Sunday, May 29, 2011


I have a slightly unusual eating disorder:  when I get stressed out, I can't eat.  It seems unusual because when I hear people talk about anorexia, they define it as the false belief that one needs to lose weight.  I don't believe that I'm fat.  I've never "dieted" in my life.  I'm just not hungry.  Nor do I have issues about certain foods (known as orthorexia.)  I'm not disturbed by the sight of other people eating (although I guess it is a little bit gross, when you think about it.)

It's only recently that I realized this is an eating disorder - and ironically, the thing that tipped me off is reading some blog posts by people who eat more when they're stressed out, instead of less.  They acknowledge that it's not just about the food, or about feeling hungry - there's something else going on.  And I thought, "Yeah, obviously I am hungry.  And when I'm not in a bad mood I eat well.  So there's something overriding my natural desire to eat."

One of my cats died recently, and as he became seriously ill he stopped eating.  It made me think about my own loss of appetite and my suicidal tendencies.  It's a means of cutting myself off from the world, going on strike, refusing to engage.  It's an act of rebellion but also . . . a capitulation.

My poor little kitty really was on his way out.  There was no reason for him to eat.  But I'm still here and I have as much right to be here as anyone, although it's hard sometimes for me to remember that. I want to stay on top of this thing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Animal Stories

I grew up with animals - mainly goats, but pigs, cats, chickens, and sheep also played formative roles in my childhood.  Imaginary animals did too; that is to say, animals which I had never met in real life.

One of the first books I remember reading showed all the different varieties of cat, and I made up a long series of stories about the Queen of the Cats.  She was half Persian and half Angora (based on the pictures in the book, those seemed to me to be the most regal species of cats.)  I had heard that cats had nine lives, so I decided that the Queen of the Cats should have nine times nine lives, and the magic of this concept was in no way impeded by the fact that I didn't know how much "nine times nine" actually was.  Most of my stories dealt with her running through her nine-times-nine lives: dying in various ways and then coming back to life and triumphing over her enemies.  Children do have gruesome imaginations, don't they?

Goats also featured in these stories somehow, although I can't remember if I took the goats that I knew and turned them into cats, or if they were still goats.  As a matter of fact, goats and cats have very similar personalities:  independent, stubborn, curious, and determined to get to the other side of whatever door or fence happens to be standing in their way.

Later I read The Jungle Book, and that transformed my fantasy life again.  I don't recall ever pretending to be a cat, or a goat, at least not in any serious way, but I pretended to be a wolf seriously and with dedication, for a long time.  At this moment I can't remember why wolves, of all animals, fascinated me so much.  I should read that book again.

Animals appealed to me more than people because they never gave me shit.  Also they were my role models in a way that the people around me (for whatever reasons) couldn't be.  It occurs to me now that they had more personality, or more attractive personalities, than the people that I knew. I could communicate with animals much better than with people . . . and I still find that people have some extra layer of consciousness, or something, that doesn't resonate with me.  I feel as if I can understand an animal simply by looking at it.  People have something else going on. Or maybe it's my fear of people that stands in the way.

I also find it significant that animals seemed to have greater variety.  That book of cats depicted so many different breeds of cat; The Jungle Book features several other animals besides wolves.  I felt as if the human world was barren, monotonous,and at its worst, hostile.  But animals came in all shapes and sizes, all different kinds.  The humans I knew didn't have that  much diversity.

Of course, identifying with animals was also my way of escaping gender.  Gender seems to be less important for animals.  I've never heard of anyone trying to force an animal to conform to strict gender roles.  They have gender, as everyone knows, but they're not defined first and foremost in terms of gender.  They're animals first and gendered second - so it seems to me.

In preadolescence I went from a fascination with wolves to a fascination with foxes.  Sly, cunning creatures who are good at escaping from the hounds, good at practicing deception.  I wanted that then; I couldn't be a wolf anymore.  And in adolescence, as I recall, I gave up my animal stories altogether.

Some people seem to disapprove of "fantasy worlds."  They're unrealistic?  But my imaginary life with animals was realistic in its own way.  Animals are real.  I had never seen a wolf or an Angora cat in person - that doesn't make them any less real.  We are supposed to learn, aren't we, about things outside our daily existence, our own little spot of the planet.  And I needed to know that other possibilities existed.