When You Hate Your Sister-In-Law

I just spent several days with my sister-in-law. She ended up at the same beach house as my family. My husband assured me that my SIL and her kids wouldn’t overlap with us, but she insisted she wanted the cousins to play together. So she invited herself down for the last five days of our stay, scored an Airbnb nearby (there was no room in the house), and hung out with her brood.

The problem? My SIL and I hate each other.

We didn’t used to hate each other. In fact, we got along pretty well until she had kids. She’s very smart and very funny. She’s an interesting person. Sort of snobby, and we’d never be super close, but I liked her.

Then some switch flipped. Her parenting decisions stood in sharp contrast to mine. I was the consummate (and in retrospect, fairly annoying) attachment parent. SIL, despite being a SAHM, put her kids in “school” at age 2. She didn’t breastfeed (judging it as “icky”), sleep-trained where we co-slept, never wore her babies (she thought the carseat was good enough), and let them cry it out. I thought she was barbaric. She thought I was a stupid hippie. We’re both very stubborn people.

At some point I can’t determine, we simply stopped speaking to one another. Just … stopped. I don’t recall why. Maybe she made a comment or I made a comment, and it pissed us off, and we just decided we were done. It doesn’t help that she’s my MIL’s clear fave, who she’ll drop all the things for, prior obligations be damned. It doesn’t help that she walks all over her brother, my beloved BIL, either. Doesn’t help that I’ve seen SIL go out of her way to tattle on my BIL and get him in some real trouble with his parents — after her kids were born.

Her kids annoy me and my kids annoy her. I think her son’s a loud, entitled bully. She thinks my kids are homeschooled freaks who lack social skills or will in the future. Our children don’t like each other either.

So we don’t speak. Literally, we don’t speak to each other. We aren’t mean or frosty or nasty. We just pretend that the other doesn’t exist in our worlds.

She walked in the house and we didn’t say hello. We saw each other on the stairs and did not acknowledge one another’s presence. When we left, we did not say goodbye to one another.

For several days, in the same house, we managed not to speak a word to one another. 

Most people would regret this. They’d want to make up with a family member. After all, family discord sucks. You want to get along with the people you see on holidays, if only so you can be on speaking terms. 

But I have no desire to “make up” with my SIL. There’s nothing to reconcile. We have fundamental personality differences, and differences of opinion, that aren’t solvable unless we both sit down, confront the situation, and discuss it. I don’t want to do that. I doubt she wants to do that either, or she would have (or sent a message through the family grapevine that she did). Maybe she would have said hello to me. Some kind of overture, some kind of gesture that said: I want to be your friend.

She didn’t offer it, and neither did I. Because we don’t really want to be friends.

Her friends do the country club thing. My friends, at least the real ones, watch obscure sci-fi shows, write, and let our houses disintegrate around us while our kids do art projects and smash old appliances to see how they work. I hate guns and think we should ban them; my SIL’s husband keeps a ton of them and goes on organized “hunts” where you pick farmed birds out of the sky by the dozen. We both think the other is ridiculous and obnoxious.

My poor husband has to live with this. I feel bad for him. His wife can’t stand his sister, and that’s not an easy position to be in. My BIL and other SIL know I can’t stand her. I think my mother-in-law and father-in-law know too, but like every other emotional issue in the family, they refuse to acknowledge that anything out of the ordinary is happening. In a way, that makes it easier: everyone’s denial of our feelings, at least in polite company, allow us to ignore each other in relative peace.

Which, I think, is all SIL and I really want. At least we have that in common.

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This Is The Ultimate ’90s Nostalgia Playlist

In terms of pop culture, everyone loves the ’90s. Some of our favorite things are products of the ’90s, from shows like Friends, to movies like Clueless, to musicians like Shania Twain. And now, many of the things we love from the decade are making a comeback in a big way.

So, if you want to take a stroll down memory lane in your Steve Madden sandals, may I present to you, the ultimate ’90s playlist for all your nostalgia needs.

Somehow, the songs on this playlist are at least 20 years old. Others are pushing 30. You don’t think you’re old, and then you hear “Buddy Holly” on the classic rock radio station. All of my favorite playlists on Spotify have words like “throwback” in the title. But I refuse to believe that it was almost 25 years ago that I spent hours learning Left-Eye’s rap in “Waterfalls.”

Unlike previous decades, most of the biggest hits from the ’90s aren’t rife with problematic themes and lyrics. Some of them are filled with innuendo that we may not have realized (take a listen to the lyrics of Third Eye Blind’s “Semi Charmed Life” again.) Songs like “Rape Me” by Nirvana are considered insensitive. And Aaliyah’s song “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number” takes on a whole new meaning in light of the R. Kelly documentary. But you can listen to the songs on this playlist with minimal guilt — and maybe drive your kids bonkers in the process.

1. “I Want It That Way,” Backstreet Boys

Whether you like ’90s boy bands or not, you can’t make an ultimate ’90s playlist without including this song. “I Want It That Way” is the lead single from the Backstreet Boys’s second album Millenium. It totally changed the game for boy bands for the rest of the era. You couldn’t escape the song — even your grandma was probably singing “tell me why” just like Nick Carter. To this day, it’s one of the ’90s teen pop songs everyone knows. And if you want to feel really old, know that it was released 20 years ago.

1. “Believe,” Cher

Even though it’s totally mainstream now, Cher’s “Believe” was the first song to use auto-tune. But “Believe” is also a song about rebirth, which Cher knows a thing or two about. Twenty years later, the song is still as iconic as its singer, who is still going. By the time “Believe” came out, Cher’s career had been going for 30 years. But with this track, she became the oldest woman with a number one single on the Billboard charts. And we’re still dancing to it in the club like we were in 1999.

