NEDA Awareness Week: Let's Talk Ideas

It's National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and because I'm on a roll this week with the Not Funny Words on the Blog theme (trigger warning on that one, y'all) I'm back and I'm here to tell more stories. Maybe they are new to you. Maybe they aren't. If you have been reading Aspiring Mama for more than, say, the last four weeks, (or following me on twitter, instagram, Facebook, or google +) chances are you've seen at least one update pertaining to body image or self image. Trust me when I say that every time I talk up self-worth, the motivation stems from my own internal dialogue and the constant effort it takes to talk myself down from the very slippery slope that separates a bad day from a full-fledged bulimic slide. I'm including the full text of one post and links to previous posts relating to eating disorder issues here, here, here that may speak to you or to someone you know.

This year's NEDA theme for the week is I Had No Idea.

Well, now you do. So let's keep the conversation going, shall we?

 

 On Random Thoughts & Raising Girls

Because raising girls is hard, y'all. Consider your own childhood the prequel.

 

* I once worked in a strip club as a (fully clothed) waitress. While there, I learned that most of the dancers making the big bucks only pretended to get drunk on the $12 mocktail containing only cranberry & orange juice because it made the guys paying for the drink feel like he was going to get somewhere, that the two-and-a-half minute average pole dance on stage was just the right amount of time to scan the crowd for the sucker who would be an easy mark for the $20 lap dance, and that lap dance time was exactly when they composed their grocery lists in their heads because doing the same old thing gets tedious, ya know?

Other highlights included the realization that I could make $300 in tips just from charging $12 for a cup of fruit juice with a tiny umbrella in it and that sometimes the naked girls dancing got pissy if the clothed ones serving drinks got more attention than they did. But the best lesson of all was that sometimes it’s the stereotype exploiting itself that has the upper hand. No one expects to be outwitted by the chick shaking her boobs in the face of a man who isn’t aware he was marked as prey the moment he handed his baseball cap to the bodyguard. It isn’t, after all, just about shaking what your mama gave you. It’s about knowing how to use it.

* I’m Catholic with an asterix, thereby indicating a footnote in tiny print at the bottom of the page. In the interest of time, I’ll just get to the point and tell you that I have always described myself as Mexican-Catholic because it’s exactly not the same as Catholic Catholic. Most Mexican-Catholics that I know are first and second-generation Americans, believe in God and make the sign of the cross whenever an ambulance passes by or they drive by a cemetery, and only go to church for Easter, weddings, funerals, baptisms, and First Communions. We grew up saying the Our Father in Spanish but have probably forgotten most of it by now, truly believe in God and Heaven and that our deceased loved ones will come to watch over us even if we don’t celebrate El Dia de los Muertos, and roll our eyes skyward while forcing ourselves to remain silent when our elder Tias and Tios start going on about things like gays and black people and how white people don’t know how to raise their children while they themselves are preparing a bottle of Pepsi for the four-year-old sitting in the stroller in nothing but a diaper.

We drive past a church on the way to school every day. We’ve only been inside four time in the four years we have been in Tucson. And without being told, Buttercup knows that the day we go to church is the day she gets to wear a pretty dress and hunt for Easter eggs in the courtyard.

* I cried when the ultrasound tech told me I was having a girl. This is not an exaggeration. I had been hoping and praying for a boy and not because of the reasons you might think. Cultural chauvinism and machismo had nothing to do with my tears. Instead, I was bawling while The Husband tried not to laugh too loud and the tech holding the wand on the goop on my bump stood there, silent and utterly confused. But she’s perfectly healthy, she eventually managed to say because It’s a Girl wasn’t usually followed by tears cried by a nearly hysterical pregnant woman who seemed perfectly sane when she had walked in for her ultrasound.

It’s not that, I sobbed. It’s just that…she’s going to eventually turn into a bitchy teenager who hates me and drives me to the closest wine bottle with a bendy straw. I barely made it through my teens the first time.

That’s when The Husband jumped in with The Mother’s Curse and Payback’s a bitch and I just nodded, wondering if maybe God was, in His own Divine Way, giving me the finger.

* I am a body image/healthy self-image/happiness activist who is and most likely always will be broken. I am not standing here looking down from my soapbox telling you that the three keys to happiness and life’s successes are (insert bullshit here). Instead, I am a mostly no-longer-practicing-eating-disordered-behavior-mother-to-a-five-year-old-daughter and I love her with all of my soul. I am imperfect and vain about my eyes, my lips, my curves. I am self-conscious about the size of my ass and always sucking in the muffin top. I tell my daughter that we eat and exercise to be healthy and strong and that our bodies perfect and made exactly as they are meant to be and that what other people think isn’t of any importance, not now and not ever. I am the mother who corrects strangers when they call her big because she stands taller than most kids her age because I stood taller than most kids my age because that word got stuck in my head and manifested itself into bulimia, and I’ll be damned if history is going to repeat itself. So I am the mother who smiles and says Why yes, she is tall for her age, isn’t she? And then I change the subject and wonder how much good I’m actually doing.

That’s when I remind myself that I’m trying. And all I can do is to put the oxygen mask on myself first before taking the time to assist any children or elderly people who may need help with their own. To make a difference for her and anyone else on this analogical airplane inside of my head, I need to take care of me first.

Oversexualization & Our Daughters: Refusing to Feed the Demand

What do you see here? I'd love to know, because I see a problem.

This rather adorable outfit is from Jelly the Pug and, last week, was available on Zulily. I'm fine with the outfit. It's cute and perfectly age-appropriate, so don't think I fell off the deep end. It's the decidedly "adult" pose that prompted me to pull out the soapbox, y'all. This one, and the images like it, caught my attention and suddenly, the word "oversecualization" begin chanting itself in a loop inside my head.

When I images like this one, I see little girls and headlines about the dangers of over-sexualization and body image issues and

eating disorders and, sadly enough, I see complacency. We can't be shocked if we expect it now, can we?

When Suri Cruise stepped out in high heels for the first time in 2009, the world brought out the voice of judgement. And we judged. We are so very good at that, aren't we? (Don't try to argue with me on this one because I'm sure the 7,200,000 results that popped up for Katie judged Suri in heels" will prove otherwise). In fact, I'm judging right now.

Not surprisingly, sales for high heels for little girls jumped and designers scrambled to provide more for the masses. A quick search shows this pair by Michael Kors.

 

The black pumps and that teeny tiny heel make me nervous just thinking about my daughter breaking an ankle while trying to walk in them. But when compared to the snazzy little number available recently on Zulily, the first shoe is downright tame.

I should point out that I'm not out to vilify Zulily -- or any other singular source -- for promoting the sexualization of young children, but I am now wondering if I should allow my 6-year-old to browse the site with me. She's more apt to wear clothing she helps to pick out, but I don't feel like having to explain why there is no way in hell I'm ordering her a pair of hot pink stilettos that look like they belong to a very tiny stripper No offense to the stripper, mind you. Maybe I can't stop the world from playing strip-tease with our kids, but I can limit what my own daughter is exposed to.

I realize there are people who will think I'm overreacting. That my daughter will "see it anyway" on television or in movies or in magazines and I'm wasting my time trying to shield her from all I think she doesn't need to see right now. They will say it's not that big a deal and that little girls just want to dress like their moms and gush about how cute their kids look strutting their stuff in hot pink stilettos and say I'm too strict and need to lighten up. They will tell me that they may have had their own misgivings about buying their 8-year-old that string bikini for the neighbor's pool party because all the other girls have them and not wanting them to feel left out, so they did it anyway.

