Catching in the Rye (in Spanglish)

If The Catcher in the Rye had a sequel based on a Spanglish-speaking Mexican-American homeschooling, allergic to everything, eating-disordered writer mama of one, I’d be a happy girl. Because then, at least, I could just hand people a copy of the book when they ask how I’m doing.

‘Fine?” That’s usually a lie.

“My cat just got ran over, thanks for asking,” could possibly be the truth, but when people ask other people how they are doing, no one really expects an honest answer if honesty means replying with anything other than “fine.” Except  I don’t have a cat. I do have three dogs, though. And a kid. And two websites and an agent and a manuscript sitting in a file because I don’t have a platform big enough to stand on and wonder if I ever will.

This isn’t a Poor Me post. Don’t get your violins out, folks. This is a Truth post; one in which I step out behind the bullshit and tell you that fine is a lie and that I miss my nonexistent cat because I am, in short, a fraud. Not the Push Up Bra and Spanx Coming Off On the Third Date kind of fraud, mind you, but the Holden Caulfield kind in which I find myself standing in the middle of the high school cafeteria, holding my lunch tray, not sure where to sit because I have no idea where I really belong.

I preach body pride and self-acceptance because for some of us, we can't do the work required to care for ourselves if we don't value ourselves. I encourage you to find your inner chingona, redefine your path on your own terms and to celebrate the hell out of her because no one else is going to do it for you. I say thing like Love Yourself As You Are NOW and Our Daughters are Counting on Us to Get (and Keep) Our Shit Together (And I mean them...for you). I want to mean them for me, too, and I figured that if I shouted it long enough and often enough from my soapbox that I’d start to buy my own bullshit, but that hasn’t happened yet.

That, my friends, pisses me off.

I want to connect and inspire and feel validated for what I say and what I do and what I am hoping to become and I see so many others doing exactly that while I sit back and cheer them on, not sure what I’m doing wrong to keep missing the boat or if the boat’s going to bother coming back to the dock again to give me another chance. I want to speak to women on the same journey and let them know it’s okay to be where we are right now as long as we keep trying because that’s what matters. I want to organize inspiring workshops and a regular conference for women to focus on fixing the mess inside of our own heads because our kids aren’t going to believe in their own self worth if they constantly see us tear ourselves down.

It’s the old airplane analogy: No point in passing out from oxygen deprivation while trying to get our kid’s mask on first if the cabin depressurizes. The only way we can truly be effective role models is if we fight every maternal instinct and put ourselves first for fucking once. Once our heads are clearing from the oxygen-deprived fog can we be there to ensure our children are breathing, safe, and secure in the knowledge that Mommy has her shit together. And this Mommy is busy focusing on raising a future self-respecting bitch who (I hope I hope I hope) will never second guess putting her happiness before society's complex.

Maybe, I think, the boat is on to me. The boat knows I’m a fraud and frauds are not allowed on board. Only passengers who are truly at ease in their own skin who don’t look for and rely on approval and validation outside of themselves are allowed on this boat. I’m not there yet. I used to be. I will be again. But right here, right now, I’m a self-destructive mess who’s best bet it is to just let it all hang out because it’s the truth and it needs to be said.

I don’t have The Answers. I’m not standing at the Finish Line waving the Official Flag of Self-Acceptance because I haven’t run my own race yet. What I do have is a burning desire to share the crazy idea that it’s okay to be a fucking mess. It’s okay to have bad days and worse days and throw a party on the good days because they are so very worthy of celebrating. It’s okay to not love yourself (but want to) yet and it’s okay to talk about the bad in public because if we don’t then no one else will and the world will just continue to assume that “Fine” is the only acceptable answer to be given when they ask how we’re doing and that’s really just a giant disservice for those of us who need to know it’s okay to celebrate The Journey because The Destination is just a little too far away right now.

I’m not fine. In fact, I’m a royal fucking mess. My ADHD and anxiety are triggering my seven-year-old’s anxiety into fodder for her therapy appointments which happens to fall under the Mexicans Don’t Talk About That Sort of Thing category because it’s uncomfortable and much easier to sweep under the rug with the rest of our emotional baggage (like  the whispers about how pregnant the bride really was at the last wedding we went to while we collectively pretended to believe she wasn’t because it matters even though it really shouldn’t). It’s why I told The Husband I wanted yellow gold when he asked what kind of ring I would like when he was fishing for engagement ring hints because that’s what my family wore. It took me ten years to admit I hated yellow gold and really wanted platinum because that shit doesn’t work for me anymore, either.

Away with the rug. Let the dirt fly. And when the dust settles, I’ll still be standing here holding my lunch tray because I’m not sure where to sit because no matter where I choose, I feel like everyone else will judge me for my choice even though none of that should matter. But it does.

And I hate that.

I most decidedly do NOT have my shit together. You need to know that. It’s okay to be a royal fucking mess. You need to know that, too.  I miss my imaginary cat and I have very real cellulite and I have a sweet tooth and a closet eating habit. I don't sleep enough and I am never on time unless a deadline and a paycheck is involved (or someone else is driving the bus.) My yoga mat is my zen place and I'm working my way back to being brave enough to step into the raging quiet inside my head (I'm almost there). I make sad things funny and funny things funnier because that’s how I deal.

I'm almost 37 years old and sans The Husband and the child, the words you see and the words you hear could be the same words I wrote when I was seven, 17, and 27.

All of this is today’s truth.

Now tell me…

How are you doing?

Volume, Visibility, and Buses, Oh My!

Not So Fine Print: blah blah blah Sponsored Post blah blah blah Full Disclosure blah blah blah That Thing About Any and All Opinions Being My Own. Moving on...

Ellen_On_Zeusvision1-1024x682

Volume and visibility.

The first refers to how much noise we are capable of generating when combining our own voice with our community to bring notice to a particular message; the second is specific to how many pairs of eyes follow the yellow-brick road to the land of Oz. Enough noise and you re-energize your existing audience and hopefully expand your reach with a few new voices. Enough eyes and you see the difference between a ripple and a wave.

