Tag Archives: self esteem

Let’s Take a Break from Apocolytpic Emo Breakdowns and Talk Natural Body Care

Let’s talk about hair cuts and natural body care products cause the rest of the world is exhausting and it’s just too hot to keep raging!

melting

This is an update on my natural body care journey (for a full breakdown on ‘why the hell am I doing this?’, see here and here.) First of all, I cut my hair. My fears, it turns out, were unwarranted. I love it. I don’t feel less pretty, I feel light and free and cute. Since I provided photos before, here is my new ‘do, shout out to Marika in Delaware who is the best and always does what I want but better than I imagined:

photo

Also, I have been washing with honey and it’s been great. Honey is moisturizing for the hair, slightly acidic to balance the PH of your scalp, and it’s also anti microbial and anti fungal. The recipe I used is 3 parts water and 1 part raw honey (raw is important, but it’s not wildly expensive and you don’t use a lot of this mixture per wash so it will last.) I warmed the mixture over low heat to make sure the honey was fully dissolved. I let it cool down, and then put it all in an empty hair product bottle I’d cleaned out (reduce reuse recycle!), and I’m keeping it in the fridge to avoid spoiling. Not that I have hair to really focus on, but this mixture should be massaged into the scalp rather used to saturate your hair. It smells great, my hair is soft, and I don’t have to wash everyday. Additionally, I now have way less stuff in my bathroom. Less plastic bottles, less products, less clutter. It feels great to clear the medicine cabinet and shower caddy, and to know exactly what is coming into contact with my body. Plus I haven’t had to sacrifice any quality in terms of how clean I feel! My skin and hair aren’t oily, I’m not breaking out, and actually my showers are quicker. So far, oil cleansing and honey shampoo are a success.

Yay-kyli

But it hasn’t all been hunky dory. My natural oral care experiments have been…. less than wonderful.

jimmy-fallon-ew

I did not like the toothpaste recipe I tried, which consisted of coconut oil, baking soda, vegetable glycerin and peppermint essential oil. The texture is kind of grainy, and you cannot honestly describe it as ‘minty’. It didn’t leave my mouth feeling fresh, however I suspect I will have to try and re-calibrate my taste going forward so that ‘fresh’ isn’t automatically ‘minty.’ In any case, I haven’t given up on toothpaste, but I will be trying some different recipes and maybe different essential oils for flavor. Lemon or orange oil would be nice, and also help with whitening. For now I’ve gotten a fluoride-free toothpaste from Tom’s, and I’m psyched to have a minty mouth again!

scoobyteethbrushing

Additionally I’ve been oil pulling and… well… I’m not crazy about it. Full disclosure: the time ranges people suggest vary, and I’ve been shooting for 10 whole minutes, but honestly I’ve never hit a full ten (I get close, like 8 and 1/2 or 9 ish and bail.) I will keep practicing and try to keep my eyes off the clock, but that’s a long time to keep swishing. Even so, I am going to continue with this, because I think it’s a mindful practice and I’m kind of into that. But again, it doesn’t leave my mouth feeling super clean (no mint…), although I do not mind the over all taste. It does, however, help with morning breath and whitening, and like I said you have to kind of slow down and focus. So this gets a reserved thumbs up. You can read up on it here, here, here, and here.

oilpulling

That’s all the news for now. I have to say that it’s been fun trying all these new things, as it is all moving me in what I feel is a positive direction where I have less extraneous and potentially poisonous stuff, not to mention more time. Having less hair has been amazing in this heat, and actually I think it’s the best thing I’ve done for my yoga practice since… going to yoga. I’m less distracted, I still feel sassy, and the lack of maintenance is super empowering. Next up to try is homemade deodorant, and I am hoping that this works as well as folks claim because I am a very active human and it is really very hot in NYC right now and I don’t mind sweating but I sure don’t wanna stink. Have any of you guys tried any natural body care stuff, with or without success? Please share any stories, insights or resources in the comments!

