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.

Read any good books lately? Try mine!


Be A Lady They Said

Originally posted on Writings of a Furious Woman:
Be a lady they said. Your skirt is too short. Your shirt is too low. Your pants are too tight. Don’t show so much skin. Don’t show your thighs. Don’t show your breasts. Don’t show your midriff. Don’t show your cleavage. Don’t show your underwear. Don’t show…

What follows was not written by me. I wish it had been. It certainly could have been, since this was my experience, as well as the experience of every woman I have ever known.

Ladies, reading this will trigger you. But it will open some eyes a bit wider. The abuse is so subtle sometimes, doled out in bitter little dollops over a lifetime, that many of us don’t realize what a steaming pile of bs we have been handed. I first posted this on my personal Facebook page, and it inspired a whole range of feelings, from frustration to hurt to sadness to fury. But we need to feel these feels. It’s important to see these uncomfortable truths.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a certain percentage of my male readers don’t even bother to read this. It’s a lot to take in. It would be easy to rest in the luxury of not having to know. But I hope you’ll take the time, guys, because it’s what the women in your life deal with every single day, and it would be nice if you’d have some awareness of that, and perhaps join us in trying to change it for future generations.

So, what follows is by Camille Rainville, the author of a wonderful blog entitled Writings of a Furious Woman. It’s superbly written, and makes it quite clear why we all have so much to be furious about.

Writings of a Furious Woman

Be a lady they said. Your skirt is too short. Your shirt is too low. Your pants are too tight. Don’t show so much skin. Don’t show your thighs. Don’t show your breasts. Don’t show your midriff. Don’t show your cleavage. Don’t show your underwear. Don’t show your shoulders. Cover up. Leave something to the imagination. Dress modestly. Don’t be a temptress. Men can’t control themselves. Men have needs. You look frumpy. Loosen up. Show some skin. Look sexy. Look hot. Don’t be so provocative. You’re asking for it. Wear black. Wear heels. You’re too dressed up. You’re too dressed down. Don’t wear those sweatpants; you look like you’ve let yourself go.

Be a lady they said. Don’t be too fat. Don’t be too thin. Don’t be too large. Don’t be too small. Eat up. Slim down. Stop eating so much. Don’t eat too fast. Order a salad. Don’t eat…

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Water, Water, Everywhere

If you’re a fish, you don’t know you’re in water unless you jump out of it. That stands to reason. We humans are much more self-aware, and yet most of us don’t spend much time thinking about the fact that we’re in air. (Would that we did. We’d probably be less apt to pollute the atmosphere.)

When you think about it, it’s rather amazing how adaptable we are to our environment. It’s a great survival skill. Unfortunately, it means that many of us put up with emotional toxicity that is profoundly destructive to our psyche. It’s really important to pay attention to your surroundings and set high standards. If you don’t think you deserve much out of life, then what you’ll get is utter crap. Water seeks its own level.

Sometimes people tolerate abuse because they think it’s the norm. That isn’t an unreasonable conclusion to make if you were brought up with abuse. Only if you visit other households and discover that they’re not all filled with shouting and fury would it make you realize that your situation isn’t typical.

I once had a coworker who constantly told stories about the police being called to his house. I looked at another coworker and said, “Is he the norm, or am I? Because, my whole life, I’ve never had to call the police to my house. Not once.” Coworker one seemed really shocked by that. Coworker two just shook his head sadly.

In other cases, the abuse sort of sneaks up on you. I wrote about this in a post entitled “How to Become a Battered Woman.” It’s like boiling a frog. You can do that successfully if you turn up the temperature very slowly, bit by bit.

I’m thinking about these things more and more, because as my life becomes increasingly emotionally healthy, and as I surround myself with more and more people who treat me with decency and respect, people who are honest and reliable and communicate in an assertive way, I’m starting to see how much poison I used to tolerate in my world. I can’t imagine ever being back in that unhealthy place ever again.

It really is possible to swim in crystal clear water. It may take some getting used to, but it feels wonderful. The first step to take is to raise your expectations and realize that you really deserve the best. If I can do it, you can, too.


Read any good books lately? Try mine!

I’ll Take Love with Conditions

I think unconditional love is an absurd construct. Even my dog has his limits. If I stopped feeding him or started torturing him, how much do you think he would love me then?

While it’s comforting to think that there is love that you can count on, I believe that the responsibility for maintaining that bond goes both ways. Frankly, I’d find it rather creepy if someone loved me so unconditionally that I could become a monster and that person would be okay with that. I do not want someone loving me even if I decide to be a serial killer. I expect to be held accountable for my actions.

I was once in a 16-year relationship with someone who enjoyed saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I knew he was attempting to be reassuring, but in truth that always made me inwardly shudder. I don’t want blind adoration. I actually kind of feel better when there are well-defined boundaries. When I know where I stand, I can do so with confidence. That, and there’s a great deal of pressure to maintain your center of decency when, literally, anything goes. (I admit I didn’t handle it well.)