The wave, y'all, is when one of your social media friends texts you excitedly because your links have started showing up in Facebook shares from her IRL friends. The wave is what happens when momentum starts working for you, turning that snowball you've been working on and turning it into a straight-up avalanche. That's when you no longer have to bust your ass and begging your friends to help promote your blog post, new book, new product line, or otherwise fabulously fantastical idea, because the ginourmous  bus that just drove by in the middle of Times Square with your blog/book/or otherwise fantastical idea all over it...

...and now you know what validation feels like.

I'm proud to announce that Zuesvision Public-- the company that prides itself on leveling the advertising playing field for the little guys -- has selected Aspiring Mama to take part in it kickstarter awareness campaign. In exchange for a blog post sharing the Zuesvision message with you, I get two weeks of bus-sized Aspring Mama ads wheeling their way through high traffic areas in both LA and NYC. II'm not an idiot, so I said yes, but I'm also a hard-ass when it comes to being convinced to sponsor up the blog, so I think it goes with0ut saying that any and all words written on behalf of Zuesvision are my own, right?

(This is the part where you come in.)

Here's the thing, y'all...we all know that it takes more than hard work and busting our asses to make an actual go of whatever it is we feel we are called to do. An advertising budget and/or pure dumb luck tend to play a big part in who we are talking about and who's talking about us. Whether it's building a successful nonprofit like my friend Denisse Montalvan with The Orphaned Earring, getting your glitter on with a new product line launch with a major retailer like my girl, Kathy Cano-Murillo, a.k.a. Crafty Chica, or selling the hell out of their book like friends Rick Najera with Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood and Mercedes Yardley with her new release Pretty Little Dead Girls, or if it's big dreams of bringing your bling to the front lines like my friends Jessica Mazone and Lucy Ball, the struggle is the same: We can write the hell out of the blog posts and share the links on our social media channels like the seasoned social veterans that we are, but we only have so much time to devote to being all self-promotional and shhhtuff.

None of it matters if no one bothers to click the links. We are busy and we'd love an intern and imagine the day when we can afford a reliable assistant to keep us (mostly) on track and of course we don't have time to click every link from the very friends we'd support at the drop of a hat if we knew they needed it (without having to click the links, of course). So here goes nothing...

I want Zuesvision to succeed. I want to see their kickstarter campaign bring it all home and cheer when the company announces the addition of more digital billboard buses to their fleet. Why? Because we need Zeusvision just as much as they need us. We raise our chances of success when we join forces and who doesn't think that ginourmous buses inching its way through Times Square with your $99 URL-containing ad aren't a good idea?

Exactly. 

So pay attention, because I'm about to play hardball.

This is the part where I ask you directly to click the link to Zuesvision's kickstarter campaign. 

This is the part where I ask you directly to donate $5, because five bucks gets you a single 30-second ad on a bus. (If all the $5 spots are taken, this is the part where I tell you to team up with friends to pool funds for one of the larger sponsor spots because...)

This is the part where I ask you directly to gift your ad spot to a worthy cause. Go with your gut, but I'd like to suggest donating that ad spot you just bought Denisse Montalvan of The Orphaned Earring. She is doing incredible things and this is so much easier than scaling a mountain and shouting myself hoarse on her behalf.

And this is the part where I say thank you. 

Let's see what we can accomplish together, Internet. I believe in you.

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.

 

NaBloPoMo: The Little Bits

 

So...long time, no blog, huh? I kinda think I need to show ID or something to prove I belong here. As busy as I've been (and still am) I shouldn't be here right now. But that's the way of it, ironically. Sometimes our writing makes us too busy to...you know... write.

I remember when I had the luxury of staying up until 3 am to get that post out that just had to be written. And that year that I churned out the first draft of the manuscript that got me my agent while simultaneously blogging like a crazy woman because writing more, frankly, makes me crazy less. But things change. Priorities shift. I got to do all of that aforementioned writing spree-happiness when I didn't have a job. Now that I do, I tend to stay up until 3 am working on a deadline, getting a few hours of sleep, and then waking up to homeschool my daughter before I sit down to work again. Until 3 a.m.

Hello hamster. Meet Wheel.

This blog used to serve as my scrapbook, of sorts. I never did a baby book (very well, anyway), nor have I written with a pen in a journal since I was in high school and dotted my "i's" with puffy hearts. But I was covered because if Eliana made me smile when eleventeen used to be a number or that time she told me I was beautiful, I took a picture with words and hit publish and then it was saved for always. And you can bet your sweet ass I "captured" the time she yawned out a chipmunk-voiced mother fucker at just 18-months-old because, obviously. But it was more than that. I can't tell you how much this blog has saved me on co-pays for therapy.

Lately though, I've had to skip the little bits that matter so much in favor of the work and responsibility. Don't get me wrong. I love my job. And my editor kicks ass. But I do feel like I'm cheating myself because those missing words are still trapped in my brain. I really don't think I'll have room for more unless I Write Them Out.

So I'm going to do something Slightly Crazy. I just signed up to participate in BlogHer's #NaBloPoMo. I'm a few days late, but I'll just go with some story about me showing up fashionably late for the party.

Here's to the little bits.

Cantando con Orgullo: Singing with Pride

I know....I speak Spanish kind-of-sort-of-fluently and the Spanish word for Pride has always thrown me for a loop. But that's not why I'm here today.

I'm here to sing. Sing badly and with pride.

You see, there's been a lot of flack being thrown at Latinos singing a pretty little song called God Bless America. I wrote about that here in my weekly online Dimelo column on Latina magazine's website. One company, Bebe Lanugo, has decided to make some noise by encouraging American Latinos and their families to join in on their Cantando con Orgullo initiative and I happen to love the idea. I wrote about that one here, too.

Now, it seems I may have missed the boat on submitting my contribution to Bebe Lanugo for inclusion in the final video so I'm going with plan B and embarrassing myself (proudly, thank you very much) right here.

Eliana loved learning the words to God Bless America. And I'll explain to her a little later why being Patriotic with a Tan caused a public uproar to begin with. For now, we focus on being proud to be American because that's all that really matters.

