Friday, November 29, 2002

The Good Body. Mr. Gaston's book has been kicking around the floor of my office for a few weeks now. I don't know what to do with it. Keep it because it's--sort of--about hockey? Take it the used bookstore and trade it for something else? Use it to start a new stack of books to send to California? I'm not quite sure where it fits in.

It's not a fantastic read. In fact, I drifted through the last twenty pages in a "who cares?" sort of fashion. By far the best part of the narrative are the "fake" bits: the main character is writing a novel, and the passages that are supposed to represent his work are priceless. They're also the truest part of the book in strictly hockey-related terms.

The main character of the book is Bobby Bonaduce, a slightly successful enforcer (he's only slightly successful at his work because he never makes it out of the minors). He's forced out of hockey by his own body--he is diagnosed with MS and can no longer play professionally. This leads him to apply to graduate school (he cheats to get in, and I find that part of the book hard to believe, because there's no way a bunch of creative writing profs. have never read Ploughshares). He gets accepted, and tries to put his life back together, mostly by trying to reconcile w/his estranged wife and son.

The story isn't all that compelling. What is interesting is watching a man become more and more confused by his body. It no longer performs, it no longer functions. Everyone around him assumes he's a lush because he's slowly disintegrating into a slurring, sloppy pile of flesh, but he doesn't see their accusations because he's too caught up in trying to make everything work out.

I haven't quite figured out why this book is still in my possession or still on my mind. Maybe because lately I've been feeling a real push-pull going on with my own body.

The feminist me, the recovered bulimic me, the most of me, couldn't care less what my body looks like. I don't own a full-length mirror, or a scale. When I do start worrying about my weight, it's always just a diversion, a coping mechanism to keep me from stressing out about something much more important. Catherine likes my body the way it is, and that's good enough for me.

The athlete me, the smaller but apparently more stubborn part of me, is horrified by my body. It caught a glimpse of itself in the hotel mirror last night, and instantly thought, "No wonder you never get any ice time, you're so out of shape." The athlete wants to be fitter, leaner, trimmer, a triad of impossible goals right now.

I guess I more or less like looking female. Okay, yes, I weigh more than I should according to the BMI charts. But if I lose that weight, who will I look like? Not me. I already can't recognize myself in the mirror. I'll look like some guy, and Catherine didn't marry some guy, she married some girl. All I need to do is increase the workouts, decrease the caloric intake, and my body will change. And the athlete in me will be very pleased. But the most of me will not be very happy at all.

Bobby Bonaduce and I have a lot in common as it turns out. Aesthetics aside, we both spend a lot of time worrying about how our bodies (refuse to) function instead of how they look. If I could change one thing about my body, and only one thing, it would be to replace some of the broken parts with parts that work. I wouldn't change my weight, or my height, or the color of my constantly thinning hair, or even my chest size (although breast reduction surgery is soooo tantalizing). No, I'd whack out a joint or two and put in new ones. I'd slice out a couple of ligaments and replace them. Get rid of the problem vertebra. Replace the ulna in my right arm. Hell, replace the entire arm and hand, what could it hurt? And if I was getting new body parts, I'd commission a new reproductive system, one that didn't cripple me on a regular basis. Could I improve my eyesight and fix my hearing? Cool.

It's distressing to watch your body fail. It's not supposed to do that, at least not yet. So, I can relate to Mr. Bonaduce's confusion and frustration. And maybe that's why the book is still sitting on the floor next to my desk. That, and I keep meaning to type out the first passage of Bondauce's hockey novel:

"Oscar Devries, immigrant baby, was given his first pair of skates at age four weeks. Outside their sod hovel the prairie winter wind howled like a she-devil as Father laced Baby Oscar's skates tight. So tight that blood began beading up at the lace-holes. But little Oscar didn't cry. He cried only when they removed the skates and he kept crying until they laced them back on, tighter. They taped popsicle sticks on for shin pads and stuffed his little rig into a thimble. Helmet? No helmet, Oscar thrashed his head until they gave up trying to put one on him, he wouldn't be a fancylad. And fuck the mouthguard too: he already had no teeth. They noticed he had come into the world with several facial scars.

Oscar's first game he played naked, save for his bleeding skates. His foul temper kept him warm and red and his skin unfrozen. He went goalless but, using his adult-size stick, he sent six players to the Winnipeg Regional Hospital."

Well...maybe you had to be there.

9:13 PM

Tonight we had to decide whether to go to the town festival of lights (turning on the lights around the square) or go to a volleyball game. Those are the kinds of decisions I like to have in my life.

The lights were pretty as we drove through downtown on our way home from the game.

8:04 PM

Wow. That was exhausting. There might be more chaotic versions of Thanksgiving available for consumption, but I doubt it. Put a dozen adults, a newborn baby, an active three year old child, and an 9-week old kitten in the same small house, and you've pretty much got a combustible recipe.

It's kind of nice spending the day with someone else's family. You don't have to take their dysfunctionality personally because they're not your relatives. It also became very clear this year that we could behave however we wanted to--apparently being liked is not a prerequisite to being invited for dinner. Thankfully, not mine.

Northern Indiana is hella cold--such a bitter landscape. Real Willa Cather territory, and so different from where we live. The winds just slices across the flatness and into your flesh. By way of contrast, witness me sitting here cooling down, all sweaty from running in tights and a long-sleeve t-shirt when I probably should have worn shorts.

No comments: