Category Archives: Beauty

The truth about lemonade and fitted jeans.

With permission, I have posted parts of this email from a reader.

This email, I believe, is the real gold of this post. And this girl is one hell of a writer.

Hey,

That 25 things list that went viral? I just read it. Again. I’m pretty sure it’s the first post I read by you, and I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon it. But I did. And I did again, today. At the end you say to come find you, if I need a listener. So here I’ve come.

The thing is, I hate the way victim looks on me. That ratty, stained, torn sweatshirt, it washes me out. And these days, I find myself pulling it on, morning after morning. It’s ugly. But it’s comfortable, and I don’t quite know how to shake the habit of grabbing it off the heaping pile of dirty laundry and slipping in one arm after the other.

My life doesn’t suck. Really, my life doesn’t suck. But I zip up that nasty, dull, grey hoodie each morning like it does. I hate the unflattering cut of that sweatshirt, how it hides and distorts what’s underneath, but I choose to put it on, to let it tell the world what I think I’m worth. Day. After. Day. I know the things. I know. The having to choose. To finally part ways with the dang thing and throw it out because it doesn’t tell the world who I really am. Doesn’t tell me who I am. Sells me short. This I know. So, Hannah, so, listening ear, how do I find the want-to? How do I shirk the sweatshirt for good?

I.want.to.take.the.sweatshirt.off. I do. I just need the courage. I need to want it bad enough. Want it bad enough to stop doing the things that scream, “This is all I’m worth,” the things that make that tattered, sorry excuse of a garment hiss, “See? This is who you are. This is all you’ll ever be. You’ll never change, you’ll never change. You haven’t got it in you. You’ll always come back to this. This is home.” I need that courage.

I don’t expect you to tell me how to find the courage. I know it’s choice. I know I need to open my eyes to the beauty all around that makes the choice worth it. I know I need to unclench the fists and the teeth and open this soul to all that heals, even hurt.

I just needed to get it out, Hannah. So, if you get to read this and you have a sec, say a prayer? Shoot me an, “I’m in your corner”?  That’s all. I want this, I do. It’s just hard to go it alone and sometimes it helps to have someone remind you that you can do it. That it’s worth it.

Thanks, Hannah.

T

Hannah_Brencher073
Dearest T,

I want to tell you a secret. And it’s a secret I never told anyone up until yesterday over rib eye tacos and chopped plantains at a restaurant where the food arrives to the table in adorable, little bowls. I guess I don’t know what makes a secret no longer a secret. I want to say the limit is 5 people or something. So it looks like this won’t be a secret anymore after tonight.

I used to hate pants. I used to hate wearing pants for the past three years. No one really knows that. I had a few pairs of them. I’d wear them occasionally but I always opted for dresses and skirts and tights. If I did wear a pair of pants, they were always looser. Sort of baggy. It’s strange to admit that here, that I hated the tightness of jeans. I hated feeling a waistband against my skin. I hated sitting down in a chair and being able to sense that I might have love handles. It was the leftover side effects of a body disorder. Every waistband was a reminder to me that I needed to be shrinking, not growing.

It wasn’t until a month ago that I walked into the GAP on Lexington Avenue and saw a pair of bright-blue jeans that I loved. Even just on the hanger, we were having a love affair. I took them with me into the fitting room. I geared up for the equivalent of the Hunger Games in my mind– a competition between all the districts of small voices in my head that told me how small I should be. How very little space I should try to take up.

I put the pants on. Slowly. Hesitantly. And I stared at myself in the mirror for what felt like a long time. And I didn’t forge a peace pact with my body or anything but I realized I was okay with it. I was okay with it.

I walked out of the GAP that day with two pairs of jeans and a body. Yes, it turns out that I have a body. And I have curves. And I have a shape. And I have all these things I never really took the time to see before. I’d been too busy hiding from it.

And surprisingly, there’s nothing destructive about my body. And nothing crumbles when I zipper jeans and feel the waistband against my skin. And if I just decide for myself that I’ve had enough of that, I can put it behind me. I actually have the power to put it behind me. And it’s enough for me to know, or at least predict, that when I am 76, I will have wished I loved my body a little more and went for the fitted pants. That’s enough for me to put them on.

T, I don’t want to be the person who lugs regrets like carry-on luggage into older age. I don’t want to have to say, looking back, that I was very fluent with breaking my own heart when it came to self-worth.

 

When I read your email– the beauty of all your syllables– I thought about those pants.

I thought about one of my girlfriend’s demanding I walk around to her side of the table in the middle of a lunch date and do a spin, right after I bought them.

“You have a body,” she said. “I didn’t even see it before. I didn’t know you had a shape.”

She didn’t know it because I covered it up. And I chose oversized layers. And I spent a long time wearing things that didn’t really fit me or flatter me simply because I wanted to be smaller than what I really was.

And I wonder if it might be the same for you and that word of yours– victim. I wonder what it would be like if you just decided today that you were done with that word. Done with that name. If it was being discontinued. Retired. Thrown away. I wonder if maybe all of us are a single internal shopping trip away from picking out better names to go by from the inventory of ourselves.

I wonder if you sat down for five minutes and you envisioned someone giving you the permission to cut that word out of every single dictionary and burn all the little shreds of paper that read the word “victim” on them, what that might feel like. I wonder if you would realize you’re okay without the word. You’re not destructive. You’re not a wrecking ball. You’re not someone who needs the word “victim” to keep her muzzled, and safe, and tame. You’re okay. You might even be better than okay.