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.

 

Blogher13: The Loner's Conference Guide

When I was a sophomore in high school, I found myself sitting on a hotel bed trying not to cry.

I was in Orlando, Florida with the marching band, and because no one had wanted to room with me, not even the flag girls, I ended up in the extra bed of a room shared by a group of the Popular Girls. One was a cheerleader. Another was a star soccer player. And I was the girl no one wanted in their room only because there happened to be an extra bed.

 

Every year the band raised money to travel to a new location for a performance and that year we were all about Mickey and Epcot and All Things Disney. We had plenty of time to tour the park outside of our performance commitment, and I blissfully attached myself to the room number my roommates shared because that was my only proof that I belonged anywhere.

Until the high school seniors I had leeched onto very kindly sat me down and haltingly explained that we might share a room, but that didn't mean I was their friend.

Even while they said the words and I crumbled inside, I knew they were right. And because I had felt lost, I attached myself to their group without asking if they minded. I'm not mad at them for doing what they did. I'm grateful, actually, because as I found myself wandering BlogHer13 happily alone at times, I thought about the parallels to the insecure 16-year-old who just needed to belong.

A lot has changed. A lot has stayed the same. I might still have bad days, but I'm also arrived in Chicago with only the MultiCulti on my schedule and left proud of myself for going with the flow. I've read posts by friends about their jam-packed schedules and am thrilled they had so much to do and choose from. But I'm thrilled for them.

I was thrilled to have time to take my daughter to the American Girl Store and decided at the last minute that I just had to get to the Voices of the Year where I had the opportunity to tell Dresden Schumaker, one of last year's speakers, that her words still stuck with me and I thanked her for sharing them. Imagine my surprise when she congratulated me on my column and I managed not to blurt out "you know who I am?"

Dresden did. And she made me smile.

Eliana and my mom outside of what has beeb deemed The Best Store in the World.

I wandered the hotel lobby and ran into Elisa All, founder of 30 second mom,  and one of my favorite bosses of all time. I found Deborah Cruz and Jenny Chiu and hugged them both because karma was kind and our paths were meant to cross in a place where hugs and verbal validation were possible. I met a woman working on a documentary about lead poisoning in America and am committed to helping promote her work because it is simply amazing. I inspired a woman to start the blog that made her smile just talking about it and she made sure to find me again and thank me. And then I thanked her for reminding me why I live for the chance hallway/bathroom/elevator meetups.

For me, these stolen moments are the heart of the conference experience. I can plan anything. I'll miss half of it. I always do. But the paths I'm meant to cross and the connections waiting to be made if I'm open to the opportunities as they present themselves? That's why I go.

The only difference between 16-year-old me and 35-year-old-me is that today, I'm perfectly content to wander independently, and that my friends, is fucking empowering.

 

 

Kumbaya, Bonfires, & Fuckability

No one ever said I was subtle. I recently had the honor of participating as a panelist on Gigi Ross' Bonfire Chat on Sex & Body Image with a group of incredible women. My goal is to get every single one in the same place at the same time (I'm talking Girl Body Pride Weekend Retreat, y'all) and sing Kumbaya as we high five each other for how great we all think our own asses are, and see how many times we can use the word "fuckability" in a sentence.

Then?

We each take turns stating the two things we love about ourselves so we all go to bed Feeling Empowered and Entirely in the Realm of Fuckability (see? The word...it flows...) and thank Gigi for bringing us all together in the first place.

Because there's nothing like hearing someone else say the words you've been saying and knowing that Other People Get It and Understand. Relating with and being validated by others is incredibly therapeutic and powerful. This Bonfire Chat might even save me a copay on a therapy visit because I'm flying pretty high right now on the absolute OOMPH rising out of the combined voices of women discussing how our self-perceptions and body image issues affect our sex lives, who gets the blame for making us all think we aren't perfect if we don't fit an unrealistic ideal perpetuated by the media (hint? I'm not pointing the Finger of Blame at the media entirely because Honey Boo Boo isn't watching itself and the world seems to be getting quite the kick out of buying magazines with stories calling Kim Kardashian fat for looking like a normal pregnant woman. Supply and Demand, my friends.)

I heard voices of body confidence, of the eating disordered, and voices echoing my own body image issues. We talked about how to teach our daughters to grow to love themselves and how to teach our sons to love our daughters as they will be and for the person they will become. And then we reminded ourselves that we are beautiful, strong, and fuckable only if we choose to believe we are. If we don't, our husbands and partners feel rejected, the lights stay off when we do have sex, and we miss out on the orgasms that are supposed to get better with age.

That's selling ourselves short, ladies.

I'm not saying I have all the answers, fixed the mess inside of my head, or that I don't have bad days (weeks and sometimes months) where I'm too busy concentrating on hating my body to feel sexy (because I don't, I do, and shit happens). What I am saying is that when it comes to body image in general, we all need to try to be a little nicer to the naked lady in the mirror in order and love ourselves just the way we are right here and now.

If you'd like to see the Sex & Body Image Bonfire Chat in its entirety, have at it. Either way, I want you to choose two things you love about you.

Me?

No matter what kind of day I'm having, I love my eyes and think my lips are dead sexy.

Now, let's relate and sing Kumbaya.

 

Housekeeping! (A List in Accented English)

* Yes, I did in fact say that in my head with an exaggerated Spanish-accented English voice. * Because I can.

* If you don't laugh, you're actually hurting my feelings.

* Things are insane.

* Hence, the list.

* Turns out you guys are all Made of Awesome.

* Why, you ask?

* Because 418 of you signed my Change.org petition to get Disney to drop the sex kitten crap with Merida.

* It's too late.

* Maybe.

* She's been crowned & the new image is available on a variety of Crap We'll Buy Our Kids Because We're Giant Suckers.

* And because even if she's been sexed up, the movie is still amazing.

* Oh right.

* Because if we tell our children it's the message that matters and not the size of her waistline, we done good.

