Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sundae (Sunday) Pleasure

I have a theory that certain graduate school seminars are kind of like drinking games: the more you mention certain subjects, the better your score is (and the more confused you are in the end). Certain words might include "provenance", "ubiquitous", or the most popular, "I heard that on NPR". NPR is like cocaine for acedemia: anybody who's anybody does it.

I found myself succumbing to NPR's sweet siren song on weekends, when A Prairie Home Companion comes on before Mr. O heads over for our Saturday night date. On the way home on the bus, the afternoon news helps me stay on top of current news so I'm not left out in discussion. Or, sometimes while I'm cleaning on Sunday afternoons, I listen to Selected Shorts. A certain "short" struck a chord with me last weekend and left me stunned and shocked. A reading of Alice McDermott's "Enough" by Kathleen Chalfont hit a deep nerve. Catch it while you can, because I'm not sure how long the podcast will be up.

Enough is about a women with a voracious and detailed appetite for pleasure. Her early love of ice cream transcends to various experiences in life, only to return late when she can no longer experience those things which made her happy in-between. It got me to thinking about how we often deprive ourselves of things in life in order to make our lives "better".

But how much better can a restrained life be? I mean, moderation is key in everything. However, when is the line between moderation and restriction drawn? When does it go from indulging in an occasional dessert to not having dessert at all? From needing to lose a little weight to a complete disregard for what's healthy? How does this make life better? When a person makes a decision to stop doing something 'in order to make my life better', they sacrifice something that they once loved.

When I was in my early teenage years, I was short, chunky and lined with more correctional metal than you can shake a stick at. I have distinct memories of harsh lighting in department stores and an inability to find any jeans that fit. For about twenty minutes in high school, I was thin (because I had grown) and then I went back to a state of chunk. I was uncomfortable in my new body and never knew how to feel. I don't think that many women ever are comfortable in their bodies.

Recently, I lost a fair amount of weight due to illness. My friends tell me that I look really good! and thinner! and all sorts of pleasant things, but all I see is bicycling uphill from now on against a disease that wants to make me tired, sad and generally really crappy. Even though I look like I've made an effort to lose weight, I cannot take the compliments because it is not through my own doing nor is it a sign of health. After many months, my thin hair is growing back in droves, and I see it emerging much like the small buds in my herb garden are embracing the Spring sunlight - new and kind of crinkly, unsure as to where to go just yet.

I want to live to be as old as the protagonist in Enough, and I hope that when I am her age I will be able to eat ice cream with as much pleasure as she does: down to the last fudge ripple.

Tonight, in hope for the future and in acceptance of the present, I made a sundae for myself with homemade ice cream and fresh whipped cream on top. It's a distinct pleasure in a world that is sometimes not so pleasurable at present.

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