3. “I Will Always Love You,” Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” from the soundtrack to the movie The Bodyguard, is her biggest hit. The song, which many of us will admit to warbling along to in a broken-hearted haze, is actually a Dolly Parton cover. Houston’s version was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 14 weeks and is her best selling single. Actually, it’s the best selling single by a female artist of all time — as of January 2013, it’s sold over 20 million copies worldwide. After Houston’s death in February 2012, the song soared back to the top of the charts.

4. “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana

You can’t have an ultimate ’90s playlist without including “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Nirvana is responsible for bringing the grunge style and alternative music to the mainstream. Kurt Cobain remains an icon and inspiration for the angst of Gen-Xers everywhere. There are few songs that can encapsulate an entire culture in five minutes, but “Smells Like Teen Spirit” does just that. And that is why it’s still popular, 28 years since its release.

5. “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” Ricky Martin

Latin music has been popular in America for decades. But when Ricky Martin released “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” he opened the door for more Latin artists than ever before. Think about it: without Ricky Martin’s success, we wouldn’t have artists like Enrique Iglesias and Marc Anthony. Alongside the frenetic music video, the song is the thing that not only made Martin a household name, but also a sex symbol. To this day, the song is sure to get you up dancing and shaking your booty.

6. “Waterfalls,” TLC

When you’re making an ultimate ’90s playlist, picking just one song by TLC is really hard. It’s a toss-up between “Waterfalls” and “No Scrubs,” but I’m a sucker for early ’90s TLC, so “Waterfalls” it is. While we always remember the chorus, “don’t go chasing waterfalls / please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to,” the song is quite profound. It discusses drugs and it was one of the first songs to explicitly acknowledge AIDS as an epidemic. “Waterfalls” is also one of the most iconic music videos of all time, with the members of the group warping into liquid versions of themselves.

7. “Don’t Speak,” No Doubt

“Don’t Speak” is, without a doubt, one of the best ’90s breakup songs. Gwen Stefani wrote it after the dissolution of her seven-year relationship with bandmate, Tony Kanal. While No Doubt had success prior to this song, this is the one we all associate with the band. “Don’t Speak” catapulted the band into superstardom, making Gwen Stefani a style and pop culture icon.

8. “Vogue,” Madonna

Madonna has always been an icon, but nothing she’s ever done is more iconic than “Vogue.” Inspired by the underground drag ball culture of New York City, the song pays homage to the popular dance style. Prominent members of ball culture feature heavily in the black and white video, directed by David Fincher. During the song, Madonna lists big-name actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood, including James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. While Madonna has released many hits since, “Vogue” will always be her most popular.

9. “Wannabe,” Spice Girls

When “Wannabe” came out, the world was changed. For many of us ’90s girls, the Spice Girls represent something we had never seen before. Five loud, outspoken, unapologetically feminine women who also kicked ass. Just listen to the lyrics of “Wannabe” and see how few fucks they have to give: “if you really bug me, then I’ll say goodbye!” This song belongs on the ultimate ’90s playlist because it’s a girl power anthem, even to this day.

10. “…Baby One More Time,” Britney Spears

As soon as you hear that “dun dun dun,” you know what’s coming. But back in 1998, we did not know that Britney Spears was about to completely blow our teenage minds. Written by Swedish songwriter Max Martin, who is a pop music genius, “…Baby One More Time” was scandalous. The original title “Hit Me Baby One More Time” was changed because record people were worried about domestic violence accusations, but Martin meant “hit me” like “hit me up,” which was a popular phrase. Whatever the meaning, you cannot have an ultimate ’90s playlist without Britney Spears.

11. “Ironic,” Alanis Morissette

Yes, it’s true. Nothing in the song “Ironic” is actually ironic. But that didn’t stop us from screaming out the chorus to Alanis Morissette’s most famous song. Morissette’s album Jagged Little Pill is the soundtrack to many an early ’90s girl’s angst. Every single from that album still bangs, but “Ironic” will always be our favorite karaoke tune.

12. “Baby Got Back,” Sir Mix-A-Lot

“Oh my God Becky look at her butt…” If you hear those words, you know exactly what song is coming next. Sir Mix-A-Lot’s anthem to a full posterior must be on any ultimate ’90s playlist. Many critics at the time found it to be demeaning and overly sexual, but Sir Mix-A-Lot and Amylia Dorsey’s point was to empower women of color, especially black women. Challenging standards of beauty makes this song even more iconic than Sir Mix-A-Lot rapping on a giant pair of butt cheeks.

13. “My Heart Will Go On,” Celine Dion

Titanic is one of the most iconic romantic histories of all time. But even more iconic than Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet having sex in the back of that car is Celine Dion’s love song. “My Heart Will Go On” is Dion’s signature song, no doubt about it. It is arguably the most popular song of 1998, and won a ton of awards, including the Academy Award and several Grammys. Even now, 20 years later, you can’t hear it without singing along to the sweeping climax, even if you’re no Celine Dion.

14. “No Diggity,” Blackstreet

“No Diggity” has to be on the ultimate ’90s playlist because you can’t hear it without wanting to snap your fingers. Plus, the phrase “no diggity” became part of the cultural landscape. Meaning, “yes, absolutely,” often paired with “no doubt.” The song, featuring Dr. Dre and ’90s super producer Teddy Riley, was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In an interview back in 2010, Teddy Riley admitted that none of the other members of the group wanted to record the song, which is why he sings the first verse. Once it became a hit, they all regretted their initial reaction.