* We have no choice, really, since Disney contradicted the very message behind Brave with this whole debacle.

* You know, the one about family, independence, and finding the strength to find out own fates within us?

* Yeah, that one.

* The happy asides?

* A Mighty Girl has a petition with over 18,000 signatures.

* Brave's director is a bit pissed off about the animated plastic surgery job, too.

* So high five on that, y'all.

* New subject.

* Keep up with me, will you?

* I've got an updated version of my Mind Over Medicine review on Girl Body Pride.

* You'll want to stop by.

* Gigi Ross from Kludgey Mom needs some love.

* And Lissa Rankin has written a book I promise you'll want to read.

* Trust me on this one.

* Also? I've got a winner for the Aspiring Mama giveaway of Mind Over Medicine.

* Tanessa Knoll? Buttercup just said Comment Number Two is my winner.

* So ... you're welcome.

* Email me your address, will ya?

* Twitter works, too.

* New subject.

* Yes.

* AGAIN.

* Buttercup is about to follow in Mama's footsteps.

* Little girl has been granted permission by The Mama (me) & The Daddy (The Husband) for a pretty cool gig.

* Girlfriend is going to be a regular contributor to Holly Fulger's Speaking of Beauty blogging team.

* Which also happens to include me.

* I know, right?

* The girl can read at a fourth grade level but has the typing skills of a 5-year-old.

* Probably because she is five.

* So I can't knock her for that.

* Instead, I'll be transcribing my baby's words and views on what beauty means to her.

* I promise not to edit what she says.

* I hope like hell I've done right by her and taught her that beauty is everywhere.

* That the only size that matters when it comes to beauty is the size of our hearts.

* And that society is full of assholes who will try & knock her down a peg or two but that they don't matter.

* I'll know I've succeeded in about 10 years.

* If the child is self-assured enough to wear this when she's 15 because it makes her happy without giving a damn what you think?

 

* I win at motherhood.

* Whiplash warning.

* New subject.

* I really need to take my Xanax.

* That wasn't the subject change.

* Just proof that I need the fucking Xanax.

* This is the subject change...

* Dammit.

* I forgot.

* No, wait.

* GOT IT!

* Girl Body Pride has new team members!

* Congrats to Heidi Zalamar and Margaret Elysia Garcia.

* You guys kick major ass.

* I promise to add your bios to the writer page sometime before 2014 hits.

* Was that all?

* No, seriously.

* I was asking you if I needed to cover anything else before I chase that Xanax with an instant espresso.

* Shut up.

* It works for me.

* Last subject.

* I'm still sitting in a secret.

* And it's a Big One.

* Oh...

* And The Husband just warned me to be on the lookout for the family of moose in the area when I let the dogs out.

* Drops Mic & Saunters Offstage.

 

If Neil Kramer Were a Woman...

I love Neil Kramer. It's Facebook updates like these (along with his brilliant iPhone pics on his instagram feed) that just make me want to high five him for cutting through the bullshit and just saying or showing us what is.

In this case, it's a brilliant case of Funny Because It's True. In fact, it's so funny, my sides are getting stitches from laughing, which makes this also fall into The Truth Hurts category.

Let's look at a few examples in my feed from today alone:

 

I love A Beautiful Mess. They speak to the body/self-acceptance crowd working to embrace their crazy and imperfections. It's the same message, but usually with more swear words, I try to share on Girl Body Pride.

 

Mighty girls.

Attitude is everything.

Enough said.

 

Now we're getting somewhere. I can hear my Complex bitching, so we must be close.

 

Dr. Oz. made me cry again. Well, it was him or the companies using his image (with or without his permission) to sell the idea that FASTER, THINNER, BETTER, BEST is and always will be the only way to find happiness within. And there we are. The punchline. Love yourself and tell your children to do the same, but just make sure you work on that belly fat before having the audacity to believe you are anything other than perfectly beautiful and worthy of your own love and efforts just the way you are.

Neil? Yes. Facebook fucks with me. So does going grocery shopping, the headlines on the glossies while checking out with my kale and coconut milk because I'm allergic to almost every food on the planet, and my own brain when pity parties involving food that tastes good but makes me feel horrible sound like a brilliant idea.

How do I handle it? By hitting "Publish."

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.

Exercise & the Eating Disordered Mind

 

I just had a 20 minute argument with The Husband about his need to be excited about EXERCISE and GOING PALEO because he just read A BOOK and now he sees the proverbial light. He wants EXERCISE and is full of suggestions for what I NEED TO DO and and it's all in the book (which I have promised to read) and LET'S GO, TEAM!!!

It's probably a good time to point out that I can't eat anything that isn't Paleo anyway and am allergic to most of the Paleo diet. I read the things he is reading now last year and saw the light with regard to how my own body responds to sugars and carbs and grains (not realizing allergic issues played a serious role, also) and then got pissed off when the doctors told me I can't eat eggs because there went most of my meal plan. In any case, I am happy he's now understanding things I have been saying for so long but I'm also not able to explain to Captain Cheerleader that I don't respond well to the RAH RAH RAH when I'm just keeping my head above water. Here's the problem: I am eating disordered.

My Body Image issues are fucked on a level I can't even understand, and I carry an epi pen for the very food allergies which I ignore when my brain is in self sabotage mode. I need to be active without thinking it's EXERCISE because if it's EXERCISE my mind will shut down and I will swan dive into a pint of Ben & Jerry's.

Ice skating is the perfect example of something I can do without feeling like I'm doing anything at all. Just to get an idea, I did plug in my current estimated weight (I don't know the actual number because it's a trigger for me) and figured out that an hour of recreational skating was more than enough to feel good about. I just started and love it. My legs hate me when I'm done, but I can do it and I go back for more. Yoga is the next step back to normal. Once I am one with my Ohm I can breathe in some serenity and move on to Zumba or something else I know I enjoy and can stick to and that isn't just EXERCISE! I love this man, but how do I explain to someone who has no concept of an eating disordered mind trying to claw it's way back to normal that there is absolutely NO FUCKING WAY I am lunging from the kitchen to the living room because it's simple and easy to do because it's not just going to be something I'll stick to. I'd pay lip service. I'd go for the "college try."

