[Hand Out] “Food and Starvation” & CONCLUSION

[Hand Out]

Written by Grandpa Dinosaur


Food and Starvation

Food and starvation.

People who have never experience starvation do not understand my love of food and my great respect for the substance.

While my friends diet and make nutrition changes, talking about food as if it’s a bother—I talk about food lovingly. When people talk about their favourite foods, I separate foods by what I’m allergic to, what I need to eat on a daily basis and food I can still eat. Food that I can still eat being the food I like, basically food that doesn’t make me sick.

In my whole life, I’ve probably been on two very unnecessary diets. One due to the pressure from my parents to lose weight because the weight I was “unattractive” and “desirable.” The other time, when I converted to vegetarianism out of respect to my vegetarian friends who were kind. Converting to vegetarianism and my job caused me to  lose more than ten sizes, dropping from a size 16/14 to a size 3. In the end, my feelings for food are still the same. I love food.

But there were days where we couldn’t afford food, where we had to choose between rent and food. I still remember those days.

As a child there were days I would lay about, because there was no food in the house and nothing to eat. Hunger made me emaciated and listless. As an adult, I still remember this.

That’s when my parents broke down and went to the Toronto Food Bank. My mother was crying from shame of being unable to feed us and for some reason I was promising to eat all the food, no matter how nasty the fruitcake tasted. Which is probably why I like gingerbread and fruitcakes. When you’re starving everything tastes delicious.

People don’t understand how starvation changed me as a person.

Starvation that went on for what seemed like days, and in reality probably did.

When you experience such severe starvation as a child, it really changes you. At least it should. It gave me a prospective of poverty, being the person asking for the hand out. Later in life I made my mother cry because she found all my hoarded food. It was probably a year later. I was doing it instinctually.

For years, I hoarded food. Going to events when they had free food and taking extras home even when we had food. Even when I didn’t need it.

People know I hoard food less often, but I still do it time to time.

Being older and able to work, there isn’t a problem about if we will run out of food. In fact, I really don’t care if I have a roof over my head. As long as I have food, I’m perfectly happy. Do you understand that, I don’t care if I don’t have a home. I’d rather be homeless than starve. That’s how starvation effected me, I always try to give as much as I can in food donation because of that. It’s not always possible. But I remember the times where I was a child where I was hungry, and I find it in myself to donate. I think a lot of people have never experienced severe starvation so that they don’t understand how it is to be hungry, truly hungry. But because I do, I will always be here to say: “I starved as a child, and it was painful. Poverty does exist, and when you are as helpless as a child there is no reason not to help and not to help others.”

Who has and Women who don’t have

I think people see me to days as someone who “has.” In Cambodian, we have a saying. “Who has and who doesn’t have.” It basically means, that there are people who will always divide themselves by who have something (be it a house, or money or security) and who doesn’t have.

A lot of Cambodian people, although having good paying jobs stay in subsidized housing. I know a family who wanted to live in a big house, but their adult children didn’t want them to because they were used to living in subsidized housing. When they had a large house, they couldn’t take the scorn of being different. The parents wanted to borrow from me, but at the time I didn’t have a job. My family did there best to help them in any way possible keep their house, but their children were adamant to return to their old lifestyles, so they lost the house. I feel bad for it until today.

My family has worked hard for what they have, but many people do not think we deserve our house. I hate being accused of not deserving my livelihood. I’ve worked really hard. I don’t always succeed, you can ask my co-workers at work. No one has to supervise me, no matter where I am, I’m doing my job. But there are people who do say I don’t deserve what I had. My own mother told me that I didn’t deserve to have a college education, going on to say that my brother (who never attended his college classes and doesn’t have a grade nine education) deserved to go to school and it was my fault he was being kicked out.

As a women, an Asian woman I was raised and expected to take the smallest portion of food. In a way, it was an indication of how important my rank was in my family. Those who ate the most were important, those who ate the least could go without. My grandmother and my father’s two sister’s were both starved to death. When you look at my family history, you understand where my anxiety with food comes from.

When you add on the fact that the more older you are when you are single and unmarried, they more “worthless” you are considered. I was talking to my friend Chika last night and we were both talking about how this was true. We both agreed that Asian women are raised and expected dependable and dependant. What this means that Asian women are very strong, able women but because they are women, but they are expected to be with a man or subservient to their male family members.

Even if the women play a dominant role of the household in terms of money and suporting her family, it is the male (be it her father, husband or brother) who reaps the benefits of being the “bread winner.” All of her successes are attributed to him instead.

When I look back and think about how much I have supported my family and what my status in my household is, I’m rather disgusted. I actually barred my brother from coming to my college graduation, because I was afraid her would claim my diploma or even see it before I did. If I get a gift, if he wants to open it before I do, I have no choice but to allow this to occur.

Is it worth being hit in the face? Is it worth being called worthless and that wanting something for myself is selfish? When you live that lifestyle, when you are last place it really destroys your personality. No matter what you do, you’re selfish. Being selfish is the worst thing to be when as an Asian women you’re supposed to be selfless. Able to pull from reserves within yourself until you die.

I look at my mother, who was powerful and could once german suplex until her heart’s content is now broken and old. Not because she is old, because her body, life… She cannot give anymore of herself away. Her body has been broken from the years of selflessness, but the demand for her to be selfless continues. She must always put the men in her life first, it is instilled in her upbringing. There is always an older woman or man who she must submit to. There is always filial piety no matter how old you get, or where you go. If she leaves my father for an easier life, she will be a ruined and shamed woman. This is the Asian Expectation.

During this economic recession, I am constantly reminded about how worthless I am as a woman. How worthless my personal struggles cannot be compared to others. I am reminded of my place in my family. I am reminded about how small the portion of resources I am actually supposed to consume is. I am reminded about how much I have to give away, how much time, money, effort is supposed to be given away without a struggle. How I’m not supposed to feel sad or sorry or upset. How I’m supposed to be selfless because I’m a woman. How I must always give so much away until the point where I am naked and starving.

And despite all my accomplishments, credentials, effort I put in, no matter how much books I write, how much people’s lives I touched, no matter how much education… I have something. But at the same time, I have nothing.

But because I am me, I always truck on. Giving trying best, and taking what my best gives me.

That alone keeps me going, the small fragments of things I’ve earn. The knowledge that my self-respect is deserved. The proof that I deserve to live.

People always tell me it’s not enough, because they are privileged in that sense. They don’t understand when they say it’s not enough, they take away what little you have. The expect you to give more than you can give. More effort, struggle more, grind your body down more. Sacrifice, they say “work hard,” demeaning the hard work you’ve already done.

It’s enough for me. Because I say so. And that’s good enough for me. When the day comes, I’ll take a mile. But for now, it’s good enough.

Ask of me no more.


~ by l on March 8, 2009.

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