Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Not sure if it's appropriate to pre-pend that with "Happy." We're celebrating anyway--my dad's a decorated Vietnam vet, so we all bow and scrape to him on days like today.

Off to finish barbecuing.

things you cannot do...

wind your mother's nice, glass-topped, porcelain-bottomed snow globe to show your two-year-old friend the pretty music it makes... then leave him alone with said snow globe while you go into another room.

you really cannot do that

Friday, May 26, 2006


Why do some people seem to think that once a woman becomes a mother, she magically becomes that damned Energizer bunny? I mean, I didn't realize that having my child meant I forfeited all rights to being a woman who occasionally needs a recharge, a rest, a child-free moment. Case in point--my summer vacation began today. I had every intention of bringing the kid home, leaving him on his father's doorstep and vanishing into the night.

Only, something happened. And, now, not only do I have the kid, I have his two-year old brother. Don't get me wrong--I love the little brother, he's highly verbal, very funny, and gives the best "sugar" in the South. But he is two. Which means, he'll play with the older kids for a minute, but, when he's tired or they're ignoring him, he's stuck to me like glue. The me who planned to spend at least a week in bed. The me who's forgotten the ins and outs of toddlerhood. The me who's just now realizing that Ican't just say "Mmm" and "Really?"--a two-year-old expects you listen. The me who's wondering, as I'm typing, why he's gotten so quiet and why I hear rustling in the fridge. And the me who keeps forgetting to check his pull-up!

So, apparently my summer vacation is postponed. Indefinitely.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Going home to Louisiana for the summer in a couple of days, so it may be the weekend before you hear from me. The whole process of taking down the computer, carrying it to the car, driving it to LA, setting it up on my Mom's new countertop (to her unmitigated horror), begging my dad to buy me a computer desk AND pay someone to put it together AND let me set it up in his room (because he gave me the smallest one in the new house despite my protests. I mean, damn, just because he paid for the house doesn't mean he gets to pick his own room!), getting used to dial-up again (and owing my parents a wad of money for running up their phone bill because I "dial-up" to Texas--can't find a reliable number in North Louisiana), swallowing my sighs as my next chapter is due and my dad is hogging the computer to play solitaire... well, I hope you get the picture that computer use is fraught with strife at my parents' crib.

I'll check in to let you know I made it. And I think, in lieu of too many thoughtful/meaningful posts (it is summer, for God's sake!), I'm going to start the 100 facts in 100 days about Elle.

After all, I'm thoroughly convinced that you (and the world at large, of course) can't get enough of Elle.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Beauty Shop

I went today and the gossip and laughter were even better than usual. The women there discussed movies, men, mothers, children, welfare, religion, sex, politics (mostly "Bush is so dumb"--really significant b/c we live in Texas). In the midst of the laughter, the guy who does our hair (who merits a post of his own) announced, "Y'all's hero is getting a new trial."
"Who?" my sister asked.
His answer: "Clara Harris."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Things I Forget

Though I love my son more than anything else, since he has been "older," I have not been a very physically affectionate mom. I'm more likely to tell him I love him or give him a hurried kiss in the mornings than to embrace him. Hugging is not something I like to do because I am acutely aware of the fact that his arms don't go around me. Shallow, I know, but you'd be amazed the things I notice because of my size.

But tonight, feeling very sentimental for various reasons, I paused to look at him before I covered a newly-discovered rash on his arm with neosporin. And what I feel for this kid, to borrow an old hometown phrase, just went all over me. And I hugged him. Tightly. To his amazement. He smelled so good, like soap from his nightly bath and the overly generous dusting of baby powder he gives himself despite my admonitions. He was warm and small and so solid in my arms. His hair felt thick and coarse against my palm and his arms around my neck were the sweetest weight. For the two minutes before he wiggled away, everything was profoundly okay.

Dear God, how could I have forgotten that?

***Thanks, BfP, for reminding me.***

Dissertation Thoughts

Texter, you asked for it. Some thoughts on my dissertation because I'm hopelessly stuck!
I have three somewhat complete chapters. Advisor has given feedback on all and I have worked extensively revising chapter one. But, here's the problem.

I'm stuck. Blocked. Not producing a damned thing. So, I'm thinking, instead of going forward as advisor suggests each time, I could go back and finish tightening up chapters one thru three. One of the members of my dissertator group (though she's not exactly that anymore because she officially received her PhD last week, yay) said, "No, Elle. You're going to have go back at the end anyway so don't waste anytime." She's a really wise woman, but I figure revision has to better than total atrophy. Opinions?