I also am aware that the constant finger pointing is how we deal as a society instead of taking a moment to consider our own responsibility when controversies become headlines and we see our daughters adopting our body image issues as their own. We would rather blame Hollywood, the magazines with emaciated and photo-shopped models,  the fancy designers who tell us why Unrealistic Ideals are the new black, and the retailers for providing us with yet another choice we are aware we would have been better off without then admit we contributed to the demand for the supply.

All of this is okay with me. You will either agree with me or feel sorry for my kid. This is entirely your prerogative. You can buy the take your preschooler to see The 300 at the movie theater and tell them to just shut up when they ask you why that lady has her boobies out and that man just got his head chopped off loud enough for the rest of us to hear. This is your right and I'm not going to tell you how to parent your children. I am, however, going to do what I feel is right for my own daughter and her well-being.

I'm going to continue to say no. Whether or not retailers like Zulily or designers like Michael Kors bother to take responsibility for their part in the oversexualization of our little girls, I still have that power. The rest of her friends can jump off that bridge my own mother always talked about while mine has the biggest I Hate You Mom! meltdown known to man. She can tell me that I am ruining her life and all her friends get to do wear bikinis and listen to Justin Bieber and don't have to wait for their parents to pre-screen movies before they can watch them, and I will wait for her to stop screaming at me before I tell her the answer is still no because I can't undo today when tomorrow gets here. The damage would already be done.

This is not an exaggeration. In 2007, the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls released a report suggesting that young girls are are affected in many areas of development as a result.

 

Sexualization has a broad array of devastating effects on youth, both male and female, and ramifications that extend throughout our society. Exposure to sexual images of girls has been linked to multiple mental health problems including girls’ low self-esteem, symptoms of depression, and eating disorders. Sexualization is also linked to girls’ increasing engagement in risky sexual behavior such as having unprotected sex and using drugs and alcohol, which impairs decision-making (APA, 2007).

 

This is what Suri Cruise in her high heels and shows like Toddlers & Tiaras and sexily-posed little girls modeling clothes for little girls have done (and continue to do) to us and our children. What we say to them - and what we let them see onscreen - will stay with them. Do we want that? Are we happy where we are?

I have already spoken with quite a few mothers who had the same knee-jerk reaction to the too-sexy child models as I did. I know you aren't happy with any of this. Maybe we make noise and spark a discussion or three. The important thing is that we show our daughters that we are here when they need us and again when they don't.  And that's a start.

Get Ready for #BodyThanks

 

Are you ready for the #BodyThanks twitter party?

Tonight is the night and August McLaughlin and I are so excited to start off the holiday season with an evening dedicated to supporting each other and honoring all that we are.

Click here for party details and be sure to register by adding your twitter handle/URL on the linky to be eligible for prizes!

Spread the word, share the link, and let’s get #BodyThanks trending together. The holidays are difficult on those with body image, self-esteem, and eating disordered thinking (both active & recovering). Share the #BodyThanks love and we can join each other in a kick-ass show of support. Simply copy and paste this link to tweet, Facebook, pin, tumble, & Google + the #BodyThanks event for all it’s worth!

 

Supply & Demand: Return of Kings, Dating Girls with Eating Disorders, & My Response

Warning: This post -- and the links contained within -- contain possible triggers for those with eating disorders and body image issues. For that reason, I am purposefully placing the image associated with the original piece I'm commenting on below the fold. It's been 48 hours since I first learned about the much-talked about Return of Kings post entitled Five Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder. Highlights include nuggets of wisdom like She's a Cheap Date and She's Fragile and Vulnerable. I won't lie; I read it three times. Not because I wanted to, mind you, but because the first two reads were almost blind. Like a gawker driving by a bad car accident, I couldn't take my eyes away from that they had just seen. My eyes had kept locking on the image of a woman in a little read dress and stilettos, hunched over a toilet with her fingers in her mouth, ready to force a purge.

Since it's publication last week, the site's publisher has issued a response to the resulting backlash. I'll give you a spoiler here and tell you now that the non-apology is almost worse than the original post, but (sadly) that is to be expected. ROK does not endorse eating disorders, they say. Rather (and this is the part where ROK pats themselves on their collective backs for their good graces) they proudly boasts their encouragement of America's single men not to "pass" on eating disordered women just because they have an illness.

Well, shit. Why didn't they say so in the first place? Silly people...we over-reacted!  Stigma = bad. Seeking out and preying upon the fragile emotional state of a woman in crisis = good!

I call bullshit.

But before anyone assumes I'm calling out the ROK site for piss-poor justifying the publishing of 5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder, let me make one thing perfectly clear: Every single one of you 134k who liked this piece on Facebook get an equal share of the blame for providing the market.

Just like the media can't take the all of the blame for causing eating disorders, ROK cannot (and should not) be the sole focus of your outrage for trivializing them. While every one of the 5 reasons makes me cringe for fear of their impact on actively eating disordered women (and men) reading them, we must remember that without the demand, the supply eventually fades away.

Let me put it this way:

* Glossy magazines and emaciated models, headlines shaming celebs for gaining weight and praising them for their unrealistic thinness, and Hollywood approved diet pills and crazy fad diets...all of these topics (and more) are on a never-ending loop that keeps being re-written because we keep buying them.

Conclusion? We are part of the problem.

* ROK and 5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder is disturbing (at best) and triggering (at worst). And while ROK's very existence makes me wish the internet came with a giant mute button, the site is incredibly popular with a loyal fan base that has given them the platform to continue publishing pro-fat shaming writings and stories like the one we all happen to be talking about now.

Conclusion: We are part of the problem.

People like this, y'all. And I don't just mean those who may have liked or otherwise shared the post in order to share in the outrage. I mean LIKED as in By Golly, That's Brilliant! That, my friends, is a very sad commentary reflecting right back on today's society. Then again, so is the fact that ROK received death threats because of 5 Reasons and its publication. To those of you who thought that little gem was the way to go, don't help. Just sit down, shut up, and let the rest of us finish this fight because you're not doing us any favors.

I'll be honest; when I sat down to write this my intention had been to list all the ways 5 Reasons is hurtful, harmful, and even dangerous. I was going to tell you about my failed attempts at anorexia (except for that one time I made it 4 months on just one apple and a single slice of cheese every day), but Rita Arens did an incredible job discussing anorexia and why ROK crossed the line in this BlogHer piece. As a woman who would most likely be singled out by ROK as a Fatty with No Self Control should they see this post, I was prepared to speak about Bulimia, binging and purging, and the emotional ship-wreck I was during that time period that guys I was dating hadn't realized was part of the package.

That's what I was going to do, but then I sat down to write and this is what happened.

If you've suffered through or are currently dealing with an eating disorder, the world is not made up entirely of assholes. There are plenty of us good-hearted souls who are here to help. Rita listed her email in her BlogHer post encouraging readers to reach out should the need help.

I'm here, too.

Aspiringmama@gmail.com.

 

 

Butterflies for Everyone!

