Second, let us talk about family.
Because the one good thing of the cruiseperhaps the
good thing of the cruise, nearly it's point and purposewas that these people my grandfather married into became, well, people. Introductions always go over my head and I rarely recognize faces; I'd met these folk before, but they were still strangers in every way that mattered. I didn't become bosom buddies with anyone, but for the most part I know and respect who they are now. For no damn good reason, Grandpa and Ilene had seating charts for dinnergrouped by table, thankfully not assigned specific seatswhich made sure they were able to sit with everyone but didn't confer to us the same favor. On the last cruise the group of us mingled with ease all on our own; this time, there was one couple I never really spoke to. But I bonded with one uncle-in-law over books, and one cousin-in-law over video games; I can match faces to names to identities now, and that's worth something.
The conversation about books was particularly delightful.But third, let's talk about me.
(Of course.) Spending intense time with peopleprolonged time with a group that I'm supposed to be apart of because we're all family nowreminds me just how much I am not people. Sometimes it's little things: I don't like what people seem to like, "nice" weather (sunny and warm) and "luxury" accommodations (which they were notI'm picky, yes, and was recently on a much larger and plusher cruise ship, but this one had a general second-class feel). I don't take things for granted or float along on expectationsjust because it's a cruise doesn't mean it's necessarily fun and relaxing and escapist; it actually has to be those things to be those things. More importantly, there are expectations for behavior and acceptance that I don't meet. You may remember my issue with being photographed on the last cruise
, and it held true here: I don't believe anyone has the right to assume they have my permission, and it upsets me to be photographed without being asked. Similarly, I don't think it's appropriate or respectful for strangers to call me "sweetie" or for extended family members to call me by a nickname. People are supposed to be cheerful and optimistic, social and acquiescent, and I, in the back, am none of these things.
I sit differently than other people do, because of my back. I dress differently, in broomstick skirts and long-sleeved shirts, a style which hovers between causal and formal but is suitable for neither. I eat differently, I'm a vegetarian but also I don't drink and, unlike most people it seems, I like good food: I take a critical approach to food as I do to all things, I will reject bad food, and I believe nice plating and froofy descriptions don't automatically make food good. I avoid group activities and loud noise. These are my own quirks and none of them are necessarily anyone's business, but if they want to know what I think of the dish I'm not eating then I will probably tell them: I think watering down opinions in the name of social nicety is stupid.
This is news to none of you, I know, but it is isolating to realize it afresh. I still had a few good conversations. The one about books was personal, fairly private, involved, educated, a discussion
in the most fulfilling sense, and I'm thankful for it. But so much of what people do to gather and be social makes me feel like the odd one outbecause, of course, I am.
Dinner was the only required family event most days; we were free to dispose with the rest of our time as we wished. Devon and I slept a lot, in part to cope with the constant seasickness that everyone was suffering (smaller boats and rough waters are a bad combination); we watched a number of movies through the awesome DVD service* and he taught me to play backgammon. For the most part, we did nothing social except attend dinner.
And sure, maybe that was a wasted opportunity, but dinner alone was exhausting. Not always badsometimes so, like when the third generation was seated together and we 20-somethings were grouped with the little kids, or when the cruise line thought it wise to have a half-assed, painfully loud song and dance routine with the last dinnerbut always exhausting, and by the end of each night, especially near the end of the week, it was all I could do to hold out until dessert.
And on the last night, in between rounds of bad song covers being blasted through the speakers, I got into a conversation with Ilene and one of my uncles-in-law about 1) Why if I'm such a picky eater and eat so little of the (on that night particularly shitty) food, I'm not thin! You'd think I'd be a stick figure, but there I am. Ilene then followed with a little monologue about how when she gets back she wants to start finding ways to get skinnier so have no delusions, it wasn't a celebration of my body type. Then we transitioned into: 2) What I eat at home, and why I don't eat breakfast, and why don't I just give a quick explanation of what agoraphobia is and how it impacts my day to day life. Because I don't leave the room much, you seesometimes I manage a meal before Dev makes it home for dinner, sometimes not, because I can't always stand the thought of sharing a space and risking a conversation with someone just because I'm hungry.