I wonder if you will find that you have a contagious laugh. That you like mornings instead of nights. That you like your coffee black when you have the courage to try sipping it without spoonfuls of sugar mixed in. I wonder if you will see a lot more of this lifetime– all the curves of it– when you stop using a word that so quickly dismembers you and belittles you and tries to make you smaller than you really are. When you stop using the word “victim” as a comfort zone and you just learn the truth about comfort zones: comfort zones are a myth. They’re like reindeer with red lightbulbs attached to their noises to the people who live braves lives.

I wonder if you’ll wake up wide-eyed tomorrow and see the truth: we’re all looking for names and hurdles and things to be chains that keep us from fully living. We’re drawn to poems and stories where the limitations are lifted. And yet, some of us never move. We blast songs about learning to let it go. And yet, some of us will never stop holding onto the chains. It’s like we’re all just a single step away from realizing that the chains might be real but they’re paper. We could break them. We could really break them if we wanted to.

 

You’re ready.

It’s like you’re ready but you have just one more step in front of you. That’s all I really hear in your letter, T. I hear the voice that is sitting in between every line, saying, “I’m not this small. I’m just afraid of bigness. I am afraid that small is comfortable and small is safe and small is where I belong.”

Darling, small isn’t real. If your mind is already tumbling wildly over bigness than thinking you’ll be just fine playing a small life is a heartbreaking myth, as well. You’re denying yourself of the goodness you want. You’re mixing lemonade, pouring the sugar in, adding the ice and then saying to that heart of yours, “No, no, watch it from the counter but don’t you sip. That lemonade is for other people. Not you. Not you.”

T, you made the lemonade. You made it. And you have one more step. So say it with me, “And now, I’ll take a sip.”

 

I have a digital assistant.

Her name is Bethany. She is a bit of a powerhouse and I love her more fiercely than I get to tell her sometimes. She’s sort of like glue to the parts of me that don’t know how to keep an inbox organized. She wrote this article recently. And she wrote this one line. If I believed in face tattoos, this would probably be the line I choose to get needled across my nose and freckled cheeks:

“–what I’ve learned is that removing a label doesn’t change you—it frees you.”

That’s what will happen when you dismember that word “victim.” When you throw it away. You’ll be the same, sweet person. You’ll have the same heart. You’ll just be free. Imagine that. You’ll be free.

Don’t be afraid of being free. Don’t be afraid of the slow, long sips of sweet elixirs this life is going to give you on the day you choose big over small. Don’t be afraid of the fitted pants.

It starts by putting on the pants, one leg at a time. It starts with one slow slip.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

 

As always with these sort of things, post a note in the comments below for T. She’ll be reading.

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Filed under Beauty, brave

I’m not gonna tell you that you’re beautiful.

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I used to wait for my roommates to go to sleep so I could creep down the hallway into the kitchen and fill a bowl with food.

It was odds and ends of the things I could find in the fridge and I would eat until I reached the bottom of the bowl. I never told anyone how I was a vacuum cleaner at night, that I was trying to fill some kind of emptiness inside of me. It was a secret sworn between me & cutlery & the 1am hour.

I’d cry & I’d cry & I’d cry. And no one knew the desperation that visited me when I no longer knew how to control myself. How I just wanted to shrink smaller, smaller, smaller until I could disappear. Who taught me to be less? Who taught me to be so fragile?

My mama is like a gust of wind. She is stronger than I know how to be. She is all the sorts of love you wish you could grow up and become.  She never taught me to be small so I never learned it from her. My mama had promised me the stars and I just settled for the crumbs.

My mama would probably say, “Beautiful is loud footsteps. Knowing the weight of your own footsteps, not your torso. Beautiful is knowing that you came here to make a ruckus. Beautiful is being so big & bright that it makes it impossible for people to take their eyes off you. Always they will wonder, what will that one do next?”

When I said I was struggling, people would tell me I was beautiful. “Don’t worry, you’re beautiful. You’re strong.” Like just telling me “You’re beautiful” was enough. I couldn’t help but laugh. I was uncontrollable. I was sad. I was a sometimes, some days, most-days animal.

Beautiful was a word that I’d heard so many times– flung from girl to girl in some shallow exchange of words that was rarely ever meant– that it lost all meaning to me. Beautiful is a bound-up, broken word in a culture that matches it against thigh sizes and blemish-free skin.

The world had drained out all the metrics of measuring beautiful and replaced it with scales and calorie counts.

I’m not gonna stand here and tell you that you’re beautiful, like that’s gonna fix all your problems. Sorry, I just won’t. I’m not going to tell you of the worth you have. I’m not gonna wait for you to come to grips with whoever meets you on the other side of the mirror. I’m not gonna tell you that loving your curves makes everything better. Because what if it doesn’t? And what if you’re still sorry over that cookie you had two hours ago?

I’m just going to tell you that you’re kind of strange. You’re kind of quirky in the sense that no one ever fully understands the person that you are so you carry it like a secret between your smirked lips. Yes, you’ve been waiting for a moment to prove people wrong. I cannot wait to see that day.

You’re weird. You’re a little odd. You’ve never fully fit in but you are finally coming to grips with the fact that you don’t really want to be a follower. And baby, if you don’t want to be something then just don’t be it. People will tell you it is not as simple as that. But what if they’re wrong? And what if it is? Maybe we are all just 30 seconds away from stopping something for good and being different people today.

 

I’m not gonna tell you who to keep in your life. I’m no expert in always keeping the best company. But I am gonna say that someone out there believes in you. Someone out there needs you alive & breathing today. I am gonna say that someone else out there, they don’t see what you are. They never have. They never will. I’m not gonna tell you to cut the cord or break the tie but I am gonna wonder why you’re clipping your own wings though… I cannot do anything but wonder why you’re letting someone snuff the light out from your eyes. You could be so bright, you could be so bright.

 

I’m not gonna tell you that you’re beautiful. You have not needed to know you’re beauty so much as you’ve needed to see that you’re capable.

