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When I was 12 and again when I was 18, in the process of losing a significant amount of weight, I’d hear it a lot. “Wow, you’re so thin!” – “Your belly is so flat.” – “Your thighs got so much slimmer!” I’d beam upon hearing those words, but I didn’t know how to respond. I wondered how the person delivering the “compliment” expected me to respond. But I would quickly translate the comment to mean, “You look better / prettier / hotter / more worthy of my attention or affection.” Given that, the only way I could think to reply was with a genuine “Thank you so much!!!”
Every day, interactions like these have young girls and women on the fast-track to associating their weight with their worth. But at least now, there’s a growing conversation about the problem … specifically in Good Girls Don’t Get Fat by Robyn J.A. Silverman, Ph.D. Based on the dissertation she did at Tufts University, the book looks at the various forces that chip away at girls’ body image and explains to adults how they can best influence daughters, nieces, sisters, cousins, students to embrace varied body types and “thrive at any size.” While the book seems to primarily focus on the body image challenges facing adolescent girls and young women aged 16 to 21, I bet — for better or for worse — women of all ages can relate to the “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat” myth.
Below, a powerful trailer for the book that really drives that message home …
I love that Dr. Silverman doesn’t seem to think it’s fair to place the blame solely on anorexic actresses on primetime teen soaps and reality shows; damaging “Be/look/act skinny!” cover lines on magazine covers; Hollywood or even the fashion industry. As she notes, we’re also to blame for our daughters’ and our mothers’, friends’, our sisters’, our daughter-in-laws’ poor body image and low self-esteem. So what can we do?
Today, tell a woman you love why she’s beautiful … inside. Tell her that she’s witty, she’s brave, she’s charming, she’s brilliant. She might just start to feel like a rock star.
“Girls who see themselves in terms of strengths, who feel supported by those they love and have come to a place of acceptance about their bodies, are the ones who flourish,” writes Dr. Silverman.
Are you flourishing?
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L’shana tova! Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I should be in temple, but Dan and I don’t belong to one, and I have to save my vacation time for, well, vacation. But I plan to observe in my own way, even if it is more of a spiritual, personal observation, as opposed to a getting dressed up and going to listen to a rabbi blow the Shofar-type way.
The holiday has always reminded me of apples and honey (the traditional Rosh Hashanah treat to symbolize a sweet new year, yum) and of course, new beginnings… While I hate to see the summer slip away, I am eager for a fresh start—from cute new fall clothes to new outlets for writing (exciting news next week!) While I’m not sure I want to call them resolutions, there are some things I’d like to work on as we head into the fall… Slash, as I head into my 28th year of life. (Oh boy, that sounds odd. Yeah, side note: I celebrated my 27th b-day on Labor Day.) I figure, I’ll share these goals with you, and then maybe they’ll be more definite just by floating out there in the Universe. I think I’ll employ a format developed by psychotherapy expert Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D. Called sentence completion, the technique works on conscious and subconscious levels to help people come up with insights that bring about meaningful change in their lives. So, here goes.
This fall, I want to…
–Advance my career. Professionally, I want to take my writing to another level. Here, on other blogs, in other publications. News and features. Personally, I want to spend time on creative fiction. I miss it, because to me, it’s about being truly imaginative. It’s a high I haven’t felt in awhile.
–Read more. I’d also like to find the happiest balance between working on my own writing and reading much, much more. There’s nothing like snuggling up with a juicy book that you’ve been just waiting for the right time to read. I have both a non-fiction and a fiction patiently waiting for me to crack their covers.
–Find a new way to take better care of my body. Long story, and definitely the subject of an upcoming post, but I recently hit a wall with my wellness regimen. It’s time for a change. My #1 priority is to take care of my body, honor my health and love myself, while minimizing negativity and stress.
–Organize. Right now, my desk at home is… well, you could say it looks like Tropical Storm Maressa had her way with it. I could really stand to stay more on top of filing all of my papers/bills, etc. Not only will it give me better peace of mind, but I really think Dan would be relieved, too. (It drives him nuts.)
