To hell with sugar

Today is my birthday. I bought myself a new variety of yoghurt to start the day in a special way and it tastes too much like the yoghurt I do not like, thick and bitter, too authentic perhaps.

And so I will abandon my birthday yoghurt for the tried and true variety, good old Ski yoghurt, which one of my daughters insists is a bad choice because it has more sugar than other brands.

To hell with the sugar. I know what I like, and I suppose I can add, I like what I know.

I’m feeling narky this morning, which does not surprise me. Given my view that birthdays are special days, the only days on which you are entitled to matter, birthdays are also days of intense sensitivity.

I’m good at celebrating other people’s birthdays, but not so good at my own. I’m not as bad as one of my brothers who shuns almost all reference to his birthday and expects his kids to be likewise disinterested.

I figure if you make a fuss of your children’s birthdays, which we tend to do, then you have to allow them to make a fuss of yours.

To me birthdays have a quality of Christmas to the birthday person, Christmas or whatever other special religious event that marks a day when everyone is to be treated well.

Such days tend to raise our expectations. On ordinary days, on days other than our birthdays or Christmas, and I should speak for myself here, on my birthday, my expectations are heightened. I want it to be an especially good day.

Take my decision to spend extra money on this classy pot of yoghurt as a birthday treat and lo and behold it’s a disappointment. On an ordinary day I couldn’t care less, but on my birthday it’s not supposed to happen. It’s supposed to taste good and it does not.

It’s mango flavoured but I can’t find the mango. It has lumpy bits and I see now from the label that it was best eaten before yesterday.

See how narky I am. Nothing feels right and it’s not even nine o’clock on a Saturday morning.

Birthdays fuel narcissism. I must get off this topic and look to loftier thoughts, like the essay I’ve been working on about voyeurism and exhibitionism. It might be good to reflect here on what I’ve been trying to say.

An image here, as a diversion or distraction, one that relates to my theme, though at a tangent: a photo taken by my son-in-law in Berlin, it shows the back of my husband in an art gallery – a centre for creative voyeurism and exhibitionism – gazing at Elvis as a cowboy.

I consider blogging to be a somewhat voyeuristic and exhibitionistic act. The blogger exhibits herself, her wares, her work, her ideas and the reader becomes the voyeur.

These are not unusual occurrences in everyday life. Why attach such lofty and clinical sounding words as voyeurism and exhibitionism to such activities? What makes them different from the simple act of show and tell which we learn from our earliest days even at kindergarten?

One of my academic heroes, Paul John Eakin, uses the show and tell example, how we learn to tell our stories in childhood, as the beginnings of the autobiographical impulse.

From earliest days we learn to give an account of ourselves. ‘ My name is Mary and I live in Balwyn with my mother and my three brothers, and our cat and dog…’ ‘My name’s John and I live on a boat with my Dad…’ There are of course multiple variations on the theme of who I am.

As we get older our stories develop in sophistication. We learn to get to the point quickly. We learn all sorts of techniques: how to hold back information to create tension, how to provide just the right amount of contextual material to add to the richness of our story, how to give a beginning, a middle and an end. We learn to present ourselves to the world and no one would call this exhibitionism.

So what makes the difference?

I think of the peeping Tom of my childhood, the man who looked in through my window one night after I had crawled into bed. I saw him there peering through the glass. I saw his face, an orb of white in the darkness, and I looked to his eyes but his eyes did not look into mine.

As soon as he had disappeared I bolted to the lounge room to tell my mother. My father was away with his work. My brothers ran down the lane way at the back of our house imagining that they were chasing a peeping Tom. They did not catch him.

To this day I do not know whether the man existed in reality or whether I had imagined him there. But I can still see his face in my memory, the white staring face of a man peering inside, keen to take something in with his eyes. Keen to look.

Voyeurism in psychoanalytic terms has something to do with a desire to get some sort of sexual pleasure without having to do the work of relationship, the scopophilic impulse, and then the exhibition side might be the thrill of tantalising another, using one’s own body to shock and disturb.

Think of the flasher here, the proverbial man in his trench coat on a dark night who waits for unsuspecting passers by, women usually, to flash his penis at them as if to say, here now look at this, see what I’ve got. And the women are meant to quake and shake.

