Friday, August 25, 2006

My Body, Myself


I’ve tackled this subject a few times, but I’ve never articulated it to a point where I’m satisfied that I’ve gotten my point across. Maybe because sometimes I’m not sure what my point is. But I do feel strongly about this issue, and would like to write about it more thoroughly than I have previously.

Her Bad Mother, Girl’s Gone Child, and Weird Girl have all written thoughtful posts about the subject of body image in recent days, which are my inspiration and motivation. My opinions come from an adolescence and teenage years of feeling like crap about myself and the last few years of voraciously reading Bitch Magazine.

When I had a baby, my body changed; but pregnancy and the body changes afterwards are just the most recent stops on the changing body train of my life. When I was 12, I first noticed that I was fat and needed to lose weight. This is what my 12 year old mind said. In retrospect, which is hard to come by because I tore up most photographic evidence of my 12 year old body, I was a little pudgy. I also had bad skin, which is just the icing on the cake of adolescent angst. But I knew, I just knew that if only I was thin, everyone would like me, and all my problems would be solved. I would be happy. Thus began the life of trying to diet, getting depressed that I wasn’t losing weight, and eating a whole bag of Cheetos in one sitting. Like the giant sized bag. Things improved a little when I was around 14 and had a growth spurt. All that chub stretched out over a few more inches and, although I still carried around that feeling that I needed to be thinner, it wasn’t as excruciating. Then I became an older teen, I tried various methods of “fasting,” dieting, exercising, etc. I was never satisfied. I pored over beauty magazines hoping that some of the grace, beauty, clear skin and thinness would somehow rub off on me through osmosis. I stared at girls at school, at the mall, anywhere I saw women that fit my definition of beauty, just wishing I could figure out how to do it, how to get boys to like me, how to look good enough to be happy.

Then I had somewhat of an ugly duckling type experience. Somewhere in high school I got cuter. Maybe I finally learned how to apply eyeliner without looking like a raccoon, maybe I figured out certain styles of pants (long and low rise) looked better on me than others (high waisted and tapered ankle-shudder), or maybe my features and body just matured a little into something I thought was more acceptable. Then, you see, it went the other way. I flirted, I giggled, I kissed boys, I started dressing more provocatively, I wore more makeup, I got highlights and a better hairstyle, I went to parties, I got tipsy and silly, and the bookish little girl of years past was pretty much gone. This isn’t to say that once I got “pretty” I stopped worrying about how I looked. Nope, the opposite was true, actually. I just dealt with it differently, and any positive male attention was like confirmation that, yes, dear, you are beautiful.

Throughout these years of hating the way I looked, I also felt guilty about hating the way I looked. Am I not a feminist? Don’t I despise the singular, unrealistic image of beauty that has pervaded our society by way of the media and advertising? Why do I care what other people think of my body? But it wasn’t so much what other people thought, it was what I was afraid other people were thinking. And, it wasn’t enough to worry that I was some hideous beast. On top of that, I felt like I would have my feminist club card revoked if anyone knew I was that superficial. It wasn’t so much that I wanted the ideal of beauty, thought indeed I did want that. It was that I wanted to feel that I had achieved the ideal of beauty, because then I would be ok. Then I would be accepted, because I would be the way everybody thought you were supposed to be. The only problem was, I wasn’t that way. And for me to try to become it, I would have to go through great measures. Extreme dieting and exercising would be only the tip of the iceberg. Cosmetic surgery would surely have to follow, not to mention a new wardrobe, and a professional doing my make-up, and…oh, yes, this has escaped the realm of reality. I longed to be naturally “beautiful” without having to try, because the most striking beauty is seemingly effortless. At the same time, I longed to look absolutely different than the ideal and have my inner beauty radiate through, my wit and intelligence and humor being far more important than the way I looked on the outside. Only, I couldn’t achieve the first one, and I was too scared to try the second.