I’m not going to tell you to just get over it. If it were that easy, maybe we’d all do it. We’d have no issues. We’d have no internal struggles. We wouldn’t walk this line of good and evil every day. But I am gonna tell you that no bone inside of you has ever been a mistake. And no struggle inside of you has ever gotten rooted without a reason. Babe, if you’ve got struggles then let’s start raging. Your tiny fingers were prepped and created for battle.

Struggles are going to make you a fighter. Where I come from, we kiss the dirty ground for struggles. They are going to make your story that much resilient. You’re not going to survive them, you are going to absolutely obliterate them.

 

I’m not gonna tell you you’re dainty, and fragile, and a flower in the field. I’m not gonna turn you into a delicate line of poetry when you were born with so much feist & zeal & madness inside of you. How dare the world not tell you, right from the start, that you are some kind of warrior.

I’m not gonna tell you that you’ll always like yourself or that you’ll always believe in yourself. If you’re the least bit human then you’ve given up on yourself too many times to count this month already. I’m not gonna promise you won’t do something to hurt yourself or others around you. I’m not gonna act surprised if you admit it happened last night. But I am gonna tell you that deciding to believe in victory, that it was made for me,  has made all the difference to me.

If you want to stand here and wallow for too long about how you need to fix every itty bitty thing inside of you before you can ever get out there and do something that matters in this world, you can. I can’t stop you. But I can tell you that it’s this stupid, fragmented idea inside our heads that if we can just fix everything about ourselves then we’ll somehow be adequate enough to love on the world.

Darling, you’re adequate. While dancing. While speaking. While ugly crying. While spitting game. While struggling. While fighting. While laughing like a lunatic. While singing Taylor Swift at the top of your lungs. While slamming the door and walking away.  In every little crook of you stands some sort of adequacy that the world would do anything to keep you unconvinced of.

 

And maybe I’ve got no street cred, no authority, no weight in saying this, but I’m not gonna let you be the world’s largest living & breathing apology. I’m not gonna let you say “sorry” any longer– as if “sorry” were your second language– for things no human should ever have to apologize for. Say sorry when you’ve hurt someone. Say sorry when you’ve really misplaced your words and actions. But stop saying sorry for standing there and showing up to life everyday. You’re not an apology letter, you’re a thank-you note just waiting to happen.

And the best thing you might be able to do today is get outside, thank the skies for this day, and be the best darn broken piece of lovely you can be. Broken loveliness is the world’s most common language. We all speak it so we might as well get fluent.

The best thing you might be able to do today is forget yourself. And forget all the people you’ve tried to be. And forget all the people who told you to be someone different. And just look around long enough to notice that we all need some sort of pick-me-up on a Monday. We all want some kind of worth. We all struggle to see what is really right in front of us. We all deprive ourselves and get it wrong. We all wonder about the bigger picture and who made it all. We all wonder when we’ll wake up and finally, finally, feel like we were made to take on this day. We all wonder when, if ever, we’ll get better at this whole human being thang. Maybe “beautiful” is an overly diluted word but there is no denying that you are surrounded, surrounded by people who’ve wanted to be warriors too. With loud footsteps. And the power to make a ruckus. And the kind of heart that makes people wonder, what will this one do next?

 

I’m not gonna tell you that you’re beautiful. Sorry, I won’t. I am just going to stay here. And I’m not gonna give up on you today. Because I’ve found we stay standing when people don’t give up on us.  So I’m not giving up on you today. Or tomorrow.

You cannot mark the day on the calendar when I’ll walk away from you.

That, my dear, is just not happening.

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Filed under Beauty

It used to be just a body.

My mother should have punched me square in the face on the day Rihanna released her “Rude Boy” single.

Seriously now. She should have pulled over to the side of the road, parked the car and socked me good the moment the song started pouring through the stereo speakers.

“Come here, rude boy, boy; can you get it up?

Come here rude boy, boy; is you big enough?”

These lyrics are absolutely disgusting,” she whined.

And me? I proceeded to defend Rihanna as if she were my best friend. As if we’d pledged blood to each other one summer night.  I slipped on “feminist” like a fitted leather jacket and proceeded to rattle out all the reasons why Rihanna was fist pumping and rallying against the decades owned by rappers and male songwriters who objectified women and made us sound as sturdy and oiled as the Camaro that only comes out after 11PM.

“She is a voice for the women. She was sticking it to the men,” I raved.

Woof…. I repeat, Woof. You can come over here to little New Haven, CT, and sock me if you would like. I’d welcome your fist. Truly.

I have not grown up yet.

I truly believe that. I am still in the muds of this growing up thang and it is reckless & daunting & always reminding me that just when I think I’ve learned an inch of it, down in the distance lies another mile.

& so early I wake to learn how to speak. How to dance. How to live. How to live more fully than the living in the last sentence. & live more fully again, but with a breathless rhythm this time around. & I am learning what it means to value myself. The beauty of me. The body I’ve been given. In a way I never knew how to before.

I told a clutter of girls about my 9th grade hooker existence the other night. About how I think God clearly wasn’t grinning as I paraded around like a prostitute with a Lisa Frank binder forgetting the 50 states one-by-one to make everything one step easier for the boys. No brains, just body. Bye bye Alabama. So long Missouri.

& it continued that way for a very long while. I just got classier in holding it all together but, to me, it was still just a body. Something I should own. Make use of. Value it for the loopholes it could give me in a world that is already so drunk with sex appeal.

 

It used to be just a body.

Limbs & Legs & Leverage. And it was said to be no big deal to be abandoned in a bed with flannel sheets. & it was said to be “social norm” for a girl to grow up and be everything Rihanna sang out that afternoon on the radio. She should learn to swallow the words whole at college parties or when it blasted through her ear buds at the 45-minute mark of the workout.