Why is it that of these impulses to show off, these impulses to stare at, some are viewed as creative gestures and others as perversions? Perhaps it’s about degree, though motivation must surely come into it as well.

Why do we exhibit ourselves or peel open the pages of pornographic magazines?

When I was little I trawled through the pages of the art books my father kept at the top of his bookshelf. The sight of naked men and women thrilled me to such an extent that I felt I had to hide this activity from everyone. I stuffed the art book down my jumper and sneaked into my bed room. I pulled the blanket over my head and looked at the pictures by the light of a torch or through a chink in the blankets that let in the light of day.

I felt wicked, wicked beyond belief, both for doing this and, more particularly, for the way it made me feel. All hot and excited inside. The rape of Lucrece was my favourite, the naked woman dragged off a white horse by some man.

In those days I do not think I even knew the meaning of the word rape, but it sounded sexual and the thrill was there.

It disturbs me now to write about these things. My curiosity then, my curiosity now. No wonder these issues get under my skin. These unresolved questions from my childhood and beyond.

56 thoughts on “To hell with sugar”

  1. Happy Birthday,

    Just keep away from the aspartame. That stuff is pure poison. You can train yourself not to slowly kill yourself by their advertising.

    'The Rape of Lucrece' … How can one enjoy that? By translating voyeurism into an aesthetic experience? Was Schindler's List entertainment?

    Surely flashing [at the extreme end of the exhibitionist spectrum] is not qualitatively the same as blogging, and people's motives differ.

  2. I think depending on a person's reason, or the why, when it comes to eating play a big part in whether or not what a person eats is right. While eating the healthy yogurt as a source for your daily caloric intake might be the right choice, when eaten as a dessert (for taste or a celebration: HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELISABETH) that by all means for this situation the healthiest yogurt may not be appropriate unless it really is your favorite according to only your taste.

    But past the date of expire or not maintained at safe temperatures cool enough automatically makes the yogurt the wrong choice unless you are a sadist serving the rotten yogurt to a masochist:in which case both parties may prefer the choice that others would consider to definitely be the wrong choice.

    so I guess preference dictates whether something is right or wrong for a situation.

    if this was a government experiment and the government provided the acid, to give to the cowboy, one could ride like hell all day and all night until they pass out in a sugar induced coma but until they said the wrong snarky thing to the narc who delivered the sugar cubes doused with Elvis's acid, then it all might as well be considered fair game and hopefully all ends well.

    Rape for any reason is wrong because while some women may fantasize about and even act out rape scenes with their partner, role playing is not rape.

    So while people who have been rape victims may never be able to hear that word without taking it wrong, I would hope that whatever consensual deviance may be desired between you and your husband would not come with the guilty feelings because guilt does not equal a healthy relationship.

    Unless of course, guilt was your kink

  3. perhaps all we have in this world is witnessing. and perhaps all we are in this world are our own little egos. what else are we to do? if we hide under the sheets who learns anything?

    that being said, motivation is real. but who is it real to?

    in the end it is all only what we perceive and how we perceive it. what i wonder is where reality exists.

    so very interesting, elizabeth. this discussion is never over, is it?

    happy birthday. screw the yogurt. where's the cake?:)


  4. Haven't celebrated my birthday for many, many years because i reckon you are one year older and another year closer to death. Happy birthday forget about the yoghurt and bring on the chocolate birthday cake :-).

  5. Happy Birthday — and those are some heavy thoughts for a birthday gal. I find that every other year I entertain the heaviness — don't know why this is.

    May the rest of your year be filled with light, love, peace and health.

  6. Commiserations on your Birthday… 😉
    Sister, I'm hearin' ya'…
    I too find the whole experience of celebrating our entry point into this world/into time, somewhat of a let down, and your right it is the level of expectation and special-ness that is the catalyst for all that disappointment and angst.

    I have often asked the question why the hell our lives are not celebrated every day…which aligns itself with other nagging questions like – why do we name days of the week…?