If you're new to the blog, I'd like to welcome you with a little bit of awesome. As a pre-holiday thank you to my readers (and a little reminder to ourselves to be thankful for the bodies that carry us through our days) I've decided to make the Girl Body Pride Strong Like Butterfly anthology free on Smashwords through Sunday.

The anthology contains the work of many Girl Body Pride writers like Shoshana Rachel, Elan Morgan, and Jessie Sanfilippo, along with novelists Therese Walsh and Mercedes Yardley. Each story shared speaks to women struggling with body image issues. And each story is so beautifully told.

I'd like to invite you to take this opportunity to get your free copy of Strong Like Butterfly and, of course, to pass the information on to your friends. And please, know that I look forward to your thoughts after reading the book. It was an honor editing this collection. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I still do.

The Stupid Sister

Can I call your sister stupid? No? Does that bother you? I'm not sure why, seeing as how you don't even like your her. You tell anyone who will listen and rarely go home for holidays. What? What was that? Oh, so you think your sister is stupid? So what's the problem? Why is it that, even if you agree wholeheartedly with my sentiments, that it seems somehow inappropriate for anyone other than yourself to comment on the obvious lack of intellect with which your loved ones were gifted?

You're mumbling. I didn't quite catch that? Oh, you don't know why? That's just the way it is? You don't take too kindly to others doing the name calling? She's your family, not mine? I can think it but I'd better not say it?

Okay then. I'll play nice. But turnabout is fair play, my friend. I'll respect your right and your family and keep my jokes to myself if you can stop being an idiot about a teensy weensy little issue I happen to be dealing with, myself. I have to admit that I'm even embarrassed to be bringing it up, but I guess it's better to get it all out in the open, right?

I'm not trying to be overly sensitive. But you know about the bulimia and the body image issues and the whole body image cheer-leading train I've jumped on, right? I'm not here just to blow sunshine up other people's asses, my friend. I'm here to help me by helping others because that, in that Circle of Life Kind of Way, helps me continue to help because that's usually how this shit works; Yin & Yang and all that jazz.

So when I see careless social media updates making light of eating disorders, even if they aren't meant to hurt my feelings because you'd never dream of doing that, I get a bit pissy. And then I get pissy that your words got under my skin because if I'd never stuck my fingers down my throat to let the feelings I couldn't deal with just fucking escape already, I'd probably be laughing with you and everyone else who doesn't get it. I'm jealous that you don't understand and can laugh.

I'm mad that I do and I can't.

I'm not 'bulimic'. I'm a 'conscientious recycler of edible organic material.' -- says Nobody In Particular.

I had to read that twice to make sure I understood it. Then I got mad. And even madder still when I realized I wanted to ask you if you ever actually had been bulimic because if you are or were or were planning on starting tonight, then, in a darkly comedic and self-deprecating kind of way, your joke would be funny. It would be...

...acceptable.

Can you maybe follow up with a disclaimer? No...actually it's probably better that you don't. I'm not sure how either answer would make me feel. If you made the joke because Bulimia is your stupid sister, I will smile and laugh with you.

Secret Hand Shake In The Club.

If Bulimia isn't even a distant cousin, I'm happy for you for not ever having dealt with the emotional hell that comes with internalizing everything to the point of food and self becoming the enemy. But I'm also pissed because that means you called my stupid sister stupid.

Even if she is.

 

What's Your Brave?

 

Let's talk about Being Brave.

Not with a sword, but with our voices. Maybe we use a pen. Maybe we click, clack away on a keyboard, looking up only every now and then at the words born onto the white screen before us. Maybe we are Brave with our voices or a maybe it's with a paintbrush.

We are Brave when we share our truth with others. We are Braver Still when we know we are not alone.

Jenn Marshall calls it Finding Our Brave. I call it Writing Without a Filter. Whatever you call it, the premise is the same, whether we write about our personal struggles with bipolar or eating disorders or sexuality, we are brave when we share that which others can connect with and know they are not alone.

What's my Brave?

I'll be honest. I'm only halfway home when it comes to fully embracing it. But that's the beauty of Being Brave. For each of us, Bravery means different things and we are each defining the term for ourselves every time we sit down to share a new Something Personal about ourselves.

Me? I'm a life-long recovering bulimic with compulsive eating tendencies. I'm ADHD and sometimes will do circus tricks if you give me coffee when my brain is moving faster than my medication can work. I have anxiety issues that tend to spike when my ADHD is in high gear and suffer from dermitillomania. That last one is a fancy word for the OCD scab-picking condition I didn't know wasn't just a stupid habit I couldn't break until last year. I've suffered from depression, attempted suicide, and founded a website to help myself while helping others learn that nurturing our self-worth and self-image is the key to recovery for many of the demons we deal with daily.

Am I fixed? Hell no. Am I on my way? Today I am. I'll let you know about tomorrow when it gets here.

How do I manage to Be Brave and share these words with the world? Because I have to. Because I want to. Because I need to.

Because I had to find my Own Brave on my journey and wish I could have known people like Jennifer Marshall when I was looking for someone else to Be Brave with me. I just wanted someone to relate to.

Maybe that's why the This is My Brave kickstarter project has hit home with me. I've backed the project and I'm here to support it and yes, I'm asking you to support it, too. Jenn and her team have already surpassed their original goal of $6,500 for the live This is My Brave show and have gone for a stretch goal of $10,000. Every little bit helps. Every little bit matters.

We need each other to make This is My Brave a reality. Together, we can be Braver, and isn't that the point?

 

The Love Your Body Day After Party

 

Today was National Love Your Body Day. Well, technically it still is at 11:34 p.m., but I'm obviously a little late to the shin-dig. And that's okay, too. I've always loved me a good after-party. People are freer with their words and so hilariously opinionated with the hours of open bar contributing happily to the She Said What censor-freedom you just don't see while all of the women are still pretending their 6-inch stilettos aren't fucking killing them.

You know the real fun is about to begin when the heels get traded for the flip flops and the ballet flats, anyway.

A few highlights from today:

August McLaughlin of Girl Boner- land (You can lie but I won't believe you if you tell me that just isn't fun to say), profiled me in a feature on the National Eating Disorder Association website in recognition of Love Your Body Day for #BodyConfidenceWeek. August did a beautiful job bringing light to such an important topic and I thank her for the chance to share my story.

A little snippet of that interview for you -- Tips from me to you on loving your body:

Drop the word DIET unless you are referring to what your hamster is allowed to eat. Pledge to rephrase all negative self-talk (internally and verbally) to positive statements. For example, “That has too many calories” becomes “I choose food to nurture my body.”

Remember that our kids see and hear everything we say and do. Even if you don't love your body, put on your big girl panties and pretend to love it anyway. Your motivation is your child and the knowledge that your actions are the foundation from which they will learn how to see their own reflections one day.

Write a sentence about something you hate about your body. Turn it around by writing two on why you are more than that and deserve to love your body just the way it is.

Put on some red lipstick, or your favorite shoes. Hell, grab a tiara and wear the damned thing all day! The point is, whatever makes you feel good about yourself, do it.

Smile at your reflection.

-- from Love Your Body Day 2013 on NEDA by August McLaughlin

 

Remember...Hamster...Diet...You...Amazing.

See? Day's looking better already. Now do me a favor and brighten someone else's by sharing the article. The first step in recovery is often realizing that we are not alone.