And then there is the matter of the lit review in chapter one. One of the main points of the chapter is that the poultry industry came south because the state of southern labor was so exceptionally dismal. A sample of works used in my lit review: Reports from the National Planning Association, Alan Draper's Conflict of Interest, Barbara Griffith's The Crisis of American Labor, Michelle Brattain's Politics of Whiteness, some articles from Agricultural History (esp by Nan Elizabeth Woodruff) that look specifically at labor conditions in Arkansas mid-twentieth century, a couple of works by Eric Arnesen, some Bruce Nelson, a dash of Robert Korstad, a little Dolores Janiewski, a smidge of Jack Kirby, and a few other historians. Some issues advisor has: I use Draper's works (book and another article) to back up arguments about southern workers' seeming inability to organize and work for change. Advisor's question: Is he really the main worker apathy/anti-unionism guy? Apparently not, since she asked. So, to any labor historians who stop by, feel free to offer suggestions. She was also a bit miffed that I left out W. Cash, but her other grad student and I felt the work, now well over 60 years old, may be outdated. No problem to go back and throw him in: I wrote an excellent little blurb on his Mind of the South previosuly so that will be recycled and tied in. Oh, and my big problem, since I am of the opinion that Southern labor was exceptional[ly bad], how much do I mention historians who disagree?

She also wants more labor history lit more closely related to my industry (yeah, right), sharper focus on some arguments, more about what white working class women were doing (since my diss focuses on how black working class women came to the industry), and, now that I look, a whole hell of a lot of other stuff that I'm not going to feel like coming back and doing if I set this aside for six more months.


I guess I'll leave two and three for another day.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Looking Elsewhere

From Bitch Ph.D, I learned of a blog called Cancer, Baby, home to the witty, wonderful writings of Jessica, who died last week from ovarian cancer. Jessica wrote a post about guys she called "mood oglers," those men who see an unsmiling woman and are presumptuous enough to suggest, "It's not that bad" or "You should smile." Jessica's title of mood ogler inspired me to come up with a name for that oh-so-annoying group that I encounter ever so often--the food oglers.

While mood ogling may be primarily the domain of guys, most food oglers I have encountered have been women. They have somehow ordained themselves watcher of everything other women put in their mouths. Food ogling is usually accompanied by a disapproving shake of the head, a softly murmured , "You aren't going to eat all of that, are you?" or an ambiguous sniff. Most troublesome for me, something about seeing fat women kicks food oglers into overdrive. Not only can they execute the above mentioned shakes, murmurs, and sniffs, they can peer into my grocery cart and shoot me an approving smile when they see my lowfat milk and fresh produce. They can comment on how my physical attractiveness would be greatly enhanced if only I would.... And they can hide behind the cloak of medicine and science and pretend their concern is for my health and not my ample bosom and generous waistline. All this from women I don't even know. That's right--complete strangers have often decided that it is well within their rights to comment on my food choices, whether at the grocery store or in a restaurant.

To be fair, food oglers not only want to redeem the fat, they strive to preserve the slim. Best Friend Texas, who is usually a size 6 or 8, finds herself regularly food ogled and admonished at work. Her sin? Daring to actually eat some of the miniature candies in the office candy dish. (Silly chick hasn't realized the candies are for decoration or for men that stop by.) Apparently, some of her coworkers count how many times she walks towards the candy dish. The girl loves chocolate and is totally unapologetic about it, but still, food ogling works her last nerve.

I saw a food ogler in action today. I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant and was seated next to a couple of co-workers. One woman had ordered sopapillas that came glazed with honey with a scoop of ice cream right in the middle. She smiled as the server brought them to the table, probably already savoring the crunchy sweetness. But before she could take her first bite, her companion said, "Good Lord, I hope you're hungry." Sopapilla orderer immediately snatched her hand back and contritely agreed, "It is a lot. I didn't know it would be so much." For the rest of lunch, I ogled the ogler. Even as she commandeered the conversation, her eyes rarely left the dish with the sopapillas, gaging how much her co-worker was eating. For her part, the sopapilla orderer broke each piece of pastry into incredibly small pieces and used them to take miniature dips in the ice cream. Gone was the pleasure with which she'd greeted her dish. She didn't dare pick up a sopapilla and bite into it or use her spoon to scoop up the cinnamon dusted ice cream.

Food oglers have been amazingly succesful. In general, women's conversations abound with declarations of, "I couldn't possibly eat that," and "This is soooo bad for me," and "I'm full already." More specifically, they've driven me to make sure any less-than-healthful foods are at the bottom of cart, away from ogling eyes. They also had me, at one point, unwilling to go to a restaurant by myself. Their gazes alone seemed to say, "Not only is she fat and by herself, but she's also eating. Dear God!" If you've never seen a large woman trying to disappear into her seat, trust me, it's a sad, sad sight.

