27 June 2010

Food vs. Fashion

If it weren't for the infernal nagging of my logical brain, I would have again succumbed to the temptation of buying a new exercise machine. I have a spinning bike you see.  One of those humongous contraptions that spoke to me with a vow of returning my now mythical  as a chimera waistline which is by the way still below 30.  I mentioned 30 because a 30 inch waistline  for a woman my height (or lack thereof--5 feet flat) in my opinion, should be the breaking point of tolerance and the beginning of suicidal ideation-- well maybe suicidal ideation is a bit much.  But if it happens to me, this is the part where I dispose of all things that reflect my likeness, buy loads of clothes from Gap Maternity and generally live a life of recluse.  Away from obnoxious, uncouth and utterly rude people who manage to wag their fingers at you saying "Ang taba mo ngayon."  Well f*ck you. Pardon me for my irreverence but people who tell you that you look either fat or tired  without you asking them truly deserve that invective.  And then some. 

The thing that used to screw up my mind was not an existing wrong sense of security or self-imaging.   I have never been anorexic nor bulimic in my entire life and my tiff with weight gain was nothing that can be traced back to my childhood which was pretty crazy, I admit, but relatively normal just the same. It was the prevailing fact that other than food, the only other worldly thing I am obsessed about is fashion.  And we both know that food and fashion are not exactly the best of friends.  Now Photoshop and fashion, that, lads and ladies, is a match made in  sartorial heaven. 

Imagine Agyness Deyn, or Natalia Vodianova having a conversation with a Double-Double In and Out Burger.  "Oh dahlin' it's absolutely lovely to have seen you again. Every moment without you is like a moment without air.  You... complete me."  Of course, a conversation like that would only transpire in a parallel universe but here on the third planet, the conversation would most likely be like this, in between bites and barfs... "I hate you Mr. Burger. (Bite)  You are so good but so evil for me.  (Barf) Why can't I resist you?  (Bite) Why must you cause me to be eternally damned with cellulite? (Barf)  Damn you Mr. Burger!  (Bite) Damn you!" then proceeds to hurl the entire contents of her stomach at the nearest latrine.  Okaaaay.  Agyness, and Natalia might not have this actual conversation with food, but you do get my point.  Food and Fashion are frenemies!   And at a certain age, they are just plain old enemies.

On the runway, clothes just lift models somewhere beyond clouds, to a place closer to the feet of gods.  They float on the catwalk literally towering above everyone splitting the  great, big sea of lesser beings.  However, most of those clothes do no such thing to less than perfect, meaning not reed thin bodies.  If anything, it just emphasizes further how human we are and how human models are not-- strictly in the sartorial sense, that is.  It's just a fact we will all have to live with, clothes fall more naturally  and beautifully on mannequins, live ones or not.  It helps to begin with good genetics and a body that metabolizes food as quickly as Britney Spears' first marriage.  At a certain age though, somewhere after 19, metabolism catches up on them and they have to, just like us, work on maintaining model physique. This fact is  probably why in the modelling world, 25 above is considered "Lola" and only Lolitas get primo bookings. 

If you ask me, models truly deserve to be elevated in a class of their own not only because of their beauty but also because of how hard they work to maintain their figures.  What with their cigarette-coffee-granola-bar or egg-white-omelet breakfasts, matchbox -sized meat portion and a side salad with vinaigrette lunches (which COULD be omitted if there is a shoot), and the fish cooked in "no-shit-I-can't-believe -it's -butter " dinner.  I just can't do that stuff.  For me it would all taste like "no-shit-I-can't-believe-that's-food."  And that is why I have this body and not theirs.  Egg-white omelets?  Come on.  Last Sunday, my breakfast comprised of a freshly (and quite perfectly, if I may say so myself) poached egg with freshly made Hollandaise on top of crispy-edged back bacon sitting smugly atop  an English muffin.  Alas, I could never betray my Eggs Benedict for egg-white omelets .  Not for a million Alber Elbaz for Lanvin single-shoulder, sequin-covered play suits. Alright, maybe just one.  

Here's the deal.  I respect fashion and admire models.  I look at them and I see absolutes and possibilities-- as in absolutely not going to work or possibly a red-carpet moment for me.  As I've grown older, I learned to intersect these two parallel lines of real food and  real fashion that will never meet on an ordinary plane.  I know my body and I've learned that not all that is fashionable is fashionable for me.  Goddamit it is not tres chic to be wearing an Herve Ledger bandage dress if my tummy would be "nakatuck-out" in it. That would just be plain revolting. I also would not wear bunny ear rabbit head bands even if Marc Jacobs told me in the flesh to wear them for him.  Not even on Easter.  And it would be the end of life on earth as we know it, if you ever catch me donning  a micro-mini skirt with knee high socks and sandals even if it was seen all over fashion shows from Alexander Wang's to Timbuktu.  

