Listening to yourself

I started this blog because often times I feel like I am still muddling my way through, well, more feminine issues. . .things that I don’t necessarily feel like a I can share with a wide or mixed audience.

I was really surprised by how badly I wanted in-put from my friend on my next round of work clothes, and the insecurity I felt — noticed, I’d guess it’s normally there — about my body and appearance.  Am I squeezing myself into too small of a size? Would this be a pretentious pair of shoes to wear to work? Are my arms too big for the rest of me? The picture taken from that angle makes me feel like I am a million pounds overweight. Am I trying too hard or not hard enough with my presentation of myself? Am I being honest, or attempting to present something I’m not?

(and, some of the flip. . .when I take the picture from this angle, dare I say I have a beautiful face? my hands look elegant and kind doing that. Maybe this dress is a good idea?)

I tell myself it’s just hormones, and while I’m sure there is a hormonal component, it also feels like there is something more than that. Why do we use “just” in front of hormones anyhow, as a way to dismiss what is going on? At the same time, it seems ludicrous to say, “no, this seems more momentous than hormones; there is something important going on.”

Still, I wanted this to be a year of listening. I did. I do. Part of listening is, you have to listen to all of the things. If you are already deciding what to listen to and what not to, you haven’t made listening the priority. I am not saying you don’t then make a discernment about what you have heard; I am saying if you decide — prior to listening/paying attention — what is worth listening or paying attention to, you’ve already missed the point of listening.

Only, I am finding, the listening and making up your mind about it go so close hand in hand that sometimes it is hard to tell where one ends and where the next starts. I think that’s why listening is so hard; you have to  be pretty vulnerable while you do it. Sometimes that means it seems harder to do that with anyone else around — hard enough to be that vulnerable even to yourself. Other times, it makes you really long for someone else, because you want someone to make you feel safe and understood while you try to figure things out.

I just spent an absurd amount of time looking at products I never knew existed to put in my hair and make me feel less bedraggled and hobo-like. And I want someone to say, “yes, that was important,” even though I can’t figure out why it was. I spend a lot of philosophical energy on how I’m not artificial and you just have to take me as I am, and yet I am being swept in a wave of wanting to be . . . more me. As though what I am actually isn’t what I’m meant to be.

It’s an odd feeling. Like when I feel so certain that the weight I am is NOT what I am meant to be; the guilt of being this weight is not a societal hand off but a strange sense of being in defiance of what I actually am. To say that seems both strange and awkward and somehow accurate. I need to lose weight, because that is actually who I am, and being who I am right now is sticking my fingers in my ears and trying to ignore who I am right now and also who I really am, underneath my going in a pigheaded different direction. It feels frustrating to say that, because I don’t really know what I mean by that or it’s implications: only that’s how I feel as best as I can hear it.

Looking at hair care products (or clothes or anything) that go right ahead and put “sexy” in the title doesn’t make me say, “yes, that is who I really am,” except kind of yes. It is a part of me that feels neglected. I am bogged down in bills, laundry and unpaid overtime, and there is so much of me that feels neglected, and yes, that is part of that. A part I am not quite sure what I mean by, what I mean by “is this dress a good idea?” It’s sassy and flirty and cuts a figure and I have no place to wear it while drowning in bills, laundry and unpaid overtime. Is getting the dress and putting in the closet sufficient? Is preparing for something that isn’t an act of faith or an act of delusion? And anyway, I really need to lose 5 more pounds for it to fit me better than a sausage casing.

It is a strange place to be, I think. Catching passing glimpses of maybe I could be stunning, but only stunning for what? Yes, you go right ahead and embrace stunning, and, and, and. . .don’t forget to sweep the stairs, and water the plants, and pay your taxes. Stay late doing paperwork no one reads.

There is a part of being yourself that feels awkward in that it is a denial of others. Throwing off (or gently prodding aside) the culture and expectations of others. With that comes an uncomfortable level of examinations. If I change the way I do my hair, everyone will notice and comment. At work. At home. I’ve hated observational scrutiny, from when I was 6 years old and losing teeth. Let me be invisible. Except also, let me be beautiful and unique, and kind of take your breath away in a subtle kind of way where you didn’t really expect it, but now that you look at me. . . This desire to be both seen and unseen is not one likely to be realized.

It is a thing that I think maybe is important, because it rises when I am full. When I am rested or at peace, I am more creative, more patient, more kind. . . and also more in desire of being aesthetically beautiful. When I begin to drown, creativity, patience, and certain amount of kindness go out the window. And so does my desire for aesthetic beauty, as survival quickly trumps any desire to present or attend to myself. It’s not like eating sugar that rises up as a monster as the stress swells inside of me. Nor is at grand plan that I plot for world dominion: it’s small things. Different socks. A different watch. A different way to twist my hair.

