My Body Isn’t An Ornament — It’s An Instrument

Stretch marks, loose skin, fat, saggy breasts. That may be all you see. But I see so much more.

My body has grown and birthed my three precious children, my body has cared for them every single day of their lives, my body has endured the devastating grief of child loss, my body has experienced immense physical trauma. My body has overcome.

When I look at my body, I see the love of a mother, incredible strength and sheer determination.

My Body Isn't An Ornament — It's An Instrument
Courtesy of Zia Robinson

Before I had my first child, I struggled with body dysmorphia and disordered eating that started when I was a young teenager.

I still remember the overwhelming feeling of love and pride the day my son Mikey was born. As I laid my tired eyes on his sweet face, I realized that not only was my child just born, but I was too.

He was now my everything, my purpose, the love of my life … and MY body brought him earthside.

The way I saw myself completely changed. I realized that my body isn’t an ornament, it is an instrument. That might sound like a silly realization but after being conditioned by society for so long, I truly did not know my body was that powerful.

My body did everything it was designed to do to bring my child into this world. My body that I had tried to shrink and punish for years to conform to society’s standard of beauty was made for so much more than I could have ever fathomed. My body now told the story of the best thing that ever happened to me.

My Body Isn't An Ornament — It's An Instrument
Courtesy of Zia Robinson

My kids are now 3 and 1. When we’re at home I’m usually in my underwear. There’s nothing for me to be ashamed of. I’m happy to say that they have never heard me say a single negative word about my body or anyone else’s.

It’s so important to me that my kids see me accept and love myself exactly as I am, because in doing so, I give them the permission to do the same for themselves.

And the beautiful reality is; my kids don’t care about my rolls, stretchmarks and loose skin. They care about whether I’m jumping in the water with them at the beach, cuddling them before they fall asleep, remembering their favorite juice at the grocery store and letting them mix the pancake batter. They just want to be with me.

My body nurtures them, nourishes them, bathes them, wipes their tears and snot, lifts them into the air like superheroes, and shows them all the love I have for them in my heart and soul.

My body is their home. It’s my home.


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When You Say Rude Sh*t About Celebrities, You Hurt Regular People

When you say rude shit about celebrities, you hurt regular people in your actual life.

“God-willing, COVID will kill them both. Chris Christie is a fat ass and the president is morbidly obese, too.”

“In last night’s debate, Sleepy Joe [Biden] proved once again that he’s losing his mind. Mush mouth.”

“I’m glad [Chrissy Teigen’s] baby died because she’s a pedophile who didn’t deserve him. I feel bad for the ones who lived.”

“Oh my god. So that’s why [Billie Eilish] always wears those baggy clothes! To cover her saggy tits!”

“[Chrissy Metz] has a new boyfriend? He’s either with her for the money or has a fat fetish. There is no way he actually loves her.”

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

What is wrong with some of you?

I took every single one of these comments from various social media posts from the last few weeks. (I didn’t screenshot to protect the not-so-innocent. You’re welcome, perpetrators.)

Whether we are discussing huge national news stories like Trump’s COVID diagnosis or small pop culture blurbs like Billie Eilish’s tank top, the internet has been ablaze with a billion opinions, as it always is.

Maybe 2020 has just depleted my patience for hateful, hideous bullshit. I am not sure why I can’t scroll by without getting all prickly and angry, but I can’t anymore. I have lost my ability to keep my mouth shut when I see people choosing to be the absolute worst.

Did none of you people attend an elementary school guidance class? Didn’t an earnest, soft-spoken woman in a sensible sweater ever sit in a chair while you sat on a carpet square on the floor and explain that when you have a disagreement you should “attack the problem, not the person?”

I understand that the internet feels like a safe place to be an asshole without actually directly insulting the public figure you’re choosing to denigrate that day, but it’s really, really not.

Because maybe you’re not going to hurt Chris Christie or Donald Trump when you rip them to shreds for being fat.

But you know who you might hurt?

Me. Or fat people like me.

I have no love for our President or his associates, but the size of their bodies is not what makes them despicable. There are plenty of legitimate things about Trump’s choices that make him a fair target for scrutiny and distaste. His weight isn’t one of them.

