Body Acceptance

You learned to hate your body because you were taught.

A friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook, which says “Hating your body is a learned behavior.”

It triggers me. I imagine it triggers a lot of women. Because it’s true. We are raised up to hate our bodies, because it’s impossible to meet the exacting standards of many men.

We’ll never be tall enough or thin enough or have big enough breasts. If we have big breasts, then they won’t be perky enough. Our skin will be too blemished or too dark or too pale. Our legs will refuse to avoid rubbing against each other when we walk. Our hair will be too short or too long or the wrong color or texture. Our backsides will be too broad or too flat or too small or too big. We’ll wear too much makeup or not enough. And heaven forbid we wear glasses or braces or walk with a cane or refuse to wear high heels. We’ll have a double chin or a turkey neck as we get older. We have acne when we’re young and liver spots when we’re old. And we’re not supposed to have scars of any kind at all. We’re should be much more careful than that.

In general, you’ll probably show too much of your body, substandard as it is judged to be, or not enough of it. We should all have corrective surgery of some sort. And are you height/weight proportionate? (Read what I’ve previously written about that idiotic concept here.) What does that even mean? How can you know? Who decides? And what is it supposed to achieve?

And we women have bought into this for so long we even judge each other. We measure each other by that male yardstick. Admit it. We have laughed or pointed or criticized or bullied, too. We secretly or not so secretly hope we’re prettier and more acceptable than the woman standing next to us. Whether conscious of these things or not, we’re also guilty. There’s rarely a safe harbor for any of us, even amongst our own.

I hear women dissect themselves all the time. For example, I hate my double chin and am embarrassed by my perpetually swollen feet. I’m fat and have been for decades. I don’t like to look in the mirror. I have a red dot on my right eyelid and a weird blemish on my left cheek. My surgery scar makes my belly look strange.

Chop, chop, chop. I’ve turned myself into pieces and parts. It’s as if they’re all individually wrapped and up for sale. And most of them have been passed over, found wanting by others, and eventually thrown in the emotional dumpster by me. Not even fit for a food bank or a pot luck. Why am I a product?

I remember the first time anyone called me fat. I was 12 years old, and this label came from another 12-year-old girl. She said it like it was common knowledge. I remember being shocked. (That’s a credit to my mother.) And in retrospect, I know that I wasn’t fat at all. I have the pictures to prove it. Not that it should matter except with regard to health. But it made me worry and inspect myself, and I began to be increasingly self-critical over time.

The compliments I received from my family were all related to my smarts. No one ever told me I was pretty, and I went through life thinking I must look like a freak. I spent much of my youth hiding. And now I’m decades past believing any compliments I get regarding my appearance, even though I have no doubt many of them have been sincere. Too late. Way too late. And why is validation required in the first place?

I don’t expose my soft, flabby and scarred underbelly to you because I want your sympathy. I’m not fishing for compliments. And I certainly don’t need you to tell me what a toxic roller coaster I ride, and that I need to think otherwise.

No. I write this so that women and girls can see that they’re not alone in swallowing the poison they are fed every single day. I also write this so that the patriarchy can see just how much of a pervasive meat grinder they put women through. I write this so that we women can stop being complicit in each other’s corporeal rejection.

And men have the gall to say that we should have more self-esteem, as if we got here all by ourselves. Well, you know what? F*** you. You reap what you sow.

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Don’t Should on Yourself

I think the only thing we should do in this world is stop saying should.

I should be thinner. I should do more housework. I should mow my lawn more often. I should stick up for myself more. I should wash all toxic people right out of my hair. I should not let people get to me. I should keep my opinions to myself. I should train my dog, wash my car, learn to wear makeup, toughen up, be more girly, shut up and take it, and for God’s sake, stop asking so many questions.

At some point in my life, all of these things have been said to me, quite often more than once. And then a funny thing happens. I start saying all those things to myself. I am great at beating myself up. That should be the first item on my resume.

I’m just curious about that foggy transition period. How do external criticisms become internalized? It’s as if they get injected into your very soul, and somehow you don’t even feel the puncture.

I think “should” is the most toxic word in the English language. It implies that what you’re doing isn’t good enough. It says you have good reason to be stressed out and depressed. It adds a whole host of unwritten items to your to-do list, thus insuring that you’ll never have a genuine feeling of accomplishment. It’s a judgment, and you’ll never be found innocent.