And then I stomp it all down because I am busy and struggling and who has time for that and dammit. Usually not that last one, but sometimes that is the only word I can find for how I am feeling. What do you want me to do, skip breakfast so I can do my hair before work?

It also makes me feel angry and frustrated, because logically, philosophically, it shouldn’t matter. It’s what’s inside the body that matters, right? Only we are still in bodies. And I’m not quite sure what that means. Only that even for all of the trying to ignore it, it still matters. It does. There is something here that is meant to be valued, by me. And that takes effort and defiance and hope. And sometimes hope is what I feel like I have the least of.

Nobody can do this for me except me, but in order for me to do this, something would have to be sacrificed. But what? And why is this important enough that “practical” things ought be sacrificed for it? And what’s the end goal, because I want to know what the point is.

Right now, all of that is beyond just listening.



Becoming Music

There’s some kind of powerful magic in someone who knows how to use their voice like it’s an instrument — not beat-boxing or what have you, but the recognition that their own voice is a powerful, potent creator of music. With the really well trained individuals, I find it’s not just their voice. Their whole body knows music, and at least how to play an external instrument or 2 or 7.

This is not something that is bound my music genre, and I’ve very nearly (and may yet) buy albums of music of genres I don’t care for, lyrics that don’t speak to me, only just because I hear the exceptional control and wielding of music moving through a human body.

There is something very important here that I want. I don’t want to make light of the word “sacred,” but nor do I want to understate the importance I find here: it’s something deeper than aesthetic. It’s something deeper than just skill alone. It’s something that is not a Pinterest/Instagram style romanticisation of music and those who make it. My own inability to speak well in the language of music leaves me feeling — not uncultured, but rather childish and lacking understanding of basic truth.

I keep circling around my failings in this matter. Surely some people are gifted more than others. Or had more opportunity than others. But really where I keep landing is looking full in the face of my own inhibition. To music (which is not a verb, yet the only word I know to describe the action), one cannot remain cloaked, clothed, withdrawn. Those two things are completely at odds with one another. Music, from a place of inhibition and refusal to be vulnerable or truly share, is just noise.

And I cannot. I cannot put aside the self-consciousness, the awareness of self and other, long enough to move to the music, let the music in me, through me. I keep thinking if I could just — get better, I wouldn’t be self-conscious. Or if I could just work with the music alone long enough, then I wouldn’t care who else heard it.

If you look deeply into anyone who is serious about their art, you will always find it turns into a spiritual discussion. I don’t think it is really possible to separate art and spirituality. Not from the poets or the painters or the sculptors or musicians or anyone else. Nor is there any religion that I know of that does not make use of music. And my difficulties with music do not come to “I’m not smart enough” or “I don’t understand” or “there is no way to learn.” It comes down to an essential human problem: how do you be vulnerable, and not die?

Some of us come into the world naturally less inhibited. Some find the need the chemically loosen up. Some of us struggle with our inhibited nature, knowing that inhibition is not always a virtue, but unsure of how to bridge the gap. Yet how can one engage in truth, in comfort, in beauty from a place of deep inhibition?

It is essentially fear and pride that hold me back. There is no way to move deeper into music without also confronting fear and pride. I do feel that the phrase “spiritual practice” is over used and under understood. But one does have to understand the problem to move toward any solution. The problem I need to tackle is not one of having an ear that is not trained enough or a lack of practice. The problem I really need to tackle is that I recognize deep value in those who can avoid fighting being an instrument, but I am more concerned with my own protection, and I am too cowardly to move forward. Both humility and courage are needed, and I think that is a definition of grace, a definite quality of music.

Where does it end?

Someone told me the other day I had a beautiful smile. I didn’t contradict them. At this point, I’m nearly resigned it’s my trademark. Someone else told me I was beautiful, too. I had to work a little harder to not attempt to dissuade them.

Look, it’s not like I think I’m terribly disfigured and grotesque. It’s just it seems I’ve discovered a train of thought that goes like this: “If I’m talented and beautiful and compassionate and hard-working and sweet and encouraging and smart and loyal and all these other things that people seem to say I am. . .how come my life never seems to go the way I think it should?”

The denial of compliments is really just an extension of “what am I doing wrong?” or “I must not be good enough to deserve the things I want.” My mind knows this is stupid, which does not mean I don’t think it. It just means that I find this particular part of myself unpleasant, and tend to work hard to hide it in the background where I can pretend I’m not one of those people who has to deal with endless insecurity and a desire to earn a path to all good things.

