When You’re All Alone, Do You Like Your Body Image?

I watched Colbie Calliat’s amazing new video Try over the weekend. It literally brought me to tears. I immediately showed it to my three daughters, followed by this video from last year which shows an average-sized woman getting photo-shopped into a model. It was time to teach them about the real world.

They thought it was interesting, but I’m not sure if it hit home for them yet. They don’t look through a lot of fashion magazines, don’t watch much beyond the Disney channel, and right now their idols are more like Abby Wambach (a U.S. soccer play) and Taylor Swift than  Gisele Bundchen or Miley Cyrus. For now.

But I’m not going to take any chances when it comes to my girls’ body images. According to a study announced in February of this year from the National Institute on Media and the Family, about 40 percent of girls ages nine and 10 have tried to lose weight. 

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Calliat looking beautiful without make up.

Seriously? Four out of 10 girls.

It gets worse. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders suggests that eating disorders typically start in the teen years, but may begin as early as age eight. Eight years old.

My youngest is eight. Her older sisters are 9 and a half.  I don’t have much time.

I don’t have much time to convince them that they are beautiful regardless of their weight. I don’t have much time to show them that they are more than the clothes that they wear and that make up should enhance their looks, not conceal them. I don’t have much time to hope they understand they don’t have to try so hard to fit an image or a beauty mold. And I don’t have much time to protect them from judgement, from peer pressure, from the media, from their “friends.”

So, because I don’t have much time, I will continue to try and show them. I will show them that their mother is comfortable in her own skin and that their father loves her no matter what her size. I will encourage them to love food, but more importantly, understand it — how it fuels the body, how it makes your skin glow, how good food tastes. And I will demonstrate Photoshop, talk about pictures in magazines, and avoid stores that don’t sell to “real” girls.

And we all say we will do these things, be that mom, live that life; but yet it is so hard. So, so hard to be the example I want to be for my girls.

Earlier this week when I received a compliment from my good friend about how I looked, I responded with: “Ugh. Thanks but I feel awful. I haven’t been working out and I’ve been eating like crap.”

My friend responded in kind when I told her how healthy she looked after changing her diet: “Blech. I’ve just gained three to four pounds.I know I’ll lose it but I just feel blah.”

Between us we have five beautiful daughters, are successful in our jobs, have great marriages and are just plain happy. And neither one of us could just say thanks after receiving a compliment about our bodies, although both of us live healthy lifestyles.

So why can’t we admit it to anyone else? Why is it so hard, especially as women and more importantly, as young girls, to like ourselves, to not care what others think, to not try so hard just to focus on our looks.

Colbie Calliat’s lyrics say so much. “When you’re all alone by yourself do you like you?”

Maybe that’s where I will start. For me — and my girls.

 

How To Keep Your Long-Distance Friendships Hot

I have a lot of BFFs (or what some on my Facebook page have deemed “breasties”.) Some of them I’ve known since my teens and some more recently in my Mommy years, and I love them all.

But unfortunately, I move around. A lot. Or they get married and start a life somewhere besides where we went to college (I know, shocking.)

So maintaining those friendships can be tough. Add in multiple kids, work schedules, family issues and everything else life throws at you, and it can be hard to stay in touch.

I am committed though, and as my friends know I will stalk them through Google and other forms of social media to wherever they are to stay connected.  Yes, once I decide I want you in my life, there’s really no getting rid of me. I’m like the herpes of friends.

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Some special ladies and I in Boston circa 1998.

 

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And again 16 years later, sans leather jackets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll admit though, it takes some effort. Here’s a few ways I keep my long distance friendships hot:

Communicate often, no matter what the medium. I try to talk live on the phone as often as possible, but we all know that life gets out of control sometimes which is why I’ll turn to texting. Or Facebook. Or email. Or smoke signal. I could probably add Skype or FaceTime on here too, but I hate the way my wrinkles show up on the screen.

Honestly, I’ve felt the closest to my long-distance girl friends when I keep them abreast of the mundane aspects of my life, just as I did when we lived local. Sometimes that is a texting of a photo of a case of wine I bought at Costco or posting a Facebook article about living with a Nutella addiction. This type of communication reminds each of you why you were friends in the first place.

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Her kid and my kids became BFFs, so we became BFFs too!

Share. Even when you think they don’t care. When you aren’t around someone a lot, you forget that you may be missing important events in their life. Nothing draws a wedge into a friendship like thinking your girl friend doesn’t care about what’s going on with you. But suck it up. Don’t put all the weight of the friendship on the other person’s shoulders. Tell her what’s going on with you even if she doesn’t ask. If she cared once, she’ll care now.