When you say cruel things about prominent fat people you don’t like and assert that they deserve to die, try to remember that the rest of us fat people can see you. God forbid the fat people you know get this virus — your words will be bouncing around in our brains, too, knowing that you won’t think it’s a tragedy if it kills us. That sucks.

I am also getting really mother effing tired of people talking about the way Joe Biden speaks. At this point, everyone knows that his manner of speaking is the result of overcoming a stutter. A speech fluency disorder. You’re literally choosing to degrade a person for overcoming.

You know who else speaks slowly because he’s working to overcome a speech disorder?

My son. He might always speak at a slow pace with an unusual tone. If he goes on to run for President, would you call him names and discredit him, ignoring the lifetime of hard work he has put in to make that possible?

Because moms like me see you making fun of Joe Biden when his words run together a bit, or when he pauses to choose a different word. We see you laughing, mocking him, calling his mind into question simply on the basis of his manner of speaking.

Then we look at our hard-working babies who speak a little differently than most people, and we know that you’d think and say the exact same things about them. And it hurts real people.

The older adults in your life see you, too — and in case you were wondering, ageism isn’t a good look.

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We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we’ve never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn’t enough. . . We never decide on our babies’ names until the last possible moment after they’re born, just before we leave the hospital.  But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack.  So he will always be Jack to us.  Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever. . . To our Jack – I’m so sorry that the first few moments of your life were met with so many complications, that we couldn’t give you the home you needed to survive.  We will always love you. . . Thank you to everyone who has been sending us positive energy, thoughts and prayers.  We feel all of your love and truly appreciate you. . . We are so grateful for the life we have, for our wonderful babies Luna and Miles, for all the amazing things we’ve been able to experience.  But everyday can’t be full of sunshine.  On this darkest of days, we will grieve, we will cry our eyes out. But we will hug and love each other harder and get through it.

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It’s not just politicians.

When you say Chrissy Teigen and John Legend deserved to lose their baby because you’ve bought into some kind of coo-coo bananas conspiracy theory, other parents of lost children can see you reveling in their deepest pain.

When you say rude things about Billie Eilish’s body…well, first of all, you look like a damn creep. She’s been 18 for like 15 minutes. Can you let her walk through the door of adulthood before you start deciding that her body isn’t good enough? But secondly, all you are really doing is making a young woman in your life look at her totally acceptable, typical, beautiful body and wonder if you’re judging her, too.

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say it twice

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When you call Chrissy Metz’s relationship into question because of her dress size, you hurt fat people like me whose spouses are thin.

I could go on all day. All fucking day. People do this constantly. There is an unending supply of nasty comments online, and nobody is safe.

When you say rude, ugly shit about celebrities, you almost certainly won’t hurt the celebrity.

(Although, it should be noted that celebrites are REAL PEOPLE, so your desire to be unrelentingly cruel to them is bizarre and says a shit-ton about your character or lack thereof…)

I highly doubt Donald Trump or Chrissy Teigen or Billie Eilish or anyone else of note is checking Facebook to see what Jenn from Cincinnati or Josh from Kansas City thinks about their bodies or their lives.

But all the regular people you know are looking. Your words matter, and when you choose to be the literal worst, you hurt people. That’s a fact. There’s no reason to argue about it or defend your “right” to be gross.

Sure, you CAN do it, but why the fuck would you want to? That’s the free speech wagon you want to hitch your horse to? Don’t you want to be better and hurt fewer people?

Saying less rude, obnoxious shit out loud or online is one really simple place to start.

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How The Pandemic Is Increasing The Risk Of Adolescent Eating Disorders

Since March, my children have gone through a number of different emotional states. There was excitement that school was closed, and then there was boredom once they discovered what that actually looked like. Then they went through these horrible spells of loneliness, and finally, they all seem to have kind of accepted their new normal. Or at least, I think they have.

It’s difficult to tell exactly how 2020 will impact my kids long term. It has been a year unlike any other, and every time I think it’s getting better, some other bonkers thing comes rolling along. But one thing I know for sure — all of this, the schools closed, the pandemic, racial and political tensions — have caused my 13-year-old son to eat more. Like a lot more. Like, it feels like he eats 800 meals a day, and it’s destroying our food budget, and has me worried about how much of this is hunger, and how much of it is just him trying to gain control of what feels like an out of control life.

