Thursday, June 2, 2011

Metropolis, No Bones About It

OK, so this magazine Meatpaper my husband and I have subscribed to in the past, is asking for submissions about bones. My husband suggested I write a piece about my weird aversion to bones in meat, but I realized that I don't actually have that much to say about them, other than the fact that they sort of gross me out. But then next, as I started to write out it, I realized that it sort of goes deeper -- which actually, is no surprise because, honestly, the human mind is pretty amazing; as one goes further into thoughts about pretty much any topic, the reasons that back up any opinion are pretty, well, detailed.

BUT -- the way that I write about things doesn't tend to really lend itself to typical publications, I think. I don't really do narratives in any sort of traditional sense that lend itself to fiction, and I don't really quite do things that are sort of thesis-y either. 

My style is really more, well, kind of stream-of-consciousnessy-journal-day-by-day style, which after a while plus retrospect, turn into something ovewviewy and thesis-y, but not in a coherent typical essay style. And not even in a hip "creative nonfiction" way either. However, this particular assessment on my own personal writing style is also, as of this moment, based on what I've been thinking about naturally plus what I've been thinking about after having multiple beverages at the Charleston, a few blocks away from my house, after a particularly trying 10 hour work day that included one (1) irate consigner, one (1) hour at the Apple store getting help with my backup drive,  two (2) hours spent sorting the credit card number of the store where I work and unauthorized charges traced to a website in New Jersey, and finally, two (2) hours of monthly e-mail update composition involving other people's too-late-in-the-game event info for the store's subscriber base. Also, a package arrived with overdue postage for $6.25. So I'm just saying that my opinions overviewing my own personal writing style are not exactly, well, um, awesomely articulated I guess, especially after a day that I've just had combined with my efforts to elevate my mood with the aid of deliciously high calorie designer microbeverages. By this I mean that when I got home, my husband Joe accompanied me to the bar down the street, where after 1 Belgian ale + 1 exorbitantly-priced hearty cider, I was announcing things like: "That thing looks like a reel-to-reel on the wall. And also, it looks like a face with a headgear!"

So perhaps this is not the best moment to accurately describe my writing style.

But what I will say is that I don't actually plan on sending piece to Meatpaper; I don't think they'd really be all into it in the way I imagine they're looking for. However, this IS nonetheless, what I think about when I think about my weirdo aversion to bones in meat when I'm eating. I find this last sentence I just wrote particularly funny, because it sounds like I'm trying to do some Raymond Carver thing, like This Is What We Talk About When We Talk About Me And My Aversion to Bones In Meat When I'm Eating and How It Totally Kind of Grosses Me Out or whatever.

So here's what Meatpaper sent out as their call for submissions:

We are collecting short, personal essays for our “Meat Up” Section. The next theme is “bones!”
Do you have a particular predilection for or aversion to bones? Do bones play a significant role in the cuisine of your family or culture? Have you had a compelling encounter with a bone that has made its way into your personal lore? We’d love to hear from you. E-mail your very short essay — 300 words or less — to stories [at] meatpaper [dot] com by July 8, 2011.

Here is what I wrote. I do not think I will send it to them:

I was vegetarian until the day that I met my husband. You know how you always go out to eat a lot when you meet someone new? Well we’d always go out to eat and he would order a hamburger or something like that that was meat-centered. He’d ask me if I wanted a bite and I’d always say no, and I’d ask him if he wanted a bite out of my food and he'd say no. But one day I said yes. And it was on his hamburger. And from then it was a slippery slope.  In fact to this day, when given the chance, he’ll order meat and I’ll often order the vegetarian option.

But, I feel like I’m a vegetarian at heart. And that is because the only meat that I’ll eat is when it’s so far off the bone and totally processed that it looks like fake meat. If it is too close to its animal form then it grosses me out. If it still has skin on it or it’s encasing a bone I mostly can’t go near it. If it’s chicken breast I can’t touch it unless it’s super-processed with chemicals and machines and then made into the shape of a tiny chicken breadstick, but without bones. In fact, the more cartoony the meat is, the higher the liklihood is that I’ll be willing to consume it. The closer real bacon looks to the cartoony Ren and Stimpy-looking vegetarian bacon you get from Morning Star, then the more likely I am to eat it. I can’t stand animal fat, so most bacon is out. The closer something is to being carcinogenic, like charred beef the consistency of a rock instead of medium-rare, the higher the probability is that I'd consider eating that as well.

