Monday, October 3, 2016

The trap of the healthy fat chick

When a plus size woman dares to love herself unapologetically on social media, a few things often happen.  One, lots of people are happy.  Yay! Because if we can love ourselves, maybe they can too.  Or because they already do and are happy that someone else does too.  Or because their plus size sexual partner is beautiful to them and they want her to see the beauty they see.  Or a million other personal reasons.  Yay for happiness and body love. 

Two, some people are dicks.  How dare this woman feel good about herself when she is aesthetically disgusting to them?  So they compare her to animals, threaten physical violence, or otherwise behave like the worst kind of human, because for some reason or other, her self love is threatening to them.  Or they’re bored or something.

So that’s kind of the best and the worst.  But there’s a third thing.  A sneaky thing. 

The concern troll.

“I’m so glad you feel good about yourself, but that size can’t be healthy.” “Promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.” “Glorifying obesity.”

Thankfully, I have been largely spared the aggressive and violent comments online, but I’ve been concern trolled aplenty.

And I haven’t been responding to that properly.

I have used language in my body love blog posts reassuring the trolls in advance that my fat body is healthy.  I have pointed out that I exercise and eat well.  I’m healthy, y’all. Fat and healthy.  Dont worry,  I'm one of the good fatties.  No need for your concern trolling here…

Except.  What a bunch of insidious ableist bullshit that was. 

I love my body and I’m worthy of love and I’m beautiful.  Full fucking stop.  Period.  Healthy or not.  Exercising or not.  Eating kale chips or potato chips. Diabetic or not.  In shape or not.  This is my body and I love it and I’m allowed to love it and celebrate it!  I’m allowed to take up the space I take up.  My health is between me, my doctor, and the people who love me.  No one else.

The trap of allowing and responding to the concern troll is that it says that I am only worthy of loving myself if certain conditions are met.  What a load of crap. 

Some things have happened recently that forced me to look at just how much I have allowed the concern trolls’ voices inside my head.

For the first time in my life, at age 42, I have a medical condition that could be partly due to my weight.

It also might not be.

I have hypertension.  I’m managing it with my doctor in the ways that we have decided together, and my health is fine.  But when it happened, when those numbers crept up, and I could no longer explain them away as “white coat hypertension,” I found myself on unstable ground. 

Shit, I thought.  They were right.  It was just a matter of time until my “unhealthy,” “obesity glorifying” lifestyle caught up with me. 

I felt ashamed because of some numbers on a blood pressure machine. 

Together, my doctor and I decided that before medicating, we would try weight loss, increased exercise, and reducing salt intake.  For months, I obsessively tracked every morsel of food to go in my mouth.  I exercised.  I reduced salt.  I lost ten pounds.  My blood pressure continued to increase.

I broke the Pam.
During that time, I had a nasty fall.  I slipped on some mud while walking in the woods with my kids, sprained a ligament in my knee and tore a ligament in my ankle. I hopped around on crutches, scooted around the house on a rolling office chair, leaned heavily on my husband for help, and eventually got to the point where I could walk with a limp.

I couldn’t stand or walk for long, and couldn’t do stairs.  Grocery shopping was enough to make my leg ache badly for hours.  I considered using one of those motorized shopping cart scooter thingies at the grocery store. 

But, I couldn’t ride one of those.  People would think I was just fat and lazy.  Every time I sat down when others were standing, every elevator ride, I heard the voice in my head, “fat and lazy.”  I felt lumbering. Like a fat caricature.  I considered wearing a knee and ankle brace, not because I needed them, but because they would signal to people that I was injured, not just fat and lazy.

Because if I’m fat and just feel like sitting down or taking the elevator, what?  I’m not worthy of the air I breathe?  The space I take up?  Can I be fat and (temporarily, in this case) not able bodied and have a medical condition and still be beautiful and love myself?

Uh.  Of course I can.

But for a minute, I didn’t know that. 

I had trapped myself in the story of a beautiful fat chick who was the exact size she was supposed to be, as evidenced by good health and an able body.

Pam, check your privilege. 

I’m plus sized.  I’m fat.  I’m fucking fabulous.  Sometimes I’m super duper lazy.  Sometimes I’m active.  Mostly I’m healthy.  In some ways, I’m not healthy.  My body is aging.  Some of that I’m embracing.  Some of it kind of sucks balls.  Exercise waxes and wanes with my mood and other factors.  I like salads.  And cheetos.  And bourbon.  And lentils.  And cake.  And dancing.  And sleeping late. Sometimes I wear fabulous clothes that make me look like a pin-up hourglass.  Sometimes I wear yoga pants and a tank top with no bra. 