I think the only thing we should do in this world is stop saying should.


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Put Up or Shut Up

“A true friend should be able to have a respectful conversation.”

We are a country divided. We all know that much. Some of us don’t care. Some of us encourage it. Some of us aren’t quite so willing to let go of those who are on “the other side”.

I’d like to think I was in that third group. I really would. But I admit that I struggle. My opinions and beliefs are as strong as the next person’s. I don’t really understand people who don’t think the way I do.

I want to believe that my views could be swayed by hard evidence. But I wonder. Because I don’t think I’ve ever persuaded anyone else by presenting facts.

I don’t usually stop liking or loving people just because we don’t agree. I do my best to judge people on the content of their character. Are they kind? Do they mean well? Are they trying to be their best selves? These things are vitally important.

But every once in a while someone I care about will voice an opinion that horrifies me to the very marrow of my bones. It’s usually related to racism or intolerance or cruelty. And this leaves me in an awkward place.

I hate, hate, hate confrontation. I really do. So in these situations I can either a) ignore the comment and secretly lose respect for that person, b) wash that person right out of my hair, or c) speak up and risk losing that friendship, but maintain my integrity.

Well, I can’t choose option a. I’d develop ulcers. It’s just not in me to pretend something I don’t feel. Option b would certainly be the easiest route. Unfriending a person is so simple now that most of us only interact via social media. God knows people have done it to me. Even relatives. It doesn’t feel right to me. If I ever cared about someone, I kind of feel like I owe them more than just disappearing without explanation, without at least trying to understand why they feel the way they do. So that kind of forces me into option c.

Ugh. I loathe option c. It ties my stomach into knots. It makes me stew over what to say for hours. It makes me feel sick. It’s just so important. It’s a pivotal moment. I don’t want to screw it up. I try to do it in a decent one-on-one kind of way, rather than in a public forum. But it’s still hard.

I’ve had mixed results with option c. Sometimes we agree to disagree. But I feel better, at least, for having spoken up. Sometimes I’ve experienced blowback of epic proportions. That’s never fun. And it tends to result in the severing of the relationship. But as a wise man recently told me, “A true friend should be able to have a respectful conversation.”

As this country becomes ever more divided, those respectful conversations seem to be becoming fewer and farther between. They aren’t easy. But if we ever reach a point when they become impossible, I think we’ll have lost one of our most important qualities. We’ll have taken a really ugly step back from what it means to be human.

Locked Horns

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I recently wrote a blog post about the cubic yard test, an antiquated test that the Seattle Department of Transportation uses to see if you’re qualified to work in one of their field positions—a test that I suggest excludes most women. Apparently this post struck a nerve for some people, but not in the way that I expected. It sparked a discussion about people who bend the rules for their own benefit, and then that got us talking about entitlement, in general.

Rich people would love it if you thought of poor people when you heard the word entitlement. As in, “those welfare types sure think they’re entitled.” Don’t fall for it. Entitled to what? Subsistence income that keeps you right at the poverty line, in substandard housing, in dangerous neighborhoods, with inadequate health care, humiliating hoops to jump through every month, and a dependence on the arbitrary whims of insane politicians? Yeah, that’s everyone’s goal in life.

No, it’s rich people who have the appalling sense of entitlement. I once worked with a guy who drove a Mercedes to work, and was only working to keep from being bored. He asked me how I liked my 8-year-old Hyundai hatchback. He wasn’t just making small talk. He said he needed to get a “junk car” to drive around in “neighborhoods like these.” I nearly lost my lunch. Some of us don’t have a spare car to use when we’re “slumming it” at work, dude.

And a friend sent me this article, about a bunch of rich idiots with beachfront property in Florida who took it upon themselves to have sand bulldozed off of public beaches so that they could have dunes protecting their houses from the sea level rise that is occurring because of the climate change that they refuse to acknowledge. Potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of damage, not to mention the environmental impact, but by all means, help yourself!

That prompted someone else to send me this article about a judge here in Seattle who had his gardener cut down 120 trees in a public park in order to improve his view. He was fined $500,000 for his hubris, but has only managed to cough up 200k of that so far, and it’s been 15 years. He still owns, but no longer resides in, that 2.4 million dollar house, so it’s not like he doesn’t have the money. He’s trying to get his homeowner’s insurance to foot the bill. All I can say is: Solid. Brass. Balls.