–De-clutter. Dear Clothes/Shoes I Haven’t Worn/Makeup I Haven’t Used/Purses I Will Never Carry Again, etc., it has been nice knowing you. Now off with you to Good Will.
You don’t have to be celebrating Rosh Hashanah to channel a fresh start for the fall. What do you want to do differently this season?
Last week, all the buzz was about vaginas. This week, I’m wondering about penises. Maybe that’s because my friend, Lissa Rankin, recently posed the question on her Facebook: Does size matter?
Immediately, I thought of this clip from Sex & the City, in which Samantha is crying to Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda that the man she’s dating is too small. Remember?
When I shared the clip with Lissa, she pointed out that it was sponsored by ProExtend, “a penile enlargement device and adjustable traction apparatus,” which she noted, feeds off the insecurities of men. It’s true that there’s an entire industry of gadgets, pills, supplements, exercise regimens, etc. aimed at guys who are self-conscious about their size.
I started to think about how there are so many double-standards between the sexes when it comes to what’s attractive. We all know how screwed up it is that chubby Seth Rogan is considered geeky-sexy and gets cast as the endearing lead in a rom-com. And in Superbad, gorgeous Emma Stone fawns all over tubby-as-Hell Jonah Hill. Doubtful we’d ever see hot guys going after a similarly overweight actress. (With the exception of John Waters’s nutty Hairspray, of course.)
But there’s one case in which big is in. When it comes to what’s in our pants, it’s true that men have to put up with more pressure to conform to some unrealistic Boogie Nights size standard. Granted, we women have to confront other absurd ideals having to do with Brazilian waxes and odor, etc. But these issues don’t get nearly as much screen time as the penis size meme.
I do feel bad for guys who feel like they have to measure up (pun intended) to what they see in movies or porn. They should feel confident and happy with their packages. (Because women usually are!) But, honestly, I kinda don’t feel like spending too much time boo-hoo’ing for them. We ladies are targeted with images that aim to chip away at our body confidence just about all day every day—from cover lines that scream, “How One C-List Celeb Dropped Her Baby Weight in 5 Seconds!” to Facebook ads that tout breast implants, lipo or even wrinkle cream. From the time that we’re able to dress ourselves, we’re almost on autopilot, trying to amend what isn’t up to pop culture par about our outward appearance. At least guys can keep a VIP (Very Insecure Penis) under wraps in public.
What do you think—am I being too harsh? Maybe we should start a campaign for Penis Confidence? 🙂
My boyfriend has iPhone envy, and sometimes when I’m brushing my teeth and he’s already in bed, he’ll tuck into my New York Times or CNN apps to catch up on the day’s news. Last night, he read me this story, from The Frisky, in which Anna Sophia Martin tells her tale of a first date gone horribly wrong. Dan thought I’d get a kick out of it, because I was the Queen of Online Dating until he and I met on JDate in late ’06. While Anna had spent a few months pointing and clicking in search of a soulmate, I spent a few years scouring guys’ profiles in Boston, L.A., Chicago and New York. I was even bi at one point—coastal, that is. And all I can say is, I feel the girl’s pain—and her pride.
Anna went out with a guy named Dan who sported “a round, waffle-sized bald patch” and 20 extra pounds (which he claimed was muscle, mmk…) She wasn’t into it. And neither was he…sort of. He chose to e-mail her after their first date to explain where he stood. He confessed that he just doesn’t have chemistry with “very curvy women.” He inquired as to whether or not she was planning to “embark on and commit to a process of a transformation”… If so, he’d be down to go out again.