And I’m beautiful and worthy.  I love myself and I love my body.  Full stop.  No conditions on that love.

Unconditional.  Just like my love for others.  I’ve finally learned to give that to myself.



Saturday, February 20, 2016

The fine art of being bad at stuff


Let me start with a little story.  As a baby, my mom thought that maybe I was deaf, because I never babbled.  These days, we would have that kid tested and getting services so fast their head would spin, but this was the 70’s, era of kids bouncing free in the back of station wagons with no seatbelts.  It was a more chill time. 

Spoiler: I wasn’t deaf.  Eventually I talked, but only once I could say real words. No baby babble for me.  My first word was a perfectly identifiable, “meow” while my mom was reading the Three Little Kittens.

My little personality was already in there.  My tiny little baby perfectionist personality.

I hate being bad at stuff.

Here’s the thing though.  In order to get good at most stuff, you have to be bad at stuff first.  And you work on it, and practice, and get incrementally better at that thing until you no longer suck.  That’s how life works.  I would totally teach my kids that.

Except… I don’t do that myself.  I hide my badness at stuff.  I practice in secret until I can get all A’s.  Or, in most cases, I just choose stuff to do that comes easily to me.  I know how to learn and study, sort of, in theory. But I never really had to do it much.  Matrix algebra, a requirement for my statistics masters, was difficult for me. I cried, because I sucked at it, and I didn’t know how to get good at it. Through the magic of grade inflation, I still got an A, but I never really learned how to learn. 

I have a PhD and two Masters degrees, and I don’t know how to learn.  That’s not to say I didn’t learn things in school.  I did.  The most important thing I learned in graduate school was how to speak in public without vomiting.  I learned confidence in my intellect, how to speak up in a room full of incredibly intelligent people without questioning whether or not what I had to say was worthy.  I learned research design and analysis skills, how to develop and teach a course, how to write a grant.  I learned how to work on a team and how to manage people working for me.  I learned an enormous amount. 

But not in the buckle down, practice, be bad at stuff and then get better at it kind of way.

So here I am, at the ripe old age of 42, learning how to be bad at something. Specifically, I am learning to play the piano.  I am happy to tell you all that I completely suck at it.

I took lessons as a kid, but as soon as I couldn’t get a skill easily, I dropped it.  I played other instruments, and I guess I sucked.  I mean, at some points, I certainly sucked, but I didn’t really know I sucked.  The pieces we played in band were easy.  I didn’t have to practice that much to feel competent.  It might not surprise you at this point to know that when I auditioned for things, I hit the sight reading out of the park.  Consistently super high scores on playing stuff that required no preparation.  Abysmal scores on scales.  Because who wants to practice scales?  Not this girl.

But we have this beautiful piano that we got for free from a good friend.  And neither of my kids chose piano as their instrument.  And every time a friend or my brother would come over and play it, I would be so happy the piano was getting some love.  It almost made me cry.  My kids play around on it, and I taught them to read music on it, and how to find the notes of songs they know, but no one was playing it beautifully, and it made me sad.

At the same time, I found myself envying my kids their music lessons.  My fingers itched to try the violin or bass.  I wanted to be learning an instrument too.

So I decided to take up piano.  And boy, do I suck.

At the same time, I’m super proud of myself for sucking and continuing to practice.  I am progressing.  I can play stuff now I couldn’t play a week ago and couldn’t have dreamed of playing a month ago. 

My parents were here last week and I played one of the songs I’m working on for my mom.  It felt really weird.  When eight-year-olds play the instruments they’re learning and struggle with it or hit a wrong note, we expect that and we cheer for their progress.  It feels different as an adult.

Forty-two year olds are supposed to be good at stuff.  Forty-two year old piano players should not suck. 

Unless they’re beginners. 

My friends who teach music have said that adult beginners are the worst, because they expect to get good right away, and I can completely see it.  I’m embarrassed by how terrible I am at playing a simple melody on one hand and simple chords on the other.  I’m embarrassed every time it doesn’t sound like music. 

But I’m also incredibly proud of myself.  Proud of my progress, and the fact that I am practicing every day, and that I’m learning, finally, how to be bad at something and get incrementally better. 

That’s how you get good at things.  And I’m showing that to my kids too.  They see me sucking.  They see me practicing.  They see me getting better.

It’s not adorable when I’m bad at things the way it is when kids are learning.  But… in a weird way… I’m finding it kind of beautiful.  A new journey for me when I wasn’t expecting one.  A skill I thought was a bucket list fantasy that would never happen.  But it is happening. 

Slowly.