15. “Always Be My Baby,” Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey is one of the best selling female artists of the ’90s. And while she has plenty of hits, none stand out quite like “Always Be My Baby.” The sweet song about heartbreak has underscored many wistful singalongs. And if you need more proof of the song’s staying power, it was recently used over the end credits of Always Be My Maybe, a Netflix movie starring Ali Wong. The film’s title is also a play on the song.

16. “The Boy Is Mine,” Brandy & Monica

A go-to karaoke duet for the ages, “The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy and Monica is pretty much mid-’90s teen R&B in a nutshell. Whenever you sing it with your friends, everyone argues over who’s going to be Brandy and who’s going to be Monica. Both singers were at the top of their game, and the video, starring super hottie Mekhi Phifer is iconic. But the best part is when they kick him to the curb!

There you have it — the ultimate ’90s playlist. You’re welcome!

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I Deserve To Take Up Space, And I Make No Apologies

“Black women will always be too loud in a world that never intended on listening to them.” I recently heard this powerful quote, and though I didn’t have the words to describe its significance, it burned itself into my memory. The quote felt like it was created with me in mind and spoke directly to my life experiences.

I’ve spent much of my life trying to be seen and not heard. I didn’t want to make waves because I was afraid of the consequences. Deep down, I knew that some of that was taught to me in an attempt to keep me safe – there aren’t many safe spaces for Black women. Perhaps being quiet decreased the chances that I’d get another target on my back.

The early lessons we teach Black children suggest that they should take up as little space as possible if they want to survive in the world. But that safety comes at a cost. It locks us into a life of mediocracy and tells us the price of following our dreams is too high.

I don’t want to pay that price anymore. And I’ve decided if I need to take up more space to accomplish the life of my dreams, so be it.

It’s been uncomfortable, terrifying, and downright frustrating.

At first, I started small. I mean super small. I’m talking about posting one sentence of a dissenting Facebook post small.

On the surface, posting a Facebook status seems miniscule. But for me it made an impact. I regularly make excuses for why I should not express my opinion. I’m trying to teach myself that my opinions have just as much value as everyone else’s.

From there, my fire grew. I’ve moved from social media updates to blog posts to full-length articles and even a small book. Still, despite Impostor Syndrome yelling loudly in my ears, I’ve kept crawling toward my dreams.

When I feel like giving up, or the toll of occupying that space is too high, I look to my Black foremothers and co-conspirators for encouragement. I’m not the first, nor the last, person to make this uphill trek. I keep my self-grounded with books, poetry, and films of stories like mine who are often left out of mainstream images.

I’ve come to understand that each word I write joins the collection of Black women who have claimed another inch of space reclaimed to share our experiences.

This isn’t only true for Black women. There are a number of people who have been “othered” in our society because they deviate from mainstream images of what it means to be American. We have to learn to center ourselves because there are so many others who are counting on us.

Each time I raise my hand or offer my opinion, I know I’m taking up space in a way my people were never expected to do. There’s beauty in knowing you’re continuing a legacy of resistance simply through living. And I’ll teach my children to be confident as they play their role in the next generation of taking up space. We’ll do this until a Black little mermaid or recasting a historically white superhero as a Black woman doesn’t trigger hateful comments and anti-Black boycotts.

The journey to self-efficacy is long and arduous for Black women. We’ve been forced to work behind the shadow for much of our existence. The world around us has benefited from our labor, both literally and figuratively, for most of America’s most important achievements. But we don’t hear that story often.

And we definitely don’t discuss the individual contributions of people who look like me. So, over the next few years, I’m in pursuit of personal change. I’m going to take risks that I wouldn’t otherwise take. I’m going to make comments that make me anxious about the way they’ll be received.

And I’m going to continue sharing my perspectives, because with all of the uninformed hate in the world today, I know there are millions of Black women who are still searching for their voice and enjoy hearing the perspectives of someone who looks like them — even if they don’t agree with it.

It’s worth noting that taking up that space doesn’t mean I’ll always be right. I see a life full of mistakes ahead of me. But I’m finally understanding that I deserve the freedom to try and fail. In taking up space, I hope to send a message to my children and a number of others from a variety of backgrounds.

I’m far from the first Black woman that has accepted the challenge of taking up space and speaking candidly about their life and experiences. Likewise, I won’t be the last. But I might be the first one to have an impact on a little Black girl’s sense of self, and that’s a worthy enough goal for me.

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What Fat People Want You To Know About Sex And Relationships

I run a private Facebook group where self-described fat people gather to discuss issues relating to life in a fat body. For the last couple of weeks, we have been talking about sex and relationships, and the conversation has been incredible.

We have discussed everything from when we feel our most sexy to our most embarrassing, hilarious sex moments. Many of us have shared our insecurities, and all of us have cheered one another on. We have even read one another’s painful stories of sexual assault.

When I brought up the idea of sharing our dialogue with a wider audience, everyone was fully on board.  When the discussion turns to sex, we often feel left out. Our voices get lost sometimes in the millions of messages about how unacceptable our bodies are.

Television and movies portray our bodies as unappealing and less than ideal. On the internet, we take a lot of hits. Vomit emojis on our photos. DMs about our sexual desirability or lack thereof. It’s not uncommon to see things like “fat bitch” posted under a photo of a fat person just trying to live their life.

