The Problem of My Body

I’ve been writing about food to convince myself that it is okay to take care of myself in this way. It is okay to learn to enjoy cooking. It is okay to enjoy cooking even though I am overweight, even though I’m trying to lose weight, even though the world tells me I should probably just banish myself to a dark, lonely place with some stale bread and water until I solve the “problem” of my body. 

Last night I decided to make an enchilada casserole. I followed no particular recipe but decided to throw together some ingredients I enjoy and hope for the best. To start things off, I cooked some onion, mushrooms, and garlic in olive oil. 

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I haven’t always been fat. I was thin and athletic as a child. I was really cute. I was happy though I was also lonely. I’ve written about this before, this gaping loneliness I carried because I was weird and introverted and shy and we moved around a lot.

My body became a problem when I understood, in a terrible way, how it could be used and hurt and abandoned. My body was vulnerable. My body has been a problem since though know I have control over that vulnerability, and thank god. I no longer want to think of my body as a problem. 

I added fresh spinach to the mix and let that reduce. It’s always amazing to me how you can start with so much spinach and it becomes so little.

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Food is fuel but it can also be a comfort. It can fill the void. It can numb the pain. Food is very much like a drug in that way. We all have our vices. And so I’m cooking more and writing about food and trying to find a balance between fuel and comfort and analgesic so I can be better, happier, physically smaller, but emotionally bigger. 

To give the dish some kick, I added black beans, corn, fresh oregano, and paprika and I let that cook on low for a spell. Meanwhile, the oven was heating to 350 degrees. Confession: Until recently, I did not even know fresh oregano was a thing. 

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Late last night, someone on Twitter referenced an editorial by Betsy Karasik in the Washington Post that tries, in her words, to bring nuance to the issue of sex between students and teachers. It is mostly a rape apology. It is mostly clickbait. It’s sad that a woman wrote this but, in truth, it would be sad for anyone to write such an editorial.

I’m not going to waste my time dismantling her argument because the argument dismantles itself. I’m not going to speculate about the kind of person who would write something like this because I don’t care. There’s no need for name calling or creating a Twitter mob because it won’t accomplish anything. I briefly looked at Karasik’s Twitter feed and she is defiantly righteous. She has chosen to position herself as the victim here. She is trying to have a “nuanced and rational” discussion and the discussion she wants to have, apparently, supersedes all else. Fine.

What really bothered me about the editorial was not the opinion because the opinion is beneath my contempt. Instead, I was bothered by how she framed her argument around 16 year old Cherice Morales, the young woman who committed suicide after being raped by her teacher when she was 14. A child is dead and before that child died she was violated by someone she should have been able to trust and then she was violated by the justice system. Her rapist, Stacey Dean Rambold was sentenced by a Montana judge to thirty days in prison. The injustice is staggering. It literally makes me nauseous. And still, a child is dead and before she died she suffered. 

People often want to “complicate” the statutory rape conversation by talking about the sexual empowerment of adolescents and this and that. These exercises in intellectual masturbation are pointless. I am not the one. I cannot do it. It’s too personal and it’s always going to be too personal. Sometimes, rules exist for a reason and this is one rule that shouldn’t be broken. Deal with it. We are not sending our children to school so they might be seduced by teacher. We send them to school to learn and socialize and begin to move out into the world to be what they’re going to be. 

I was a teenager, we were all teenagers and we all felt empowered in our youthful seductions. We maybe were and we probably weren’t. We like to tell ourselves we know exactly what we’re doing, even when we don’t. I try to see both sides of the issue but frankly, on the issue of rape, I don’t give one flying fuck about nuance. Not one. I really don’t. 

Suggesting that adults, and particularly teachers, have no business having sex with their students, doesn’t diminish adolescent sexual empowerment or autonomy. It’s common sense. It is decency. The power imbalance is too great. The potential repercussions are too great. Why would we tolerate such risk? 

I added some black olives to my enchilada mix and let it simmer on low for a couple more minutes. I thought it all looked very pretty and a bit festive.

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Karasik begins her piece vaguely suggesting that the punishment for rape doesn’t fit the crime. As many others before her, she is far more worried about the rapist than the rape victim. I have no tolerance for these discussions. If that is a failing, I accept it. 

So many women on Twitter last night started speaking about their own experiences, different from the Morales case but similar. There’s a common thread binding us. I thought, “All this suffering, my god.” 

You want to talk about punishment? I’m still serving my sentence. Rape doesn’t break everyone but it broke me. It broke me completely. It broke my body and my mind. I hate that. It makes me feel weak that I couldn’t deal with rape neatly, expediently. Like, I’m still dealing with this shit? Really?  I hate how I shut out my family for years so they wouldn’t know about this terrible thing. That I will never ever talk about it with them because I can’t and don’t want to. That I will never know if my kinked sexuality was shaped by those boys. That I spent so many years suffering silently. That I kept eating and eating and eating thinking I could protect myself by taking up space. I hate that I feel the need to say any of this because mostly, I don’t want to talk about it or think about it. I want to believe I am more than my past but I’m not. It always comes up in one way or another.

Maybe if more of us talk about the repercussions of rape, the repercussions you never imagine possible and the persistence of them, people would put less energy into justifying absolute bullshit.

It was time to build the casserole. I sprayed some Pam along the bottom of my one baking dish, SPRAY SPRAY SPRAY, then lay two flour tortillas because corn tortillas are very gross and terrible. Then I drizzled some enchilada sauce and some cheese and then I added my mixture and then another layer of tortillas, sauce and cheese, until I had made three layers. Mexican lasagna, is what I am saying. This will last me like five days! When all was assembled, I stuck the pan in the oven for 35 minutes and let it BAKE BAKE BAKE. 

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I read a lot of essay submissions from women at The Rumpus and the sheer quantity of essays I see about the sexual violence women of all ages encounter is devastating. The pain and confusion and trauma these essays express is devastating. Sometimes, reading these essays is unbearable but I damn well know it was far more unbearable for these writers to endure such experiences and then put those experiences into words. Writing about survival can be exhausting because you are reminded, in intimate detail, of what it took to get from there to here and sometimes you are forced to see that you haven’t gotten very far at all. 

When I took my enchilada casserole out of the oven it was bubbling and it looked good and after I let the flavors come together for about twenty minutes, it tasted good too. I felt pretty smug.

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When does this all end, though? When do we stop having to remind the world about the realities of rape culture? When do we stop having to lighten up and grit our teeth as we sit through music and movies and television shows that soften everyone’s attitudes to women, their bodies, and consent?  When do women’s bodies stop being a problem? When do we stop scrutinizing how women dress and act and flirt and fuck? When do we get a justice system that adequately punishes rapists but also treats them humanely, protects them from sexual violence, and makes a genuine attempt at rehabilitation? When will I free myself from this cage I’ve trapped myself in? When will I stop feeling like the answer to these questions is never? 

This isn’t anger. This is rage.