I am a mountain eater. I am the stuff of nightmares.
I just bought a case of baby food, rinsed out two jars and filled them with ranch dressing to chug. EVERYTHING IS TOTALLY NORMAL.
No one in Rogers Park cares about my Whole30 goals. No one is impressed. Here's some soup bones and you know what? Here's some neck bones, too. That'll be about four damn dollars. Go away.
I am doing the Whole30 so I can maaaayyyybe not be in pain 24/7. I'll try 10/4. As someone who loves nothing more than pasta and bread (and booze), this is no small feat. Therefore, I will conquer this with humor, long-windedness, and open mockery. Welcome.
I’m a hashtag! I am representing a clicktavist slogan for change, championing a word I whisper-yell after I’ve made one phone call to my already democratic senators and stammered out a message about a bill or appointment I can’t entirely remember because it’s only the latest in a hurricane of whatthefuckery and I have only called once this week instead of 7 times, but. RESIST, I tweet at senators, hoping that someone likes or retweets as though that makes it less of a void to shout into. RESIST, I say with my smug face because I’m wearing a Diva Cup and Thinx so I can freebleed all over the patriarchy in a very clean and responsible manner. RESIST, I chant wearing my pink pussy hat and marching arm in arm with women who probably won’t show up at the next Black Lives Matter march, including myself because I had a sick kid. But she has a hat, too! Resiiiiist.
Things are not going the way we had hoped in this country, and “hope” is an understatement in the way that “napping” is an understatement for “asphyxiation by garbage bag.” Currently, we’re watching our cartoon villain leaders twirl their moustaches and burning sack with dollar signs on them outside orphanage windows, and we have decided that it was time to resist.
We’ve watched black men and women killed on camera by police, we see the numbers of murders of trans people - especially those of color - jump exponentially; we see synagogues and mosques burned and defaced. We have decided. Just now. To resist.
See, this is America. We’re really new at this.
Countries who are accustomed to dictatorships think we’re super cute right now. With our “resistance.” Aww.
Resistance is more than an ideal, and we all know it. We don’t know what to do about it, but we know it’s something important. It’s like walking into a room with a cooler full of organs and forgetting why the hell you came in there. Ahhh...there was something...I was gonna do with these…
To resist is to exist for most of this country. It’s not like this is new. It’s not like there was a moment when someone’s boot on your neck was like, “no, this is good I like it, leave it there” - but many of didn’t notice for longer than a headline click to actually do anything of about it. That’s privilege. To not notice when you need to resist.
Resist is stigmatized here, see. It’s not looked upon favorably. Delicious things and desirable people are “irresistible.” Go on...give in...you can’t resist. You deserve it, we say, despite that gorgeous person’s sugar content and that donut’s penchant for selfishness and cheating. (pause) And once you become sick from those indulgences, you’re up against treatment-resistant disease. We hate resistant things. Unless it’s water resistant. Then we’re excited. Cause...fuck water.
But Resistance is what makes a civilized society work. It happens every day. I don’t smile when some dude tells me to - unless he just fell down. We don’t slap the goddamned phone out of someone’s hands when they’re staring at it while you’re talking to them, even though you wanna. You don’t go on a murderous rampage every time someone tells you to “calm down” or “not make it about race.” You don’t tear the limbs off of every person who chews so loudly it sounds like earthworms are thunder fucking in jello, though NO COURT WOULD CONVICT YOU. And persist? It’s just resisting defeat. So.
Now, on a national level, Admittedly, we’re behind. We don’t hear “intersectional feminism” without clutching our very white pearls, and FEMINISM is still looked at as a dirty word. The worst thing you can call a racist in this country is a racist. I’m not saying resistance is futile, but right now it looks like stoned people trying to assemble an IKEA shelf - we know what it’s supposed to look like, but it’s gonna take a long time and we’re really hungry.
Here’s the key: resistance begins the moment we say “no.” The moment we decide on no, we’re joining in. Toddlers already figured this out, so let’s go.
When I was 14 years old, I was single. Isn’t that the strangest fucking word to describe a child? But that’s what I thought. It was Thanksgiving in the two bedroom apartment on the dead end street we lived on in Melrose Park. I don’t remember what we ate. I just know that as soon as it was over, my mom went out with her boyfriend. My sister went out with her boyfriend. And I sat at home, wondering what to do. So I went to my yearbook, looked up my senior crush from the previous year, and found where he put his phone number. I called him. He was hanging out with friends and only too delighted to come get me. Dreamy! He picked me up, and every girl’s fantasy was fulfilled as we drove to an empty parking lot and his friends got out of the car, took out a case of beer from the trunk and left us alone. I was lucky. My resistance was met with acceptance. I wasn’t pushed after I said no. I was, however, left alone in the car waiting until his friend came in. It was his turn. He thought that was the deal. My resistance was met with begrudging acceptance. Again, this made me lucky. It doesn’t work for a lot of people. You say no, they don’t like no. So resistance becomes another word for “fight with everything you have to keep what is yours.” Some can accept the anger of defeat. Some cannot. Some can see that what they’re asking for is causing someone else pain and suffering. Some want pain and suffering for others.