Suuuuper effing slowly. 

And it’s not cute at all.


But it’s awesome.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

On selfies

I’ve thought about writing this piece for a long time, but I’ve always gotten weird and shy about it. Until now.

Let’s talk about selfies.

If you’re my personal friend on facebook, you may have noticed that I post a lot of selfies.  I don’t post them every day or even every week, but I take and post them when my hair or makeup is looking cute, when I’m bored, when the lighting is interesting, or just when I damn feel like it.

Maybe that should be the end of the blog.  I take selfies because I damn feel like it. The end.

But see…. I get some shit about my selfies.  Some of it good-natured ribbing from friends, some of it odd comments from people I have never met (usually friends of friends who friend-requested me on facebook), some of it link after link to that fake article about how taking selfies is a new mental illness in the DSM.  (It’s not.  It’s fake, people. Please stop posting it on my wall. Snopes is a thing.  Use the snopes.)

When I thought about writing this piece, I got this weird feeling.  Like, maybe it IS terrible that I take selfies.  Maybe it’s vain and stupid and, like one high school friend posted, something that lonely people do because they don’t have any friends to take pictures of them.

Uh, my sister is a professional photographer.  I don’t lack for photos of me.  I don’t lack for friends either.  I have some of the best friends on the planet and I feel very lucky to have them. 

But I take selfies anyway.  And it’s not just because I feel like it. 

See, when people give me shit about my selfies, I don’t laugh it off.  I might pretend to, but it actually feels intensely personal when people judge my selfie-taking.  Because for me, selfies aren’t about vanity or seeking validation or wanting “likes.”  They’re more like therapy.  Self-image therapy. And it feels pretty shitty to be judged for taking care of myself.

I take selfies because I want to continue on a self-love and self-acceptance journey. I’m a middle-aged, overweight woman.  I have wrinkles, age spots, places where my skin sags, places where my fat bulges or rolls.  I’m beautiful, and sexy as fuck, but I also live in the world. 

As women, particularly older and fatter women, we get so many images and messages regarding how we’re supposed to be.  So many people telling us we’re wrong somehow and trying to sell us stuff that will fix us.  I hold the line against them as well as I can, and I love myself just as I am.  But it isn’t like I have magically accomplished self-love and I’m just done now.  Nope.  It’s not like that at all.

I still have days when I pull the sides of my face up in the mirror and imagine a facelift.  When I imagine my post-baby belly going under the knife to get repaired.  I have days when I try on everything in my closet and cry. I have days when I doubt my self worth because of the way that I look.

Pushing against that negativity, I have a set of tools that I use.  I have supportive groups of women online who can help me through the darker moments.  I have people in my life who love me.  I have meditation. I have my kids, who recalibrate my scale regarding what matters.

And I also have selfies.

Muddy gardening selfie. Still beautiful!
Selfies, for when I’m feeling pretty, and also sometimes when I’m not.  To capture fancy Pam in makeup with her hair done, but also to love and accept no-makeup Pam on a random Tuesday.  To put my image out there, to celebrate the way I look.  To find beauty in a face that society doesn’t think is beautiful.  To find it even in my most mundane moments. 

It’s not the only tool in my toolbox, but it’s one of them. 

I didn’t just wake up one day full of self-love strutting down beaches in bikinis.  It’s a journey.  And selfies are one of the things that help me on that journey. 

Maybe it seems vain and shallow and narcissistic.  I acknowledge that it’s about seeing beauty in myself.  And I agree that beauty isn’t the be-all end-all of what I (and women) should aspire to.  I aspire to things much more important than beauty. 

But.

As a middle-aged fat woman with a big nose and a “character” face, it’s very easy to feel disenfranchised from beauty.  Part of cultivating self-love for me is reclaiming my sense of beauty and seeing myself the way I see others.  Learning to see the beauty that has nothing to do with the way I look at all.  Seeing that the imperfect parts are the very best parts.  I see that in others.  But it takes practice to see that in myself.

It’s personal.  My selfies are personal.  But it’s also part of my journey to let myself be seen.  It always has been.

So here.  See me.  See my journey.  See the makeup days and the raw naked-faced days.  This is me. You don't have to love me. I love me.



Reason to take a selfie:
Excellent hair day and polka dot sunglasses.
Reason to take a selfie:
80's night, Camp Throwback, and the sheer magnificence of my sister's face in this pic!
Reason to take a selfie:
Nose tampons.
Reason to take a selfie:
My kid asked me to.

