In Which I Discuss My Privilege

My youngest nephew has just graduated from Cal Poly this past weekend.  It was lovely to see the family; we haven’t gotten together since Dad passed (Sept. 2016).  Everyone is the same; the few minor differences, such as Charlotte is now a year old, Jan and Lenny’s son Chris is getting married and having an In-n-Out food truck at his wedding, Jeff and Trish’s son Toby has recently graduated from the Maritime Academy here in the city, Elizabeth & Andrew’s son Ian is now old enough to Facetime his favorite people, and Austin’s first job out of college is not in his major of Ag-Business, but in real estate, are the things that mark the passage of time.  Don reminds me more of Dad; Charlotte looks like Mom’s side of the family as Austin did when he was young; Jill I swear never changes, and will be beautiful and capable ’til the end of days.  Her children take after her.

Beautiful and capable people are required to make the world go.  They are the ones that provide the “normal” in our society.  My brother, his wife, and their family are the people for whom the service industries exist.  They are the ones for whom fashion is created, movies and television shows are made, restaurants are started, housekeeping and gardening and remodeling businesses stay busy, and investment firms remain solvent.  They’re not the 1%, but they are the 20%.  They have to be beautiful – or at least, attractive – in order for the world to know, at first glance, that they’re also capable because it’s funny about our world:  we equate attractiveness with being good at things.  And “being attractive” means, in part, that the people around us look like us, reflecting back to us in their clothes, and words, and mannerisms, what matters to us.

San Luis Obispo is a comparatively small town (about the size of Menlo Park as I remember it) that is predominantly white.  The people of color that I saw were concentrated mostly on the campus, or on my hotel’s groundskeeping and housekeeping staff; the nail salon I went to was owned and operated by a Vietnamese man.  The wait people at the upscale restaurants we ate at; the front desk people at Le Petit Soleil and The Apple Farm; the Uber and Lyft and taxi drivers; the counter folk at 7-11, were all white.  This is not to say that there weren’t other people of color around in the many restaurants and stores that I didn’t go into; these are just the examples I saw, a small sample taken in about a 5 square mile radius of the campus.

At least once a day I found myself thinking “where are all the black people?  Why is this town so WHITE?”  It felt creepy watching the cooky-cutter people go about their business.  It’s a world I can pass in, but it’s not where I’m comfortable.

If that means that I’m on my way to becoming a race traitor, then so be it.

How do I associate myself with people who are rich, and compassionate, and trying to make the world a better place?  Who are those role models?  And can I please start being more like them?

In Which The World Seems Like A Howling Wilderness.

Day after tomorrow is Election Day.  I’m so tired of politics.  It’s 08:40 on the first morning of Daylight Standard Time and my soul feels weary and my heart feels weary I don’t want to just go to sleep, but I wish that things, including me, were nicer.

As of… Hallowe’en?… I’m on a leave of absence from school.  I couldn’t keep up.  I couldn’t concentrate.  I did poorly on the mid-terms (well, I think I did; I never got to see them, and haven’t emailed the teachers) and as the days continued to get a little more grey in my mind & heart, it started becoming such a chore to get up on time & I dreaded the thought of going to school because I felt I was so far behind.  This semester was just a wreck from start to finish.  So I am dropping my French minor and the intention to study abroad, and will be declaring English/Creative Writing as my new major although at this very specific moment I have no idea what I’d write about.  Concentrate on my gen ed reqs and spend my limited time more wisely than I did this semester and hopefully I’ll be able to graduate “on time” in Spring 2020.

In Which I Show My Predilection for Gallows Humor.

My father was a life-long Republican.  Lest that frighten you away, think of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower instead of… well, just about any member of the recent Republican party.  Dad was a member of the Grand Old Party when it still really was The Grand Old Party; and while he was very clear that the party had been changing in recent years, he was loyal to it even though it has ceased being loyal to him oh, back in the 80’s some time.  *cough*trickledowneconomics*cough*

He didn’t seem to mind John McCain so much, or Mitt Romney (remember, total party loyalist), but Donald Trump was just a bridge too far.  He said earlier this year, his voice oddly heavy with regret, that he was just going to have to vote for Mrs. Clinton because “that Trump is just so awful”.