I’ve also discovered another train of thought, which goes, “People say the most attractive thing is when you are honest, capable, confident and independent. Um, false.” Because everyone tells me I’m gloriously honest, shockingly capable, and sometimes independent to an intimidating degree, and I most certainly have neither friends nor suitors falling out of the sky all around me. Either that or people have been misleading me on my credentials, but either way, I’m being sold a load of hooey.

In short, if I have all the potential to be a heroine, where’s my plot?

People say that “life doesn’t owe you anything” and point out the only reason why things go the way the do in stories is because: editors. The gist is that the majority of life is really rather dry, boring and tedious, and if you’ve ever gotten the impression otherwise, it’s because someone is casting delusion in your mind (and that someone could even just be yourself). And there’s something puritanically satisfying about taking that staunch stance. You know: real women don’t complain. Toughen up.

But in the end, there’s very little difference between that, and just sticking your head in the sand and pretending you don’t feel what you feel. Spoiler alert: pretending you don’t have emotions is ultimately self-destructive.

So what are we supposed to do with emotions we don’t want to have? And also, why is it that we don’t want to have them? Do you know, I feel rather guilty anytime I recognize myself feeling like I would just like to have someone take care of me. I’m trying just now to sort out if there is anything remotely rational about that. I guess I just grew up believing that everyone has their own mess, and you have to deal with your own dish and not sit around waiting for someone to bail you out. That wanting someone to come deal with your problems was weak-minded, lazy, spoiled, and practically immoral. I have no idea how much of that was my raising and how much of that was my personality. It’s not like I have problem giving care or helping people.

But as a woman, you’re not supposed to wait for your white knight on a white horse to come and rescue you from all of your real-or-imagined problems. You be a responsible adult, and take care of your own crap. So what do you do when you find yourself wishing that there was someone else around who actually wanted to know about your problems–emotional, practical or otherwise–and actually wanted to do something about them?

That makes it sound like I never had help, which isn’t true. I get help all of the time. I feel like I practically live on help. Why, recently, some of my brothers have even begun learning they can hug me when I come home! Am I being sarcastic? Sort of. Not really. It does feel like a strange thing to crave a caregiver.

The only thing I know is that we have to give our emotions to God. All of them. Not just the neat, tidy, pious, self-sufficient ones. The messy ones, the shallow ones, the ugly ones, the longing ones, the angry ones, the fearful ones.

Other than that, I have yet to figure out where this post is going, which is atypical. Usually by now I have figured out my beginning and middle, and am driving toward the end. All I really have right now is just a raw feeling of being a girl as I’ve tried hard not to define it: delicate.


Last night, I had an epiphany. I don’t like my glasses.

Then I had to figure out why. What was it that made me not like them? What my mind kept coming back to was hearing the echo of what people said when they saw me wearing them. “Hipster glasses.”

No offense to Hipsters. And almost everyone in my class who wears glasses wears a similar style. That’s all fine. But it’s not me.

When I tried to think about what I didn’t like about Hipster, my first thought was that is seems to me that whoever is following trends is not much of a critical thinker. I dismissed that. No, I’m sure there are plenty of critically thinking, intelligent individuals who like the aesthetics of the Hipster vibe.

I came around to thinking this: Hipster styles are almost always worn ironically, with an implied smirk. Even if they dress like a hobo, it’s with a smirk. That was actually what got all this started – I had the heat down low (’cause I’m cheap that way) and kept layering on clothes, and I caught myself in the mirror and thought, “My Gosh, I look like a hobo!” with some level of delight. And then I saw my glasses, and my face fell. My Hipster glasses. My ironic glasses. But I’m not an ironic hobo, I am an honest to goodness, enthusiastic hobo. Hobo dressing makes me feel close to my poor, rural roots, and my poor, rural ancestors. It reminds me of who I really am, and who I really am is anything but urbane or sophisticated, no matter how many letters I’m in the process of putting after my name.

Curiously, this whole discovery process made me happy. You see, I went out on a limb to try these glasses, because I said to myself, “Self, you are always playing it safe, always afraid someone is going to comment on your style, and you aren’t really experimenting to find out what you like or looks good on you or you want. Be daring. Try.” And I tried. And for the first several months, I thought I liked them. I thought, “For once, a change is good. No one told me to get these. I just dared, and I did, and I look good in them!” But what I like even better about deciding I don’t like them is that maybe, possibly, perhaps, I’m starting to grow a backbone for myself.

Not leaning in to make as few ripples as possible. Just trying to be me. And as hard as they may be to find nowadays in the ocean of acrylic frames, I like gold wire spectacles. Either that, or steampunk googles, but I’m told they’re not very practical nor professional.

