[Untitled] – Because Titles Make Posts Fat

For a novel that provides stark detail on the realities of eating disorders, The Girls at 17 Swann Street is a rather lovely book. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC, which I forgot about, then had a pleasant surprise in February that that new book I wanted to read and kept seeing in communications and bookstores was literally on my bookshelf.

#lucky

At first glance of the cover and/or synopsis, the subject matter can seem a bit too easy. We all know that ballerinas and eating disorders go together like chocolate and peanut butter, which is ironic, since both of these edibles are items that a ballerina is likely never going to eat. Yet this novel really only involves one, particular, ballerina – protagonist Anna, who is a ballerina no longer. And ballet is not the only reason Anna has become obsessive about becoming thin. Like most women, there are a plethora of reasons that Anna has begun to believe the world as it shouted the message to her that thin is the new worthwhile.

#tooloud

To get the preliminaries out of the way – this novel is well done, and I recommend it if the cover, title, subject matter, fiction, etc., is at all interesting to you.

#necessitiesdone

To get to what I am really interested in, could not help noticing as I read, and have found my mind drawn to long after having finished the last page, let’s talk about this book’s broader subject matter. As a woman, I have found myself torn between my desire to consume delicious food and my desire to be thin, but overall, thought I had a pretty healthy relationship with food. This novel caused me to re-evaluate and really think through my motivations when making food choices.

Because Anna doesn’t just stop eating. She’s just not eating enough. But limiting herself primarily to fruit and popcorn? Definitely things I have done, when I want a snack, and tell myself I need to eat more healthy. And exercising without having eaten enough? Also something I have done, generally telling myself I can eat after I have exercised (except I do, because in addition to wanting to be thin, I really, really like food). So while I am not in pain due to extreme fragility if I take a simple ride on a roller coaster, I found myself questioning the reasons why I wanted to eat more/less, what I wanted to eat, and realizing that, often, the motivations behind my eating are not ideal.

I am a compulsive eater, I love food, and I am a former dancer who has difficulty ascertaining of what a healthy weight consists for me and aspiring to be thinner than I currently am. I have to work to try to have and maintain a healthy relationship with food every day, and quite frankly, I don’t know that I have found it. While dancing, wearing a formfitting leotard in a room with a wall comprised of mirrors around other girls who due to genetics, not having hit puberty yet, or eating disorders, did not have any curves, certainly did not help me with my self-image, I would not say it caused my issues, either. If I had not danced, I would still be inundated with images clearly identifying thin as pretty, I would still notice the girls at school who were blessed with genetics or whose struggles were not apparent and who visually appeared to fit society’s mould of “pretty and thin,” and I would have still likely felt “not enough.” Not thin enough. Not pretty enough. Not confident enough to just rock what I was born with, and always comparing myself to those who are what I aspire to be, even when it is completely unrealistic.

One of the tricky things about eating disorders is that those who suffer from them cannot just quit their problem. If you have a drinking problem, and you survive withdrawal, you can subsequently abstain from drinking. It is not easy, but it is a clear and rational response to the problem. With anorexia and bulemia, abstaining from food is the problem. The thing that sufferers struggle with, that the sight of causes them to break out in sweat, is a thing that they also physically need in order to survive. This problem is a point that The Girls at 17 Swann Street drives home very well. And another point? Similar to those who suffer from addiction or mental illness, a person does not simply get better. Anna makes clear progress in the novel, but she could backslide into her old habits at any time.

I don’t think that I have an eating disorder. I think I am a pretty normal woman. Which brings me to the stark and unsettling conclusion that that means that I also think that every woman struggles with eating and body image.

What about you, dear reader? Do you agree? Disagree? I would love to read your thoughts. & although I am human and love agreement/validation, I would also love to be wrong about this conclusion I have drawn.

Disappointment, Thy Name is Antonio

Specifically, Antonio’s Coney Island.

To provide some context, I have heard nothing but glowing reviews from numerous friends and from my husband. It has a 4.5 rating on Yelp – and I know Yelp ratings cannot always be trusted, since they rely on the perception of other reviewers being a fairly accurate representation of yours, but a 4.5 feels rare, and corroborated the verbal reviews I had received. Additionally, this restaurant does serve standard Coney fare, but is primarily cooking and serving Honduran-influenced food. I was expecting a lot, and I think rightfully so, given the circumstances. Instead, I had one of the worst experiences of my life at any restaurant, including the Little Caesar’s I used to go to that was pick-up only and usually operated by people whose physical and mental capacities had been noticeably limited through the use of narcotics.

