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March 12, 2014 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-03-12

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Wedesay M rch12 214// .heStteen

Personal Statement: Diving into my insecurity
by Ruby Wallau

the writer's notebo
I've encountered slam poetry a
few times in the past few years -
more so in high school than now. I
was always in the audience, never
onstage. That's not to say I didn't
write poetry. I did, and do. I acted
in high school pretty often as well. I
didn't do musicals because I wasn't
a singer, but I always auditioned
for thefall play and did some of the
smaller productions and shows that
ourschool put on.
I considered myself both an actor
and a writer, but slam poetry never
crossed my mind as a medium of
interest. It never sat right with me.
Even while in the audience, I wasn't
sure how to feel, or how to make
sense of what I was experiencing.
Perhaps it's because slam poetry
is a synthesis of those two mediums
of art done poorly. It isn't literature,
and it really isn't theatre. The words
don't have to be good because they
can fall back on the performance
and the performance doesn't have
to be good because the words are-
there to distract you. You forget your
expectations and readjust them as
you go along.
I've gotten chills down my spine
from slam poetry. But those chills
were inauthentic. Is that possible to
have inauthentic emotions? I think
SO.
It's possible because the emotions
exist on the surface level of the art.
You get the same sensation you get
when watching a drippy romantic
comedy. It forgets to make you think

ok: not literature, not theatre by max radwin
cp

. I LLU S
and instead, you're left with feelings
that conform to what the perfor-
mance set out to make you feel at all
costs. It's like intentional fallacy, but
for your emotions. It's emotional fal-
lacy.
In the late 'SOs a poet named
Robert Lowell published a book of
poems called "Life Studies" that
began a movement of Confessional
poetry. Lowell wrote about his fam-
ily, his relationships and his history.
In short, he wrote personally. The
"I" wasn't a fictional speaker; it was
himself.
It's not so tidy and clean but -
after a storm of literary criticism -
it's said that there was a subsequent
Post- and Anti-Confessional move-
ment, which reconciled the narcis-
sism and inaccessibility that comes
with writing personally and Confes-
sionally.
But slam poetry exists outside of
these literary movements because it
isn't taught in a classroom. No one
reads a slam poem and critiques it.
They listen and if something con-
fuses on the first read-through then
it gets cut - it has to be ingested on
the first go-around because no one's
reading it, only listening. The poem

TRATIONS BY MEGAN MULHOLLAND
loses its depth. It stops being a poem
and becomes something baseless
altogether.
Lowell's poetry was shocking at
the time. Confessional poetry can
be pretty shocking. Think about
some of those darker poems by Syl-
via Plath. Slam Poetry has embraced
that full-on and hasn't letgo.
In fact, most slam poems I've
experienced have been about sexual
assault, rape, abuse, alcoholism or
depression - and always in an over-
the-top kind of way that seemed
to miss out on the opportunity to
explore the important elements of
those topics in favor of dramatic
delivery. Without fail, the speaker
always seems to say "fuck" or "cunt"
sometime during the performance,
and usually in a way that doesn't uti-
'lize the word beyond its shock value.
Is it unfair to generalize an entire
medium and deem it as structurally
flawed? I suppose. But if the ang-
sty, hyper-Confessionalism of Slam
Poetry that has strained all the com-
plexity from its product is not inher-
ent, then it is at least a trend - and
one that exists because its perform-
ers often defer to melodrama over
art.

It was a snowy night as I sat with
my grandparents, my mother, her boy-
friend and my younger brother at a
round booth in a dimly lit restaurant.
My grandmother smiled softly beside
me as I gently bumped my shoulders
against hers, wantingto feel her pres-
ence. She is light, her spirit buoyed by
unabashed kindness, but I often fear
she sacrifices too much of her con-
fidence for the happiness of others.
She offered my mother a taste of her
risotto, the same dish that sat in front
of me. My mother laughed and said no,
she shouldn't eat so many carbs if she
wantedto stay skinny. Mygrandmoth-
er said nothing.
My skirt suddenly felt too tight to
hold in my round tummy and my face
too chubby to make eye contact with
anyone at the table. I set my fork down
and let false claims of fullness spill off
of mylips. The sweet red wine and self-
consciousness soaked into my skin as I
watched my mother incthe candlelight.
My arms are like thick logs compared
to her twigs. I have always been a
round heavy tree standing next to her
brittle fluttering leaves. As we left the
restaurant, I shimmied into my coat,
letting it swallow me. I've learned to
relish in the way winter hides me.
I was born in a place surrounded
by the ocean, but I grew afraid of the
beach.
I'm not afraid of seeing a silver fin
peeking out of the deep blue, or the
purple jellyfish that have stung me
before, or even being crushed by the
pounding waves that once covered my
skin with bruises when I ran through
them carelessly. I am afraid of the
beach because the thought of donning
a bathingsuit makes my heartrace and
my body cringe.
There is a photo of me when I was
five wearing a blue bikini with little
pink flowers and eating a peanut butter
and jelly sandwich on the beach. My
hair was dirty blonde, curly and wild.
My skin was sun-kissed and under-
neath my knotted hair was a sandy
scalp. It is the last documentation of
me eating without shame and the last
time I wore a bikini. Each summer, my
cousins and I would pretend we were
mermaids as we splashed and laughed
in Lake Michigan. Now, I spend every
summer coming up with new excuses
for why I would rather sit in the sand
with a book wearing shorts and a tank
top than swim with them.
Weight transformed into a number
that I couldn't stop thiinki about. In
the fourti .ral'. a friend ilhisperedt