 

On Second Chances & Our Daughters

I wasn't going to write tonight. There's frankly too much going on right now to really justify the time I am using right now that could be spent doing needed things. Like sleep.

And yet, here I am.

I'm here because of a tweet that was written because of a blog post that was written because a well-meaning mother decided to tell teenaged girls to stop acting like teenaged girls because their sexy selfies on instagram are sending the wrong message to all the good teenaged boys in the world.

Like others who have responded, I immediately thought of myself when I was younger and my daughter and the reality of growing up on social media and iPhones. I admit to shaking my head and wondering what the hell they are thinking when seeing selfie-updates posted online with pouty lips and sexy poses. Sometime I remember the only difference between then and now is that then didn't include instagram. So I refocus on doing (what I believe is) right by my daughter.

It's my job to raise her, not society's job to judge her. It's my job to teach her right from wrong and left from right and that she is so much more than a pretty face. I want her to be proud of herself, feel no shame in talking about things like anxiety and mama's ADHD and the therapist that we share. And I sure as hell am working my ass off to try (oh please, God) to provide her with a foundation strong enough to weather the demons that still chase after me like body image and my eating disordered past. As her mother, it's my responsibility to give her the tools, the knowledge that society will always have an opinion, and (hopefully) the sense of self to not give a damn. From there, it's her job to make mistakes, learn from them, and make some more until she's found her path.

It's my job to raise my daughter. It's not my job to judge yours.

I have no doubt my daughter will grow into an incredible older version of the wonder that she is now. But looking at the innocence in her little 6-year-old face is sometimes heart-breaking because I know that one day she will stop believing in the tooth fairy and asking to snuggle between me and her daddy and she will start pissing us off by pushing the boundaries. It's my job to try and make it through the storm she will create as she defines herself on her own terms and love her no matter how many times she disappoints herself...and maybe even me.

She's a lot like me, this little girl. And I wonder how many times I will see myself reflected in her actions as each day passes. The difference, though, is that while I was a teen, my mistakes were only recorded in my journals and written in overly squiggly cursive with i's dotted in hearts. Today's girls have a whole world waiting to serve as judge and jury for every misstep they share on Facebook or twitter or instagram or tumblr. I wish we'd stop judging. I wish we'd stop telling our daughters that it's their responsibility to get it right the first time and that it's their fault for anything relating to sex that may run through a young boy's mind. I wish that we'd just stop with the You Should's and You Shouldn'ts and remember that we didn't stop falling and picking ourselves back up just because we learned to walk.

I wish that I am successful in conveying the importance of never passing judgement on a friend just for making a choice she may not agree with.

I don't want to think about what I'd find searching my name online if the social media had existed when I was 15 or 18 or even 20. But even without the permanent record, I still held my breath waiting to hear my parents tell me that they still loved me. I'm not sure how many second chances they gave me. All I know is that when I fell they were still there to watch me brush myself off as I picked myself back up, reassessed, and gave it another go. One time in college I swallowed a bottle of pills because I just wanted to sleep and panicked when I realized sleeping and dying were to very different things. The friend who took me to the hospital in the middle of the night was a second chance. The friends who forced me into therapy were a third and so on and so forth. I am the product of all of my fuck-ups and all of my successes and I wonder how many of you recognize that about yourselves. We are who we are right now because yesterday happened.

When she's older and looking back like I am now, I don't know how many regrets her yesterday's will hold. I probably won't know half of the regrets that will have been posted online or maybe even all of the little things she is proud of. I might not even know how many second chances she counts as part of the foundation that -- even if a bit cracked here and there -- is still strong enough to hold another tomorrow.

Outspoken

I am many things. A mother. A writer. A Wife and lover of all things Dr. Who.

I'm ADHD and I'm anxiety and I'm really, really bad at putting the forks back in the same spot every time I unload the dishwasher.

I'm allergic to the world, infertile, and at 35, I'm dealing with major hormonal imbalances that are a total pain in my ass. I'm an insomniac and a tennis player and a paleo-eating, homeschooling accidental hippie. I'm the Mexican living in Maine.

I'm in love with possibility and a master of procrastination. I can't tell you how many spectacular things I want to accomplish but maybe after I pin this one last thing.

Butterflies. I'm a lover of those, too. Especially when they are fluttering about in my gardens. Not so much when they've taken up residence in my stomach. Like now.

I'm a life-long recovering bulimic on a mission. I'm a founder and self-image activist and Weight Loss Industry survivor.

I'm in therapy. Or at least I would be more often if my therapist read my blog every now and then, because in the time that passes between writing something I need to talk about more and showing up 15 minutes late for my appointment, I've written about four more and the clock is ticking  so I talk about my kid and her anxiety instead.

I'm a contradiction in terms; outspoken and afraid to speak. So I say what I can when the time comes to say it with words that appear letter by letter on a screen.

Right now, I have something to say.

I want to apologize to Cherice Morales on behalf of all that is decent and right in this world. I want to tell her mother that I am so very sorry her daughter's bravery in reporting being raped by her teacher when she was 14 was pushed away like that bravery meant nothing. Twice. I want to hug the friends and family left behind after Cherice took her own life while her case was still pending and tell them how I want to be like Cherice when I grow up.

I want to ask that judge exactly what the fuck he was thinking when he sentenced ex-teacher Stacey Rambold to serve just 30 days of a 15-year prison sentence. I want to know how he'd feel if it had been his 14-year-old granddaughter who was said to be"as much in control of the situation" as the authority figure who admitted to raping her. Would he still blame the victim? Would he be angry if someone said the rapist deserved a break because the victim looked older than she actually was?

I want to tell that judge that his 81-word apology is bullshit and that I don't believe him. I do believe he is sorry to be the center of a public outcry for his resignation. He's sorry he got caught. No more. No less.

I want to ask the Washington Post who thought publishing the op-ed piece arguing for the legal acceptance of consensual sexual relationships between teachers and their underage students was a good idea. I want to ask the writer if she used Cherice Morales as her example because she legitimately thought there was a valid reason to do so and why, considering the small fact that both Cherice and the rapist teacher both stated their sexual relationship was not consensual. I want to ask the writer, an artist and former lawyer, to look me in the eye when she answers. I want to see if she's got the balls to admit that the shit storm that hit after her piece was published was the end goal.

No one ever looks at the byline unless the reporter pisses them off.

I want to ask all these things and know I won't be happy with the answers. I want to thank Cherice Moralez for being strong enough to open up to her family and press charges because so many victims never do. I want to tell her that assholes -- like that judge and the Washington Post and that lawyer painter writer who thinks teachers having consensual sex with their students is a phenomenal idea -- will always exist. And that for every unsympathetic idiot in a position of authority who thinks like they do, there are so many more willing to listen so that girls like Cherice feel safe in revealing their abuse.

Because that matters.

I am many things. I'm sarcastic and say bad words a lot. But usually for good reasons. I'm full of good intentions that are, more often than not, completely misplaced. I'm a mother raising a daughter to know that she can always come to me if the unthinkable happens. That I will support her. And that even after recent events, it will always be okay to speak out.

Because I never did.

 

Does the Media Get the Blame for Eating Disorders?

A friend recently sent me a link to an article on Ed Bites regarding the author’s thoughts on the media and eating disorders. The article, to be published in Emirates Woman magazine, is well-written, thought-provoking, and importantly (to me, anyway) written from personal experience.