    The illusion of time marching along in droll repetition – and I scream internally 'isn't each day a new one…unique and never to be repeated/experienced again'…
    This day may not be just another Saturday or another birthday…

    May you find yourself born anew, on this day unlike any other, and filled with the love, joy, light and wisdom that sings this entire universe into being with the cosmic rendition of Happy Birthday 🙂

    …and may your yoghurt be fruity and sweet x

  7. Happy Birthday. Forget the yoghurt and have icecream instead. Just for today.
    I wish I'd learned to talk more as a child. I was so very shy.
    I'm glad I've found the blogging world, I've found my voice here, I can write things or post pictures and get my message across.

  8. I had to look up the word 'aspartame', John. Never heard of it before. A sugar substitute that is poisonous.

    Sounds plausible. I'll try to avoid it if I see it coming.

    I agree, blogging is hardly an extreme version of exhibitionism, but only loosely connected.

    Isn't that the way with many things: loose links between disparate events and objects that make life more interesting.

    Thanks for the birthday wishes, John.

  9. November is also our month for birthdays,Olga, two of our daughters and one of my sisters in law, a much beloved nanny and others.

    It's a great month for a birthday here with the warm weather approaching.

    Thanks Olga, for the birthday wishes. I hope your husband also had a happy day.

  10. I try not to eat off-yoghurt, Dusty. I can imagine it would taste vile and as you suggest would not be very healthy .

    Thanks for your birthday wishes. I try not to get too troubled by governments and the like. But it is fun to imagine the strange mix you can achieve when you put disparate elements together.

    Thanks, Dusty.

  11. You're right Erin, the discussion is never over, and as for yoghurt, we had ice cream cake in the evening with candles and sparklers, a much better treat.

    Motivation is fundamental to understanding so many things and our motivations can be deeply hidden or at least complex

    Thanks, Erin.

  12. Thanks for the birthday wishes, Windsmoke. I agree every birthday celebrated is another one closer to our deaths, but it's also a great time to celebrate the fact of our births.

    Thanks, Windsmoke.

  13. They are heavy thoughts Elizabeth and strangely they've lifted somewhat since the day has passed.

    As I tried to suggest, celebrating your own birthday can be a bit of a trial.

    You know the words of the song, no doubt: 'It's my party and I'll cry if i want too…'

    Thanks, Elizabeth.

  14. They are heavy thoughts Elizabeth and strangely they've lifted somewhat since the day has passed.

    As I tried to suggest, celebrating your own birthday can be a bit of a trial.

    You know the words of the song, no doubt: 'It's my party and I'll cry if i want too…'

    Thanks, Elizabeth.

  15. I enjoy fruity sweet yoghurt best of all Wadjella.

    Thanks for your good wishes in this regards and for all your other wonderful thoughts here. It's a valid question: why can't we celebrate every day. Why are we so bound into boxes that there are only some days considered worthy of celebration and why are we so bound to label and box into categories every aspect of our lives.

    I suspect it has something to do with our human wish for some sort of order and to at least develop some illusion of control.

    Thanks, Wadjella.

  16. I'm inclined to agree, Kath. Birthdays are good days during which to indulge ourselves.

    I'll try therefore to dispense with all signs of narkiness. I can now anyhow. The day is over.

    Thanks, Kath.

  17. A blog is a great place in which to overcome our shyness, isn't it River. I'm so glad you've overcome yours and found your voice.

    As for my birthday in the end I enjoyed the ice cream cake over the breakfast yoghurt.

    Thanks, River.

  18. Happy birthday to you, too Aguja. We must share the same star sign, not that I take them too seriously but it's good to have something else in common.

    Thanks, Aguja.

  19. I have pretty much lost all interests in birthday. Mine is in May, my wife’s in June and my daughter’s in July and we used to make a fuss about all three but this year we just had them all one day in June and I said that we should just do that every year from now on. It was a chore and I can’t say that I’m looking forward to Christmas this year with any degree of enthusiasm either. As a kid we never made a fuss about celebrating anything but when Carrie and I got married I decided to throw myself into all the various excuses for celebration the year throws at us and for quite a while, especially when we had money, I went totally overboard; I’d buy my daughter half a dozen books as stocking fillers. In fact when she was living with her best friend I bought her best friend and her boyfriend more presents than their entire families did. And now I find myself here. Carrie’s talking about going to the States early. I told her to go for Christmas and not bother about me but I doubt she will.