peeking out from the shirt of the chub- to tip-toe downstairs to our pantry and no longer felt like an uncontrollable
by girl sitting in front of us, "I bet she sneak yogurt pretzels or a cup of ice force in my life. I had accomplished
weighs over ahundred pounds."I something that I had been try-
line at the grocery store, between mug to do unsuccessfully for
the candy bars and comicbooks, I years. But it didn't transform
would read the headlines ofgossip my body; it just changed my
tabloids speculating about celeb perception of it. The heavy
rity weight gain. I began to see pounds of fat I felt on my body
weight everywhere. were only heavy to me. When I
When I returned to my child looked in the mirror, my body
hood home one summer in mid wasn't all that different, but
dle school, I discovered that m awkward round shapes that I
best friend, who had always had had hated before began to feel
a round face and fleshy arms that like curves I could enjoy.
mirrored my own, had become I wore a bathing suit for the
so thin that I could wrap a single first time in years the sum-
arm around her waist. It felt like mer before my freshman year
a betrayal. Her cheeks were sharp of college. It was at a murky
and her thickest feature were the campground lake, mosquitos
chunky braces on her teeth. I had nipped at my legs and sticky
only become rounder during our humidity coated my skin. Clad
time apart. in a pinstriped one-piece, I
My father handed me the shiny self-consciously wrapped my
blue "South Beach Diet" book and arms around my middle. My
told me that we would do it togeth friend grabbed me by the waist
er. He bought a bag of sugarless and tossed me into the water. I
mints and said that if we ate only screamed and dove head first
those and vegetables for a week, PHOTO COURTESY OF RUBY WALLAU into the insecurity that had
we could lose 10 pounds. The small scared me for so long. He swam
book felt heavy inmy hands aslI tucked cream back to my room. after me as my head brokecthe surface.
it away in my closet. Later that after- During senior year, I finally dug up It felt like I was floating, weightless,
noon, he bought my brother a cheese- that blue glossy "South Beach Diet" even though my feet could touch the
burger from McDonalds. I desperately book from where it was hidden in my rockybottom.
wanted to lose the weight. Every bite closet. I learned to eat only vegetables A couple of days ago, as I waded
of food I swallowed came with three and meat for weeks and would wake across the Diag through the slush on
bites of shame. I would eat as little as up an extra hour earlier to run on the my way to class, I overheard the girls
possible in front of my parents, instead treadmill before class. When I lost ten in front of me worrying about Spring
waitinguntil the late hours of the night pounds, it transformed me. My weight Break. "I've really let myself go," one

said. The other agreed, chastising her-
self for unhealthy eatinghabits and not
going to the gym enough. They began
to devise a plan to get bikini-ready in
less than three weeks. I wanted to roll
my eyes and brush off their words as
superficial, but I couldn't because I
knew that I have had nearly the exact
same conversations with my own
friends. I am afraid to ever calculate
how many hours I've spent in my short
lifetime thinking about losing weight,
counting calories and googling crash
diets. I once read that women moni-
tor their bodies once every30 seconds.
We each devise a system to mask our
own flaws, learning how to wear our
clothes, howto foldourlegsorrest our
hips to project the thinnest versions of
ourselves.
Body image will probably always
be an internal struggle for me. There
are still days when I obsess about the
numbers on the scale or spend all day
hating myself for binging on Nutella
the night before. But I'mready to fight
this battle. I am tired of apologizing for
eating. It exhausts me that when I sit
at a table with my friends, I expect to
hear myself or them make a joke at our
own expense. Body hate has become AM
a normative behavior in our society. It
is a habit that I try to fight everyday.
Even though sometimes Ihate the per-
son in my reflection and the curves I
don't recognize, Iam learning that it's
alright to also love the person I find
there.too.

COVER BY AMY MACKENS & RUBY WALLAU

LESSONS I1
ON PURPOSE:I NoNE
FROM THE FROG, THE DUNG BEETLE, AND J
A special presentation by Victor J Strecher, PhD, MPH,
Professor and Director for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship, U-M School of I
Thursday, March 13, 3:00-4:00 pm
Rackham Auditorium
No charge for attendance-Open to the public
In this presentation, long-held assumptions and beliefs about health, motivation,
reconsidered. Dr. Strecher will demonstrate a platform of multimedia strategies di
people make quantum, meaningful, and fully engaged changes in their
lives, which can positively impact both physical and mental health.
This lecture is presented as part of the U-M Depression on College (ampuses
(onference. No registration is reQuired to attend Dr. Strecher's presentation.

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