he (and i) really wanna know! <3
he (and i) really wanna know! ❤
Advertisements

I’m Nervous About Cutting My Hair, and other thoughts on insecurity

I’m going to cut my hair off this weekend.

nickiGIF

If you know me, you’re rolling your eyes like ‘Come on Alex, how much more hair could you possibly cut off?’ And you’re mostly right.

asymettrical, purple swoop, resting bitch face
asymettrical, purple swoop, morning sass

But I’ve never gone full on clippers, GI Jane style. I’ve never taken it all the way down. I’ve thought about taking it all off before, in solidarity with my mom (who has lost her hair a bunch of times due to cancer treatment), and also as a way to just let everything go and reset. And I’m finally gonna do it, as a way to help transition to this whole no shampoo thing (furthering my natural beauty journey which you can read about here and also here.)

But I’m nervous.

sheldonnervous

A strangely large amount of people have told me that I’m ‘so brave’ for cutting my hair short. That they themselves could never do that, they themselves aren’t ‘brave enough.’ But cutting my hair wasn’t an act of courage.  In fact,  like a lot of folks, it was an act of desperation. When my best friend from high school slept with my then boyfriend (so cliche, so inconsiderate) about 1/2 way through college, I was heartbroken and stunned and completely unsure about the world. And I wanted to be a different person. And so I switched out my facial piercing, got a new tattoo, and cut my hair off. It was a beginning, and an end, and a statement. It didn’t feel brave.

cliche

And still, as I grew into that person with shorter hair, that person who got past a betrayal and kept loving the people that helped and found newer and better passions, I’ve still never felt that short hair makes me brave. My mom is brave, facing a seemingly endless amount of treatment and still yearning to move past cancer and live her life to the fullest. People who risk their lives to save others are brave. People who stand up to injustice are brave. People who face the unknown with dignity and hope are brave. All I do is pay Marika, the little old Greek lady who gave me my first hair cut and continues to put up with my crazy requests, to cut some hairs on my head into sassy shapes.

Ryan-Gosling-Shrug

But quite frankly, I am scared about cutting my hair really short all over. And it’s for a kind of embarrassing reason. It’s because I’m afraid I won’t be pretty. And actually, I’m pretty sure that I’m not pretty already, but I feel like this is going to make it worse.

To be clear, this is not a pity party and I’m not sharing these thoughts to garner supportive comments. I don’t think I’m gross or ugly, and most days I am satisfied with my appearance. And I’m lucky enough that I have lots of people in my life who love me and tell me I am beautiful and on lots of days, thankfully, I believe them. I’m talking about something very specific. ‘Pretty’ is glamour, it’s pink and it’s quiet. Pretty is Betty Draper with her tiny waist and full skirt, and the perfect shade of lipstick. Pretty is my mother going to work when I was a kid, dressed chicly in all black, putting lipstick on with a lip brush, hair curled with a curling iron and a little hairspray. Pretty is how ballet made me feel, pink tights and tutus and fingers held just so. When I say pretty I mean feminine, perfect makeup and a floral summer dress. I mean princess-y. I mean delicate. I mean put together. I mean pretty.

she's like a doll. an ice queen, kinda soulless doll...
she’s like a doll. an ice queen, kinda soulless doll…

And that kind of beauty is something that I’ve always felt was out of my reach. I can do sexy and sassy, short hair that’s sometimes fun colors and tattoos and loud style. When my body is in a yoga pose or peddling me up an urban hill, I’m especially happy with it, grateful for it’s strength and resilience. But we can’t be all things, and I always got the sense that I was a little too loud and a little too un-still and a little too creative for pretty. Because pretty comes with a catch. Can’t be too loud, pretty girls are quite. Can’t be sweaty, pretty girls stay still. Can’t be too funny, pretty girls aren’t in the spot light (unless they are staying still to be admired.) Can’t be too unique, pretty has rules.

rules

And I know that this is all nonsense. I personally know plenty of pretty girls that are brash and funny, and pretty girls that are smart as a whip, and pretty girls with tattoos and pretty girls with long and short hair and pretty girls that are different shapes and different shades. Because real life defies what they try to make us believe.

