Anna Snider – Inheritance (Spoken Word at The Current)


In human genetics, pedigree diagrams are utilized
to trace the inheritance of specific traits abnormality or disease. Two years ago, when
I was somewhere between dying and too big, my grandmother told me the origin story of
her shrinking – how each summer her mother banned ice cream from the house until the
last day of the month. Then, after 30 days, of following her diet, she would drive to
the Dairy Queen 4 miles down the road and buy the biggest butterscotch blizzard they
sold. She’d eat the whole thing herself and during the same summers, about a hundred miles
south, the other circles in my pedigree chart learned how to sand away their edges, contort
their flesh into a shape that was small enough, small enough to hold, small enough to love
or at least small enough to bend into something lovable. Because isn’t that the whole goal
of it? Life, I mean. To convince someone else that you are small enough to love, that you
are small enough to fit into whatever they want you to be? Down south, my great grandmother
sent her three daughters off to fat camp. They were the same size as I am now. They
ate as little as I used to. My grandmother still spends her days wishing away the Grand
Canyon of her bones. Was this our genesis? Was this our origin story? Was the spark of
our illness ignited at fat camp? Did those summers set the world on fire? Start the habitual
pattern of shrinking, of disappearing into ourselves? Was it only a matter of time before
I felt the same flame in my belly? The same gnawing desire to be small, we fall in cyclical
motion. One grandmother refusing to eat cake at her own birthday party, the other, praying
surgery will take away her appetite. Me, running ’til my knees give out. The women in my family
pass down shrinking like the prettiest family heirloom you’ve ever seen. We are taught to
survive on lipstick and unrequited love. We are taught that our bodies are the ugliest
mistake we could have made. We wade through the burning forest of our minds trying to
find a place to sit. Trying to find a place to rest our aching bones. The first time I
almost died, I was more confused than I was scared. I didn’t understand that these soft,
soft women had been searching for bodies that do not exist in my family. That cannot exist
in my family. That this road can only get you two things: dead or back to where you
started. I didn’t understand the point was to exist in liminal space. Liminal space,
the place between two things, the tight rope we walk across, how the moments in the air
is the most exhilarating and how you can make it to the other side without falling only
to show up dead. [Sanni] That was good, thank you for sharing that piece. Could you tell
us, in detail if you can, what that’s about. [Anna] I wrote this poem about – I’ve always
been fascinated with the inheritance of, like, the genetic component of eating disorders,
and there’s been a lot of research done pretty recently that’s shown that there’s a pretty
strong genetic component to eating disorders, which I found interesting, because my grandmas
on both sides of my family have eating disorders and I do as well, so just trying to figure
that out as I’m recovering from that. All the things that go into it. And how genetics,
and how environment and people around me, how that all plays into it. [Sanni] Full disclosure,
I was just diagnosed with an eating disorder early this week, and I was researching it
with my daughter and finding that there is a genetic link. Why did you approach it from
that perspective? You never hear about the genetic link to it. That to me is brave, it’s
intelligent. Why did you tell this from this perspective? [Anna] For me I had such a hard
time writing poems about my eating disorder, it took maybe two years before I wrote anything.
And when I came across the study that I was talking about, something clicked and it felt
like a tangible way that I could start with, so I didn’t have to go in with “this is how
I feel about it” and these are all the other things, but I could start with this very tangible,
scientific thing, and that just felt like, for me, the pathway into it. [Sean] You have
so much courage. All the poets that have visited us and shared these poems have a tremendous
amount of courage. I would struggle to share this poem in any situation, but you’ve done
it front of crowds, not only in your home state, but also all the way in Las Vegas.
Is this a poem – is this harder to share with a group of strangers or with family? Because
there’s so much familial meat to this. [Anna] I would say it’s definitely harder with my
family and with people that I know well, especially because it doesn’t end in my performance,
then people like to talk to me about it. Both are really valuable and I get a lot out of
performing in front of people I know and also people who I don’t know, but it’s definitely
– there’s that difficult component. [Sean] We got a lot from it. Thank you so much, Anna
Snider, for sharing that poem. [Anna] Thank you.

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