I am maintaining a good weight. Soccer kept me very in shape. While I was never tiny, I didn't feel quite so fat. I have a phobia of being picked up, not because I'm scared of heights. I don't want the person picking me up to think that I'm fat and heavy. I want to be little and light. I am 5'2", and I like being short. I know that part of this liking being short is that I'm perceived as light/tiny. I don't "diet" per se, but I do watch what I eat. I am very aware of my food intake, and yes, I do think of food as sometimes the enemy. I know where this information comes from. I am aware of where I'm getting these images. Dieting is no longer for grown ups in my head. I don't have to eat salad all the time because I am 21. I was shocked when my younger sister told me that when she was in elementary school, her and her friends used to go on "diets" in the cafeteria, i.e. eat their salads and not their cookies. She recalled that they inevitably forgot and would eat the cookies. But play "diet." That fact is a little scary.

I still think I'm heavy. I don't like being picked up. I have a fear of getting fat. My dieting narrative does not reflect what I eat, but how I behave to food. I enjoy food, I'm from south Louisiana everything is fried goodness. I still eat, but I work out. Maybe not every day. But I feel fat when I don't. I try to run off the weight. Food is good for one person to live and to live well. But that doesn't mean we view food in a healthy light. I think like most Americans I desire a diet to change my outside rapidly without changing my life style. I accept more today than I used to that my body is beautiful. I accept that this is who I am. But in some ways, it feels more like giving up and truly accepting and loving.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Items that change me

In the morning:
Put on then take off my glasses
Put on my contacts
Wash my face with facial soap to remove the oils
Put on moisturizer
Put on deodorant
Brush my teeth with toothbrush and tooth paste
Run my fingers through my hair occasionally use brush
Pick out an outfit (bra, shirt, shorts/skirt/pants, tights or socks)
Put on shoes
Put on my watch, earrings

Going to the gym:
Put on gym attire (sports bra, shorts, gym socks, old shirts)
Pull hair back in a half ponytail with a hair rubberband
Wear gym shoes

Taking a shower:
Remove clothes and put on robe and shower shoes
Wash hair with shampoo and conditioner
Use body wash to cleanse body and body puff
Shave legs and underarms with razor using shaving cream

Post shower:
Put lotion on body
Put de-frizz product in hair
Occasionally use hair dryer and hair iron
Redress with clean underwear

Going Out:
Put on going out attire
Wear heels (kitten heels but heels nonetheless)
Put on make up
Put on perfume

Bedtime routine:
Put on pajamas
Put on fuzzy socks
Remove contacts and place in container with solution and put on glasses
Wash face with facial soap
Put on acne medicine
Brush teeth with toothbrush and toothpaste

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Just add soap and water

So, I was thinking about my body modifications and my body modification practices, and I remembered that I left out a very important modification. I write notes on my hands and wrists. It started in middle school. I used to make long lists down my wrist of things that I need to do. I still do it today. I know that I will not lose the note and that I'll continually see it. The body note is essential some days for me just to get by.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Modify Me

I guess in a way, not very many of us are truly not body modified. Every scar and hair cut changes who our body from a supposed natural state. What I found interesting in ANTH01- Physical Anthropology, is Modern Homo sapiens show the first evidence of body adornment. Why do we have a need to take our body and try to claim it as our own: conform it or differentiate it? While I cannot answer this question for others, I can answer this question (incompletely) for myself.

I was born and raised in the deep south. My parents are devout Catholics, so between location and religion, I had a very conservative upbringing. Hair cuts and ear piercings were the only changes one could intentionally do to their body. (But in my grandmother's generation piercing one's ears was a sign of sexual looseness).
Mosquitoes. They bite. No, literally, they do. From the age of five on, I lived in south Louisiana -- notorious for mosquitoes and standing water. Running outside, going camping, and visiting my grandmother meant my legs were covered by mosquito bites. They itched so much, and I scratched so much. My legs as a child were covered in scabs, and I scar easily. My mother often tells me that she used to be worried about the scars on my legs, because my legs would be "ugly." In a way, I'm thankful that my legs are not "ugly" in society's eyes. But as a child, I did not care scars. While the scars have faded, I still have the habit of picking.