The author, Carrie Arnold, recounts her own experience as an anorexic in treatment. When handed a sheet of stickers and a stack of magazines as a project for a body image group. The stickers were to be used by the patients to label the images of models and celebrities either with a smiley face promoting a healthy body image or a frowny face pointing the finger of blame at the image (and by default, the media as a whole), for promoting eating disorders.

Says Arnold on her blog, Ed Bites: {the latest tasty tidbits in eating disorder science}:

“I was no stranger to advertising. No one really is. But I knew that most ads were digitally altered and that bodies – real bodies – didn’t look a thing like what was portrayed on the pages of glossy magazines. Weighing roughly half of what I currently do, what I did know was that I was terrified of food and eating. Consuming more than the bare minimum of calories left me feeling dirty, and I felt oddly compelled to purge the extra calories via exercise or other methods. 

“Although I couldn’t see it in the mirror, I knew, on some level, that I had long since passed even the most whacked-out culture’s definition of ‘thin’. I didn’t want to look like a model – I’m a geek, not a fashionista. I wasn’t attractive, all sallow-skinned and bony, and I didn’t care. Starving myself was the only way that I could turn down the cacophony in my head. The less I ate and the less I weighed, the quieter my anxious thoughts got. Fashion never crossed my mind.”

And I get that. I’m a self-described life-long recovering bulimic. I was hiding in my parents’ pantry at the age of seven binge eating long before I knew the term and condition was one recognized by medical professionals and at the age of 15, took a news special on a woman treating teens with eating disorders as a “how to”. I was home alone and had been eating mindlessly all evening. At 5’6”, I was curvy but athletically built, wore a size 10, played varsity tennis, and thought I was fat. Random attempts to “become” anorexic had failed horribly and only proved to my warped sense of thinking that I had no self control. Binging, I learned that night, was what I had been doing most of my life, which only served to stuff down and quiet the chaos in my mind.

The answer I had been looking for

Purging was the release I had been looking for. As a first generation Mexican-American, I grew up observing the fine art of Not Acknowledging the Obvious like brides pregnant months before their wedding dates were to take place and family happily ignoring the fact that the premature baby born healthy and adorably chubby. Alcoholics weren’t alcoholics if they didn’t go to meetings and as long as I remembered to not throw up oranges in the shower, I didn’t have to avoid eye contact with my parents after they found the evidence i had forgotten about on the drain.

As Arnold points out in her article, it is very easy to see how the media and the models and celebrities portrayed take the brunt of the blame for “causing” eating disorders. Everything is photo-shopped. Headlines boast the Secrets to a Perfect Body and tell us How to Lose 20 Pounds by Labor Day in issues released just weeks before the actual holiday. And every Hollywood mom seems to either be under contract to drop the baby weight in six weeks, pose in a bikini, and show us how we can do it, too, or become the newest spokesperson for whichever major weight loss program hands them the biggest contract to sign. The message seems loud and clear: Perfection is at the finish line and you better work your ass off to get there before you have the right to feel good about yourself.
This video on YouTube by Aceygirl17 serves as a perfect example.

 

But is the media at fault?

Yes.

And No.

As Arnold says, compliments from strangers on how skinny she was may have given her a temporary boost, but they didn’t fuel the need to continue with her disordered behavior. I can relate to that, too. I never once looked at a magazine or a celebrity and thought myself less. My mindset was obviously disordered to begin with. If the media did cause eating disorders, every single person watching the same news special I did would suddenly have jumped off the deep end and embraced anorexia and/or bulimia just like I did.

“So what’s the big deal? Why does it matter what causes eating disorders? For one, it affects who we think are at risk and how quickly they are diagnosed… If we think eating disorders are the preserve of vain women, we are less likely to view them as requiring treatment and more likely to blame the victim. No, we can’t just snap out of it and, although normalising nutrition is crucial, eating a cheeseburger won’t cure us.”— Ann Arnold, Ed Bites. 

Changing our focus

No, we can’t snap out of it. Eating a cheeseburger won’t cure an anorexic and learning the definition of self control won’t suddenly help a bulimic figure out how to diet. Similarly, a society hell-bent on proving a market exists for glossy magazine covers of photo-shopped and over-sexed female celebrities and models is doing nothing more than giving the media reason to continue on the current path. If this shit sells, you can bet your ass it’s going to be printed. And while I firmly believe that the media is at least responsible for fueling body image issues in both susceptible children, teens, women and men, I can’t say the media has the power to turn a non-disordered person into an eating disordered mess.

Yes, the media plays a role in how we as a society have come to define beauty in ourselves and others. And as Arnold notes, printing celebrities and their own eating disordered struggles in the “style” section of their publications only trivialize the issue and reinforce the myth that eating disorders are a choice. That, my friends, is complete and utter bullshit.

So who do we blame?

No one, Everyone. Ourselves. Our mothers. The doctor who sent in a nutritionist with a pamphlet on the food pyramid when I was 16 and settled on telling her I couldn’t stick to a diet because I choked on the word “bulimia.”

“The girl thinks she has an eating disorder because she can’t stick to a diet,” I heard her say to the nutritionist in the hallway. “Send her home with this. I’ve got to get back to work.”

Okay, fine. That doctor I actually do blame for choosing to dismiss a cry for help. But is blaming her, or The Biggest Loser, going to help those already suffering? No. It’s not.

Does that mean the media is off the hook?

Not by any means. The media might not be the reason those of us unfortunate enough to have our brains wired in such a way that disordered eating behaviors actually make sense, but there have been plenty of times I have been written about my own good days being ruined by checkout lane headlines telling me I have no right to feel good about myself until I’ve managed to get my ass into the same bikini I wore before I got pregnant almost six years ago.

I’ll give The Powers that Be a pass on my disorder. But I’m holding the media responsible for perpetuating a false ideal of perfection, creating an environment in which our daughters (and sons) are learning to hate their bodies while they should still be playing with their imaginary friends, and reinforcing the belief that self-worth is based on a number on a scale. Eating disordered or not, that line of bullshit is the reason so many of us think happiness isn’t a right we deserve, but one we earn when the scale, the salesgirl, and Other People say we have.

I’m not good with that. I truly believe that until we learn to accept and love ourselves as just the way we are right now, none of us is going to find anything other than a skinner version of ourselves who happens to still hate who we are and what we see in the mirror.

Your job begins now

This is where you take responsibility, my friends.

If you felt good until you picked up that copy of whatever glossy magazine it was that gave you a complex and suddenly had you reaching for a bag of chips out of despair, stop buying, reading, or watching what is obviously a trigger for you. The stories might still sell. The stars might still be selling weight loss programs post-baby because we have turned yesterday’s A-listers into today’s headline just so we can talk about what they’ve gained and how quickly they’ve lost it. Turn your focus inward and focus on changing what you can (how you feel about and perceive your self and body image) and just ignore the rest because it’s not going away anytime soon. We live in a body-conscious time where numbers are given more value than self-perception and worth.

If you need help for an eating disorder or body image issues, seek it out. NOW. If you feel comfortable, share your story and let others know it's okay to do the same. I applaud Arnold for doing so.

So where does that leave us?

Shut out the noise. Fix the mess inside your head. Then let the rest fall into place.