Where did this come from? Even when I was a kid, before the days of diving into vegetarianism, I was adverse to food made from animals that had bones in it. My mom would make steaks for everybody and I would have to have a hamburger. And as I write this, my cat laying on my lap, and I feel sort of guilty for going back to eating animals. That was years ago. I’ve been with this man who turned me into a carnivore for over a decade.

Maybe I’m scared of death and how gruesome it is, and that’s why I have problems with eating meat that reminds me that it used to be an animal. Bones, blood, skin, guts – is my aversion to that stuff unless it’s in some processed form, does that mean I’m only able to handle my food if it’s been preprocessed and prepared in advance in some way that makes me feel less guilty for eating it?

Do I need something in my life to pre-process things and sugar coat them for me in order for me to consume them? Does that hold true for things besides food? Are there examples of things that I can think of that I need someone to prechew before I can consume them? Or pre-process?

And anyway, it's more than 300 words, so there. And it's sort of cheesy anyway. Meh, those grapes were SO SOUR anyway.

Also! I'm almost done watching the second season of "Dead Like Me." Did anybody in the world watch this show besides me? I wouldn't say that I am obsessed with it because I have not spent time researching anything about it on the interwebs, but I will say this: there is a British guy (character?) on it who looks like a poor man's David Tennant, and I wonder if that was intentional...? One thing that totally interests me is that the main characters meet twice a day practically at their favorite waffle house. I love that. I wish I had a group of friends like that, but I've never been part of a gang like that. Also, I've never been recruited to be a grim reaper, so you know. And also! That's TV! Not real life! HELLO. What I will say though is that I am comforted by the idea of a place being a central spot to be at -- an adult version of Denny's when we were in high school, the place to go and be seen. An Algonquin Table type of group place scene to be part of. But I'm not a regular drinker. And I don't have a bar I frequent to be the where-everbody-knows-your-name type of destination. And also, I've never really had a real group of people that I belong to. I desire all of those things. I will never have it. I have come to terms with that. Well, whatever. There are certain things I will never have. One is an ability to do quick math for tips. Another is an enjoyment in preparing food. And the final one is a group of friends where everybody loves each other and we all go to some bar and hang out and ruffle each others hair and inspire each other with creative endeavors. I have come to terms with all of these things and realize that no life is perfect.

But! I was just thinking about how lucky I am in certain ways, in spite of my sort of my trying day. Joe and I were walking home after our Charleston sojourn which is a few minutes walk from our place. I saw a few bicyclists making their way home. I heard a noisy crowd at another bar that was on our walk home. I saw a few people walking dogs.  I saw my next door neighbor's porch light click off, which means that she was going inside, and I had just missed her, even at that sort-of-but-not-really late hour of 11:30pm on a random Wednesday night. That means she was just outside smoking with her glass of wine. I often see her outside, and we'll chit chat as I sit on my stoop and she stands down on her front porch. Sometimes I join her on her porch for a glass of wine, or sometimes we carry on incredibly intimate conversations from that far away from each other, like probably a good 20 feet away from each other as I'm at my place on my front porch atop the stairs and she's at hers in front of her ground floor apartment. We're pretty much shouting. And even though the only things we have in common are some family-related characteristics (mental illnesses that run in both of our families), we still have these strangely long conversations where we sort of shout across the way, which I kind of like. Also, as I was settling down on the couch about midnight to write this, my roommate came in at his usually hour and gave me a rundown of his adventures for the evening which usually entail people or bands with weird nicknames that I enjoy. He's usually out so late that when he has to get up super early for work the next day it's difficult, so he shaves off time by not showering in the AM and instead showering after work at night, because he's in such a rush in the morning. All of these things remind me that this type of place I live in is a metropolis like Chicago. The houses are close together enough that I can shout to my neighbor to have a conversation, and I see people riding their bikes home from parties and bars and late night grocery errands. It reminds me of what I loved about college, of all things, that people are doing stuff into the PM, reminding me that there's probably someone awake no matter where I'm doing, no matter what the time, and they're doing their thing and I'm doing mine -- the world doesn't just shut down just because the sun goes down. I love, love, love that. Even when I have a shitty day, the city still moves and people still do things, even if they're only separated by one building or one block. Always so much going on. I will never see it all but I am glad it's there. It comforts me.

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