It was said that those were the things she wanted to be… the things she ought to be if ever, oh, ever she wanted the latching of Pretty & Desirable & Good.

& what’s a girl to do in the moment when the whole world sings crudely but daily– with some kind of harmony– about her body & only her body? Her brains were never thick in those songs. Her dreams were never powerful. But her hips never lied & her junk was in the trunk & always she wanted to get dirty in those songs.

Enough of it would make the girl start to believe it after a while… that she is just a “the captain,” just expected to “ride it good.” Someone labeled as the “wild one” “saddled up” and “just begun.” Begun like a workday. Wrecked like a war zone.

Crying only when emotions got involved… only when feelings became entangled… but making sure, really sure, that they never did. It would just be a body & all that body could offer in exchange for the things her heart could not.

 

& it took you years.

Or it’s taken you years. Or it might take you y.e.a.r.s. to admit that it– all the parts of it– hurt you more than you could care to admit. That tears came, only & only, because he was lying beside a body all this time.

A body, a body, but he didn’t see the soul. No trace of the girl you ever wanted to be. With the brighter eyes. The brighter eyes.

& maybe it took you. Or it’s taking you. Or it’s gonna take you years & teeny, tiny lifetimes to see that you are so much more than just a body tethered to song lyrics—heartless & crude to the Beloved parts of you– that got away from the truth: Yes, yes, you were just a fragile creature all along. Made to be valued. Designed to worthy. Brewed & brewed & brewed to be so much more than a body stapled & tired with an image of beauty that only ran ankle-deep when the whole wide world should have flooded out– tsunami-style– over the worth & weight of you.

You were just a fragile creature all this time. You came here looking for love.

It should have stayed that way. It should have stayed that way.

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Filed under Beauty

Peace with Reeses Pieces

Fallen peanut butter soldiers, armored in chocolate with sugar as ammo, fell clumsily onto the table top. Wounded in transport, their exteriors were thickly coated in a residue of vanilla ice cream.

Audrey, you are making a mess. Keep the Reese’s Pieces in the bowl.”

But I was only trying to get them to your bowl,” she replied, a somber look etched upon her face. “They forgot to put the candies in your ice cream.”

I often forget she is only four, that I am her babysitter instead of her best friend. No four-year old can easily shoulder the concept of anyone– young or old– turning down candy. Skipping out on chocolate-coated morsels to dodge demons of saturated fat and Sucralose. Opting for frozen yogurt. Cutting one’s self off at the knees because thin tastes good and skinny even better.

Millions of us are lost somewhere, amidst a slew of numbers on a scale and inches in a waist line. We are pumping conversations, held over skinny lattes, with words like: love handles, nose jobs, Botox, diets. All to attempt gripping a single word, hoping to hear it pounce from the tongues of others: Beautiful.

We begin to wonder (or at least I have): Who is our beauty for? What purpose does our beauty serve? What is up with this word being so exclusive?

Somewhere, yes, somewhere we became slaves to three syllables. Nine letters.

B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.

I’ve struggled to declare that word to a mirror. “You are beautiful,” “You look awesome today,” “You are powerful and wonderful beyond measure.” Easy to type. Surprisingly, not so easy to say.

When we stand face to face with ourselves, sometimes questioning if a stranger has come to be a stand-in for our own reflection, we realize how hard it is to lie to ourselves.

We can lie to the world pretty simply. Gorgeous Liars and Pretty Hiders. Hiding behind our Smiles and Make Up. Our Salads and Diets and No Carb Challenges.

But face to face with me, and only me, a dialogue was forced. That tired girl in the mirror had something to say. And let me tell you, I very rarely allow her to speak.

“You make me feel worthless sometimes,” she told me. “You deprive me all the time. Would it kill you to let me have something sweet? Delectable? Something that takes my taste buds out of comatose?”

“Stop summing me up through single body parts: thighs, butt, arms, nose, teeth. You make me feel like I am only worth one word. One Breath. If that. You criticize me but you are the one who gave me the cookies and the chewy bears. It was you. So why am I your verbal punching bag? You poke and prod me and you detach yourself from me. I am trying, can’t you see? I am trying to be loveable enough for you. But you cannot love me, you won’t even try.”

The girl in the mirror is right. So right. I cannot love her without trying first.

You are beautiful,” I reply back. Timid and shy, speaking as though I am making an offer, a peace pact, that I already believe she will decline.

But the words carry weight and promise of things to come.

To find peace in pieces of cake. Find peace in piecing together a new love constitution with my body. Find peace in the Reese’s Pieces that others drop into my bowl. Tap, tap, tap, against the ceramic of the ice cream dishes. The resounding sound of Love.

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Filed under Beauty

Mirror, mirror on the wall, I cannot walk but I can crawl…

This blog lets me down on a daily basis.

She lets me down in the same way that not-so-BFFish friend from the ninth grade, who promised to set me up with the cute boy at the all guys high school but then decided to date him herself, let me down.

Every day I come to this blog disappointed. She will never be what I want her to be.

I get it. I understand.

I’d need to attend Hogwarts or some ridiculous magic school where boys prance around with lightning bolts on their heads to gather up the spells necessary to morph this blog into what I really wish it could be: a table and two chairs. The backseat of a car. A window seat for two. A place where we could sit & talk and really learn one another beyond screens and Twitter handles.

If that were the case, then today, my blog would be a stage. And I would stand triumphantly upon my blog-like stage, tap the microphone twice and welcome all of you into the Season of Body Hating. Yes, you read that right (and if this blog were a stage then you would have heard it right), we have entered the Season of Body Hating.

Are there any newcomers to the crowd? Anyone who just realized their thighs touch or that their nose is too big? Welcome, welcome. We will be sure to set you up with a seasoned Body Hater at the end of this meeting.

You might think me strange, as Body Hating Season is normally believed to be the love child of Spring Break’s too tiny bikinis and Summer’s realization that yes, we’ve got a great deal of “Love” to “Handle” before we hit the waves and feel comfortable enough to do all that Baywatch slow-mo running.

BUT, BUT, I’ve had my ears open for the last few weeks, enough to know that plenty of us are growling at the mirror. Hating the fit of our jeans. We are Wanting to lose the weight. Needing to the lose the weight. Only to tumble & tear under the pressure of Want & Need while turning to the nachos to make this feeling of inadequacy Just Go Away.

We are Body Haters. And maybe you are like me, falling into the “I’d rather not hate anyone one, let’s braid flowers into our hair and love up on one another in a Woodstock fashion” category, but I will admit that there are some types of people that I strongly dislike… the kind who cut others down. The kind that belittle for no reason. The Negative & the Naysayers.  You know them. You surely know them. I give you full permission to say them in a really dramatic way; slather repulsion and a tone of annoyance all over that “them.”

But while we are on the topic of “them” though, let’s take a short field trip.

Unplug your laptop from the wall and bring it to a place where you can sit before a mirror and ask yourself a question.  I am willing to believe you might have never asked this question before: What have your thighs done wrong? What has your stomach done wrong? What have your arms done wrong?

They’ve never teased. Never taunted. Never told you that were not good enough.  They’ve just been there, as parts of you & I, and yet they never get praise. Only our Buckets Full of Negativity, our Self-Loathing, our Frustration.

You. Me. We’ve been the bullies this whole time. We’ve been the naysayers and the negative ones, tearing ourselves down in the mirror. Leg by Leg. Calorie by Calorie.

We’ve been the ones to cut ourselves at the knees and take to crawling. We’ve belittled our inner thighs. Trash talked our body fat. We’ve called ourselves Fat, Ugly, Disgusting, Pathetic before we ever thought to give ourselves a sentence of love. Or even just a word. Heck, a letter. A Single Stroke of Ink on a page that affirms the fact that we love the person reflected before us each day.

I don’t know what you’ve realized lately, but I am finding that it makes living hard. It makes day to day life hard when the one who never wronged us, sitting in the mirror, takes all the blame for something that sits within us. An Ugliness perched within our own hearts that comes out in all sorts of Fat Talk & Ridicule.

If it is not our love handles then it will be our butt, if its not our butt then it will be our shoulders… some kind of “Imperfect” will always rub against our skin if we keep it this way. If we keep ourselves in the role of bullying our bodies instead of ever declaring, enough to truly believe it, that we deserve more.

We Need More. More than 100 calories that never satisfied us anyway. More than an hour long boot camp session that will hopefully leave us smaller in this world.

We need more. We need more.

To Be Continued…

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Filed under A Year Without Beauty Magazines, Beauty

We can plant a box in the middle of town and, on days when we are feeling lovely, we could pour the loveliness in.

Thought I was writing this letter for a girl in Starbucks after I could not help but eavesdrop on her phone conversation… She walked away and I just sat there, staring at the words I wrote to her. The letters jumped from the page.

Turns out I was writing it not just for her but for me, my best friend and a slew of other young women just trying to find their place in this life.

If that’s you today, then this letter is yours. 

I’m sorry but I could not help but sit within your phone conversation.

I’ll admit it right now. Up Front. I totally sat somewhere between the iced coffee in front of you and the mess of paperwork surrounding you.

Somewhere between the iPhone to your ear and the Words that Seemed to Shatter Against the Starbucks Window you sat beside.

I stayed and lingered for a while. Hanging off the words you said to someone who should have been better to you.

“You know… I am doing OK.”

A Great Pause.

“It’s just tough… I am going to have to prove myself… I just need to be relevant in some way. The way I was in LA… It’s been hard to be nothing at the end of the day.”

And gosh, I don’t know you, so I guess this is where I wanted the most to break into the conversation and awkwardly make some comment about how much I adore your blouse. The green really fits you.

I don’t really care about the green blouse, I just have a tough time blurting out to strangers that I think the world is better because of them.

And all I really want to say, beyond silk and satin compliments, is that I am in your shoes. That a million of us are in your shoes today. Wanting to feel adequate. Loved. Wondering if we should start jumping on tables and yelling in the middle of the Fresh Produce aisles of Target just so people know we are here. That we exist. That we matter.

You know, if I were a psychologist I might attest that it all traced back to our Little Girl Days…Beside toys & dolls with frilled dresses, we became Girls Who Cared Too Much. Lived Too Little. Tried Too Hard to Win Too Little of Love than the Great Love We Truly Deserved.

If I were a sociologist I would say it stems back the Mean Girls. To the cold shuns of lockers closing & twisted teeth, neon metal filling their mouths, who slur secrets to one another about the way we dress and the hairs on our heads. That’s when we became Slaves, Shackled to What the World Thinks of Us.

And if I were an anthropologist I would say this goes all the way back to Eve…. Even in her fig leaf ensembles, I am so certain if she had been handed a resume, an LSAT study book, a pair of tweezers and a beauty magazine she would have found ways to sit by the water when Adam wasn’t looking, stare into her reflection and whisper out loud, “Be more, Eve. Be more.”

But strip from me the “psych” & “soc” & “anthro” and I am just some Ologist who is dying to tell you that you don’t have to be alone in this. That we can figure out this mess together. Day by day. Even minute by minute if it takes us that long. But we don’t have to go it alone.

I say we, and not you, because already—even if you don’t believe it—I’m determined to not leave you alone in this.

