Saturday, July 4, 2009

Saturday, In the Park . . . I think it was the 4th of July-y.

Happy Independence Day, U.S. of A! I have never been more proud to be an American than this year. I have never been more politically invested than this year (barring, perhaps, a year in middle school where I was really into politics which faded when I met J-hottie^, my first love).

In the spirit of this 4th of July, Independence Day, and in the spirit of this blog, "Cystic Gal," I would like to reflect upon the ways that CF has made me a more independent person, both when I was growing up, and today.

As a first point, I know that I am empowered over my body, which contributes to my Independence as a person, a woman, an artist, even dare-I-say-it, lover. From a very young age, I have felt this empowerment over my body which paused only for about 6 months in middle school while my breasts grew. This great empowered feeling is mostly a blessing, but as I grow into later stages of my illness, it is also, I find, a curse. I believe that I am empowered over my body largely because of CF.

I have been thinking on this over the past two days, as I read my friend Kathy Rooney's book, _Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object_, in which Kathy reflects, as you can imagine from reading the title, about her upbringing and her world's dealings with her body. Though the book is focused on Rooney's work as a nude artists' model, the book analyzes other nude and naked means of employment. (If you are wondering what the difference is between "nude" and "naked," you should certainly read her book.) Assuming you have not read her book, though certainly some of my readers have, Rooney writes of the many messages she received about her body, like we all do, from her parents, her siblings, the "so-called slutty neighborhood girl," her friends, and the opposite sex in general.

I was stuck stuck stuck on this quote, the one above, about the "so-called slutty neighborhood girl," in that I was recently caught in a conversation or five about a friend's abhorrence that her son was dating THAT VERY GIRL at [...] school [...]. THAT GIRL, you know, "the slutty one." Now, my friend never actually said the word "slut" when talking about this girl. But it was, I felt, implied by the other things said about the girl. Perhaps I was influenced to hear this by the fact that other friends went ahead and said it - "slutty" from the comfort of their distance from the relationship itself. Torn between my feelings of confusion that a friend would judge another woman, well . . . girl, so openly, and understanding her very visceral concern for her son's well-being, I was dumbfounded trying to think of things to say to my friend.

I find it funny that every neighborhood, every school, every office has a "so-called slutty girl" that we are meant to be afraid of, titilated by, ashamed of, and sorry for at once. By describing as "so-called," Rooney admits "slutty" is just a distasteful label put on young girls who show too much leg, have breasts that are "too big" or who make out with boys "too early" on a comparative basis with their communities. However, Rooney's description of this girl and my recent ponderings over my friend's parental conundrum had me thinking, "Why is there always only ONE 'slutty' girl?" As far as I know, she always has friends, this slut-girl, and they always dress like her, and make out with boys like she does. Some of them are even blessed with the same great rack. [...] Yet there is always one leader of the pack that is The Slutty Girl you know.

The thing that The One Slutty Girl has that members of her harem don't is empowerment over her body. Actually, the MOST empowerment over her body among the girls. This is why there is only one girl, she has these features most of all, though others possess them. She wears the shorter shorts, and the revealing tops and she makes out with the boys "further" than she "should" because she is trying to figure out something about her body, the body that empowers her to control the boy she's with, control even her friends, perhaps control herself. The Slutty Girl IS her body, or she would like you to think that.

Sure, The Slutty Girl might have secretly low self-esteem, she might write sad things in her journal at night or be a coke-head on the side for all we know - or she might watch the History Channel at night and be into existential poetry. We do not know. All we do know about The Slutty Girl is that she doesn't mind if we look at her, and she doesn't worry about hiding her boobs every time she bends over, and she probably won't grow up to have sex with the light off. Whatever's going on with The Slutty Girl's inner-workings, she owns that body of hers and she's using it for something, whether sexual in nature or not. She owns her body in a fierce, independent, arrogant, flaunty, go-ahead-and-look-at-me-and-screw-you-for-looking kind of way that the other girls around her, try as they may, do not have. This makes her The Slutty Girl while the others are just regular "sluts" in the eyes of those that behold them and the mouths of the neighbors gossiping.

What does this have to do with CF? Hard to tackle in my remaining 12 minutes of bloggy time tonight. (That's right, blog readers, I'm trying to limit myself to only 1 hour of bloggy time per day! And that includes stat updates and viewer questions!! YIKES!)

[...] I can say that I [...] became aware of my body as something that needed to be used for specific purposes at a much earlier age than other people - men or women. I think that most people don't think of the usefulness of their body until at least adolescence. By "usefulness" I mean the active posing of questions regarding the body's ability to complete a task for the mind, as in "Can my body do this? Can my body do that? What must I do to my body so that I can eventually do that thing-I-wanna-do? Can I run? Can I swim? Can I hold my breath as long as her?"

Non-CF children grow up and they do or they don't accomplish tasks with their little bodies. These accomplishments are inherent. They are learned through observation. They are mostly unconscious. CF children grow up and they learn to-do-to their little bodies. It is taught, it is rarely observed, it is not inherent, unconscious, or even natural: Put the big pills in your mouth and swallow: to-do-to-your-stomach what your stomach can't-do, digest; Inhale the mist into your lungs deeply: to-do-to-your-lungs something they can't-do alone, fight disease; Cough out the secretions: to-do-to-your-lungs/trachea/mouth/stomach what you'll rarely see another human do: force expectorate (to remove disease).

CF children learn very early something that others don't learn for many years, that their body is something that can be forced, coddled, calmed, assaulted, overwhelmed, and freed - and that sometimes the most painful acts against them are the best for their bodies, though sometimes, there are just painful acts. It's a very tangled message that forces a child, most hopefully in my opinion, to assert This Is My Body- a deep and powerful understanding that changes the way a child views her/himself and the other bodies s/he interacts with.

In closing as I see the clock . . .

CF children, The Slutty Girl and even, dare I say, Kathleen Rooney and the artists' models she writes of, have one shared understanding: As soon as they learned to empower themselves into their own bodies, to own their own bodies, to objectify their own bodies and to use them as freely as the world around them would - to feel better, to feel really good, to get reactions, to get sex, to be admired, to become art, to get money - whatever the use - as soon as they learned to use their own bodies in the way that the world used them, they learned that this self-empowerment was very, very bad.

More on this topic in future days. My bloggy time is up!




  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with CF. I'm looking to network with other CFers, so I look forward to following your blog!

  2. I love your blog, but I love even more that we got to talk about this some in person at the BBQ last night. I won't re-hash too much but: a) thanks for reading and b) thanks for "getting" a big part of what I was trying to say w/ regard to the weirdness that sometime is the sluttiness/empowerment nexus. And I think you're onto something, too, with the broader point of how rare it can be to find people who have figured out how to "use" their bodies and how it can seem equally rare if not rarer to see them being encouraged for that.

  3. Love this post! Very well said!


  4. Thanks CG for this post! I feel like that there is some deep seeded pain for me as I recall my conservative adolescence (relative to my peers) given I was an early bloomer - and did nothing about it! This delay led me to first enjoy my body in my mid 20's and subsequently not feel guilty about it in my mid 30's. I have judged others and as I move toward a "free" attitude about physicality and pleasure I am more apt to feel compassion for others and am less prone to judging. That must be a good thing! I will be ordering Kathy Rooney's book to further explore this!

  5. Thanks, readers. Certainly I have more to report on this subject. ...


Thanks for commenting! Your comment will be posted ! -CG