In real life, we hear the laughs, and we see the looks of disgust when we walk by. We hear people discussing fatness like fat is the worst thing you can be. We deal with concern trolls pretending they care about our health when they just don’t like the look of us.

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Despite all the criticism and shame we get just for existing in a world designed for thin bodies, fat people are out here living the same lives as everyone else. We are straight, bi, gay, cis, trans, non-binary, asexual and every other possible expression of gender and sexuality. Our bodies and identities are as diverse as the souls they house, and so are our sexual experiences.

We fall in love and have emotionally fulfilling relationships.

We also have amazing sex.

Fat people weighed in on sex and relationships when you live in a fat body. Here is a glimpse of what some of us had to say.

1. We can’t stand all the myths and misconceptions about fat bodies and fat sex.

“The first misconception that comes to mind is that sex with a fat person is less enjoyable than sex with a thin person. Not only is it not true, it’s just one more way people demonize fat bodies and try to take away our value as sexual/romantic partners and our right to (consensually) touch and be touched for pleasure.” — Jocelyn B.

“I think people think that my standards for partners are lower, or that my standards should be lower because I should take whatever I can get.” — Maria S.

“When I was young, I heard some guys I knew joking that fat girls are easy because they are so desperate for attention that they will do almost anything (and anyone.) I think a lot of people carry those juvenile beliefs into adulthood.” — Carla G.

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“We don’t smell. That’s ridiculous and not fat-specific! Any human being with poor hygiene could have an unpleasant odor, and anyone with good hygiene can smell just fine. Fat people are just people, and the same rules apply.” — Kara C.

2. Sex with us is not boring or cumbersome. Like, at all.

“My husband is easily able to move me around in bed. We don’t have to think about how heavy I might be, and we don’t have to make any adjustments to allow for my body. I know he’s never uncomfortable because if he was, he’d just pick me up and move me wherever he wanted me.” — Keira C.

“My partner is otherwise rather reserved, but he recently asked to bring a can of whipped cream into the bedroom. Seeing how thoroughly he enjoyed himself whilst having me for dessert was quite nice!” — Reagan S.

“My wife is genuinely in love with me — all of me. She’s introduced me to sexual experiences I had never tried before. Seeing her excitement because of my excitement is hot.” — Jamie L. S.

3. We have no problem finding partners in person or online.

“About four and a half years ago, I put myself out there on some dating sites. There were plenty of creeps, but there were also some genuinely awesome people. My size never really became an issue. Long story short, I met my partner through an online dating site, and we’ve been together almost 4 years now.” — Sandra W.

“If I were single, I would absolutely be ‘in the game!’ I’ve been fat the entire time I’ve been sexually active, and the longest I’ve gone without sex is probably 6 weeks. I’m sure I’d be on the prowl. I’ve never had any trouble finding sex partners.” — Consuela B.

4. Our partners aren’t exclusively attracted to fat bodies, but they also don’t wish we were thin.

“Some people believe if a fat person is in a relationship with a smaller person, it’s because the smaller person has an undisclosed fetish or exclusive attraction to a fat body, regardless of the person inside. That’s bullshit. Being attracted to us is not outside of the sexual norm. The idea that we wouldn’t be able to tell if our partners have an unhealthy obsession with fat people insinuates that we are constantly being played by people incapable of truly loving us, but we are too dumb or desperate to recognize it.” — Kelli G.

“My husband isn’t exclusively into fat women. He doesn’t care that I’m fat. He doesn’t prefer that I stay fat. My size just never matters at all. And it’s not just me. He rarely includes size in the equation when determining if he thinks a woman is beautiful or sexy. Size isn’t really on his list.” — Kristy G.

“My husband is primarily attracted to plus size women, and I know that. I took him into a plus-size store with me to shop for a dress for my sister’s wedding. He was red-faced and had his head down the whole time. He told me he was worried I’d catch him gawking at another woman. I had a good laugh about that.” — Leanna M.

5. We have all the same sexual experiences as everyone else — including the hilarious and embarrassing parts!

“We literally flipped our bed once. It was hilarious. The mattress just went head over ass!” — Nina R.

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“We both fell asleep naked after sex. I was the little spoon. Out of nowhere, I ripped the BIGGEST FART EVER. I was mortified. OF COURSE, the fat girl is gonna rip one in bed. Ugh.” — Cassie C.

6. Sexual assault doesn’t have a size limit.

I was 18, at a party. I was the biggest girl in my group of friends. He took me into a bathroom, alone. I told him no, but I couldn’t fight him off. He told me that as the fat girl at the party, he was doing me a favor by having sex with me. I wasn’t going to get this kind of attention from the other guys, so just shut up and take it. So, I did. Sexual assault isn’t size exclusive. Thin girls aren’t the only ones targeted by others for this type of abuse. We are all vulnerable to it. And none of us deserve this.” — C.C.

“I had just started dating my first serious boyfriend. He was much older than me. He put his hand under my shirt and bra. I immediately pushed him away. He was stronger than me and persisted, ‘assuring’ me that he was okay with my body. But I wasn’t okay with him touching me under my clothes at all. This was the beginning of many incidents that he initiated and would then convince me were equally my doing.” — S.W.

“I met him at a festival. We texted for a few months, and when he was in my town again, he asked me to come to his hotel. I knew it was a bad idea, but I was also flattered that a man wanted my fat body. I felt as though I owed it to him to show up. So, I did. Suddenly, we were kissing, and he was naked and taking off my clothes. I was paralyzed with fear and didn’t know what to do. I kept saying it was too fast, and I didn’t think we should do this, but he just kept going. It wasn’t until the last few years that I realized that what happened was NOT my fault, that it wasn’t consensual, and it was wrong.” — M.H.