We can get an army going, for I know there are a lot of pretty girls this side of the town who would gather alongside us.

We could plant a box in the middle of town and, on days when we are feeling lovely, we could pour the loveliness in. When you are feeling beautiful, you go ahead and pour into it too. Pass that love to the box for a girl who’s feeling less Lovely & needs a lift the next day. We could seesaw love… back and forth to one another. It could be a beautiful, radical thing that would keep us away from coffee shops that leave us spilling self-worth out from the seams of phone conversations.

We could laugh about this one day over too many glasses of wine. We could cock our heads back and snicker for several hours over the silliness that’s now stitched to the days we called ourselves Worthless. Not Good Enough. Inadequate. Irrelevant.

Snicker, snicker, snicker, I think I’d like to laugh about this one day, to reach a point where I could stand before a mirror and laugh until my head falls off, saying to the girl with brown hair looking back, “How did I ever abandon you? Cut you down? Push you into boxes far too small? 

I love you, and I adore you. I love you, and I adore you.

You are my best friend and I won’t forget to remember that… you are my best friend and I wont remember to forget that.”

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Filed under Beauty, Love Yourself

Never Beautiful Enough: Featured on the Good Women Project Today

The following piece is featured today on Good Women Project to finish out a powerful month of Bodies and Beauty pieces. The site tackles hard to talk about issues of identity, sex, and relationships in a spiritual light like I’ve never seen before and I beyond excited to be talking about body image on the site today. Be sure to check all the other great pieces and to follow @goodwomenproj today. Enjoy and have a happy and safe 4th of July!

I ask him to tell me the story nearly every time his voice picks up on the other line.

I am like a breathy child in need of his bedtime tale; for the way he unravels the deeper story, like a chocolate wrapped tight in tinfoil, is just too good, far too sweet, to hear only once. Or Twice.

He tells me of the orphanage in the Honduras where he spent a summer. Building and expanding the grounds. The Little Girls scampered and played, the crowns of their heads kissed endlessly by the Sun, as he and the other workers toiled in the distance, mixing concrete and sweat with buckets of compassion to give these girls more room to play.

As the fireflies came out to light up the dusk, he and working men would wipe their brows and walk back closer to the school to be fed by the laughter and joy of the Little Girls. Little Girls with no arms. No Legs. Limbless. Untouchable in their own society. Girls who would be categorized as “incomplete” in our very own society.

“But they were the happiest children I have ever seen,he told me. No one taught them that they were missing something and so they were missing nothing at all.”

It’s as if you can hear the tune of “Jesus loves the little children,” rising up, stomping its feet, to tell the world of nonbelievers it is a song coming to life as he tells me about those Beautiful Little Ones. Over & Over Again.

Missing arms & legs, and yet missing nothing at all.

The story always leaves me sitting before a full length mirror wondering what happened. What happened in my own life to leave me believing that even with arms that swing and feet that dance, I am missing something? That I am not good enough?

While those little girls scrounge the dirt for insects and flowers, I scour the shopping malls and my own body for perfection, something I know will never exist. For if it were not my hips then it would be my thighs. And after my freckles, then my stomach.

Perhaps its never that we grow to be perfect but we grow to learn the loveliness behind what’s there in the mirror. What God chose to put there all along. I cannot be certain, I haven’t learned this lesson myself yet. In fact, I’m shooting through the dark, afraid this is the lesson I was meant to learn all along.

I gave up beauty magazines for a year just two months ago. It has been sixty days since my hands slid across a glossy cover and unearthed the secrets to slimmer thighs and better biceps. And yet I am still standing at the fore font of the mud I know I need to sink my feet within; the reason I gave up my own 120-pages of Heaven to begin with. God and I. We still need to converse about my interior and the ways He desires to mold me to be more like His Son.

Like a little child desperate to ignore the request of her parent, I will throw just about any kind of tantrum to keep me fixated on the outside, on the unimportant exterior details that will surely keep me far too busy to ever do any real kind of Soul Fixing.

Just let me fix my split ends, God, and then we can get to my jealousy. Oh please, oh please, let me focus on smooth skin and then in no time we will be chatting about last summer and why I still cannot let you take it from my shoulders.

I know if I plucked away from my day the hour or two spent checking my teeth or scrutinizing the size of my thighs  I would probably have a good chunk of time on my hands. Time to start fixing other things. Relationships. Sins.

I’d rather stick to the mirror.

There I’ll stay. Wrapped up good. Wrapped up tight. Spending tiny eternities fixated on my own body image before I step any closer towards morphing myself into His own image. Until I admit it to myself: I wont be an ounce holier, a bit happier, with more toned shoulders.

“I don’t want to change,” I say under my breath.

“But I cannot leave you this way,” God says back. “You and I both know I  could never leave you this way.

It hurts. It crushes. To clutch the hand of my God as he leads me to the car crashes that line up in my soul. I want to grab the tweezers instead. I want to dart over to Sephora and submerge myself in shelves of glittery eyeshadow before I ever have to deal with what brews inside my own heart, what God could absolutely stand to see changed. The Ugliness that keeps me standing still and far off from the Bigger Plans he has for me.

Because it would be so scary, oh so scary, to see for the first time that I don’t need thirty day plans or diet secrets. That I don’t need more makeup and tinier jeans. That He spun me and made me for greater works that we both will never see to pass until I give up my  body image ammunition and surrender at His Feet.

Because only when I dare to get ugly with my God will He make me more beautiful.

Only when I stop praying for outer beauty will He put me to work with the insides of others.

Only when I turn away from the mirror will I see the beauty there is to be stitched within the world and the real part I was made to play in all of it.

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Filed under A Year Without Beauty Magazines, Beauty, Uncategorized

Relearning Loveliness: Not ten pounds lighter. Not two weeks later.