And this is precisely why Resist is what we need. It is our daily bread, and we can’t get caught in the shame spiral of not baking it earlier cause we’re here now. We’re here to listen to and/or shout at the right people at the right times. Use the right pronouns, it isn’t hard. To march and call and tweet and show up. We’re here to stand up on the train when someone is abused and harassed and not be ok with things as they are but also but ALSO but also? we must resist despair. Resist does not mean we are not allowed joy. If we smile or gather or drink or watch shitty television or eat fatty things we aren’t letting anyone down. We are not finding one cause more important than another. I kissed that boy in the backseat but I owed him nothing. I took my happiness and steered it away when someone wanted it for their own. When you say STOP is when you resist. That moment. That’s why it’s never too late. You can be late and flawed, but you are welcome. Just don’t make it about you, and make it for everyone. We will resist the idea of always being miserable. We will destroy the thinking that you must not resist in order to be happy. That shit ain’t cute. I need fries. And ranch dressing. Oh, and for the marginalized populations to have equality and to smash the patriarchy, to rid the country of the scourge of this administration and institutionalized racism, school choice and for profit prisons and government all up in my uterus blah blah blah but FRIES! VIVA LA RESISTANCE.
963, 1023, or 1096. It’s one of those, I’m pretty sure. Once you near 1000 it starts to get hazy. But yeah, it’s somewhere around there.
In 2016, police killed 963, 1023, or 1096 people, depending on your source. It gets hazy.
You know what’s fun? Aside from Not This Even A Little? When you research this, you can click a refresh button for various sub stats and it’s like a grotesque fireworks show - powerful displays of the very opposite of independence. OOOH a third of the victims were under 30. AAAAH 1 in 20 were unarmed. OOOH mental illness was cited in a quarter of the incidents. Wait wait...finale... just under a third actually fled from the officers. Yay (clap clap clap) (sings) Ameeeeerica ameeeeerica...fuck it.
Now, I could spend all of my seven minutes, Lily’s seven minutes, and seven minutes of each of your days into infinity spouting more stats or names like Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Keith Lamont Scott...but then I would just end this showing the lack of justice from last year alone and call it a day. But that’s lazy. And I’ve had too much rage coffee - also known as air - to be lazy. SO LET’S DECIMATE JUSTICE since it’s pretty much a smoldering corpse of fiction anyway, yeah? GREAT. Let’s go look for some.
Well, police brutality decreased in 2016, but that’s like saying you have less oozing cancer in your left eye than your right. YOU STILL HAVE OOZING EYE CANCER.
We poisoned the water of our own citizens - well. I mean. If we consider bown people citizens. Flint got the brain damaging shit water and the Dakota Access Pipeline is really just a river of pox blankets for Native Americans who had the unmitigated gall to stand up against being poisoned. Again.
And hey. Then there was the election. I can’t say anyfuckingthing new about that. Fucking christ. Motherfuck. Uptown Fuck, Rogue Fuck. The Fuck Awakens. Stranger Fucks. I cannot.
Prisoners are being forced into slave labor and taken out of mental health treatment if they’re "bad."
Brock Turner got "seven seconds of action" and the victim WROTE A LETTER, but we still heard his fucking swim record.
Idiots took over a bird sanctuary.
We’ve taken to rebranding Nazis so we don’t hurt their feelings.
A foreign power stuck its dick in our assed up elections and didn’t even lube up first, and we’re pretending it didn’t happen. It’s like Cosby’s PR people took over our collective consciousness.
We lost everyone holding the fabric of our universe together. I’m not listing them here because I want to remain standing and not scream crying while vomiting into a bucket of consolation chicken. Again. It’s finger licking sad.
Because these things that I try not to think about and think about all the time simultaneously TAKE THAT 2017 Resolution to Meditate - all of these things...so far...have no consequences. Police officers aren’t charged with murder, the DAPL will still break ground after this month, the Oregon standoff morons are serving their wee sentences, while Native Americans almost died protecting themselves, and the mayor of Flint is still being allowed to speak and the water he drinks is clear and tasty.
Tell me there is justice in the world. There is not. Not a hall, not a dawn of, not a league of it. No justice, no peace. And I’m pretty sure we’re not peaceful now.
Power, though. Power is alive and well. How do I know? Because in Justice v Power, my white ass was handed the topic of Power, while Lily Be is stuck with Justice. “Here, defend this thing that we no longer have for people like you. Good luck!”
In the absence of Justice, Power is all we fucking have left. It’s how we got here in the first place. The loudest, richest, whitest dude wins, because what he has is that scent of authority. The eau d’ control por homme. The stink of Because I Fucking Said So.