As it turns out, I am not the only parent with this concern. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a study earlier this year showing the impacts of COVID-19 on people’s mental and behavioral health. Their study was focused on young children, but they saw a pattern among adolescents. Additional research showed that teenagers reported an increase in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, all associated with eating disorders.

Board-certified adolescent medicine specialist Hina J. Talib, M.D., told The Science Times that teenagers are experiencing a flare of previously known mental health issues, but also new ones. She described the phenomenon as the second-wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and said that the reasons include loneliness and isolation as a result of quarantine measures. Talib added that this back-to-school season created anticipatory anxiety among teenagers and families, which could lead to eating disorders, and frankly, parents should be on the lookout for signs.

With the case of my son, I’ve noticed that he’s eating a lot. Way more than he did pre-pandemic. It could be a simple growth spurt, or it could be his mental health, and figuring that out can be difficult. If your child is suddenly, eating way more, or way less than they used to during the pandemic, there are a few things to look out for.

Anna M. Lutz, MPH, RD, LDN, says that eating disorders are often triggered in an attempt to gain control of a situation. And right now everything seems out of control. According to Lutz, some behaviors to keep an eye on are eating in secret, eating separately from the rest of the family, becoming fixated on exercise and refusing to stop even after being injured, leaving large amounts of food uneaten, self-isolating, and dramatic weight loss or gain.

Dr. Talib mentioned that parents should take notice if their teens say things like, “I am so fat,” “If I gain weight, I will be disgusting,” or “My stomach is huge.” All of those statements should be red flags to parents, and that parents should talk to the child first, explaining that there have been noticing behavioral changes and it’s concerning.

I know, chatting with a teenager about really anything can be dangerous territory; there are times that I’m nervous to tell my son “good morning.” But the goal here is to be a support to your children. It’s important to listen, and observe, so that you can offer parental help, along with professional help if needed. One of the best things any parent can do when it comes to the mental health of their children is to find a way to help early, particularly now.

Most therapists are still meeting with clients online, and most insurance agencies are supportive of online meetings.  And I don’t want to state the obvious, but each month of 2020 something crazy has happened. It’s been difficult to predict, and it’s hard to know what’s going to happen next. Helping your teen find a way to handle that uncertainty in a healthy way might be one of the most important things you can do right now.

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GTFO With Your Fat-Shaming Bullsh*t

I’ll be 36 years old next month, and I am done taking shit. Effective immediately, I am no longer making time for people who are committed to fat-shaming. Do you default to fat jokes when you want to playfully rib your friends? You’re not for me. Maybe you make disparaging remarks about fat people in general, but never to any specific person’s face. You’re out.

Do you act like being fat would be a fate worse than death, even though a fat person is sitting right near you? You are the weakest link. Goodbye! (I know you just read that in Anne Robinson’s British accent…)

All of these behaviors suck.

For my own peace, I’m instituting a zero tolerance policy for fat-shaming bullshit in my life.

I have cut people off for being ableist pieces of shit about my son’s autism.

I don’t make space or time for people who don’t support my father in his marriage to his husband.

When the police murdered George Floyd, I ended several casual relationships with people who showed their true, racist colors.

If I can draw hard lines about ableism, racism, and homophobia, I can do the same thing for fat-shaming.

By now, I am sure you’ve gathered that I am a plus-size woman. I always have been. I’m not the type of plus-size you can hide with a baggy sweater. I’m fat. The kind nobody puts on a pedestal. I’ve made peace with my body, and I don’t let it hold me back.

I am fat, and that’s just something you need to know moving forward.

Last fall, I was incredibly pregnant with our third child. My husband and I were attending an engagement party for someone he works with. We were standing in the kitchen, sipping on iced tea, attempting to make conversation, when one of my husband’s co-workers struck up a conversation about some food I had made for their last potluck. I thought he was going to say something nice (since, ya know, he brought it up out of nowhere.) Instead he loudly declared that he was going to ban me from sending food to the office because “you’re going to make everyone fat.” He chuckled, and added some kind of joke about how fat he’d be if he lived at our house.