You would think a girl who spent childhood making collages with pass out literature from UNICEF and annual global poverty reports, wouldn’t find her most disturbing discovery at the United Nations in the bathroom of the main headquarters.

I am trying not to stare over as I pump a thick layer of neon soap in the palms of my hands and dip them under the soapy water.

One by one, the women stop and pause in front of the full-length mirror.

Tug at their shirts.

Suck in their stomachs.

Turn at a few different angles.

Leaving a disdained look upon the mirror as they turn away,  disapproval plastered on the mirror like a lipstick kiss.

 

I click clack my heels daily around a monumental place where genocide, malaria, peace, war, girls’ rights and primary education are all the basic words you need  in order to have a substantial conversation over coffee. And yet, I wonder the most about the women who walk around here and all over New York City, and All Over Every City, not satisfied when they greet a full-length mirror.

The women who cringe over fitting rooms and racks of skinny jeans.

Some days I want to study it. Pull up a chair into the center of any fitting room and take field notes. Or hear the story from start to finish as if it were bound and scripted for bedtime purposes. I could curl up on blue carpeting and find some librarian to read the picture book out loud to me.

Once upon a time, there lived a young girl. And as she grew older the world grew harder. Her thighs were always too big. Her nose to long. Her ankles too fat. Her skin too blemished….

I don’t know what the pictures might look like.

Maybe watercolor paintings of sad girls in princess dresses. With pocket-sized mirrors. Maybe Eric Carle would do the illustrations.

If I had two extra hours to my every day, I would surely dedicate the 120 minutes to tracking down a scholar who could point out to me just where women started missing parts and cutting themselves off at the knees. Where it began… Where he believes it might end…

Where we learned verbs like “comparing,” “despising,” and “sizing.”  And started using our adjectives to belittle our bodies and devalue our worth.

Then perhaps that same scholar could take me on a walking tour, as if we were catching a new exhibit at the MOMA on a Friday night. Here is the woman who turns to peanut butter and wine, he would show me. And down the line you will find the young girl who rummages through clothes racks to look for self worth, only in even numbers, less than 6. Size 0. Size 2. Size 4.

I really wouldn’t need a pamphlet or a tour guide.

I wouldn’t need to plug a set of headphones into a wall to hear a young woman’s story to know “why.”

The thing about most of us is that we understand why she isn’t eating and she is eating so much. Because we all grew up together in a space that taught us every aspect of being Thin, Pretty, & Desirable for any and every occasion.

We never grew up reading beauty magazines with glossy spreads teaching us the goodness of our birthmarks and the sweetness to our gap teeth. From time to time we would find the declaration of love, but really we were just reading up on how to fix this part of ourselves, or lessen that part.

How to be smaller in the world. Take up less space. Be quiet and play pretty.

And though we grew up with a rare right to preserve and protect our bodies, we struggle to find much value in them. Little time to value the Birthmarks, the Curves. The Freckled Elbows. The Grey Hairs on Heads.

I always wondered, while flipping through the pages of different monthly issues with all the same issues on the front cover, how will I ever learn to love something that constantly needs changing? How I could ever learn to adore a body when it needed altering always. Hemming always. Trimming always.

Where there was always an end goal that a scale would define.

Where I would always be a traveller, a nomad, looking for that point of peace in the mirror.

Geneen Roth, one of my favorite authors, first planted the words of poet Galway Kinnell into her book and I read them, suddenly wishing this single verse could have been my lullaby growing up.

Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.

Loveliness… It could be a new favorite word. A great new leather jacket of Loveliness to wear around. And zip our hearts inward tightly.

Roth goes on to write about wings. And how we have all been given wings. And how we learn to fly, from wings.

And it’s a pretty thought.

A better ending to the picture book story with a very grim beginning, with watercolor girls fading as if they and their pages were left out in the rain. The thought of us all flying. Soaring. Above it all.

The thought of us all running into a conference room breathless, clutching lined paper and digital cameras. Throwing a pile of colored crumpled sketches and black and white photographs into the center of a table that I decided would be round.

And the thought of sifting and sorting for the very best stories of love. The very best images of self worth.  The most wonderful ballads of acceptance and pacts with our bodies.

And we would send that collection off to the printing press. Binding some new magazine. Some new spread. Some better way to relearn our loveliness right where we are. Not ten pounds lighter. Not two weeks later.

Relearning loveliness. Just as we are.

 

 

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Filed under Beauty, For a Better World, Happiness, Healthy Lifestyle

Making Peace with Reese’s Pieces: A beauty message and a promise.

via weheartit.com

Fallen peanut butter soldiers, armored in chocolate with sugar as ammo, fell clumsily onto the table top. Wounded in transport, their exteriors were thickly coated in a residue of vanilla ice cream.

Audrey, you are making a mess. Keep the Reese’s Pieces in the bowl.”

But I was only trying to get them to your bowl,” she replied, a somber look etched upon her face. “They forgot to put the candies in your ice cream.”

I often forget she is only four, that I am her babysitter instead of her best friend. No four-year old easily understands the concept of anyone, young or old, turning down candy. Skipping out on chocolate-coated morsels to dodge demons of saturated fat and Sucralose. Opting for frozen yogurt. Cutting one’s self off at the knees because thin tastes good and skinny even better.

Millions of us are lost somewhere, amidst a slew of numbers on a scale and inches in a waist line. We are pumping conversations, held over skinny lattes, with words like: love handles, nose jobs, Botox, diets. All to attempt gripping a single word, hoping to hear it pounce from the tongues of others: Beautiful.

We begin to wonder (or at least I have): Who is our beauty for? What purpose does our beauty serve? What is up with this word being so exclusive?