And then he died.

MY FATHER WOULD RATHER DIE THAN VOTE FOR DONALD TRUMP.

 

In Which My Father Has Passed.

I didn’t keep such a careful watch on this as I did with Mom over on Dreamwidth.  I’m not sure why.

When I left San Diego in March of this year I had a morbid feeling that that was the last visit I’d have with Dad.  He was sleeping a lot, and he seemed to have shrunk, although he was still fairly strong.  We did all the usual things – dinner in the dining room, dinner and lunch out – but he just seemed to be… withdrawing.  I chalked it up to fear, and kept calling him every Sunday night.  Some weeks he was good, some weeks he was… less good.

He had several melanomas removed from his scalp over the spring, and started the Jimmy Carter Cancer Drug, Keytruda.  It seemed to help, but he was always very unwilling to talk about it.

I called him on Sunday Sept. 4 as usual.  It was a short call, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary.  He was…. sad, I thought, but later learned that he was also in pain.  Monday he called 911 because the pain was so bad, and they took him to the hospital where he was given a bag of antibiotics for what they thought was a UTI.  He picked up after the IV, and joked about how he wished it had been a Manhattan, instead of ABs.  Tuesday they were talking about getting him some physical therapy because he said he was so weak.  Wednesday his nurse saw a change and called Jill (who told me all of this) to have his family come down.  She called me, I emailed my teachers and packed, Don got me a ticket while flying home early from his business in Australia, and I fussed about on Facebook, unable to sleep.  Around 01:00 I changed my profile picture to one of me and Dad.  Thursday morning literally as I was walking out the door to go to the airport, Don called, saying not to come down, Dad had already passed. (typical, of him, to slip away with no fuss.)

So I was able to attend MTW classes the next week, then flew down to San Diego on Wednesday the 14th to stay with Don and Jill.  Austen was there as his classes didn’t start until today.  Thursday we went to the mortuary to say goodbye, then spent the afternoon at Dad’s apartment going through things and separating what to keep from what to donate.  Friday was the service at the cemetery (I did not put my hand over my heart during Taps but was very intent and as respectful as possible in all over ways except for trying to video it, which failed).  Dad, as a vet, received a military burial, and Don got the flag, which I think is right and proper both as the eldest, and as the head of the family.  We had hamburgers and milkshakes at Jack for lunch, which was one of Dad’s favorite meals; then we went back to the  Remington with the kids and went over who wanted what (I’m delighted that Frankie wanted the ceramic cat!).  At about 2:45 we all headed downstairs for the memorial.  It was quite lovely; much nicer than Mom’s, which seemed a little slap-dash.    After that there was a reception and I got to meet Dad’s childhood friend “Hammy”.  They’d known each other since kindergarten, and Hammy, Dad, and Gene Lowry were often called The Three Musketeers.  That’s so odd to think of.  It also seems that Hammy told Don, although not me, that the “family” Dad lived with while he was attending college in Mexico City was actually a couple of girls – the implication being that there was more going on than just studying.  This does not surprize me so much; being an athlete, Dad was a big man on campus, and he was a pretty good looking fellow as well.  Too, I seem to recall that he was something of a lady’s man before he met Mom, so there’s that to lend credence to Hammy’s implication.

And now this man who so many people remember as genuinely nice and caring is gone.  His life, which was a good one, is complete, and I think that, taking one thing and another, that if there is a Heaven, he is there without a doubt.

I love you, Daddy.

In Which I Catch Up A Little Bit.

3rd semester has stared.  a week before orientation I joined several other students as orientation leaders, got some amazing training, then accompanied our new freshmen through the chaos that is College Orientation.  It was amazing and scary and lots of fun.  And at the end of those 12 days of chaos – 12 days? ::counts of fingers::  yeah, 12 days – classes started.  French III, Education 101, Urban Education, and Food Justice.  I feel a great deal of trepidation about them all.  Tomorrow I will spend all day at the library cranking out homework for both French III and Urban Ed.

I feel hugely overwhelmed.  The joy and excitement of classes I can actually follow has not shown up yet, although I did have a moment in French III that almost felt like it.  I don’t know if that’s because I really understood, or just because Brinda herself is such a wonderful person.

I feel sad today.

