The Rational Dress Society

I first learned of the Rational Dress Society by watching a show on Youtube entitled, “The Deadly Fashions of the Victorians”. Not only did it discuss their love of lead paint, and of gas heat which was prone to explosions, and of baby bottle designs that were impossible to clean and were therefore bacteria factories, but it also went into detail about the wearing of corsets.

Corsets were in fashion for 500 years. Heaven knows why. They restricted breathing to the upper lungs, often causing the lower lungs to fill with mucus. There is a reason that women were often described as “breathless” or having a “heaving bosom”. Women practically had to hyperventilate to breathe in one of these contraptions. A recent study shows that a woman wearing a Victorian corset of the most extreme type from the 1860’s had to breathe 25% faster to avoid fainting. Women who wore corsets were prone to lung infections.

Further, corsets caused livers to be squashed upwards. Many Victorian livers, after autopsy, were shown to be deeply ridged as they attempted to push through the rib cages in a desperate search for enough space to function. Corsets pushed the stomach and abdomen down as well, and were the source of many a prolapsed uterus.

According to Wikipedia, some mothers forced corsets upon their daughters at very young ages, and this caused distorted bones. Sometimes women’s rib cages would crack and puncture their lungs, bringing about death by fashion. The strictest of mothers would force their daughters to wear corsets even at night, and some even resorted to tying their daughters hands or chaining their waists to prevent them from taking the corset off for a comfortable sleep.

The Rational Dress Society was founded in 1881 in England, to protest such harmful fashion. The members felt that a woman’s movement should not be impeded, her health shouldn’t be put at risk, and her figure shouldn’t be deformed. I have no doubt that I’d have joined this society, and gladly. I’m all about comfort. I haven’t even worn heels in decades, and can’t imagine that I ever will again. The society also spoke out against high heels, and any clothes that were heavy for any reason other than warmth.

The RDS wasn’t promoting radical fashion changes. They just believed in comfort and convenience, and perhaps a style that wouldn’t render the wearer sterile. Was that too much to ask? Some of the most ardent members of the society were women cyclists, who wanted freedom of movement to cycle, as riding a bicycle was “an opportunity to escape overly restrictive societal norms.”

Unfortunately, the existence of this society didn’t seem to alter the popularity of the corset. It continued to be worn into the early 20th century. What seemed to bring about the change was a combination of things. The hobble skirt came into fashion, and it required a wider waist. In exchange, ironically enough, it severely restricted the legs. That fashion got women out of the habit of wearing corsets for about 6 years, which was the beginning of the end for corsets.

But the thing that really took the corset down was something I love: The fact that women were finding their voices. They were learning to speak out as suffragettes, and when they got the vote for women in 1920’s America, they found the time to look up and say, “I don’t want to be uncomfortable anymore!”

Good on them! We owe those suffragettes a debt of gratitude not only for getting women the vote, but also for taking our bodies back. That is why I look on in horror when I hear girls today complaining about the size of their waists.

I think the Rational Dress Society would be proud of me, sitting here in my t-shirt and baggy shorts and bare feet. No woman should ever be restricted in any way! Never again.

The internal results of tight lacing a corset.

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Songs of Comfort

In these stressful times, I often turn to music to comfort me. Music can soothe like nothing else. It can put me in another place and time, and it definitely puts me in another frame of mind. Music can be an embrace, especially in socially distant times like these.

Here are a few songs that never fail to comfort me.

Mister Rogers Remixed: Garden of Your Mind by PBS Digital Studios. I draw comfort from this song because Mister Rogers is the epitome of comfort for me. He’s the father I never had. This song is a remix of many of his words of wisdom. It delights me to think that you can grow ideas in the garden of your mind. No matter how stressful life might be, somehow, if you view the world through Mister Rogers’ lens, you just automatically feel like everything is going to be all right. If you enjoyed this song, there are a few other PBS remixes you should check out. Namely, Bob Ross, Reading Rainbow, and Julia Child.

Another very comforting song is Let The Mystery Be by Iris DeMent. I just feel like she and I would be friends. And the song itself reminds me that I don’t have to have everything figured out, especially the biggest, most important things, such as my own mortality. This song just feels like a relief to me.

Sometimes you just want to be reminded that It’s OK. NNAMDÏ sings a song by that very title. It tells us that there’s no need to pretend we’re ok if we’re not. It’s important to remember that. I sing it in my head all the time.

And then there’s a song sung by the UU General Assembly 2020 Virtual Choir. It’s called Tomorrow, but I have no idea why. That word doesn’t appear anywhere in the lyrics. It’s primary message is that there will be better days. I think we all need to hear that from time to time, and when you hear it as sung by a hundred voices or more, you really believe it.

