Thursday, October 22, 2015

Starvation Economy

There is not a woman who comes into my office who does not hate her body. I wish I did not have to be so categorical.  I use the double negative on purpose. They hide in their pantries, stealthily binging out of sight lines. Cramming in all the "bad" things, loathing loving each bite as the only thing that quiets their isolation. It's not about food. It's about love.

I was a fat kid. Sequestering cookies in alleyways hoping the squirrels wouldn't find my stashes before I got home from school. Hiding the evidence. Hiding my weakness. It's my biggest hurt. Swallowing my isolation in baked goods. Burying my loneliness, ashamed that I felt it. I was surrounded by people in my home. My mother moved us into the collective of women when I was only two. Making up for deficits of absent fathers and grandparents and family. Making up for deficits in her capacities.  Yet I was still only watching, never feeling that they really wanted me.

At school I was terribly bullied for a while. The girls would surround me to try and make me cry. And I would. I would perform for them, like a trained seal. They would poke at me and say all the things that I believed to be true. That I was not good enough, pretty enough, strong enough to stand up to them and not give a fuck. They echoed back at me that it didn't matter how smart I was, how kind I was, how funny I was, I was never going to matter.

During my Masters I had a course about trauma. One day we were lead by a woman who does Theatre of The Oppressed; A drama therapy approach where you tell a trauma and people perform it for you in front of an audience. Exorcising demons. Telling stories of pain, exposed in public to be released and re-storied. No one wanted to give a story, so I risked and gave mine. The story of when I was 10 and my classmates and I were playing on the stage of the auditorium on a balance beam. The beam was not secured properly on one end. I have very good balance. Even in my awkward prepubescent pudgy time. I got up on the beam. Happy to try and access the small of amount of grace I could muster. Then one side of the beam sank, falling and pitching me onto the floor in front of all my tormentors. The queen of the the torturers, turned and pointed, laughing. "She's so fat she broke the beam." All kids turning and laughing. Me sprawled and hurt and crying on the floor. Fallen from grace, once again prone and broken and all alone. Ashamed. I went home and never told anyone, diving into books and toast and butter and sugar.

The students performed this piece. Silently miming the emotions. I looked around and the classes' reactions. They were crying. I could see tears in my cohorts eyes. Part of the process is for the audience to say how this felt for them. To express the impact and the feelings that came up. To offer me the love and the compassion that I should have had and join me with their own hurts. As we went around the class, each person recounted their own feeling of shame and exclusion. Immigrant students rejected. Daughters crushed by their parents. Lovers humiliated. It hit everyone that they knew the feeling. The feeling of having their pain exposed and stepped on cruelly in front of the world. They offered me their own pain in return. The girl who had to play the tormentor needed the most support. She felt sick.

In polyamory they talk of the concept called the starvation economy. It is the idea that love is a limited resource; parcelled out to only the deserving. You must take your limited resource from one to give to another. This mindset is almost fundamental to us and it is a falsehood. Love is not quantifiable. It can't be counted. I have starved my body at different points of my life. Feeling proud of growing my hunger and not satisfying it. Every pound counted and lost, a sacrifice so that I would be deserving of being wanted, so that is  world could see how I could do without. Then I could be invited in to their economy of love.

I want to heal those wounds in others. Let these women see that their beauty is in their capacities to love and be loved. That they don't have to hide in their pantries shoving shame down their throats. These days, when that 10 year old girl finds herself in front of the pantry door, looking to go in and quiet my emotional clumsiness, tripping on feelings I can't control, I remind myself that my love is good enough. That my Home is not pointing and laughing at me. That I am on the inside. I step away from the door and put my head in his lap. That the hunger I feel is one I should be allowed to feed. That I can eat his love. I can eat my chosen families' love. That it will not make me sick and ugly. There are no austerity measures. The supply will always meet the demand.

1 comment:

  1. Humiliation, wanting to fit in, wanting to belong, wanting desperately to be loved. How come we torment ourselves? I feel the fundamental law of love is that you need to be able to love yourself before being able to love someone else in a healthy way. You'll notice I didn't say it's impossible to love someone else without loving yourself. But until you do love yourself first, it's like you're trying to fix something that's broken inside you by looking on the outside.

    So I too starve myself in the face of rejection. Want is a pain I can't control, I want someone to love me, and it hurts. So I starve myself, it's a pain I an control, it's a pain I understand, it's as simple as one plus one is two. Not like the dynamics of a relationship.