Day 21: All By Myself – Revisited

Authors Note:  This is the 21st entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

As we wind down 2013, and we start to reflect on what we want.  I challenge you to consider making a commitment to a relationship with yourself.  Consider the following:

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17. Fearing being alone. There are certain things you have control over — like trying to go on dates, and actively meeting new people — and others which you simply don’t. Finding a life partner (or even a temporary one) is one of those things. You can’t pinpoint when or where or how you’ll meet someone to spend your life with, so stop freaking yourself out over the idea that you never will. And there are far worse things than being alone. “The most profound relationship we’ll ever have is the one with ourselves,” Shirley MacLaine once said. Preach.

Consider who you are and what you want.  Take time to reflect on the moments in 2013 that you truly listened to your inner voice and followed your heart.  Recall the moments that you embraced your dreams and fought for them.  And think about the times that you really championed your values.

This is how you get to know yourself – and how you become comfortable with you.  This is step one in being okay alone.

Alone doesn’t mean lonely.  We all get lonely – and we don’t have to be by ourselves to feel incredibly lonely.  Alone means just that – you simply aren’t with anyone else at the moment.  Sometimes this comes in small doses, sometimes for long stretches of time.  At the end of the day – getting to be comfortable with you really means getting to know yourself and what you love.

However, we aren’t born with this innate ability. Humans, as we know, are social animals.  We need contact with other people or we will become withdrawn and generally not-so-nice to be around at all.  I love this article from wikiHow on “How to Enjoy Being Alone: 12 Steps (with Pictures)“.  It’s got some great, simple advice on how to enjoy the most important – and longest-lived- relationship you will EVER have – the one with yourself.

So go look in the mirror.  Stare right into the face of the person looking back at you.  Don’t be afraid of them, but ask yourself, “Do I really know them?”  Then challenge yourself to take the time to do so – because I bet you’ll find that they’re a pretty cool person.

Enjoy, and we’ll chat again tomorrow!

JPK

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Fat Acceptance vs. The Desire to be “Sexy”–a feminist dilemma?

Editors Note:  This is the sixth in a series of guest blog posts about the experiences of women in a variety of settings.  This post is by Kate Small Scheu, writer, actress and feminist, concerning her perspective on appearance, health, media pressures and feminism.  She originally posted this as a note on facebook, and agreed to cross-post it here.

Fat Acceptance vs. The Desire to be “Sexy” — a feminist dilemma?

by Kate Small Scheu

I am mentally exhausted, which probably removes some of my usual inhibitions. So, here’s my admission for today: I HATE the way I look. I mean, really HATE it. Looking in mirrors pisses me off. Seeing photos makes me cringe.

I’m not thrilled with my hair (what woman is?), and I’m pretty peeved about the fact that I’m THIRTY-EIGHT FREAKING YEARS OLD and still breaking out with zits. But none of that’s really the problem. I am FAT. Fattest I’ve ever been. And it pisses me right off. And the fact that I’m so upset about it… upsets me even more.

 I know how to lose weight. I’ve done it before. Weight Watchers. Eat less, exercise more. Blah, blah, blah. Seriously, y’all. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist. And I know I’m supposed to do it to be healthy and all of that. And I admit. I DID feel better when I was at a lower weight.

 But of course, you shouldn’t really believe me if I tell you that I only want to lose weight to be healthy. It’s bull. I wanna be pretty. Sexy. Attractive. Desirable. Whatever, pick your Cosmopolitan magazine adjective and go with it. I’m lucky enough to be married to a man who insists that he still thinks I’m all of those things… and truthfully, none of my friends seem to give crap one about it. I know that I’m smart, and funny, and talented, and a good friend to have around, and all of that. So WHY does it matter to me that I don’t look the way I think I’m supposed to look?

A big part of me, the feminist, progressive, Jezebel-reading part of me, REJECTS that idea, absolutely. I’m a big supporter of fat acceptance, and I’ve read enough research to know that the BMI is a waste of freaking energy in terms of a useful metric of health. (Most professional athletes read as obese under that metric, for example.) Pretty much all the women on my mom’s side of the family probably weigh a good 20-30 lbs more than anyone thinks they do–including my size two cousin. I think we have lead-weight bones or something. The last time I weighed smack-dab in the middle of the “official” weight I’m supposed to be for my height, my docs were threatening to put me in the hospital because I had barely been eating for over six weeks. (CAVEAT here — it was NOT an eating disorder. I was genuinely sick.)