NEDA Awareness Week: Do Just One Thing

  GBPbracelet2

 

Girl Body Pride began with the simple and complex desire to do what I can for myself and allow my daughter to grow into the woman she is meant to become.

I can kiss away the boo boos now. I can snuggle her to sleep because she still wants me to and I'll miss it just like I miss how she used to think that eleventeen was a number. Now she's asking me things like if fairies are really really real and I wish we we were back at eleventeen again. I can tell her she is beautiful and strong and smart and my favorite wish upon a star and I can gently redirect the conversation when people call her "big" for her age by simply saying, "Yes, she is tall for five, isn't she?" And I can tell her that her body is shaped exactly as it is meant to be and will be shaped exactly as she is meant to become, that we are active to be healthy and strong, and that no matter what anyone else says or thinks, nothing matters but the fact that she knows she is perfectly wonderful just the way she is and will be.

I can do all of these things. I can say even more. Like how we are kind and loving to all of our friends because we treat people the way we'd like for them to treat us and that food is nourishment for our bodies because that's how we get the good energy to play, learn, and grow. But I can't kiss away the bullshit society throws at girls and body image and self-esteem because the bullies from the school playground have grown up and their aren't any lunch ladies around to report them to the principal's office anymore. She can read now and I hope like hell that every time we get into the check out lane at the grocery store, she'll be too busy talking to me or playing a game on the iPad to notice all the reasons the media wants her to believe she is less than enough. So far, so good.

What I can't do is give her a line of bullshit she isn't going to buy from me. Maybe she's self-assured enough to not ever question the reflection she sees in the mirror. But she's smart enough to watch and internalize what I do no matter what I say. Heaven knows she inherited her father's ego, and while it makes him a giant asshole sometimes, he happens to make it work for him in the strangest sense and he makes it look good. He's just that confident. And she is Daddy's girl. Tell her she's beautiful and she'll tell you that she knows. Maybe that's all she needs.

Just in case, though, I am working on fixing the inside of my head each and every day to be able to show her that I love me and that I think I am exactly the shape I am meant to be and that I eat to be healthy and strong and that scales and numbers are only important at the doctor's office because how I feel about me is what matters most and what keeps me on the right track. Kids are smart. Think they aren't watching when you refer to your fat ass and those ten pounds you need to lose? Think again.

That's why Girl Body Pride is my passion. And that's why it's so important to support the National Eating Disorder Foundation during NEDA Awareness Week, taking place February 24-Match 2.

From the NEDA website:

The aim of NEDAwareness Week is to increase awareness and education about eating disorders and body image issues for effective recognition, early intervention and direction to care.

Everybody Knows Somebody who has been affected. Everybody can get involved.

 

Do just one thing.

ONE THING.

Anything.

As long as your action raises awareness about eating disorders and provides accurate information to those seeking answers. Post a link to the NEDA Awareness Week tab on your Facebook page, plan an interactive and educational event like a meditation and yoga workshop, register as a volunteer speaker, or write a blog post. Send a tweet, a text, or just give someone a hug. Maybe someone you know might need a daily reminder of the need  to believe in their self-worth. Check out the Girl Body Pride Just The Way We Are bracelet available on BerkeyDesigns on Etsy. Every bracelet sold benefits NEDA with $1 of the proceeds being donated directly to the non-profit. Last year 14 bracelets sold in the short time they were available before the world didn't end and 2013 happened. This year my goal is to sell 100 bracelets and make an even bigger difference with your support.

Everybody knows somebody who has been affected.

Everybody can do just one thing. Let's do that one thing together.

 

Duck, Duck, PHOTOSHOP!

Let’s talk numbers, shall we?  

- 42% of girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner

- 51% of 9-10 year old girls feel better about themselves when they’re dieting

- 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies; by the time they’re 17, 78% of them will be

- By the time they’re 17, these girls have seen 250,000 TV commercials telling them they should be a decorative object, sex object or a body size they can never achieve.

- 7 million girls and women under 25 suffer from eating disorders (myNEDA.org)

- 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15-19 years old.  A rise in incidence of anorexia in young women 15-19 in each decade since 1930. Anorexia has the highest rate of mortality of any mental illness. (myNEDA.org)

- 80% of women feel worse about themselves after seeing a beauty ad. $20B is spent on beauty marketing in the US annually. That’s a lot of money being spent making women feel worse about themselves.

- Nearly 25 million people – male and female – are suffering from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder (myNEDA.org)

- 3-12% of teen boys use anabolic steroids in pursuit of a lean, muscular ideal 

 

Sobering, isn’t it? Especially when you stop to consider the fact these statistics have names and favorite colors and BFFs and plans for what they want to be when they grow up. These statistics have mothers and fathers who love them and think they are wonderful and perfect and are proud of the person their child is growing into. And these are the statistics that inspired the creators of the Feel More Better clothing line by Off Our Chests to ask for your help in petitioning Congress to support legislation requiring magazines to carry Truth in Advertising labels.

I’m a statistic. And by default, so is Buttercup. She is, after all,  the daughter of an eating disordered mother. That fact alone puts her at higher risk than that of the general population for developing an eating disorder of her own. I look at her sometimes and hope like hell I’m doing something right.

It can feel like a losing battle, though. Magazines tell us we’re fat and worthless unless and/or until we Lose Four Dress Sizes in Five Minutes and while showing us images of impossibly perfect women made even more impossibly perfect with lighting and angles and Photoshop. Diet plan commercials run regularly during “family friendly” programming. Honey Boo Boo has her own reality show and Barbie isn’t going anyway, no matter what you think of her bullshit proportions.

As much as I’d like to sit every person in the world with the power to hit publish or otherwise broadcast a message meant to show my little girl the path to doubting her confidence and tell them that this shit has to stop now or everyone gets a time out until they’ve learned to treat other people with respect, I know it’s not going to happen.

So I keep the TV limited to Nick Jr. and pre-screen new shows and movies before she sees them. We watch what we say and how we say it and when we say it if she is around because even if we don’t think she is, she is paying attention to what she is hearing and files away what she is seeing. But we can’t block out the world. And frankly, the world kind of sucks.

That doesn’t mean we stop trying, though. And that certainly doesn’t mean that we just sit back and let the media continue to mess with our heads and make out kids self-conscious about rubbing their bellies and smiling after a particularly good meal.

Feel More Better wants the same things and the line’s creators cite their children, a girl and a boy, as their inspiration in asking for your support to “pass federal legislation requiring advertising that’s meaningfully changed the human form through photoshopping or airbrushing to carry “Truth in Advertising” labels. ” No judgement. No moral arguments. Just a simple truth meant to help change the tide.

My favorite line in the Change.Org petition for the Media and Public Health Act? Let’s call a duck a duck and a modified picture a modified picture. All we’re asking is that if you do it – you tell us you did.

It’s an epidemic crisis of self-confidence. Let’s do something about it.

Please take a moment to click here and show your support for the Media and Public Health Act by signing this Change.Org petition. Remember that every statistic has a name. My name is Pauline.

 

This post originally appeared on Girl Body Pride and is being cross-posted here because 1) it's important 2) it's my blog and I can do that, you know and 3) it's important. Please click through, sign the petition, and then show Feel More Better some love and support on their Facebook page. Also? Thank you.

Girl.Body.Pride.

