Archive for the 'being different' Category

the pregnant boobs post

What’s Happening To My Body Book For Girls was very clear about the stages of breast development. There are five, and the last one, in the illustrations, is very complete-looking. I was pretty excited about getting there. When I read the book, I was twelve, and my body was full of secret promise. I might grow up to be a supermodel! I sometimes sketched myself as the adult I imagined I’d be. In these sketches, I had long, straight pale hair, even though my current hair was tangled and dark. It just seemed like things would be really different then.

But after I went through puberty, things…weren’t. Where were my breasts? I had been promised some breasts! God clearly owed me a couple, in exchange for the raging period that menaced my favorite white pants and the horrifyingly uncool world of extra-thick sanitary pads. Instead, God, or perhaps it was the boob fairy, passed me by and awarded a magnificently extravagant pair to my best friend, who had until then resembled a delicate blond pixie herself. Now she was alluring and irresistible to boys.

(is this the boob fairy? source)

“So,” said a boy I had a crush on at camp, after we’d escaped together into the night to sit by the moonlit river and share our teenaged souls, “are your boobs, like, really little? They look kinda little.”

Well, then.

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Kate on May 13th 2013 in being different, body, pregnancy

the epic tale of how I stopped using shampoo

OK, maybe not incredibly epic. But still. (This is adapted from my Mirror Mirror column, because I couldn’t just leave it to an unroast. I had to tell the whole damn story)

A little over a month ago, I stopped using shampoo. And, speaking as someone who has clearly never been in serious bodily danger, it felt like I was being very brave. Just a couple days, I told myself reassuringly. And then, when you look like a horrifying ball of dripping grease, you can do the rational thing and return to the sweet comfort of purifying chemicals and delectable fragrances. Because that is totally how I think of shampoo, when pondering its many virtues alone in the shower.

Honestly, I’m not sure what motivated me to attempt this reckless experiment. An article about the mountaineers who have scaled Everest’s ferocious flanks? That documentary on Netflix about the dude who illegally, triumphantly walked the high wire between the former World Trade Center buildings? Maybe just a quiet, deep-rooted sense of “now or never.”

A quick summary of my relationship with my hair (and please know that I am intensely aware of the fact that I recently wrote a piece critiquing the phrase “first world problems” and that this whole piece might fit into that phrase very neatly):

I did not ever want to be someone who cared about her hair. I picture myself as a kind of fiery, absentminded librarian-to-the-dragon-king type. You know, a Cimorene from Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Cimorene didn’t care about her hair, she was too busy running away from home to have awesome adventures, while her silly sisters fussed in front of the mirror, prettying themselves for visiting princes. The thing is, Cimorene had naturally fantastic hair. Those fantasy heroine’s, no matter how adorably tom-boyish, always do.

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Kate on May 6th 2013 in beauty, being different, hair

sexy balding man with back hair

You know what’s a funny joke about a guy? That he has back hair. It’s hilarious! It’s funny because back hair is just inherently funny. It’s inherently gross. Because—because it’s HAIR! On someone’s BACK! EW! Hair is not supposed to be on a back, right? It’s supposed to be on a head! Obvi. Which is actually why it’s also funny when a guy doesn’t have enough hair to cover the top of his head. Because that is where the hair is supposed to be! And it looks ridiculous when it isn’t!

I think that’s how the logic goes, anyway. I’m trying to figure it out, because I definitely notice a lot of smirking, humorous references to men who are balding or men who have back hair, without any explanation for why these things are supposed to be so unappealing and ridiculous as to be amusing.

There are gleefully explicit scenes in movies where guys need to get their back hair waxed before they can even approach a woman. Because what self-respecting woman would ever even consider a man with hair growing on the wrong side of his body?

(hold up! you just crossed over to the wrong side of the tracks! source)

I admit it, I have giggled agreeably along with these observations about unfortunate, socially unpresentable men. You know, when one of my friends is relating a story about a guy she ended up deciding against, and she adds, lowering her voice secretively, but with a note of righteousness, “And…he had back hair!” Or, “He was totally going bald…” So that we can all understand exactly how bad it was. This was the sort of thing she was dealing with, so, you know, she did what had to be done.

Just like the nice guy I wrote about who made all those not-so-nice comments about women, I don’t think that making these comments about men necessarily makes women mean. I think when we do this, we’re often just employing the jargon. Like a tired comedian wrapping up her set, we’re just making the jokes we know will get a laugh. And when we do end up dating/loving/appreciating a guy with back hair, we simply don’t mention it. Why would we? We don’t want anyone to think poorly of him, or be grossed out by his body. No need to even get into it.

I remember the first time I ever saw Bear without his shirt. And there is a reason I call him Bear. He’s fantastically furry. And I didn’t know until then that I would like that sort of thing, but instead, I loved it.

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little girl on the big ice

We were walking in Central Park. We followed the music to the outdoor skating rink, where a figure skating competition was about to begin. We paused to watch, bundled up and runny-nosed, as little girls in bright pink leotards with miniature, flowy skirts twirled on the ice below, practicing for one more minute.

A tiny girl in pink took her place at the center of the huge, empty rink, quivering, poised. The music boomed to life, and she lifted her arms, fingers intentional, every inch exact. She launched into her choreographed dance across the shining ice, posing as she went, one hip cocked, her body language stylized, coordinatedly flirtatious. She was so small and spindly out there in the cold, a flash of color, her legs working. And for some reason it made me start to cry.  I pretended not to be crying, because, COME ON. Can we just let a kid be a friggin’ kid for a second and not a kid-shaped funnel for all of the meaning in the world?

Nope. Too many pregnancy hormones.