Here’s where some people will try to say he wasn’t fat-shaming, and explain that what he was trying to say is that the food I prepared was so delicious, nobody can control their portions when I bring it in. He was demonstrating his own lack of self-control around yummy foods.

Yeah. No kidding. Got it. I’m fat, not stupid.

What he actually said out loud with his adult mouth was, “You’re going to make everyone fat.” To a fat person. In front of twenty-five other people.

The joke was only “funny” because it reinforced the point that fat is not something anyone should want to be.

Don’t even get me started about how it reduced body size to diet without considering any other factors.

Normally, I would have calmly asked him to reconsider making jokes like that to fat people in the future. But this man is senior to my husband, and we were in a room full of his colleagues, so I bit my tongue.

The whole thing annoyed the shit out of me, but I dismissed it as a one-off. Maybe he was so tickled by his weird attempt at a compliment that he really didn’t see how inappropriate it was. I’m willing to give just about anyone a second chance.

Fast forward to just a couple months ago. My husband—who is not fat and never has been fat—is a little thicker through the midsection than he usually is. COVID has made going to a gym a bad choice, so he hasn’t been as active. The result is that he weighs a little more than he did before.

This same damn clueless-ass co-worker made a “joke” about my husband’s “gut” in front of a crowd during a game of cornhole at a company picnic.

Really, dude? Another unfunny, not clever fat-shaming joke that we all have to uncomfortably laugh off? Get some new material. God.

That’s when I knew he has exhausted all the chances I’m willing to give him.

Not only did he embarrass me, but he made fun of my husband for putting on a few pounds while the gym was closed for a fucking pandemic.

I will never be in the same room as this man socially ever again. I don’t care what the occasion is.

This human has made it abundantly clear that he thinks fat jokes are fair punchlines. I don’t care if he would never come right out and say something intentionally cruel to me. Acting like fat is the worst thing someone can be is enough. If you’re terrified of ever being in a fat body, you make fat jokes at work, or you generally just feel that fatness as a concept is acceptable fodder for your playful insults, it’s hard for me to believe you aren’t judging me for just existing in the body I have.

I have enough shit to worry about. I’m not wasting a minute of my life spending time with someone who dabbles in a little light fat-shaming for fun.

Hard pass.

For a long time, I let myself believe that even someone who said ugly things about fat people in general might actually still respect me.

Maybe if I was pleasant enough, friendly enough, or proved that I was valuable enough.

I told myself that if I was good enough, people might like me even though I’m fat.

Well, I’m older now, wiser, and I realize that being the exception to someone’s shitty rule is not a compliment. I’m not willing to be someone’s token fatty.

If you can’t respect fat people when we aren’t around to hear it, you don’t deserve to have us in your life.

I’m done spending time with people who out themselves as fatphobic. Being nice to my face isn’t enough. If you think I’m inherently unhealthy, unattractive, or “less than,” and I find out about it, I’m not making room for you ever again.

I have no obligation to spend my time with people that make me feel like shit.

It is possible for people of all shapes, sizes, and walks of life to be respectful about other people’s bodies.

Some of our closest friends might as well live in the gym. This couple looks like a walking advertisement for a fitness brand. Looking at them, you might think they are judging people in bodies like mine, and terrified of gaining weight.

But they’re not. They just love being on the move.

I have never heard either of them say anything ugly about anyone’s body. Ever. They have friends of all shapes and sizes. They value my advice, appreciate my strengths, and express my value in their lives. When I’m around them, I never feel judged for living in my body. They’re my people.

I don’t only want to be around fat people or even people who create an echo chamber of fat positivity for me. We don’t have to agree about all the complicated facets and politics of fatness.

But we do have to agree that people of every size are valid and acceptable, and nobody’s body deserves to be a punchline. As soon as you start fat-shaming or make it clear that my body is a joke to you, I’ll do you the favor of removing myself from your orbit. I’ve got one life to live, and no time to waste on people who don’t have the courtesy to speak kindly about bodies like mine — or at least keep their mouths shut.

