Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Me Me Me: On Narcissism and Yoga

Interesting article about narcissism in today's New York Times. A new study links boastful song lyrics from the '80s through 2007 with the self-obsession of the youth of today. One 50-year-old friend of mine used the article as fuel for his ongoing tirade that the young have too much damn self-esteem. However, the piece was nuanced--it suggested that the middle-aged may be just as narcissistic as the nubile, but the data on the middle-aged doesn't exist.

I had an uncomfortable feeling while reading the piece. Especially when the ubiquity of the word "I" in lyrics was mentioned as a narcissism red flag. Hmmm. During my brief "career" as a song lyric writer I don't think I composed a single song without the word "I" in it. Me and the word "I" are really good friends. Years ago, during a conversation about psychotherapy, my friend Dan said something that I never forgot: "Nothing is more interesting than oneself." I love the first person. It's my go-to point of view for basically anything.

And what is more narcissistic than writing a blog? Or writing anything, really. The very act of writing is an act of ego. If you're a writer, you think (or hope) that people care about what you have to say.

I started this blog partially because I felt that the person I was before becoming a stay-at-home mother had ceased to exist. I wanted her to have a place to live. If that's not narcissism, I don't know what is.

I was contemplating all of this (does worrying whether you are a narcissist implicate you right off the bat?) when I went to yoga class this morning, to attend to the needs of my soul (more narcissism?). Halfway through class, I helped my yoga friend Dina into a middle-of-the-room handstand. Dina is a practiced yogi with a generous spirit. When she told me she was ready for me to let go, I did, and she fell over onto her back and hit her head. I stood motionless, too horrified and lightheaded from my own handstand to act. Dina lay there on the floor, half-laughing. People gathered. Water was brought. "What happened?" asked the teacher.

"She told me to let go, so I did," I said weakly. "When your friend asks you to let go," she announced to the very full room. "Make sure she's really ok first." I hadn't done that. I trusted that Dina knew what she was doing. Dina was still lying on her back at this point. "It's not your fault," she said, looking up at me. But I felt like it most definitely was my fault. I am a terrible spotter, and handstands are really scary for me. I went out to the lobby and lost it, bawling like a little kid.

Another friend came out and comforted me. "People get hurt," she said. "It even happens in advanced teacher trainings." I wanted to leave, but Dina, ambulatory by this point, convinced me to stay and finish the class. "You need to deal with this," she said. "That is why you are here." So I did. At the end of class, I got hugs and kisses and love from my fellow students.

"That's quite a yoga community you have," said my husband when I called to tell him the story.

I sure do.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Breast Implants

The number of breast augmentations increased 39% from 2000 through 2010, according to new data from the gleeful American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

I read about the study the morning after a friend, a breast cancer patient, told me that she had just had her saline sac removed because of an infection. her troubles made me wonder why anyone would put herself through surgery if her breasts were actually healthy and intact. I did some browsing on the web and found another stat that shed some light on the situation: women who get implants are more likely to be depressed and suffer from body image problems than those who don't, and are 3 times as likely to commit suicide, according to 7 studies.

I once hugged a friend and realized with a flash that her unnaturally hard breasts were not real. We exchanged a glance, and that was that, but I never thought of her the same way. Years ago, I knew a girl whose father bought her implants as an 18th birthday gift. He looked at her and said: "You're a little out of proportion. Let's get you some implants." Amazingly, this girl grew up to be a productive member of society.

Not that you asked, but I myself have smallish breasts (34 B). They get the job done with a minimum of fuss. I did enjoy the novelty of wearing huge hogans back when I was breastfeeding, but I never felt like shopping for a permanent set. I have a thing about squandering my children's education fund on paying someone to cut open my body and insert foreign objects into it. But also I appreciate the excellent job my breasts did feeding my children, and I'm grateful that small breasts remain perky for decades longer than is really fair.