As my (very unbald, extremely handsome, respectful, considerate, etc.) Dan read Anna’s tale aloud, I couldn’t help but laugh, shake my head and groan. I flashed back to various cringe-worthy or ridiculous moments of my dating career, in which I experienced similarly outrageous encounters regarding men’s superficial, unjustified expectations. A couple of my horror stories for your entertainment:
Whackadoodle Dude #1: Not long after I moved to L.A., I met Kyle* online. He was getting his Masters in New York, so I ended up flying across the country to a.) visit my friends at NYU and b.) go on several dates with Kyle. He was a theater geek who religiously watched “Battlestar Galactica” and who didn’t seem to have too many friends or much of a life outside of school. But I shrugged all that off, because he looked a bit like Fred Savage and seemed like he could be a nice Jewish guy. And he was quite the gentleman…until we were hanging out in person for the second time, and out of the blue, he said, “Promise me that you’ll never turn into a fat Jewish mom.” As you might imagine, my head nearly exploded. “WHAT did you say?” I responded. He laughed hysterically. I wasn’t amused. I hailed a cab and left him to find someone else who wouldn’t mind passive-aggressive requests regarding her bagel eating habits and circumference of her thighs 10 years from now.
Whackadoodle Dude #2: I once started chatting with a guy online who fired questions at me via IM as if I was interviewing for a six-figure corporate job. He felt he had the right to know how often I worked out, did I consider myself fit, how much I weighed? Although with that last Q, I should have just closed out of the conversation, I found myself wrapped up and trying to prove a point… That I was attractive. That I consider myself a work in progress when it comes to my fitness. (Aren’t we all?) That when it deciding whether or not to go on a first date with me, my recent, clear-as-day photos should have been enough—my body fat percentage, on the other hand, was a non-issue. Mostly I just couldn’t believe he had the audacity to request this info. He argued that he was “looking for the whole package.” Meanwhile, the guy didn’t even have a photo of himself on his profile. I didn’t waste much more than a second or two before hitting the good old X button.
I’m all about being forthright about what you want in a relationship and from a potential partner. And I don’t deny that physical attraction is crucial. But telling someone you barely know to go on a diet, hit the gym daily or vow to never become a nasty stereotype is just plain crazy. And having deliriously high standards and/or acting like finding a significant other is the same thing as placing a customized order at Starbucks is a prescription for eternal singledom. I’m really just baffled as to where these guys get off. But I’d take a wild guess that Anna’s Dan and my own delusional dates are destined to be alone until their attitudes—and likely subpar looks—seriously shape up.
*=Surprisingly, I never dated anyone with this name! So it works as a pseudonym.
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Although I only considered being a Brownie for about a minute and a half in third grade, I always admired The Girl Scouts of the USA. (And not just because I grew up watching Troop Beverly Hills. Oh, how I wished I could have had an awesome ’80s perm and done “The Freddie.”) But twenty years earlier, my mom earned her badges. Whenever one of us kids would need a random object (think a granola bar on a long car ride or a Swiss army knife to cut off itchy clothing tags), Mom would whip it out and say, “See, I’m a good girl scout!” That she is. And so are these ladies representing the organization by raising awareness about girls and body image. Below, the org’s new PSA, featuring Beverly Johnson‘s daughter.
A few more facts for thought, from the GS.org site:
-Although about two-thirds (65%) correctly identify themselves as being either normal weight or overweight, one-third of all girls have a distorted idea about their weight. (Girl Scout Research Institute)
-59% of girls report dissatisfaction with their body shape, and 66% express the desire to lose weight. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Clearly, we have a problem on our hands. But, it’s awesome to see that the Girl Scouts are applying their masterful problem-solving skills to do something about it! They’re also using their mad marketing genius to sell us lots and lots of cookies, which I argue also contribute to overall happiness. Mmm, frozen Thin Mints…
On Tuesday, July 6, my sister and I saw Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball. Being big enough fans to call ourselves “little monsters,” Emmie and I had greatly anticipated this day and this show for months. And, believe me, Gaga did not disappoint. Next time (yes, I will pay to see this woman perform more than once), we will have to splurge a bit to get up closer, because we had a pretty dead-on side view. (Hey, at least we could see her exits and entrances, which made for a “behind-the-scenes” experience!)