But sometimes I still wish I was the kind of girl who effortlessly looked put together, who could wear super frilly dresses and lipstick without feeling like I was trying to hard. And I’ll bet some of those girls feel like me, wanting something different or looking in the mirror and picking apart things that are perfect. Because we are bombarded with images of these kinds of girls everyday, and they taunt us with their airbrushed perfection. Because we all learn lessons as little girls about how to act, about what is important for us, and the concept of ‘pretty’ is high on the list. Because our culture doesn’t work to reassure us that we are perfect as we are, it undermines us and feeds our insecurity and sells us snake oil promising that just one more product will transform us into the swan/princess/super model/super woman.

happywithyourself

And yet. Fuck that. Because I am who I am, and I have spent lots of time (especially after that first major hair cut) working to be a person I am proud of, and working to love myself in this body and in my own skin. And I’ve worked hard to let other people love me, despite the fact that I’m not perfect, despite the fact that I’m kind of a lot and despite the fact that I’m not always feminine or ‘girly’. And my work isn’t over. We should all be doing this work, even though it’s never ending, because we have to set a good example for each other and for the next group of girls growing up. My best friend just gave birth (I’m so effing proud of her, in awe actually) and her little sugar bean is perfect. And I don’t want sugar bean to grow up worrying about being pretty. I want to teach her how to love herself, how to work hard to achieve goals, how to stand up for what she believes in and how to feel pride in herself for more than just her outward appearance. I want to teach her about empathy and self-love and feminism, and I can’t do that if I don’t keep trying to be a living example.

lesson #1
lesson #1

So it’s all gonna go. And then no more shampoo. And no more conditioner. And I’ll let you know how the natural remedies work out. And if I cry. And I’ll hopefully remind us all, myself included, that it’s just hair. It will grow back. Everything in life is only for now. It’s not that this stuff isn’t hard, or that these issues aren’t real, because they are. The pressure is real, and so is the shame, and it’s ok to have all the feels. The last thing any of us need is to feel guilty about wanting to feel beautiful. So I’m trying to get over my embarrassment (thus the large amount of sharing), own my insecurity, and then cut my hair anyway. And if it turns out that it does make me less pretty, well I mean, that’s not a tragedy. I can grow the swoop back. My friends and family and framily will still love me. The world will continue to spin. I do believe that if we can face some of our fears regarding our bodies and our personal beauty, we should try. Because if we can learn to love our whole entire selves, we can better love each other, and then we can all work together to dismantle the system that teaches us that we don’t deserve love unless our lipstick is perfect.

beylipsticksmash

Oil Cleansing Method: The Lo Down

Hi friends! Here is an update on my natural body care journey, which I wrote about a few weeks ago (here.)

I started out with the oil cleansing method. My main sources on this can be found here, and here. Per the info I found, I started out using equal parts of castor, avocado and jojoba oil. I was already using jojoba as a moisturizer, so I knew it was a good fit for my skin. My partner in crime/boo is trying this ish out with me, but he is only using castor and jojoba because his skin is less dry than mine.  We both had a very successful first try!

saltandpepper

Here are my immediate thoughts after trying it for the first time:

First oil cleanse! It felt great to massage the oil into my face. My first reaction is…. I love it. When I used a hot wash cloth to steam my face, I could totes feel my pores opening. And all of my makeup was removed, but my skin wasn’t tight or flaky after. It had a lovely rosy glow. I didn’t feel like I needed to moisturize. It wasn’t too time consuming, though longer than a quick face wash wash mostly because of the steaming part. But that is totally the best part, so I’m about it.