And let’s revisit one of those previous points, shall we? Let’s go back to rape. But, Corrbette, I don’t wanna talk about rape, you say. But guess what? I have the microphone and my voice is amplified and I therefore have the power so you’re coming down this dimly lit alleyway with me. See, power is what sexual assault is all about. And justice has no part in it. Justice is rapists actually being sentenced. Justice is education and cultural norms pointing AWAY from assault being ok and not electing it president. Justice is women not being told what to wear, where to go, what to drink, how to travel, how to make eye contact, what to say, and which self defense classes to take and not using her sexual past as a reason to rape her. (claps) WE DON’T HAVE ANY OF THAT THOUGH. Rape is used as a weapon of war, as a threat against any woman online (“in the cyber” if I use the parlance of our times and our President Elect). We hear a lot about why we should go easy on rapists because they could have their whole lives ruined, while the victims just retreat into themselves forever. Cause who cares about their future. Do they even sports? An entire football team stomped their feet and said, “No. NO HOLIDAY BOWL. NNNNO” when 5 or 7 or 10, eh, it was a group of em, so hazy, were suspended for raping a woman. Allegedly. Justice would be if those dudes understood that was the lightest of sentences. Instead, OH OK NEVERMIND. COME ON. (tousles hair) Ya scamps.
Can we use use Power for ourselves? Yes, Dorothy, you had the power all along. Jesus, get new friends.
Army vets came and put themselves in front of the cannons at Standing Rock. Apparently, we can’t see our own cruelty to Native Americans because brownish, so people who we claim to hold dear stood in harm’s way. The construction halted. Temporarily, but it halted.
A whole bunch of vaginas will descend on Washington to make their voice heard as our funding for basic care is stripped away. Black Monday in Poland was a whole herd of vaginas - ummm I think that’s called a curtain? A curtain of vaginas protested an all out abortion ban and that shit was shut right down. Hey, a woman’s body CAN shut that stuff down!
Inmates refused to show up for their slave labor-like work across the nation, and even paid workers went on strike.
People complain about how power is gained. No one likes the new rich, the entitled. No one likes dictators. And yet...here we are being lead by them. No one likes protests - oh they’re so inconvenient, oh my god you should be upset about this other thing instead. And yet, that is how power works. You have to flex your muscle, whether it’s by showing up in numbers or calling or yelling louder or just sitting in their damn way.
There is no justice in seeing the white doughy fuckwads of the world flexing their muscles. But there’s power in us all, and they will be terrified when they see it. Show up. Be powerful.
On the first day of rehearsal for the aforementioned stripper play - called Top Shelf Gash in case you wondered if we had ANY class at all and my mother loved it by the way - I was excited and a little nervous. I didn’t know anyone in the cast except for one person, and these people were a tight knit group. I was brand new. So I made sure to get there early, and I waited. And waited.
I was at the wrong space, because this was an itinerant company and we rented 15 different spaces to rehearse in and I apparently couldn’t read a goddamned calendar COOL, I’ll just take a cab to the right space then.
Everyone was very nice, and we read this ridiculous play out loud and I had no idea what was going on and I didn’t care. It was funny. It was weird. The jokes were a combination of crude and elaborate, obvious and beat-you-to-death obvious, and subtle. There were a lot of references. A lot. I didn’t think people made plays like this.
They didn’t know me at all, but they threw an extra role at me because they wanted someone to say the name of the restaurant where the scene took place. It was called Vagitaria. Because of course it was. Shameless Ball, Shameless Company.
The director, Nick Digilio, just told me to come up with a few specials. Me? Just...rattle something off?
They didn’t know I was improv trained. They didn’t know this is what I do. They just assumed I would catch the ball if they threw it, because why else would I be there? Catch the fucking ball, let’s all move on. So I did.
My specials were mostly puns involving vegan food, and it ended with this one: “And lamb. You can’t eat him, we’re just going to bring him out and you pet him and tell him how special he is.”
I was in. Also, I was in an onstage pun war with our Artistic Director, Scott OKen. I do not recommend that. Ever. It’s brutal. And I loved it.
I was addicted then. I would become a company member two years later, after acting as consigliere while in a band with all of the company’s leadership.
I was in this shit now, son. How deep? Oh, man.
This Shameless Ensemble. This group of crazy people. I have held these people while they wept; I have shared holidays with them, invited them to my wedding and my home. I have cried with them. I have helped them get home safely, and held their hair when they’ve thrown up. They have helped ME get home safely and been blissfully unaware when I’ve thrown up because I am a GODDAMNED PROFESSIONAL.
I have seen audience members literally piss themselves. I’ve also seen them be forever changed by something they saw that no other theater would put on stage, for better or for worse.
I have fought with these company members and made up and fought again. I have been half naked on stage for them. I have loved and lost and loved again with them around to hold me up. I learned to cartwheel and rollerskate for them, to fight better, to write better, to be the straight woman, to step up, to SIT DOWN, to respond faster and smarter, to lay it on the line like Triumph. To be present, to be right here right now, Jesus Jones. To say ULTIMATE a certain way. Ultimate. To enjoy lawsuits. To know what a fart room is, what shit bird is, what a reach around means IN A SHOW, what a DON’T DOOR is, and when and where to make a list moment happen. I have learned to stop, to collaborate and to listen. To constantly ask, “OH IS THAT RIGHT.”
To scream chants in bars on command.
(leads room in chant)
WHAT TIME IS IT?!?!
(Room responds perfectly)
You see that? That is commitment. And a liiiiittle bit of a cult. IT’S OKAY we are a really nice cult and you're all invited.
These are the teachings of this shameless family. As my career grows, I can look back over ten years of being a company member and know that I got most of it from them. I am now aging gracefully into the roles I’ve had. Just last month, I shot a short film about strippers. I played a waitress. I think I did a pretty good goddamned job.