After asking everyone to make one statement about sex in a fat body, this sums it up…

“My fat body isn’t hard to handle, here for you to fetishize, or begging for your attention or approval. I am worthy of respect, dignity, and love at all times; my body is too good for anyone who thinks less of it because of its size; and because I finally have that confidence, sex is more fulfilling, joyful, passionate, fun, and relaxing now than it ever was when I was thin.” — Jacqueline B.

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Why It’s So Hard To Leave A Toxic Or Abusive Relationship

Recently I have been talking to a friend who has been dealing with an abuser for the better part of a decade. Even though they are no longer together, he still abuses her and toys with her. The advice people give her all the time is to just get a restraining order or call the police, but she doesn’t. So why is this? People who haven’t lived it really don’t understand. To them, it all seems cut and dry. To someone on the outside, it seems simple: Go get a restraining order and everything will be fine. When the victim doesn’t do these things the people around them are confused and even upset. Which further isolates the victim and actually gives the abuser even more power.

All the time we hear stories of people who have been sexually assaulted as children and don’t report it for years or we hear about the woman who lived with an abusive partner and ends up dead. So a question we can ask is WHY?! Why is is so hard for a victim of abuse to come forward and break away? As a recovering victim of domestic abuse, I have come up with a few things that I think really held me back from escaping that hell sooner.

1. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a term psychologist use to refer to a technique abusers utilize to make their victims question their own sanity. This is the number one preferred method used by a**holes everywhere to keep their victims under their thumb. It sounds like:

“That’s not what I said.”

“You are being dramatic.”

“You’re the one abusing me.”

“If you didn’t say that/do that/wear that/etc., then I wouldn’t go off.”

“You are the one pushing buttons.”

2. Fear and Shame

Fear and shame are powerful motivators. When you are trapped in abuse, fear comes at you from all sides. Your abuser creates fear in many ways. For me, it was a combination of physical intimidation and a fear that I couldn’t live without him. Abusers will tear down their partners by telling them that they are worthless and can’t make it on their own. Then there’s a shame we feel when we think about talking about it openly. We become conditioned to believe that no one will believe us or support us. We believe that we will be blamed because we are gaslighted into believing it really is our fault.

3. In isolation, all you hear are the lies. 

For me, I was regularly told that no one would want me because I had already been married twice and failed. I was told that people would shame me for getting divorced again. So, I began to buy into the lie that this was all I deserved. Abusers are absolute pros at finding a victim’s insecurities and exploiting it to remain in control.

4. The devil is charming. 

Just like Satan himself, abusers can be charming, sweet, and alluring. This is how they attract a victim to begin with. They know how to make a person feel beautiful, wanted and safe. After the abuse begins and a victim threatens to leave or does leave, the charm comes out. They will cry and become a repentant sinner. Suddenly, the victim becomes the best thing that’s ever happened to them and they will do anything for them.

My ex started making wild romantic gestures, like sending flowers and pizza (my fave), and he even attempted an over-the-top proposal redo. Luckily, I was strong enough to see where all that would end down the road but many don’t. I left and was lured back in by empty promises and apologies many times.

5. No way out.

Leaving an abuser is not as easy as getting a restraining order, especially if there’s a child involved. Yes, there are shelters, but that only addresses an immediate physical threat and shelters are not always easy to get into. There are few in the suburbs where so much abuse takes place in silence. Shelters also don’t address the problem of severe emotional abuse, which can be just as difficult to escape.

I had to walk away with no money because he controlled all of it. I was able to get him out of my home but I struggled to financially support myself in it. It takes months to get court orders for child support and settle a divorce case. Many victims, especially those with children,  stay because they have no long-term place to go and no means to afford basic needs or legal help. Escaping a situation where you have little to no access to money and have to do it secretly with your children intact is a huge undertaking. It took me months of planning and I barely made it out.

There are many more reasons that I’m sure other can add but these were the biggest hurdles for me. So the question now is, “How can I help?” Here’s a few practical ways you can help your friend or family member that is going through this:

1. Say something.

I was abused for four years before I told anyone about it. Every person I told said the same thing: “I can’t say I’m surprised.” SERIOUSLY, why didn’t anyone try to help me?! It’s because no one talks about this. One in four women are abused at some point in their life. That means that you probably know someone right now who is living this hell. Don’t wait for that person to come crying to you because they might be dead before it happens. Look them in the eye and start a conversation. Tell them you care and that they are not alone. They might rebuff you or pretend that it isn’t happening as many will but keep letting them know that you are a safe place.

2. Wait and be present.

It takes a while for some victims to decide they want to break free. The more positive support they feel, the more light they have in their lives, the more it exposes the darkness of abuse. Keep reaching out. Keep talking. Don’t allow yourself to give too much advice or get frustrated when they stay where they are. Understand the struggle and build trust.

3. Really be prepared to be there for a long haul.

When the time comes that your friend wants to leave, be ready with resources. They will need a place to stay, money, counseling and support to get on their feet. Locate as many local resources as you can, ask your church for help and be prepared to fill some gaps. It may stretch you but it is a chance to save someone’s life. You’ll be surprised how many people will step up and help a victim if asked. I was overwhelmed by the ways people, some of them strangers, reached out to help me but it’s hard for a victim to ask. Be their advocate.