And, basically, those first musings hold true. I saw a few very small blemishes the first week, but I think that was because I was using too much avocado oil (it’s in a big bottle and hard to pour sparingly….) In any case, that didn’t last. I have had almost no dry skin since starting this regimen, and I really cannot say enough about how steaming your face is totally relaxing and wonderful. It really is worth the extra time.

And, in the sake of full disclosure, here is a before an after picture to show that it does indeed take off one’s make up. The first pic is me, made up for a night out (seriously, that’s a lot of make up for me!) and the second is post cleanse.

mewithmakeup      menomakeup

Make up, be gone!

begoneGIF

Overall, I’m very much a fan of this. Other facial cleansers always dried my skin out, and often felt harsh. I am also a huge fan of knowing exactly what I am massaging into my pores! I see an improvement in my skin’s overall moisture, my face is definitely clean, and the steaming portion of the routine feels calming and luxurious. I feel like I am practicing good self care, and I am happy with how my skin looks after cleansing. I feel refreshed and pretty! I think I am going to lock in my oil mixture by actually mixing equal parts in a separate container (right now I’m mixing in my hand….) so it’s even easier to get the desired amount. Also, it’s for sure cheaper than face wash. The oils, for 16 ounces, range from around $9-20, avocado being the most expensive. But since you are only using a few drops of each per wash, they are all going to last a very long time.

yay

This method gets two thumbs way up! Grab some castor oil a second base oil that works for you, and start massaging and steaming your way to a clean face! I will no longer stalk the aisles of Duane Read for face wash:

Taylor_never_happen_gif

Next up: oil pulling and tooth paste ie oral care. Get amped!

tinafeyletsdothis

 

 

Cat Called On My Way Home From H&R Block: why this didn’t cheer me up

Friends, it’s been a rough couple days.

cryGIF

Sometimes, you know, life (especially in this city) is a contact sport, complete with tears and bruises and existential crises that cause you to questions your life path and purpose.

ouch.
ouch.

For me, the final blow came last night in the form of some minor tax drama. It’s all going to be ok, the IRS isn’t upset with me and life will go on. But walking home, I was very frustrated and upset. In fact, if we’re being honest (and I’d like to think that we are) I was holding back tears.

areyoucryingGIF

As I turned onto my quiet street, I was fuming and just counting the seconds until I could get into my building and cry it out in private. And I was walking in the street because sometimes that feels better than the sidewalk (anyone?) and a guy on a bike rode past. And he said ‘Hey girl, what’s good? I can turn that frown upside down.’

clooneyeyeroll

I mumbled ‘fuck off’ under my breath and kept walking. But now I wasn’t exactly able to keep from crying because on top of my own grown up issues, I had just been objectified and harassed on my own fucking street.

Let me be clear about something: I like compliments. It isn’t always easy to accept them gracefully, but sincere compliments (especially from people whose opinion I value) are totally lovely. And you know what, when I put in the extra effort to get my lip stick just right and brush my hair and put together a super cute outfit, I appreciate a little reinforcement. But when a stranger on the street makes a comment like this, it is not a compliment.

streetharrassmentstats
from stopstreetharassment.org

Men make these kinds of remarks to women on the street because our culture teaches us that women’s bodies are not their own. It  teaches us that we have the authority to make judgments about their appearance, that we have the right to vocalize those judgments, and that we can use their appearance to make reasonable deductions about their personalities (note*: this is connected to rape culture and the idea that rape victims who dress sexy were asking for it.) All people have thoughts  in their heads about other people, but it is women who have thoughts vocalized at them the most. Because the culture allows for that. And from there, it’s a hop skip and a jump to folks thinking that, since our bodies aren’t our own, they have a right to touch us and/or react aggressively when we don’t respond with gratitude. Because in a culture that teaches women that their intrinsic value is directly and inextricably linked to their appearance, we all must just be salivating for proof that we are beautiful, and grateful when we receive that validation.

bunch of malarky

But feeling like my body is not my own is not a compliment. Especially when I know how often ‘Girl you’re fine’ quickly takes a turn towards ‘You’re a bitch/slut/whore!’ when I do not react or do not react positively (or when your body isn’t what your harassers assumed.) People who think you are an object they can comment on freely can’t possibly treat your with the full amount of respect that a human deserves. And in my case, last night, that guy was not interested in any of the possible reasons why I was upset. He saw me as a thing. Because without some extended experience with tax laws and financial experience, it is not at all true that he’d be able to ‘turn my frown upside down.’ But no matter, a sexual object doesn’t have a real life or other needs, so in his mind all I needed was some dick.