It’s just a drop in the bucket. There are other drops. Walking down the bike path with my cape swirling in the wind and thinking, “I enjoy this. I want to be more weird like me.” Wondering why I have so many clothes that I don’t like to wear, and realizing I got what I did because it was “acceptable” and “affordable” and not because it was “me.” I just told my Mom to keep her eye out for polo shirts on sale, and felt sad while doing so. I wear them because they are cheap, count as professional, and fit me passably well. But they do entirely nothing to reflect who I am.

I used to think  jeans and t-shirts were my uniform, but I’m dissatisfied with that, too. In part because “jeans” doesn’t mean what it used to me. They used to be durable and rugged; not any more. T-shirts used to mean no fuss, no muss. Now if I’m wearing women’s, I’m trying to find ones where the sleeves aren’t too short and the neck isn’t too deep, and the fabric is actually comfortable. Or else I try to find men’s, but then it strains across the bust and I have to slit the sides to make room for my hips. None of any of those things reflects who I am.

Most things don’t. Sometimes I complain that it’s hard to dress as one would like when one has no money, but even that’s not really true. I mean, it is true, but even if I had a much bigger budget for clothes, what’s on the racks just makes me sad.

Title Nine and such have some really nice things, but they all say, “hip, comfortable lifestyle, I’ve got money.” Athletic wear is really “in,” and my classmates wear it to class all the time. I’d blush to go out in public with nothing on my bottom half besides tights, but it’s the new normal for them.

I’m not a polished professional, though. I see those jackets and skirts and professional pumps, and I just think, “ugh.” For me, it wouldn’t feel like I was dressing sharp. It would just feel disingenuous.

I’m really tired of wearing shapeless, unflattering clothing. But I’ve yet to find, for affordable or out of my price range, clothes that look like me.

I’m learning. A little bit, here and there.

It doesn’t always come together into a cohesive picture, though. I loathe carpeting. I like dresses and comfortable leggings make me brave enough to wear them. I miss the linen pants someone gave me once. I think that probably vests would be flattering on me. I like flat and flexible shoes. Sometimes I practice putting my hair up, and I like the old-fashioned vibe it gives me. But then I have to wear a hat, because it’s in the teens outside, and when I get to class, my hair just looks messy and knotted.

I know that even though I like delicate things – like gauzy linen, and lace, and gathers and ruffles, and piles of fine layers – I’m not delicate, and delicate things don’t look good on me. I know I love the mystery and adventure of steampunk, but I’m actually just not dark enough to wear it. When interacting with people, I tend to be all smiles and bubbly and laughing. That doesn’t really mesh with a bronze octopus around your neck.

I know a properly fitted jacket makes me feel pretty awesome, especially if it’s double-breasted. I know I’ve yet to find pair of boots that speak my language, although I really want such a pair. I know I’m not modern. I wish I could find hats that fit my small, tiny head.

You know, I don’t know much. I just feel like it’s time to get more serious about trying. Because I’ve been thinking about Hipsters and irony. Sometimes I’m not sure that they really like the way things looks. Sometimes I think it’s a self-protective irony. If you aren’t trying to look sophisticated, then it can’t sting when someone says you don’t look sophisticated.

I’m saying that because I can see myself in it. I fought my body so hard when it decided to grow up. Unable to stop it, I dressed in loose-fitting over-sized t-shirts. Back then it was defensive to the idea my body was changing. Now I think it is defensive to not feeling pretty or beautiful. If I were threatened with not looking pretty, I would say, “I know. I dress practically. I dress for comfort. I dress affordable. I’m not trying to be pretty.”

But all that really means is that I want to be, and I’m afraid I can’t attain. Better to deliberately step out of the race than to compete and fail miserably. The cowardice in me sits on the sidelines, and so my clothes are almost all things that don’t look much like me at all.

So daring to try wildly different glasses frames is a step in the right direction. Daring to reject them is better still. But it’s not enough.

I want to become more unabashedly myself. But it’s hard work and it’s uncharted territory, and it’s hard to know what to invest (time, money, space) in. It’s hard to know if it’s worth it, or if it’s one of those things were it’s nice, but it’s really not important in life. But part of me says I have to try. Going along is slow death.

The theory is good, but I’m just really not sure what it means in real life.



Who, you?

We were talking about eating disorders today, and I think one of the most insidious things is that it’s not always obvious until it’s “too late.” Some people are just naturally skinnier. Some people do just eat less. It’s not like a big huge red flashing light goes off over a woman’s head saying “EVERYBODY!! I MISSED MY PERIOD BECAUSE I’M NOT EATING ENOUGH!!!!” By the time it is that glaringly obvious, the person has been struggling for a long time–often years–deeply entrenched in their difficulties. Like anything, the sooner it is caught and appropriately addressed, the easier it is to successfully turn away from it. Once they’re emaciated waifs, it will be obvious there’s a problem–and even harder to help them find their way back to three square meals.

