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.






Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Big


I had a weird experience this week.  I posted a photo in a facebook group I’m in, asking the women about their favorite “curvy” fashion rules to break.  You know… black is slimming, no horizontal stripes, no sleeveless tops, no skinny jeans, belt at the smallest part of your waist. 

Maybe I’m the only one who used to obsessively watch What Not to Wear, checking my closet against the rules.  Jackets must close and have a “high stance” to “lock and load” “the girls” (i.e., boobs).  Nothing shapeless or oversized ever.  Straight leg, dark wash trouser jeans, no sparkles or flaps on the pockets because that draws unwanted attention to your butt.

I’ve let go of those rules, and I’m happy that I have.  It’s why I started the conversation.  Basically, I bought these jeans, and I’m in love with them even though “the rules” I learned were that big girls shouldn’t wear jeans like this. I was drawing attention to my butt, and I felt great about that, because even though my body is big, I think my butt is awesome.  Why shouldn’t I bedazzle that ass?  I totally should! 

I felt free and I wanted to spread the freedom, and that’s why I posted about it.

Three things happened in response to my post:

One, people shared their fabulous fashion rule breaking, and we had a “fuck the rules” moment of solidarity. Other sparkly butts.  Bikinis. And lots of curve-enhancing horizontal stripes.

Two, people expressed that there are no rules, and that the premise of my question was ridiculous.  I’m good with that, actually.  They’re just further along the path than I am.  While I still hear Stacy and Clinton’s voice in my head every time I wear skinny jeans, these other women reject the concept of rules completely.  Rock on, sisters.

But it’s the third thing that left me feeling weird.

A bunch of people basically questioned my “fat cred.”  They said that I wasn’t a “big girl,” which were the words I had used to describe myself.  It made me feel really weird.

And when things make me feel weird and I don’t know why… I come talk to you all.

Hi. 

So they’re saying I’m not big.  This was clearly meant as a compliment.  I get the same reaction, even more strongly, when I refer to myself as fat.  Which I do sometimes, because I am.  I think of “big” or “fat” as value-neutral descriptions of my body.  I’m not insulting myself.  I’m just describing my body. 

My body is big.  It is, in fact, considered not large, not extra large, but extra EXTRA large.  I can’t shop in regular stores.  I have to go to special stores for people who are bigger than “normal.”  I am considered “obese” by medical terms, and would have to lose more than 30 pounds to be merely considered “overweight,” and more than 60 pounds to be considered “normal weight.” 

Fat on my body.
And I am fat.  It is what it is.  There is a lot of extra fat tissue on my body.  It’s how I’m made.  I could probably get rid of some of it, but historically for me, that weight loss comes at the expense of a healthy relationship with food and my mental health.  I’m happier and healthier accepting my fat body and just making sure I put real, nutritious food in it and move it around a lot. 

By any definition you can come up with, I am big.  I am a fat woman.  By clothing sizes, by medical terms, by the tissues that make up my body composition.

But there’s one set of definitions by which I am NOT fat.

If fat equals ugly, then no, I’m not fat.  If big equals undesirable, then no, I’m not big. 

I think that’s why I feel weird when people tell me I’m not big, or not fat.  Because by doing so, it feels to me like they are equating fat with ugly.  It’s the only definition that makes sense to me.  Because by any other definition, yup, I’m fat.  Except for the definition in which fat equals ugly.

My whole thing… the reason I post bikini photos right alongside my clothing size and weight… is that I want the world to see that a woman can be plus sized, extra extra large, weigh 220 pounds, have lots of fat on her body, and be slammin’, gorgeous, sexy, beautiful, and effing awesome. 

Fat does not equal ugly.  It just doesn’t.

Not every larger woman will want to reclaim that word or even hear it.  Fat will probably always be a sensitive word for many of us, and even to some degree for me.  I can say it in a reclaiming way, but it could still be used against me if the intent is cruelty. 

But I choose to reclaim it as a neutral descriptor, in hopes that I can help to disentangle the concepts of fat and ugly.  Because my big fat body is hot as hell.