    Personally I don’t like being the centre of attention. I’m not narcissistic and what might pass for vanity is actually self-consciousness, not wanting to look like a tube. In Left there’s a line: “Dad dressed to be unseen, to be everyman.” That is me.

    As far as yoghurts go ever since I lost all that weight I’ve been acutely conscious of just how many calories inoffensive pots of yoghurt can contain. We only ever eat the low calories varieties. To be honest I’d never think of treating myself on my birthday and I’d find the idea of being ‘the birthday boy’ a bit embarrassing really.

    Voyeurism has fascinated me for a very long time. I’ve never got sexually excited watching anyone. I would actually suggest that the very opposite happens because I’m concentrating so much on not missing any of the ‘truth’ that’s going on. That is what I imagine I see from the top of buses as I peer into windows, little glimpses into people being honest, not putting on a show. Mostly what I’ve seen has been boring but then I suspect that most truths are, as dull as ditchwater. Here’s one of my voyeur poems – completely fictional by the way:

          NAKED TRUTH

          Without thinking
          I barged into her room
          only to find her praying.

          She paused
          and looked up in silence
          like the time she caught me spying
          as she undressed.

          But then she did not cover herself:
          her arms even fell by her sides
          so that I could see better.

          But all I could see were her eyes.

          9 November 1988

    I found what you wrote about rape interesting. It reminds me of something I wrote, also in Left. Jen is out for a walk in some woods and realises that, even at her age, it’s probably a stupid thing to do:

    I’d romanticised rape when I was younger before I realised it was nothing to do with sex. The idea of being ravished appealed in fact. That word again. Always it was by a strange and yet somehow non-threatening and devastatingly-handsome attacker. Christ I was naïve. Now I’m sorry I know things.

    That was really my view as a kid. The only thing I knew about rape was from paintings like Rape of the Sabine Women thanks to the paintings in Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopaedia. It was actually quite amazing how many naked women made their way into that set of books. The photos of African women were the first pictures of topless women I ever saw. You’d think I’d be more attracted to dark-skinned women because of that. I wish I could see some logic in what affects us and becomes a part of our personalities and why we shrug off other things and never thing of them again.

    Happy birthday, BTW.

  20. My own birthday's in mid-January, less than a month away from Christmas. I always felt that was a little unfair. People in my family made a huge deal about their birthdays farther away from the big gift-giving event, and they tried to make mine special, but it was just not the same. These days I don't mind it like I did when I was a kid. Lately I've celebrated each of my birthdays merely as a marker of having survived one more year, which has been no certain thing. Perspectives change with age.

    The sexual arousal and confusion of looking at art of naked people as a young boy is something I share. Sometimes it's just because you haven't seen any naked strangers before. We are a culture hung up on clothing, sexuality, and nudity. So that gives it a charge.

    I agree with the question, Why can't we celebrate every day? I think we're meant to. I've learned in the past few months and years to treat each day as something special. My own near-brushes with mortality lately have brought home to me very fiercely that each day really does matter, and that making art every day is a way of celebrating and praising life.

  21. Happy belated birthday, Elisabeth. Didn't see the new post in my sidebar until just now.

    I expect my birthdays to be significant, too. And I don't just mean from my fellow human beings. I expect God, whom on the other 364 days of the year I don't particularly believe in, to do something significant on my birthday. About 10 years my car was broken into on my birthday. NOT the significance I was hoping for, God!

    You mentioned voyeurism. From reading your blog for the past year or so, I don't sense you're much into classic cinema, but voyeurism is all over the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Many of his characters are voyeuristic, and he often makes the audience members feel like voyeurs as well. REAR WINDOW, my favorite movie of all time, is an excellent example of this. If you're ever in the need of something to watch, I highly recommend it.

    You mentioned as an adult that you no longer have a romantic view of rape, that you now see it as an act of meanness. Agreed. But before the women's movement, it seems as though quite a few adults (obviously not rape victims) had a similarly romantic view. In the 1950s musical comedy The Fantastics, there's actually a cheerful number about rape! From anything I've ever read about this number, it wasn't at all controversial at the time. Fortunately, things are different, now.