I've got a project in the works. You may have seen mentions on Facebook status updates or in my tweet stream. And maybe you've been wondering exactly where I was going to go with this Girl.Body.Pride thing I've been talking about.

So let me tell you.

Girl.Body.Pride will be a new website devoted to, well, the obvious. We are bombarded daily with messages telling us how we will be happy(er) and fulfilled once we've become thinner/gotten that nose job/had our boobs done/earned that next degree or gotten that next promotion. And while there might be some truth in that, we forget to focus on the fact that who we are right at this very moment is okay too. Even with our cellulite and Barbara Streisand noses and droopy pancake boobies and another day at a job we might not love anymore.

Our children are growing up in the same world that we did. The playground is still filled with cliques and bullies and feelings of inadequacy revolving around their off-brand sneakers because the cool kids are pointing and laughing and birthday party invitations that never show up and name calling and social hierarchy and who didn't make the cheerleading team. And those experiences will follow them and shape who they will eventually become. Some will say it makes them stronger. Some will remember that the only reason they never tried out for high school softball is because they were afraid of drawing attention to their curves in the form-fitting uniforms.

I was talking Girl.Body.Pride with a friend. I want her to write for us and found myself being asked to make it worth her while in the respect that before she commits, I need to define what it is that makes GBP stand out from other sites that carry a very similar message of self-love and self-acceptance. It's a valid point.

So I thought for a minute. And this is what I responded with:

It's that we are broken still but funny. Not sure of ourselves but damned sure we want our daughters and friends and nieces and that kid at Target we saw crying for a Barbie to grow up whole. We are proud of our nose rings but still worried that our family will give us shit about an extra hole in our heads even though we're 36 or 47 and have been married for 15 years so we tell them our husbands gave us permission and suddenly that makes our self-expression acceptable. We encourage our friends to love themselves because they are beautiful but make excuses and keep forgetting to buy a swimsuit of our own. We are here screaming words like pride and confidence and phrases like Inner Beauty and Happy Thoughts from the rooftops and thrilled to know our words make a difference for others, because we were really just trying to convince ourselves.  That's what Girl.Body.Pride is: an exercise in contradictions.

We mean it when we tell our best friends that they are beautiful but we really need to work on believing them when the compliment is returned. We love our curves & accept our hips but won't be caught dead in a bathing suit. We advocate self love while focusing on our own imperfections because things like that really only apply to others and if we continue to write and share and sing happy tunes that are mostly off-key, we may eventually convince ourselves we are worth it too. And if not, at least our kids will look back years from now and think we actually had our shit together.

Girl.Body.Pride will officially launch on Aug. 1. There will be sharing and supporting and forums to share and support some more. There will be stories mothers can relate to about raising their daughters and stories mothers will sit down to read with their daughters. Girl.Body.Pride will even feature a Teen Corner for our daughters with stories by a very talented young writer who is everything now that I am still hoping to become.

And then I remind myself. I am perfect in my imperfections. Just the way I am right now.

I look forward to taking this next stage of my journey with all of you.

Say it with me now: Just the way we are.

Zombies and Dead Dads

 

It's strange how the timing on this one worked out. But the timing could not have been more perfect for me to finally have what has got to be the most bad-ass blog post title ever. Then again, I received pretty high praise from readers on the Love, Assholes, and My Grandpa one, so I guess it's kind of a toss up.

Either way, I've got a zombie to tell you about and a dead father to remember.

There's this poem I wrote years ago. If I remember correctly, it was for a creative writing course in college and the class was silent for just a moment longer than a heartbeat after I finished reading. Zombie is not meant to be a comfortable read or to create images of beauty; rather, it's a very real and very gritty moment that many who have ever suffered from bulimia can (sadly) relate to.

Until very recently, Zombie was in a binder with old papers until I decided to do something more with it. So I transcribed it into a Word Document, hit save, and sent my words off to the editor at Voxx Poetica. My poem appeared on Voxx almost two months ago and I just now realized it had actually been published. Thank you to Voxx for a moment to connect with others who understand and the opportunity to explain the inner-workings of the head of an eating disordered teenager to those who don't.

Because I tend to schedule my blog posts based on the incredibly scientific When I Remember to Do it method, my plan to share my Voxx publication news with you today just now happens to coincide with dead dads, the daughters of all ages who are grieving them, and the woman who is building working to build a community of solace for those who find themselves wondering where to turn. I first met my friend Mary of Mama Mary Show a few years ago at the Phoenix Bloggy Bootcamp conference and got to see her again at Blogher 10 just a few months later. I don't remember how we started talking about it, but we connected when we shared with each other the pain of losing our fathers decades before we had expected to deal with this kind of grief.

Mary's goal was to publish a book and start a new web site on which contributing writers could connect, share, and heal. And I'm honored to be featured as part of the official launch of the Dead Dad's Club.

Every time someone else thinks my words worthy of their space is a day to celebrate. Every day I am brave enough to share again is a day to smile. I survived me. And I'll never delete my my father's phone number from my contact list.

Yesterday's Lessons

Because I remember hiding in the pantry as a child to eat my feelings, I tell my daughter every day how much I love her.

Because my father died when I was 29, I finally understood my mother’s loss of both of her parents at the age of 19.

Because my family broke when we buried my father, I came to appreciate those connections that remain for the precious gifts they truly are.

Because I hated the girl/teenager/woman looking back at me from the other side of the mirror until recently, I tell my daughter she is healthy and strong before I tell her she is beautiful.

Because I grew up knowing I was the reason my parent’s got married, I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 15.

Because every time I thought He’s The One I was wrong, I said “I do” to the right man.

Because I was ashamed of my kinky curls, I silence my first thoughts and simply respond with a “thank you, baby,” every time my daughter tells me my hair is pretty.

Because I was left standing on my front porch waiting for my friends to pick me up for senior homecoming, I learned the importance of holding my head high.

Because I once wanted to die, I am grateful to live.

Because I still have dreams to make a reality, I wake up with a reason to try harder.

Because of yesterday, I have today.

 

***

This post was originally published here on AspiringMama one year ago in response to a writing prompt. The date may have changed, but the message remains the same. I just needed to remind myself.

Weightless

The Husband has been uncharacteristically quiet lately. Not in typical, every day conversation, mind you. He's got plenty to say when Buttercup asks him to pretend he's five of her princess dolls at the same time. And we're managing to keep the texting each other from across the table to the times we are paying someone else to make our dinner, so, you know, the face-to-face thing is still good. And when he's talking on the phone he has this crazy annoying habit of pacing the entire length of the house because, apparently, it's physically impossible to sit still while unconsciously raising the volume of his voice loud enough that we never actually have to tell the neighbors we are going on vacation and need to collect our mail for us.

For those who are acquainted with The Husband, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about when I say that it's kind of unnerving. I said "I Do" with the full understanding that I was becoming Mrs. My God, You Can't Help Being An Asshole, Can You? And by Asshole, I totally mean Honest to a Fault. And that fault is named San Andreas.

The time I spent sixty bucks and half the day at a salon getting my kinky curls straightened into gloriously shiny and straight tresses for a family wedding?

He said: Looks good. Don't do it again. Translation? I love your frizzy curls even if you don't.

My response as I stood on tiptoe to kiss him? You are such an asshole. Translation? You are such an asshole.