This one, I have to admit, is an odd choice for comfort. It’s got a sing along quality to it, and makes me feel like I’m part of the music. Colin Hay shows you how to sing the “Tumblin’ Down” part of the song, and you repeat that all the way though as he sings the lyrics. They blend well. Check out Come Tumblin Down. I have no idea why. It just makes me happy to sing with Colin Hay.

Another song by the UU General Assembly 2020 Virtual Choir is this song called “We Are”. It makes me remember that who we are is wonderful. It makes me feel like humanity is pretty darned good. I wish I always felt that way.

I hope these songs bring you comfort. I’d love to hear what songs bring you solace in the comments below!

comfort

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Finding My Tribe

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of feeling as if we do not fit in. That’s actually pretty much my status quo. But every once in a while, I’ll go somewhere or meet someone that makes me feel completely comfortable and at home inside my own skin. When that happens, it’s such a relief. It feels as though I’m removing shoes that are two sizes too small. I feel understood. I can be myself.

We humans are so nomadic and so culturally, emotionally and politically diverse that it’s a rare and precious moment when you find a member of your “tribe.” It’s also a gift to feel at home. These people may not look anything like you, they may be a different age or gender identity or nationality or religion, but you can tell that they get where you’re coming from. And these home places may be far flung and entirely unexpected, but you know that a piece of your very soul resides there.

When you find your tribe or your homeland, embrace that feeling. Hold onto it if you can, if only in your memories. These feelings will remind you of who you are at your very core. And whoever you are, it’s nice to be reminded, sometimes, that you’re exactly who you are supposed to be.

finding my tribe

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þetta reddast

It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to live in Iceland. Harsh winter weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, severe storms, avalanches, isolation from the rest of the world, and days with only 4 hours of sunlight are just a few of the challenges that Icelanders have faced. According to this article, the country’s founders arrived in open boats in the 9th century, fleeing Norwegian slavery. With no maps or navigational devices, they braved the harsh North Atlantic, and their descendants have thrived.

After enduring so much, it’s really impressive that their unofficial motto is þetta reddast, (pronounced thet-ta red-ust), which means, basically, everything will turn out okay.

Are they foolish, cock-eyed optimists? Not exactly. They just have confidence that they can fix things, combined with a capitulation to the fact that so much is out of their control. It’s a comforting phrase that helps them get through the harshest conditions. Perhaps we all need to adopt this attitude during these trying times.

Once we realized that our trip to Italy had to be cancelled, we considered Iceland. That was in the early days. But at the time of this writing, Iceland had reported 890 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths. I’m sure by the time you read this, those numbers will have increased. May their positive attitude see them through.

thetta-reddast-filosofia-de-vida-dos-islandeses

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Security Blanket

I hadn’t thought of this in years. When I was young, I had what I called a security blanket. It was flannel. Cozy. I couldn’t sleep without it.

I kept it to an embarrassingly old age. Into my early teens. I also watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood to an embarrassingly old age. Comfort and security was hard to come by in my household. In fact, the inmates were pretty much running the asylum. So I clung to my security blanket until it was a ripped up rag.

Then one day my mother threw it out. And I fished it right back out of the trash. I’ve always thought it was extremely arrogant and insensitive of parents to rip comfort objects out of the arms of a child. The world is harsh enough as it is without that foolishness. Rest assured that most children will learn that the world is cruel soon enough without you providing a demonstration.

I never really got rid of that blanket. It just sort of disintegrated one day. By then I had outgrown it anyway. I was just clinging to it to prove that there was something in this life over which I had control. Ah, well. So ends a delusion.

Now, after 13 years of working graveyard shifts, I’ve gotten in the habit of having something covering my eyes when I sleep. I still do this even though I now have the luxury of sleeping in the darkness again, and have done so for many years. I was positioning that cover just so last night when I thought of that security blanket.

Perhaps I never really gave it up after all. I just replaced it with something else.

Security Blanket

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Reaching That Summit

Recently I encountered a very angry young man who called me a “Bougie Baby Boomer.” He resented the fact that I was living so much better than he was. He seemed to feel that we should be in the exact same place in terms of comfort and financial stability.

To that I say, “Wait a minute, whipper snapper. It was a long, hard slog to get to where I am. You have to earn it.”

I remember the years when I lived in a tent. I remember sweating to pay off my student loans (although, granted, these loans are a lot more substantial for the current generation.) I remember having lawn chairs in the front half of my studio apartment for years on end, and a mattress on the floor because I couldn’t afford box springs. I remember surviving on canned soup with rice added in, and generic macaroni and cheese. I’ve been working since I was 10 years old.

I saw my 50th birthday long before I ever had more than one pair of shoes that wasn’t bought at a thrift store. My husband had to convince me it was okay to buy more than one pair of jeans at a time. I only recently got a phone plan that wasn’t pay by the minute.