Growing up, I could not wait to turn 10, because in my family when a girl is ten, she can get her ears pierced. Both of my parents have a problem with babies getting their ears pierced because they find this cruel. I wanted to wear earrings so much because I thought they looked so grown up. My mother had her ears pierced and my best friend had her ears pierced. Shortly after my 10th birthday, my dad took me to Iota to visit my grandfather, a general practitioner, who pierced my ears in his office. He pierced my ears with a long, thin needle after applying general anesthesia. I remember watching my older sister getting her ears pierced, and I felt like I was being initiated into something greater than myself. After all, I was in fourth grade, the next year I was going to middle school like the big girls. I remember going home with my head held high, because I was finally a big girl like Laura.

Fast forward a year, I am in middle school. During the yearly school eye examine, I receive a paper to give my parents. I did not read the paper, but considering not many other kids got the paper, I did not think it was a good sign. Apparently, I couldn't see very well, so my dad took me to the opthamologist and he gave me my first prescription for glasses. I still remember my first pair of glasses (I actually found them over winter break). They were large, round, tortoise shell. I associated glasses with smart people. My dad wore glasses, and he's a doctor. My friend Nicole wore glasses, and she was in 8th grade math as a 5th grader. My friend Sydney did not wear glasses, but I knew she was smart. Laura, my older sister, wore glasses, and she read all the time. But, deep down, I was not excited to wear glasses. I felt like something was wrong when I wore them. They set me apart. I was dorky. The fact I did well in school didn't help this image. The gawky days of middle school did not go smoothly with acne and glasses. As soon as my parents permitted me to try contacts, I got rid of the glasses. I do wear contacts now, but I learned to love my glasses. I appreciate the fact that I can change between the two. Glasses restricted with me because I had no choice now I do.

Blending in was all I wanted to do in middle school, and I was good at it. I don't mean that I wanted to fit in with the popular kids; I literally mean that I wanted to blend it. I wore browns and grey. Dark colours, nothing flashy. I wanted to unnoticed. I wanted to slink by. By high school, I was tired of this. I was ready to start coming into my own. Which might be a little unusual that I decided to stand out after I had to start wearing a school uniform. The way I stood out was to paint my nails black. No one expected it. I was little, sweet, and innocent. The paint my nails black made people turn their heads. It made my friends question some assumptions they had about me.

May 2003, I just graduated from high school. My then boyfriend finds out that I wanted to pierce my naval. He freaked. He's from basically the same southern background I am, and he was adamantly against me getting any piercing. He basically reacted as if a piercing were akin to a toxin that would transform me into a sexual deviant. We almost broke up over this piercing. I refused to relent. Eventually, he did. That October, following my parents rule of no body piercing under their roof, I got my navel pierced. And the boyfriend, he actually liked it.

I think it shocks my friends that I pierced my navel. Some are finding out about it four years after the fact. Covering my midriff, the piercing is rarely visible to others. My mom, who still doesn't understand why I wanted this piercing, asks me why did I get it if no one sees it. Frankly, I got this piercing for me. It was something I wanted. I just like it. The piercing is a part of me. I got it because it amuses me. There is nothing wrong with it. It's like my secret. I am more than what you see. People don't expect it, and I like it that way.

Oh scars, the scars from my childhood are gone. They have faded to nothing, but I'm still accident prone enough to acquire new ones. I have two on each lower arm where I burned myself on the exhaust pipe of my dad's Volkswagen during the summer of 2003. It's a long story how I burned myself. I remember being upset at first because I felt like I damaged my arms. I kind of grew to like them. I'm sad to see them fade. They were a story to tell. And now they are almost gone. I have another scar from the summer of 2005 when I burned myself on the pizza oven at work. It was the corner of the over. I had a "flag" like scar on my lower stomach. (Some of my friends said it looked like a penis, but I'll agree with my mom on this one -- it's a flag). This one is quickly fading as well. I guess while some body modifications can disappear; the mental effect can remain. Even if I am the only one who see the mark of the modification, it is a part of my personal narrative.

There are some here at the Claremont Colleges who think I'm a red head. I used to dye my hair red. Not to brag, but it looked rather natural. Most people thought I was a natural red head including one of my friends who is a natural red head. Junior year, I got tired of dying my hair. I missed my brown hair, so I let it grow out. I enjoyed my red hair because I felt like I could be more wild as a red head. It made me stand out because not too many people have red hair. Now, I've found two white hairs. Women in my family grey early. Some have told me to pull it out, but I refuse. I kind of like them. They have character.

I mentioned earlier about mental body modifications. I think these are also important. Every body modification (save the bug bites) changed my relationship to my mental self and my body. I viewed myself differently. I put on a new persona. When I made a change in my life, I physically showed it on myself whether this was clothing, scars, or piercing. The map of our life is laid on our bodies, the only think we cannot leave at home.