That’s almost as brassy and solid as when Ben Carson tried to buy a $31,000 table for his office using taxpayer money, and when he got caught, blamed it on his wife. Seriously, Ben? You’ve proven that you are a stupid, stupid man, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us are as stupid as you are.

There are so many stories about people with a “let them eat cake” attitude that I could go on forever. I don’t know what disgusts me more: that people like this exist, or that they don’t even bother to hide their shenanigans anymore. When are we going to say that enough is enough?


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Even Weeds Belong Somewhere

My whole life, I’ve felt as though I didn’t quite fit in. So much so, that at some point I gave up trying. In fact, these days I seem to have gone to the other end of the bell curve entirely. I kind of delight in being out in left field most of the time.

Except when I’m feeling vulnerable. When I’m tired, I feel much more insecure. When I’m improperly dressed at a party, and have no idea which fork to use, I’m not going to lie–that kind of sucks.

But it isn’t anyone else telling me that I don’t fit in. It’s entirely me. And it’s based on some pretty arbitrary social rules. It always makes me think of weeds. I’m a weed.

During my young adult life, I lived in a town called Apopka, which called itself the “Indoor Foliage Capital of the World.” (I wonder if they still do? It’s been many decades since I’ve been back.) Back then, you couldn’t throw a rock in that town without shattering a greenhouse window. It made me look at plants in an entirely new way.

It amazed me how much people were willing to pay for stuff that you can find growing entirely wild somewhere or other. People do love the exotic, but even exotic things have to be commonplace in some location, or they wouldn’t exist.

So, a weed is simply something that doesn’t fit in. It’s not where it’s supposed to be. Worse case scenario, it’s invasive. But that’s not the weed’s fault. It never asked to be uprooted. There it was, minding its own business in its natural habitat, when some fool decided to send it half way across the world without considering the consequences. And then the name calling begins. (Damned weed. Get out of my yard! We don’t want you here!)

So it’s all about perspective and location. We all have our place. It’s just a matter of finding it. So maybe as you walk along the path of your life, try being a little less judge-y of the other living things that you encounter who are feeling out of place. They, too, have their journey. Just sayin’.


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Relentless Compassion

It’s for your own good. Tough love. This is a last resort. Mother knows best.

It sounds good, in theory. Like someone has your best interests at heart, and is establishing firm boundaries. It’s about time, some would say. Strong leadership! Yeah!

But even the slightest scratch to the surface of this theory reveals its many flaws.

First of all, who made you the Decider? How do you know if your way is the best way? What if I disagree?

Second, how is it that you’re the one person on the planet who wouldn’t allow this power to go to your head? Forcing people to do things, or live a certain way, or preventing certain behaviors, is the tip of a very large and corrupt iceberg.

And most importantly, what if you have a hidden agenda? What if you really don’t have my best interests at heart? What if you’re manipulating me to get what you want, and to hell with everyone else?

Relentless compassion is not a good look. Not for parents, or employers, or politicians. Especially politicians who are callous, narcissistic, racist, misogynistic, semi-literate, and completely out of touch with reality. For example, the idiot in the meme below.

I don’t want these types of people controlling, legislating, judging or defunding my life. I will resist them every chance I get. Just sayin’.


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What I Love about Seattle, Washington

I’ve been living in this delightful city for 2 ½ years now, and I have never been happier. It sort of feels like I went to bed in Florida and I woke up in the Land of Reasonable People. Not a day goes by when I don’t look around in awe. How did I get so lucky?

Now, more than ever, I’m grateful for the liberal bubble in which I reside. In the current political climate, I think it’s the only reason that what little sanity I still possess remains intact. I love that my senators and my representative are all Democratic females. I love that we have a member of the socialist party (also female) on our city council. I love that our mayor is gay. And granted, it was a federal judge who ruled against Trump’s travel ban, but that judge was located right here in Seattle. I couldn’t be more proud.

The City of Seattle also just divested itself from Wells Fargo Bank due to its involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Integrity in politics. How refreshing. (Not that we always get it right. For example, the homeless situation here is abysmal, and there’s absolutely no excuse for it. But it’s a start.)