But I think that part of the problem is not recognizing there is a problem–not just because it means people won’t be able to get the help and support they need, but also because it’s a habit of callousness–something that just happens to “other people.” No one makes it a goal to “get anorexia” and most people who do fall into that pit remain in denial for quite sometime. “Awareness” is such a cheesy, over-used word nowadays. People are “raising awareness” for everything–so much so that no one pays attention anymore. I asked a classmate why she was wearing an Alzheimer’s awareness shirt, and she honestly couldn’t remember who it was who originally inspired her to do the Memory Walk. I can–deep in my gut, always, I see the word Alzheimer’s and I see my grandfather. People may be more aware now that “Alzheimer’s” exists, and that it’s a “bad thing” that “needs  a cure!”–but do they really understand?

And everyone knows about anorexia. It’s like, not eating and stuff, for girls that, like, worry about the way they look and stuff, and then they crazy girls starve themselves. . .right? And then I tell people, “Your sister was getting caught in this too. I had to explain to her what was going on. She didn’t realize.” And they look at me so surprised, so quizzically. “Huh,” they say. “Huh; I guess I never really paid attention.”

Do you think it’s a “someone else” problem? Only something crazy girls get? I’m telling you, by the time it’s obvious, so much damage has already been done. Girls who don’t care about fashion. Girls who don’t stare at themselves in the mirror. Girls you’d think would “know better”–because it isn’t even about knowing. Girls who seem to be dedicated to healthy lifestyles.  Girls who seem so polite and sensible.

You’re aware of “anorexia,” but are you aware of the girls who have it? The women? You can do all the walks and all the events, but do you know who you’re wearing that shirt for? It isn’t the “what” you need to be aware of. . .it’s the who.


You know what’s become taboo? Talking about what you find attractive. I mean, it’s still cool to be like “oo, he’s hot!” but if someone says, “Marry a well-groomed man” it’s all “Oh, grandma!” and “don’t judge a book by it’s cover!” You can’t go around talking about what you like or don’t like, because that’s all shallow and superficial and unaccepting and, well, not politically correct.

The thing about taboo subjects is that it tends to make us less honest. Not just with each other, but with ourselves. I’ll staunchly insist with the stuanch-est that I don’t care about the outside and that it’s only the inside that matters. . .and squash the thoughts–pretend I didn’t have them–about a guy who has nice forearms or a voice I love to listen to. Shallow! Superficial! The TRUTH I don’t want to admit.

I was thinking about this today–yeah, after noticing I kept sneaking glances at some guy oblivious to the world with his device-with-ear-attachments. One thought that came to me is that maybe it’s not so shallow as we’re often admonished.

I like to look at hands. Hands tell you so much. If a guy’s hands are all soft and smooth and weak looking, well, forget it. You have to know what a hard days work is like. You have not not be a stranger to the concept of labor. You know, it’s funny, but I can totally spot the difference in a heart-beat between a gym-rat and someone who came by it honest. There’s a difference between having a body and knowing how to use it, and you can see it just in the way a person sits, the way they carry themselves and the working balance between muscle groups.

I dismiss any guy with low-riding pants. If they aren’t mature enough to figure out how to dress themselves, I can’t say I find myself attracted. Same reason why I lean away from trendy-stylers–I’m looking for someone independent enough and strong minded enough that they aren’t being carried along or blatantly fighting for the sake of fighting. And whether male or female, I always find myself guarded around anyone too well polished. There’s a difference between carrying yourself well and being caught up in yourself–or horribly insecure about who you are.

We say we can’t judge a book by it’s cover, yet–well, the cover is there to reflect the contents. We are always looking for clues to someone’s character–their morals, their ethics, their values, their lifestyles. Some of those things are more attractive to us than others. (My grandma values the $$$, and finds the expensive looks veeeery attractive. I don’t, so . . .I don’t.)

I guess some people would read the paragraphs I wrote above, and be repulsed. How can she so casually judge another human being, when she knows nothing about them except they way they look?! Beyond rude! Bigoted monster!

But you know, the other thing I was thinking was that part of the reason why I squelch the (true) things that I find to be attractive is the fear or reciprocation. Yeah, I’ve heard women dreaming about some tall, handsome, rich dude with an Australian accent before. . .but which one of us thinks we’re the fulfillment  of longing, the picture of ideal, the one that someone has always dreamed about? If we can’t meet that standard–and we know we can’t–what right do we have hold one out for “what we want”? But pretending we “don’t want” is dishonest at best, and very damaging in the end. Those insidious expectations we pretended we never have, and are crushed when they aren’t met.