My husband, Scott, graduates with his Masters in Social Work from the University of Chicago this weekend. We're attending the hooding ceremony tonight with his dad and stepmom and Gilda, and the reception post-graduation tomorrow. We're missing the graduation ceremony proper because Gilda has "The Big Show" at school, and watching 4 year olds Salsa is more entertaining than watching adults walk slowly. However...
This has been over three years in the making. Scott lost his job in advertising, an area in which he never intended to stay. But the money and the stability and acting blah blah blah like so many of us, and 10 years later he was still doing it. Then it was gone. He got offers to go back to old firms, and I begged him not to return to something that made him miserable. So he became a stay at home dad with Gilda for the first 18 months of her life. During that time, he decided what he wanted to do with his life in his new roles as a father and as a sober man. In case that wasn't enough, he applied to graduate schools to begin the journey to becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He wanted to help people. He still does.
He went part time to make OUR lives easier, and that meant this journey would be three years instead of two.
During that time, his internships were hard. I mean, are-you-kidding-me hard. First up, The Night Ministry. He stood outside during the Polar Vortex to help people in need. He also organized a sock drive because, goddammit, it's cold outside. This is a van set up outdoors to assist people without anywhere else to turn, and it's often LGBTQ youth. They provide health care, food, and human connection in the model of harm reduction. It's vital, it's compassionate, and it's nothing like any other program.
|No, YOU'RE cold.|
I make this joke a lot, but it's a good summary of where our lives were headed by this point. We were going in two very different directions, but also becoming more of who we really are as people (and therefore coming closer together at the same time). Here's that summary.
Did I mention he was still getting all A's?
During this time, we have lost dear friends. Dear friends have lost their sweet baby boy. His family went through several emotional upheavals and illnesses. He traveled out to California to be with his mother after heart surgery. And, in November of last year, we lost her. It's not like the universe gives you a goddamned break while you're busy. That's not how life works.
He took some time off after that, about a couple of weeks. He then tried to dive back in with a quiz. Like you do.
I also did two summer shows back to back and we moved. Somehow, we're still married.
I know. I'm rambling and I'm making my husband sound like an unearthly being. He's very human, I promise. We bicker and we laugh and we had our kid in our bed for so long, we wondered if we were ever going to be alone together again. Our house gets messy as hell, we're poor as fuck, and we've both put on grad school weight. Whatever.
He finished with his excellent grades, his proud family, his sobriety, and our marriage in tact.
As of tomorrow, he has a Masters in Social Work, and he is a graduate of the SSA program. I stand in awe of this man. I have never been so proud of anyone as I am of him (except MAYbe when Gilda started walking or using the potty...I'm not a monster), and I have never felt so fortunate to be on a journey with someone and watch them truly become who they were meant to be.
It's never too late, and it isn't out of reach. Whatever it is, go. Go after it.
Happy Graduation, my love.
I’m hopeful that, while we watch Schoolhouse Rock for the eleventeenth time (I Got Six is a jam and if you didn’t know, now you know), I only have dresses and shoes to pass on to my daughter. I also hope I can keep up with her and that she grows up so strong. Because kneeling down toward her is some bullshit.
|Mmm. What a cozy waste of productivity. What do people call this thing?|
I begin by frantically listing the things I have to do, and make them sound super-daunting so I won't want to do them. "I have to call the unemployment office, All Kids, and the Health Marketplace to straighten some things out. I'm gonna be on hold for my entire life."
REASON: I booked a spot on a national television show and I got paid, so I had to file a new claim, my husband is now employed full time, and we are covered under his insurance as of April 1. These are GOOD PROBLEMS.
REASON TO ME: I am not going to get another gig and it's all catch-as-catch-can and I'm failing my family, good thing my husband is here or we'd be living under a bridge.
I also completed these calls and it took MAYBE 15 damn minutes.
When tackling something more common like weight loss and strength training, I can be even more brutal. Recently, I tried something as I struggled in a class. My muscles were tired and unaccustomed to moving this way (it's been a minute). My knee is swollen so holding my balance was a blooper reel of futility. I wanted to give up. I wanted to tell myself it was too late and I should probably accept defeat.
Then, I did it. I talked to my body like it was my daughter.
Simple concept, really. Except that most times it feels like I'm telling my daughter "no" or "don't touch that do not touch that it's trash what did I just say do not do not do no -- ugh." However, there's encouragement aplenty in our house. This week, I cheered her on as she made a basket with a wrapper she was growing away, because she kept throwing it until she got it. I also thanked her continuously for her impeccable behavior when we're out and about, her desire to clean up, her endless cuddles and kindness, and her sense of humor. Sure, a lot of those jokes currently involve poop, but dammit...still funny.
I started applying this encouragement to crunches and leg lifts.
"10 more? Pfffft. You can do that! You're doing it now! Yes yes yes. You've got this! Look at you! You're doin it! Yaaaay! Oh my God, you're almost done I can't believe it!"
It's important to note that thjs wasn't out loud.
It's also important to note that it worked.
It worked a fuckton better than, say, "Maybe if you did this more it wouldn't be so hard" or, "Your fat rolls are rubbing together." I mean, hitting myself in the face would work better than that shit, but still. This was GOOD. This was PROGRESS.