We’re also proud to be a sanctuary city. Immigrants are welcome here. Contrary to supposedly popular belief, that makes me feel safer. I don’t like the idea of people being snatched from their homes. That happens a lot more frequently in this country than any terrorist attack.

I love the fact that individuality is celebrated here. It means that creativity thrives. Because of that, you can experience a wide variety of art, music, culture, and food in this fair city.

Oddly enough, I’m glad that we have horrible weather in the winter. It makes me appreciate the rest of the year that much more. I spend a lot more time outdoors here than I ever did in Florida.

I love that no one here needs air conditioning (yet). I love the parks and the flowers and the diversity of the landscape. I want to explore this city and this state a lot more. I love that every neighborhood has its own personality.

I love that the environment is taken so seriously here. If you don’t recycle, you can practically cause a riot. And there are so many outlets for environmental activism.

I love that this is the most literate city in the country. I love that the library parking lots are always packed with cars. I love that people enjoy talking about books.

I don’t smoke pot, but I love that it’s legal here. I don’t drink coffee, but I love that it’s celebrated here, and I love hanging out in coffee shops. I am musically inept, but I love that you can’t sling a dead cat without hitting a musician. This is the land of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, after all.

Now, if you want to talk about horrible traffic, out of control growth, and the outrageous cost of living… well, that’s a topic for another post.


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On Being Judged

Recently I made a new friend, Bob, and he makes me feel different than anyone ever has. For a while there I couldn’t figure out what the difference was, exactly. I only knew it was there. And it was significant enough to cause me to give the situation a great deal of thought.

Finally one day it dawned on me. The man is completely devoid of judgment. He accepts people for who they are, completely and without hesitation. He makes it quite clear that he’s inherently flawed, and therefore accepts the flaws in others.

I’ve known many people who pay lip service to these qualities (including myself), but until now, I’ve never known anyone who pulls it off. But this guy is genuine. I don’t even think he’s aware that he is that way. He’s just… wide open. Accepting.

I suspect that Bob could meet the devil himself, and he’d say, “Oh, so you’re an evil entity? That’s really interesting. How does that work?”

And yet that doesn’t mean he’s overly trusting. He’s not easily taken advantage of. I don’t know how he manages to have both qualities simultaneously, but there you have it. He’s a delightful enigma.

What does this mean for me? It means that when in his presence, I can lay down a burden that I didn’t even know I had been carrying all my life. I can just be completely and utterly myself, warts and all. I don’t have to worry about what he’ll think. I don’t have to fear disapproval or criticism of any kind. I can just… be. What a gift.

I do worry about Bob a little, though, because sometimes he’ll say things that could very well shock the socks off the average person. I suspect he thinks the world is as non-judgmental as he is. I fear that this will hurt him in some way, eventually. But then again, he’s made it this far. Good on you, Bob!


Why are Dogs Man’s Best Friend?

As I write this, snuggled up beside me is my best friend, Devo. As he snores gently, I contemplate the things we have in common. Neither of us is pure bred by any stretch of the imagination. We’re always happy to see each other. We both struggle with our weight. We love to take naps and we love to cuddle.

Obviously there are tons of things that we don’t have in common, such as the fact that if this inter-species love affair were ever to end, he could most likely kill me with very little effort at all. But neither of us is willing to go there, thank heavens.

And perhaps most ironically of all, if he were human, we probably wouldn’t be friends. I’d find him too clingy, too needy, too eager to please. I’d consider him rather boring. All he’d want to talk about, I’m sure, is food. And he’d talk a lot, no doubt. His enthusiasm and positive outlook, even when first waking up in the morning, would probably wear on my nerves. His two second attention span would remind me of an ex-boyfriend who had the worst case of ADHD I’d ever seen, and he’d probably constantly try to talk me into jogging. Bleh.

Then there’s the fact that every time he had control of the remote, he’d want to watch Animal Planet. Give me strength.

It’s funny how the very things I’d find annoying in a human are actually quite appealing in a dog. That’s why I’m so glad that dogs exist. They’ve taught me that you don’t have to question or judge or have expectations. All you have to do is love.

Oh, and it never hurts to have someone in your life who brings out the very best in you.

So I’ll scratch Devo’s head, he’ll snuggle even closer, and we’ll both drift off to sleep.