Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Brief Rant About Rolling With A Spare Tire -OR- How I (Still Haven't) Learned to Love My Body.

I very rarely weigh myself. The last time before last week that I stepped on a scale was at my aunt's house in D.C. in early May. She just had the scale laying right out there and I couldn't resist, which is exactly why I do not own a scale. So then last week I was sitting at my desk as I do all day every day and I decided that my shorts felt tight and I should just give up on that top button. Which then made me wonder why my generally well fitting (if a tad short) shorts felt tight. So I weighed myself on the scale in my parents' bathroom (which lives way back under the counter and looked a bit dusty, likely from lack of use). I had gained 10 pounds since May, probably due to my rather lackadaisical attitude toward both strenuous physical activity (it's haaaard)and conscientious food consumption (sandwiches are gooooood). My first reaction was "huh...oh well" but over the course of the afternoon it continually popped up on the tracks of my train of thought. So I texted my boyfriend to complain.

K: "I've gained ten pounds since graduation."
M: "What does that mean?"

I gave him the acceptable educated-socially-conscious-liberal-feminist responses.

K: "Mainly it means that my clothes are fitting more tightly. Also, that I have probably been eating too many brown foods and not enough green foods. Also, I need to be mindful not to lead a sedentary lifestyle."

He acknowledged my polite reasons and gave the appropriate response one gives when trapped into a conversation about someone else's weight.

M: "Yeah, I should eat more green foods and not be sedentary, too. We'll do it together!"

And then we switched subjects because he knows how to field my insecurities with great aplomb and I wasn't about to start harping on my weight because I KNOW it's a silly thing to harp about so why was I harping internally?

So I started thinking more about his question - WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? And I think I know what the real answer is, and it is ugly:

It means that I have been inured in the belief that to be fat is a moral shortcoming, and that to be fat is to be less pretty, which is to say have less worth as a human being. Now, I am cognizant of the fact that I have been raised in a society that is severely damaged, wherein the majority of what we are taught is predicated on whether or not we can be sold something afterward, and that this damaged society hates women...and fat people...and men, for that matter (until, of course, we've dropped enough money into "fixing" what's wrong with us and by "enough money" I mean "all of the money" and then we will be told that it's just not enough). However, this knowledge only helps me freak out MARGINALLY less when I discover that I've gained ten pounds. I am still convinced that at least some of my public worth as well as my self-worth is inversely related to the number on the scale.

I am gripped by these insecurities infrequently. Generally speaking, I am well aware of my good fortune and good genetics, I am unconcerned with an exact pound measurement, I am healthy and capable, and I know at least a couple people who would affix the label "hot" to me (specifically myself and my squeeze but, c'mon, there's GOTTA be someone else among the 6.5 billion out there by whom I would be considered a sexy mama). But it's weird when these self-denigrating thoughts slither into my empowered woman psyche. They did not come from me, and I do not accept them being there, but I have yet to outfox them before they assault me like thought-slugs on the leafy green Hostas of my brain. I doubt I ever will learn. But at least I know why.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Confession and Then Some Complaining

Here's a confession: I don't know the multiplication table. I never learned. I am practiced enough that I can add very quickly in my head, but if you ask me "what's 7 times 4?" I have to add 7 four times to get 28. Or I have to break it down into smaller multiplication problems. Like, 5 times 9 - I know 5 times 4 is 20, so do that twice and you have 40, plus 5 is 45. No, taking 5x10 =50-5 =45 does not occur to me. It's complicated, it's time consuming, it's depressing. It never mattered before because somehow I always managed to fake it, but now I'm studying for the GRE where I have to do something like one math problem per minute, plus I have to be able to factor which is exceedingly difficult for me since I take this ridiculously roundabout way to multiply forward and it's impossible to apply it backward. So I'm panicking.

I'm going to blame the public school system. See, I excel at reading and writing. In grade school, teachers would see how well I did on spelling tests and just assume I was "smart". I am smart. Being smart in general doesn't take into account strong subjects and weak subjects, and neither did my teachers when they were giving me lessons. It's not their fault; they had 30 other 9-year-olds to contend with. I was good at faking what I knew. I am, still. So when it came time for testing, I would do my crazy multiplication pidgin and get away with it. What happened is that I slipped through the cracks. I didn't have the aptitude to actually learn this lesson the way it was taught, but I was never so obviously unable to grasp it that I got extra help. This is the story with a lot of children, the kids that are doing "just fine".

In a perfect world, there would be a way to implement a strategy like what the GRE calls a Computer-Adaptive Test into our everyday school system. Basically, the test starts out with easy questions and then adjusts the difficulty level based on how well one answered the last question. If you do well, you get harder questions and if you make a mistake, you get easier questions until the difficulty level is averaged out on an individual basis. I have no idea how we could use a system like this (maybe grouping students by skill level rather than by year?) but it would be awesome if we could.

So here I am taking the time when I should be drilling my multiplication tables to talk about the fact that I'm going to have to drill my multiplication tables. Because this is where my strong points are. And factoring is for chumps, anyway.