Breasts in the Kitchen

March 16, 2011 § 5 Comments

I am, to put it politely, well-endowed. Busty. I have Huge Tracts of Land. I actually get the reaction, when I mention my cup size, “They make bras that big?” And let me tell you, they are a pain in the neck. And back. And shoulders. And themselves. Especially in the kitchen.

For one thing, they’re in the damn way. Even wearing a minimizing bra, reaching across my body is significantly more difficult than it is for a man or a smaller-breasted woman. The classic elbows-in default posture of the cook is essentially impossible for me. I have more than once burned myself because my tits were in my way, and have, many times, knocked things over with them.

I was once in the prep kitchen, steadily chopping away, standing next to a pair of (male, of course) sous chefs chatting about jock itch and how they dealt with it, whether or not to powder, what kinds of underwear helped most. (I’m unsure to this day whether to be bothered by the fact that they thought this was appropriate to discuss in front of me or pleased that they counted me as “one of the guys” enough to do so. The kitchen is pretty much the only place I’d take the second as a good thing.) I considered jumping in to tell them that I regularly had problems with bra itch, no matter how much powder I used, and despite my wicking-fabric sports bras. I didn’t. Too embarrassing.

Oh, and let me tell you, finding a bra that provides enough support, minimizes my profile, wicks away sweat, and isn’t actively painful or uncomfortable is . . . well, quite the challenge. I have to keep not just multiple bras but multiple models on hand to account for the day by day changes in size and sensitivity. And they are not fucking cheap.

This shit is, of course, only one of the many reasons I’m not fond of my breasts. I’m not even going to discuss the social issues of having large breasts in the kitchen. I mostly avoid them through minimizing bras and having a lot of belly fat, which definitely decreases how obvious they are.

One of these days, I’m going to get around to having a breast reduction. When I have insurance, when I can afford it, when I can afford to take the time off, when I’m sure I’m not going to have any/any more babies. Until then, I have to cope.

What starts as a brief update ends up being a rant about transphobia and bathrooms….

December 12, 2010 § 5 Comments

Oh, hi. My health problems finally started to improve, and then I had to fly across the country (for a very good reason: to meet my new nephew and spend some quality time with the fam), and meanwhile there’s been a whole stack of work craziness and drama that’s been eating up my energy.

But I have not forgotten my little blog, and I hope to get some time to finish the long post on angry chefs over the holidays.

Meanwhile, the last few days have seen me spitting nails in various internet arguments (because I cannot resist telling people they are Wrong On the Internet). First I ripped a few rape apologists new orifices over the Julian Assange charges. If you’re not familiar, WikiLeaks founder Assange is being held for rape charges entered against him in Sweden. Charges were filed back in August, and have been dismissed once already, and are pretty blatantly being used as a political tool against Assange in retaliation for his leaking US diplomatic cables. But that doesn’t mean that the women who filed the rape charges are lying, that they’re bad people, or even that it wasn’t rape. The details are being held pretty closely, but from what’s known, a conviction is almost certainly out of the question (which is why the charges were dropped once). But we simply can’t know whether or not the charges are true.

And then I got embroiled in Round 3000 of the Great Washroom Debate. You know, the one where somebody tries to come up with a reason that doesn’t sound completely bigoted for why trans people using the appropriate bathrooms or changing rooms is somehow a problem. And I maybe lost it a little bit.

I have several close friends who are trans, and I try hard to be an ally. It’s important to me, on levels both personal and principled. Transphobia hurts people I care about deeply, but it’s also one more (and one nastier) iteration of the enforced gender roles and deep sexism I work against. Trans rights are very much a feminist issue (despite any bullshit you might hear from transphobic feminists).

Let me state my position plainly: For many reasons, including for the safety of trans people, the safety and comfort of parents with children of a different sex, accessibility for physically disabled people, the safety of more androgynous people, the safety of intersex people, and just plain the comfort of everyone, I am in favor of getting rid of stall altogether and going with completely enclosed cubicles usable by anyone, with sinks in the cubicles or on a wall outside them. I’m also in favor of changing spaces with private cubicles that can be used by anyone. It seems to me the best solution for nearly everyone.

My restaurant has two restrooms, each a separate room with one toilet, one sink, and a locking door. One of them also has a urinal. It also has a pretty sparkly little chandelier, just for fun. Both of them are labeled simply “Restroom.” I live to tell people who ask about this that we refuse to bow to the tyranny of binary-gendered bathrooms, usually in a portentious, revolutionary-zeal-infused voice. It’s fun. I’m also serious about it, but being serious about something doesn’t preclude having fun with it.

Y’know, I was going to explain why un-gendered bathrooms are important, but it’s a miserable night here. Our ceiling is leaking water into our prep room, and dripping on a (sealed) electrical conduit, and, despite having been trying for about five hours now, I’m completely unable to get anyone in to fix it. I’m exhausted, physically and mentally and emotionally, and while I can muster enough sentiment to go on about it for quite some time, I can’t actually muster the brain power to string the words together intelligibly. Sorry.

One positive note, in the midst of all this craziness: I’m not having mood swings or panic attacks. The Lamictal is working wonders.


November 4, 2010 § 18 Comments

I’m sorry, folks, I’m still having health issues. It’s looking like this is going to be a long-haul kind of thing, and I just don’t have a lot of bandwidth for writing at the moment. I’ll post when I can, though. Maybe I can get that Mostly Martha/No Reservations comparison together, to keep you entertained while I’m out of commission.

