mark

As the allergist had me roll up my sleeves to prick my skin for a common allergen test, a frown creased her pretty face.

“Will this be okay?” I asked.

She ran her fingers up and down my right forearm. She tapped a small patch, right along the line where the hair grows thick.

“Here,” she said and then tapped a place right near the elbow on my left forearm, matching–and not mirroring–the right. “And here.”

A photo of my forearms.

Mika Matsuzaki, 2012. CC-BY-SA

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gain

There are so many things we as people and I as a double-X have gained with age. People told me of many of these things: experience, understanding, senses of sacrifice, first hand loss. There are also many things I’ve gained no one told me I would.

Photo of a woman's back, with stretch marks by her arm pits.

Photo courtesy of bhumika.B on Flickr. CC-BY.


1) Stretch Marks. Seriously. No one ever told me I’d get stretch marks. Most of them are from rapid weight gain, but I also have some from puberty. Around my breasts and on my hips. I have a few on the backs of my knees from cycling.

2) Body hair. In theory body hair comes with puberty, but I’ve always been a hairy kid. More than once I was asked if I was a werewolf. As a child. When people didn’t know werewolves are in books and not their neighborhoods. As I settle into quarter life, I noticed that I have a few long hairs that grow on my neck and chin. When I first saw one, I freaked out. I thought I was a weirdo and something was wrong with me. Then I began to notice that a lot of women have the occasional long hair growing somewhere we think women don’t have hair. I made a point to look around at people, and a few I knew well enough got asked directly about it.

3) Varicose/spider veins. I have mild, superficial spark looking veins. They are blue and purple and pink. Mostly they’re on my legs, a few light ones around my ankles. I have one on my left side and another pale pale one on my chest. The one on the back of my left thigh is the most prominent, a deep purple. As far as I can tell, this is just a thing. You get them. I got my first one when I was teaching and standing like five hours a day. More developed as I started biking, and then the other ones came along with circus.

A photo of me.

Photo courtesy of madprime on Flickr. CC-BY-SA

4. Lines. This picture is me circa July 4th, 2012. Notice the lines on my forehead and around my mouth. I have lines on my face. They are there. They will not go away. This is just how I am going to look. One day I noticed that when I smiled the lines that formed didn’t go away when I stopped smiling. “At least they’re the good kind,” madprime told me.

Photo of a woman with a broken heart drawn over her heart.

Photo courtesy of Identity Photogr@phy. CC-BY

5) Cellulite. I’m pretty sure there’s no need to explain this one. This lady has some around her stomach according to the description on Flickr.

There’s a loud conversation about how the media gives us unrealistic expectations about how we’re supposed to look. A lot of this focuses on things like the photoshopping of women’s bodies in magazines. Jezebel published before and after photos from a Lady Gaga photoshoot for Vogue, highlighting the way her overall shape was changed. I think these little falsehoods–stretch marks, cellulite, lines, dark circles under eyes–are even worse. I know my body is not some unnatural sleek shape, but I also didn’t know how positively normal all these little things happening to me as I age are.

without

My fetishism of Mormons begins and ends with housewives and this idyllic view of a simple, purposeful lifestyle. In reality, I have no interest in being Mormon and a lot of what that now culturally entails. Like not cursing.

I love the word fuck. Seriously, I do. It’s great. I don’t love it for some deep philosophical reason, I just like how it feels in my mouth. There are…other words I do not like, but not for any meaningful or arguable reason.

Rather than saying things like hell and…other words, Mormons have taken on “shiz” and “heck.” Battlestar uses “frack.”

Farscape, an important part of my childhood, gave us “frell” and “dren.”

In the Farscape video, we hear “‘frell’…opened up a whole new world for us.”

Mormon Matters talks about why Mormons don’t swear.

  • Religious – because taking the Lord’s name in vain is specificially prohibited in the Bible; practicing Mormons avoid this one like the plague.
  • Sexual – presumably because our bodies are sacred; speaking lightly or debasingly of sex acts diminishes them.
  • Excretory – I suppose to some extent related to treating the body with respect; this seems like the least offensive to me unless directed at another person.  The words, I mean.