It's a long journey to be kind to yourself. I look at body positive projects like this one and the FIRST thing I do is notice the people with conventionally "acceptable" body types. I then judge. "Why are they worried? They're fine." Then my rational brain takes over; I look at their story and their struggle and I empathize. I am grateful they told that story.
I'm telling mine in bits and pieces, and this piece concentrates on the simple joy of mentally clapping and smiling and saying, "YAAY!" to yourself when you need it most. It works. I'm going to try it more often.
Even if it is out loud.
I'm on my phone a lot. We all are, but it's really starting to hit me just how much I'm holding the damn thing. I'm no longer at a computer for 8+ hours a day, so my work is in my hand until I sit down to write a full piece. There are emails to answer and texts to respond to and calendars to update with the deadlines created from those texts and emails, plus Facebook messages for those who don't text or email, then back to the calendar. I talk to Sevigny pretty much all day every day via Google Hangout, and that's not going anywhere so long as we both have fingers and brains. Then there's this clock gobbler (h/t Stephen Colbert) of a thing, Social Media. My thumb goes to that F button for the app when I'm trying to check the weather or my calendar. It's a muscle memory reflex of an addiction. I find myself reading while telling myself to turn it off and I answer, "in just a minute." WHY? What on earth is so pressing that I can't go get my own shit done? "Hang on, there's a think piece about that millennial who got fired from Yelp from a different millennial and I should read that real quick cause everyone said 'read this' when they posted it." We all know that looking at social media for long stretches isn't the best idea for people with depression, particularly if you already tend to compare yourself to others negatively. Which...hi. Have we met? If so, I probably decided you're better than me at some point.
|Me, allowing my life to slip by and not sleeping/eating/peeing but OMG NEW LIKE OPTIONS!|
You're looking at the wrong screen. Look at the one I'm looking at. Stare into this bigger screen with meeeeeee. (Why. Why am I even married? I'm the worst.)
We know that our behaviors, good or bad, are absorbed by our children. They are tiny sponges - which also explains why they get every illness ever to ride the wind and past their face for three seconds - and they hear even the things you mumble. They mimic your actions and make them their own; they create entire worlds out of something you said offhandedly once. Like, maybe, you said they should shut the door so wild animals don't get inside as...like...a joke...'cause the weather was warm and one might leave the door open but the constant slamming was too much for you and it wasn't your house so you just SAID that and then that kid wanted all of the doors closed in a constant fear of being ambushed by WILD ANIMALS because of your stupid mouth. Maybe. As a purely fictional example.
I was charging my lifeline with a Mophie yesterday. It's just a black box that's a portable charger because...well...if I charged my phone in the wall it would be TOO FAR AWAY FROM ME. Oh, God. I just typed that and thought about my whole life and got a little sad. Ok. I'm shaking that off now. So I was charging and looking at my blue-light friend so I could avoid watching BusyTown Mysteries again (EVERYONE IN THE HOUSE IS LOOKING AT SCREENS WHAT IS DRAWING AND PRETEND I FORGOT). My daughter spies the charger and wants to see it. I quickly realize it looks like the NoPhone being Kickstarted a while back. Remember that early intervention tool? How'd that work out for us?
|This one enables the hell out of me.|
|This one does nothing.|
Bird immediately decided the charger was her phone. This was cute at first, as she held it to her ear and talked to someone, a friend she said was in the "hostibal" because...dammit. I can't remember why, but it was adorable. Then she wanted to take the charger to bed. Just like mama and daddy do. I told her we have our phones in the bedroom because we have alarms on them, but that didn't work. I asked her to pick out her stories, and I went to gather all the usual Going to Sleep Barriers: milk, water, tissues, blanket, stuffed animal, socks, anxieties about our future, etc.
When I came back into the room, she was sitting up in bed, stroking the surface of the charger with her index finger, as though scrolling down a screen. But there was no screen. She was perfectly content to stare at a black, plain surface, pretending to scroll. She told me that she was doing the same movement that I do.
Scott came into the room, and she decided to share her findings.
"Look at this interesting cute cat video!" she said with a smile, holding the charger out for us to see.
"Look at this cute boy and girl," she smiled, as though they were just adorable.
Scott and I just stared at one another in horror. "I'm sorry if Daddy is on his phone too much and not paying attention to you. I'm going to stop doing that now," he said. She looked up at him and smiled and told him more about her day with me at the library. I also vowed to put the damn thing down more.
Sure, I started this blog on my phone. I have checked it since then. But I'm now staring at a computer screen while Bird is at school, blissfully unaware.
She's probably pretending everything in the playroom is a phone, though. I think we're doomed. I might post that on Facebook, along with a picture of my kid and my dinner.
We all have physical imperfections. We all have things we do not love about our appearance and have either grown to accept those things, have embraced those things, or have chosen to loudly complain about those things when ordering a pastry/trying on clothes/purchasing skin care products/looking in a mirror/watching one's self on video/having a conversation about something unrelated ("Well, I wouldn't say that a vote for Bernie is a vote for Trump, it's not like an immediate thing like eyes drawn to my love handles. What are we talking about?") in the hopes that the complaining will somehow lead to the aforementioned acceptance/embracing or magically fixing it.