Reason to take a selfie:
New tattoo!!!
Reason to take a selfie:
Post-pin-up hair

Reason to take a selfie:
A friend tried to keep up with me, which no one should ever do,
so then I had to party all alone because I broke her.
Reason to take a selfie:
Gay marriage is legal!  So I did rainbow eye makeup and it looked awesome!
Reason to take a selfie:
I made this sweet dragon hat for my kid but he wouldn't model it.
Reason to take a selfie:
Beach hair!!
Reason to take a selfie:
Really trying to learn to love my nose.
Reason to take a selfie:
This amazing shirt.
Reason to take a selfie:
Shameless drunk eating of cold leftover ramen at 2am.
Reason to take a selfie:
New tattoo and new lipstick and who the fuck do I think I am??
Reason to take a selfie:
Cheersing my online friends!
Reason to take a selfie:
Because I love these small people so much.
Reason to take a selfie:
Accidental good hair day from a sweaty topknot.
Reason to take a selfie:
Because I damn felt like it.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Musings on midlife crisis


I’m 41.  I have blue and purple hair.  I recently got a visible tattoo.  And I’m thisssss close to pulling the trigger on a nose ring. 

The only reason I haven’t gotten a nose ring yet is that a few people have suggested I might be too old, and it would be trying too hard, or seem… I don’t know… like I’m trying to hang on to my youth or something. 

In my head (or in their heads filtered through my head—thanks social anxiety, you douchebag), my nose ring is basically an earring or ponytail on an older man in a ridiculous sports car.  I don’t want to be ridiculous. I don’t want to be some midlife crisis cliché. 

Except.

I do.

For the first time, I’m like… OH!  I get it!  The middle aged guy gets an earring and a sports car because he has always wanted them!  It’s not a crisis.  It’s just… he can now, so he does. 

At least for me, getting a nose ring has absolutely zero to do with hanging on to my youth.  Eye cream and my dermatologist, yes.  Those things are about hanging on to my youth.  But my hair, my tattoos, my fashion, and my eventual nose ring are about embracing the age I am now.  Embracing the ME I am now. 

I don’t have to please anyone but myself.  I have wanted a nose ring forever.  And I’m a damn grown up, mostly, and I can.  I just… can. 

When I was younger, I was completely paralyzed by social anxiety.  I worried about what everyone would think about my hair, my fashion, my appearance in general.  I couldn’t get a nose ring because who did I think I was?  I’ve talked about this before, the leftover gunk from high school, the voice in my head that tells me I will never be cool enough.  Never be pretty enough.  The voice that tells me that blue hair and fun clothes and body mods are for cool people, and I’m not one of them so I can’t have that.

Seriously?  What a crock of shit. 

Is it a midlife crisis?  I don’t think so.  I think it’s the opposite. 

I think it’s a midlife release of fucks.  I no longer give as many fucks. 

I still give one every once in a while, like the day I put on my “Gorgeous 10” shirt and then second guessed whether strangers would think I think I’m gorgeous and think bad things about me, so then I took it off.  Like the day I wore my favorite comic skirt and I put a crinoline under it, but then I took off the crinoline, because this is suburban Maryland and any pin-up type fashion out here is weird enough without adding a crinoline.  Even though it looked soooo cute that way. 

Visible tattoo AND modcloth dress! No makeup.  No fucks.
But those days were noteworthy because that’s not every day. 

Most days, I wear my weird hair and my modcloth dresses when everyone else is in jeans with smooth highlighted hair and I’m happy.  I’m me and I’m happy and I give no fucks. 

I don’t think that’s a crisis.  I think that’s… awesome.  Does getting older mean I can just do whatever I want?  I think it kind of does.  I don’t want a shiny car.  I want a nose ring.  And if people think that’s weird, I don’t have to care! 

I recently wore one of my bikinis in front of a mom from my kids’ school, and for the first time, I didn’t justify it.  I may have talked to her before about the blog, but I couldn’t remember whether I had. I don’t know if she knows I’m a body activist.  She might.  She might not.  I just wore my bikini. 

No fucks given.

If that’s a midlife crisis, I’ll take it.  Bring it on.  I’ll ride this wave until I become one of those old ladies with giant colorful glasses and 4,000 bracelets who look a little crazy but also amazing. 

It makes me excited about the future to think that way.  It’s not a crisis.  It’s a relief.  It’s joy and celebration. 

Bring on the second act.

And the nose ring.


Me with my fake nose ring!  Real one coming soon!



Monday, June 1, 2015

This one time… at grown-up camp…

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, it’s no secret that I have been somewhere weird this week.  I was at grown-up summer camp. 

Not adult summer camp, because if you call it adult summer camp, everyone assumes it’s an orgy.  People still kind of half think it’s an orgy even if you call it grown-up summer camp, but less so. 