So while I was eating my hamburger and checking out the  hard-working, straight-shooting, good looking, not-paying-any-attention-to-me guy, I found myself wondering what sorts of things guys might be looking for. I know that’s as diverse as the individual, not whole group, and, loaded question though it may be–I’m really not talking about anatomical ratios. I look at hands because I think it tells me a lot about someone’s character. What might someone be looking to see in my hands? Shapes and sizes for the moment disregarded–deeper than that, beyond that, what is the question looking to be answered?

It may be an over generalization–why not? I’m in so deep already–but I think it’s pretty safe(ish) to say that we girls tend to be looking for signs of strength and reliability, someone who has the power to make us feel safe. That can take many forms–after all, some would say that money is a sign of strength and reliability and power, yet I find that totally unattractive. It doesn’t make me feel safe. So clearly I’m not trying to set up a standard of What Girls Should Look Like.

But I don’t think–maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think that guys tend to look to girls to find an image of someone who is stronger than them (physically), a reliable rock for them to turn to, someone with power. Where’s the allure, then? What message is supposed to be engraven in the hands?

Is it really the equally cliche idea of nurturing, caring, gentleness? Because that would be sweet. I’m totally not changing my bone structure, but I excel at those care-taking kinds of things. I do that, day in and day out, and my body in response takes on the shape of it, the cover bearing witness to what is being driven from inside. I never look the way I want, the way I wish I did. But I can’t keep my body from betraying the fact that my hands know how to hold a baby, that my eyes are used to seeking out the people who are hurting, that the way I walk displays my work ethic.

But I guess we all run into our insecurities at some point. I may be confident of my character, but I am very unconfident that anyone is looking for that kind of character. I can run up my own quiet list of “things I look for in guys” but the list of “guys looking for what I think I have” is strangely much shorter, by my observation. Or imagination. Our imaginations can be quite the turn-coats, I think. You can imagine your dark-haired Australian, and I can imagine my cello player with marvelous hands–but can either one of us really imagine those guys being happy with us? They’d be moving on, finding someone more suitable to their level. Pixie-ninja landscaping artist, or something. Definitely some girl who’s got her act together, not this bribing-oneself-into-existence-with-mint-mocha-instant-coffee nonsense that I’ve got going on over here. Or some girl who’s a lot more fun to be around, playful and risk taking and seize-the-day-oh-yeah, not the tentative, shell-hiding, reserved girl sitting on this bench, namely me.

With the same brush that I paint what I think I want, I paint, too, what I think I’m not. I can’t help but think that in a large part, our admonishment to “not judge a book by it’s cover” is really a plea that someone, please, anyone could see past our insecurities to the parts of us that really matter. That someone could guess that there is more to use than can be blatantly stated in large print on the first page, and want to find out what that “more” is.

Some people have said that the most attractive thing is someone who doesn’t need anything–e.g., isn’t looking for someone else to make them whole. I can sort of see where that thought is coming from, but I don’t agree. Whether we ignore that part of ourselves or not, I think there is a part of us that is looking for That Which Would Make an Awesome Team. That which both complements what I am not–the “things that I want”–and sees beyond my lack (“what I think I’m not”) to what I really do have to offer. Being what I want without being able to look beyond my flaws really isn’t all that attractive; it’s intimidating and frightening. Being able to see what I have to offer without offering me anything in return isn’t attractive, either; it’s threatening and imposing and demeaning. Finding both at once really seems to be the only way.

. . .and nigh near impossible.

Healthy Anger

It is not pretty to be skinny, and it is not healthy to be skinny, and I Am Not Kidding.

This is not a politically correct, self-acceptance, let’s all-feel-good post. This is a post written out of raw anger and heartache.

You know what they say–it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

Well, trying having a couple of friends with anorexia, and then see you feel about the whole adjective “skinny”. What I feel is potent fury and impotent ability to do anything about it.

Anorexia kills people. Anorexia devastates bodies, digesting one’s own bones in a desperate attempt to keep functioning, hidden damage that is so easy to be in denial about.

Do you know what “healthy” is? Do you even know? It’s 20% body fat. It is one-fifth of a woman’s body being pure, straight-up FAT. That’s healthy. That’s good and right and true and beautiful and attractive and comfortable and guilt-free and perfect and exactly where it needs to be and what it is supposed to be. That’s if you’re fit: that’s if you exercise regularly and take good care of your body.

And if you’re average? If you aren’t a fitness-freak? 25%. One quarter of your body should be fat.

We’re not talking about “ideas of beauty”. We’re talking about biological functions. We’re talking about a body being able to sustain itself. A woman is not “fat” if her body is composed of 1/4 of fat tissue: a woman is healthy and normal.

How many women do you know who believe that? How many women do you know believe that their bodies need to be between 1/5 and 1/4 fat? How many women do you know who understand that they aren’t healthy if they don’t have enough fat?