But don’t always do all the talking. Sometimes I may or may not dominate a conversation by chewing on my girl friend’s ear about how upset I was at my daughter’s teacher or that the cable guy cancelled my appointment three times in a row so I didn’t get to see the finale of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (I have huge problems over here.) So I try to limit my rants, and then immediately ask about my friend — or her kids or her job or her marathon training. I try to ask specific questions so I can keep current on any issues she may be going through, which keeps our connection going strong.

+ K.I.S.S. Keep your mind out of the gutter people. I mean: keep it simple, stupid! Some people don’t want to call or e-mail because they think they need to have at least an hour to have a proper phone conversation or write a three-page e-mail. Not the case. The point is to keep the connection flowing, not add to your to-do list.

Make plans — and commit — to meet. Two words: Girls Weekends. The mere act of planning a get together will assure that you keep your sister from another mister top of mind. Disney trips are great, but nothing replaces the joy of seeing your bestie, and if you’re lucky, your kids and spouses (if they have to come) will enjoy it as well.

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Est. 1996. Still going strong in 2014.

Accept that they will cheat on you. Yes, your best friend may soon find another best friend. She may even drink wine with them at your special time. It hurts, it’s painful, and it sucks. But don’t you want them to be happy?

Unless your bestie’s new friend is like Helen from Bridesmaids, there’s probably enough room in her life for both of you. Change happens, but your friendship doesn’t always have to suffer because of it.

Forgive and forget. Birthdays may be missed, phone calls won’t be returned and plans may get messed up. But take comfort in the fact that you can’t change your history and your friendship will always be there as long as the both of you are willing to cultivate it.

Support like your local. Buy girl scout cookies from your friend’s daughter, support her son’s basketball fundraiser, watch the same shows, share movie reviews, send a recipe. Don’t forget why you were friends in the first place.

And don’t keep score. I think most of my friends will tell you that I do a pretty good job at staying in touch, and I would say that my friends are pretty mediocre at it (just kidding!) But don’t keep a running tally of who calls who more, who sent the last gift, and who travelled where. Life sometimes runs like the tide — times when one friend may have more time for phone calls and times when another has more financial resources to travel. Invest in the friendship in whatever way you can and it will all even out in the end.

Some may think I’m crazy for focusing so much of my time on friends that I rarely see, but I don’t know how to live my life any other way. How do you keep your far-away friendships going strong?

 

 

Celebrating my Independence

It’s Independence Day, which has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love the history, the celebration of our great nation, fireworks and Pinterest-inspired parties.

And today, independence — freedom from the control of others — means a little more to me. Today, I also celebrate my independence, my pursuit of happiness, my destiny. It’s been six months since I decided to leave my public relations clients and focus full-time on becoming a writer. Yes, liking it to our fore fathers may be a bit of a stretch, but for me, it’s very real.

You see, earlier this week I posted a blog about feminism that I was very proud of publishing. It got picked up in a few places and I received some tremendous positive feedback. This was a turning point for me…I decided to tackle something a little more controversial but put my spin on it — and it was working.

But it wasn’t long after that some negative commentary started pouring into the comment sections. One person politely called me a hypocrite, another said I was degrading to women, and yet another said she didn’t want to read anything else that I wrote.

Um, what just happened?

It was only a few negative comments, but it got my heart pumping and my self-doubt rising. As a natural people pleaser, it was hard to think that after my 897 words of carefully scripted type someone didn’t like me. It was hard to remember the positive feedback I received when I knew there were a handful of people out there who thought I sucked.

As I was reading, and re-reading, the commentary, it reminded me why it took me so long to make this leap in the first place.  It was easy when I wrote for other people. In my old job, I wasn’t concerned with what people thought about the piece I wrote about the latest B2B software or the riveting blog post about infrastructure management in the Cloud (raise your hand if you know what data intelligence software is.) Hiding behind someone else’s thoughts was a piece of cake.

But when you put your thoughts out there, your opinions, your heart….well, that’s a different story. I can honestly say that I have serious doubts every time I hit the “publish” button. Every. Single. Time.

So, I began thinking that maybe being independent — my own island of thoughts and ideas — may not be for me. Maybe I just didn’t like being so vulnerable. Life is hard enough, do I really need people criticizing me all the time?

So, luckily, I had the opportunity to step away for a while and get away from my Internet connection and iPhone to gain some perspective. I read a good portion of my past work, and the start of a novel I’m writing and saw all that I accomplished and all the support I had around me. And I realized: deciding you want to be independent — deciding you want to follow your dream — is the easy part. Keeping your independence is much, much harder.

It’s something I think we find as a country as well. Leaving a tyrannical rule was the easy part. Deciding who we want to be when we grow up? Now that takes character.

When I have doubts and see negative comments and hear people telling me my work is crap, that is when I need to remember how much I love being free to write about what I want, what I love. I have to remind myself that although I made the decision to find my independent voice, I have to work every single day to make it heard. And it’s even more important that I do it when times get tough.