In Which I Whine About My Weight.

In 1995, I was 35 years old.  At that point I had managed to lose 50 lbs because climbing the one flight of stairs to my apartment was getting too difficult.  So I started going to the gym by my office.  Within a year, I was down to 145 lbs., which was my goal weight.  In some ways, I thought I looked really good, although my abdomen still had the same overhang I’d been ashamed of ever since I was a small child.  And if there was still overhang, there were also shadows of muscles.  I was wearing a size 9 – 10.  I had a red vinyl mini skirt with a white cropped turtle neck sweater that I loved to wear.  And I found a picture of myself in that outfit a few years later – after I’d already started to put back on a pound or two – and I realized that I looked almost skeletal.  That may be the look that Hollywood and Madison Avenue promote, but it just didn’t work for me.  I stopped going to the gym three hours a day and instead started taking belly dance classes a couple of nights of week, so over the course of the next 18 months while I did put on some weight, it was much more comfortable than the 195 I started at, and definitely more pleasurable than the 145 I starved and sweated and deprived myself for.  165 is a livable, comfortable weight for my body type.

By the time I started City College of San Francisco in Spring 2010, I was back up to 185, but it was ok.  I still felt good, I was walking to and from the BART station to school and back up a slight incline, and I was taking the occasional fitness class, as well as walking around campus.  My clothes fit, I felt ok in my body.  Then I started attending Mills College.

Instead of walking a lot and taking the occasional fitness class, I was sitting.  A LOT.  My diet changed, again, in part because 2015 was the year of living on food bank donations and food bank donations lean heavily to carbohydrates; and since Darrin started his new job in October of that year and our finances are back on track again, I’ve been buying all of us a lot of “treats” when I shop.  And this summer, I have done nothing but sit at my computer and eat.  I mean nothing.  And I can not only see it in my face but I can feel it in my abdomen and almost none of my clothes fit.  My bras are too small, even the custom one Scott made for me.  I ordered a 2x peasant dress from Pyramid Catalog and it juuuuust barely fits.  I ordered a standard 2x from eShakti and it’s too small.  So I’ve made room in this semester’s class schedule to start going to the gym, and I’ve ordered some new work out clothes from Amazon, in 3x.  I’ve taken my measurements:  50-43-49.  I feel so ashamed.  I know when Dad sees me in November he’s going to say “Oh Kaerla, you’ve gotten so heavy!”  And while much that is good in me comes from my dad, the shame and the self-loathing I feel around the size of my body also comes from him.  Mom struggled her entire life with her weight – first because she was too thin, then later because she gained a lot of weight after giving birth and due to medications she took for her mental illness and later again because of her diabetes.  She was never allowed, by her parents or her husband, to be accepting of how her body looked and so I got a lot of the shame from her, but it originated with my father.  Dad fell in love with a woman who looked like Gene Tierney, and eventually wound up with a woman who looked like Totie Fields and he was ashamed of her.

I don’t feel good at… possibly 225 lbs.  I hate how I look, I hate how I feel, I hate having no clothes that really fit.  I am hugely self-conscious of what I teasingly refer to as The Freshman 15 And All Their Friends that I’ve gained just over the summer.  It’s a noticeable change from the end of Spring semester, just 3 months.  And I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of the lose-gain-lose-gain cycle.  I wish I could just settle at around 170, a nice comfortable size 16 and just not have to worry about this ever again.  I hate this so much.  And I know, thank you, what I need to do.  I know very well, thank you, too well, merci beaucoup, what I need to do to change this, but I get tired just thinking about it.  I know the slow, exhausting, agonizing crawl back to health, I am intimately acquainted with it.  And in the  meantime, Himself eats ice cream and cookies and his Baby Girl eats canned frosting and ice cream that’s not hers to eat and Nutella from the jar.  Focus, Pinky.  Don’t be distracted by the bad habits of the people around you.

I have a walk scheduled with Vala, next week.  DSLA training starts on the 14th.  Getting out of this milleau and moving around again will be good, so good.  I miss being active; I like working out and getting in to a sweat.  Just… getting to that point, building the habit in the first place, that’s the hard part.

Here’s hoping that the workout clothes I’ve ordered recently in anticipation of my new schedule and routine actually fit…