I would argue that hate speech is the worst of all since it is directed at another person in anger.  Of course, within each category, some words are considered more severe than others.  So you may think a very mild religious based word like “damn” or “hell” is okay, but would not even think to use the grand Mother of all American swear-words (in the sexual category).

This is just conjecture. While television shows abstain from swearing due to FCC regulations, Mormons seem to do it out of a sense of decency or perhaps even a form of modesty or denial. I think this is silly because, much like with television, we really know what they mean. They are not actually giving anything up.

I mean, seriously people, we all know that when Ellen Ty says “don’t frack with me, Bill” she means “don’t fuck with me, Bill.” When a BYU girl says “fetching heck” or “well, shiz” we all know what she means too.

It might just be my post modern tendencies, but I stopped viewing fuck as a sexual activity. Frack helps us see this, removing it from any sexy context and putting it into a purely expletive form. However, there are times when it is also a contextual replacement–not just an interjection. “Frack me” said in a sexy voice and “don’t crask with me” give frack the same meaning as fuck. Similarly, when heck so obviously stands in for Hell, it is functionally the same word.

It’s not just limited to these “forbidden words.” Caffeine is forbidden and Mountain Dew is the equivalent thrilling taboo of youthful alcohol consumption.

“Giving things up” is something we love to do to demonstrate dedication, suffer in solidarity, and make personal statements. Some vegetarians really like fake leather and fake fur. There are so many ways to approximate chametz and kitniot during Passover that people use. There are so many beautiful hijabi. I frequently think these make the wearers even more beautiful. I cannot conceive of how this adds to modesty. Unless it’s like a challenge: how can I be so beautiful and still be modest?

The real effort, the show of faith and solidarity and principal must come from the challenge to have things as much like the things people are giving up. Do you know how hard it is to make a delicious fluffy sponge cake during Passover? A vegan cheesecake? If you make that happen, you basically deserve the cake. You know what sort of suffering your ancestors went through in fleeing Egypt.

pie

KK once called her husband “pie.” This was before they were married. She insisted it was a good thing because she really likes pie. At least, she said I didn’t call him purple. I don’t like purple at all.

That is entirely inconsequential to the rest of this story.

The Full Moon Feast is an idea brought to Somerville with from the wilds of Seattle. We pulled together not only a beautiful house, but a beautiful meal inspired by Mako’s Ethiopian Feast. In honor of the honey wine, there a honey sangria

For dessert, a few of us put together a blueberry pie.

A photograph of a blueberry pie

Not our pie. Our pie looked something like this. Photo courtesy of moonlightbulb on Flickr. CC-BY.

You see, it was what ET called Surprise Pie.

When you’re making Surprise Pie the key ingredient is surprise. As few people as possible ought to know what is going on; the people being surprised (our guests) really ought to not know what is going on. When those people are in the apartment and running around cleaning and decorating, it’s really hard to keep the surprise aspect intact. The existence of the pie is not a surprise–the contents are.

How to Make Surprise Pie, FblueMF 2012 Version (Vegan)

1) Make tapioca

Convince your friends to go pick up tapioca for you. I didn’t want minute tapioca. Regular tapioca has more whatever makes tapioca turn into gel. I made a lot more than I needed for the pie so there would be tapioca for all to enjoy!

  • Boil 4 cups water
  • Add 1 cup tapioca
  • Lower heat and stir stir stir (I had our former intern do this)
  • Add two cans coconut milk
  • Keep stiring
  • Add vanilla
  • Turn off heat once it’s cooked enough
  • Add honey to sweeten and taste.

2) Be convinced you don’t have time to make Surprise Pie. As you pull together coffee and check the cake for imperfections (of which there will be many), have ET pout once she hears there will be no Surprise Pie. Feel enough guilt that, even at the last minute, you will make this pie.

3) Get a pie crust. We used a pre-made graham cracker one because there was no time to make a regular one and there happened to be two in the pantry.

4) Send ID downstairs to get the frozen blueberries from the freezer. Distract the people who are going to be surprised. This is most effective by surrounding them with friends in a room you are not in.

5) Make blueberry pie filling.

  • Put a bag of frozen blueberries into a pot and turn the heat on medium. Depending on the size of the pie crust, you may need more.
  • Add brown sugar and lemon juice to taste.
  • Have ID stir this, taste it, and eventually decide the flavor is right.