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You Can’t Tell How Much Someone Eats By Looking At Their Body

For some reason, there’s a pervasive belief in society that if you have a fat body, it means you eat a lot. Not just a little bit more than other people, but some kind of absurd, cartoonish amount. Fat bodies are constantly being reduced to our eating habits. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve seen someone tell a fat person to “eat a salad” or “drink water” or “step away from the cheeseburgers.”

People have big opinions about very thin bodies, too. If a person has a very thin body, some people think it’s okay to tell them that they “eat like a bird,” “stop starving themselves,” or “eat a cheeseburger.” (Why are people so obsessed with cheeseburgers?)

This has to stop.

Let me say that again, with feeling.

This body-shaming, food-shaming, fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, intrusive, ignorant bullshit HAS TO STOP.

The size of someone’s body is none of your business unless they invite you to discuss it.

The food in someone’s diet is not your concern unless they invite you to discuss it.

That should be the end of the story, but we all know people can’t just mind their own damn business, so let’s get one more thing out of the way:

The whole idea that fat people eat absurd amounts of food and very thin people don’t enough is just false.

I have a fat body. I always have. Recently, someone commented on a photo of me, “I can’t even imagine what you have to eat to get that big.”

Sigh. This again?

Do people honestly think that I eat like Gaston? Five dozen eggs every morning so I can become the size of a barge?

Remember when Bruce Bogtrotter had to eat that entire cake in front of the entire school because the Trunchbull was mad at him for stealing her slice? Do people think I do that for funsies and call it breakfast?

Well, I don’t.

I have PCOS with insulin resistance, and that means managing my weight is more complicated than just “not eating cheeseburgers.”

Do I spend my life on a diet, restricting food groups and counting every calorie? Not usually. Sometimes I fall into a pattern like that for a short time, but I try not to participate in diet culture in that way.

Instead, I focus on making sure I am eating things that are nutrient-dense and have benefits to my body beyond filling my stomach. Right now, my refrigerator is packed to the gills with vegetables, and they will all be gone by the end of the week. I’ve spent the last few years experimenting with ways to make my family eat quinoa.

I’m a huge fan of kale.

There are also mini cheesecake bites in my freezer. Last night, my husband turned our chicken breast into fried chicken cutlets instead of grilling it. I’ve eaten a chicken biscuit this week.

What I haven’t done is eat a dozen bagels or donuts. I don’t sit down with a fork and an entire meatloaf and call it dinner. I’m not winning any eating contests, and I probably eat one cheeseburger a year. If that.

I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe, but some people (Hi! It’s me! I’m some people!) eat normally—just the same as you—and our bodies end up fat.

Other people eat normally and their bodies end up very thin.

This is a thing. If you have been making unfair judgments about people’s eating habits based solely on the size of their bodies, it’s time for you to wrap your mind around it and knock it off.

My friend is one of the tiniest people I’ve ever met. Minuscule. She’s a living Polly Pocket.

You’d never guess it by looking at her, but that tiny little woman has an enormous appetite. (It’s almost as though you can’t even tell what someone eats just by looking at them. Huh. Imagine that.)

She isn’t ashamed of her hunger because she has never had to be. Her small body has made her large appetite a novelty. It’s adorable. It’s her party trick.

“Step right up! Watch this teeny little pixie eat her weight in chicken!”

When you’re in a fat body, it doesn’t work that way. She and I could sit side-by-side and match one another bite-for-bite, and somehow, almost nobody would think it was cute. Most of the time, someone would find a way to tell me I overindulged. Even if my intake was identical to my little fairy-sized friend.

And that makes perfect sense, because when people shame my eating habits, it’s not the food that people have a problem with—it’s my body.

Remember those fast-food commercials a few years back, featuring supermodels laying on the hoods of fast cars, chowing down on burgers with barbeque sauce dripping down their fingers, a dab landing on their chin? Same concept. Sexy for them. Repugnant for me.

This is nothing new, and sadly, I realize it’s not going anywhere. But as long as I have a place to do it, I’m going to keep on talking about how unfair and totally stupid this double-standard is.

Despite the size of my body, I do have to eat to live. It would be really great if society didn’t see my absolutely normal, human reliance on food as a moral failing or character defect.