I felt like I was being slammed in the heart with this: one girl, purposeful and nervous, alone in the middle of the towering city, her face intent, fragile.

This is being a girl, said my brain. Not in a particularly dramatic, artistic way. Not as though I am so profound. Just, yes, this is a part of girlhood. Of growing up female. Part of it is you, alone with your body, performing for the crowd. You’ve memorized the poses, the smiles, the little feminine twirls and the teasing hand on the hip. Even if you don’t do them, you know all about them. And this performance of femininity, it’s a little dangerous—your skin is bare in the middle of the winter, and you are told to smile and to keep smiling, but you are also always a fraction of an inch from slipping and hitting the hard ice.

I am scared of having a girl. Maybe that’s why I have convinced myself I’m having a boy. 

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Kate on March 11th 2013 in beauty, being different, body, pregnancy

love letter to a beauty queen

This piece appeared originally on The Frisky, for my Mirror Mirror column

(source)

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love, right? Romance and pink things and flowers, too. It’s supposed to be about couples, but I want to selfishly celebrate by acknowledging a woman who made me love myself a little bit more. So often, I think we’re trying to make ourselves appealing and acceptable to other people. We’re worried about how we look to them, how we come across, if we’re pretty and likable. But once, when I was a kid, I saw a woman who made me think there might be another way to do things, and I’ve never forgotten her.

This is my love letter to a beauty queen.

I was nine. My dad, a Jazz pianist, was playing a gig at a beauty pageant. I don’t know why. But for some reason, he was playing in a little Jazz band at intermission at a local high school beauty pageant. I really wanted to go.

My mom, who wouldn’t let me have any Barbies because she was concerned about the insidious messages about beauty and femininity they were transmitting to all of us unsuspecting little girls, said I could go, because of the music. She wasn’t thrilled, but my dad swore that he was going to work the melody of the sh’ma, the simple, central Jewish prayer that we were so familiar with from synagogue, into his big solo. He thought that would be really funny. And my brothers and I couldn’t wait to see if we’d spot it. And I couldn’t wait to see the girls in the pageant. What would they be wearing? Would they be very beautiful?

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Kate on February 13th 2013 in beauty, being different, body

the truth about morning sickness

I know intellectually that there is a baby in there somewhere, a very tiny one, but my brain mostly interprets the pregnancy as illness. An ongoing, relentless illness that crushes me into bed and sits on my stomach and won’t let me up except to vomit. And vomiting isn’t a relief. You think it will be, for the few minutes afterward, when your body remembers that it used to be, when you were normal-sick with a stomach bug. But this isn’t a bug, it’s an infestation. No, it’s a baby. It’s a baby.

I had to cancel everything.

The people I had to tell said, “Well, it’s good preparation for motherhood. You don’t have control!”

But I was going to use these months, I thought feebly. I have so much to do. I’m supposed to finish a book. I’m supposed to get a book deal before I have this sudden baby, so that I can feel satisfied about having done something big with my career before everything is different. The impending baby sometimes looms large, like a loss or a magical, unknowable portal that I am headed straight for. Like knowing if you keep going that way you’ll drive off the bridge, but your hands are glued to the wheel. What was I thinking? I think, on the toilet for an hour because I can’t poop, crying and humiliated even though I’m alone. But then I’m so exhausted and weak that I can’t remember my own ambition. What was it that I thought I wanted to do with my life? Why did I care?

(since I spend so much time with it these days, I kinda wish mine was nicer. source)

“Did you have morning sickness?” I ask desperately, when I talk to relatives.

“Not really! I felt good!”

And then I have nothing to say to them. I am afraid of how I will sound. Self-centered. Wimpy.

Someone said to me, “I was sick, but I didn’t focus on it. Maybe you’re focusing on it too much.”

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Kate on January 31st 2013 in being different, being sad, fear, pregnancy

is makeup good or bad for women’s self-esteem?

A version of this piece originally appeared on Daily Life, and I’m republishing here with some of the original parts. My editor wisely slimmed it down, because I am long-winded and the internet is a faced-paced place. But the awesome thing about a personal blog is that you can keep everything you like about your writing. 

The New York Times had a little debate about makeup recently. Essentially, the question posed went like this: “Is makeup good or bad for women’s self-esteem? Because it seems like it’s probably really important that women wear it all the time.” It’s not the first time this question has been raised in the mainstream media. Attempting to argue that women shouldn’t feel pressure to wear makeup, Thomas Matlack made the case that his wife is stunning without it. Because she’s just stunning. Slate thought this was a counterproductive and slightly obnoxious point, and I agree. Emphasizing that some women look “naturally gorgeous” without makeup isn’t exactly reassuring. Actually, it just feels like more pressure.

The idea of pure, natural beauty has this whiff of cruel competitiveness about it. Some women have “it”, others need makeup. And then we have this dichotomy, where some women “need” the help that makeup gives their faces, and some women, blessed by a God who is on the Victoria’s Secret mailing list, don’t.

If there’s such a dichotomy, then I know which side I fall on. I mean, I get the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, too (because no matter where you hide, it will find you). I am not a “natural beauty.” By which I mean, I would never be asked to play the love interest in a music video about a girl who doesn’t need makeup because she’s so beautiful. I mean, when I wake up in the morning, my face is puffy and weird and my eyes look squinty and confused, and my skin is sometimes cleverly unpredictable, like we’re playing some ongoing game called “Guess where the giant mutant pimple will turn up next?”

(I don’t think they’d want to play…source)

But I don’t wear makeup.

Not because of some defiant decision I made about embracing my inner earth goddess or accepting the hard, bare truth or something. Not because I’m making a political statement about equality and oppressive beauty standards. I just never learned how to do it.

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Kate on January 22nd 2013 in beauty, being different, wedding