Camp Throwback isn’t an orgy.  It’s like kid summer camp, but with booze and with me as an empowered adult rather than me as a painfully shy, socially awkward, trying-to-fit-in tween.  Also, there’s booze.  Did I mention the booze?

If you’re like, uh, where do I sign up?  You sign up here.  You won’t regret it.

Back in my Burning Man days, when you would drive up, the greeters would ask if it was your first time.  If you said you had been before, they often said, “Welcome home.”  This was my first time at Camp Throwback (the second time it’s been held), but I immediately felt like it was home. 

Some of my people at the luau.  
Home.  The place where you can be completely yourself.

Or no.  Home.  The PEOPLE where you can be completely yourself.

The people.

I’m in a community of women online, and some of these women I count among my best friends in the world, even though I had never (and in some cases, still haven’t) been in the same room or even time zone with them in person.  Anyone who says online friendships aren’t real friendships is full of it.  That shit is real.   

I finally got to hug one of my people in the world, this beauty.
I got to be with some of my online friends, and one who is just one of my people in the world.  I have a handful of people who are my people.  The ones I know will be in my life forever no matter what.  And there she was.  In the stunningly beautiful flesh.  Available to hug and be hugged.  It made me so unbelievably happy.

Some other friends were new, and a surprise.  I road tripped to camp with my sister, which was fabulous in and of itself.  She and I rarely get to spend time together without having to juggle children.  To just be for days at a time was rejuvenating.  And we met a third sister! I mean, not really.  Not, like, a secret love child or whatever.  But a woman who is just one of us.  And another woman who I didn’t know online at all, whose smile is like sunshine and whose face I can now think of when I’m sad, and it will make me feel better. 

Me and my sis on 80s night!
Me and my sister from another mister at the luau.  


Buy this book.
Oh, also?  I got to meet Brittany Gibbons.  If you don’t know who that is, you should.  She’s the effing bomb.  Body activist, blogger, TED talker, and now bad-ass authorHer book came out a few weeks ago, and it’s extraordinary.  And that’s not praise I use lightly.  She showed all of her insides on the page, while still managing to be laugh-out-loud funny.  She is changing lives.  For real.  Changing the way women see their bodies.  Changing the way we support each other.  Challenging the zero-sum game of beauty.  She is a powerhouse game changer, and I got to, like, hug her and touch her hair and stuff, and then also get to know her and just hang out.

I was so intimidated, I literally couldn’t meet her eye when I first walked in.  It took me two fizzy sangrias to say hello.  By the last day, we were hugging and laughing and I have another friend in the world, a totally bad-ass one.

A Brittany photobomb!!!

She made this camp for us, not knowing if people would come.  We came.  And now it’s our home. Our place.  Our people. 

The discarded bra pile.
Because comfort.
I got to be ludicrously excited over popping balloons with a bow and arrow.  I got to day drink and swear as much as I wanted and make dirty comments without a filter.  I got to wear costumes that were too elaborate for social convention, because costuming is one of my favorite things to do.  I got to take off my bra and only wear one if I felt like it.  I got to wear a bikini and feel zero anything about it, because it’s just my body.  I got to sing 80s songs until I lost my voice, and dance like no one was watching. I got to get my nerdy crafting on with tie dye and friendship bracelets and a field day t-shirt with puffy paint pasties on it.


Cabin 1 baby!  All about the boob adornment! Predictably, no bra for me.
Most of us go through the world wearing masks.  Pretending to be other than what we are.  Camp Throwback is a vacation from that.  I got to be me.  All that I am.  Nothing that I’m not. 

I can’t wait to go home again.  Back to camp.

80s night!

Just call me Katniss.

My beautiful sister, letting loose!

Hangover remedies.  My classic Gatorade plus Chili Dan's Bloody Marys!


Home. This is my home.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

TMI

If we are friends on facebook, you may know that I got my first Brazilian wax last week.  Because that’s the kind of thing I share with my friends and family. So when I am telling you that this blog post is about to be TMI, you should probably run away. 

Really, you should stop reading now.

Because I’m going to talk about my lady garden. Like, a lot. In detail.

Run.

No???

OK, you people still reading, you are my people.  Hi. 

Here’s the thing.  I got my Brazilian and I had it all planned out.  I was going to write a super funny blog post about how this friend of mine, someone I see socially, someone who knows my kids and whose kids I know… had to come eye to “eye” with my butt hole and how effing weird that is.

