Thursday, August 13, 2015

Requiem for a Very Good Dog

Zelda left us in April. It was April 3, to be precise. Her kidneys had deteriorated beyond repair and she was suffering. It was clear that it was time to say goodbye. She was only 8 and a half. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but it was the right thing to do.

I still miss her constantly. I'll never get to kiss her neck scruff, play with her velvety ears, or smell her doggy scent again. No more trips to the little park across the street or snuggles on a cold day. No more post-bath zooms around the apartment.

She came to me as a baby. Animal Control brought her to the Humane Society in Savannah as a newborn with another puppy and their mother. They were fostered until they could be adopted, and when they were old enough, I selected the puppy that snuggled up to me as soon as I picked her up.

I nursed her through a bout with kennel cough (props to my mom for helping a LOT with that). I took her to PetSmart puppy classes. I laughed as she scooted around the house and terrorized the then-14-year-old Bichon that had been with my family since 1992. I cuddled her and played with her.

Then I brought her to New York when my family moved. She bonded with my dad so tightly it could be like no one else existed if he was home. I taught her how to be a city dog. She taught me how to be a better human. She got sick from medicinal side effects and I cried and panicked while she was hospitalized to treat the resulting hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. I felt intense relief when she recovered.

I got hit with a massive depressive episode. She snuggled with me when I couldn't get out of bed. She licked tears off my face. When I could force myself to go out she greeted me with joy as I came home. When I wanted to fade away into nothing her needs made me stay alive.

I came through it. She was still there. She still loved me. No matter how hard I had been for other people to be around me, Zelda never got frustrated or overwhelmed by me. She just loved.

When I moved out of my parents' apartment, she stayed behind. The bond between her and my dad was so strong it would have broken both of them to be separated. It hurt my heart to not see her every day, but it meant the joy was that much stronger when I did. Every time I walked through their door I was greeted with the purest joy.

She first developed kidney issues in 2012. I knew her life would probably be shorter than most dogs' are. I sobbed when I learned that most dogs only live 1-2 years after diagnoses. I made myself a promise that she would live to see 8 years old, at least.

We kept up with her health, changing her diet, keeping her on medications, and getting her tested regularly. She stayed relatively healthy despite all this. I planned and got a tattoo of her portrait on my left leg.

She made it to her 8th birthday. I didn't know it would be her last.

February 2015 came around and she grew more and more lethargic. She went to the vet. Her blood sugar was off the charts and she was diagnosed with diabetes. I tried not to think about the fact that this exact thing had happened to my grandfather shortly before his kidneys failed and he died.

She didn't get better. The vet did an ultrasound and discovered her kidneys were almost completely deteriorated. She was hospitalized. When she came home, we continued to treat her problems. It became hard for me to see happy, healthy dogs and not cry because my own girl was no longer healthy.

Finally, it became clear she would not get any better. The call had to be made. It was the most difficult decision ever, but it was right. My parents and I were in the room with her and held her as she passed. We sobbed. Even the vet cried.

It is now August. Sometimes I think I am ready for another dog, but most of the time I know I'm not. I miss having that kind of friend and companion in my life, but I can't give away that much of my heart again yet. The part that belongs to Zelda is still in pieces.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Gardening on a Shady Balcony

Today I went to the farmers' market. That in itself is not a remarkable feat. However, I'm pretty excited about what I got.

Initially I walked over there to see if there were some good vegetables out yet. It's too early for a lot of my summer favorites, but the grocery store nearest me has TERRIBLE produce so I would be content with almost anything, as long as it looked like it wasn't already half-rotten. OK, maybe I also wanted to see if the lady that sells goat cheese with lavender in it was there (she was).

I was afraid that it wouldn't even be open because today was the Brooklyn Half Marathon, which goes all through Prospect Park, including around Grand Army Plaza, where the market is. But it was! Apparently the vendors had to get their early or risk not being allowed to set up until 10:00 (so the goat cheese woman told me), but they were open.

I was not, however, planning on buying myself a garden. But there was a vendor selling potted herb plants, and I couldn't resist. I'm always wary of growing things here, because my patio doesn't get a ton of light, but the man at this stand pointed out a few to try. What I really wanted to grow was basil. We had basil at my parents' place when we lived in Savannah, and it smells so absurdly good, plus it's wonderful to have for cooking. But it's always labeled full sun so I've been unsure. But the man working said it should be alright since the porch gets some sun for a few hours in the morning, so I got one. Hopefully this won't be a sacrificial basil plant. I also got thyme and catnip.

I think someone figured out I was planting catnip.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

I'm Not the Woman at the Ballgame, But I Could Be

Recently, a hateful, fat-shaming photo surfaced on the internet.

OK, I'm going to have to be more specific.

A picture surfaced that showed a fat woman in the seats at a baseball game, taken from the back and clearly without her consent, with a caption that discussed how much she had eaten during the game, how many calories that was, and how "unhealthy" that made her. I'm not going to embed the appalling photo here and sully my blog, but if you really want to be enraged, you can view it on imgur.