This terrible episode began when we walked through the door. The location is small, which could make it snug and cozy, but instead was unwelcoming and confusing. It was missing the Coney Island sign informing good citizens who pass through the entrance of whether we should Please Wait to be Seated or Please Seat Yourself. I let my husband take the lead, because he had been to the restaurant before, and followed suit when he sat down on one of a few chairs standing against the wall. No one working at the establishment acknowledged our existence, not even a simple “Hello,” not even a smile, until a three-person family walked in and told the waitstaff who immediately flocked all around them that we were already there and should be seated first.

Instead of taking this negligence as the foreboding it was, I tried to maintain a good mood, telling myself that this was a small establishment and people make mistakes and the food is supposed to be really good, which is really what matters. Particularly since I was very hungry.

After a considerable amount of time had passed, a cute, bubbly young waitress showed up at our table to take our drink order. I will note, she did not mess these up. My husband got his diet soda, my son got his milk, and I got a Jamaica. The Jamaica was almost unbearably sweet and undrinkable, but it was the drink that I ordered. The food order, on the other hand, was another story. I don’t know if it was a matter of the waitress or the kitchen being inept, but have a feeling it was both, and the result was a horrifying experience that made my husband and I both ill.

My son ordered the enchiladas, which are described as ” 3 deep fried corn tortillas topped with seasoned ground beef, Honduran cabbage slaw, sliced tomato, sliced avocado, homemade special sauce and Parmesan cheese.” What our waitress gave him were tostadas covered with something resembling dog food that most definitely was not beef, and which, when my husband the chef tried them, we determined were not the delicious enchiladas my husband had been served on a previous visit, and we did not take umbrage to our son’s refusing to eat them.

My husband had asked the waitress which entree he should try – the fried green banana or yuca dish. She recommended the yuca, but put him down for a side instead of an entree.

I ordered the relatively safe breakfast spread, with over easy eggs, bacon, fried plantains, and slaw. Hard to mess up, although this restaurant managed it, giving me an empty cup in lieu of the side of crema, and putting the driest slaw known to man on my plate.

There was disappointment all around when the waitress gave us the bill, which, when including the tip amounted to around $50. I reluctantly pulled out my debit card. $50 is a bit on the hefty side for a Coney island, and to pay this sum for food that was not what we asked for and was noticeably worse than anything I could have made myself at home (eggs and toast, cereal and milk in a bowl, cheese and crackers, fruit – I’m not a great cook, but all of these edibles are ones that I can prepare and that would taste better) was difficult for me to do.

The stomach pangs started as we began walking back to the car. I thought, at first, I was being dramatic, or was just so pissed about being ignored as though my family and I are not people only to be served expensive food that didn’t taste well that it was physically manifesting itself. But these pangs did not go away. I remained ill for the remainder of the day. And my husband’s stomach began bothering him as well, although he is neither a hypochondriac nor susceptible to illness induced by espousal rage.

So in summation, although many people appear to have a very enjoyable time at this restaurant, at the very least, when it is having an off day, it is not only a bad experience, it is a horrible one. I ended up paying $50 at a Coney island for food that made me ill and tasted worse than if I had just pulled $50 from an ATM and eaten the paper bills instead. If you are in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and go to this establishment, what could it cost you? Do yourself a favor, and eat anything else. Literally anything.

The Stalker Who Emigrated to Netflix

I finally finished season 1 of the Netflix original You, and I don’t know if it’s very good, but I liked it.

I feel like the majority of the reason why I like it, or at least how it initially hooked my interest, is its’ similarity with another former guilty TV pleasure: Gossip Girl.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize how similar the two shows really are, with the storytelling via voice-over, extreme drama, some blonde bitch everyone’s got the hots for, and, of course, Penn Badgley.

#twinning

I defy you to watch this show and not think: “And then Dan Gilbert from Gossip Girl did what?!” Or think “Hm… Dan Gilbert’s looking a little anemic. He needs to get some sun.” Or even: “No, Dan Gilbert! Stalking is bad. Didn’t follwing Serena around like a kicked dog teach you anything?” It adds an umame-ish element to the show that, while difficult to define, is undeniably delicious.