Sure. We all have that. We also love seeing other people have that, because it feels validating and good. Stars are just like us and all.
Body positivity is not only important, it's fucking vital. And I encourage it in the exact same spirit I encouraged my husband to pursue a different path after leaving advertising: that's totally cool for you, but not for me. No, no, YOU have to do that. In this life, what else have you but your happiness and sanity and love? Do it! Me? No, fuck that. Not me, this is about you. YOU do those great things. You deserve them.
Everyone should love themselves and all they come with, I preach, for this life is cruelly short, and we cannot waste it on wanting to be something we aren't, unless we are putting in the actual work that comes with real change. There is nothing to gain by demonizing one's own appearance. I know these things, and I practice them once in a great while for myself. But most often, I am running a checklist of all the things that are currently wrong with how I look, and wrong with what I'm doing. Like...all day and night.
Goddammit, I have a daughter. The thought of her doing this to herself breaks my heart into a thousand fucking pieces.
I remember saying something disparaging about my appearance in front of my mother late in her life. "What are you talking about?" she growled in her smoky Brooklyn voice, "You're gorgeous!" She was appalled. I thought she was biased. I get it now. She was both.
I try to see myself as my daughter sees me. Sometimes that works. And then I see a video or photo of myself from even a year or two ago, and I wonder how I am bigger than that now, when both versions of me were post-kid. Then I snap back to now, realize I am pushing my body around in the mirror like it's hair and all I have to do is spray it and oh my God what if she saw me do that. Shit, did she see me do that?
She must have seen me do that at some point. How could she miss it?
I am terrified of all the challenges this girl will face, and I am doing my damnedest to raise her to be strong against them, even as she adores princesses and their dresses. Dresses are nice, so I won't argue with that. But between Photoshop and models and the industry I am in and a GODDAMNED VICTORIA'S SECRET CATALOG IN MY MAILBOX EVERY DAY SINCE I BOUGHT A BRA STOP SENDING ME PORN, VS, I HAVE A PHONE FOR THAT...she'll be bombarded with images and ideas about how she should look. I am hopeful that the battle being waged on that bullshit will have made some progress soon...or that she can take up arms to continue the fight in earnest. I am also hopeful I haven't lost myself yet. That I haven't decided entirely that I am not up to snuff. But, man, I am not making this easy on myself.
I read a great list of body positive books to read with your daughter, and I was delighted. I was all, "hell yeah, this is powerful. I can't wait until she's old enough to read these," and then...quietly, but so so consistently...I literally judged these books by their covers. "If being different is so awesome and celebratory, why is there a really pretty model on the cover of this book?" My thoughts devolved from there, wondering if I should just gain more weight so I could be a "type" instead of this mushy, oddly shaped and too-big version of my former self - someone who just doesn't get how she was supposed to look. Like no one told me and I just ate food and now what the hell is this.
Don't get me wrong, when I was thirty pounds lighter than I am now, I thought I was enormous and I'd cry about it. This isn't about the weight. Sure, I'd love for some of that to go away so I can wear more clothes in my own closet because poor. But see, I KNOW WHAT TO DO TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN. It isn't about that. It never was.
It's about never, ever, fully embracing my entire self the way I want others to do for their entire selves.
Whether it's my career (you know this tune: I'm a fraud and what I'm doing is ridiculous because I will never be as good as doo dah, doo dah...I'm a failure and delusional why do I bother, oh the doo dah day), my self worth (how DO I have all of these friends and this selfless and courageous husband when I am the literal worst and most selfish person ever), or my appearance ("You should love yourself as you are. You're fucking gorgeous. Me? No. You? Always").
This isn't a plea for compliments or validation. It won't do a damn bit of good anyway because, if I don't believe it myself, that sweet sentiment is going to bounce off of me and crash to the floor. Continually.
I have small victories where I break the cycle: I give myself an approving glance in a store window reflection. I take a good selfie (cue club jamz). I just feel good enough that I don't care. My daughter looks at me adoringly when I show her "ballet moves." My daughter looks at me adoringly for any reason and laughs at my jokes. Anyone laughs at my jokes. But it's really only a matter of time before I slip the "I could lose a few pounds, amirite" comment or "it's cool, I'll just be chinless and over here being super weird" comment into an otherwise pleasant conversation.
I don't want my daughter to hear or see it, but it permeates everything I do. Therefore, it can no longer be about hiding it. It has to be about actually believing what I want her to believe: that we, as we are, are beautiful. That what we are doing is good enough as long as we're trying our best. Not in a motivational meme or Instagram post kind of way. Really and honestly believing it down to my rapidly deteriorating bones. Goddammit, I did it again.
This journey isn't easy, but it has to be done. For me, for her, for everyone I love. Because who wants to be the woman who hates herself underneath the good talk? No one. And I've been her long enough. I deserve better. My daughter deserves better. My husband deserves better. And one more time for the back row: I deserve better.
There, Brain. I've emptied a bit. Now please leave me be and let's go the hell to sleep.
We sat at Italian Village, the place where I had never been and felt ashamed as a Chicagoan. Didn't matter -- it was open, this seemed right. Christ, the band was playing Girl From Ipanema when we walked in. It could not have been more perfect if we wanted it to.