To add insult to injury, a post was then released by "The Anti-Jared" claiming to be that woman, saying that she had lost a bunch of weight already and blah blah blah. But it actually turned out that that post was not written by the woman in the photo, it was written by this pathetic excuse for a blogger anti-Jared putting himself in her shoes.

This woman has been victimized and had her image used without consent not once, but twice now. As far as I know, she has not come forward or said anything, nor does she have any obligation to.

I'm writing this not to put any words in this woman's mouth -- enough others have already tried to do that -- but to point out that this could easily have been me.

I'm fat. Not curvy, chubby, plump, fluffy, or corpulent. Fat. If I were at a Cardinals game I would also be squished into the seats -- I know this because that's exactly what happens at Yankee Stadium. The seats are small and rigid and not made for fat butts. When I sit in them I squish uncomfortably, my belly and thighs forced out in different directions. If the human body wasn't somewhat malleable I wouldn't get in there at all.

I don't blame myself, I blame the stadium and those who designed it. I get that they want to put in as many seats as possible to sell, but there should be attention paid to human comfort. Yes, in case there's any question: fat people count as human.

I catch people staring at me on the regular. Before anyone jumps in and says "you're just saying that because you're self-conscious" or "you don't know what they're thinking" -- I know I don't. But I also know how the quantity and quality of stares change based on how fat I am (I have been varying degrees), what I'm doing, and how much I adhere to the arbitrary rules that say I should cover my body. I've had people take pictures (you're never as subtle as you think you are) and make comments to me. If I call out someone's lousy behavior (don't ride your bikes on the footpath, people!) the retort is always simply that I'm fat, as if that invalidates anything else about me.

So yes, you're damn right, I am self-conscious. I don't blame my fat for that, I blame the ways people respond to fat (mine and others'). I am very much conscious of the fact that people have bigoted notions about my body based on how much adipose tissue it contains and the way I feel and act about that. If I dare to eat, especially something that's deemed "bad," stares get worse. If I dare to sit down on the subway and my thighs touch another person, the stares get worse. If I dress in a way that makes me happy instead of wearing only muumuus in a black vertical stripe pattern, the stares get worse.

My fat is not the problem. Reactions to it are.

The woman at the baseball game is not the problem.

Whatever she was doing or eating is not the problem.

The fact that someone felt compelled to take her picture from behind, post it online with the express purpose of mocking it, and ascribe values and judgments to her entirely neutral behaviors is. The fact that someone else put a narrative in her mouth is a problem. Bigots who treat fat people as subhuman are the problem. Fat people are not. We have a right to exist in public, to eat what we want, to be as healthy or unhealthy as we want (or can be), to wear what we choose, and to live our own damn lives without input from anyone unless we ask for it. Our bodies are not an example to be made about some trumped-up issue plaguing the nation. They are our bodies. They are neutral. They deserve dignity and respect.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Professionalism and Oppression

Early in the life of this blog, I was trying to focus on being "adultish" -- which included some fashion and lifestyle tips and musings that reflected on acting more mature and professional. But lately, I've been wondering, what does that even mean?

At some point not too long ago, I was introduced to a site called Dress Profesh, which comes with the tagline "challenging notions of what it means to look 'professional.'" It shows people of all different sizes, races, and genders wearing what they work in. It really snaps into focus the fact that being "professional" is an arbitrary and often oppressive guideline.

A post was just going around a few days ago in which a college senior was rejected from a tech job because the guys that interviewed her claimed her outfit was more for "clubbing" than interviewing. There are plenty of people out there who think her tasteful top, skirt, sweater, and tights outfit is "unprofessional" because it's not a suit, ignoring the fact that tech companies are usually pretty casual, and in fact, overdressing too much can make an interviewee look out of touch with the culture of their field.

Regardless, insisting that everyone on the job hunt wear a suit is one of those oppressive things about the notion of professionalism that I take issue with. Suits are expensive. If you're long-unemployed, or you're a college student just starting out, even a find at Marshall's or a thrift store can be out of your budget. Plus, if you don't wear a straight size, or you are a woman with a large chest, it might be impossible to find anything that will even cover your body -- let alone fit well and be without cleavage -- especially when price is a dire concern. Additionally, if you are fat or busty (or both, like I am), there are some who will always classify you as unprofessional. No matter what you wear, being too fat will likely get you called sloppy, and simply having a large chest will get you classed as sexy or inappropriate.

There are racial implications, as well. Black people are often maligned for having natural hairstyles like Afros or dreadlocks -- women are generally expected to relax their hair and wear it straight, or wear a weave, to look "professional," for example. That is, if they even get an interview to begin with, since people with white/European sounding names are more likely to get called than someone with a more "ethnic" (for lack of a better word) names.

The idea of professionalism is outdated and ridiculous. It should be enough to say, perhaps, make sure you are wearing anything required for safety, your naughty bits are covered, you don't smell, and you aren't wearing hate speech symbols. Anything beyond that is unnecessary, and upholds a white supremacist, cisnormative, heteronormative, sexist, sizeist, kyriarchical structure.