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May 2006

Food Gaffes

May 11, 2006   

When I was 10 or 11 years old, I read a book called Making friends (The Girls of Canby Hall, No. 18) about three very different girls who end up as roommates at a boarding school.

As I’ve Googled (goodness knows my memory is shot), the girls are from Boston, Chicago, and… Texas. I don’t know why they didn’t say what city the third girl was from. Anyway, they all have very lame names and the characters are quite the exercise in regional and socioeconomic class stereotypes — it was the 80s after all:

  • Jane Barrett from Boston: prim & proper, quite the blueblood WASP blonde
  • Andy Cord from Chicago: fun-loving black girl from a boisterous middle-class family
  • Toby Houston from… Texas (I believe she was not actually from Houston): naive but sweet redheaded farmer’s daughter who had never been to the big city

As I sliced some brie tonight (yes, I “cut the cheese”), I was thinking of the time I was at a friend’s house for a dinner party and I was jokingly taken to task for a breach in etiquette in cutting cheese. Do you know the proper rules for cutting cheese?

Yeah, I know. I guess it makes sense, but how are you to know without someone explicitly telling you?

Anyway, I swear this has something to do with the Girls of Canby Hall.

At some point in the story, the three girls go to Posh Spice a.k.a. Jane Barrett’s home for a weekend. Baby Spice a.k.a. Toby has trouble with the artichoke, which she’s never seen before, whereas Sporty Spice (or maybe Scary Spice since people from cities will cut you ;p) a.k.a. Andy, despite the fact that she’s never seen it before either, manages to successfully mimic the Barrett family. Or wait, maybe it was the other way around. Anyway, one of them chews and chews on the entire leaf for a while until someone shows some mercy. I think the Jane character then painstakingly shows how to properly eat an artichoke.

It was a humiliating experience for whichever character it was.

Meanwhile, I was this 10 or 11 year old, full of pre-teen anxieties, as well as being a relatively new immigrant to the U.S. I had no real idea of what “Americans” ate in their homes, other than what I saw on Growing Pains or Family Ties or what I observed at lunchtime in school. I had friends of various backgrounds, but I was rarely allowed to go over other people’s houses, so it was largely a mystery what the theoretical “average American family” ate on a daily basis. So you can imagine my interest at this odd foodstuff that even other born-and-bred Americans had trouble with.

I had all these fears about food because I simply didn’t have contact with various foods. Man, when I had real Indian curry, you should have seen how weirded out I was that it wasn’t like Korean curry. I was like, “Where is the real curry?” Stupid, eh? Heh.

In high school, I made the dumb mistake of putting both lemon and cream in my tea. Curdle-rama. My friend called me an idiot. 😀

Back to Canby Hall… So I went off to college at some point, and I wanted to try artichokes, filled with fear and trepidation and excitement at the prospect of eating this Very Exotic Food ™. My then-bf and I went out and bought some, cooked them up, and ate them. They were tasty. But somehow, the book had made it seem like it was just impossible to figure out how to eat properly. But all you needed to do was see someone eat one leaf and it was easy as pie.

Once I learned the hows and whys of cutting cheese, it was not difficult to remember, but it was embarrassing when I was told I was being greedy by cutting the tip of the brie. I only meant to cut the smallest part so I didn’t look greedy. Oh well.

Seppo and I always sweat bullets at some of the fancier restaurants for fear that we’ll use the wrong utensils. I know the general rules, but there always seems to be some exception. Alas.

So, you guys have any embarrassing food-related gaffes?


May 11, 2006   

I woke up feeling really tired, achy, and with my nose running like a faucet, not to mention swollen eyes.

On top of that, navel-gazing is extremely tiring. It can wear a person out! 😀

I’m taking today off from work. I feel really crappy, a little cranky, and a little muddled in the head.

Peace out, yo.

The Psychology of Beauty

May 11, 2006   

Note: I’m no psychologist, just an arm-chair speculator.

What is beauty? My muddled thoughts and words from my previous entry on body image is forcing me to try to articulate this more clearly. My guess is that in the distant past, when scrabbling for food and genetic survival, standards of beauty were probably strictly tied to health and physical dominance.

I’m sure that research into various different aspects of current day conceptions of beauty, we could find a reason to justify each aspect. I recently read an article about how blond hair came about and how we might presume it came into desireability, instead of being seen as an odd mutation, as well as why light skin was important in the nordic regions (having to do with Vitamin D production). I don’t know why the long necks of the long-necked tribe which I don’t know the name of were valued as beautiful, but I’m sure there were logical reasons behind that as well. I’m sure the underlying initial reason people with glasses are teased because it’s seen as a deformity, a physical problem.

So I don’t dispute that we are genetically and socially conditioned to look for outwardly physical signs of health. It can be a strong indicator in most segments of the population.

However, when someone feels “ugly” or when someone looks upon someone else as “ugly” or “undesireable”, my guess is not that the first and foremost thought is, “Oh my goodness, this person is SO unhealthy.” The person is more likely thinking, “This person doesn’t look good to me.” Period.

I think health is a huge public and personal concern. But I also think that’s NOT what most people are thinking of when they judge each other and themselves on their physical appearance. I firmly believe that many times people wield it as an excuse & weapon to judge someone else to find the judged lacking. Not that everyone does this — no generalization can cover the entire range of the human experience — but my personal interactions and my accumulated second-hand knowledge of the world confirms this to be true (not that I’m not willing to accept evidence to the contrary).

