I've been wedded to Erin ever since I saw her a weekend-long folk festival even longer than ages ago. When I gave her my notebook to autograph, I'd forgotten that I had written my impressions of her performance at the top of the page. Naturally, seeing her name, she took the book from me and read what I'd written: "She's Bjorklike!"
Erin looked at me from across the table, as sternly as her babyface would allow. "Anyone who says I'm Bjorklike," she said, "is my Best Friend."
There ended up being a small army of us smashed into Joe's Pub to hear her, and she, there with the Little Big Band to promote her new Retro Redux album Sing You Sinners, did not disappoint. In short: every straight person has a list of people they'd go gay for. Erin McKeown tops mine.
On another note entirely (or not?), I've been thinking a lot about Bodies. Also last week, a friend persuaded me to see a Fat Activism documentary at NYU with her -- "fat" being the word the panelists themselves used, although apparently the word "size" has its proponents. FWIW, I'd prefer to use the word "size" because "fat" has such negative connotations to me. One panelist explained, "Fat is what I am, and it's who I am." While that may work for her, I found it disquieting. I'm very used to thinking of myself as a Self and my fat as the Other. If it's not quite a parasite, it's pretty close.
The documentary itself was short and simple. You can be fat and fit! (I know.) People of all shapes are deserving of respect! (I know.) And then it was over. Irritatingly, the discussion afterwards was moderated by a shameless gay bottle-blond gym bunny in a t-shirt that looked like it would have to be peeled off. He stood in the corner and tried to be all Oprah, nodding sympathetically when the panelists recounted experiences of discrimination. I wished I had darts to throw at his biceps.
The word "pride" came up more than once, and it really made me think. Why is it, in America, that we have to have these relationships with our bodies that come down to cycles of intense animosity and self-indulgence? No one ever says, you don't have to love your body -- just figure it's Good Enough. Possibly because that doesn't sell any products, either for dieting or for pampering. Possibly because it feels easier to go to the opposite pole than to settle down with Hillary in the lonely middle. (That should be a folk song.)
Michael Pollan's much-emailed NYT Mag piece this past weekend perfectly summed up what I wish the prevailing attitude was toward food/fat/bodies. Although I don't think it's perfect -- for one thing, he suggests picking one ethnicity and eating it:
Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t a healthy diet, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around.But what about those of us who love Thai food and Korean food and Japanese food and the occasional slice of pizza or dish of guacamole? Isn't the point of living in America that we don't have to be restricted to what our great grandparents ate? Mr. Ben also points out: "What about the Russians?" Not all surviving diets are worth emulating.
In general though I think he's so right we ought to throw him a parade. You don't need to obsess about food! Since we don't fully understand a carrot works, we can stop thinking we can get what you need from the carrot some other way; we can just eat the damn carrot. Our waists will forgive us, and hey, maybe we won't get cancer. It's not love or hate, pride or fear: it's fact based, it's reasonable, it's straightforward. I should read his book, I guess.