Saturday, 24 July 2010

Nettle grasping on the sly

I hate cauliflower. Really, really hate the stuff. It makes me gag and heave. I once bought breaded veggies as a pub meal, and took a big bite of what I imagined would be a breaded mushroom, only to find it was an evil white floret.

I very nearly threw up, and the rest of the meal went untouched.

But, you see, part of the reason I didn't get on too well with my dad, is because he was determined that I should eat the stuff. As an adult, it was his decision, and he wasn't going to take any lip from me.

A power struggle between a grown man and a child.

We spent one deeply unpleasant evening, with him forcing me to stay at the table until I'd eaten some. (My Mum had gone out, or this would not have happened) And he browbeat and bullied me until I had eaten some.

Amazingly, I didn't suddenly find that I actually loved the stuff, and that I wanted to give him a big hug for helping me see the light.

Another time, he asked me to close my eyes and open my mouth. All in fun this one, rather than a serious attempt to win a battle of wills. I did as I was asked, and he put a bit of cold cauliflower into my mouth.

On both occasions, he got his way. I ate something that he wanted me to eat, despite not wanting to eat it myself.

Of course, there is a price to pay. I liked and trusted him less after such incidents.

Perhaps he thought it a price worth paying. More likely, he didn't have the faintest idea about how these things work. To him, I was just being disobedient.

All in the past now. I still won't eat the stuff. Perhaps there is some baggage attached to it that might not have been there had things gone otherwise. Doesn't matter. Plenty more foodstuffs to eat.

See, if you're going to fight something that's within you, then you have to fight it yourself. An alcoholic will only look for help when ready, and any attempt to force someone who doesn't want to stop is pretty much pissing in the wind.

Addictions and phobias (I suppose a partially psychological aversion to a foodstuff could fit into the category of phobia) are the same in this respect, as far as I can make out. Even extreme techniques of dealing with phobias (I'm thinking of "flooding" in particular here) rely on discussion and informed consent between therapist and phobic.

A few days ago, I managed to confront my fear of nettles enough to touch one while wearing a thick pair of gloves.

Then a couple of days ago, I went for a walk along a bridleway in South Wirral with Bren. We got so far, but the further we went, the track became narrower and more overgrown. With big tall nettles swaying in the breeze all around me, I became increasingly nervous, and we had to turn back.

One step at a time.

Today, Bren asked me to smell some leaves, so I obligingly rubbed them and sniffed my fingers. The leaves were shaped a bit like nettle leaves. They were dead-nettle leaves, and they don't sting, but I'm still less than comfortable about touching them. But someone I trust had given me reason to think they must be something else, so when I smelled my fingers to find no unusual scent, and to be told moments later that I'd just rubbed the leaf of a member of the nettle family between my fingers, my response was immediate and frank. I told her to fuck off, and I went back inside.

She was immediately sorry. She hadn't done it to upset me. I told her never to do that again.

But just for the record, since I know she does read what I have to say here from time to time, I'd like her to understand why I responded in the way I did.

Bren, please. If I were to hand you a piece of paper that was covered underneath, with bits of sticky labels, and then pointed out that you were handling sticky labels, you wouldn't thank me for helping you confront your fears. You'd think I was acting like a twat .

I'm not upset or angry, but this has been on my mind ever since it happened, and I realised the connection between what had happened in the past. Thought it was worth writing about.

That's all.

Well, almost all. More memories.

I have two cousins who, when they were children, hated icecream. I was a couple of years older, and had found out that you can taste less if you hold your nose. Their parents, my auntie and uncle were forcing them to eat the ice-cream, and I shared what I'd learned.

The response from Auntie Elaine and Uncle Rob?

"Stop messing around and eat it properly".

I was baffled and angry. Why would they do this? It made no sense at all They wanted their children to do something they didn't want to do. I'd found a way for them to do so, but they really just wanted their children to submit and suffer.

It took a while longer to actually work it out.

No reason except Authority. It's what people with power do to people with none. I see it everywhere. And it starts young. How else would we learn to do it to our children?

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