This is not to say that I have surpassed these adolescent longing and fears. I’ve just learned to deal with them a little differently. I know that I look the way I’m supposed to look. I know that if I don’t want people to judge me by my appearance, I can’t use it as the only measuring stick for my own self worth; I also can’t judge others by the way they look. I can’t think, “oh, she should not be wearing that,” or, “look at those fake boobies, what a tramp!” when I pass women on the street, because how can I expect to be fully happy with myself if I judge you? By judging you, I’m saying I am closer to the ideal standard of beauty than you are, Miss Panty Line, I should be loved more than you because my breasts do not contain silicone. I cannot expect to be treated differently than I treat others.

Why do women feel the need to meet a specific standard of beauty that does not exist? We are shown images every day of what we’re “supposed” to be like. We are shown singularity, fantasy, and illusion in the pages of magazines, on billboards, on television screens, and it pervades our society and our hearts and makes us doubt our own beauty; our own beauty being whatever we are just as we are.

Beauty must be defined as what we are, or else the concept itself is our enemy.

Why languish in the shadow of a standard we cannot personify, an ideal we cannot live?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto: Downgrade

It's ok Pluto. You'll always be a planet to me.

Now what is My Very Ecentric Mother Just going to Sit Under??
(My Very Ecentric Mother Just Sat Under Nine Planets-Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Plu...oh)

Isn't this like in 1984 when they kept changing history? I mean, I learned Pluto was a planet. They'll be teaching my son it isn't. Damn the Ministry of Truth!

Friday, August 18, 2006

About Writing

Since this blog began as a chronicle of my attempts at breaking through my writers block and writing the next great American novel...or paperback on clearance at the grocery store...whatever...here's a post about writing.

I'd been working on something for awhile that I let someone read. I HATE letting people read anything I'm working on, because I can barely stand people reading something I've finished, polished, and removed of all errors I can possibly imagine. But my sister BEGGED, so I gave in. And I got just the reaction I was dreading: "Hmm. Yeah, I'm interested to know how it turns out," she replied in a non-interested voice. OOH obviously she thought it sucked. Which, it did, because it was a rough first barely coherent thing. But I was hoping she'd see through that to the beautiful story it would become. Then another.

"I hate [main character]. She's stupid." OOH again, painful. But, of course she hated the main character. The only parts I'd written were not complementary (I like to write all over the place, not from beginning to end. She read some beginning, some middle, some end). I wanted to show a character who was tortured in part by circumstance, in part by her stupid reactions to those circumstances, but in the end create a character that you felt empathy for, could relate to despite her unattractive qualities/stupid decisions. A human being, basically. So, considering it was a rough first barely coherent thing, which did really put the character in a bad light, as I hadn't written the other parts yet, her reaction was understandable.

BUT. Still. Ouch. Who wants to hear their main character sucks? So I shelved it. Of course. I gave up. If you know me, that's really no surprise. I can't finish anything. I'm disappointed in my inability to create the kind of character that I wanted, and in myself for letting her read the unfinished thing even though I knew she shouldn't. And in myself for shelving the project just because of that. But I can't seem to go on with it. Now I hate the character too. I don't want to waste my time on something that's going to suck. BLAH.

On a completely unrelated note, do you like my new profile picture? It's Barbie! Isn't that exactly what you would expect for a feminist hippie? Yeah, I like to surprise people. I would put up a picture of myself, but there are sites like this (NOT that I'm delusional enough to think I'm popular or cool enough to end up on there, but the point is, people read and people criticize and people are mean and I would hate to be humiliated in real life), and I think that for me, it's better to just be annonymous.

Monday, August 14, 2006

F is for Feminist

I went to the bathroom today at lunch at Red Lobster (I had never been there. It wasn't much more than "eh"), and a little boy was in there with his mom. Whenever I see mothers and male children in public I always observe and hope to pick up something I could use, or file away certain things in the "don't ever do this with your child" section of my brain. He washed his hands and threw the wadded up paper towel in the trash. When he made it in one shot, the mom said, "good job! You made it!" (Positive reinforcement-good). Then, "but, all boys can do that." Insert noise of record scratching and going silent here.