Ew

Sorry to take it there. But if that offended you, then you should ask some ladies in your life the kind of filth that’s gotten hurled at them in public. My incident last night was relatively tame, and since I kept quiet and kept walking it did not escalate. And it can escalate, drastically. We live in a world where women walk fast with their eyes down and sometimes cross the street to avoid large groups of men-folk because public space isn’t as safe for us. And this is not the same situation as a legit flirtation, with eye contact and a sly smile and reciprocated interest, so please don’t complain about never being able to express your attraction in public. Be a grown up, it’s not that hard to figure out when someone is also into you and open to a conversation.

Grow_up

If you want to read more about how this makes women feel, Google it. There are lots of brilliantly written pieces and organizations like Hollaback! attempting to tackle this very real safety concern. If you are a male-bodied person and still confused, ask a sister or a mom or a girl friend how she feels walking home alone at night. I’ll bet she thinks about turning her music down and glancing behind her and making sure her keys are ready. If that sounds weird, it’s because it is. Women walk around with a heightened sense of caution, a knowledge that some people see us without respecting or empathizing with our humanity. It sucks to think that a whole portion of the population sees me, and women in general, as nothing more than a vessel for their fantasies and an object to satisfy their desires. Last night was already going to be a drag, but that small reminder that I must always remain vigilant was the last straw. I was tired, I was frustrated, and I was unable to keep it together.* I cried, I poured myself a strong drink, and for the rest of the night I distracted myself with my contempt for the show Glee (this whole Funny Girl storyline is the WORST!) If you are a male bodied person and you’ve never felt this kind of tiredness, if you’ve never felt this kind of vigilance necessary, ponder on your privilege. And if you’ve ever been street harassed and would like to share your experience, please comment. Sharing is caring. Let’s take care of each other.

bekindGIF

*Shout out to Pepper, who let me cry about my taxes etc and then watched me yell at the TV without complaint. ❤

The Alliterative Campaign I Really Want to Like: #BanBossy

Listen, anything that Beyonce does I just want to rave about. Especially if she is using her considerable voice to point her legions of fans towards feminist issues. But I have what I can only describe as very mixed feelings about her collabo with Sherly Sandberg and their latest PSA to #BanBossy:

I mean, when she says “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss”, I get chills and pump my fist. But…

But. I’m not sure this is quite the best way to address this issue. After reading a whole bunch of intelligent pieces on this campaign, I think I’ve got my own thoughts in order on why this isn’t a slam dunk.

missed-dunk

One camp of folks thinks we should encourage girls to be bossy, instead of banning the term. The actual definition of bossy is ‘fond of giving people orders, domineering.’  Not exactly an endearing trait. I don’t think we should encourage anyone to be bossy. Then we will have a whole generation of corporate CEO type assholes, and I don’t see that as a positive step. (This echoes one reason some people weren’t enthused about Lean In, because it encourages women to conform to the patriarchal corporate system instead of making a new system that works better for more people. Valid.)

thatthrillsmeGIF
More of this?