So I don’t buy into the BMI. And I don’t really even buy into the idea that a woman has to be stick-thin to be beautiful. In fact, I find most “plus-sized” models (most of whom couldn’t actually WEAR any of the clothes at Lane Bryant without looking like they’d been dressed by Omar the tent-maker) sexier than regular models. Search for images of Crystal Renn if you want to see a seriously hot mama. And I thought I looked fantastic in my wedding. See the pics here on facebook if you want to see what I mean. Here’s another confession for ya guys. I weighed somewhere between 170 and 180 lbs that day. I’m never gonna be a fragile creature, y’all.

The problem is, I still hate how I look NOW. Which makes me feel guilty. Like I’m betraying the ideals of fat acceptance, or feminism, or whatever. Which makes me resist changing my habits so that I can lose weight. (You can call it “going on a diet” or “changing your habits” or whatever you want. It all amounts to the same thing.)

 And let’s be honest — NO ONE wants to monitor every crumb that goes into their mouth every day for the rest of their lives. I freaking LOVE food. I like food that’s bad for me. (I actually like food that’s good for me, too… but nobody ever feels guilty about that, do they?) There are days when the only thing that gets me through the next work hour is chocolate. Hand over the Snickers bar and no one gets hurt. I realize that this is officially an unhealthy attitude towards food. Food does not equal love. Blah, blah. But I gotta tell you, when your life is exceptionally busy and full… doing serious cognitive behavioral therapy about food takes a back-of-the-long-bus seat to getting through the day without yelling, crying, or otherwise embarrassing yourself.

So, when you combine the part of me that experiences moral outrage at the idea that I have to be thin-NER to be sexy with the part of me that just wants a damn cookie, those parts can usually wrestle the wants-to-be-pretty part to the ground and feed her Pumpkin Pie Blizzards until she shuts the eff up.

 Until I do a rehearsal in a room with an entire wall of mirrors. Or admit–even if only to myself–my absolute horror of my picture appearing in the paper, photographed at a function for which I had dressed up, done my hair, worn “sexy” clothes, and everything. And then she’s back. And surly. And DANG she’s got some NASTY things to say about herself. 

Which then makes my feminist side sit up and get angry back… and we’re OFF! The cycle begins again. Yay.

I tagged a random selection of women on facebook who I think are smart, gorgeous, funny, and will understand in my original post. This is partly just to get out my own frustration. It’s partly to ask others how they deal. I am hoping that, amongst my wide and diverse group of incredibly smart friends (I’m not limiting it to women, here, by the way, even though I only tagged women here–feel free to post from your own point of view), I am not the first to deal with this particular set of apparently contradictory feelings. Am I alone here? If not… how do you guys deal with it?

Why the Feminist Lattice?

I’ve been asked a few times why I call this blog “The Feminist Lattice”. The title came from a recent event that I experienced in a Women in Higher Education course here on our campus. As part of the class we were introduced to Third Wave Feminism, and to Inga Muscio’s website, which included a section with various women’s “Womanifesto” writings. Our instructor provided us with her own Womanifesto, and then challenged us to write our own.

Previous to this course, I had started some reflections and writings on my own about my experiences as a woman in higher education. I was struggling to pull some of these writings together (for the record, I’m a major extravert and “reflecting” is not something I generally do in writing or internally in any way), but something about this assignment resonated with me. We were given a few moments to write something down, and once we had our draft, we were encouraged to share this with small groups of our classmates. My draft became the base for what would eventually become my own Womanifesto.

I will admit – at first, sharing this information was scary. Questions ran through my mind. I am a professional on the campus, and many of the students in the class work in my department. What would these women think of me? Would they think I was crazy? Would they view me negatively once I shared my own Womanifesto? Would this be harmful to me and my career on the campus – openly sharing my feminist perspective, my views on my own experiences, and my passion for women’s issues? I didn’t know.

I listened patiently to my small group members’ stories, and was amazed at how open each woman was with their background story prior to sharing their own draft Womanifesto. Then, it was my turn. In that instant, I made a decision. I wasn’t going to just read my creation. In that moment, I decided I was going to portray this vibrantly and with the passion I felt as I had written the words. I gathered up my courage, and my acting training, and began to read. During my reading, I realized for the first time in a VERY long time that I was completely connected with the words on the page. I was able to present these ideas and beliefs in a meaningful way, and I believe the true part of myself was finally shared. It was an amazing moment – one that literally resulted in goosebumps forming on my arms when I concluded. This wasn’t a performance. No – this was real. It was – finally – me.

Here is the link to my Womanifesto on Inga Muscio’s website. When you read it – you will understand the title of the blog. Enjoy – and should you choose to do so – write your own. It’s a powerful experience!

DoctorJPK’s Womanifesto