Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Oy vay. The word "zaftig" is an American word. Here's the etymology: Yiddish zaftik, literally, juicy, succulent. Zaft, juice: Middle High German: saft, earlier saf, juice, sap + -ig, -y.

Well, now I know that I've been called "juicy" by relatives. Ick! But I'm guessing they hadn't a clue. They just thought they were using a nicer word than the American "chubby", which is slightly better than saying one has a lot of baby fat (and no one over six years of age can still have the cute form of that).

Last night, when I stayed up late (with one eye open) after mistakenly drinking a large cup of dark roast coffee thinking it wouldn't affect me (ha), I was thinking about how I used to be heckled by guys when I was young. I found it annoying and threatening, especially when I was hissed at.

Some years back, a friend mentioned how much she enjoyed going to Spain and Italy, where men would verbally harass her on the street all the time. She didn't use the word "harass", but I don't remember what word she used because I was so surprised. She actually enjoyed this attention?! Yes, indeed. In fact, she bemoaned the fact that now that she was in her thirties, she didn't get as much attention on the street as she used to. This perspective was a surprise to me. For the first time in my life, I thought "I might be a puritanical American".

Since I haven't lived in New York City for over twenty years, I hadn't noticed that I was no longer being harassed (or paid attention to) by strange men on the street. After hearing my friend talk about it, the next time I was in a city, I did in fact notice that noone said a word to me. I had become an invisible woman. And frankly, even though I may have felt less harassed, I realized that I had missed something terribly important. I had missed that I had once been a beautiful young woman. How sad.

Though I don't advocate yelling at women on the street (not in the least), I realize that I miss being wanted. Not by those strangers, no, not that. It's more of a general thing. When I look in the mirror these days, I think, "Who would desire that?" I sure wouldn't (and don't). Just as they say you need to love oneself before others can love you fully, I think one needs to find themselves their own sex object before one can be truly wanted. And if you think feeling desired is of no consequence, just wait until you're not and see how it feels.

Of course, in this society we do put too much emphasis on physical desirability. And people who are in long term relationships can see each other in ways that others do not. The elderly woman who's been married for fifty years, well, in the best of worlds, her husband still sees the young beauty he fell in love with long ago. At least that is what we all hope for, isn't it?

Last night I was also thinking about my mother. She had a full face lift in 1984, before it was all that common for middle class women to do this. She spend all her savings on that face lift, which I found most disturbing. The odd thing is that I do not recall if I saw her afterwards. She died that year due to a car accident. When I had to settle her accounts, she had less than five hundred dollars in the bank, not even enough to buy a plain casket. All that surgery had been for nothing, but how was she to know?

I judged her quite a bit for that face lift. I wondered why she couldn't accept getting old. And when she died, I thought that she was spared the business of becoming elderly, which I could not imagine her doing. My mother cared so much about the externals - clothing and weight. She regularly took people under her wing and gave them complete makeovers. She'd take dorky guys shopping, oversee their haircuts, give them advice on making witty conversation. And if they wound up with more dates, hooray!

I feel badly now, thinking that I felt my mother was spared, for I am moving into the same territory of age that she was having difficulty with. My mother looked far better than I at the age I am now, but that's because I haven't cared all that much about these things.

I have also harbored a delusion of pretty big proportions: Thinking that I was an unattractive woman, I figured I wouldn't notice the changes that middle age would bring. I figured there would be no sense of lost. Oh, how wrong I was!

Painting Note: Peter Paul Rubens (again). A portrait of his zaftig wife, Hélène Fourment.

Addendum: I don't know if it'll change by the time you get there, but if you click on the link for yourdictionary.com's definition of zaftig (not the one I used above), you will find something I found rather disturbing. There's ads for shoes, shoes and more shoes plus lots of pink ads for the movie "Sex in the City" and shoes, shoes and more shoes. There's got to be a diet link on there somewhere, but all that pink made me want to go away fairly quickly. And I do like pink, but just not in such large quantities.

Jeans update: This morning I realized the absurdity of a 5'1" woman wearing a pair of 38 inch jeans. I am not morbidly obese. If I think I'm actually hiding my fat by wearing these, I'm mistaken. Well, maybe I am, 'cause my neighbor said to me reccently after I declined a size 8 pair of pants someone gave her, "I can't tell what size you are - everything you wear is so baggy!" But the gals at What Not to Wear would have a field day with me (and I wish they would!) so I'm giving these jeans to Dick. Hope he likes them. (Note: I put the link to the show there, but I don't know if it's still any good: Trinny and Susannah are gone!)

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