Now, assertive is maybe a better choice of word. We should encourage young women to be assertive. I have no issue with that idea at all. But banning the word bossy doesn’t really help us encourage girls to do anything. Restricting words doesn’t empower girls or teach them anything about self confidence or being true to themselves. Overall, I think it would be more prudent to encourage everyone to think a little harder before using the word (would I be using this word if she were a boy? why is this word appropriate in this situation?) rather than just banning it. Because if a small person is being bossy, we should for sure call them out. But only if it’s a warranted observation and not a gender based insult.

take a second and think
take a second and think

So I don’t think restricting language is the answer, but I’m also not advocating reclamation. What I really would like to see is a campaign that says ‘Be yourself, you are enough.’ Because the truth is, not all women are ‘bosses.’ And you know what, not all boys and men are bosses. Some people are leaders, and some are not, and that’s completely fine. We need to work towards a feminism that will advocate for everyone. I think Lean In is very smart and articulate, but it’s only aimed at a small contingent of women. What about women who want more of a work life balance, and men who want paternity leave? Why not campaign for a federal family leave minimum and a greater variety of work hours/telecommuting options?

not everyone can perform preggo at the vma's, give birth and come back swingin/collaborating w/ their life partners. just sayin
not everyone can perform preggo at the vma’s, give birth and come back swingin/collaborating w/ their life partners. just sayin.

Or if you really wanna stick to this whole leadership track (which totally is a valid track because there is a very real female leadership deficit!) why not campaign for school programs that teach leadership skills for girls, or for schools to teach feminist theory in their curriculum? Why not talk about which books we can give girls with relatable heroines, and how we can get teenagers focused away from Twilight/boys and towards realizing they are worth more than their physical beauty?

More of this.
More of this.
And of this!
And of this!
LESS of this. Ugh.
LESS of this. Ugh.

Why not feature this dope chick in your PSA, and let girls be inspired by this realness:

The women featured in the #BanBossy video are just so great. They are successful. They are confident. And they are lending their voice towards an issue that I’m sure affected them as girls and in their early careers. But why can’t they use their considerable reach and resources to create a campaign with a more concrete goal? I’m a writer, so I understand that words absolutely matter. But banning or reclaiming a hurtful word isn’t going to solve the over arching issue. I can use the terms ‘bitch’ or ‘cunt’ playfully and say I’ve reclaimed them, but that doesn’t take away their power in the wrong hands and it sure as shit doesn’t solve the overall problem of our sexist, misogynist culture. I wish they had a plan that was less hashtag-able and catchy, and more results oriented.

sadsigh

That being said, the campaign has started a conversation, and gotten people talking about this issue. And any feminist agenda item getting lots of air and page time is a win. So is the fact that recognizable faces are showing support of this idea, and to that end I must return to Beyonce. There is no such thing as a perfect feminist, and the debates around her feminism are lively and important. But I really do think that this kind of mega star, a black woman/wife/mother/mogul, being outspoken about her personal feminism, is absolutely epic and a major step forward (away from other’s who deny the label.)

beyoncehairflip

So while I think #BanBoss is catchy and well intended but ultimately kinda weak, I’m still happy to see this campaign and happy to see these ladies working together and happy to see feminism getting a positive shout out. The more we shine a light on the variety of issues our younger sisters face, the more we can help them grow into the strong, capable, unique women they will become.

amen

Here’s to the next generation of leaders, artists, mothers, teachers, students, performers, writers, readers, thinkers, athletes, creators, dreamers, movers and shakers. I hope we continue to support them and push the world to be a safer place for them (and all of us) to thrive.

Girls Can! (feminism + marketing = magic)

The end of the Olympics has brought us the debut of a new Cover Girl Campaign sporting the simple hashtag #girlscan , and right off the bat I’m hooked:

I love Ellen. And I love Pink. And whoever that hockey player is. And especially especially I love Queen Latifah. (U-N-I-T-Y YOU GOTTA LET ‘EM KNOW!)

