Archive for the 'uplifting' Category

you are pretty enough to find love

Sorry, two relationship-y pieces in a row. I know. It just happened that way. This one was on the Frisky originally, for my column there, and it was also syndicated on XoJane. So if you saw it either of those places, I hope you’ll forgive the redundancy. Even if you’ve already seen it, I always love the discussions that happen on this blog, so I wanted to share it with you guys, to see what you thought. 

The other day, a girl emailed me:

“I’m worried that I’m not pretty enough to get a guy. I’m single, and want a serious relationship, but sometimes I think I can’t find one because I’m not prettier.”

I wanted to exclaim, “That’s ridiculous!” But instead I thought, Well, of course you’re worried.

When I was single, I reasoned that being hotter was always better because it would give me more options. The hotter I was, the more guys would be interested in me, and the more choice I’d have in the matter. So even if I thought I looked fine, it would’ve been better to look, well, even better. (And then there is no limit—you can always be hotter, somehow.) And when I thought that I looked significantly, depressingly less than fine, I was scared, because I felt as though I might miss out on something essential.

This is not irrational. It makes sense, when we think of women’s worth as being closely matched, at least initially, with their beauty.



From the time we’re little girls, we’re taught that if we were prettier everything in our lives would be better. We would have the things that we want. Girls become preoccupied with their appearances in an effort to control and improve their lives, and are too often driven to despair when they don’t see themselves as fitting into restrictive and seemingly arbitrary beauty standards. And this is not some dramatic interpretation—it’s just life. Some of us escape unscathed, and some of us are blissfully oblivious enough, and some of us recover from middle school and go on to not care very much, and some of us continue to be chased by the howling, hungry beauty demons into our adulthood and even until we die.

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Kate on December 26th 2012 in beauty, being different, fear, relationships, uplifting

deciding to trust other women again

Sure, this counts as a Little Victory!

I got this text on Thanksgiving from a woman I haven’t really talked to in at least a year: Friend, today I am thankful for you. Hope your day is filled with gratitude and warmed by people who love you. 

She’s busy, in a writing program down south. I’m busy, here in NYC. We never really got the chance to get really close, but I’ve always liked her.

I thought there was some mistake. She’d probably meant the message for someone else. Or she’d sent it to a lot of people, and I was accidentally included. I felt awkward, responding, because what if I was too personal in return, and she was embarrassed for me and it was weird?

I am always waiting for women to leave me. Like the guy who doesn’t call back after what seemed like a perfect second date, like the breakup that never makes sense even though the other person seems to be trying to explain, I am never sure of the reasons, even though I dig through my memories, unearthing things that look like they might be clues. Things that have been broken a long time and are probably better off left there, underground.

(sorry, that was morbid. source)

I have fought passionately with boyfriends. I’ve yelled and stormed and stomped out and slammed the door and disappeared into the night for a while until I realize I’m just wandering around a parking lot and someone is probably going to rape and murder me and the fantastically successful dramatic exit is probably not worth all that. I have a flair for the dramatic with men. But with women, I am gentle. Since I was twelve or even sooner, I had best friends—girls I dressed up with in endless rounds of play acting, and had sleepovers with and wrote letters to and illustrated the envelopes. And they have tended to get mysteriously hurt or bored or something else and leave over the years, without telling me why. Or they’ve abruptly betrayed me in some teenaged, heartbreaking manner. The girl who I worshipped who was abruptly dating my boyfriend, just after I’d broken up with him. But she didn’t tell me—instead she showed up with him one day, just like that, and then she left the room while he berated me from his towering height of six foot four inches, telling me that I was stupid, ridiculous, pathetic– a little girl– that I didn’t know anything about the world. He was obviously in love with me, furious at me, and she was obviously letting him loom over me and tell me what a little fool I was. I couldn’t believe she’d chosen him over the stories I’d written with her about our shared future, where we had little farm houses down the road from each other in New Hampshire, and I came over for Christmas even though I am Jewish, and our kids played together and eventually married each other.