#umame

As the show progresses, it also gets more interesting. More violence, more drama, more sex, more unrealistic relationships. For while this show begins with the wholly realistic premise that there are creepy guys in the world who could find out pretty much everything about you from your internet presence, this is not a realistic show. Just as campy as it’s sister-show GG, this show includes fantastic elements that are intended to be surreal and frightening. And for me, at least, it worked.

#campy

What about you? Have you seen the show, and if so, what are your thoughts? If not, do you intend to? Why or why not?

TBR Treasure Hunt: Truly, Devious

Novel #2 from my TBR list: Maureen Johnson’s Truly, Devious.

This novel, while classified as a mystery, is in reality a pure escapist fantasy that hardly solves anything. Having said that, I liked it.

#gofigure

Johnson’s writing is funny, inclusive, and intelligent, while writing about things that are, at their core, both interesting (if you’re into mysteries and/or true-crime documentaries/podcasts) and dark. In general, I consider this novel a portion of the treasure – more akin to gold doubloons stolen from the pirate’s corpse than discovery of the actual chestful buried beneath a large, red “X.”

#doubloon

It has all of the elements of a mystery novel, except for the solution. It is the most interesting book entirely comprised of exposition I have read. Yet at the end of the day, this book is entirely comprised of set-up for, at the least, a second novel, and more likely, an entire series. And the mystery set-up throughout this book is not solved. So I am currently queued up for the second book in the series (The Vanishing Stair) through my library.

#welldoneMsJohnson

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think?

(Hyperlinks are to Amazon links from which I earn from qualifying purchases; please consider using these links if you are already planning to purchase the identified items via Amazon, anyway.)

H&G: The Witch Needs to Update

“Look,” Geoffrey said, pointing towards a copse of trees about 600 meters away. The green of their leaves shone brighter in the sun that shone, seeming to single out these trees amongst the cool shade of the woods surrounding them.

“No, Geoffrey,” Hannah protested, stamping her right foot, her hands curled in fists at her sides. “You will not drop trou and piss in the woods. I will not have it.”

“Aren’t I supposed to be the bossy one? I’m the boy, and I’m older.”

But it had always been this way. It was difficult to resist someone who was so opinionated and certain when you were an aimless waffler.

Speaking of waffles…

“What is that delicious smell?” Hannah asked, her nostrils widening as she breathed deep.

“What do you care? You don’t eat – anything, really, as far as I can tell.”

Hannah shrugged. “True. But baked goods means that there is probably someone nearby. Perhaps in a lovely little cottage.”

“Lovely little cottage? Have you been watching those Jane Austen movies again or something? We live in the 21st century, not the 19th. Also, have you seen those hairstyles? You could never pull that off.”

“No one could. That’s why they wore bonnets. Or hats? I don’t know – something that covered their head.”

“That’s about the level of eloquence I expect from you.”

“I would kick you, but it might cause you to piss yourself.”

“Thank god for Oprah; I might not be alive anymore if you weren’t a germophobe.”

“…Hello children.” The voice broke through their fighting, despite having a fragile, bitter quality that should have been easy to ignore. Its’ owner looked equally frail, and was waving a hand with gnarled, knobby fingers at them, smiling at them with a mouth filled with crooked, yellow teeth.

“Hello,” Geoffrey said politely.

“You must be tired, if you have walked all the way out here to my cottage. Please help yourself to my house.” The gnarled fingers skimmed along the windowledge, and the siblings realized it was gingerbread. The entire house, in fact, was gingerbread, decorated with thick white icing, windows spun from sugar.

“Please. Eat,” The elderly woman prompted again, but both of them declined.

“That’s sweet, but I’m on a diet,” Hannah said.

“Diabetic,” Geoffrey said ruefully, shrugging his shoulders.

“Although, if you don’t mind, we would love to use your bathroom,” Hannah continued. She had begun feeling the pressure from her own bladder for the last few minutes, and was relieved to think that she would not have to walk all the way back to the car without relief.

“Bathroom? How would I get plumbing to work in a dessert house?” The witch replied, furrowing her brow in disbelief.

“I don’t know. How do you prevent the bugs and birds from eating it?” Hannah retorted, her bladder pressing ever more urgently.

“I don’t. It’s just fresh baked. Look, here they come now.” A line of ants was creeping up towards the windowpane from which the witch had greeted them.