More recently, however, I've been trying to take my cousin T's lead. At the steakhouse we frequent back home, her favorite meal comes with a several-ounce ribeye, a baked potato, and a salad. T always cancels the salad and gets an extra baked potato. Her order has caused more than one ogler to look at her askance--T is a size 22 after all and probably should be ordering three salads, no potato or steak, in their opinions. One night, after her food came out, a particularly bold ogler gave a customary sniff. T, great lover of confrontations, asked, "What?" Of course, ogler became immediately sympathetic and concerned, advising T that she should make sacrifices for her health. T's response: "I don't like salad. I don't eat it. I love baked potatoes. And if that bothers you, maybe you shouldn't be looking."

Revolutionary thought, that.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I'm Looking for a Word...

What do you call it when you aren't particularly physically tired, but you don't want to do anything? When writing is anathema to you? When you pick up a book with more than 16 pages and toss it back down? When even your usual self-descriptors of "procrastinator," "works best under pressure," and "aspires to career student-hood" seem inadequate?

Is it a desire to owe Sallie Mae for the rest of your life cuz you won't hurry up and finish? Is it burn-out? Or is it that little ugly word that I'm whispering to myself... am I... (gasp)...LAZY?

The great Elle won't even contemplate such a patently untrue claim.

In lighter news, Sis and I discovered a new doughnut shop that reminds us of Southern Maid. And I know it's okay for us to go there and partake of the white-flour-and-refined-sugar sublimeness cuz guess what? It's across the street from our Curves! The proximity alone has to cancel out some of the fat and calories, right?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Welcome Back...

Sending that "shout out" to myself. Happy belated Mother's Day to all. My kid made me a card that said, "Elle... Best Mother on This Earth!", a construction paper bouquet of flowers in a brown paper bag vase, and gave me a shoulder massage.

Oh, stop hating!! You may be this lucky one day!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Clock Is Ticking...

It can't be this hard, at this time, in this place? Can it?

A scenario:
Saturday, after a nice intimate interlude, Beloved Guy says, "Uh-Oh." Beloved Girl says, "What do you mean, uh-oh?" Beloved Guy says, "A condom snafu." "Beloved Girl cringes in horror. "No condom snafu," she says, "Monday makes exactly two weeks after the first day of my last period and I have a clockwork cycle. NO CONDOM SNAFU!" Beloved Girl and Guy stare at each on the verge of tears and unremittant panic.

Hours later, Beloved Girl remembers that one of her favorite websites has a link to emergency contraception providers. Sunday morning, she wakes up hopeful. Hope is quickly dashed when she realizes that she is unfortunately in one of the states that doesn't accept prescriptions. Beloved Guy rubs her shoulders and says, "What about your doctor?." Beloved Girl's head snaps up. Of course! She just recently had a well woman exam and everything was okay. Surely it wouldn't be a problem for her doctor to call in a prescription for Plan B.

Monday morning, she calls and leaves a detailed message. Doctor doesn't return call until early afternoon. Beloved Girl explains situation again. Doctor says, "You'd probably have to come in. Why not just go to Planned Parenthhod? Call me if they can't help."

Good idea! There's a Planned Parenthood less than a half mile away. Beloved Girl and Guy run down there, hopeful smiles restored. Until Planned Parenthood rep said, "Eighty-two dollars." Okay, Beloved couple could pay, but Beloved Girl has insurance and a PCP who could just call the damned pharmacy! They left and Beloved Girl called Doctor again. No answer. Another message.

Tuesday morning. Doctor still hasn't returned call. Beloved Girl goes to another appointment. When she finishes, she goes to a local health center to inquire. Health center rep directs her right back to Planned Parenthood. Beloved Girl calls Doctor again. No answer. Another, more frantic message.

Now, Beloved Girl is from a small town and has gone to the local clinic there. She contemplates calling her godmother, who is the head nurse, and asking if the doctor there would call in a prescription for her 350 miles away. But godmother would be all up in the business!!

So Beloved Girl waits for Doctor to call. Tuesday night will make 72 hours, closing her window for EC. She may go back to Planned Parenthood and shell out the $82. She wonders briefly, though, about women don't have the $82 and who have a strangely reluctant, out-of-touch doctor.

The clock is ticking...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

See, He Does Think!

...sometimes. Breakfast conversation this morning with the kid:

The Kid: Anthony wore a Yao Ming jersey the other day.
Elle: I know. I saw it.
The Kid: It made me think about Yao Ming.
Elle: Mmm.
The Kid: If his name is Yao Ming, why is he the only person in the NBA who gets to have his first name on his jersey?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


...Big Hawk. From the Houston Chronicle:
Big Hawk, a Houston rapper whose 2001 album reached No. 45 on Billboard's rap chart, was shot to death, police said today.
I'm especially weary of this scenario:
Police do not have a suspect and their only lead involves a witness who saw a white compact car with tinted windows nearby shortly after the shooting, HPD spokesman John Cannon said.
But I'm most tired of this:
Trae, who knew Hawk for almost 10 years, said he can't stand to see yet another friend die too young.
Trae also said that the violence "has got to stop." Trae's not the first to make the observation. So when are we going to start listening?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Oh My.