Will I feel the need to say things like that to my son? I wondered. Why would she say that? Why would she be reinforcing the stereotype that only boys are good at sports? What if that had been her daughter instead of son?

I'm the first to admit that I'm a big f-word: feminist. I read Bitch Magazine! Girls are just as good as boys! Ahh! But when the baby was born, I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I'm never going to have to worry about my child being a slut. I know. I know! That's horrible! But it's true. For some reason, it just seems easier to raise a boy to be respectful of women than to teach a girl about sex and all those great double standards our society has about women who embrace their sexuality. "Yes, you should be proud of your body, but you shouldn't be an exotic dancer because that's exploitative. Just because you're the one making the decision about titty flashing doesn't mean titty flashing is ok. You don't really want to be on Girls Gone Wild, it's just the over sexualized, women's body objectifying culture that make it look appealing. I know our society is preoccupied with beauty, but you're fine just the way you are. But don't get fat. Not because it would look bad, but because it's unhealthy." It's complicated to be a woman these days. There are so many different messages being hurled the way of young girls. It's hard to figure out where you stand. I feel sorry for all those teenage girls who shop at Abercrombie and Fitch because it's cool, and they feel the need to buy shirts reading "Future Trophy Wife," and "Who Needs Brains When You Have These?" across the chest.

So I got out of that one easy. But I will NOT let my son run around thinking girls can't play sports and that crap. That shit will not fly at the Hippie Mama Household.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Not Your Mommy's Mommyblogger

I don't consider myself a mommy blooger. Haha I just wrote blooger instead of blogger but I'm leaving it because isn't blooger a funny looking word?

Not that I have anything against mommybloggers. In fact, I love them. I would like to be one when I grow up. I just don't feel like I can be, exactly, because I don't stay home with our baby. Not that all mommybloggers are stay at home moms-many work. But, work also, unlike me, being the source of our one income family. Like, my husband should have a mommyblog (you know what I mean), but me? I dunno. I still write about the baby, but I just can't bring myself to have one of those adorable, this blog is about me and my baby, here are some of his cute pictures, blogs.

Are there other mommybloggers out there who are the working parent and their husband/partner stays home full time? If so, I would like to read your blog!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sometimes I have conversations with my mom...

...that make me realize why I'm weird. I mean, I'm not THAT weird, and I guess everybody's weird in some ways, but sometimes we talk and I'm like, that? That's WHY I'm weird.

My parents babysat last night, and my mom has a bad shoulder. She was telling me this morning on the phone how she was trying to hold the baby and go to the bathroom at the same time because my dad wasn't home from work yet. I was kind of half listening then I was like, whaaaa? Did you just say you went PEE while HOLDING my kid? He's gonna need therapy!

Then she launched into this whole thing about how my parents are free with the nudity (ew, yeah I've tried to block out the memories, and ew again), and they didn't want us (my sister and I) to be ashamed of our bodies, etc., and we would walk in on my dad after he got out of the shower so it's not like it's HIS fault if we ever saw his weenie, and I'm like, hello, door locks?

Then she was like, well, I think we're really more hippies than you guys are, even though we don't smoke dope. I'm like, what the fuck? We don't either! And I don't claim to be a hippie (yes I realize what my user name is on this thing but she doesn't know about it), you're the one who always tells me my baby "smells like a hippie." I'm not making this up. She says that all the time. I think he smells like a baby. My husband is in love with this patchoulli room spray, which may be the culprit, but it's not like he sprays in ON the baby, or really even around him, so who knows why the baby "smells like a hippie." I mean, we shower and use deoderant. The real kind, not like "natural" deoderant either.