Body size is complicated. A million intrinsic health and lifestyle factors come into play.

Shaming someone’s eating habits because of your assumptions about their body size is ignorant.

If you just don’t like the look of fat people and therefore choose to view us as less than you, whatever. You suck as a human being, but if you want to suck, that’s your prerogative. There is no law saying you have to be a decent, multifaceted, open-minded, educated, interesting person. You are entitled to be a human trash can.

If you just can’t stand the idea that a person could possibly eat as much as they want and stay very thin, so you choose to paint them with a judgmental brush, whatever to that, too. Again, you’re quite free to be a walking skid mark.

But if you think you can tell everything about a person’s eating habits just by looking at them, well, you’re wrong. And you’re not entitled to portray your opinion as fact and be cruel to people because of it. Be a better person.

Let people of all sizes eat in peace.

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Let’s Normalize Doing Whatever The Hell We Want With Our Pubic Hair

My kids are teenagersand after listening to them fight over razors and finding those razors in the bathroom filled with pubic hair, I asked them all what the hell was going on. 

They informed me that everyone shaves their pubic hair (don’t forget the taint) because pubic hair is gross.

“So, this is something you talk about with your friends?” I asked.

Apparently, yes. And according to them, having pubic hair is as dirty as eating your boogers.

I remember in my high school days, if a person with a penis had a foreskin, everyone knew about it even though there were no such things as dick pics and they didn’t spend their free time flashing everyone. 

I’m not saying it was right — it was horrible actually — I’m just reminding us all of the way it was.

It sounds like that’s how it is now if you have pubic hair, which absolutely makes my blood boil. When a thirteen-year-old feels like they have to shave or wax their private parts bald because everyone else is doing it, it’s cause for concern.

I believe if you want hair there, you should have hair there without thinking you are a wild boar who doesn’t know how to take care of themselves. And if you like the way you look better when you are all sleek and trim, well that’s how you should style yourself.

It wasn’t until I divorced and got back into the dating world that I realized no one had pubic hair any longer. I heard it from the men I dated, and I heard it from my single girlfriends.

However, I kept my bush because it didn’t bother me, and I wanted to spend my time doing other things. If the men I was having sex with didn’t like it, I didn’t care — my body, my choice. I also hadn’t seen my naked vagina since I was about eleven and I didn’t really want to see how she’d aged.

Then something happened about a year ago: My landing strip started turning gray, and it really bothered me. After asking my mother about it, she said if I followed in her footsteps, it would all start falling out soon anyway. WTF.

So, I decided to fire my pubic hair before it quit me. I took my pink razor to it one morning in the shower while my deep conditioner was taming my frizzy locks.

I didn’t do this to fit in. I didn’t do it because my friends told me my orgasms would be more intense. (Well, not fully anyway, but that might have crossed my mind while lathering up my bearded clam.)

I did it because frankly, I didn’t want bald patches between my legs. There are enough things about my body I’m not in love with, so why add another to the list? Again, my body, my choice.

Anyway, my point is we need to normalize doing what we want with our pubic hair. Women shouldn’t be made to feel like they aren’t beautiful or clean because they don’t want to shave their lips and assholes.

As Sandhya Ganesh notes in Medium, body hair — just like every other thing about women’s looks — goes through style phases that have changed throughout the years. These days, “With the advent of easily available porn, where women expose body hair-free bodies, men were misguided into thinking this is the sign of beauty and sex appeal. Playboy magazines are also popular, displaying nude, hairless women promoting negative body image.”

Is this where our teens are getting the idea that shaving your pubic hair is a must? From porn? God, I hope not, but let’s be real — it probably is, and we need to fix it.

In listening to my kids talk, it seems to be highly associated with how you feel about, and how you take care of, yourself.

I’ve told them a few times that pubic hair should be just like everything else in your life: you don’t follow a crowd when it comes to this kind of hygiene. You do what you want with your private area, and it’s your business, and that needs to come before other people’s opinions of you. Even a sexual partner.

The idea that women have to get rid of all their hair and always walk around bare is old news. It’s 2020 and we should do what we want with our bodies and if someone doesn’t like it, they don’t have to, period. If your partner has an objection, maybe it’s time to remind them that there are other people out there who don’t mind a garden with a little more greenery.