And I'd put on a pretty decent show before falling flat on my ass, figuratively speaking, because I'm not going to stick to lunging from one room in my house to another because I didn't want to do it in the first place. It's just an open invite for the next pity party to start before the celebration even got a chance to kick off.

It's gotta be one step at a time. My therapist nodded today when I explained to her how if I focus on anything 0ther than how I feel, I'm back at square one and square one tastes like brownies. She's only been seeing me a short time, but she at least pretended to understand with a thoughtful nod and well-timed chuckle. The Husband, however, is at a loss for what to do.

He is excited because he wants to support me. He is excited because he loves me. He is excited because EXERCISE isn't a bad word to him. He's I love him. I love his support. And I understand his concern. I also want to strangle him whenever he gets all Pollyanna on me and starts chirping about EXERCISE and then gets all annoyed when I glare at him for being an asshole.

Okay. No. I get it. He's not being an asshole. He's trying to help me.

But sometimes his idea of help is getting all I CAN FIX THIS and YOU JUST NEED TO STOP THINKING THE WAY YOU DO because he is the kind of person who has the mental strength to make things happen just by thinking them. I love that about him. I also hate that 1) My mind doesn't work like that and 2) I wish it did.

But then, if I saw things the way he did, I wouldn't be referring to myself as a life-long recovering bulimic, would I? And if he did get it, that would mean he saw the word EXERCISE the way I did, for the same reasons I did, and we'd both be a raging mess.

I'm pretty sure he is right and I argued illogical things because that kind of goes par with the course. But the fact remains that I know myself. And right now, it's one step at a time. If I jump into the deep end before I've even gathered the strength to tread water for a sustained period of time, I'm just going to end up letting myself sink. And I don't intend to let that happen anytime soon. So we argue. About the inside of my head. Because I can't explain. Because he loves me. Because I feel like an asshole for not being as excited as he is about EXERCISE because the word leads me down a worm hole of calories burned and weight lost and BMI and self worth and you're a fat ass and here's a brownie and Ben & Jerry's is NOT a single serving food and then I find myself hitting bottom again, wondering how the hell I got there and cursing yo-yos.

And there's that epi pen in my purse to think about. I just fixed my head again. I'm working on the rest of me. I just need time to move out of this fog and into the place where EXERCISE isn't a bad word. I'm not there yet. And it makes him mad because he only sees the woman he married fighting his support and concern. It makes me mad that I can't explain it without turning into a five year old with my arms crossed yelling I DON'T WANNA! But that's where I'm at and that's where it is and he loves me and we argue. And he thinks I'm blocking him and I explain that no, I'm actually not because blocking would be nodding my head like I'm okay with everything he is saying and all for it and then dipping into the Hershey candy bar stash we have in the pantry for his work lunches after he's gone to bed. Me arguing? Me bristling in front of him and telling him to shut up and just listen and let me grab my ice skates and head for the rink for open skate time? Me telling him that I'm not lunging in the house just for the sake of lunging in the house because lean muscle mass matters? Me rolling my eyes and calling him an asshole for not understanding?

People? That's progress. That's communication. That's me not bullshitting and then closet-eating with the chocolate I'm allergic to. Because my body doesn't function well with sugar. Because I am allergic to the world. Because I function best on a strict paelo diet not because it's a diet but because that's how my body needs to be be nourished.

Because I am eating disordered. And because I'm trying to focus on loving myself just the way I am and then starting over every time the sun rises.

So he goes to bed. Not understanding.

And for that, I am grateful because that means he's still going to push and I'll continue to push back.

Every time he pushes, I'll push back.

And become stronger for it.

 

In Which We Say to Hell with Resolutions

 

 

I don't do resolutions. Not usually, anyway. In my mind, resolution has always been a fancy way of saying "This Explains Aqua Net and The Bangs Wave in Middle School." Yes, a New Year is upon us, but most of us won't notice since check writing went by the wayside when smartphones and banks started going steady and writing the wrong year in the date line isn't a thing anymore.

What we will notice is the sudden influx of newspaper articles and magazine covers telling us How to Lose Those Holiday Pounds and New Year? New You! articles and blog posts that are meant to inspire us into losing the weight we put on between Thanksgiving and Today because we humans like to celebrate with food made up of easily applied labels for convenient headline writing like the Rich Fudge Brownie that morphs into Bad Brownie, BAD and Other Mantras To Repeat While Sweating Our Asses off in Spin Class.

Or Mom's Lasagna becomes Motivation for Sticking to Your Resolutions.

And you look in the mirror and hate what you see and promise to love what you will become and all of it feels right and okay and you don't even think twice about talking about your fat ass and muffin top in front of your children because of the Aqua Net and Bangs Wave in Middle School. Thing is, many of us won't stick to whatever promise we paid lip service to. I'm not judging. I'm not pointing fingers. Remember, I don't do resolutions because I'm the one relating with you, right? Exactly. I'm merely pointing out that you will have long given up on trying to look like everyone else at the exact same time so you can cross that finish line together and high five and then start all over when the Halloween candy hits the shelves in August because that's the cycle so many of us fall into.

Well, screw that.

No. No.

Fuck that.

This year, I'm trowing away the hairspray. I'm kicking my foot through the mirror. I'm dropping my scale in the trash. And I'm giving the middle finger to every media reference to Why I Am Not Good Enough Until because I.Am.Good.Enough.NOW, dammit.

I'm not making resolutions. Instead, I'm making Declarations that do not include an expiration date. I am stating Intentions for Inner Peace and standing on my soap box and speaking my Truth because resolutions are made to be broken and I'm broken enough already. I'd rather work on putting myself back together on my own terms and in my own way.

So here's my List Declarations of Intention and Truth for 2013 and the rest of my life. Let's sit down, read up, and then and sing Kumbaya in rounds while we tell each other how beautiful our spirits are because it's all about being there for each other, y'all.