I try to make it a point to discuss my mental illnesses in the same tone that I would any respected physical illness. My heath isn't necessarily anyone's business, but if I wouldn't feel ashamed to explain how my diabetes impacts my diet, then I sure as fuck won't feel ashamed to explain how my brain crazies do. It's healthy for me to be honest and self-accepting, and if I can make anyone else more honest and accepting (of themselves, of others) then I think that helps us all. And it has helped me, to be more honest; I've also gotten better about talking about these thingsa similar issue came up at the end of the last cruise, and my summary and explanation this time was much clearer.
But that does nothing to change the fact that I was still, at the end of this long week, the fat girl** and the crazy girl; the outsider, the not-person. I don't regret being outed: despite all the caveats, and there are so many, I accept who I am, from curves to crazies. I believe that owning the person that I am and being willing to talk about it can only help. And the conversation didn't go poorlyIlene was sympathetic I suppose but also, as usual, chock full of halfway-correct assumptions which she took to be the absolute truth, and it's pretty pointless to try to correct her (even on the word, agoraphobia, which she called agraphobia
, and more importantly on the fact that agoraphobia means you can't even leave the housenevermind that for a time not to long ago, I didn'ttherefore mine can't be "real"); my uncle was surprisingly receptive, excluding an offhand but inappropriate quip about how he hears that that a bit of alcohol can help with problems like these.
But things were so very good before the cruise. I saw century_eyes
, I met sisterite
, and I had a marvelous time. I listened to "Dog Days are Over", and realized it was true
. In my own silly way, I took a step towards self-actualization
("Today, being me makes me overjoyed."). I don't celebrate New Year's because the end of a calendar seems too arbitrary a cause for celebration, but for what it's worth I went towards the end of 2010 realizing that I am betterfeeling better, being better, better at being me.
And then I was the fat crazy not-person. The cruise didn't destroy mehonestly it wasn't that bad, just exhausting, and that's nothing that some reading in bed can't fix. And part of the experience of isolation (in the midst of a crowd) has driven me to want to combat it: I want to find my own crowd, my clan, my chosen family; I want to see my loved ones again and find more and build on preexisting relationships; I want to spend time in Portland so badly that my skin itches with the desire. It frustrates me that I can't make these things come instantly to pass, but the desires for them are good.
But that good isn't quite enough to erase the bad that rouses it.
Anyway. The cruise was. It was long, and tiring, and did good things, and did bad things, and could have been much worse. FLL wasn't using the backscatter machines when and where we went through security, so the trip ended on a similarly exhausting (flying all day tends to be) but surprisingly painless note, which is an absolute blessing. I came home to news that a handful of you have been going through tough times and experiencing incredible losses, which puts my own familial angst in brutal context and mostly just makes me wish the best for all of you. Above all I am happy to be homeeven if I sort of wish that home were up in Portland just now, but still: what matters is that it's over, so thank goodness for that.* This was one of the few benefits of this particular ship: free movies to borrow as long as they were on shelves. We watched Death Race (not bad for what it is, and we both adore Jason Statham), Mission Impossible (I'd never seen it; yeah, it was fun), A Knight's Tale (pretty awesome, gleeful anachronistic, and the We Will Rock You sequence rocked my socks), Wicker Man (the remake; better in two minutes but still delightfully loltastic), Catch Me If You Can (not exceptional but solidly entertaining), and Shooter (again, not exceptional but solidly entertaining, emotionally rewarding and technically soundgun-wise, not filmography-wise), and The Bank Job (a little more serious than we were expecting, and so relentlessly depressing; it might have been better at a different time).
** For the record, I wouldn't class myself as "fat," but then I also wouldn't self-apply any similar categorization. I'm short and curvy and moderately overweight; I'm also very bad with visual comparison, and I have no idea how my body actually ranks in the thick to thin scale. For the most part, I also don't care. But this isn't about what I would call myself: it's about how I felt I was being classed, implicitly, by someone elseand, as such and via context, carries the word's negative social implications.