Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lines and curves

Two years ago, I put photos on the internet of my plus size bod in a bikini.  This past year, the curvy bikini thing has really taken off, and I’m honored to have been a part of that revolution.  But between then and now, my self-love has slipped some.  I’ve gained a little weight, coming back up to my extremely stable set-point.  I’ve had an episode of depression.  As part of that depression, I’ve been less active, so my body isn’t as healthy right now as I like to keep it, regardless of size.  As a body love advocate, it’s hard when I find myself self-hating.  It’s difficult to talk about.  But yeah, that shit happens.

I’m part of a monthly women’s spirituality group.  Once a month, we get together, make a meal, eat, share our joys and challenges, and do an activity.  On Friday night, I was the host, so it was my turn to come up with our activity.  In the past, I have done groups on trance dancing, the tarot, Zen meditation.  Over the years, we have explored everything from feng shui to past lives, dreams to Isadora Duncan. 

I knew I wanted to do a group on body love.  I needed it.  I know most women need it.  As I was brainstorming activities, I remembered posing for my sister, who is an amazing artist, as she sketched me nude.  I had seen her sketches of strangers, the lines of their bodies, the wrinkles, the rolls, the curves and shapes.  I had seen how the “imperfections” were the most beautiful parts.  So I asked her to sketch me.  I watched her click into artist mode, where she was no longer looking at my body as a body, but only as shapes, lines, curves.  In that space, there is no judgment.  There are only shapes.  I wanted to see myself that way.

Before the group met, I tried it.  I took a photo of my nude torso in the mirror, and then used the photo to sketch myself.  I don’t know if it would work for everyone, but I am enough of an artist that it worked for me.  My belly was no longer this sagging thing to be judged or hated.  It was a shape, a curve, that I was trying to accurately capture with my pencil.  It was a completely non-judgmental space and a very transforming way of seeing my own body.

When I finished the sketch, I looked at it as a whole.  It was the kind of body I would wish for.  And it was mine.  As a set of lines, it was easier to see the beauty.  The perfection of the imperfections came across in a piece of art in a way that doesn’t happen in the mirror.  I decided to write over the pencil lines with my thoughts about my body.  I intended to do affirmational positive body talk, but what emerged was just… what is.  “This is my fupa, my apron, my flap.  It used to hold my precious children.”  “This one [my right breast] is smaller and lower.”  No judgment.  Just… what is.  When I was done, I erased the pencil lines, and was left with my body shape, created out of my language about it. 

I was left with a sense of peace.  And this incredibly powerful piece of paper. 

My body, in my own words

The next night, the group met.  We ate and drank and talked.  And then it was activity time.  They did sketches of their legs, their bellies, their smiles.  I watched as they clicked into artist mode, trying to capture the beautiful lines of themselves.  I did a second piece with the group of my face in profile.  I have struggled with my nose for as long as I can remember, and more recently with my neck, which hovers just on the cusp of a double chin.  As a piece of art, though, my nose is the best part.  That roller coaster curve of bridge, bump, and ball.  That’s me.  It’s one of the defining curves of my body.  Although slightly larger in person than it is in this drawing, that curve of my nose is what makes this image identifiably me. 

Faces are way harder to draw.  If you try this at home, maybe don't do your face.  Because dude, hard.

If you struggle with body image, I encourage you to try this activity yourself.  In the aftermath of it, I feel a kind of calm acceptance I haven’t felt before.  It’s different from the exuberance, the “I am one sexy bitch,” of the bikini project.  This is a quiet love.  An acknowledgment of what is, without judgment or the desire to change it.  These curves are me.  These words and thoughts are me.  I am a perfectly imperfect piece of art.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Why I don’t have a food blog

I love to cook, and every so often, I toy with the idea of starting a food blog.  I even went so far as to register a domain name for a food blog I planned on starting with a foodie friend.  I just paid the second year of registration to hold the name, but we still have no blog.  Here’s why.

1) I am starting to recognize the “new project” excitement that leads to lasting and good things, like this blog, and the “new project” excitement that leads to a project that I start and then abandon, like making my own Nakashima-esque table.  I have a sneaking suspicion that a food blog might of the latter variety, and would run out of steam once I blew through the ten fancy things I make on the regs. 

2) I don’t take photos of food.  Well, sometimes I do, but I take them on my phone.  Poorly.  No stunningly styled photos in which the fork sits just so, sparklingly clean in the professional lighting.  Nope, blurry photos on my phone, through a lens smudged by my sunscreen-covered fingers, on my basic everyday dishes on a table with permanent marker marks and glitter glue residue. (FYI, glitter glue isn't washable like regular glue.)  Or I forget altogether until I’ve eaten a few bites and messed up the pretty drizzled things.

3) I steal recipes.  Sure, I have some things that are all mine.  My chicken wing dry rub.  The polenta appetizers I made this past weekend.  My fruit crisp topping.  The crème brulee with ganache that I sort of reverse engineered and then perfected after having it at a restaurant.  Those are officially “my” recipes.  But mostly, I’m stealing stuff from other food blogs I follow or find on Pinterest or making stuff with recipes my mom invented/perfected.

4) Failures are funnier than successes.  If I had a food blog, how would I not show you this cake I made?  I mean, come on, that’s blogging gold.  A gluten-free carrot cake.  My first time making carrot cake.  My first time working with gluten-free flour.  And my first layer cake in, let’s say… ten years?  I forgot the basic rule.  Make sure you have enough damn frosting to hide the mistakes.  Oops.

My gluten free baking masterpiece.  No, the kids didn't help.  This is all me, people.
And how would I not talk about how I made this cake the morning after a bout of food poisoning, on 4 hours of sleep because I was up all night violently and variously expelling food from my body?  And how would I not describe the swearing, ohhhhhh the swearing, as I was already running an hour behind for the dinner party I was co-throwing with a friend at her house, feeling sick and clammy, on no sleep, and this damn effing cake just kept crumbling and I didn’t have enough frosting and F**K!!!! 

I mean, never mind that the deconstructed fried rice recipe I shamelessly stole from Smitten Kitchen was a hit.  Never mind that if you make polenta with from-scratch veggie broth and broil some Cambozola cheese on top, people are going to love that shit, duh.  Never mind the perfect combination of goat cheese mousse, roasted red peppers, and basil puree.  From my perspective, the cake is the story here.  And the fact that I got too drunk to chop garlic because apparently homemade Limoncello martinis are not a good way to break one’s fast after food poisoning. Oh, and the balsamic reduction I over-reduced so it turned into balsamic salt water taffy.  (Just so you know, if that happens, you can totally add a teeny bit of hot water to it and salvage it.)  THAT.  That’s my food blog.  What you do when you over-reduce your balsamic vinegar.  What you do when you make the world’s ugliest cake.  (Answer, make sure everyone is drunk and then serve it sliced.) 

What was I saying?  Oh right, reasons why I don’t have a food blog.  So anyway, those are the reasons.  But, I do love food.  I love to experiment with food and make delicious things, and I even like to photograph food poorly.  So if it’s OK with you guys, I might do some food-related entries.  They’re far more likely to be comedic failures than Pinterest-worthy masterpieces.  I guess that’s just who I am.  Coming off of a delightful dinner party with spectacular food, wine, cocktails, and company, the story I find I want to tell is one of food poisoning and the world’s most hideous cake.  Maybe that makes me negative.  I prefer to think of it as amusingly real.