The fact that our teenagers feel like they have to shave in order to be cool, or clean, or whatever, is just another sign we need to normalize pubic hair in the same way we need to normalize wearing whatever you want, or being proud of your size even if it falls outside the “conventionally attractive” norm.

We need to remind them, and ourselves, that just because “everyone else is doing it” is not a good enough reason.

We have to be happy with how we are treating our bodies. After all, we’re the ones who have to live in them. And whether we prefer a plush carpet, or a hardwood floor, is up to us.

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Social Media Makes Me Jealous 

I have a really good friend who has started her own business, and these past few months it’s exploded. Every time I see one of her posts to promote herself go viral (which almost all of them have lately) I get this twinge that starts in my chest and bleeds into my entire upper body.

When I see her in person, we have a great connection, and she’s not forgetting who she is with her newfound success. Our friendship is based on shared experiences like divorce, children, and the fact we have both been in the dating game with kids.

I love her dearly and am genuinely happy for her. But when I scroll through my feed and see her seemingly perfect life — her new business, her insanely fit body and perfect white teeth, her happy marriage that is far from perfect because she tells me so, I feel guilty.

If it weren’t for social media, I probably wouldn’t feel this way. But when I see a highlight reel of her life against my life, I can’t help comparing the two, even though I know it’s going to take me down each and every time.

Since my divorce, I not only compare myself to influencers I see on my Instagram feed — modeling perfectly matched outfits and handbags I could never afford, with oversized mirrors and plush rugs in the background — I compare my single mother status to their happy families.

I realize I am in my mid-forties and have had kids, but that doesn’t stop me from looking at myself differently after I see fitness models in their 20s share their fitness routines, or post a side-by-side picture of them sticking out their non-existent gut to show people what “real life” looks like, as if it’s supposed to make us feel better.

Before COVID-19, family vacations were always a trigger for me too. I’d see turquoise waters or city lights with hashtags like #familyvacation and I’d think, Will I ever be able to do this for my family now that I am divorced?

Then I’d feel inadequate and tell myself I needed to work harder, try harder.

When I first started dabbling in the social media game years ago, it was because I felt like it was fun, everyone was doing it, and I was inspired by mothers who had large families and dressed their kids in coordinating outfits.

I didn’t start out having feelings of inadequacy until I started scrolling more and seeing what was out there.

The inspiration turned to coveting and feeling like I was either missing out, or missing something, because how did these women do it all?

How could they afford this modern house, have three beautiful children, and curate such beautiful, flawless posts with a full mane of hair and a manicure?

Even though I know most people only post the good stuff (hello, I’m the expert at this), it never fails: when I see something like a husband and wife kissing on date night, or a mom posing in her car with her handbag and salon pedicure looking fresh as a daisy, I don’t feel motivated any longer.

I feel like I don’t, and will never be able to, measure up.

This isn’t a proud moment for me. Admitting this goes against everything I’ve been taught, and everything I am trying to teach my kids, who are obsessed with all the apps. 

I’d like to think I was above all this nonsense and I should know by now to stop comparing myself to others because it only damages me, but I am a living, feeling person. 

And I guess there is still a part of me who thinks, If only

If only I had a firmer butt and better hair…

If only I still had a marriage that didn’t end years ago and we could take vacations together…

If only I could afford a kitchen renovation like that…

If only I had the energy to get off my ass and do more with my life like everyone else is, maybe then…

Maybe then I’d be happy and I wouldn’t feel like I was lacking on certain days when I can’t seem to pull myself out of the internet rabbit hole.

There’s always going to be someone who is more successful, has more degrees, makes more money, is more fit, or more attractive than you. 

I’m not alone in these feelings, I know that. I’m not the first woman to compare herself to the zillions of things to covet on the internet. 

The best way I’ve learned how to deal with it is to stay the fuck off when I’m not my best self, which is most of the time.

Seeing younger girls dance on TikTok and scrolling through my Facebook page never makes me snap out of a slump and it has the power to make a perfectly good day turn sour, even if it’s only for a bit. And I know this — so when I can’t handle it, I stay away.