6) Put the pie together. The blueberry mix will still be hot. Make a solid layer of tapioca in the pie crush. As full as you think you can get it while still having room for the blueberries. Crumble the second pie crust on top of the tapioca because you think it may possibly help the tapioca and blueberry stay separate. Using a slotted spoon to deal with all the liquid, scoop the blueberries out of the pot and add them to the pie.

7) Take surprise pie to the table and enjoy.

building

A photo of two people sleeping in the back of a car

S and T, then

I met S in 2005. By that point, I was already friends with T–S was her boyfriend. He was a freshman and I was a sophomore. I’d already known S and T finished undergrad and moved to Seattle. S got a masters of public finance. He works for a startup. T is getting a Ph.D. in statistics and is at the top of her class. I think they’re both pretty awesome

S & T, now

One of the things about S is that he and I have very little in common. Our lives diverged completely since 2009. In three years, he’s found a life for himself in Seattle, got a full time job, and is married. He and S, who’ve been a unit for a long time, only began (from my experience) to define themselves as adult individuals in 2008. They’ve been doing it solidly since then.

A and me, then

One of my fondest memories of S is from 2008. T was spending a semester in London, which forced them apart. He was going to visit her for spring break. A week or so before he left, we were sitting around in the living room. S looked down and ran his hands through his hair, making it stick up as he is wont to do. He looked up and said “I think I should ask her to marry me. I should just do it.”

A with a mandolin

A, now.

He didn’t ask her until the next year, but that was sort of a defining point in my knowing him: He was the kind of person who would get married. Not in a “we should get married” kind of way, but in a surprise proposal diamond ring popping the question kind of way.

A few weeks ago, when I was out west, S and I spent some time together. T was out of town, much to my own sadness. We wandered around Wallingford and the U District (I think) with W, had Korean dinner, and wandered back to the apartment he and T share with each other and no one else.

After W and I were on the bus headed back to Capitol Hill, he said “It’s nice you can still talk to each other.”

The fact is, S and I are completely different. In fact, all of my close friends from then–A, B, G, S, and T–are different from me.

A photo of m. eating butter.

me, now. Philadelphia Folk Festival, 2012.

As we were talking down the Burke-Gilman, I took off my shoes because they were uncomfortable. I suggested–mostly jokingly–that S and T start going dumpster diving. He scoffed at the idea. He commented on how lucky he is because he was able to go to Japan on his honeymoon.

He had a honeymoon.

The thing is, we aren’t really all that different. There are lots of surface differences, but I was always sort of the weirdo of the group. We have many similar values–some he is more extreme in and some I am more extreme in–and very different ways of expressing things. This is because S and I helped build each other.

G sitting on the Cathedral lawn

G, then. I took this picture of him in 2005.

We all helped build each other. KK, another friend of mine from then, and I appear to have even less in common. She is married, pregnant, has a mortgage, is getting a Ph.D. in bioinformatics, and is Catholic. We still have a shockingly similar set of values and can still talk.

Life is about building things. Relationships are about building things together, and the relationship itself is something you build. When these relationships are during your formative years, you’re not just creating the space between the people: you are, in a very inescapable way, creating each other.

A Jewish wedding, showing attendants holding the chuppa.

G, now. Holding a chuppa at a wedding.

I don’t think I was really a person until I met G. He helped build me by calling me a jerk when someone needed to. A was there for me during several crises. T reminded me that other people matter to me. B taught me about making decisions. S showed me what it means to love another person.

Of course we had other experiences. The structures of our relationships are grand, but the pieces that make them up are the nights sitting around watching the X-Files and all those movies, the days cooking whole meals, midnight rides to the one Dunkin Donuts in Pgh, mornings waiting in line waiting for a seat so we could eat pancakes.

So much of who I am was built by these people, through our shared experiences, that I don’t worry about what will happen with us knowing each other. I don’t worry that I won’t be able to talk to them, not just talk, but understand, communicate, and have new experiences together. They built me and I built them.

*B doesn’t take pictures of himself. None of these photos belong to me, so they are exempt from the CC-BY-SA license.