But that’s not the blog post that wants to be written about this experience.  I kept trying to go funny, but the stuff inside me isn’t funny.  Not, like inside me inside me. I mean, like, in my head, not in my snatch.  Just to be clear. 

So a bit of background.  Why am I forty-one years old and only getting my first Brazilian?  We have already established here on the public interwebz for future employers to see that I like to be relatively hairless down under.  I went so far as to try laser hair removal.  Apparently, my pubes are too light in color, so it didn’t work. 

And now you know the carpet is lighter than the drapes or whatever.  Yes, I have very light brown pubes.  You can sleep at night now that you know that.  I initially called them dirty blonde, but I don’t really want to use the word dirty in reference to my hoohah… you know?

Anyway. 

I like fewer pubes in the way of my general enjoyment of that part of my body, so I was shaving.  I tried getting waxed once, maybe eleven or twelve years ago.  It was the worst pain of my life.  And that includes gallstones.  I just remember thinking, something is wrong.  There is no way in hell that women do this every month.  I stopped her. It was awful.  I was very badly bruised for days after. 

On my junk, people.  Badly, badly bruised on my junk. 

So I swore off waxing until recently when friends convinced me that my first experience was an anomaly and I should try again.  So I tried again.  It hurt the normal amount.  I wasn’t bruised.  And now my vag is all smooth and soft and feels like the skin on the inside of my wrist.  It’s amazing and I love it and will totally keep doing it if I can afford to.

And yes, I know vag refers to the internal canal, not the part that was waxed.  But I’m not saying that word with two v’s.  I hate that word.  I can say moist all day, but I will not say the word with two v’s in it. 

Shudder.

OK, so here’s the part I need to talk about. 

OMG, I’m over 500 words in and I haven’t even started getting to the point.  I am a terrible writer.  You should all leave now. 

Still here?

OK.

I want to talk about shame and the lady garden.

Here’s what happened.  My good friend is an aesthetician.  She tints my eyelashes for me, and has waxed my brows.  She gives facials and knows a lot about skin care.  But mostly, she pretty much spends her work days ripping out pubic hair. 

Someone has to do it. We can’t do it to ourselves.

She was one of the people who convinced me to try again, and a few of our other mutual friends go to her to have it done.

I had already decided that I would give it another try.  But when faced with the idea of someone I knew down there looking at my junk, I balked.

Because that thing is not cute.

It’s not cute.

I didn’t know it wasn’t cute until pretty recently.  The first time I heard about labiaplasty, I was so confused.  I mean, what??  People are getting plastic surgery on their hoohahs??  What could possibly be going on down there to justify such a thing? 

So I did what any voyeuristic freak would do, I googled before and after pictures. 

Obviously.

And that was when I realized that the kind of labia I have is the kind that people think they need to get plastic surgery to fix. 

This wasn’t something I understood before.  No one lucky enough to get face to face with my taco has ever had any complaints.  I had seen a bunch of other people’s.  They all looked different and pretty.  Mine seemed fine and was in the mix.  It’s not freakish or anything.  Just… you know… sort of external I guess. It had never occurred to me to be bothered by this.

I’m in this group of women online, and several months ago, someone posted about the term, “busted ravioli,” to describe the kind of junk which is more inner labia than outer labia.  Like the opposite of the closed clamshell.  A couple of people said they couldn’t imagine having a busted ravioli type and how embarrassing it would be. 

This is generally an open and supportive group of women. 

I was like, uh, I’m not gonna lie.  Mine kind of looks like a ravioli.  Ravioli are delicious though.  I mean, yum??  Ravioli??  Right??  Or roast beef curtains?  I like roast beef too.  But I didn’t say anything.  Because I didn’t want anyone to know I had the bad kind.

What the actual fuck?  Is this really something to worry about??

My sausage wallet works awesome.  I have joked that I can orgasm from a stiff breeze.  I can have multiples.  I can come from just penetration.  It smells good.  It tastes good.  I don’t need synthetic lube most of the time.  My not-so-bearded-anymore clam is the effing bomb.  It’s awesome. 

I love that thing.  I love it long time.

But… I didn’t want anyone to know.  I wanted to go to a stranger, whose waxing skills were unknown to me, rather than to a friend because I didn’t want her to know. 

You know, about the ravioli.

Seriously??  This is something I’m worrying about?  It’s total bullshit.  She does this for a living.  She has seen all of the labia.  She has seen all of the buttholes.  She has no doubt seen inner thigh scars like mine before too, from ingrown hairs/cysts.  She has seen all of the junk.  She doesn’t give a fuck that mine looks like a ravioli.  She doesn’t care about my thigh scars.  She doesn’t care about the extra skin from my twin pregnancy that kind of migrated down to the lowest point on my torso because of pesky gravity, except inasmuch as she has to make sure I pull that skin tight so she doesn’t damage me.  She doesn’t care about my hanging belly skin except to get it out of the way.