 

List of Declarations of Intention and Truth for 2013

* Before I start making resolutions to "better" myself, I will change my focus and make one to accept, love, & cherish myself as I am.

* I shall forgo any and all post holiday diets and shirk any health goals directly related to how "bad" I was over the holidays because food only carries the connotations, which we seem to willingly give.

* I shall refocus my health intentions, should I have any in mind, to be centered directly on how I feel physically and emotionally because I treat my body right when I feel good about myself. End.of.Story.

* I will ignore the media and its incessant people watching, paparazzi obsessed culture, which only serves to spread the false and unattainable ideals of perfection, thereby putting undo pressure on women of all ages to conform to a singular idea of how we should look and for which our musculature may not even fit. Unless I'm blogging, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google +, or in line at the grocery store to buy milk and I see a headline that pisses me off. Then? It' s on, bitches.

* I shall refrain from using phrases like "I hate my ass" and "Wow, that's a lot of fucking cellulite" when I happen to catch naked glimpses of myself in the mirror, especially when the five-year-old is anywhere withing hearing distance. What I say about myself is just as important as what she think about herself because what she hears shapes what she will think and she's listening whether I know it or not.

* I will and shall reread the previous Declaration again. Because it's that important. From my nose to my toes, I will lie through my teeth if necessary and convince the Littles in my life that Mommy thinks she's gorgeous just the way she is now. Pretty cool, right? Cuz Molly's mom down the street has serious self-esteem issues and hates her ankles. I think Molly is starting to develop a complex because if Mommy hates her ankles then something must be wrong with Molly's. See? Now I'll read it again. My words + her interpretation = Mama Thinks She's Beautiful Just The Way She Is.

* I shall Do (and Believe) as I Say and Do as I Intend to Do. Translation? If I say to you, my readers, that you are beautiful and wonderful and perfect as you are, I will believe the same of myself because one day mind will win over matter. If I say to you, readers, that no matter how today panned out, tomorrow is the Universe's way of giving you a chance to try again when the sun rises? I'm on that train, too.

* I will address The Mess inside of my head and face it head on, feet planted firmly in the ground and hands on my hips. I'll probably even raise an eyebrow for good measure. The Mess might suck. Dealing with it may not be pretty. But the only way around is through. And through it I will go. I'll see you on the other side. That being said, let's move on to the next item because they're totally related.

* Fuck the gym membership. I'm signing up for therapy instead. Why? Because when training a puppy, positive reinforcement is key to success. The dog has to want to learn and believe in itself and it's master's love or ain't nobody learning to roll over and play dead no matter how many Scoobie snacks being tossed its way. Translate that analogy to taking care of me and that means that unless I become my own master and love myself and believe I am worth it now, I'm most likely going to give up before I start because I won't believe myself worthy of the work involved to get to My Version of Healthy later.

* I shall try to do more yoga, start meditating for ten minutes a day, and eat the right foods for my body not because everyone headline says it's time to do so, but because these things are good for me always and make me feel better always.

* I will not beat myself up for missing a yoga session or a yoga week or even if I roll the mat back up and leave it in the closet for a few months. I will celebrate all of the good in my life instead and celebrate more when I find myself in Warrior Pose one day because I missed the feeling.

* I will stop doubting my worth, start believing in the value of my words and the message I share, and make things happen because fairy tales only have happy endings because the princess opened her eyes and walked into her happily ever after fully believing that she deserved it.

* I shall embrace the positive, accept the crazy, and deal with the bullshit as it comes because I believe I am strong enough, smart enough, and perfectly capable of doing so. Just The Way We Are. Right? Right. Rinse. Lather. And Repeat.

 

And there you have it, my friends. Words I can commit to. Intentions I will see myself through in the year to come and the one after that, too.

Who's riding shotgun? We're going for a ride.

***

I have also recorded a reading of this post as a vlog, which you can see here on Girl Body Pride. Happy New Year, my friends. I think 13 is going to be lucky.

Today's List

 

To do:

* scare away Internet with emotional brain dump: check

* finish my edits on Strong like Butterfly ebook for Girl Body Pride: check

* take a nap: check

* wake up just in time to realize the child will not be going to bed anytime before midnight: check

* sniff my child's armpits to see if I can skip her bath...again : check

* teach my child how to use deodorant: check

* begin to fill out Listen To Your Mother application: check

* doubt myself because it's what I do: check

* continue to fill out LTYM application anyway: check

* realize child and her stinky pits need a bath: check

* bath, book, bed, blog: check

* read more words by Ariel Gore because she is my word Goddess: check

* decide that I've been a self-righteous ass this whole time waiting for my life to be validated by someone else: check

* reaffirm my convictions to become a famous writer before I'm dead: check

* even if it is on my own fucking terms: check

* look over list of contributors for Strong Like Butterfly again while heart flutters: check

* look over state of my newly-moved-in-home (unpacked boxes stacked as far as the eye can see): check

* shrug, figure it can all wait until tomorrow, go back to writing: check

* ponder branding and monikers and real names and what it is that I have to offer the world: check

* still pondering...

 

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.

Beauty Beyond the Mirror

These moms are proud of their soft curves. Of the changes pregnancy brought to their bodies. And of themselves, for being so confident and secure that what the rest of the world thinks new moms should be back in their pre-pregnancy jeans before the little one figures out how to crawl. Their Goddess Gathering post went viral. And I love that it did. I needed to see that. Even with my One and Only just into her second week of kindergarten and no signs that my ovaries want to unscramble themselves long enough to bake another baby and my newly diagnosed food allergies leading to a a healthier me, I still needed to see that my post-baby body is okay.

And I thank the women of the CT Working Moms blog for that message.

With the launch of Girl Body Pride on the horizon, I was inspired to ask my team of writers if they were interested in doing our own spin of the Goddess Gathering on GBP. My idea had been to open the floor to all women, not just moms, to submit photos of themselves in a show of body love and acceptance. But (and this is why I'm lucky to have these women working with me) my idea was quickly turned into a very thoughtful discussion.