dumbledoredancingGIF

Oh! And I love that Sofia is speaking Spanish. Effing wonderful. Ok, but I get that not everyone will be amped about this. Corporations using this kind of marketing can feel disingenuous. And maybe it always will be a little bit, because they are still selling mascara. And it’s true that every woman in that video looks pretty flawless. But I still think this is a step up from silent models that function only as an image (an image meant to inspire insecurity and lead to purchases.) At least these women are speaking, and talking about facets of themselves that have nothing to do with beauty (at least not aesthetic perfection for perfection’s sake.) And to be fair, these ladies all are talented and have pretty iconic, off beat style. It’s not like they are all twiggy blondes (not that twiggy blondes are bad I happen to kinda like them but variety is the spice of life and variety in our beauty standards is also vitally important the the mental health and self-esteem of women everywhere.) And feminism going mainstream does have an upside. It means corporations are feeling the tides turning, and they get that this is what their consumers want (there is also a downside because voices with a lot of money then get to decide what is and isn’t on the agenda and that can skew the topics deemed ‘feminist’ and limit participation in the movement and marginalize some women and their concerns… but I’d prefer to save that discussion for later because sometimes I like to feel hopeful.)

Here are more wonderful gifs of these ladies being awesome. Girls hearing positive messages = good and for now, I’m gonna go with that. Dance how you want, play how you want, laugh how you want and do you. I think any act that boosts the self-image (and not just the beauty image, but their image of themselves as more than ‘pretty’) of any girl anywhere is one of the most positive things a person or persons can do. It’s an uphill battle with long reaching implications, and we should all be passionately involved in this endeavor.

cracks. me. up.
cracks. me. up.
she really does care about her fans, check her documentary 'Part of Me'
she really does care about her fans, check her documentary ‘Part of Me
i hear her live shows are bananas. that's cray.
her live shows are bananas. that’s making me dizzy just watching!.
killin it on Modern Family
killin it on Modern Family
yea you do! werk!
yea you do! werk!
i love when she raps. i love when she sings.
i love when she raps. i love when she sings.

I’ll give the final optimistic declaration to another dope chick:

yes.
yes.

Listening to What Matters

Sorry for the hiatus guys. Stress is a monster. I promise to try and make time, cause lets face it, this is a fun outlet.

I went on a mini two day vacay this week with one of my besties, and I had a lot of time to think. Once again, I am considering what it means to think compassionately about yourself, and to love yourself. Because it’s hard. And then I got back this morning and flipped on some trashy TV (E! News, ugh), and it’s ‘Super Model Bikini Body Tricks.’ And now I’m mad. Real mad.

Because those women are weird. They are genetic weirdos. I eat an extremely heathy vegan diet. I do not look like them. I am curvy. Strong, hourglass, however you want to describe it. So to be bombarded all the time with images of these super tall, leggy, thin women and then claim that you don’t have to starve or over work-out to look like that is insane. Maybe they don’t have to, but not everyone has that genetic make-up. And then I can just imagine the disappointment when a woman reads those tips and puts them into action, and the results aren’t as spectacular as Giselle. It’s bullshit.

And let me just say, that recently I’ve been getting some curvy body love. Obviously there is no reason in particular, just a few random occurrences. And I’ve decided to believe them that my body is great the way it is, that looking life a super model is just one kind of beautiful, and that i don’t have to do anything other than be me to be desirable and sexy. I think that since we all allow other people to make us feel insecure, we should also allow them to help make us feel beautiful. I’m gonna start listening to the people who say nice things. We all internalize the bad so readily, why not listen when someone tells you how banging your body is, how cute it looks in that outfit. Shouldn’t that be more real than the magazine covers and interviews and airbrushing and impossible standards that get set for ridiculous and sometimes arbitrary reasons?

In a similar vein, here is a lovely article in the Huffington Post about self compassion from one of my favorite yoga instructors. If you are into yoga check out the studio site here, and yes, this is the one and only Lady GaGa’s personal instructor. Cool huh? I am making an effort to incorporate her hot water with lemon/compassionate thoughts morning routine. It feels good.