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already smart enough, without even trying

This piece is a part of my Little Victories series. 

I don’t know the names of the parts of grammar. I remember “prepositional phrase” from this big purple book I had growing up. I remember that there are articles that can be definite and indefinite, but I can’t remember which one is “the” and which one is “a.” And it’s been embarrassing for a long time, but not embarrassing enough to google.

There are all of these things I should probably know that I don’t, and I sort of wish I knew them, and I’m hoping no one will call me out on them, but I’m not exactly making an effort to learn them. Instead, I’m making mac and cheese. Instead, I’m writing the way I would talk if I was better at talking. And for the first time in a long time, I am OK with that. It’s a good sign—I think it means that there’s always hope. Unless it means that my inquisitiveness has curled up and died in a corner somewhere and I will be the counterexample in a future New York Times article about how intellectually active people can stave off Alzheimer’s.


No. It’s progress. It took me a long time to let myself feel smart enough, without making a huge effort to sound smarter. I am just now reaching the stage where I can make occasional small talk in an elevator without the evil voice in my head snarling, “Say something witty, you pathetic nitwit! Yes, the dog is shaggy and cute, but doubtless everyone makes that obvious observation. DISTINGUISH YOURSELF.”

(The voice in my head is like the British butler in movies about how Americans think England used to be, except he’s become unhinged and he’s about to kill everyone.)

My mom made an effort to teach me grammar. I recited “behind, beneath, before, on, in” and whatever else. But it didn’t stick. I was building a lean-to in the woods, and I got good at latticing the branches and packing the gaps with moss and leaves. I practiced sketching faces almost every day and finally I could make their eyes gleam and give them realistic expressions.  I was learning lots of things. People are always learning lots of things.

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the extreme importance of letting yourself be occasionally ugly

First, winner of the bra giveaway is M, from comment #51! M, please send me an email and I’ll hook you up! HAHA! Sorry. 

I was hanging out with my mom and her friends from high school the other day, and they were like, “Are you going to write about this?” Because people always say that to me. And then they said, to each other, “She’s going to write ‘They were so old! It was kind of sad. They seemed to be trying to look good, but they were just so old and sad…’”

In reality, I thought they were awesome. Fantastically witty, playful Jewish women who do voices and gesture big and tell lots of jokes that start “So a rabbi and a priest were on a plane…” I got that wonderful feeling that I want to always get—that one that goes “God, I have a lot to look forward to.”

But anyway, we started talking about body image, because my mom was like “so Kate is writing this book about body image!”

And I was like, “Um…sort of. But we definitely don’t need to talk about that.” Because it is embarrassing to just start talking about how I learned to hate the way I look. And how I got two nose jobs. (For some reason, writing about it feels completely different.)

I like the part of the story where I start this blog and start to feel good, but it takes a while to get there. Which is what makes it a story, I guess.

But my mom wanted me to talk about body image. She’s got to be proud of me, she’s my mom.

And we all ended up in this big conversation about beauty and everyone was talking about how hard it is to convince yourself that you look good, especially if your mom told you things like “honey, you should really go on a diet.” And how it continues to be hard for a very long time. Maybe your whole life. How do you even get to that place, where you feel beautiful?

I think you have to work on it, like anything else, I said.

Some of the women seemed a little skeptical, and I was embarrassed. Here I was, telling a roomful of fifty-somethings to “work on it.” I had this niggling, jittery sense that I was forgetting some critical piece of the puzzle.

I looked down at the tablecloth. I muttered something about self-acceptance being a journey. And then I remembered.

“It’s not just about feeling beautiful,” I said. “It’s about letting yourself be ugly, too.”

And everyone looked at me. Because that maybe sounds stupid.