Why am I feeling shame about this?  It’s stupid!

So I sucked it up and went to my friend, because I trusted her not to hurt me.  (Well, not to injure me, anyway.) And you know what?  It was fine.  She was very professional, and I really wasn’t worried about it once it was happening.  I was more concerned about the decidedly unpleasant sensation of hair being ripped out of my vajungle. 

But I still felt like I needed to talk about it with you guys.  Because this thing?  With the body shame?  It’s insidious and it feeds on silence.  Shame loves it when we keep our mouths shut.  So no silence.

I know women who are worried about how they smell.  How they look.  How it works.  Women who think that everyone else can come without clitoral stimulation and something is wrong with them because they need that.  Women who use damaging douches or weird perfumes because they’re worried about their natural smell. 

Fuck.  That.  Noise.

Enough.

Shame, I will not feed you.  You don’t get my silence. 

And ravioli are delicious. So there.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The tattoo


Almost two years ago, a hummingbird flew into my house and had some trouble finding his way back out.  This happened while I was battling a particularly stubborn bout of depression, attempting to self-medicate with fresh air and a beautiful spring day instead of my usual questionable methods, naps and bourbon.  In his struggles, the hummingbird taught me a life lesson that helped me find my way back into the light. 

The lesson was this: When you find yourself struggling hard, try something different.  When you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall, look around for a door.  Also, when you feel like shit, maybe go outside, because that’s where the flowers and air and vitamin D live. 

I knew almost immediately that the hummingbird was my next tattoo.  It had been fifteen years since my first one.  I left the tattoo shop after my first excited to get another. I was totally bitten by the ink bug.  I wanted more.  But somehow the right tattoo didn’t come along until now. 

It took more than a year to find the right artist, but I finally did.  Jim Judeikis at Saints and Sinners Tattoo in Baltimore.  He had done a friend’s scar cover, and when I checked out his portfolio and shamelessly stalked his instagram, I knew he was the one.  He doesn’t do a lot of tattoos like mine, or at least didn’t have a lot in his portfolio, but every tattoo had beautiful lines, even to my picky eye. 

So once we got our tax return money and somewhat recovered from Christmas spending, I called for a consult.

All of my nerves were activated.  My first tattoo had come to me while meditating.  I had drawn it, and simply asked the artist to copy it onto me.  This was different.  He would be drawing it.  I just had ideas. 

I went into the shop for my consult clutching my packet of materials, including similar tattoos I liked, a really bad hummingbird drawing I had attempted, even mirror selfies of the gist of my tattoo inexpertly scribbled on my own shoulder with eyeliner.  I put enough money in the meter for 45 minutes, because I was 15 minutes early and budgeted for a half hour consult.

Don't laugh.
You try drawing on your own right shoulder.
Ten minutes later, I walked out, lighter by a $150 deposit, with a tattoo date in my phone’s calendar, and the distinct impression that Jim and the front desk guy might be making fun of me for Type-A’ing my tattoo consult. 

I was clearly and intensely over-prepared for my consult. And I didn’t fit in.  Forty-one, no visible body mods, wearing mom jeans and a tank top (in case he wanted to…. I don’t know… like, look at my shoulder or something.  Spoiler: He didn’t.)  All the blue and purple hair in the universe couldn’t disguise the fact that I didn’t belong in there.  I don’t even know what the other customers milling around were wearing, but they all seemed a lot more comfortable than I did, and were dressed in ways I envied but couldn’t duplicate on my plus size aging body without looking silly.

I love my body, and I love my fashion, and I love who I am.  But something about being in a tattoo shop pushed all of my “not cool enough” buttons. 

Every time I do something a little bit crazy—dye my hair wacky colors, get a tattoo, wear fabulous clothing, pose on the internet in my underwear—I have this moment.  This “who the hell do you think you are” moment.  In my head, I’m still the dorky kid who did too well on math tests and lied to her friends and told them she got a B, because straight A’s were for losers.  And at the same time, I’m also the “basic bitch” suburban housewife and mother of two and minivan owner.  And pumpkin lattes are delicious, and yes, I do wait all year for them as a matter of fact.

But my insecurities and social paranoia aside, I felt very confident in Jim as an artist.  And I was beyond excited to finally get the tattoo I had been talking about for almost two years.

