Cowan Palace: Let’s Eat Our Feelings and Write About It!

Ashley gives herself a writing challenge and confronts her own food demons.

So it’s September and I’ve been attempting to climb over a writer’s block that’s managed to wedge itself into my path for a few months. But considering the piece in question is for the San Francisco Olympian’s Festival and auditions are just a few weeks away, the clock has started to tick louder and louder each day.

I submitted three proposals for consideration last year right before the midnight deadline. Two were silly and fluffy. One was way more personal and scary; which ended up being the play I was matched to write.

Last year I had a blast writing my Olympian’s short, Oenone because I was able to take an honest, awkward middle school existence and channel it into a retelling of Paris’s first wife while making fun of some of my twelve year old self at the same time. It proved to be both fun and healing and forever solidified my belief that in this life, we’re all just middle schoolers trying to find a place to have lunch.

I guess I had hoped I’d have a similar experience this year. The myth I was drawn to surrounding Charybdis involved this female character being punished for eating one of Hercules’ prized cattle. She was then thrown into the sea where she was left to resume life as a monster.

Growing up, I always felt my relationship with food was a struggle. Without going too much into it now, it’s consumed more of my thoughts and energy than I’d care to admit. And when I thought about this idea of being turned into a sea creature over a ravenous appetite, I was inclined to finally explore it. Even though it made me feel a bit more vulnerable than I expected. Every time I would draft out a few pages, it never felt quite right. Perhaps because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to really say and how truthful to be to my own experiences. How many demons should a writer unleash before they attempt their story?

Ashley takes a bite out of life and also, some meat.

Ashley takes a bite out of life and also, some meat.

So instead of answering that question, I thought it may be more useful to do some research. Since I had chosen to place this play in an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, I figured I should probably educate myself a bit more on the organization. Which meant, agreeing to attend a meeting to truly obtain the experience.

See, this isn’t really a new thing for me. I’m always trying to “dare” myself to do stuff so I can share the story later. (A few years ago I challenged myself to go alone to a strip tease class for that very purpose. And if you know ANYTHING about me, you can imagine what that was like. And if you can’t, well, here’s an image: I was unaware that we were supposed to bring a towel with us to incorporate into our dance routine. So I then had to use my bright pink hoodie in its place…awkward, duh.) So true to my character, I went online and found a San Francisco Overeaters Anonymous meeting.

And then I (hilariously) came down with food poisoning. What luck, huh? I’m forever an accident waiting to happen. I will be attending one, however, before my next blog is out and I look forward to sharing the tale with you all soon. In the meantime, I found a whole bunch of valuable YouTube clips to keep me busy. I mean, aside from all the puppies and babies and stuff.

I stumbled across a 1985 dramatization of a slightly chubby, middle aged woman who eats cookie dough batter after her teenage daughter sasses her about not understanding what it’s like to go out on a dancing date. The short film seems to be sponsored by Overeaters Anonymous and while I couldn’t help but mock some of the dialogue and direction (this woman’s husband shames her for eating a tiny cupcake and then she goes to the grocery store where a judgmental clerk says, “see you tomorrow!”), this dated piece did provide some interesting information and a perspective of someone attending an OA meeting for the first time.

Straight from the YouTube clip: sassy 80's daughter sassing her mom!

Straight from the YouTube clip: sassy 80’s daughter sassing her mom!

Yes, some of it was pretty amusing to watch because I’m mean and can’t get enough of 80’s hair styles, but I also appreciated this idea of finding people with similar experiences and chronicling them to help heal each other. There’s something kind of hopeful about how someone who truly felt hopeless could find acceptance and learn to cope through the encouragement of others.

Since my only personal experience with meetings of this nature was through a stupid ex-boyfriend (stupid because he was idiot, not because of his addictions), it’s a world I only really know through pop culture’s eyes. And even though it makes me pretty uncomfortable to dive into this particular whirlpool (Charybdis pun, holla!) I feel like it’s time to face my own monsters for the sake of writing this piece and explore this myth the way it deserves. Did I bite off more than I can chew? Probably. I’m working on that. But hey, choking makes for enjoyable future blogs, doesn’t it?

So in the meantime friends, make sure to sign up for an Olympians audition (this is your last week to do it!) and I’ll look forward to seeing you there with the newest version of my story.

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