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Monday, May 27, 2013

Seduction & Sobriety


Ugh. So un-seductive.

Isn’t seduction supposed to be sitting in an opium den, slowly sipping smoke from a pipe, wearing a see-through brocade dress, making eyes at some beautiful stranger I will never see again after tonight?

“I know. It sucks. But that is just simply not the case,” says the Universe.

I’m sitting on an Amtrak train from Harrisburg to New York after a weekend of helping my mother-in-law move.  My husband is sitting across from me.  I’m tired.  I miss New York.  There is a peppermint patty in my purse, and truthfully, I want to inject the sugar into my veins with an IV.

As those of you who read my blog know, I am a recovering compulsive eater.  I use food like a drug.  I have come a really long way over the years, and have a generally awesome relationship to my body and the way I eat.  Sometimes, however, it comes back.

Here on the train, I have a hung over/sick feeling in my stomach from the cheeseburger I ate for lunch.  It came with a Diet Coke, chips, and so much mayonnaise you would think the thing was made by a diabetes drug company.  I feel bloated, and the last thing my body wants is more sugar and chemicals.  But the part of me that wants to numb out just wants to mainline that thing.

As I was purchasing it, these were some of the motivations that crossed my psyche:

“I can’t make it 3 ½ hours without sugar.”
“It’s a peppermint patty, not a Snickers.  It’s not that bad.”
“I can split it with my husband to make myself feel better about it.”
“It shows that I am independent, that I can make my own decisions” (see the next two paragraphs).

When we were leaving, my husband chimed in that he thought we maybe shouldn’t buy train station snacks because we ate a lot of processed food over the weekend (translation: please can we go to the farmers market when we get home and get some fresh veggies so we are not supporting/taking part in the downward spiral of junk food that is killing America?). My brain, however, turned him into my worst patriarchal nightmare: “What, are you some kind of freak? You can’t live three hours without a sugar fix? You’re lame. Fat. Unattractive. Weak. Stupid. Hopeless.” 

In buying the peppermint patty, I got to say fuck you to that patriarchal nightmare: “You think I’m fat now? Just you wait.  I’ll show you how fat I can be.  How much misery I can take.  I’m just getting started.  If you can’t take me like this then you can’t take me period.  Leave then.  Let me be alone so I can eat my way into a numb, miserable, isolated coma. At least it would feel different than this”. 

(Please note that none of this is happening on a conscious level .It is only in retrospect that I am able to identify these feelings clearly.)

Then I bring this patty, which now feels like a nuclear reactor in my purse, onto the train.  We are riding Amtrak, so of course we are delayed.  Part of me wants to eat through my purse to the patty.  But I hold off.  I am still feeling totally nauseous and I know that eating more sugar will only make it worse.  And that is just not what normal people do goddammit, so I’m not going to do it!

Finally, we board the train.  I sit in my own seat and listen to the song “Be Here Now” by Mason Jennings, breathing deeply and taking in the sunshine. “You are the love of my life” plays through the interlude.  I think to myself, “if God were singing this to me, would I eat that patty right now? It’s not that eating the patty is wrong or bad. It’s just that I know I don’t actually want it.”  When I slip on the suit of being the love of God’s life, I don’t see myself choking down something that feels like poison.  Okay.  Good to know.  And yet, every 45 seconds, my mind drifts to the ever-present ability to change what I am feeling in the moment with a substance.

You may be reading this thinking, “Jesus! Throw the damn patty out the window if you don’t want it! Or just don’t eat it!”  But see, that would be like trying to apply the rules of checkers to a game of chess.  By eating the patty, I get to physically act out several beliefs:

1. I am shit.  Eating this patty reinforces that, and then when I have the sick feeling in my stomach that comes from eating it, I can blame my problems on my belly, not reality. 
2. If I can blame it on my stomach that means it’s my fault.
3. If it’s my fault, I am the one in control.  If 1+1=2, and junk food + fat belly = being repulsive and repugnant, I can subtract one from the equation by drinking green juice for the rest of the day.  Yes, that is what I need, a good baptismal cleansing of kale.  Redemption, atonement, something to make me shiny and new.

After all, when you are shiny and new, things like delayed trains don’t get to you! Shiny and new means thin, beautiful and in control.  Thin, beautiful people don’t have to worry about their businesses being successful. It all happens by magic.  They certainly don’t have to worry that their nieces are getting older every day which means that once they finally have kids there will be an enormous age gap that prevents cousinly bonding.  They don’t have to worry about their parents being sad.  BEAUTY FIXES ALL.  IF IT LOOKS RIGHT, IT WILL BE ALL RIGHT. RIGHT???????!!!!!!!!!!!!