Or the time I was pregnant and was crying about the size of my ass  and my freakishly short legs and said something about how I wished the baby would inherit his genes?

He said: Yeah, I do too. Translation: Oh shit. That's totally not what I meant. Except for the freakishly short legs thing. That? I meant.

My response as I tried not to fall down laughing: You are such an asshole. Translation? You are such an asshole.

And the time I was being sewn up by the hottest resident not cast in a television hospital drama because giving birth isn't exactly a fucking picnic and my little baby was snuggled up on my chest?

He said: She really ripped you a new one, didn't she? Translation: It would have been physically impossible for me not to say that out loud.

My response as I glared at him for the first time during the entire birthing process: You are such an...

Oh never mind. We all know where this is going.

The point is, he was born with a broken filter and prides himself on it. It's one of the things I love about him that drives me absolutely insane at the same time. So I guess I was a little surprised when I realized that he has yet to comment on my recent (read: since Christmas) lack of OCD-like strict avoidance of processed foods and that brief love affair I had the with elliptical. At least until I was brainstorming writing ideas out loud and mentioned how I've realized the scale can call me a fatass one time and it blows my entire routine and reason for living out of the water and drives me straight into the nearest source of sugar-laden guilt covered in chocolate. So, I said, what if I avoided the scale? What if I told society (and my own) obsession with The Number to fuck the hell off and instead focused on how eating right and being active is just plain old Good For Me and Makes Me Feel Good? What if I just trusted how I feel instead of what the scale makes me feel?

And then, because I was just thinking out loud and had a billion ideas in my head that were spilling out at the same time, I skipped right on to the next Thing In My Head. He listened. I threw more out and then he listened some more. And when I was finally done Not Thinking Silently, The Husband stopped being quiet.

He told me how I base my entire self-worth on what the scale says and the rising of the very sun depends on it not pissing me off and making me cry. He said that I can go months and months with respectable losses that keep me motivated enough to keep going and then the One Time I weigh myself and the scale politely asks me why I want to know what the average weight of a newborn baby hippo is, I give up instantaneously and then go months and months before deciding to repeat the whole cycle again.

Then, he told me to take the batteries out of the scale.

Why? I asked.

He said: Because even if no one reads whatever it is you turn this into, you need to learn that you are not a number and stop this professional yo-yo bullshit.  Translation: I love you.

My response as I stood on tip toe to kiss him: You are such an asshole. Translation: I love you, too.

And we put the scale away.

Updates, Britney Spears, and the Scissors in the Junk Drawer

It's been about a month since I went all My Life Sucks and Let Me Prove That Crazy Creative People theory, so I figured it was time for an update. Because asterisks make me happy, this one's going down List-Style, y'all.

* If black is the new brown, then anti-depressants are the new happy. And Siri has been a very good girl when it comes to reminding me to pop the happy every morning, especially when I get cocky and think my brain will manufacture visions of unicorns and rainbows without the pills.

*Of course I'm not seeing unicorns and rainbows because of the pills, you dumbass. It's not that kind of drug. I was simply illustrating the point that seeing a unicorn would make me as happy as taking the medication does. Probably happier, if I really stop to think about it.

*Dammit. Now I just want a unicorn.

* But since I'm pretty certain I won't be seeing a real live and in the flesh unicorn anytime soon I'm settling for the pharmaceutical definition of happy. Copay? $5.

*Insurance is a beautiful thing.

*Also? About that Calling You a Dumbass thing? You're welcome. I ignore the people I don't like. I save terms of endearment for the special people in my life.

*Of course that means you. And you...And...wait. No. I'm ignoring you. Everyone else here is cool.

* Humor is a wonderful coping mechanism, isn't it?

* Yes, I'm still a certifiable mess. But these rose-colored glasses are kind of making everything look a bit pretty, so I'm taking things slow in the Getting Back on the Wagon department.

* Forget the counting of calories, the number on the scale, or labeling of Good versus Bad for the foods I am consuming. Instead I'm focusing on how I feel and taking note of an acknowledging the setbacks as well as the steps in the right direction.

* How I feel is also a factor in deciding to take the plunge and make an appointment with a local naturopath because traditional doctors either don't want to listen to me when I tell them the tests stating I'm normal are all lying, or they want to help and just don't know what to do with me. I don't know how to describe it other than telling you that I am certain there are autoimmune issues and possibly serious allergy issues that need to be addressed. Like, yesterday.

* How do I know this? Because one day about six months ago I woke up to find out my Mexifro had decided to give up the cute curly look and instead opt for the Detroit Crack Whore look. I can say this because I'm from Detroit, so that makes me an expert. The soft kinky curls morphed into straight, flyaway pieces of straw and it was breaking off at my neck but the new growth was fine. Which made me realize that...

* That fluke thing that happened to me when Buttercup was a baby that lasted for six months and then suddenly went away and I woke up with normal hair and a smile wasn't a fluke thing. Still, my doctors think I'm crazy. And I think most of them are assholes.

* It's kind of a stalemate.

* Of course, me cutting off all my hair with the scissors in the junk drawer just because I suddenly thought it might be a great idea but mainly because I had so much break off it was either that or a wig might give some credence to the doctors' argument, especially if you focus on the Suddenly Great Idea and Scissors part, but since I don't have paparazzi hanging out in my garbage cans and my name isn't Britney Spears, I'm totally fine with that.

 

A New Day

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A strange thing happened after I hit publish on Friday. I didn't notice it right away, of course. There was no dramatic realization. No being struck by a figurative lightning bolt. It was more like the rising of the sun...

Slow. Steady. And something that, when you stop to think about it, shouldn't really come as a surprise.

Sleep was fitful on Friday night. After finally talking myself into throwing caution to the wind and publishing the inside of my head at midnight before falling asleep, I was lucky to wake up in time to get Buttercup to her morning pre-ballet/tap class. I didn't bother bringing a book to read. She upgraded me, you see. A few weeks ago, when she first started, I was timidly asked to remain downstairs in the waiting room while she danced. I'm embarrassed, Mama. Instead of allowing herself to fully relax and enjoy herself with her fellow dancers, I think she had been too focused on my opinion of her performance.

So I waited. And eventually, she asked me to leave my book at home.

I sat in the dance studio with the other mothers while the dancers sues-sused and tapped their happy little hearts out. We smiled and laughed as our daughters delighted in the movement their bodies allow and reveled in their own conspiratorial giggles. We clapped, as a proper audience should at the end of a worthy performance, when the teacher announced the end of the class. Then we helped our happy girls change out of their dance attire and into their street clothes and made our way across the studio to go on with the rest of our days.

That's when I saw my reflection in the studio mirror. I barely registered what I was looking at....there were too many things to do and think about to concentrate on the size of my ass or what my hips looked like. Buttercup was asking questions and we needed to go to Target and The Husband needed me to pick up a few things at the grocery store before we headed back home and I was trying to remember what they were and...

I met my own eyes in the mirror once more before leaving the studio and that's when I saw myself through the light of the new day and realized I had sat in front of a mirror for an hour and only concentrated on my daughter, her happiness, and how I hope she grows up stronger than me.

The woman looking back at me in the mirror was smiling now. Maybe because she realized feelings weigh so much less when shared with others who understand.

Am I fixed? No. But it's a new day. And that's a start.