Like I said, I respect fashion.  But I respect myself, what my body can do and all those people who I may bequeath excruciating pain upon seeing me in an outfit revealing what must be hidden in the secrecy of the Pentagon.   I know too that, I ought to get back on the saddle of my spinning bike and maybe one day soon, I will.  But it will not be so that I can steal my youth and retrieve my once 23- inch waistline because frankly, I know I am more than my physical self which I  have come to love and be quite happy with.  After all, it is this body that bore two beautiful children and has gone through many life stories both of love and war with scars to show too.  It has come to survive many summers and storms and has acquired what I'd like to believe is a certain je ne sais quoi that is ultimately mine and mine alone.

I will get back on the saddle so I will not have an all too sudden heart attack and leave my children motherless.  I will do it for health.  And of course...of course... the hedonist that I am, I will do it so that I can have the pleasure of eating Eggs Benedict any day of the week.  And twice on Sundays.

*Photo from Style.Com

17 June 2010

Happy Father's Day

When I was a lot younger, our Dad couldn't emphasize enough to all of his children the value of reading. He made us read pocket books, magazines, newspapers (more on that later) and reference books. He bought volumes upon volumes of encyclopedia so that if we had homework, we could use them for research instead of asking him things like "What is a paramecium?" and "What is chlorophyll for?" I remember one specific crying incident because I couldn't find some topic for school using the encyclopedia as there were so many of them . I asked myself how many years it would take until I actually came across the topic I was looking for if I had to browse through each and everyone of the 20 volumes. Of course I didn't know then, that there was this magical thing called the Index. And so when Dad saw me at wits-end flipping through volume 2 he asked what the be-jesus was wrong with me and proceeded in teaching me how to use the index. Problem solved, homework done, peace in the universe-- restored.

He also taught me how to use the dictionary when one Sunday morning, I was reading the paper and didn't recognize a certain word. It was an advertisement for a product I was not familiar with but for some reason, was very curious about. I meekly approached and asked him while he was reading the rest of the paper if he knew this word which I couldn't even pronounce. He smiled at me, his "diligent" daughter and asked me to show the word to him. Within seconds I saw my father's face shift from happy to furious as he blurted out in Filipino--"Don't you know how to use the dictionary?!" I only understood the sudden switch from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in all of 10 seconds after looking the word up by myself. The word was Vagina and the product, Tampax. Can you imagine a better way of handling such a situation? "Ah, this here is a thingamajig and is inserted in the watchamacallit to put a stop to the events leading to the apocalypse... " Thanks Dad, you were truly wise for letting me be.

And that was how my Dad saved me--by letting me be. To tell you frankly, we were never really that close. I was the second daughter and right after one year, my brother was born . Naturally the first born son was favored most and I was left mostly to fend for myself. He was very cute too and I wasn't. I was thin, quiet, shy, not cute nor amusing-- in short, I was a very boring child. I had the personality of a porcini mushroom and I don't mean food-wise. A year after, another daughter was born. She too was so cute the neighbors would borrow her every afternoon. Right there you'd know our family was different, because we actually lent her without any accompanying nanny. Anyway, Dad began to panic thinking that since there was only one boy and three of us girls, our only brother (brother number 2 came only after 4 more years) might become gay. Back then, people thought that it was so very wrong to be gay, of course we know that doesn't count for squat now. But then, it was a big deal. And because of this insane fear, Dad started to dress me up as a boy. I swear, we had the same corduroy pants. The same boots. The same checkered shirt. And the same cowboy hat. (Brokeback Mountain--hell-low) He bought boxing gloves and actually made us fight against each other.
We even took goddamn Karate lessons together. Of course I whooped my brother's butt all the time but still, it wasn't right.

One day when we were having a brother-sister fight not unlike Bart and Lisa Simpson, he told me "Go ahead, punch me." He was egging and egging and egging me on and so finally, I did. I put one on his kisser and then he cried and told on me. The next thing I knew, I was being summoned for a closed-door meeting with my Dad in his room. About that time, Dad and my brother spent a whole lot of time together because of tennis training (my brothers were like mini-tennis stars then). Dad asked me if I punched my brother because I was jealous that he was spending so much time with him and none with me, a fact which I was so used to already. I shook my head because I truly just punched him because he bloody asked for it. And then he started to explain why they had to do so much training blah blah blah...then it happened without warning and quite so suddenly like if the song Smoke on the Water or Sweet Child of Mine played without the opening riff, my tears just involuntarily flowed. I don't even remember what he said that made me cry for and in front of him but in my head I was thinking, I'm going to punch that little sh*t when I get out of here. But I didn't. We eventually grew up and stopped punching each other physically though we would go at it verbally every now and then.

I didn't have a lot of fights with my siblings. But I also wasn't as affectionate as I should have been. I don't do hugs and sweetness, that's just not me. I didn't know how to show it and I didn't know how to receive it either. I think the only time I truly learned how to do this was when I had children of my own. But back then, all I knew was to remind the younger ones to do their homework, to not open their mouths when chewing their food and to put on their plates what they will only be able to finish. I was as affectionate as, oh right, I told you already as a porcini mushroom. And then something happened that changed my life forever. I learned to coo
k. And through food, I found the stage for my voice and the canvass for my expression. My Dad still let me be most of the time, learning my way through life by experiencing it myself. But when I needed the answers to the most important questions about life, he answered them quite comfortably. We went from "Go get the dictionary" to some of the most important lessons I now pass on to anyone who cares to listen.