I am angry when I see pictures of desperately underweight women on Facebook, being sent around in “health memes”–it is dangerous misinformation, a public health hazard. To me, it is also now a very personal issue–I see these faulty “health” messages as full of malicious intent. I want to chase people down and hold them accountable for the lies they’re spreading. I want to pound some sense into people until they abandon this physiologically disastrous impression of body composition.

I want to fix it.

And I can’t.

I can just sit and watch while my friends literally starve themselves in the name of “health”.

The Lady in the Mirror is NOT Lovely Tonight.

A while back I wrote about how sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself, and I startle myself by the thought that there’s some beauty about me. I wrote even then that I was writing about it because it was noteworthy, not because the Lady in the Mirror is always so gracious. Well, tonight I’m writing about the more common occurrence–those days that seem to stretch on, end-to-end-to-end, where you catch a glance of yourself, and all you can really do is wonder if there is even one redeemable shred of prettiness anywhere at all on the other side of the mirror.

Talk is cheap, and we all know that. We are inherently suspicious of peoples’ comments about our appearance, because they’re only being nice. Polite. It’s not that we expect people to literally turn away from us in revulsion, but we secretly suspect that, in their own minds where no one can hear them, their evaluation of our beauty is really, “Meh.”

“Meh,” is a terrible and and wonderful word. It’s wonderful, because it captures so many emotions in just three letters, and yet horrible in it’s terrible devastation. It’s the complete dismissal of being unworthy of comment. How was your lunch? “Meh.” Not even worth talking about, people. How’s that boyfriend working out? “Meh.” You don’t even care enough to get upset. There is utterly no hope. How’s the job? “Meh.” You go into work disengaged everyday, and you come home disengaged everyday. It’s a void of existence in your day.

We would almost just rather our specific crimes be listed, so we could weigh things out. You have pretty eyes, but your nose is a little odd. We could chose to hold on to the pretty eyes; but the “meh” takes it all in and swallows it. Polite people say you have pretty eyes (and don’t mention your nose), and the etiquette of the saying hangs in the air, and you leave it all behind. It means about as much as “meh.”

So we find ourselves in front of the mirror, giving ourselves side-long glances, or perhaps frank head-on appraisals. What’s there, on the other side of the mirror? Anything worth while? Anything to be valued?

And we all know those phrases. . .”It’s who you are, not what you look like!” Blah blah blah. You’re comparing apples to oranges. I’m not comparing who I’m like to who other people are like. These are two totally different things, and right now I’m considering what I look like! So stop changing the subject.

A lot of people start immediately blaming the media, and I don’t mean it doesn’t play a role. Of course it does. So does society. But I do believe that if we were all alone, and always had been, we would still have an idea of beauty and we would still be trying to measure ourselves against it. I think it’s part and parcel of being made in the image of God, and yet falling short of it.

And what I really don’t think is that this topic should be avoided or taboo. As soon as we get started talking about beauty, everyone jumps on “but that doesn’t really matter!” Well, maybe it does matter–not as much as some other things, sure. But when the conversation is shut down, it means we keep our private fears just that–private. We struggle with it alone, instead of talking about it.

Do we have to be beautiful? No, we don’t. We can live without being beautiful. But why is it such a universal experience to desire to be beautiful, and what are we to do with that desire? Squash it? Cater to it? Veneer it with religiosity? I’m not saying that I have all the answers; I’m saying that these are valid questions that deserve to be considered.

The Lady in the Mirror does not look pretty tonight. Does this just mean that I’m looking for affirmation and affection? Or does it really mean just what I said–she doesn’t look pretty, and this is about nothing more than a yearning for beauty, aside from any other thing. Don’t you think there is a yearning inside of every person for beauty, in one form or another? A yearning to be a part of that beauty?

Beauty is hard to define, though. We might want “it” but what is “it”? Sometimes we go looking for “it” in pictures and people and ideas, trying to wrap some words around it. It never does quite satisfy, though, does it? And even when we see it, and say, “Oh, beauty!” –we’re still left with that hole inside of us, because we can’t change the Lady in the Mirror. Not really.

I sometimes wonder why we’re allowed to yearn for things that we can’t have. If we can’t have them, why can’t we have our desire for them removed? Why can’t we “squash out” our insatiable longings? And if we have to live with them, how are we supposed to do that? How do we walk, side by side, with wanting the things we can never have or be?

I don’t really think the answer is to be satisfied with what you have. And I don’t think it’s to give up on your longings, or pretend they aren’t there. There is something that runs deeper and wider and richer than all of those longings put together that is very important and worthwhile. . .but we tend to only hear the harmony notes, not the fundamental one. But getting rid of the harmony notes is just a way of destroying the notes that help us find the fundamental one.