So the combined story I guess is that you can’t escape outside voices and their messages. All you can do is adjust the volume, turn it down on the unrealistic pictures and ridiculous ‘Bikini Body Tips’, and turn it up when people are being kind and loving. Ultimately, you also have to adjust your own voice, think nice things about yourself, and allow yourself to internalize the good stuff. We are permeable people, and you can’t shut out the world. But ultimately its you and you in a room, and only you can take that final step towards feeling truly confident and joyous. When you think nice things, don’t make them conditional. Love yourself this moment, this body, right now, no changes necessary. It certainly is an ongoing battle, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Confidence and self compassion will make it easier to check things off your ‘to-do list’, it’ll make your sex life WAY better, and it will make you nicer and more fun to be around. All of that is for sure worth five minutes of focused thought and positve self-attention.

Now go look in a mirror and say three nice things about the person you see. Out loud if possible. It may sound silly, but I don’t know a single girl who wouldn’t benefit from this exercise. When your done being nice to yourself, send one of your besties a sweet text to brighten their day. Its not easy out there, and the more we verbalize love for our friends the easier it is to fight back against all the crap. The idea of sisterhood is not out dated, and its not just for traveling pants.

Shut the Front Door!

This is Stacey and Clinton.

They love each other.

This duo has a show on TLC called What Not to Wear. If you’ve never seen an episode, get that shit on demand ASAP. This show is a makeover show. The participants are nominated by their friends/family, and they receive $5,000 for a new wardrobe. The catch is that the hosts throw out their whole crappy wardrobe, and they have to shop by specific rules. There is also Carmindy, who is gorgeous and does makeup, and the fabulous Ted Gibson on hair duty. The transformations are usually draw dropping, but not just because everyone looks so good.

Carmindy is all about highlight shadow. Flawless
Epic tie/shirt combos. Risk taker.

The show really emphasizes dressing your own body, taking the power away from clothes, and self-esteem. The hosts are constantly teaching their students about what kind of clothes look good on them, and they emphasize that if clothes don’t fit its not because your body is wrong. It’s because its the wrong size, or the wrong shape. They never ever talk about diets, or plastic surgery, or encourage women to change themselves. They encourage them to change their clothes, and use hairstyle and makeup to emphasize their assets, whatever they may be. No one is ever without assets. They also tend to push women to see themselves as complex and dynamic, ie as people who can be powerful, sexy, maternal, and smart, if not in the same moment then all in the same person. On the surface, you might think “Lexi, how can you support a show that is all about image and fashion and trying to make women beautiful? Isn’t that superficial?”

The answer is complicated. We live in a culture that focuses on beauty, and for women there is enormous pressure to look astounding no matter what we are doing. Childcare? Dishes? Workplace? School? Any and all of that may be a part of our day, but if we can’t do that all looking put together and fresh, it’s a failure. This show is about celebrating your strengths. It’s about using clothes to transform your body, which well cut/good fitting clothes can do. The idea is, once you’ve transformed the outside, you can have a paradigm shift on the inside and feel more confident.

I cannot bring myself to condemn a show that attempts to make women feel better about themselves. I know that the ‘long and lean’ body lines they encourage are part of a cultural shape that contains women, and I know that hair and makeup are likewise time consuming and frustrating. But, maybe taking time to make yourself feel good is better than taking no time and feeling invisible all day. Maybe, in this culture that often tries to convince women of all they can’t do or achieve, learning some simple tips about how to dress yourself stylishly isn’t the worst use of your time. Maybe anyone who tells you that you can be sexy, you can look good, you can do it all, is in fact a true ally. Until we can undo the cultural rules and regulations, which is ultimately what I hope for (I also hope for a whole new language that is un-gendered, so I guess dreaming big is a hallmark of my feminism), this sort of show feels necessary to me. If we can’t undo the rules completely (yet), we can at least show women how to use the rules to make themselves feel pretty, instead of that consistent feeling of being unworthy. Teaching women how to play up their strengths reminds them that they have strengths, and it also espouses how everyone can feel special. When I watch this show, it feels like Stacey and Clinton, Ted and Carmindy, are opening the doors to the castle of beauty and telling women that ‘Yes, you belong here.’