So, this Fourth of July I’ll be honoring the brave men and women who have served/are serving in our armed forces, remembering the hard work of men like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and enjoying the recipes of Paula Dean and Bobby Flay, but I’ll also be celebrating the Independence of me. The good, the bad and learning from the people who think I suck.

Because I don’t regret for one second pursuing my independence, my passion, my new life, and I hope to enable other people to do the same. May we all have our own Independence Day, whenever and whatever that may be.

Have a happy and safe 4th friends!

 

Can I Be a Feminist?

I spent the weekend with some beautiful women. They were intelligent (like getting-into-the-best-business-school-in-the-country smart), driven (like being one of only a small group of women in their industry) and engaged (like being a member of the Peace Corps and a senior-level executive in the federal government.) Despite being heavy hitters in their fields, they embraced my lowly but admired profession of a blogger covering the wine-drinking and play date scene.

What I enjoyed the most about the weekend were the thought-provoking discussions. We talked about career management, the difficulties of being a working mom, strengthening our marriages and our ongoing fight against wrinkles.

But despite the fact that these women were all well-educated, successful and confident, they all chose different paths in life. One is a full-time consultant (if you consider full-time 50+ hours a week), another works part-time (25-30 hours a week), and yet another, like myself, had decided to hang up her suits to be a stay at home mom. And despite the differences in our religious beliefs, parenting philosophies and interests, I would call each of us a feminist, and I relished in our thought-provoking and peaceful discussions about women’s issues.

That’s why I have had such a hard time writing a blog post today. My Facebook feed is exploding with the Hobby Lobby aftermath, and although I wanted to write something light-hearted about friendship, the sting of reading what women are saying about other women on social platforms and the media has just made me sad.

I have no interest in writing about my opinion on the Hobby Lobby decision (although I did post my thoughts on a few friend’s threads…..why do I never learn) but I do feel like I need to address the issue of how dangerous I think alienating other women who are fighting for the same cause is.

For example, one person posted this: “By not supporting Justice Ginsburg, you are threatening the reproductive rights of our daughters.”

Another woman on television said: “Christian, stay-at-home moms are so out of touch with reality and are willing participants in their own oppression.”

And my personal favorite: “If you don’t get why today’s ruling sucked, you don’t deserve to be called a feminist.”

Ouch.

This is the sort of banter that I just don’t get — no class, no inclusion, no respect. And don’t think that I didn’t see it is coming from both sides.

Sometimes the very women that are proponents of “feminism” — the ones who proclaim they are for women’s rights — actually only like the women who think like them. Time and time again we try to pigeon-hole ourselves into what a true “feminist” is. If you choose to stay at home with your kids and let a man be the main breadwinner, you can’t be a feminist. If you are pro-life, you are stuck in the stone age. If you are not for affirmative action, you are not for women’s rights.

Stealing from Wikipedia, by definition feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending a state of equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women

If you ask me, this is a pretty broad definition, which is why I don’t understand why “feminists” continue to alienate other women. I for one don’t know any woman that is not for equality.

I believe that the very root of feminism is about choice. Having a choice about education and our professions, having a choice about our reproductive rights, and having a choice as to whether we want to work or stay at home. But when we constantly belittle those women that choose differently, think differently, believe differently, we do nothing for feminism. In fact, we hurt our cause.

Because when we shame women for their personal beliefs, we are no better than the men who we claim are oppressing us.

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I get why people don’t think I am a good feminist. I am a stay at home mom who is currently completely financially reliant on my husband. I am not anti-man, a man-hater or think all men are oppressors, although I like to think I am pro-women (or more importantly, for universal human rights.)  I am pro-choice, although I think abortions have become too common in today’s society. I don’t really believe in equal pay for equal work, but instead believe in equal pay for equal contributions, which I believe gives women a competitive advantage.

What makes me a feminist? I want to make going back to work after having a child easier, so I think we should have increased maternity and paternity time off. I believe we should have huge corporate tax incentives for businesses that offer child care, particularly for gaps or health issues. I believe crimes such as rape and domestic abuse should be prosecuted swiftly, mammograms and pap smears offered widely, and flex time be mandatory when possible.  And yes, I even believe that birth control should be cost-effective and readily accessible.

But most importantly, I want less laws giving women our rights — such as the right to vote or to equal pay, and more people to ensure we have those rights that should have been originally distilled to us by the constitution. I believe in what Susan B. Anthony said many moons ago:

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union…. Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.

I believe women should collectively come together to fight more for what unites us than what divides us.  When issues like the Hobby Lobby ruling come up, we can’t let one judgement sway us from our ultimate goal of equality, and we can’t use it to ostracize those among us who want the same, but believe different things. I am for an educated debate, but I’m over the judgmental name calling.

Because I’m more than just my uterus. And although I like being a feminist, I don’t want to be a bitch.

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