“My family drank fluoridated water from the city taps when I was born, over 40 years ago. We lived in newly built housing close to a well-maintained park; my mother bought fresh produce at a nearby grocery and weekend farmers’ markets. When my parents moved out of the city a few years later, I found myself in a verdant suburb with expansive lawns, a gurgling neighborhood creek, and air so fresh I never thought to notice it.
Year after cavity-free year of my childhood, dentists and hygienists praised my superior flossing and brushing skills as if I had created that outcome—though in reality, my tooth-cleaning habits were no different from those of any other child.
I carry the bodily imprint of my racial privilege right down to the strength of my teeth.
The families and children of Flint, Michigan, have also been drinking water that changes the makeup of their bodies…”
— “What is the Dollar Value of a Human Right?”: Flint’s Act of Extreme
Envionmental Racism | My latest at The Body Is Not An Apology
“Wait—your parents are still married?”
The therapist stared at me, his mouth agape.
“To each other?!”
I nodded warily at this abrupt shift in the tone of our conversation. I was 24 years old and still new to the mechanics of therapy. Just moments before, this man—himself old enough to be my father—had been explaining how all families, loving or otherwise, could be a source of great distress, dysfunction, and pain. He had seemed to be easing my path to revealing any untold horrors of abuse or neglect. I don’t think he’d have batted an eye if I had launched into a description of ritualistic animal sacrifices we had conducted as a family every Sunday afternoon before picnics.
“Even divorce can be very rough on a child,” he had said, tilting his head in anticipated understanding.
But my still-married parents caught him completely off-guard. Underneath his astonished gaze, I felt the legitimacy of my pain shrink. What am I—shiny-haired product of such a perfectly “unbroken home”—doing here on this leather couch? I suddenly wondered.
* * *
What else have I been doing the last few months, just in case losing a pet after twenty years together, going back to work full-time, setting (and enforcing) major new boundaries with the parental units — and all without having a mental breakdown in the process — wasn’t enough?
Why, joining the content writing staff at The Body Is Not An Apology (a completely fabulous community dedicated to fostering radical self-love and ending body terrorism), of course! You can read the rest of my piece, “You Have Power Now”: 9 Ways to Save Yourself From Your Parents, here.
I encourage you to read around some other pieces on the site while you’re there — if you appreciate the kind of topics I tackle here at Coffee, you’ll find plenty of interest over at TBINAA too!