Warm bread, a little wine, some cheese and some meat. All is well. Wait...there was no cheese on that antipasto platter. I call foul.
One went home before the food and drinks, she has three kids and her mom was watching them. Busy day tomorrow, helping and healing more people. But she felt bad. Like she was disappointing us after a day of healing the masses and their aches, fears, and recurring pains.
The three remaining, headed to Italian Old School Chicago Glory because Fuck It, It's Open have seven kids...among them. Can you do that? Can you pool kids like tips at the end of the night? She has four, the one who still dances and teaches kids. The one who, after the show was over, had an alum (whom none of us remembered) say, "You're HER? I had a huge crush on you." Four kids, that one, and probably the best sense of humor about it of anyone I've ever met. Me, I have one. The indecisive woman who amplifies her old self around these lovely women, plays the role as Negative but Not Too because she can't seem to figure out where to put her hands and she isn't wearing pockets -- metaphorically speaking. Just the one child. Quit while you're ahead or be too frightened to admit that you Want and Don't Want More and Don't At All At All. Then there's A. She has no kids, because she's doing national tours like the show we just saw her slay. I have the nerve, the unmitigated gall my mother would say, to ask her questions about the production and how it compares to the tour she did 18 years ago and who the everloving fuck am I to ask any of these questions? No. One. But someone. But not in this context. It's embarrassing. The one with two kids speaks. She should have three, but she lost the baby right before Christmas. She cries, catching A up to the fact. She apologizes profusely for crying. We only see A once every couple of years and she doesn't want to see this, she reasons.
She is having a real and unguarded emotional reaction. To losing a child. It's a pretty good goddamned reason. We aren't interviewing her for a job. We're catching up on things and calling ourselves old friends. Shouldn't that be the time?
Even as I write this, I wonder if I'm something great in the back of my mind and maybe someone will read it and discover that, yes, indeed I am. Oh, her ramblings are superb and make Eggers or David Foster Wallace or other famous ramblers look like idiots, they'll say because they've actually read David Foster Wallace (I haven't) and are therefore more competent and smart and able to judge these things. They will. Not me, they will do it. Someone else will validate me and I won't accept it but it because, should it ever come, this mystery validation from a theoretical We, I will instantly disavow Their credibility. But Someone Else with More Qualifications will certainly be around soon to let me know the thing I could not tell myself.
I do not give me permission, and yet I give myself complete permission.
She didn't give herself permission to cry and grieve because surely the time has passed and this is Not What We Are Here For.
But then what else the hell are we here for? To connect beyond the highlight reel, even if we Weren't Always Close we're in a situation now that assumes it was so. Move forward and act accordingly. Cry. Tell me about it. Celebrate one another. It's so much easier with my Givens. The People I Surround Myself With Regularly. I know it. This isn't consistent so I'm trying to figure it out as I'm doing it. What do I walk away with? The knowledge that we do not give ourselves permission and we leave, walking in the cold to our cars, telling each other that no, we were the worst. At Least You Didn't...etc. We exhibit no kindness for our own actions, and infinite acceptance of anyone else's.
I say often we should make space for kindness to ourselves, and in small ways, sometimes we do. But damn, is it easy to just cut yourself deep. It's too easy. And it wastes precious time.
There is a grace some of them have. As though they've cast off the insecure weight. It isn't that they don't have their own anvils, albatrosses, gravity shoes, or their own metaphors to bear. But there is a carefree air to one who stands tall in saying, "I HAVE A RIGHT TO PERFORM AND WRITE AND MAKE IT MY JOB." It's beautiful to behold. I long for it. This isn't about the huge percentage of that proclamation that is out of your control. This is about owning the ask, claiming the fight to be heard and seen as a worthwhile one.
Others see you differently. Kinder than you see yourself. But just as you begin to allow that kind view in -- that OF COURSE you can do this -- you tell yourself that's complacency and laziness. That multitudes more deserving and talented and experienced aren't achieving what you're trying. So let it go. But you can't. You can't fucking let it go. It's always there.
The process starts all over again, while your feet pound the downtown pavement, a little sadder, a little more defeated. Until those steps are no longer guaranteed to bring security. Until that magnet is being ripped out from your shoes. The split you've hidden for so long is now massive, a rip through your cool facade. It bleeds into everything. It's messy.
Because you are being called up.
It's now or never and not believing in your own ability to make the leap is a sure way to fall on your face. The weight, the doubt, the fear, it has to go. It's chaining you to the ground and you'll never feel the air, the grace of claiming your worth, if you don't shed it now. What good does it do to carry it now? None at all. All to gain.
Leap. But...the doubt...but...the leap...but the fear...but...the leap...
Moments before, I was telling the world about a friend's new cafe. It had just opened after years of hard work and we finally got the chance to try it today. I was happily typing about Nutella-filled doughnuts and panini and coffee. Since this week has been a nonstop train of Refugee Refusal Arguments, Toddlers Sleeping Outdoors Pictures, Racist Idiots In Charge Stories and the Painfully Obvious Absence of My Beautifully Kind Mother-In-Law Since Her Death Last Week, I figured an innocuous food post would do me good.
