My “Good Woman” Brain

medium_7177015747I grew up on tea. Lipton, with lots of milk and sugar.  I didn’t know about the herbal kind until college, which, it turns out, I don’t actually like; everything but that sugary, almond colored tea tastes like hot, wet grass.

Yesterday  I drank a lot of green tea. I spent the previous 24 hours sicker than I’ve been in a very long time. (The kind of sick you don’t want me to describe in a blog post.)  The kind of sick that made me terrified of anything but dry toast, ginger ale and tea that I don’t even like.

Today was my foray back into dairy. It was fine, mostly, except for the part of my brain that was triggered by the fact that for the last few months, I’ve avoided dairy. Not because of my stomach (I am not among the lactose intolerant Jews), but because I’ve been kind of vegan-y lately.

I have a lot of qualms about veganism. There’s the class privilege piece–protein substitutes and the loads of fresh vegetables are expensive and not accessible to everyone. There’s the judgment and fat shaming piece that tends to rear its head–if only you could control yourself, if you only had your priorities straight and right, if you could only be less selfish and less wasteful.

I kept kosher for ten years. I stopped for a few reasons–I couldn’t find meaning in it anymore, I was no longer invested in halacha (it’s doubtful that I ever was, no matter how much I tried to convince myself that I wanted to be), but mainly, I was using kashrut as another way to control food, and not in a holy way. I wanted to be a person, a woman, who controlled food. A good woman.

A good woman shows everyone that she is trying, one way or another, to be better. She talks about going to the gym, how much she goes, how long she spends there. When her coworkers bring in baked goods or other treats, she will ignore them, or she will eat one and then say, “Oh, this is so bad for me!” She will say to others who do not eat it, “You have so much self control!” A good woman feels badly about her weight, no matter what it is. As long as she knows that she is not okay the way she is, she is good.

It’s this “good woman” brain, sexist and awful as it is, that comes back when I do things like tell myself I’m going to stop eating dairy. I recognize it. It’s the same thing I used to do when I kept kosher–I would never, ever eat a cheeseburger again. Look how strong I am. I am a person who does not need a cheeseburger. Even better, I don’t want a cheeseburger. I am a good woman. I have strength.

I ate a cheeseburger. I ate dairy. I’ll eat them again. I’ll eat them because I know what the bottom of that hole of “ not eating that ever again” looks and feels like. Doing that makes me hate myself, which is exactly what the sexist machine wants- to distract us from being powerful by making us believe we are never good enough.  I ate it because I don’t need to be a good woman or a good Jew,  I need to be a real person.

photo credit: michael+yan via photopin cc