Elan "Schmutzie" Morgan had this to say:

I just think that this kind of thing confuses beauty with acceptance, which are two different things, and I think it's dangerous to artificially marry the two, even by accident, because if a viewer doesn't see the beauty in a particular photo, they might feel that this is a short-coming on their part rather than a visual preference, which is a bad message. We can dislike the visual appearance of things while still accepting them, but these kinds of campaigns often don't allow for this kind of really important nuance in thinking.

Okay, I can see that. It took me five years, after all, to get to a place to this place of Almost Acceptance inside of my head. And GBP contributor Jodi Steadman Burrus thought it was a valid point, too. So she asked us all a very simple question:

 

Why does it have to be something we see in the mirror?

 

Why, indeed.

And that's how Beauty Beyond the Mirror was born. Because when it comes right down it it, what is reflected back to us in the mirror and what we see when we look at photos of ourselves is more about how we perceive ourselves, mirror or no mirror, than anything society throws at us.

Girl Body Pride officially launches on August 1. That's this Wednesday. To celebrate our launch and welcome you into the GBP community, I ask you to write a blog post linking to Girl Body Pride sharing your own thoughts on Beauty Beyond the Mirror. It's a hard question to answer, I know. I've been mulling this one over for a few days and I keep falling to "well, I think my personality doesn't suck" and "my eyes are pretty nice." The first is a cop-out for me. The second, in my mind, doesn't work because how would I know if my eyes are pretty without seeing them reflected back at me in some form.

That leaves me with the ADHD/Right-Brained/Creative type answer which is this: What is beautiful about me is the fact that I'm 34 and still struggle to determine what it is that is beautiful on some days and am in love with my eyes or my lips or have an extra swing in my hips when I am feeling particularly good. I am sarcastic. My sense of humor is not always PC and I like to use bad words. I love social media because it allows me to connect with so many but cannot stand being social when not on my own terms because face-to-face leaves little room for the opportunity to withdraw into myself as I feel the need without looking like a total bitch. I am introverted-extroverted-outgoing-life-of-the-party who is happiest inside of my own headI trip over my words when spoken but can express myself clearly when my thoughts are able to skip across a keyboard without feeling the need to self sensor what it is that I say. My beauty is in the complexity no mirror can capture as I learn to balance the need to share my words with the world and my fear that the words I share will turn those that know me away.

That is my truth.

What's yours?

 

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.

Life and Other Important Things

This would be the BEFORE picture I got high just one time while in college and that was only after I called The Pre-Husband to make sure he wouldn't hate me in the morning for satisfying my curiosity. He laughed at me and told me I was adorable for asking permission to smoke pot and I was all I'm not asking for permission you chauvinistic asshole. I make my own decisions. I just wanted to make sure you happened to be okay with this one. Totally not the same thing. That's when The Pre-Husband laughed again because, he said, what I just said was pretty much the very definition of asking for permission and that he thought it was sweet I was so concerned about what he thought of me and my partaking of illegal substances.

You still didn't answer my question, I said.

Go ahead, he told me. Just don't drive anywhere.

After he hung up and before I took my first hit, I admit that the thought of calling my mother and running this whole me and this joint thing by her before I fully committed to that evening's activities. And then maybe my best friend. That's right about the time I realized that concern over What Other People Think accounts for entirely too much of the time I devote to contemplating life and Other Important Things (like what I was going to wear tomorrow), and I inhaled. Depending on what your definition of is actually is, anyway.

The moral of this story, kids, is that while Drugs Are Bad Bad Bad and I am Not Condoning or Promoting Illegal Behaviors Because That Would Just Be Irresponsible, I am condoning and promoting freeing ourselves from putting too much stock in Other People's Opinions because that whole thought process just takes too much work.

Take, for instance, a recent instant message from BFF Mel.

Want to get our noses pierced when you come to visit?

HELL YES my instant response. We've been going back and forth on the idea of a teeny little stud for about five years now but have never even gone as far as pricing the procedure or looking up where to go to get it done. Excuses have always been easy to come by and with her work schedule and my constant over-thinking about the riot act my aunts would read me for putting another hole in my head, it only made sense to go for it during our trip back to Detroit. She had a day off and I had finally reached the point of not really giving a shit who might get pissy if I decided to have some fun. So the timing was right.

We landed in Detroit last Tuesday and met up with BFF Mel and her husband, Bob on Friday. After BFF Mel scared herself shitless by looking up YouTube videos on nasal piercings, Bob and The Husband took the initiative, started the car, and dropped us of at Eternal Tattoos. We had an appointment with a woman named Sam.

 

BFF Mel has to go first or she's going to back out because she's an idiot and YouTube is evil. That's what I said first and then maybe I introduced myself.

Sam nodded. Bff Mel giggled because she does that a lot. And I took pictures while Sam talked BFF Mel out of the clear crystal stud she had come in for and into a light purple that Sam was sure would look fabulous on her. And then it was done and BFF Mel looked fabulous and Sam breathlessly awaited her client's reaction and BFF Mel scrunched up her nose and looked into the mirror and said I dunno...what do you think? It looks bigger and more noticeable than I had imagined.

 

You look incredible I said. And that purple is perfect I said. And now it's my turn so move so I can sit down I said.

Sam nodded. BFF Mel giggled because she does that a lot. And then she took pictures while Sam talked me out of the clear crystal stud I had come in for and into a pretty blue that Sam was sure would look fabulous on me. And then it was done and BFF Mel said I looked fabulous and Sam breathlessly awaited my response and I scrunched up my nose and looked into the mirror and said I dunno...what do you think?It looks bigger and more noticeable than I had imagined. But yours looks perfect I told BFF Mel.

I think yours looks perfect, she told me. I'm just not so sure about mine.

So I showed her the photos I had taken and pointed out that what she was looking at now was what other people would see.

That looks good, she said, a smile lighting up her whole face. Here, lo0k at these of you.

So I looked and I saw what other people would see when they saw me and that was enough because I only needed to see myself through Other People's Eyes for just a moment to realize I look beautiful when I don't give a shit what other people think.