At the risk of sounding horribly conservative, I really think it’s insane to expect everything to be handed to you on a silver platter. Getting to a point where you aren’t waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, wondering how you’re going to pay the bills, takes a lot of hard work, planning, and delayed gratification.

I was so excited today to be able to give my niece a Home Depot gift card as she’s moving into her first house. That was something I couldn’t have done until very recently. It feels good to be able to behave generously for a change. It brings tears to my eyes. It’s a luxury I couldn’t afford in my younger days.

I’m not rich by any means. And I am painfully aware that not everyone gets to pop their head out of the lower class. I never thought I would. But I’ve passed the soup and rice stage.

I’m not overly thrilled with our capitalist society. But like it or not, we are in this system. We are stuck playing by its rules.

So yeah, kid, you’re going to have to eat your share of Ramen noodles as you climb that mountain. Most of us have struggled to get where we are. It builds character. Man up.

Mountain Peak

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Pillows

Recently I wrote that I got to go to see the storytellers of Snap Judgment Live. One of them discussed his experiences with being homeless, and how it makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do, such as apply for demoralizing jobs. Amen, buddy. Been there.

But one of the aspects of homelessness that he brought up was something I had never even considered. You never have a pillow. You can’t get comfortable. Which means you can’t rest. Ever.

Wow. Even when I lived in a tent, I always had a pillow. I can’t imagine life without one. Pillows help you sleep, yes, but they also give you something to hug when you’re all alone, and something to cry into when you’re sad. They are comfort in material form. They are also the only acceptable things to punch when you’re frustrated. Unfortunately, like humans, they need a clean, stable environment in order to thrive, so they wouldn’t handle homelessness well.

Even in your darkest times, may you always have a pillow, dear reader.

pillow

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Big Fat Facts

Someone who loves me very much once gave me a step counter and a scale. She told me she was worried about my weight. She was afraid I was killing myself.

I burst into tears. I told her that I use my fat as a shield to hide behind, because I didn’t want anyone to get close. I told her I eat when I’m angry, and at the time I had quite a bit to be angry about. I told her I was profoundly depressed. I was also lonely, and food was the only comfort I had.

And then she left me with the scale and the step counter. Apparently I was supposed to snap out of it, and that ought to be easy.

The first thing I did was throw away the f***ing scale. Because numbers don’t mean a thing. They’re a measurement of success or failure that’s tipped toward failure. I won’t do it. I won’t beat myself up like that. I measure my weight gain or loss by the fit of my clothing.

But I did improve my diet and I did use the step counter, obsessively, for about 6 months. I was up to 10,000 steps a day. I was walking so much that I actually hurt myself. And I didn’t lose an ounce. Not one ounce.

Which made me feel even worse about myself. All that work, and nothing. What is wrong with me?

Since then, I’ve pretty much stayed the same size. I’ve been nagged by doctors and humiliated by teenagers and shunned on dating sites. I’ve been horrified by my own photographs and I’ve avoided looking in mirrors.

This has become my status quo.

And then I read an article entitled Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong. Now I see this issue in an entirely different light. Now I’m pissed off.

Here are some of the points the article made:

  • Doctors and researchers have known for 60 years that all diets don’t work. Diets. Don’t. Work.

  • They have also known that “losing just 3 percent of your body weight results in a 17 percent slowdown of your metabolism—a body-wide starvation response that blasts you with hunger hormones and drops your internal temperature until you rise back to your highest weight. Keeping weight off means fighting your body’s energy-regulation system and battling hunger all day, every day, for the rest of your life.”

  • According to the American Journal of Public Health, the chances of a woman classified as obese achieving a “normal” weight is 0.008%.

  • Weight and health are not synonymous. You can be overweight and metabolically healthy, in that you can show no sign of high blood pressure, insulin resistance, or cholesterol issues.

This article goes on to say that doctors are trained to basically try to humiliate people into weight loss, even though it’s been proven time and time again that that doesn’t work. It talks about the many ways society discriminates as well. It discusses how weight issues are not simply about poor lifestyle choices. In other words, telling people to step away from the ho-hos is not productive. Not even a little bit.

I’ve been set up for failure my entire life. And it’s not my fault. It has done nothing but make me feel bad about myself. I’m sick and tired of it. From now on I plan to stop looking at fat and start looking at health.

What I took away from the article is, yes, I need to avoid sugar. I need to exercise. I need to make healthier choices. I need to take care of me. And at the same time, I need to stop obsessing about my body.

The next time a doctor tries to shame me into weight loss, I’m going to suggest that a good start would be for them do their part to figure out ways to get me off prescription meds that have a weight gain side effect, m’kay? Until they do that, they need to shut up.