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Kate on September 3rd 2012 in beauty, being different, body, fear, nose, perfection, uplifting

why you should fail at things a lot

My little brother didn’t get a summer job he interviewed for. He really wanted it. He kicked butt in his cover letter, and he was at his best in the interview, too. Afterwards, he didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t know what to say. It’s a weird thing, when you’re like, “give me more responsibility. I want to work all day instead of being a kid,” and the world is like, “Too bad. You have to stay a kid.”

I was worried he’d blame himself.

I’d really wanted him to get the job, because I really didn’t want him to learn to stop trying. That’s what happens sometimes after you get turned down enough. You throw up your hands and you say, “Whatever!” and whatever you decide to do next after that “whatever” is usually not anything worth remembering. It usually involves a lot of TV shows that you’ve already seen and weren’t totally crazy about the first time but this time they feel a little more nuanced. Unless you have incredible fortitude of spirit, and honestly, I’m not even sure what that is. I may have just made it up.

I felt called to say something. The way that I feel called to write to A.O. Scott and tell him that his review of Snow White and the Huntsman was really, really wrong. She is not a feminist symbol. She barely even talks. But maybe even more than that. So I sat my brother down, the way I thought a good big sister would, and I said, “Um, so, I thought that—well, I wanted to talk to you about something,” in my confident, charismatic way. He looked at me blankly. I said, “I want to talk to you about failing.”

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Kate on July 11th 2012 in family, fear, life, uplifting, work, writing

what are the other things you do that make you who you are?

I am a writer now, but when I was a little girl, I thought I would grow up to be a painter. After all, I painted nearly every day. And when I wasn’t painting, I was drawing. Mostly princesses. Sometimes their stepsisters, who always turned out not to be evil in the stories in my head. The princesses also always had brown hair. That was important.

Sometimes I drew cats, because I secretly wished that I was part cat, or at least would end up being able to communicate with cats psychically (at eight or so, I finally had to admit that I still couldn’t understand cat thoughts, but to this day, I have dreams with cats in them more than I think the ordinary person does, soo…just sayin’).

I started drawing as soon as I could hold a pastel, and I didn’t stop until I was maybe seventeen.

When I was fifteen, I put a bunch of my canvasses in an enormous plastic carry-case and went to New York City, to an art school fair at Pratt, where schools had set up booths and for the first few minutes, it seemed like I was the only person there not wearing black.

“You are really talented,” I was told by several schools. “But you’re too young. Why are you here?” 

I was there because I painted all the time.

(rejection makes me feel like this)

It’s been almost a year since I last played keyboard. My senior year of college, I played nearly every day. I had a beat up, sized down silver keyboard on a stand, and I wrote music constantly. Song after song about the parking lot that my dorm room looked over, and what it might symbolize about life. Song after song about the guy who acted like he liked me back and then seemed to change his mind. Occasionally I wrote about both things at the same time:

“All the cars in the parking lot are waiting, waiting, but they play it cool/ I know, I know exactly what I want/ but there are so many rules…”

See what I did there? It’s like I’m the cars! I’m so clever. So very clever.

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Kate on May 21st 2012 in life, uplifting, work, writing

you should pull it off anyway, even if you can’t pull it off

My best title ever, right?

I don’t think I can naturally “pull it off.”

I almost never have the things that magazines say you’re supposed to have when you do anything I want to do with my appearance. When you wear a short dress or cut off your hair or do bright lipstick or long dresses or whatever.

Honestly, I have no idea what my “look” is. You know, like preppy chic or flowy hippie or electric hipster or fairy grunge or urban hillbilly runway. I don’t even know what I look like. (And also, I don’t know anything about style. But I want to see what urban hillbilly runway would look like.)

Who the hell knows what they really look like?


Isn’t it always different? Isn’t it different in different lights, in the mirror in the bathroom as opposed to the snide mirror in the hall as opposed to the generous mirror against the back wall? Isn’t it different in every photo? Some of them are downright cruel—that doesn’t count as a smile! Am I being possessed by some sort of really petty demon?—some of them are almost decent.

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