Y'all, I just checked my AOL account. The first message on the welcome screen: Supreme Court Backs Ex-Stripper. A reference to Anna-Nicole Smith.

No comment except: Why, y'all, why??!

Why I Hate Going to the Doctor's Office

There's this strange place I inhabit, a fine line I walk between being a virtual hypochondriac who obsessively searches herself for signs of catastrophic disease and being a woman who dreads going to the doctor's office. Here, the intriguing intersection that shapes my identity--that fact of being a fat, black, once poor woman--has influenced, probably dictated, the treatment I receive behind medical offices' closed doors.

It began when I was 18 or 19. Home from school, I went to the parish health unit to receive a prescription for birth control pills. Newly sexually active--but not all that naive--I tried to answer all the nurse's questions truthfully. She asked these two back-to-back: Do you use a condom each time you have intercourse? Have you ever had an STD? My answer to both of those was no--a contrite "no" to the first, of course. But my contrition was not enough. She stopped in her survey and told me, "You're lucky. Next time he might shoot you up a load of AIDS." Now, that may have just been her way of talking or her attempts to scare me into safer sex, but I was humiliated. I left that day and have never been back.

5 years later, and 5 days overdue, I went to my hospital's maternity ward complaining of back pain, and a trickle of fluid from "down there." I had a "new" nurse who told me that as long as the bottom line on the monitor didn't move, I wasn't having contractions. Well, the bottom line kept moving and she kept saying, "You're not in labor. Your waters haven't broken." She kept trying to check my cervix, was unable to do it, and had to call in another nurse repeatedly. I lay on my back from 9:30 to 3:30, in pain, until my impatient, angry sister said, "We're taking her home." A few hours later, I was back, straight into delivery, amnitoic fluid long gone. Afterwards, in an obvious face-saving move, the doctor told me, "First babies come fast like that some time." He couldn't explain why the nurse didn't know my water had broken.

Fast forward another 5 years (and several horrible experiences later). My PCP in my late 20s was a brusque woman who was absolutely appalled by my "choice" to be fat. I went to her for over a year, feeling that I deserved her insults, hoping they would spur me to do something. Some of the most memorable:
(When having me stand and stretch) "Stand with your feet together. Well, as close as you can get them."
(When I went to her crying with back pain) "You should really consider getting your breast size reduced. If you lose weight. As far as the pain, I'm not going to treat the symptoms if you won't remedy the underlying cause."
(During a routine check-up) "Your knees and back are going to be gone in a decade.
(During a painful Pap smear) "I'm sorry, but I have to press harder and really search for (whatever the hell she was looking for) in a woman your size.

Only after talking to some friends, who looked at me as if I was crazy when I talked about my experiences, did I realize I didn't have to take that treatment, that maybe every complaint I had was not an outgrowth of my being big. I mean, I went to the ER after the back fiasco and found out I had pulled a muscle and I'd never had a painful Pap before. I could be hurt or sick in a way unrelated to my size. That was amazing.

The latest incident involved an ER visit with a seemingly nice doctor who apparently decided I was a moron:
"What's bothering you?"
"Abdomen and lower back hurt badly. Really bad nausea. My doctor can't see me til Wednesday."
"Does it hurt when press here? Here? Can you jump? Does that hurt? Can you bend? Does that hurt? Has it gotten any better? Are you sure it's your abdomen and back? Do you think you could be pregnant?"
I answered each question patiently. Then he asks:
"Have you eaten?"
"Because of the nausea."
"What about it?"
"If I eat, I'll throw up. If I throw up, I can't stop."
"Oh. Well, are you hungry?"
"Um, no."
"Okay. Would you like someone to bring you something to eat?"
"Fine. Are you sure you're not just hungry? Have you eaten anything?"
Five minutes of this until he decides that, despite the fact that I'm fat, maybe, just maybe, I'm not currently interested in food. Eventual diagnosis: bladder infection.

I'm really curious as to whether this is commonplace. Do other people experiece it? Am I just especially sensitive? And no, I don't mind my doctor saying, for your health, you should consider weight loss. My current PCP said just that, but she talked to me about methods, alternatives, etc. without being condescending or cruel. She works in a clinic that sees mostly underserved clients which is why, despite the long wait for appointments, I chose her. So finally, I'm happy. I get to be treated like a whole person and not some conglomeration of unappealing parts.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...