When my heart was badly broken for the very first time, (as in the "why did he leave me, please come back to me I'm begging you, I'll never be the same again" type) I was sitting by the dining table just staring into white space. I was just sitting. Not crying or anything like that which I realized just now, was the calm before the storm. He walked into the room, and without me telling him I knew he already knew of the breakup because he sat down beside me and put his hand upon my knee. Without saying a word I started to cry like that child in his room again. Only this time, I would remember his words forever. He said, nothing in this world is truly ours. Everything is borrowed. This life, our parents, our children, the clothes on our back...Everything. That we should only be thankful for the time it was lent to us. He told me about his marriage and how he was just thankful that out of it, he had six of us. I cried for my pain, but mostly I cried for how miniscule my pain was compared to his. I cried because of his quiet elegance by choosing not to say anything against the woman who so badly broke his heart. I cried because of his infinite and simple eloquence speaking to heal rather than impress and grandstand as (forgive me) most lawyers do. And healed I was. Then after the last tear was wiped off my cheeks he tilted his head, smiled and said, "Nasaan na ba kasi siya? Gusto mo patayin natin?" (Where is he now? You want, let's kill him?) Rock and roll.

Food was the bridge that brought my Dad, my brothers , sisters and I together. It still is. You cannot imagine a group of people more different than we are. But we all love Kare-kare. The fact is, food unites. Food is the fiber that binds opposites and is the elixir that dissolves differences. For me, food did exactly what the staff did for Moses and parted the great big sea between Dad, myself and the rest of the world. I love my Dad. I thank him for being the kind of father he is. Though far from perfect, he is the most humanly perfect father to me.

Happy Father's Day Dad. See you on Sunday.

05 June 2010

Baby's Got The Blues

Loneliness is the tight-lipped bitch waiting for me when I get home. She saunters to and fro on the second floor of my house in her stilettos walking to a hypnotic beat making her presence undoubtedly known. She sits at the end of the dinner table tapping her long painted nails on her wrist, signaling and impatiently waiting for me to finish the "insipid" talk. She lies long, languid and lithe on my bed moving as slowly and as lazy as honey as if saying I have nowhere else to go. Even as children fill my home with laughter and noise, she tiptoes in the shadows of happiness to constantly and quite relentlessly remind me that devoid of an equal, I am in fact alone. Often times, I wish and convince myself that she is nothing but a figment of my imagination, a product of my vivid and aging mind. But I know she isn't. And the older I get, the more real she becomes.

She has a twin sister this bitch, Loneliness. Her name is Longing. She comes in unannounced in the strangest places like in the middle of a crowded room, where a band is attempting to drown everyone with decibels not fit for human consumption, or while driving and listening to the radio as the rain goes vertically mad on the pavement. You know that feeling when you are in a room full of people and everyone is laughing and then something crumples your ticker it feels "sour"? When your chest cavity is flooded with the feeling that something so rightfully yours has been taken away from you? That is Longing--the most unwelcome guest of my heart.

When I get the feeling that my unwanted guests (Loneliness and Longing in case you haven't been paying attention) are home, I find myself making Spaghetti alla Carbonara. I think that maybe, all of the world's problems can be solved with bacon. There's just something about the way simple, earthy ingredients are transformed into something rich, ethereal and soothing to heart, soul and tummy. It's what I'd like to call a gustatory blanket, something equivalent to a human hug. For me it's not just the eating part that is comforting but the whole ritual of making it.

First of all, I boil a big pot of water. In my interpretation of this dish, I use slab bacon. None of those thinly, machine sliced excuses for bacon. Traditionally, one uses pancetta or guanciale (from the jowls of the pig) but I like the smokiness of bacon which both pancetta and guanciale lack as they are not smoked. I then proceed to cut the slab into thick rectangular slices and render the fat over low heat. While waiting for the water to boil and the bacon to give off its ambrosial and deliriously sinful fat, I separate 3 egg yolks, which I mix with a cup of cream and half a cup of freshly grated parmiggiano-reggiano. Once the pasta is al dente, I throw it in the pan of the now lightly-browned bacon, turn off the heat and pour in the trinity of egg-cream-cheese and toss it all around until everything is locked in heavenly embrace. I put it in a bowl and begin to eat while reading a pocket book mostly of the mystery, horror, sci-fi kind. Think Stephen King, Robert Ludlum. Pointless to search for the comfort of food if you end up in masochism hell reading The Bridge Across Forever or Love in The Time of Cholera, right? So it's either a pocket book or a film such as Zombieland to blur the images of loneliness. Better to sleep with the memories of Zombies than stuff that only exist in fairy tales.

In the beginning, I said to myself that this path that will eventually lead to a solitary life is good. After all, everyone leaves whether it be a geographical, physical departure or a spiritual dissipation into the cosmos or vast unknown. Everyone leaves. Eventually, everyone becomes alone. However, is there really a point in preempting a definite ending? Loneliness and Longing, one day we three will have tea. I will have to live with them as the most ironic housemates in all of the earth. But right here, right now I really can do without them. I have a choice. And I choose to not be lonely anymore.