Photo by Rebecca Palmer of lifescapesphotoandvideo.com

Monday, August 4, 2014

The life vest

I spent last week at my parents' new house in North Carolina, on Lake Gaston (pronounced Gastin, not the French way, and also best pronounced with a southern accent).  


Even though they're just over the Virginia border (seriously, at one point we considered swimming to Virginia), it might as well be another country.  It's beautiful there, but man, rural.  Like, rural rural.  Like no internet no cell service rural.  The best internet my parents can get is one and a half somethings.  I don't know what the somethings are, but what it means is that they can't stream Netflix and if someone wants to Skype with their grandbabies in Idaho, their grandbabies in the house with them have to get off their ipads and their daughter (i.e., me) has to get off facebook.

And you can't use your phone as a GPS, because there is no cell service.

One day we went to a flea market.  We poked through antique jewelry, rusted cast iron pots begging to be rejuvenated, and old washboards that unfortunately didn't say anything unintentionally hilarious about rubbing something out.  Oh, and here's how rural.  At one of the stalls, we tried to buy stuff, but couldn't because the seller wasn't around this weekend.  He had his brother manning the stall, but his brother didn't know the prices, so we couldn't buy anything. "Maybe next weekend," we were told.  And this guy let us look at stuff for ten minutes and didn't tell us nothing was for sale until we asked.

It is so rural that stuff at the flea market is not for sale, but people just sit there all day anyway.  Because... there is nothing else to do??  I guess??

Or maybe he just didn't like our Yankee accents and didn't want us wearing his grandmother's old scarf clips.  I don't know.  I don't get it.

Anyway, we found plenty to do in rural North Carolina.  Mostly involving eating, drinking, playing inappropriate and dirty games of telepictionary, and hanging out on the lake.

One day we went tubing behind my dad's boat, and that is the story I really came here to tell.

We took turns on the tube. My adventurous little brother went first, and then the kids had their turns.  Next my brother's girlfriend went, and then it was my turn.  Let me paint this little picture.  My brother's girlfriend is something like a size 2. Actually, I asked her after writing the first version of this.  She's a size zero.  She's an adorable, extremely sweet and cool little size zero person.

So when it was my turn, she handed over the life vest the adults were all sharing, it having been adorably zipped and clipped on her tiny bod a moment ago.

It was a size medium life vest.  I'm a 2X.

So fuck.

It didn't zip, not even close. My heart sank as I tried it on and realized I was going to have to deal with the fact that the generic adult life vest that everyone was using wasn't going to fit me.  It was one of those times.  Those one-size-fits-all-except-not-all-because-not-me times.  

It doesn't matter how much self-love work you do.  When something is supposed to be appropriate for people in general, and you're too big for it, it's devastating and kind of dehumanizing.  Like when a chair has a weight limit that is lower than your weight.  Or worse, when you look at a chair and you wonder.  Will it hold me or will I break a chair? And yes, I have broken a chair.  Only once.  But it only takes once.  

Maybe a thinner person would have broken that chair too because it was structurally unsound.  Or maybe I'm a gigantic non-person who can't have nice things like chairs.  Or life vests.  Or tube rides.

Tube rides is suddenly dirty in my mind.  Just thought I'd share that.


Anyway, all of the big girls out there know what I'm talking about.  It's that moment when you fear you might need a seat belt extender in an airplane.  That moment when you realize there is literally no place you can go to try on and buy a bra.  That moment when they have to swap out the blood pressure cuff.  That moment when you realize that you're too big for something that is fine for (what seems like) everyone else.



It's devastating.

I had a choice in that moment.  Beg off and miss the fun.

Or don't.

I figured before asking if my dad had another life vest, I would see if I could at least clip this little size medium thing around my body, even if it wouldn't zip.

I managed to clip the two clips below hooter level where it fit slightly better, and a funny thing happened. The life vest basically functioned as a sort of bustier, and pushed my boobs up. Suddenly, even next to my size zero almost-sister-in-law, I felt beautiful, with my life-vest-corseted tatas all supported and on display.  It was my kind of beauty, not her kind.  We are both beautiful.  And if I weren't the size I am, I wouldn't have these giant boobs sitting adorably on their life vest bustier shelf.