“Well, what are we supposed to do?” Hannah asked, certain the woman was holding out on them. “Our car has got to be at least 2 miles away!”

The elderly woman shrugged. “Use the trees like everyone else?”

As the two hangry females had been arguing, Geoffrey had crept behind a nearby tree and done just that. Hannah refused.

So it was that two hours later, two lost little children came upon a restroom in the woods. They ran inside, only to find themselves caught in a trap once they had relieved themselves. And Hannah and Geoffrey came upon their car, having been lost only once, which was a full four miles from their encounter. Hannah would discover she had a urinary tract infection the next day, and Geoffrey would secretly revel in the fact that he had not solely been her lemming, and he did not.

TBR Treasure Hunt: The Bloody Chamber (& Other Stories)

The first novel I crossed off my TBR list is Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (& Other Stories), a collection of fairy tale re-tellings that lingers on the more dark/scary/sexy than the “here’s a story you would feel comfortable telling your kids. Right before they go to sleep.”

#youvebeenwarned

Carter is said to have been a woman ahead of her time – to have pretty much brought about the fairy tale retelling oeuvre that is well known and liked today. She is cited as having influenced Gaiman and Niffeneger, amongst others. How could I go wrong?

The 10 stories in this collection are good, particularly given that Carter was pioneering a writing style rather than continuing in an established style that had already proven it had an audience. I am certainly not sorry to have read these tales. Having said that, I did not care enough for them to now want to procure my own copy.

#sorrynotsorry

Of course, some stories were better than others. I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor of Puss-in-Boots; probably one of the lighter stories. The language in the Erl-King was like a smorgasbord of showing off a well-developed vocabulary. There is less murder than I was expecting, there is a lot of sex and virginity, and many tales featuring a male “beast” character which seems designed to showcase how very much bestiality is inherent in those stories you read over and over again as a kid (short answer: a lot). My favorite tale is probably the one whence the collection derives its’ name.

#predictable

All in all, a fairly good start to my TBR challenge. Having said that, I’m still searching for some treasure. How is your search going?

(Hyperlinks are to Amazon links from which I earn from qualifying purchases; please consider using these links if you are already planning to purchase the identified items via Amazon, anyway.)

Becoming Fearless

The world is bright.

The sun, midway in her journey ‘cross the sky,

sends warmth and light

to the meadow below,

lush with verdant, sweet-smelling grasses

and variegated wildflowers.

The nymph,

slender and young,

brunette curls trailing down her back,

espies a bloom fit for the crown she is weaving;

she plucks it, heedless of the thorns

until she feels the prick of pain,

sees the blood trickling from her finger.

The god,

looking for diversion,

espies a nymph fit for play,

and gives chase.

But fair Daphne knows how quickly a bud,

once picked,

can begin to wilt,

and how the world is

cruel and negligent

to those who are hurt and withering.

So she runs.

The mythical beings move ever faster;

he, demanding,

nipping at her heels.

She, frightened, feels

exhaustion

already causing her limbs to shake.

Why must she be so weak?

How can someone

so fair, so bright,

so full of potential,

be out of options

and powerless

so quickly?

She does what all young do,

if they can;

face red with shame,

she appeals for assistance

from her father.

The strong, possessive fingers of the divine grasp her shoulder,

and she learns that, in the face of complete terror, she screams –

with a power that seems to force Apollo to retract,

that shakes the buds resting in bushes and growing from the ground

with its volume and emotion.

But no –

it was not acknowledgement that she,

as a person with her own thoughts and feelings,

did not desire his touch

that had caused Apollo to retreat;

it was, instead, another man’s

imposition of himself upon her.

Granted, she had asked for his help.

Not realizing that he,

preferring that his daughter remain an untouched vessel

for eternity,

or at least, as long as trees live,

would cause her being to harden, thicken, and hollow,

her arms to grow lanky, darken, and sprout

thick green leaves

that Apollo, not to be thwarted of his prize entirely,

would tear from her being

as he had yearned to tear off her clothes,

and wear as a crown upon his head.

Ground suddenly unreliable,

her feet sank into the soil beneath her,

firmly entrenching her into the particular spot

on which her transformation had begun.

The sun continued to shine, until its’ journey was complete,

and Daphne drank in its rays and warmth,

spreading her branches far and wide,

secure in the knowledge that she needn’t fear

any longer.