As a last ditch effort, I got out my computer to write to you.  Writing this, I can feel that the jig is up. The cat is out of the bag.  I know now that a peppermint patty won’t fix a single goddamn thing.  What I want and need right now is to feel the heartbreaking fragility of life.  To be nourished by how much my nieces love and admire me, and cope with the fact that someday they will be too old to fall asleep on my lap watching Mary Poppins.  To know that someday, members of my family will die.  And I will not only be able to handle that pain, but also the pain of seeing my family grieve, and that we will come out of it loving each other even more. I need to acknowledge that right now my husband’s own crib quilt from when he was a baby is in my suitcase. This makes calling the gynecologist to have my ovarian cyst checked out before I get pregnant all the more real and pressing.  And I need to be reminded that when it all happens, somehow, it will be ok. 

So.  Seduction.

What I have learned is that those opium den moments come and go, but they don’t fill me up for long.  Sacred seduction is about long lasting attraction and satisfaction. What is most attractive at the end of the day? The truth.  It’s not about having white teeth and perfectly painted toenails.  What is attractive is showing self-respect by giving in to the glaring, white-hot, electric, sometimes harsh-as-fuck truth, instead of just eating the crust off the pie of my feelings, and covering the gooey center with a tea towel to pretend it’s not there.  We all know that shit seeps through eventually.

After writing this, the feeling of my stomach wanting to be over filled, pulling like quicksand on anything and everything, has reversed.  I now feel extremely full, and can feel my stomach pushing back.  I can physically feel that I don’t need or want anything else in my body in this moment. That is not a feeling I had 15 minutes ago.

Sobriety, it appears, is extremely seductive after all.

Okay Universe, one for you.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Embodiment Of The Arts


It’s a word that get’s a little over-used these days, but just for fun, let’s chew on it a bit and let the flavor really sink in. 

Yesterday I was at a cupcake shop with my best friend and soul sister Vivi Le Voix, planning our June 1st event “A Night of Opera, Seduction and Burlesque”. We were talking about what makes this event different from just going to the opera, or a burlesque show, or a class.  What we discovered is that this event is not just an observation of the arts.  It is a chance for a person to EMBODY the arts.
Vivi performing Tosca
One of the things I love about going to see a performance is that it opens my senses to a whole new experience.  However, sitting in an opera audience involves a lot of…sitting.  Hearing the different languages is beautiful but can cause the mind to wander. I always have the desire to know: what is the story behind the story? Ok, so this woman gets killed by this guy for the sake of her true love. Got it. But what was the writer really trying to express in telling that story through opera?

Similarly, when I see burlesque, it lights me up and changes my life every single time.  But it goes by so fast! I want to know, when one pastie is a different color than the other, why did the performer choose that? Was it a nod to the artist who wrote the song, like the way Carol Burnett used to tug on her ear for her Grandma at the close of every show?  Or is it a secret far more personal?  These things keep me up at night. 
Hey Sailor!
Photo by Beth Mayesh
When Vivi and I designed this event, we wanted to take these art forms that are often observed from far away and allow the audience to cradle them in their hands.  For example, have you ever stood 5 feet away from a real opera singer?  Your bones, your heart and your soul tremble at the vibrations of her voice. For most people, when they first hear Vivi sing, they get tears in the corners of their eyes and they have no idea why.  This is why we all love art so much.  It awakens us to a mysterious yearning that comes from a part of ourselves that can never quite be “figured out”. With all the things that can be figured out nowadays, this is a code we wouldn’t dare try to crack.  That, my friends, is a miracle in the flesh. 

The same goes for burlesque.  Watching a burlesque act is like witnessing an entire lifetime in three to five minutes. Burlesque uses the power of the physical body to manifest the most significant, intense emotions a person can feel.  The way the energy changes in the room when even a glove comes off of a forearm is like switching the channel on a television.  Whenever we get naked, literally or metaphorically, we are risking it all.  We are telling the full truth - showing up in our greatest vulnerability, which ultimately represents our greatest power. 
Nipples of Venus Cakerie
Photo by Beth Mayesh
On this evening that Vivi and I have planned, we intend to take you through a sensory tour of living art.  There will be Nipples of Venus Cakerie delights, beautiful wines and bubbly beverages to tease your taste buds.  Your ears will experience every sensation imaginable; from the lightest tickle to the deepest massage stroke by hearing opera up close.  Your eyes will take you on a journey of the heart with every conceal and reveal you witness.  Hearing the story behind each story will touch your very soul, and add a whole new layer of meaning to the experience.

Most of all, you will learn how to take this experience and apply it to every encounter you have with the arts after this one. Whether you are front row at a concert or reading “Poetry In Motion” on the subway, this experience will be something your body will never forget. 

We invite you to embody the arts with us, Saturday June 1st

For a sample of what you will hear at the event, click here to listen to Vivi singing one of her favorite arias.