Yeah, I said smiling. That does look good. And we left with our aftercare sheets, giggling and feeling very badass, indeed.

 

Hyphenated Flower Girl

We are seated at table number 26. My sisters, our husbands, and my mother because she stopped belonging when my father died. Jarritos with Thank You for Sharing Our Day line the table at the entrance to the Grand Ballroom. Buttercup is fidgety after patiently waiting through the hour-long cocktail hour none of us were expecting. But then again, so are many of my adult family members. Formal cocktail hours aren't exactly the norm at a typical wedding. I'm figuring it's the Irish payback to the Mexicans for the four hours we all spent at the church without central air.

 

Mexican weddings are steeped in tradition with prayer and blessings and music sung by Mariachis, but they take forfuckingever.

 

 

Dinner is served immediately following the toasts and before the bride and groom share their first dance. One sister raises her voice over the music to tell another sister that there is a woman here with an ass bigger than her own and my mother asks me if I saw the woman in too many colors, a too short dress, and so much hairspray that she has somehow managed to stand out in the crowd of Mexican women. I pretend to ignore both of them because Buttercup is sitting next to me. I can only hope the woman with the big ass is seated on the other side of the room. I focus my attention on the DJ who is announcing the father/daughter dance in English so heavily accented that no one can understand him until he repeats himself in Spanish. Buttercup only hears the words father and daughter and tugs on Daddy's hand. He shushes her gently.

 

 

It's time for Tia because it's her wedding, baby, he tells her. I'll dance with you soon.

The banda music calls half the guests to the dance floor. The other half waits for the DJ to start playing music that doesn't sound like the Spanish -equivalent of the same polka song stuck on repeat. Buttercup is one of the first people on the dance floor and twirls until her little body tires, only taking breaks when she needs to rehydrate with ice-cold water.

She's beautiful, Pauline. Aye, que linda. Aren't you going to have more?

Relatives and family acquaintances I haven't seen since the last family wedding reach out to stroke Buttercup's cheek as she ducks and tries to hide herself behind my body.

She's not used to this, I explain. And we had help to have her, so...

Heads nod in understanding. I am only slightly annoyed that I had to justify the fact that The Husband and I don't have at least three more of our own running around the reception hall.

Buttercup escapes to the dance floor once again. This time she takes me and three of my four sisters with her. We move with the crowd, sometimes inadvertently brushing elbows with strangers, other times bumping into relatives removed from the Christmas card list for reasons no one discusses because everyone is there for the bride and groom. Rehashing family drama is not on the agenda. I wonder briefly at the fun we are having in spite of the tension I had expected to feel while I move to the music with my daughter and laugh with my sisters. I smile to myself when I realize that I feel just as much as part of the family as I did growing up. Granted, that feeling of belonging may have been overshadowed by insecurity stemming from too much emphasis on the hyphenated part of my identity, but there's comfort in the fact that not much else has changed.

Mama, I'm tired.

Buttercup weaves her way back to table number 26. She asks to go back to the hotel room and The Husband and I quickly grab our belongings, kiss the relatives we still call family, making our way out of the Grand Ballroom. I take a Jarrito from the table on the way out.

Daddy...

Arms outstretched. He reaches down and lifts her into the air, settling her head on his shoulder.

She tells us she had fun and loved dancing and is so happy she got to dress like a princess for Padrino David's wedding when we reach the quiet of our room. Then she places her index fingers and thumbs together, showing me the heart she has formed with her fingers.

This, she tells me, is their love. Take a picture of their love, Mama.

So I do.

Time for bed, baby.

I turn off the light and she snuggles against me in the bed. This is where she will always belong.

Cracks in the Surface

My usual nighttime routine is to get Buttercup in bed with a book or ten before turning off the light. No matter how quickly she falls asleep, I always stay for a bit, tracing my finger over her cheek and marveling at the fact that Universe granted me this one wish.

Around 9, I make it back downstairs to the kitchen table, where my Mac is waiting patiently for me, and I get to work. First I procrastinate. There's the internet to roam and email to check and pins to pin and George Takei Facebook posts to like. I get up for a bit, put together The Husband's lunch for the next day, and place it all on the second shelf of the fridge in the exact same spot because it's at eye level and easier for me to make sure I haven't left anything out. I might let the dogs outside. I might even turn on some music. Either way, by 10 or so, I'm back at the kitchen table and writing something. Maybe it's a blog post or an essay or another small piece of the novel in progress that won't allow itself to be written any faster than a few sentences a month.

In any case, I write. And when my head is empty and my thoughts no longer racing, I sleep. And then I wake up to do it all over again.

But there are times when the routine is interrupted by noise. It might be while she is falling asleep at my side. Or while I wait for the dogs to scratch at the back door. This is when I blink to clear my head and realize an hour has passed while I focus on picking at an invisible imperfection until skin breaks. I tell myself to stop. Normal people don't do this kind of thing, you know. And I'll move on. Chin to that little bump between my eyebrows. From the eyebrows to the forearm. The forearm to the breast. Too much time passes. There's no time for words.

Buttercup's swim instructor asked me today if I had been in a car accident since she saw me last. I told her I was dealing with allergic reactions, which is partially true. I am. It's what got me scratching to begin with, anyway, and I'll share the laundry list of reasons why I am now officially The Dinner Guest from Hell later. The Husband has stopped yelling at me about this little OCD issue of mine and instead instructed me to make an appointment with my nurse practitioner about my ADHD meds not working for me anymore. I nodded, only slightly surprised to see how quickly we have both adapted to the reality that ADHD is more than just being forgetful, which came as a surprise when I noticed the need to scratch at my surface had instantly disappeared when I first was diagnosed and began a regular medication schedule. So I went in to see my nurse practitioner on Monday and started the new meds on Tuesday. It's Wednesday now and I'm noticing the insomnia seems to be fading as my eyes get heavier just a bit earlier than the 4 am I have become accustomed to over the past few weeks. That's a good sign.

I resume my usual nighttime routine. Buttercup falls asleep. I procrastinate. I empty my mind of the words.