What is beauty and why do you want it? Those are good questions. And the longing you feel when you look in the mirror is valuable, too. It’s just not very obvious what it really means–an echo of something even more true.

Appropriate to what?

I had an academic interview  today.

I got as dressed up as I can, which is not much, and showed up.

All the other girls were so much more classy and sharp and professional in their appearance as I was.

Yet, to the best of my knowledge and observation, I was more confident, more enthusiastic, more able to present myself and my thoughts, and more passionate and committed to the field we were trying to study.

Always, always, always, this sticks in my craw and makes me think. Okay, so I wasn’t wearing some super-crisp jacket and quintessential pearls. So, sue me. Does it really matter?

People keep telling me over and over again that it really does. That first impressions are so important. That it reflects your professionalism.

Yes, I was neat. Yes, I was put together. No, I did not have a high-sheen polish. I was me, okay? Not a thin veneer plied on over who-knows-what. I was just me. I told them about the good and about the bad. I asked questions. I wore sensible, comfortable shoes, and I had cold hands.

I stand on this awkward place between two views: On one hand, I consider how one dresses to be almost an art form, or a communication form. You can tell people a lot by what you wear. On the other hand, I’m really mad that anyone would care more what my shoes looked like than how I looked them in the eye and answered their question.

Perhaps I’m not really so divided, after all. Perhaps what I do hold to first impressions, and I just want my first impressions to be truthful, not over done. The dozen of us were a wash of black and grey, except me. I wore green. Most girls wore tasteful, professional jewelery. I think my necklace probably was, but I know I was the only one who made hers the day before, because it amused her and it went with her outfit.

I want to be valued for who I am, and part of who I am is how I dress. I don’t want to leave you thinking, “My, what a sharp suit.” I want to leave you thinking, “My, she was engaging and passionate, and had some really good thoughts.” If all you remember is my clothes, than I’ve done a poor job dressing. What? you say. Doesn’t that mean you’ve dressed very well? No, because the point of clothes is to showcase the wearer. If the wearer is simply showcasing the clothes, than the cloths have failed–or rather, betrayed you. They stole the show and left you behind.

Did I dress appropriately? I suppose important experts could argue over it. But is that a relevant question? Did I do well at presenting myself to those that were interviewing me? I believe I did. Me, myself and I. You rather wish you were there to see it, don’t you? You’ve seen enough suits and pearls, and you know what they look like. . .

Gloves that don’t fit hinder you more than you know

Clothes that fit make you feel beautiful.

I think it’s because of the psychological boost that comes from meeting the implied standard: you are exactly as beautiful as this piece of clothing had hoped. YESS!!! It sounds silly, but really, I bet everyone would feel more beautiful and happy in clothes that fit.

Also? If you dress glamorously, the task you’re doing feels glamorous. I know everyone says “dress nice for yourself!” More practically, though, no one tells you to get dressed up to put away laundry in your own bedroom. Try it. Seriously! I have been breaking in some heels by wearing them when I do laundry, and suddenly laundry no longer seems mundane.

I am not really a glamor girl, but I do not care for the slovenly way I’ve been dressing. The sad thing is, I know why I dress the way that I do. It’s hard to dress glamorously when you’re living a slovenly way. I don’t dress nice, because I don’t have a nice desk to sit down at. I sit cross-legged in an easy chair, and balance my laptop between my knees. Doing that in a skirt? Not cool.

Since one of my goals for this year was to stop dressing so slovenly, I’m trying to figure out what stand in my way. A person will always take the path of least resistance; so the the most obvious thing is to get rid of the resistance so you fall the way you want to go anyway.

Part of it is restocking my closet. Part of it is making sure what is in there is both comfortable and interesting. But along that same vein, part of it is trying to figure out how to do what I’m already doing, better. Maybe the problem isn’t that the process isn’t elegant (laundry); maybe the problem is I need to change the process. Because who’s in charge, here? Are you living life, or is life living you?

Sometimes it is a question of the chicken and the egg. Try wearing a dress (I wore one my grandmother gave me from when she was a young woman–cotton, but classy!) and heels while doing the dishes, and watch your motions change. Or–concentrate on your posture, and see how your attitude changes. Or–give up on life, and watch your appearance go totally to crap.

The interesting thing to me is that these things are all inter-related. One does affect the other. You might not have control over one, but you might be able to use something else to “hack in” or “use the back door” and influence the other aspects. I could never try to tell you that if you dress well, your life will suddenly start to make sense. But I can tell you that dressing poorly certainly won’t make anything better either.

How much of a difference would it make? I don’t know; but I’d guess it depends on how consistent you were about it. Our surroundings influence us subtly, and we often don’t realize what a difference they’re making on us until we move into better situations.

Put on the dress fits, and see what a difference it makes!