4. Be ready for disappointment.

It is very common for victims to be lured back in by abusers and return to the relationship. I left five times before it stuck. Each time he laid on the charm and promised to change. He even did counseling for a minute. Each time, the “change” was short-lived. Your friend may bounce back into the relationship. If this happens, don’t abandon them. Repeat the steps. Don’t give up on them. When you do, the abuser wins and their grip becomes even tighter.

The post Why It’s So Hard To Leave A Toxic Or Abusive Relationship appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Holy Sheet! 42K+ Reviewers On Amazon LOVE These Bed Sheets!

It’s been a while since we were actively looking to impress visitors with our bedroom decor and truth be told, at this point in our lives, shopping for bedsheets happens way less frequently than it should. (#holeysheetbatman) Finding quality sheets at a good price point is super difficult — do you settle on softness or mortgage your house to pay for a high-thread count that feels as good as it looks?

Consider these Mellanni Bed Sheets the unicorn you’ve been searching for. But don’t take our word for it. 42K+ positive reviewers on Amazon are getting the sleep of their lives on these brushed microfiber sheets that feel luxurious but are available for a fraction of what you’d expect!

Mellanni Bed Sheet Set 

$24.70 AT AMAZON

Recent reviews on Amazon:

“I put these suckers on my bed for the TRUE test of any sheet, and oh my… they are fantastic! They are soft. It’s like coming home after a long, yucky day at work, and all you want is to crawl your sorry self into bed for the night, and your sheets GIVE YOU A HUG all through the night. But they are breathable, so you aren’t sweating like crazy. Ah-May-Zing!”

“I’ve been using these sheets for a few weeks now and I can absolutely say that they are my favorite sheets ever. I don’t know what unicorn this fabric was harvested from, but it’s so incredibly soft.”

“These sheets are resistant to wrinkling, lightweight yet durable, and wash beautifully. My oldest set is about 2 years old and has been washed countless times, and still looks great. No pilling, no snags or threadbare areas, no color fading.”

“I have become a microfiber sheet fan (if there is such a thing). The combination of low price, decent quality, and increasing softness justifies the praise these…microfiber sheet sets are receiving.”

Our mom experts only recommend picks they really love. We may earn a commission on purchases made through links from our site, but if we love it, we know you’ll love it. And we Scary Mommies gotta stick together.

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Despite What Teens Think, Vaping Is Not Safe

Who among us didn’t do their share of risky behaviors on the path to adulthood? I know I did. Some of those decisions were made with full awareness of the potential consequences and risks. Others were only obvious after I reflected on my life and decisions. The trends have changed, but the risks haven’t. And one of the latest trends and risks seems to be vaping. As it turns out, kids need to put down that vape. It’s not harmless. Not at all.

According to The Center on Addiction,“Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.”

Just because someone doesn’t inhale tobacco smoke, that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. The cloud of aerosol produced with vaping has tons of chemical-filled microscopic particles that have been linked to a number of conditions including cancer, respiratory issues, and heart disease.

The Center on Addiction also states that the components that make up vapes and most e-cigs are super dangerous: “The e-liquid in vaporizer products usually contains a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin-based liquid with nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals and metals, but not tobacco. Some people use these devices to vape THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s mind-altering effects, or even synthetic drugs like flakka, instead of nicotine.”

Nery Zarate/Unsplash

Though some experts still believe they are easier to deal with than traditional cigarettes, we must remind our children that “less harmful” isn’t the same as harm-free. Nicotine is not only addictive — it increases your heart rate which causes a larger risk of suffering a heart attack.

Tales of vaping are on the rise, and many kids are unaware of the risks. Some of the stories are particularly harrowing, like the eight Wisconsin teens who were recently hospitalized for extreme coughing, shortness of breath, weight loss and a number of other symptoms that was later believed to be a consequence of vaping.

As a parent, that has to be one of my biggest fears. I can only imagine what it’s like to know someone so young will be dealing with lung damage for the rest of their life — especially if I had no idea they were doing it.

But these days, the chances are a lot more likely. It’s no big deal to see kids with vapes, containing anything from marijuana to nicotine, smoking on the streets and even in school.

In 2016, the Surgeon General released the report “E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General,” and said the following: “E-cigarette use among U.S. youth and young adults is now a major public health concern. E-cigarette use has increased considerably in recent years, growing an astounding 900% among high school students from 2011 to 2015.”

There’s a lot we don’t know about vaping. But we know children are starting at progressively younger ages and if we want to make sure our teens are protected from a wide range of short- and long-term consequences, we’ve got to start having tough conversations.

As parents, we might think we know our children. Still, there is always an area of their lives that isn’t known to us. One of the first steps to making sure our children are protected from the potential consequences of vaping and e-cigarettes is to find out if they or anyone in their peer group is using them.

Tnarg/Pexels

Then it becomes a lot easier to direct the conversation. Even if the answer is “no,” making sure they have a thorough understanding of the basics, how they’re made, why people may be interested in them, and what risk come along with any potential benefits is a useful flow of conversation.

Our children need to know that we trust them and believe they are responsible enough to make reasonable decisions. So, after talking with them about all the vape-related topics that they are willing to sit still for, the most important part is this: Remind your children that you love them and make sure they feel comfortable enough to come to you when something happens. That way, if they do decide to vape and something goes wrong, they know that they can always come to you for help.

If your child isn’t vaping, great! These conversations are still important. If it turns out that your child is vaping, and they decide that they want to quit, understand that the process can be challenging and they’ll need support. You can expect headaches, emotional frustration/crankiness, and issues concentrating and sleeping. It’s an addiction and fighting addiction is hard.