There’s a big post on Gordon Ramsay and his ilk in the works, as there has been for weeks, but since I can’t manage to get more than a sentence or two done at a time, there’s no telling when it will be ready.

Some of you might be wondering if my current health issues are related to my disability. They’re not, but there is other news on that front.

For ten years now, I’ve been managing my bipolar without mood levelers or antidepressants (not that people with bipolar should take antidepressants without mood levelers). I’ve used a variety of things, including counseling, supplements, and birth control, and they’ve been working reasonably well for me for about five years now. Well enough that I could go to culinary school, work in the industry, and open a restaurant, anyway.

Tomorrow, for the first time in ten years, I will pick up a prescription for mood levelers.

It’s a big decision for me. I’m not doing it because my bipolar has gotten worse — it hasn’t — but because the medications have gotten better. I stopped taking them a decade ago because they were detrimental to my health, because I didn’t like the side effects, and because everything available was teratogenic (caused birth defects).

Eleven years ago, my bipolar was so severe that I had to be on meds. I was suicidal without them. And then I got pregnant.

No doctor would let me stay on my meds while pregnant. By the time I knew I was pregnant, there was already a high likelihood of damage to the fetus. And I could not go off them. So I had an abortion.

I don’t regret that, and never have. I have always been pro-choice, and had no qualms about the procedure. These days I am, if anything, more strongly pro-choice than I was then. But I wanted, and still want, kids.

At the time, there was no pregnancy-safe medication for bipolar, really, and my reaction to that pregnancy was terrible. Mood swings all over the place. Over the year that followed my abortion, I contemplated the possibility that if I relied on meds, I might never be able to bear children safely. Sure, I could take other options — adopt, find a surrogate, settle down with a woman partner who would bear children — and those were all viable and good options. But I didn’t want to lose the option to bear a child myself.

It wasn’t the only reason. The particular combination of meds I was on at that time gave me terrible rages. I would start screaming at people for no reason at all. My friends were frightened of me. The previous meds I’d been on had made me more depressed, left me weak and dizzy and lightheaded and with severe social anxiety. Oh, and I couldn’t add. And pretty much everything available caused steady weight gain. I was already “obese” (and one of these days, I will get into the idiocy of that — these days I’m a Fat Acceptance activist, thanks), and I didn’t want to think about gaining 5-10 lbs a year for the rest of my life.

And the literature I was reading was not encouraging. I’d devoured Touched With Fire and An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison. Dr. Jamison is a psychologist and lives with bipolar, on which she has become an expert. While it was comforting to read about how I was not alone, and to see how much worse it could be, things like her Rules for the Gracious Acceptance of Lithium Into Your Life (which I still cannot read without wanted to cry; “humorous but poignant” my ass) left me terrified of meds. The doctors assured me that the side effects I was experiencing would go away in time. Kay told me they wouldn’t.

What with one thing and another, I stopped taking meds, and refused to start again. Instead, I found a GP who worked with my psychologist, one who kept up with studies on things like flax seed oil and bipolar disorder, and slowly, with many false starts and setbacks, I got my life together — without mood levelers.

I still get mood swings, though. All bipolar people do, no matter how well our meds or management work. And if I can improve that, I will.

The meds for bipolar now are a lot less scary, with a lot fewer nasty side effects. With this one, I’m supposed to watch for signs it’s interfering with my birth control (in which case we’ll up my dose of hormones) and for skin rashes (because there’s a very, very small chance that all my skin will fall off and I’ll die; fortunately stopping the meds at the first sign of that specific rash is pretty effective in preventing, you know, dying). But if I got pregnant, I could stay on it if I needed to, if I chose to continue my pregnancy. And it doesn’t generally cause the mood swings it’s supposed to prevent.

As for kids, well, eleven years after my abortion, I still don’t have any. Before I can, I need to be reasonably stable emotionally (check), financially stable (um, mostly check), and have at least one committed and stable child-rearing partner (nope).* I’m in my thirties now, and have a birthday coming up this month. I’ve accepted, mostly, that I may or may not actually be able to get all of those requirements lined up while still fertile. If I don’t, I don’t, and I’ll deal with that when the time comes.

If I never bear a child, though, it will not invalidate my decision a decade ago to go off meds. My decision to go on meds now does not invalidate that decision, either.

It’s my choice, and I’ve made it as best I can. If it doesn’t work well for me, I can change my mind. That’s my choice, too. They’re all my choices.

You know, this post was supposed to be a quick check-in, just to say I was still alive, but having problems. All of this came pouring out. I feel better for it.

Thanks for reading. Sorry there’s no food or kitchen stuff in this post. Wait! I know! I can tell you that we’re adding pancakes to the menu! Mmmmm, pancakes. There, food.

*Please note: All three of these prerequisites for having kids are specific to me and my situation and abilities, especially this last one. None of them are intended as criticism of others’ choices, which are theirs. I simply acknowledge that I cannot be a decent parent without some pre-established stability and a partner, especially during the first few years of childhood. I have enough experience with other people’s babies to know that. If I tried, I would wreck my own life, and probably my child’s as well. These are the accommodations I make for my disabilities, that’s all.

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