I think it's the weirdest thing ever to use the toilet while holding a baby. Isn't it? I know there are some situations where your kid is gonna see you naked, like when I HAVE to take a shower and I leave him in the doorway in his little seat, but the TOILET? While HOLDING him? It seems so bizarre. Isn't it?

Friday, August 04, 2006

So this is what all the dads are missing...

I'm the working parent. My husband is the stay at home parent. It works out nicely because I can make enough to support the family, and he has always wanted to be involved in his kids lives more than his own father, who was always working. I like this arrangement much better than if I had to send the baby to daycare or something. In fact, I probably wouldn't have gotten pregnant if we thought we couldn't do one parent staying at home. I also like working, and I don't feel any of the guilty ambiguity about it that some women do who have the option of working but don't have to because their husbands make enough, so it's just some extra fun $$. I have to, because I make more money than he would(cha ching!).

But.

Sometimes I feel like I'm missing out on stuff. You know. The baby's six months old now, and he's starting to make all kinds of noises, especially, "da da da daaaaaa dadadada da da da." A part of me can't help wondering if I was at home instead, he'd be saying "ma ma ma maaaaaa mamamama ma ma ma." (The logical part of me says no silly, they always say dada first, but still.) He's getting to the age where he can really be involved with playing. It's not just sleep eat poop sleep all the time anymore. Now that he's interested in putting everything he sees into his mouth and trying to crawl, I'm beginning to realize how much he's doing all day that I'm not seeing. And I think of all the things he will be doing that I won't see either. Learning to play more, actual crawling, walking, talking, etc. Not that I won't get to see these things on the weekend or evenings, but there is a good chance I'll miss the first something because it happens on the husband's watch. And that makes me a little bit sad.

I guess this is the way my dad felt when he worked 60 hour weeks and rarely saw us when we were very small. I rarely work more than 40, so that's something to be grateful for. And I feel so comfortable leaving the baby with the husband, because he is a natural father and loves the baby more than anything and it is SO DARN CUTE to watch them interact. In fact, sometimes it's much more comfortable for me to watch him play with the baby rather than me play with the baby myself. Because while the baby adores me and laughes himself to death and reaches up his arms to me every day when I come home, he still sees his daddy as the one who takes care of him most, and they have that special thing that I guess stay at home parents have with their kids.

I know I'm lucky. I'm lucky that one of us gets to stay home at all. I'm lucky that the baby is allowed to come by the office whenever, and if I wanted, I could go home at lunch every day because I'm close. But I had to stop doing that because whenever I left home or they left the office, I would cry and cry in the bathroom because I missed my baby. It's easier just to leave the baby at home all day and try to focus on work, then spend the last hour of the day dying to see him. He's taking the baby to the mall today with another one of our mom friends (whose own baby girl is 17 months). I'm sad that people in the mall might think that they're the family. I'm sad that the baby will get to explore that kid's play area without me being there to watch the husband slide him down the plastic slide. I'm sad that I don't get to look at that big toothless smile whenever I want or hear that hilarious cough sounding laugh except those times I'm on the phone with the husband and the baby and I get to "talk."

I understand that stay at home parents have a lot of pressure and stress related to their lives and sometimes would just kill to be able to talk to other adults, like in a work environment. And I understand that a lot of families can't have the stay at home parent luxury. An I'm grateful to have a job and be in the adult world. But sometimes I think stay at home parents are the luckiest people on the planet, and I'm sad that I have to miss stuff.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Doooooohney

I'm not a label whore. Absolutely the opposite is true. You will never see me wearing t-shirts with the name of the store plastered on the front or even sunglasses with a logo on the side. I hate brands, and I hate when people wear brands to look "cool." I also hate things I already like becoming "cool," just like I hate when my favorite band appears on MTV thereby making it no longer my favorite band. I know, I'm such a rebel.

But there's one exception.

My Dooney and Bourke purse.