Should your child not be interested in quitting, reiterate the potential risks with love. Also, use this as an opportunity to know what materials they are using.

Of course, we don’t want our children to use vapes and e-cigs but they are becoming increasingly common. It’s better for us to be prepared for the realities that could happen and have hard conversations and be prepared.

The Center on Addiction has the following for further info on the topic:

What is Vaping?

What Parents Should Know About the Different Vaping Devices

What Parents Should Know About E-Cigarettes

The post Despite What Teens Think, Vaping Is Not Safe appeared first on Scary Mommy.

When A Compliment Is Actually A Disguising Insult

If you are not in the mood for a fiesty rant, I suggest you keep scrolling.

If that sounds like it might be your jam, then buckle up, because we are about to delve into the proper way to compliment a woman. And how very sad that this even needs to be said in the year 2019. And by the way, I’m talking to both men and women, so no gender is without fault here.

Some background on this topic:

I am a 34-year-old working mom of two great kiddos, ages four and one. Despite living on the surface of the sun, otherwise known as South Florida, I like to run marathons in the small amount of spare time I have left. And like most moms, working or not, the self-care struggle is real. I just can’t seem to make time to do it all.

Last month, on my high holy holiday, Amazon Prime Day, I purchased a heated brush for straightening hair. Now since it’s always hot and humid AF where I live and I have the devil’s curly hair, I straighten my hair only a few times a year. Mostly because it costs a lot to get done professionally and it takes a long time to do myself. If I have a spare moment, I’d honestly rather be running or reading.

So the other day I try out the brush and straighten my very long hair. It looked glorious. I was feeling like Beyoncé for about two days. But then I wanted to run and so that required a hair wash and pretty soon I was no longer Becky with the good hair.

While running, I began reflecting on how many people had given me backhanded compliments about the hair. FOUR this time:

“No offense you look so much younger with your hair straight.”

“Why don’t you straighten it all the time?”

“Wow, I didn’t even recognize you.”

“You should really take time for you more.”

I wanted to tell these people to mind their own business. I wanted to explain that one and a half hours just for hairstyling is unrealistic for a mom of two kids under five. I wanted to mention that I’d rather have rock hard leg muscles than pin straight hair. I wanted to tell them they insulted me. Instead, I said nothing for fear of being rude.

Upon reflection, I became more angry. I realized this always happens when I straighten it. In fact, I was one of the only kids with curly hair in my elementary class and I was bullied for it. I often felt pressure when I was younger for smoother hair so I could fit in more. So I have spent a damn lifetime being shamed because I don’t wear my hair a more socially acceptable way. Fast forward to now, and I am super comfortable with my curly hair and I don’t care what people think of it. I love it.

What I do care about is that I have a daughter who is one and a half years old and also has the devil’s curly hair. It may be unrealistic, but I want to nurture her self-esteem and confidence in this harsh world. It seems that women are more subject to these shitty opinions from both genders. I don’t want my daughter to take 20-30 years to be comfortable with her hair style options or her self image in general.

And the wild thing is that hair is only one small part of a bigger problem. It’s an appearance issue. Women, how many times have people asked you if you are sick or depressed because you don’t have makeup on your face? This is a definite thing and I have spoken to many others with the same experience. People also tend to get very opinionated about telling women to dress in a certain way (i.e. “You look so much better when you do not wear so much black,” or more color, less patterns, more skin.) You get the idea! And don’t even get me started on that crap where women are told to smile more. The list goes on and on. Why do people keep saying such shitty things to women? Why aren’t women building each other up instead of tearing each other down? Because it’s socially acceptable to disguise an insult as a compliment?

This. Is. Not. Okay.

So just some general guidelines to remember when speaking to each other about appearances:

If you want to compliment someone, do just that. Say they look nice. Tell them they look like a rockstar, or Beyonce, or anything KIND. But please do NOT:

– Ask them to look a certain way more frequently.

– Tell them how much better they look as opposed to the regular hot mess they are.

– Instruct them to do anything related to their appearance. (It is just not your right to do so!)

– Finally, if you’re not sure if it’s rude, don’t say it!

Let’s practice these rules ourselves. Let’s teach them to our kids. Keep compliments kind, with no judgments on the side! Surround yourself and your family with people who do this and maybe our kids will have to deal with less BS than we did. The reality is that we cannot keep teaching our daughters to break through glass ceilings while also quietly accepting rude judgements about their appearance.

Now excuse me while I proudly take my Mufasa style mane out for a run.

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This Is What True Friendship Means

I’ve come to the point in life where if I can’t pee on the phone with a friend, and tell them I am peeing while I am on the phone with them, it’s just not going to workout between us.

Let’s face it, what makes a true friend during adulthood is being able to show them all the parts of yourself — the shitty, the vulnerable, the angry, and the side of you that makes epic mistakes, without feeling like it’s a competition, or being fearful they are going to take you down behind your back.

There’s nothing like becoming a parent, or blossoming into mid-life, that allows you to see and feel what true friendship actually is and is not. The years and experiences we carry with us truly are the best friend-filters we could ask for.

We’ve all had the narcissistic friend, the one who only takes, the fake friend, the friend who would pass us up for someone or something better in an instant. We know it leaves us feeling less-than and digs up shit from the fifth grade.

And we’ve all had the experience of having at least one friend who is our ride or die, the one who always knows when to show up, the one who understands months might go by without any communication between us, and it doesn’t have an affect on our friendship whatsoever.