And the next time someone who has never had a weight issue in her entire life hands me a scale, I’ll tell her that even though she means well, and culturally it seems like this tough love thing is acceptable, she needs to mind her own business. Unless she wants to help me take on the underlying esteem issues, she’s of no use to me on the weight front.

From now on, I’m going to focus on taking good care of me, by eating good, healthy food and staying active, and let my body decide how that will ultimately look, because God knows it’s going to do that anyway. I’m going to work really hard at not listening to the opinions of other people. I’m going to stop measuring myself by other people’s yard sticks. I’ll take my health seriously, but I’ll never voluntarily step on a scale again.

And guess what? I’m never going to be a size three. You know it. I know it. If you’ve got a problem with that, then step away from the fat person. As someone in that article said, “I’m here. I’m a sphere. Get used to it.”

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No picture. Not this time. Stop focusing on how things look.

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Healthy Self-Soothing

The other day, I was lonely, angry, exhausted, hurt, and generally disgusted with life. So I did what I often do: I went straight for the cupcakes. (I have found that pizza and ice cream are viable substitutes as well.)

For a split second, I felt much better. But then I felt much worse. It’s a self-defeating habit. It’s not healthy. It makes me feel bad about myself. And the problem is still there.

But self-soothing is vital. When you are under stress, it’s good to come up with coping skills. But it’s also important not to be self-destructive. Turning to drugs or alcohol or out of control spending or red velvet cake is not the way to go if you really want to feel better in the long run.

When you’re experiencing stress, try to be kind to yourself rather than doing something that will ultimately feel more like torture. Here are some suggestions that I’m going to try to take instead of consuming sugar and/or grease:

  • Take a bath.

  • Take a walk.

  • Talk to a friend. Ask for a pep talk.

  • Elevate your feet.

  • Relax in a hammock.

  • Read a good book.

  • Hug your dog.

  • Netflix and chill.

  • Listen to music.

  • Meditate.

  • Get a massage.

  • Sit outside.

  • Journal it out.

  • Work in your garden.

  • Create some art.

  • Just breathe.

  • Do something nice for someone else.

  • Feed the birds.

  • Do your favorite hobby.

  • Ride your bike.

  • Wrap yourself in something soft and warm.

  • Light a candle.

  • Dance.

  • Walk barefoot in your yard.

  • Do yoga.

  • Go swimming. Float.

  • Hug someone.

I think the trick is to identify when you need to be soothed, and then take charge of what that soothing looks like. Yeah, coffee ice cream may seem like the easy way out of your mood, but in the end, it’s not the best celebration of you. Choose a healthier path to calm your nerves so that you can be present and capable of finding a solution to your stress.

I think this is great advice. Now I need to take it. Wish me luck!

(Barring all of the above, maybe I should force the cupcakes upon the source of my stress instead of eating them myself. That would be satisfying. Maybe I’m on to something, here!)

soothing

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Incremental Changes

About two months ago I had a very old filling replaced, and that tooth has been giving me agony on and off ever since. It makes me wonder if I should have left well enough alone, and mercury be damned. Probably not. But I do have my moments.

At first, even the slightest contact with the tooth above would have me clinging to the ceiling like a cartoon cat. So, the dentist made a slight adjustment. Just the tiniest change, the size of the head of a pin. That was all it took.

But when you think about it, every mountain peak ends in a microscopic, pin-sized point. But when you pound on that point hard enough, the mountain feels it. (In this scenario I suppose I am the mountain, which is a comparison I’m usually loathe to make. I’d much rather be the mole hill.)

That first adjustment made a huge difference. Pressure was no longer an issue, but unfortunately heat and cold were. Those abrupt changes would send the pain radiating up to the very front of my mouth. That was no fun. So, more adjustments were in the offing. Each one made a slight improvement, and yet the pain persisted.

You have no idea how often you change the climate in your mouth on a daily basis until it causes a pain response. Mercy me.

So, yeah, the tooth is still a work in progress, getting better all the time, but it occurs to me that it’s also a metaphor for life. At least for my life.

I do stuff, hoping to make things better. Occasionally, all holy hell breaks loose. Sometimes I get hurt. So I make a change. It might seem like a small change, but it’s effective. Things get better. So I make another small change, and so on. Much of the time those around me don’t even realize that the mountaintop of my life is a work in progress, but I’m acutely aware of it.

Eventually, I hope to achieve balance and contentment. Isn’t that everyone’s goal to some degree? But it’s a process. Sometimes a painful one. I do take comfort in the fact that the one constant is that I seem to be learning things along the way.

It might be a daily grind, dear reader, but grind on. You’ll get there.

https _upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_thumb_d_d2_Mt._Nanda_Devi.jpg_1200px-Mt._Nanda_Devi

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