Other than the creep who bought his daughter a new pair, I have never heard of a man who likes implants. Listen to my friend Bryan, a known pervert: “Like many others, I think breast implants are sad. For nearly all men who actually touch breasts (as opposed to that greasy cohort whose acquaintanceship with breasts is relegated solely to computer screens and strip clubs), implants are a huge turn-off. I do totally love big breasts. But I also really love small breasts. They're all awesome. Most of all I think that the breasts of adult (rather than 18-year-old) women, post-childbirth, sag and all, fully set the bar for beauty. I am a guy's guy and an authority on this issue."

Mike, a fan of adult entertainment, is also repelled: “I do NOT like breast implants. I just think that after a certain point, bigger is not better. The irony of breast implants is that way more often than not it's someone going from a 34B or C to a 44D or E, and winding up looking like a caricature of femininity. The poster girl for this is, of course, Pamela Anderson, a stunningly beautiful woman who turned herself into a cartoon. Implants just don't tend to look very good or very real. At best, they tend to result in an unnatural roundness, like someone stuck half of a coconut shell under their skin. At worst, and over time, it looks more like a hockey puck.”

Ergo, if you are getting implants to attract men, then it may be an exercise in futility. Although I do dye my hair and apply various creams and potions in part to be more attractive to a man--my husband--so it's not like I exist in some patriarchy-free bubble.

The ASPS didn't release any stats about women getting implants to attract other women. But I'm curious about it. I couldn't really find any studies about this online, so if you're a researcher, there's your topic.

One last thing: don't try and tell me you got implants "for yourself." I'm not buying it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Middle School Misery

We just chose a middle school for our son. The process was agonizing. He has been so safe and warm throughout elementary school, constantly under adult supervision, lovingly ferried from school to soccer to chess to play dates. The child has no freedom. And that's the way I like it.

Next year, Dale will often be at large. He'll join the unruly pack of preteens that rove through Upper Montclair, playing chicken on the train tracks and generally being stupid. We'll have to buy him a cellphone so we can find him, and he us.

In our town, there are three middle schools. I preferred the crunchy one that is half the size of our kids' elementary school. At this middle school, they believe in a long recess and outside time. Plus, I really liked the earnest language arts teacher I met. It seemed like the public middle school version of the private preschool our kids attended.

Dale, however, had other plans. He wanted to go to the school three blocks from our house. It has two big gyms and offers an architecture elective. It's the math and science magnet, and he excels in these subjects. And, he said, "All my friends are going there."

Long story short, all his friends are not going there. Their parents were able to talk them into the crunchy granola school, while I allowed Dale to make the first really big decision of his life.

And I've been so anxious about the change. I was totally fine about him starting preschool and kindergarten. Of course, at those times I was working full-time and distracted.

Yesterday, I realized why I'm so freaked out about my boy starting middle school. It's because sixth grade was pretty much the nadir of my life. As always, everything is ALL ABOUT ME.

So, anyway, back to me. We had just moved and I started the year at a new school. I walked onto the playground that first day, and a boy took one look at me and said, "That girl's so fat she looks like a Butterball Turkey!" The name stuck.

I don't think that will happen to Dale, and yet. There is a picture of him sitting in his classroom on the first day of Kindergarten. His lunchbox is on the desk, and he looks so small and scared. I can't stop thinking about that photo.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Irking Me: Sheer Blouses

I found myself in Soho with a free half-hour so I stepped into Olive and Bette. I was casually looking through the racks when I was accosted by an over-eager sales girl. (Have NYC shop girls become more aggressive, or do I just have the whiff of a sucker?)

My hand must have lightly grazed a sheer peasant blouse. She held it aloft, offering to start a dressing room for me. "No thanks," I said. "I have a thing about sheer blouses."

I don't want to pay $200 for a shirt, and then have to get another shirt to wear under it. She nodded as if she understood, and then proceeded to bring over 5 more sheer blouses.

At this point, I excused myself. I headed over to Comptoir des Cotonniers, where I was happy to be ignored by the sales girls as they gossiped about another sales girl who wasn't working that shift.