Somewhere, yes, somewhere we became slaves to three syllables. Nine letters.

B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.

The Beauty Challenge, at first glance, seems like no challenge at all. I giggled at the thought of declaring my beauty in front of a mirror, three times a day, in a fashion similar to the queen in Snow White. “You are beautiful,” “You look awesome today,” “You are powerful and wonderful beyond measure.” Easy to type. Surprisingly, not so easy to say.

When we stand face to face with ourselves, sometimes questioning if a stranger has come to be a stand-in for our own reflection, we realize how hard it is to lie to ourselves.

We can lie to the world pretty simply. Gorgeous Liars and Pretty Hiders. Hiding behind our Smiles and Make Up. Our Salads and Diets and No Carb Challenges.

But face to face with me, and only me, a dialogue was forced. That tired girl in the mirror had something to say. And let me tell you, I very rarely allow her to speak.

“You make me feel worthless sometimes,” she told me. “You deprive me all the time. Would it kill you to let me have something sweet? Delectable? Something that takes my taste buds out of comatose?”

“Stop summing me up through single body parts: thighs, butt, arms, nose, teeth. You make me feel like I am only worth one word. One Breath. If that. You criticize me but you are the one who gave me the cookies and the chewy bears. It was you. So why am I your verbal punching bag? You poke and prod me and you detach yourself from me. I am trying, can’t you see? I am trying to be loveable enough for you. But you cannot love me, you won’t even try.”

The girl in the mirror is right. So right. I cannot love her without trying first.

You are beautiful,” I reply back. Timid and shy, speaking as though I am making an offering that I already believe she will decline.

The words carry weight and promise of things to come.

Make the promise with me: To give our body good foods but to treat them to a cupcake once in a while as well. To give our bodies plenty of exercise but to acknowledge and supply them with rest when they need it. To own up to and then stop the negativity, the full frontal combat delivered through unkind words.

Let’s find peace in pieces of cake. Find peace in piecing together a new love constitution with our bodies. Find peace in the Reese’s Pieces that others drop into our bowls. Tap, tap, tap, against the ceramic of our ice cream dishes. The resounding sound of Love.

This post can also be found at the Beauty Message Challenge. Every day during the month of September the Beauty Message Challenge is posting inspiring blogs and messages on Facebook and Twitter.  I am honored to be one of thirty bloggers to share my beauty message with the world…


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Beauty that comes in six shades of red and seven different sizes.

The secret to a life well-lived is beautiful skin. A whittled waistline and “stop him dead in his tracks” pick up lines. The right pair of shoes. A clean diet (one that will try to convince you is not based upon deprivation). Great sex. A slim body and a fat wallet. A swimsuit that fits your shape. Flat abs that take less than 15 minutes a day to maintain. Makeup that feels like it is barely there. And looking better naked.

At least this is what the world tells me as I walk out the door each morning.

My hands detected the worth and weight of beauty magazines at the age of 12 and I was never the same again. I flipped through the glossy pages where pretty girls smiled back at me and home remedies made promises that I don’t think they were ever fully equipped to keep. As I traced the Perfect Lips. Lashes. Long Flowing Hair. I remember thinking to myself, “I never realized I had this much to fix.I never knew I was missing so much.” I never realized I was this broken.

We digest the pages of these magazines and websites as though they are the 300-calorie sandwich with only 217 milligrams of sodium that sits and waits for us on page 112.

We are fed this idea that the key to true satisfaction and real happiness is somewhere amidst a butt-toning workout and a cream that makes cellulite vanish. We stay hungry over the fact that we can chalk life up to being obsessed with outward appearance, to Always Needing to Fix Something. And as a result? We never need to put away the tool belt, fully loaded with 8-minute abs and voluminous mascara.

If we always have some outer glitch to fix- To Make Our Thighs Smaller, Our Love Handles A Little More Lovely- then we never have to stare inward. We can abandon a quest for inner piece in order to make a journey towards a clear complexion. We never need to shred emotional baggage when Jillian Michaels and P90X promise us a different- more visible- kind of shred.

A great friend of mine spent time building a medical clinic near an all girls orphanage in Latin America and I saw the revelation in his eyes as he told me about the beautiful little girls. Little Girls who missed arms & legs & limbs and yet found nothing to miss at all. “But they were the happiest children I had ever seen, ” he told me. “Because they had not been taught that they were missing something.

We are floundering in a culture that wants to convince us that we are missing something. Constantly Missing. Seven Steps Away From Perfection. Perfect Thighs. Perfect Curves. Perfect Lovers. Perfect Days. What would happen to all those magazines and reality TV shows and billboards if we looked in the mirror and realized we were missing nothing. That it was all there. Sitting abundantly on both our insides and outsides.

That we could stop in our own reflection stand there without an ounce of pressing time itching at our ankles.  To realize the most radiant element on our faces was not half off at WalMart yesterday. To say confidently to our inner selves, “You are not missing things. You are wonderful just the way you are. You are whole.

Whole in a world that tells us we are empty. Full in a world that tells us we are hungry. Content in a world that tells us we are unsatisfied. Here. Right Here. All Parts Intact. In a world that convinces us that we are missing vital parts. Parts that will fulfill us, happiness that sits on a shelf for $4.99, beauty that comes in six shades of red and seven different sizes.

At some point we decide that we are going to pull away, that we are going to shun our ears from the messages that seek to pierce us and make us feel less than worthy. It is not an easy task. A task that never meets perfection. But little by little we allow ourselves to put down the tool belt, put down the coupons and the washed up images of the “way we used to look” to stop and see that all we ever needed never cost us $19.99 and our own self esteem as a sacrifice.

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Filed under Beauty, Healthy Lifestyle, Love Yourself, Women