It did. Until I clicked. Until I wondered, "Well, this sounds horrible. I wonder what happened?" As the story loaded, I yelled at myself, alone in our apartment.
"Do NOT READ that."
And I yelled to the universe as I read it.
"No. NO. NO NO NO."
And I cried and my breathing sped up. My legs wouldn't stop bobbing up and down, to match the pace of my heartbeat.
I know we all do it. We click on horrific things because we're terrified the story inside could happen to us or someone we love. If it is about children, we are instantly more terrified. If it is children hurting children, our terror becomes bewildered sadness. But we read it. Because it happens.
I am not a proponent of burying my head in the sand. I speak out often and write about what I see and the changes I want in my life and the world. I act on them. I speak my mind. However, there is a limit. There is a threshold we reach, collectively. The world reached it when a picture of a small child washed ashore made its way to a newspaper, spurning reactions to the Refugee Crisis that were previously no more than uninterested shrugs of indifference or lack of education on the topic. We reach it with family, with friends, with information. We get full. The threshold for witnessing human suffering and cruelty seems to vary depending on the distance from ourselves. When it is a specific story, one that details someone's hurt and struggle - especially if that person is under two years old - the distance closes. It could be anyone we love. Predispositions and prejudices disappear, as there is nothing a 19 month old could have done to deserve suffering, just as there is nothing two three-year-olds could have done to inflict it with a sense of truly knowing what they had done. But it happened.
And I reached my threshold.
I don't want my head in the sand to the world, as I want to actively participate in making it a better place. However, I also don't want to shatter myself because an algorithm told me I would find something heartbreaking "interesting" for the next five minutes.
So we put our heads, then, in what? A bubble, enabling us to see? In a window high in the air so we can breathe? I don't know.
I post here so infrequently because I doubt my own ability to write well enough to intrigue people to read it on an ongoing basis. But it cannot be about approval anymore. It's about where I have to put my head. I have to put it to thought and writing creatively, or I will forever live at this threshold. That isn't a sustainable place to stay.
Sometimes, though, that conversation makes you laugh so hard you're afraid you will wake your entire household. Then you'll have to explain what you're laughing about. And then it's gonna get a little blue.
See, Lindsey and I both subscribe to Petit Vour. It's a lovely service that sends four unique vegan and cruelty-free beauty products to your home for a few bucks each month. This is not exactly about how nice that is. This focuses more on the "unique" part.
We had just been discussing a cool face sponge we got that month, and then we got around to talking about some wet-nap looking things that came in the shipment, too. There were two of them, and they were called, "BOX." The card inside said they could be used anywhere on your body, but were particularly designed for your...well, your box.
Having previously had long-ass Facebook threads about how Lindsey's armpit looks like a vagina, we decided it was time to once again ask the experts - us - about our thoughts on this product.
Look. It's been a rough couple of months. Let's just talk about vaginas and laugh, ok? Good.
If I put the writing of this piece off any longer, I would be typing in front of you. On the plus side, my living room is entirely rearranged and very clean.
And this magical place isn’t just about convenience. Early saves lives when it’s in the form of detection. Your doctor can’t comfort you by saying “Good thing we caught it so late.” Early is so noble, so coveted, so impressive that even its negative connotations don’t get to hold its name.
No, no. I don't think you understand. This isn't because of any one thing that happened or person or wacky scenario. It's my life, and I am so goddamned grateful to be surrounded by smart people who understand how jokes work and actively make them because it brings joy. I'm lucky, is all.
So tonight, a couple of things struck me. 1. That I need to document the conversations a bit more for my own benefit. You know. When I've lost my memory and I can reread everything like it's the first time. 2. That I'm very fortunate. 3. Chicago weather is like a fist that you aren't sure where it's going to go every winter, and you just pray it isn't in your ass again. Then it is. I digress.
Tonight, the music stopped in the bar where our meeting was held. It was just the pause between songs, going from something like Slipknot to something like Beastie Boys because the shuffle was taking hallucinogens. Again. During our discussion on fundraising strategies, the loud protest came from Sully.
"I don't wanna draw boobs for my dad."
And then the music continued. We all nodded at the statement's universal applications.
Later, I was being driven home. I live two blocks from the bar, but it's hard to walk with the aforementioned Chicago winter fist lodged in there. Plus, I got a few more minutes with Sara and Angie this way. Win.
We pull up to my building. It's a snowy blanket of 7-11 Slurpee and clean, white flakes.
"Are you safe?" Sara asks. I instantly reach for the Marathon Man joke, but before I can finish, she asks again.
"Are you safe?"
"Yeah, why?" I reply.
"Well there's a strange man walking toward us in the middle of the street."
"That is because the sidewalks are shit right now."
"Well all right," she pauses. "No. Nope. It's the Stand GET BACK IN THE CAR."
I didn't. I went home. I'm fine. That dude was walking to his car. To drive across the country and find Mother Abigail.
Next time, more of this. Documentation, no matter how underwhelming it is to anyone else, really.
Listen, the Start of a porn movie is ludicrous, but you don’t care. It’s an adventure! And you’re horny, so you’ll put up with plot of the dude delivering a pizza to a naked sorority party in space or whatever for the thirty seconds of dialogue.