It was my turn to ride.  I floundered like an awkwardly beached whale trying to get on the tube. And then I had the best time ever flying across the water, in and out of the wake, hanging on for dear life.  It was awesome.  And I was the only adult who didn't fall off the tube. And I was pleasantly sore the next day from the craziness of hanging on as the tube whipped across the lake.  

And my self-love was stronger than ever.

So here's the moral of the story: When life gives you a too-small life vest, turn it into a bustier!


Monday, May 5, 2014

Real

It’s been about a month since my pin-up shoot, and I have gotten wonderful feedback from a lot of people.  I feel seen, which was one of my goals.  It feels incredible to put out an image of beauty in a different size from what we usually see in the world.

But.

I feel the need to do something to balance those images. 

They’re real in that they’re not airbrushed or Photoshopped.  That’s really me and that’s one set of true representations of what I looked like that day.  But I had on two sets of fake eyelashes, loads of makeup, and corsets to change my shape.  My hair was curled and teased, and a professional photographer was pointing hundreds (thousands?) of dollars of lights at me and finding all of the most flattering angles.  And then of hundreds of photos, I chose the best few.

My facebook profile pic.
I didn’t photoshop them.  They’re real.  But also, not exactly.

I have a mini reunion coming up with some old friends from my college dorm, some of whom I haven’t seen in many years.  And I was suddenly like, shit.  What if they think I look like my facebook profile picture?

Yeah, I’ve been using the pin-up shots as my facebook profile pic, because duh.  Of course I am!  They’re awesome and fun and cool and sassy and amazing.  Of course I am.  But I don’t really look like that.  Like, ever. 

This is what I really look like.



The kids learned about photobombing and wanted to photobomb me, so I took a photo exactly as I was.  No makeup, hair not done, no bra.  That’s what I actually look like most of the time.

Here’s another one, in which I am slightly buzzed.  Again, no makeup, no bra, and my favorite FKH8 hoodie.  This is the real me.



When I get dressed up, I look like this.



That’s basically as good as it gets.  And I can only wear those black boots if I’m going from car to restaurant to car.  And the blue shoes gave me a really bad blister and I had to take them off in the mall parking lot and walk back to my car barefoot.

Shall we continue?  Here is me right after the pin-up shoot, makeup washed off, and hair unpinned but still teased.



Here is me in the bikini I wore in the pin-up shoot, just the mirror selfie I took to show my friends.



Here is an adorable photo of me with my kids that I self-consciously cropped for facebook because I thought I looked pregnant. And I made my husband take a bunch more because I didn't like how my neck looked, but the kids were cutest in this one.



And here is the photo that started it all.  A woman on a body love facebook group I’m in posted a photo of her body “challenge area” and invited us to do the same.  So I did.  I posted this photo of my fupa, the hanging skin leftover from my pregnancy that contains fat when I am heavier, and just hangs empty when I lose weight. 



It made me want to puke to post it. I considered deleting it.

But then a funny thing happened.

There was a weird kind of power in it.  A power in showing that thing I was most afraid would be seen.  This is me.  This is real.  And it’s all OK.  So my skin hangs down.  I had twins and carried them to 36 weeks, and that’s what happens (to some women) when you do that.  It’s OK. 

It’s OK.

I am worthy of love, and… dare I say it?  I am still beautiful and sexy.  Even though now you have all seen my fupa.

One of the most common items of feedback I have gotten from the pin-up and bikini photo shoots is women telling me they wish they could do that, but they feel they can’t.

To them I say, you can if you want to. It’s smoke and mirrors and makeup and corsets and an incredibly fun and empowering way to spend an afternoon.

Those of us who try to put sexy plus size images out in the world… we’re crafting and choosing those images in such a way as to change the conversation about beauty and fat and size. But we don’t really look like that either (or at least I don’t).

So let’s change the conversation even further.  You know what is beautiful?  Bravery. Honesty. Vulnerability. Truth.  Maybe it’s not magazine ad beauty, but it’s something stronger.  True beauty has nothing to do with corsets and fake eyelashes and flattering camera angles. 

Show your truth.  Be vulnerable.  Be real. 

You. Are. Beautiful.