The day of the appointment came, and I was so nervous I could barely eat.  Excitement and trepidation ran through me until I couldn’t tell which was which, just that my heart rate was up and my hands shaky.  What if I forgot how much tattoos hurt?  Could I really sit there for three and a half hours in pain?  What if it was terrible?  Maybe I should have used that numbing cream a nurse friend had slipped into my purse even after I told her I didn’t need it.  What if I didn’t like the drawings Jim had prepared?  What if what if what if…. And also, tattoo day!  TATTTTTTTOOOOOOOOO!! Tattootattootattootattootattootattoo! Blaaaaagggghhhhh!!!

I walked into the shop pretty much ready to puke. 

Three giggling women and a (non-giggling) man walked in at the same time.  They were apparently there for some spur of the moment (possibly alcohol-encouraged?) piercings.

One giggling blonde asked the front desk guy, “Is it going to hurt?”

And I couldn’t help it.  All of my tension and anticipation and heightened emotion coalesced into a quick bubble of laughter.  Front desk guy met my eyes.  In unison, we said, “Yes.”

I started to feel better.

I had to wait for about fifteen minutes for my appointment so Jim could grab some dinner.  Actually, I think the guy said lunch.  Lunch at 5:30pm.  That is so not my life.  But while I waited, a bunch of people came in and out.  It was a beautiful warm Saturday evening in Fells Point, one of the first pleasant, dry weekends of the season.  Most of the people coming in were just out wandering before dinner.  They weren’t there for ink. 

I was. 

I did belong there. 

Mom jeans and all.

Who the hell do I think I am?  Hell if I know, but I was getting a damn tattoo, and it was going to be awesome. And I didn’t even consider the numbing cream.  Well, didn’t seriously consider it anyway.  Because I’m a bad-ass.

Well, for a suburban housewife.  I mean, for a minivan driver who likes pumpkin lattes, I am totally a bad-ass.

Eventually Jim came down and I followed him upstairs.  We went over his drawings, made some minor adjustments, and sat down to get started.  He asked if I wanted to watch a movie.  I said no because I wanted to be in the moment. 

I didn’t say that in the moment thing to him.  I just said, “No thanks.”

He went to put the music on and I saw he had been listening to comedy before I came in.  I asked him to put the comedy back on.  He looked skeptical, and said, “Are you sure?  It’s pretty nasty.”

“Even better,” I answered.  “I don’t have a line to cross.  Bring on the nasty.”

Several minutes later, we were both laughing out loud at jokes about golden showers.  Now the problem with that is that it made my shoulder shake every time I laughed, so we had to turn it off, but the ice was broken.  We were good.  Bonded over dirty jokes.

The next three hours?  Well…. they were fine. Tattoos don’t tickle, but except for one small ouchy spot, it was pretty easy.  We talked about politics, Baltimore, how he came to own the shop, kids, TV shows, a shared hatred of patchouli.  We talked social media, travel, and schadenfreude.  And ink.  We talked about tattoos.  His.  Mine.  Others he had done.  The time passed shockingly quickly.

A teeny bit excited?  And maybe high on endorphins?
Before I knew it, I had taken my excited mirror selfie and gotten wrapped up in bandages for the ride home.  My husband was still fifteen minutes away.  He was driving me because I have a very strong endorphin response and get loopy and high from pain, and I didn’t trust myself to drive.  So I hung out in the lobby with my shoulder wrapped in a cross between a black trash bag and diapers, waiting for my ride. 

One by one, the artists came downstairs to hang by the front desk and get ready to go.  I was closing the place down.  I was separate from them, over in my chair, facebooking my face off about my new ink. 

But I belonged there.  And all of them, with their intimidating facial piercings and stretched lobes and every visible bit of skin covered in ink… they couldn’t have been nicer to me. 

To me.  The over-prepared, middle-aged, fat, suburban mom.

Maybe it was all of the endorphins, buzzing me enough that an hour later I still had trouble mastering the simple task of filling a glass with water, but I had this beautiful moment.  A oneness.  A dropping of masks.  A releasing of roles. 

I realized that my insecurities and nervousness about being accepted are the things that hold me back from connecting.  That my preoccupation with how others might see or judge me gets in the way of being completely myself. 

Well fuck that. 

I should stop doing that. 

Because who I am?  She’s kind of a bad-ass. 

A minivan driving, pumpkin latte drinking, costume loving, freshly inked bad-ass. 

I spend a lot of time and energy struggling with social anxiety.  And when I find myself struggling, I’m going to try something different.  I’m going to stop banging my head. 

And my beautiful new ink is here to remind me to find the door, and fly.

No, not fly. That's too cheesy. Be a bad-ass. That's what I meant to say.