True friendship is walking into someone house without knocking and opening up the fridge to help yourself to their food. They expect nothing less from you, and you know they will do the same the next time they come to your place. Also, they aren’t afraid to say, “Don’t touch that last piece of chocolate pie, bitch. It’s mine.”

True friendship is knowing you can verbally vomit on someone, and the trail of venting, or gossip, or mindless rambling is safe with them. It’s also knowing they aren’t going to let you get away with selling yourself short, or treat yourself like a dickhole.

True friendship is letting each other know when you are acting like an asshole.

It’s also making sure your person is living up to their potential, and not just spewing artificial sweeteners up their ass and comforting them because it’s what they want to hear. A true friend will say things like, “Listen, he just doesn’t like you enough so stop thinking his low-value text messages mean anything” and “You bring this stress on yourself because you don’t know how to say no and until you do, the same thing is going to keep happening.” Then they follow it by, “I say this all out of love. Now how can I support you through this?”

Because a true friend knows they could stay in the smooth lane and keep sweeping things under the rug, your rug, and treating you like a victim who has no control over your life as they coddle you deeper into your mess by not calling you out on your bullshit. But they also know, it won’t be long before you will trip over that rug, and true friends don’t want you to fall on your face.

True friendship is when you can remove your bra mid-convo without missing a beat in the conversation and they aren’t phased at all by your postpartum boobs.

True friendship is when you can count on them to help you out and they show up sans explanation, or expecting you to pay them back. They also understand if you can’t help them at that very second and know it has nothing to do with them.

True friendship is when you know when to listen to them–that’s it. You listen without chiming in, without trying to solve their problem, without telling them about a similar experience you’ve had until they’ve asked for advice. Sometimes people just need to let it all out, and good friends have a way of sensing when their job is to simply be there.

True friendship is a secret code of sorts. You can curate a secret language of your own, you start to feel when they need you even if they haven’t asked for help by the tone of their voice, their silence, or by one glance across the room that says, “Okay, it’s time to go, please get me the hell out of here.”

The real deal ebbs and flows throughout the years yet never makes us uncomfortable. We know true friendship may change but never ends. You know this when you are bent over laughing trying to hold in the pee. And you still know it when you hurt each other’s feelings, and are able to move past the hurt.

But more than anything, true friendship has so much value because of its rare beauty and strength. It’s the kind of relationship that boosts your self-worth and helps you put a stop to things that aren’t good for you because you know there is someone really important who will have your back.

That is true friendship.

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When I Learned My Daughter Was Sexually Harassed At Work

As a professional woman in the corporate world for the last 20 years, I’ve experienced plenty of #MeToo moments.

As a 17-year-old high school senior, I worked in the shoe department at a large department store. While all of us working rushed around one Saturday morning, an older male manager used a ticket gun to place a pricing sticker on my butt. I brushed it off as good fun.

As a 28-year-old communications director, I attended my corporation’s Christmas party. The president of the company stood next to me at a high-top table. I had a wall on my right. On my left, his body pressed tightly against mine from thigh to shoulder. Thankfully, one of the other women at the table MOVED the table so I could escape. I rationalized that he had too much to drink, and it was a complement such a powerful man hit on me. (So sad — I know!)

The list goes on…as a 33-year-old, I started a new job at another Fortune 500 company. The first day on the job, the Vice President gave me a giant slobbery kiss on the check with a warm hug. I thought about what a great leader he was for being so welcoming. (Gross!)

Last week, when my daughter was the receiver of repeated, unwanted physical contact at her job, I took notice, but I didn’t know what to do. I went to trusty Google to search for “my child is sexually harassed at work,” “teenager sexual harassment,” and other similar terms. I was disappointed to find very few resources.

As I stumbled through this new parenting situation, I found it helpful to:

1. Help define and understand what sexual harassment is.

Harassment is not about flirting, not about having fun, not about being welcoming. It is a show of dominance over another person.  It is about taking another person’s power away.

2. Reassure them they are not to blame.

My daughter feared she did something to provoke the behavior. I assured her she did nothing wrong. Her shorts were not too short. Her lipstick was not too pink. The people to blame in her situation were the perpetrator and the manager who failed to stop it, even while witnessing it.

3. Empower them to stand up for themselves, without fear of reprisal.

My daughter was afraid she would be fired if she reported the situation and feared being yelled at by her manager. Yes, she could have gotten fired or yelled at, but she didn’t.

4. Be ready to step in.

My daughter is 14. While I wanted to empower her to stand up for herself, I ultimately decided that it was my parental duty to step in. More than that, surely my daughter was not this guy’s only target. We had a responsibility to speak up.

5. Allow them to leave the situation.

After I talked to the main director about my daughter’s experience, my daughter was hysterical and afraid to return to work the next day. While I have always encouraged her to be responsible and fulfill her commitments, I fully agreed with her that she could call in sick the next day.

6. Plan a safe re-entry strategy.

I worried that my daughter would not want to have a job after this experience. Luckily for her, she was scheduled to move to a different department the following week. She received reassuring phone calls and emails from her direct supervisor and others. She returned happily the next week to a fresh start.

With no clear road map, I was transparent with my daughter — I didn’t know the right thing to do. I had doubts that I was over-reacting, that I was making it worse for my daughter. Now with this experience in the rear-view mirror, I think I did OK. My hope is that the next generation of would-be harassers will be stopped sooner than later. That the next generation of would-be victims will own their power and clearly say “No more. Not today.”

 

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook pageis here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

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