Trigger Theory: Dedicated to Mattie and all of our beloved pets that have passed
Trigger warning! Talk about Trigger Warnings!
I was seven years old and playing in the Atlantic Ocean. It was one of those perfect New York summer days, not too humid, not too hot and with the entire summer stretching out in front of me. My mom and sister were on the beach and I was reveling in my newly earned independence having proven that I could be trusted in the waves up to waist. I was so happy that even my goofy sun hat and white zinc Noxema™ covered nose wasn’t making me feel like being a redhead was the worst thing that could have happened to a person EVER! I was watching the waves billowing up the skirt of my bathing suit. Yes I was wearing one of those bathing suits with a skirt that covered my thighs but it was because it was frilly and twirly. Years later I would choose to wear the grown up version of the skirted suit because I was taught it was my job to protect the world from being subjected to my “unsightly” body parts. But that day in 1963 everything was perfect. And then it got better! I looked down and just under the surface of the water I saw a seahorse! I couldn’t believe it! The only other place I had ever seen one was on Jacques Cousteau TV shows or maybe Captain Kangaroo or Diver Dan! I scooped it up in the skirt of my suit with plenty of water and seaweed and ran to our blanket on the beach!
My mom was very supportive, she emptied out a jar of her “iced cawfee” filled it with ocean water and put the seahorse inside with a sprig or two of seaweed. I promptly named it Trigger after Roy Rogers’ horse and Trigger came home with me.
For two days I fed Trigger goldfish food (our goldfish had recently been eaten by our cat…it was an interesting house to grow up in) and then I had to go to the hospital.
It was nothing serious, just a tonsillectomy. But when I came home, my mom had great news and awful news for me. On the upside, I could eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner! The bad news was Trigger had died. We buried him next to Cleo (named after Pinocchio’s goldfish…I watched a lot of TV back then) and life went on. I didn’t think about Trigger very often over the years but when I did, it was fondly. One day, however, in my late 30’s, I was at a family gathering. For some reason we were reminiscing about all of the pets we had while I was growing up. We talked about Bootsie, Cleo, Choo Choo, and Shirley Roiter’s boxer that we took care of for a summer whose name escaped all of us. Then I blurted out,
“Do you guys remember Trigger?”
There was a moment of silence and then as if rehearsed, everyone burst into simultaneous laughter. I was a bit confused. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why Trigger was so funny?
When my sister finally composed herself, she patted my shoulder and said,
“Trigger was dead when you found him.”
I allowed the news to sink in…I had taken care of a dead seahorse for two days! Everyone else knew and they allowed me to still have my fun despite the reality that the only reason Trigger appeared to be alive and joyfully bobbing around his cawfee jar was because of the saline buoyancy in the water and the narrowness of the jar!!!
The sweetness and hilarity ignited my giggle reflex and howling with laughter I thanked them for letting me have my fun. I glanced over towards my two year old son playing with his cousins oblivious to the commotion and said,
“Wow, we spend the first half of our lives hiding things from our kids, and the second half hiding things from our parents!”
Wine was poured and we toasted all of our pets we had loved so dearly that had brought us so much laughter and love over the years.
But why am I reminiscing about Trigger in a body positive self acceptance blog? Because I just read a book that I wanted to review and recommend to people. I really enjoyed the book, but when I thought about what I would write, the whole topic of triggers came up. I grew up in a time when the only trigger I knew about was either on a gun, Roy’s stallion, or my floating dead seahorse…but times have changed and now we live in a culture of trigger warnings. I am a bit conflicted about trigger warnings. I always thought that if something I was reading was upsetting to me I would put it down and find something else to look at. If I happened to be in therapy at the time, I would talk to my therapist about why it upset me so…and use my reaction as material to process to gain insight. I never would have thought it was the author’s job to warn me that their book or article may be triggering. They wrote, I read, I decided to keep reading or not.
On the other hand, I really like the idea of trigger warnings because they feel so caring! Look at how the author wants to protect and take care of the reader! It makes for a real two way communication between writer and reader and provides a safety net that may result in a reader returning to the author’s work knowing that they are protected. But how do i know what to label as triggering? Is there a manual out there? Are there formulas for writers, like film ratings, with criteria for labeling something PG-13 or X rated? Is there an online class in Trigger Theory?
All jokes aside, I am really struggling about how to write this book review. Will I do more harm than good if I write about the book and let people know it may be triggering? After all, I loved the book, triggers and all, and don’t want to hinder sales by writing a review that may deter folks from reading something that I found so relate-able. On the other hand, am I shirking my Trigger Patrol responsibility if I don’t let folks know that the book contains very detailed descriptions of binges and restrictive dieting behaviors as the author shares her journey to recovery from an eating disorder? My mind is going around in circles on this one and I could really use some advice! In the meantime, I am opting to follow the Noodle Theory and “noodle” on this a little longer before writing the review. I am hoping that some of you will share your thoughts about the practice of trigger warnings and any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!
And I am also bracing myself for any comments that come my way about having had a dead pet seahorse for two days and being absolutely clueless. I can handle it!!
Til next time,
Remember that May 6th is International No Diet Day! If you order a copy of the Calmanac from my website I will send you a free refrigerator magnet with the sassy slogan: My only weight problem is YOUR problem with MY weight! If you purchase your copy of the Calmanac from Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, FFF, or MOMTL just send me your order confirmation and I will send you a magnet as well!
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