Me and my inner monkey

At the end of January, Cordelia Calls It Quits wrote a great post about the Inner Two Year Old.

We all have an inner something. Inner children. Inner bitches. Inner lizards (or, if you want to get all technical, the reptilian brain.)

One of my monkey cousins at the Bronx Zoo.

I have an inner monkey. Go ahead and laugh. But before you start making jokes about bananas and Bonobos and the flinging of excrement, give me a chance to explain.

My inner monkey is the part of me that has stubbornly refused to evolve.  She doesn’t believe in diets or alarm clocks or working out differences through rational conversation. She’s not superstitious, intellectual, religious or creative. She’s not into impulse control. She is interested in one thing: Survival. She has sharp senses when it comes to detecting a threat. If I ignore her warning, I usually end up in trouble. She’s good at responding to a threat too; when I was attacked by a guy on the Boston T, it was the inner monkey that retaliated, not me. When my the alarm on my biological clock goes off, that’s my inner monkey. When I’m hungry before bed and I think about my mom, back in the day, telling me that it’s good to go to bed a little hungry, my inner monkey jumps up and down, screeching. Go to bed hungry? Hungry? When there’s food in the house? Never!

Although she manifests in many ways, food brings out the inner monkey more than anything else. The authors of the novel Good Omens wrote that civilization is only two meals away from barbarism. I know that’s true for me. If I don’t keep the inner monkey fed, there are problems.

Three years ago, when I began a strict diet (too strict, as it turned out), I lived life like a huntress. I was always on the lookout for food. Everything else in my life was a distraction from my quest for food and life was sort of a pause between mealtimes. Every person I met was a person who might be competition for my food. If I had cut out a few more calories, every person I met might have been a potential meal. Hungry though I was, I did not turn to cannibalism.

I descended to something far more hideous: Mathematics.

In an effort to consume more food while staying within the confines of my diet, I began to do insane amounts of math. I devoted more time to the calculation of my caloric intake than I did to all of my math homework assignments combined. My inner monkey doesn’t do math, but she did bully me into doing it for her.

Most often, though, she makes an appearance in the grocery store. Particularly if it’s crowded and I’m hungry. No good can come of that. Watch a documentary about monkeys competing for food and see how well it turns out. I’ve learned to eat lunch before grocery shopping.

You could argue that all these inner entities are different names for the same thing. In some ways, the inner monkey is a lot like Cordelia’s Inner Two Year Old. She has needs, and she has impulse control issues, and if I don’t meet the monkey’s needs and control her impulses, she will attempt to take over. But she’s also like Elizabeth Hilts’ Inner Bitch. The monkey knows what she wants and she knows what she doesn’t want. And very often it turns out that what the monkey wants is good for me and what she does not want is bad for me.

And (when she’s been fed) the inner monkey is more fun than I am. She hasn’t forgotten how to play. She’s always on the lookout for a tree to climb. She likes yoga, because she can sit on the ground, reach for her toes or be upside down.

Not that I’m saying that I should pay attention to the inner monkey’s every demand. If I did that, I’d sit around all day, eating, snarling at intruders, and trying to flag down members of the opposite sex. I’d have one child per childbearing year I’ve lived. I might be a cannibal. Despite this, Stop & Shop would not allow me in their stores.

What I am saying is that, like any wild animal, the inner monkey should be respected.