  22. We planned to coordinate three of our six birthdays this year, Jim, mine and two of our daughters whose birthdays also fall in November, largely because the second is away overseas until the 18 November and the youngest has exams.

    We will have a whizz bag lunch on Sunday 20 November but in the meantime we still celebrate our individual events because we all have an abhorrence of not being individually recognised on one's birthday. In a way it makes for double the work. But that's life. I'm afraid I could not simply settle for the group event.

    I'm not comfortable as centre of attention in such events, Jim. I;m always too conscious of the need to share the spotlight around. I'm surprised that you as a first born should have a problem with being in the limelight, but that's just my pet prejudice, namely that first borns are used to the limelight. They're the only ones who've had their parents all to themselves at least for a time. Second and subsequent children are always born into a crowd.

    I don't enjoy the low joule variety of yoghurt so I'll settle for the full cream and sugared ones however bad they might be. I don't have such a problem with my weight that I need to worry these days.

    I note the date – 8 November 1988- of your voyeur poem, which also touches on religion. Religion and sex. Funny how often they go together or are actively kept apart.

    I think it's ignorance or the perspective of a child that romanticizes rape. I now know it for what it is, not an erotic act, as I had imagined as a child, and you too by the sound of things, but as an act of violence and subjugation.

    Still it's not surprising that children might get confused, bombarded as they are with too much information before they can assimilate or make sense of it.

    Thanks, Jim.

  23. I think it is always hard for people who birthdays coincide with major events like Christmas, Art. And maybe it doesn't even matter when the event occurs. For instance, one of my sisters celebrates her birthday on the anniversary of 9/11 , 9 September, and she now dislikes announcing to people that it's her birthday. It's as if her special day has been taken from her.

    As for the sexual confusion of children, my comment back to Jim's applies here.

    Children have a hard time making sense of too much information from the world at large, but also from their parents who have also been overloaded with sexual prudery or disinhibiton or whatever.

    It's hard understanding these things as we grow up. It's harder understanding them even as adults.

    Thanks, Art.

  24. I'm glad I'm not alone in my expectation that only good things happen on my birthday, Kirk. Of course, it's totally unrealistic, ingrained from childhood I expect when we learn not only within our families but at school and elsewhere that we matter more on our birthdays.

    Film is very much connected with voyeurism as you say, Kirk, and especially some of those like Hitch cock's that focus on voyeurism itself. I haven't seen Rear Window, and I might do, but I tend not to watch films that disturb me too much, however brilliant. I have too thin a skin for them.

    Finally, I'm with you on the need to recognise rape for what it is. It's taken a long time in civilization to encourage this perspective and it needs to be reinforced.

    Thanks, Kirk.

  25. Forget sweet things go for a big fry :)!

    Aspartame now hides under the names of Neotame, Nutrasweet and Canderal all of which increase the appetite. As well as being suspected as a carcinogenic for during it's development tests it caused tumours in the laboratory rats; this was of course hidden from the FDA!

  26. It's not because your birthday's in April that you hate it, Cait? Is it? Some other unexpressed reason no doubt. Personal you say. Fair enough.

    It seems you're another person who has difficulties with her own birthday.

    There are many of us. It's okay to celebrate other peoples birthdays but our own is a struggle.

    Thanks, Cait.

  27. There are so many food stuffs deemed carcinogenic, Heron's view that I've come to the conclusion that I'm better off eating what I enjoy and not stressing too much about all the hype, with some degree of moderation.

    Thanks for the information about aspartame, Heron, tall one.

  28. Hi Elisabeth, Happy birthday! I love my birthday and do become very excited about it each year. No I'm am not plied with gifts if that is what you are thinking It is just my special day the one and only day in the whole year that I can call my own. And I drink champagne and eat cake (together) – when ever else would one do that?? Hehe.
    About Voyeurism and exhibitionism:
    I think that as soon as 'ism' is attached to a word it becomes a physical or mental condition 🙂
    I am indeed guilty of being a voyeur and exhibitionist in a sense because I am being a prying observer on other bloggers blogs whether leaving comments or not and a show and tell on my blog.
    You always provide an interesting read – thanks for sharing!