My husband gave me this bag the first Christmas we were together. I salivated over it for months. I don't know what it was about it-maybe the fact that Mischa Barton was the Dooney model at the time, and the first season of the O.C. kicked ass (although it now predicatbly fellates penis), maybe it was the fact that I thought an expensive gift would mean he really loved me (I used to be lame like that, ha), or maybe it was just because it's so darn cute. But I loved it, I got it, and I carried it every day everywhere for the last 2 1/2 years. It's white so you can imagine how gross it looked after so long. My husband finally convinced me to send it back to Dooney and Bourke, because they'll repair or replace it. I hesitated, becasue according to their website, they'll either repair it or keep the old purse and refund you half the purchase price. I didn't know how you could repair a dirty beat up purse and figured I'd just get the money. However, yesterday UPS delivered me a BRAND NEW PURSE!

Yup, Dooney and Bourke rocks. They didn't charge me anything, they just sent a new one. So, even though I have a label abhorrance, I heart Dooney.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Well I guess this is growing up

Yesterday I went to lunch with an old friend of mine from high school. We've actually known each other since we were about 12, but I lost touch with her over the last few years. She did come to my baby shower, but this is the first time I've seen her since then. She just graduated and is working at the local NBC affiliate. She mentioned another friend of ours who also just graduated and is going into advertising PR. It's totally weird that my high school friends have graduated from college and are getting jobs straight out of a chick lit novel. I still need one more class to be a junior. I don't really have issues with that, beyond that since I took off last semester I feel like I'm getting stupider (see, I don't think stupider is even a word, further proof I'm becoming that), but I'm going back in the fall and I'll just keep doing it until I graduate. Plus, I'm not really worried about my career, because I have the perfect job other than the fact that I work with extreme dorks. Who are related to me. I work with my extremely dorky family. Ok, maybe I could use a career boost.

Anyway, this was going somewhere.

Oh, right.

It was mostly weird to reconnect with my friend yesterday because when I went off to college for the first time, I completely severed ties with my old friends. They weren't cool enough, didn't know people cool enough, didn't party enough, weren't fun enough. I replaced all my old friends with newer cooler ones. I wasn't ever planning on moving back to my hometown anyway, so I was just completely clean slating it. Then, I freaked out and DID move back to my hometown, therefore severing all ties with the newer cooler friends, and I'm back reconnecting with the original ones. But it's also only now that they've graduated that they really care about hanging out with me again too. I think a lot of them did the "better cooler friends" thing too to some extent.

Was there a point to this?

Oh yeah.

Growing up. Sometimes it hits me right between the eyes that, hey, WOW, I'm actually growing up. Sitting across the table from my old friend at lunch, it definitely hit me. Maybe because I hadn't seen her in so long. But it made me remember how we used to ride the bus when we were in 6th grade, and talk about boys and life and what we were going to be when we grew up. And, all of a sudden, we did grow up. It's hard to remember the line between waiting to grow up and actually doing it, but one day you realize you passed that line long ago. It's not a bad thing, not a sad thing, just something I didn't think too much about until yesterday.

On the vaccination front: The baby went to his 6 month checkup yesterday and got the same shots he'd gotten so far, the DTaP etc., and the new ones that protect against meningitis. We told the doctor we didn't want him getting the chicken pox shot, but they don't do that until age 1. We also said we didn't want the hep B, and he said that it probably wasn't necessary to do it right now, but we should eventually, because you never know when your kid is going to need a blood transfusion in a third world country. Point taken. Consider this kid's father, and there is no doubt in my mind that the baby might end up in a third world country with a serious injury at some point in his life. But the Dr. also said the main vaccines people worry about are the MMR, measles mumps rubella, so that's the next point of study. When I get around to it. Hopefully I will sometime. Because I'm tired of writing all this vaccine stuff, it really burned me out. But, I will be researching the MMR, so you get to know about it too.