Gaga/Stefani Germanotta embodies a lot of what I believe in and try to touch on through my TBL writing. She’s sexually open, political, outspoken, empowered and bold. She’s confident–but modest, she has recently owned the label of feminist, she’s been through hard times with her physical/emotional/mental health and come out on top. Many of these themes play throughout her whimsical, outrageous, sexy, poignant performance. And because of that, there’s a lot going on beneath the surface of the experience. That’s why I thought it’d be fun to break down the…5 Lessons Learned from The Monster Ball:
5. Everyone’s insecure. Sadly, this often compromises our emotional and sexual well being.
The Monster Ball opens with the silhouette of Gaga behind a giant, green, laser lit video screen, behind which she performs “Dance in the Dark.” By waiting to present herself fully to the audience, Gaga is surely toying with her audience’s sense of anticipation, but she’s also making a statement about insecurity. As Gaga told Ann Powers back in December: “The record is about a girl who likes to have sex with the lights off, because she’s embarrassed about her body. She doesn’t want her man to see her naked. She will be free, and she will let her inner animal out, but only when the lights are out…These lyrics are a way for me to talk about how I believe women and some men feel innately insecure about themselves all the time. It’s not sometimes, it’s not in adolescence, it’s always.”
4. There are so many definitions of ‘sexy.’
At some point between smearing blood makeup over her chest, wearing a clear rubber nun costume and laying between the legs of one of her bisexual male dancers, Gaga shouted, “Do you think I’m sexy?! Because I think you’re sexy!” When it comes to being a little monster, you don’t have to be clad in black leather from head to toe, wearing 5 ft. platforms and fishnets, blonde or painfully thin to be sexy. You just have to be a free…bitch.
3. No matter how much Fame you have, you can’t go it alone.
The show’s Wizard of Oz-ish storyline follows Gaga from her Lower East Side roots to Brooklyn, Central Park and eventually, to The Monster Ball. You could say it’s a mishmashed freaky-deaky love letter to NYC. And Gaga, always effusive about her devoted fans, paid special tribute to her hometown when she said, “Without New York, I would not exist.” She also praised her pops, stating before her performance of “Speechless,” “Of all the drunk men in my life, Dad, you’re my favorite.” I also adored when Gaga sang “You and I,” a new rock-and-roll ballad that was supposedly written about Stef getting back together with her ex-bf, Luc Carl. The bottom-line: When making your dreams come true, prioritizing love is a must.
2. Fantasy is central to a life worth living.
Between songs, Gaga talked about how bullshit can get you pretty far and admittedly, she’s “the most delusional bitch on earth.” Thank God for that, because a healthy dose of over-the-top theatrics, escapism, fantasy and indulgence—themes thread throughout The Monster Ball—makes anyone richer.
1. Beauty is being your freaky or comfortable, half-naked or costumed-to-the-max, sexy or grungy, drunken or sober self.
Em and I were sure that we’d be plain Janes compared to the little monsters who were dressed up in elaborate “Telephone”/futuristic Russian brothel/disco stick tributes. (Even though Em bravely picked up a hot metallic silver body suit and paired it with her black band-aid mini.) Turns out, for every pair of fans wrapped in caution tape or sporting sunglasses made of cigarettes, there were twice as many girls in cute, comfy sundresses and flip flops or sexy heels and guys in jeans and Gaga image-adorned tees. No matter how they decided to flaunt it that night, all the fans were gorgeous in their own right.
As you can tell, The Monster Ball made me love Gaga even more than I did before, as if that were possible! I can’t wait to see her again–hopefully in February when she returns to the city that adores her as much as she loves and appreciates it.
If you’re also a little monster—or even if you’re not—what have you learned from Lady Gaga?
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While I appreciate that Dove seems to be vowing that they do as they say and say as they do… something about this still seems fishy. If not affiliated with the agency team, then who? A lone wolf photographer who was randomly hired somehow with absolutely no idea re: the values of the Real Beauty campaign? Someone–if only one who is partially affiliated with the company—seemed to get the wrong idea somehow, and I’d like to know why. But, I’m also a snoopy, feminist journalist who can’t stop asking questions. Maybe I ought to be content with this semi-explanation.
What do you think?
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Almost 3,000 women, aged 18-40, were polled. And get this: Three out of four said that their body image woes—be that stretch marks, sagging breasts, too few curves, too many bumps or lumps—prevented them from being intimate, according to the survey. (Oh, also, three out of five ‘fessed to faking the Big O!) Agh!
