By Jini Zlatniski
Jini is a co-organizer of The Body Project and managing director of Storyhound Theatre.
I’m not actually involved in The Body Project as an artist.
When I showed up for the drawing of the Humors (Nov. 18th at The Greensboro Project Space), four tables were set up around the room, each containing a cabbage, a cucumber, a box of spaghetti, two onions and a lemon. Each table was also labeled with one of the humors.
I had no idea WTF Gabrielle and Kate had cooked up for the evening. I raised an eyebrow and nodded politely. Even when it was explained to me, my skepticality only increased.
I’m a little slow to get things sometimes, I admit it.
So, after each of the participating artists drew their humor, they retired to the corresponding table. Feeling a bit lost and useless, I wandered to the table that only had two people at it, one of whom I knew.
It was the black bile table.
We all stood there staring at the vegetables. We rearranged them into the shape of a body. We were loathe to tear into any of them lest we make a mess. Then Gabby wandered over and asked us to deconstruct the body we made and talk about the temperament associated with black bile which is melancholy.
We each picked up a vegetable and started to take it apart. Carefully. Orderly. Neatly.
As I pulled the leaves from the head of cabbage, the melancholy hit me. Hard. Fast.
When my son was born nine years ago, I wasn’t able to produce enough milk for him and we needed to supplement the breastmilk with formula to ensure he got enough to eat. After two weeks of tears and screams and feelings of inadequacy for being a horrible mother at not being able to produce enough food for my son, we switched to strictly formula.
That’s where the cabbage comes in. Chilled cabbage leaves placed on the breasts help ease the pain and tenderness associated with breastfeeding. As I would no longer be feeding my son that way, for the first time since he was born, my breasts became engorged and I needed to help with the pain. So, out came the cabbage leaves. I used them until my milk dried up.
It occurred to me that I hadn’t cooked with cabbage since then. I realized then that as I looked at the leaves, cabbage makes me sad. I had unconsciously associated the end of breastfeeding with a stupid vegetable.
I started to rip it apart (carefully, of course, because I didn’t want to have to clean up too much later), and I began to realize it wasn’t my fault.
And that felt good.