  29. Ah Rose, now you're one of the few commenters here who 'confesses' to enjoying her birthday. Able to enjoy champagne and cake together. Good for you.

    I agree with you about the impact of the letters 'ism' at the end of any word. They become so constraining.

    Thanks for your birthday wishes, Rose.

  30. … "and my name is Jack and I live at the back
    of the Greta Garbo Home for wayward boys and girls."

    That Elvis Presley painting is by Andy Warhol, and it is likely that birthday anniversaries were originally celebrating that a child had actually survived another year.
    100 years ago, just getting a child to reach 5 was an achievement. We have all forgotten there was a hard life before pharmaceuticals became The Way.
    Wishing you many more dear 6th.

  31. Sometimes I think it's best to keep to the things we know we like, on special occasions. It's certainly s one reason I hate spending lots of money on something that's meant to be "special" – I always feel ten times more critical of it!

  32. Andy Warhol and Elvis and birthdays. Thanks for your thoughts AnneoDyne. We lose touch with the significance of death and its prevalence for all of us so much of the time.

    But it's as real as birth, and all that comes between. Thanks, Helena. It's good to see you here again.

  33. Yes,Jenny, I agree. I prefer the personal celebration to the one I'm meant to enjoy publicly, like Valentine's Day, or mother's and father's days.

    I don't enjoy commercialised or compulsory celebrations, half as much as the ones that have meaning for me and mine.

    Thanks, Jenny.

  34. Hey Elisabeth! A belated Happy Birthday, and I hope it turned out fabulous, yogurt or not!…I have also thought of blogging as a sort of voyeuristic and exhibitionist activity, maybe all writing..all art for that matter, is the stuff of emotional exhibitionists…sometimes when I'm writing my blog it occurs to me that it is a strange activity, kind of 'look at me! look over here!'…and reading other people's blogs can give a glimpse into their being…hahaha! The flasher! I never understood why men would do a thing like that…'Check THIS out!'….you make me think, is the impulse to expose yourself emotionaly through art just a different version of the impulse to expose yourself physically, as a flasher, or a porn star..Whatever it is, I do enjoy reading your blog.

  35. How did the birthday yogurt bring you to such an odd place?
    Any way although late, many happy returns.
    I was unlucky to have met up with a pervert in a parking garage. And I was more lucky to never have an keen interest in pornography. Any nudity that I observed I viewed as part of heathy normal people. I was raised that way.

  36. It's lovely to see you here, Eve, whether as a voyeur or what.

    It's such fun to meet and greet and generally communicate with one another over matters heavy and light, in equal measure.

    Thanks, Eve.

  37. This voyeur has been very delinquent about blogging, visiting and commenting of late, but I am glad I stopped by here today to peep in so I can wish you a belated happy birthday and thank you for the beautiful gift of that word scopophilia. How rich!

  38. It's lovely to see you here again, Lorenzo, if only for a brief visit and peep into my words.

    I'm glad you enjoy that wonderful word, scopophilia.

    I must get by your place again soon, too.

    Sometimes it's as much as I can do to keep my own house in order, let alone visit the wonderful blog homes of my friends.

    Thanks, Lorenzo.

  39. Dear Elisabeth, first let me give you my very belated congratulations on your Birthday.;)
    Sorry about that bad tasting yogurt.;)
    I agree with you on the issue of blogging. There is something a bit narcissistic about it. Then again, I do also consider it as a diary, a public one. There is something infinitely therapeutic to write down our feelings and our thoughts and additionally, it often resonates with the reader who might find comfort and recognition in our words.;)
    I hope you had a great Birthday and that your family made a lot of fuss.;)Love that image of your husband.;)

  40. Thanks for the birthday greetings, Zuzana. I enjoyed the day very much but I'm glad too that it's now over. Too many birthdays in my family in November exhausts us all, even though we enjoy the celebrations very much. As for blogging, I expect it means different things to different people. Our motivations can also differ. the idea of a public diary is very much the view that many people share. In any case the writing is still a construction and can differ in the degrees to which it reflects all the so-called facts of our lives.

    Thanks, Zuzana.

Leave a Reply to Cait O'Connor Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.