Currently Reading: Hunger by Roxane Gay
The immensely talented writer, Roxane Gay, has been dancing on the edge of my peripheral vision for awhile. I can't pretend I didn't know about her at all but my interest was reinvigorated recently by her interview with Girlboss radio. Afterwards I scoured the internet for more interviews and TED talks. Bad Feminist is up next on my reading list. Her newest work, Hunger, is deeply personal.
It doesn't get more personal than a story about your body and everything effecting it and your life. All of our bodies tell a story. The wounds and battle scars can be inconspicuous or completely visible. I used to needlessly worry about all the perceived blemishes on my body from past transgressions or sheer dumb luck. But through time and distance I see my body as a tapestry or road map that tells my story in a different way than I would but truthfully.
I wanted to power through this over the past Labor Day weekend but didn't receive it until Tuesday. While deeply engrossing I didn't want to read this too quickly. I feel like it needs time to marinate for the full impact of her powerful prose and story. I identified with young Roxane and our similar childhood interests of reading and writing all the time with school being the diversion. For hours I would pass the time reading Little House on the Prairie books while my grandmother got her hair done in her small Texas town. During my summer visits it felt like the untamed west even though it was just a few hours north of the benign suburbs.
I felt the same desperation for escape as her but for different reasons. I wanted to get through high school and college to get to the next great thing even though I wasn't really sure what that was. As long as it involved reading or writing in some capacity I was all for it. I yearned to escape into something new and interesting completely unlike the dull classes I'd been sitting through for years. I finally figured out, fairly recently, that just because your career path isn't normal or safe doesn't mean you won't enjoy it or the journey along the way.
It's really easy to love your body when it fits neatly into society's beauty standards. Mine did and still does to a certain extent without much effort on my part. I was slim, white and pretty. No one made fun of me for it. The blemishes I thought everyone saw and silently laughed or judged me for no one seemed to care enough to mock me over. My hair is thick and wavy to curly. It was cut short in elementary school because my mom didn't want to deal with the tangles and I refused to brush my untamed hair. Slowly but surely I started to grow it out but the process felt excruciatingly slow. My hair texture was highly desirable as adults would constantly remind me others, mainly them, would love to have it and had to get perms for the same effect.
My only other beauty blight was on the backs of my arms. They are covered in red bumps called keratosis pilaris or chicken skin if you are rude. I was sure everyone stared and gaped whenever my arms were exposed. I hated the way they looked. I stared longingly at the smooth backs of other people's arms hoping one day mine would look the same. Picking them mindlessly until they bled was a bad habit I picked up out of boredom which would remove the initial bump but replace it with a scab. Nowadays I've found and used different treatments with varying levels of success. The easiest treatment is free which is not caring what others think. I still feel self conscious about them every once in a while but nothing compared to my past obsession.
Several fading blotches on my legs are my other slight beauty nuisance which thankfully look more like freckles currently. They are scars from scabs I created from incessantly itching flea bites. I was diligently using exfoliating treatment on them to reduce their appearance and eventually make them disappear. When they first appeared underneath the scabs I was horrified. Black blotches were sporadically around my lower legs and it was still summer. Most people didn't notice so I tried and succeeded in forgetting about them too. I've had them for a year now and they didn't stop me from bearing my legs this summer either. I did have a moment of bridal induced panic last year when I realized they would be present on my wedding day. Good news for me I was wearing a full length dress so no one else caught a glimpse.
My very minor beauty struggles are nothing compared to the anguish in this memoir even though these felt life shattering as a teen. Even though Hunger has been out for several months I don't want to spoil any secrets for those who haven't read it yet. I'm about a third of the way through this book and can't wait to devour the rest. It's hard to find a writer who you can relate to, while admiring bits of their life story and literary prowess. I am also considering joining Twitter just to follow her and watch her roast trolls.