12.01.2004

Huggle Withall, Yo
From the Research Desk

There’s a beautiful lighting storm going on outside. It’s pretty chilly out. I am trying to tough it out vis-à-vis the weather, and not just run to put on a fleece when the temperature gets below 70. The dessert factor in chill-ness (both temperature and temperament) is significant as of now: I’m eating cream caramel pudding with English Toffee ice-cream. The English Toffee is particularly pleasant; it has a gritty consistency from the sugar not being entirely emulsified in the dairy. It melts differently on the tongue than I recall ice-cream doing. I’m certainly no expert!

My brain is a little fried as I’ve been working unconscionably hard this week. Somehow it doesn’t get me anywhere… I spent Monday morning doing Sinhala (see translation below) and then the rest of the day in the starchy Peradeniya library, for which I paid the royal sum of Rs.150/, then today in a tizzy; first with Jill in town ordering designs for our recently-purchased shalwar kameez sets, then at ICES with madhouse setting (they’re moving next door tomorrow), finally back in town for yoga and evermore grocery shopping, then at last home again. The frazzle will only get more, I think; I am going to Colombo Thursday, before which time I must make it through more Sinhala class, photograph some sapphires, call a bunch of people, buy train tickets, and generally keep it all up. I need a vacation.

The research I’m doing now is equally fascinating and dull. The dull stuff is, like, economics journals from the 80s with articles debating the validity and usefulness of weird statistics like the SMAM (Singulate Mean Age at Marriage) versus other medians and means normative figures. If your eyes are glazing over, yeah, you see what I mean. The fascinating stuff is simply better written but often less directly related to my project. What happens is, I read something, start doubting its usefulness, then realize that of course it’s useful if I think it’s related. If it makes me think. If it keeps me in the library long enough to string coherent thoughts together.

The best part about it is that I do spend a lot of time reading work by people who are really smart, and sometimes a little smart-ass in clever and insightful ways. So far the best example of this is from an excellent postcolonialist book, criticizing the colonial practice of photographing ‘natives’ in largely made-up ‘traditional costumes.’ Apparently they were predictably drawn to a particular set of sartorial choices: “Early ethnographers were largely men, who despite showing considerable interest in nakedness showed much less in clothes” (Tarlo, E. Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India).

I also spent a while reading social histories of marriage traditions. This is surprisingly readable stuff—16th century English Puritan marriage manuals are a stitch. The exegesis of them is even better, of course; that they were written for a middle class audience by nobles who basically didn’t know what they were talking about. (Try telling Queen Elizabeth that women should defer to their husbands in all things, ‘even if it go against God’!) Advice columns in all eras are good reading, and the stuff doesn’t go stale as one might expect. Before there was evolutionary psychology, there was the rudimentary understanding that even when economic conditions are difficult, people will persist in getting married—notably, money won’t matter to a man “if he have his pretty pussy to huggle withall” (Stubbes, P. On Wives, 1567).

Speaking of ‘withall,’ Samir and Jeremy and Malka were all about this weekend, Malka first then the boyz. It was a good antidote to my current semimalaise of loneliness. It was also quite pleasant to host, as I enjoy cooking for people and trying to make things nice and generally fussing in a low-level way. Guests also help to boot my lazy butt into doing stuff instead of just enjoying multiple cups of tea and pages of the current novel or non-current New Yorker.

Saturday night we had dinner at my new favorite S. Indian place in Kandy, down the street from the overpriced touristy one… it was a party! (Present: myself, Jill, Samir, Jeremy, and Gavin, my bizarre twin.) We let Samir do the ordering cuz he’s, like, Indian-American, even though the waiters really wanted me to do it as I’d been there before and spoken Sinhala with them. I obliged with speech but not ordering, which was a flawed decision as Samir ordered enough food for about twelve people… 12 idlies, 6 vadais, 2 huge 4-foot stuffed dosas (I am not joking here!), sambols, chutneys, sambar, dhal, on and on and on. He thought he was ordering by the piece, but he was ordering “portions” which come with several pieces, dig?

We were fat little piggies and then came home here to drink arrack+ginger beer and eat ice-cream (the aforementioned Toffee). Incidentally, these three ingredients make a fabulous alcoholic Lankan milkshake/float delight. We sat in the glorious full-moonlight, under the glorious stars, on the glorious verandah. The only imperfection was that my Astroturf lawn is rolled up to keep it clean; we have roofwork being done. A mere trifle!

…Janaka’s yoga class was again intense and brought me near tears but in a good way, really. It is an emotional as well as physical release. Today included the desired hip-openers, and how; my hips are so open that my legs are practically falling off. At one point he was giving corrections in his usual muscular/weight-bearing way and I breathed, “aeti…” [enough]. He smiled sweetly, leaned into me, and murmured right back, “madi!” [more]; he was right. He knows his stuff. I have made progress though some poses remain ridiculously difficult. I must practice more at home.

Another bit of reading I did said that ‘love is frequently the art of the possible.’ It’s feeling a little distant and impossible these days, and I sorely lack the art, it seems. I am missing you out there, you people I love and can’t possibly huggle. I’d like to huggle with-all-y’all. Huggle each other for me, please.

and, Happy December! yikes, it's December!

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