Worse is when people come to conclusions about someone’s lifestyle based on appearance. Looking at someone who is, say, 50 pounds overweight, people feel comfortable making non-health-related value judgments about the person: he/she is lazy, he/she doesn’t care about him/herself, he/she should be ashamed, he/she should stop overeating, etc.

I hate that. How do we know anything about them? Maybe that person has already lost 20 pounds of excess weight and have been steadily exercising and eating better to improve themselves. Maybe they’ve always been super-healthy and had a really bad injury that’s kept them off their feet for a while and they are struggling to find something that works. Maybe they are really feeling good about their progress but strangers’ looks of derision makes them feel like it was all pointless. Or maybe they are trying to work their way out of a lifetime of bad habits and bad self-esteem, learning to love themselves so they can start confidently, happily start making good long-term habits.

I am not saying that’s how it is for everyone. But I don’t know what’s going on with the particular person, do I? I only know that for the last several years, all I did was sit on my ass and watch TV. I was and am lazy. But my appearance didn’t cause people to harshly judge my character despite the actuality that I was/am a lazy sloth. So I got to have an unfair advantage. Not to say that I’m super-skinny or appear uber-fit; I don’t. But I fall firmly in the range of BMI that they say makes a person healthy, despite having no available stats for my blood pressure, cholesterol level, or ability to sustain prolonged activities. I know the BMI is useful as a general guideline because there is a correlation between weight/size and health, but I am merely saying it’s just one indicator, one I could use to pretend I was living a healthy lifestyle.

Anyway, I’m veering sharply into health again, when I’m honestly trying to discuss beauty.

To me, it’s all beautiful. I remember when I was 5 years old, looking at my grandma’s paper-thin, wrinkly skin and her sagging arms and breasts, and mostly her love for me in her eyes and thinking, “She is so beautiful.” My mom has always fluctuated in her weight, from very slim to pretty rotund to slim again and back, and she’s always been beautiful to me. I’ve had exes who were shorter than me and and exes who were pushing 300 lbs. They were all beautiful to me. Yes, the ex who was close to 300 lbs was actually starting to show health problems, and we started to deal with that, but he never stopped being beautiful to me. Neither did the ex who most women would have dismissed as being too short (at 5’2″ he was definitely a shorty).

So many things are not considered beautiful. But honestly, can we all only be/date/marry/procreate with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie? Is everyone else ugly?

I find my friends to be beautiful: those who think their cheekbones are weird, those who think they are too fat/skinny, those who wish their boobs were smaller/bigger, those who have long torsos, those who have short torsos, those with practically no eyelashes, those who think their foreheads are too big, those who think their heads are too small/round/big/whatever, etc. Guess which ones apply to me. 😀

People all want what they don’t have. I dearly want my friends’ beautiful lush lashes and bigger boobs. Maybe my friends want my straight hair or relative slimness. I feel paranoid about my weird forehead and wish I had a neat widow’s peak. Maybe no one else sees it and wishes they had my relative inability to sunburn under most conditions. I wish I looked more my age, maybe someone else my age wishes they looked younger like me. I really wish that I had dimples (one of the cutest traits anyone can have, in my opinion), but maybe someone else would trade my lack of freckles for that.

I wish for all those things, but only in passing. I am who I am.

It’s about really, honestly knowing your good traits and bad traits and appreciating your good traits and working on the bad traits that can be changed. It’s not about kicking yourself over everything and anything you are not or things you can never change. It’s about loving yourself so that you can give yourself the confidence to know you can be better (in all ways, not just physical) and remembering all the positives so that you don’t drown in a pool of despair when you face a new hurdle. I’m not saying we should wave our hands around and make all the bad disappear, but we can gather our strengths around us to provide momentum to tackle the next big task. Ignoring the good in you is just as bad as ignoring the bad in you. I recommend neither.

Being human, I admit that a part of why I started to work out was that I started to feel unattractive. I even lied to myself and told myself it had to do with health — and honestly, it was an issue because gaining something like 10 pounds in 2 months is quite alarming for anyone — but mostly, it was vanity. It really was. I wasn’t thinking, “What does this mean for my health?” but rather, “I am starting to feel paranoid about how I look.” I know it’s stupid, but we all do this to ourselves. Even as I look upon my friends and family and see only beauty, even with all my self-confidence, I am my harshest critic. To myself that is. I often portray an impenetrably confident persona because I think that’s how I *should* be, so I try to be that way. Also, I felt that my friends would, no, *should* poo-poo it if I admitted my efforts were primarily to look better, so I pretended looking better was merely a side benefit. Ha!

Looking better *does* boost the confidence to try harder to be more healthy, at least for me. For me, it confirms that confidence in yourself helps to make more positive changes. Derision and scorn do nothing but make people feel isolated and unliked. I save derision and scorn for things like criminal acts, not people’s appearances.

ETA: After reading the comments, it appears I save some derision for really attractive celebrities wearing ugly clothes. But it feels like good-natured laughter and not actual derision. But I am leaving myself space to see if I’m just wrong.


May 11, 2006   

For someone who is obsessed with communication issues, I sure seem to have screwed that one up.

I’m just obsessed with it because I have to be since I’m so bad at it.