In reporting these disheartening facts, The Mail hopes to assure readers by quoting a sexpert who basically says, Pat, pat, don’t worry, chickadees. Men aren’t looking at your full-fat cottage cheese thighs anyway! They’re just happy to be getting laid.
This is not helpful. We’ve all heard these stale words of wisdom since we were thirteen. Just stop fussing over your saggy, wobbly, chunky, curvy or non-curvy parts, because hey, he—or hey, maybe it’s she—doesn’t care. (Worse yet, we’ve also gotten really self-loathing advice like, “Just turn off the lights.”)
But trying to eradicate the problem by focusing on how our lover doesn’t care does nothing to address the core issue. So what? We still care! And it’s causing us crazy stress and costing us pleasure and intimacy. So, I think the solution, instead, is loving and accepting ourselves more, and kicking that negative self-talk to the curb! Yea, yea, it’s not that easy. I know.
Board-certified sex therapist Dr. Diana Wiley elaborates, “When a woman becomes fixated on the girth of her thighs or tilt of her breasts or cellulite, she can become unable to communicate what she wants, about her own pleasure. It can be a huge distraction, because you’re not present.”
To axe your Mean Girls inner monologue and get out of your head in bed, Dr. Wiley suggests:
- Thought-stopping. Consciously identifying that you keep thinking to yourself, “Wow, my butt looks so big!” Sometimes, once you’re simply aware that you’re mentally beating yourself up, you can curb it. It also helps to replace the negative self-bullying with positive self-talk. For instance, “My hair looks hot!” or “I really rocked those sexy black heels today.”
- If you’re “spectator-ing,” i.e. mentally sitting on the sidelines and giving yourself a hard time about your appearance, it’s impossible to enjoy yourself. Get out of your head by focusing on the sensations you’re feeling and your breath.
- Still having trouble? Try sensate focus, exercises developed to encourage partners to take turns paying increased attention to their senses (versus a mental thesis on your muffin top).
It’s not easy, I know, but it’s definitely worth it to be kinder to ourselves, especially in bed. Our bodies will thank us.
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Slacked a bit this week, sorry! I’m busy, busy, busy with some up and coming writing projects that I’m very excited about. In fact, stay tuned for my first Heroine: In Real Life Q&A to be featured early next week. I’ll be chatting with a warmhearted diva from Palos Hills, Illinois who has lost 85 lbs. in a most inspiring way! In the meantime, a discovery…
We’ve all been there. In a dressing room at a department store, and you hear a gorgeous, fit-looking woman say, “There’s no way I could ever wear that dress, unless I lost 20 lbs.” Or you pass a gaggle of svelte teen girls in the mall, chattering about how they should really “skip the carbs.” Or, we ourselves, stand in front of the mirror and scrutinize: “My arms are like bat-wings. My thighs are dimply. My belly, pouchy. Ugh!” What’s insanely freaky is that this socially pervasive fat-talk is catching for the much younger ones. Don’t you think it seems like a disease that must be cured?
One antidote: Operation Beautiful, started by a 25 year-old named Caitlin, who began her campaign by scribbling anonymous, feel-good notes to other women. Then, she’d tack them on public bathroom mirrors, in gyms, in retail stores, etc. She says, “The point is that WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL. You are enough… just the way you are!” She began Operation Beautiful, because she was fed-up with hearing fellow femmes’ chronic “fat-talking.” Her hope was that the self-love-promoting Post-Its would inspire other women, and then they’d pay the message forward. It worked like gangbusters. Now, supporters of the mission send photos of their Post-Its to Caitlin on a daily basis, and she features them on her Web site. She even has a book coming out in August.
For many of us, it’s a revelation… That even if you need to drop a few pounds for health reasons or your skin is broken out thanks to PMS or your jeans are giving you muffin-top today or your hair is frizzy because it’s humid outside, guess what? You are still beautiful. Caitlin’s Post-It Revolution is a sweet, simple way to broadcast that important message to the world.
I think I’ll make it my mission to post one today. How about you?
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