Parents are expected to love their children unconditionally. I can’t really speak from experience, as I chose not to have kids, but I suspect that “unconditional” condition is the very source of a great deal of dysfunction. If “unconditional” were taken off the table, more parents would be invested in instilling values in their children that would encourage them to be decent human beings, because it’s safe to assume that most parents really do want to love their children.

If we stopped looking at love as if it were a possession, as if, once obtained, you get to keep it, a lot of things would change. If people genuinely believed that one must be loving and lovable in order to receive love, this would be a kinder, gentler planet. If we knew that love must be earned, fewer people would remain with their abusers. If we set the bar ever-so-slightly higher when choosing a mate, it would make for much healthier family units. And if we looked at love as something that must constantly be nurtured in order to thrive, we wouldn’t be so shocked and devastated when it withers on the vine due to our own neglect.

It might also allow us to exercise critical thinking. This whole blind loyalty thing that is becoming the cultural norm is actually rather terrifying. If you vote for someone whose behavior becomes more despicable over time, your FIRST instinct should be a withdrawal of political love for that person. Your standards should be high, and your tolerance for outrage should be short-lived. Our leaders should be kept in check, as their powers allow for rather more destruction than most of us can endure.

So, dear reader, be loving. Be kind. And remember that it’s okay to set boundaries.

Happy Valentine’s Day.


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The Dark Shadow Cast by the Golden Rule

Most societies seem to have some version of the Golden Rule. That only makes sense. It would be hard to live amongst one’s fellow humans without one. I really do try to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. I can’t imagine functioning any other way.

The thing I struggle with is my huge disappointment/bitterness/frustration when others do not do likewise. “Oy! I’m playin’ by the rules here! Why aren’t you?”

Just the other day I got royally screwed over by 5 people. Without going into detail, we’ve all had long conversations and they agreed with my interpretation of events. But when this brought on an investigation, rather than tell the truth and have my back, these people chose to pull their pinheads into their tiny, soft, little shells and leave me out there all alone to be crushed by the bus.  I feel so betrayed. I could never do that to someone. Not in a million years.

Be that as it may, the situation isn’t going to right itself, so now the only thing I can do is cope with my feelings of disappointment/bitterness/frustration. On close examination, I realize that I wouldn’t even have those feelings if I didn’t think that these people were not holding themselves to a standard that I swear by.

So maybe I should blame the Golden Rule for all of this. Maybe I should stop expecting others to follow it. Heck, maybe I should stop following it myself, since it does not seem to have done me any favors.

But the day I can’t even count on my own integrity is the day I give up entirely.

crushed turtle

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On Being Let Down

I’ve been cranky lately. Grumpy. Impatient. Out of sorts.

It all started when it finally dawned on me, at the age of 51, that my sexually abusive stepfather had started grooming me for his pedophilia at the age of 7. The hard core abuse didn’t start until I was 11. Not that that’s an excuse. And I had been dealing with that for most of my life. But I had been operating under the illusion that I had had a few years there before the dark shadow truly descended.

On the contrary. Looking back on certain incidents from an adult perspective, there was a whole host of inappropriate behaviors from almost the day he married my mother.

As a child, I didn’t know any better. I just knew that the man made me uncomfortable, and I tried to avoid him. But looking back now, I can see that several things would have been nearly impossible for an adult to miss. And yet my mother chose to look the other way.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother very much. But I know that if I had been in her shoes, I would have made different choices. For starters, I’d have never married the pig in the first place. I’d have put my child’s safety ahead of my desire to get out of the projects and be supported by the first available scumbag that happened to come my way. And the first hinky thing that happened would have been the last thing he ever did. I know this as sure as I know the earth revolves around the sun. But that’s just me, I guess.

Over the years, a lot of people have let me down. Teachers. Counselors. Adult relatives. No one heard me. No one wanted to see. I was 21 before I independently arrived at the concept that none of this had been my fault. I should have been told that by every person who crossed my path.

From that, I suppose I could have learned to distrust the world and lash out like a wounded animal at anyone who came close. But I have always been someone who zigged when the rest of the world was zagging, so instead, I put a lot of pressure on myself to not be like those people.

As a result, I am probably the most dependable person on the face of the earth. I listen. I act. I speak out, even when it might be uncomfortable. If I say I am going to do something for you or with you, only hospitalization or death will keep me from doing so. I can be counted on. I keep my promises. I don’t look the other way. I stick my neck out, even though I often risk getting it chopped.

You’d think I’d have acquired a healthy dose of cynicism after a lifetime of being let down by people. But because I’m capable of doing all of the above, I expect it from others, and I’m always rather stunned when they fall short. And good God, do they ever fall short.

The fact is, people are going to disappoint you. It’s part of life. Perhaps part of my anger should be directed at myself, for having set such high expectations for the people I care about. They aren’t me.

Maybe when people don’t return phone calls, ignore messages, don’t follow through, or stand me up, I shouldn’t take it as the abuse that it feels like. Maybe I need to develop a thicker skin. Because the fact of the matter is, I can’t control when other people screw me over.

There’s really no point in wasting energy on an existential tantrum because I can’t force everyone to live up to my standards. I can only learn to set up healthier boundaries and try to make better choices moving forward. Emotional distance. That’s what’s called for here.


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