This morning I met with my friend. You know, the one I’m jealous of.

And you know what she said to me after I admitted to her I felt envious of her new success and I was sorry about it?

She told me she’d stalked me on social media when we first met and decided I’d be one of her closest friends because she loved my energy and I motivated her to go and do things she’d always wanted to do, but felt like she didn’t quite have the right. 

It didn’t cure my social media jealousy by any means, but it certainly was the perspective I needed. 

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Girls Are Undergoing Labiaplasty, And We Need to Talk About It

For the vast majority of cisgender girls, the physical changes in puberty can feel downright uncomfortable. We get periods, grow breasts, sweat more, discover hair in spots we didn’t expect. Compounded with this is the gross lack of information presented to us about the awesome individuality of our bodies. Not only have we been cheated out of some kickass female empowerment lessons as kids and teens, but we’ve also been conditioned through the media and beauty industry to see skewed images of women that give us a ton of anxiety if our physical parts didn’t match up to them.

There are two really important topics in my high school health class that no one ever covered, and I really wish they had. They are the sexual pleasure we as females deserve to receive and experience, and that it’s normal AF to have your labia look unique to you. Can you imagine if our teachers had been given free rein to openly discuss the undeniable magic of the clitoris and how female orgasms have unexpected health benefits, or if they had shared with us this nifty photo gallery courtesy of The Labia Library? I know I personally would’ve been getting my big O on a little earlier had I known how to actually make it happen and felt totally cool to doodle underneath that poster of my teenage crush Angelina Jolie hanging in my bedroom. Instead, I was taught to see my reproductive parts as two main things — the source of my generationally stigmatized menstrual cycle, and that spot where the unprotected sex need never happen. 

Seriously though. Maybe, just maybe, if our educational institutions acknowledged the very real and very deserving perks of having a vagina, the right to choose what to do with it, and the confidence that comes with allowing ourselves the pleasure of enjoying it, we might not have a growing number of teenage girls feeling so ashamed of their vaginas that they’re going to extreme lengths to surgically alter them. 

I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. According to the BBC, over the past five years in particular, girls as young as nine have been seeking out cosmetic labiaplasty and going under the knife to voluntarily trim their labia in an effort to make it appear closer to what they think one is “supposed” to look like. And yes, our adolescents are most definitely being exposed to images of vaginas online and taking mental notes, I can assure you. They’re also looking at their own body parts in confusion and potential disgust, because they don’t have the necessary resources around them to understand that each labia is different in its size, shape, and composition. Hell, there’s even a surgery available to fuse the outer labia together like a clam shell called “The Barbie,” and it’s gaining popularity among teens. 

This is obviously a terrifying reality, considering that Barbie is completely made of plastic and doesn’t even have a vagina. 

“Labiaplasty, which is the trimming of the inner and outer labia, is the fastest-growing cosmetic surgery among teenage girls,” says “Girls and Sex” author Peggy Orenstein in her 2016 Ted Talk. “It rose 80 percent between 2014 and 2015, and whereas girls under 18 comprise two percent of all cosmetic surgeries, they are five percent of labiaplasty.”

Between 2013 and 2018, The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reported that labiaplasty surgeries have seen a 53% increase, with more than 35 million dollars spent in 2018 on the procedure and 12,756 total surgeries performed. Of those documented procedures, 491 had been performed on girls under the age of 17.

Between 2018 and 2019, The American Society of Plastic Surgeons noticed a 9% increase in cosmetic labiaplasty procedures, and I can only imagine that girls and teens may very well still be an active demographic for those seeking out the procedure. There are also few extensive guidelines for screening adolescents prior to surgical approval. This poses a huge risk to our girls in more ways than one. Since their outer labia doesn’t finish growing until they turn 18, there is the great potential for scarring and even asymmetrical genitals if an adolescent surgically alters her vulva before it’s had a chance to properly grow.

“The labiaplasty trend has become so worrisome that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has issued a statement on the procedure, which is rarely medically indicated, has not been proven safe and whose side effects include scarring, numbness, pain and diminished sexual sensation,” explains Orenstein. “Now, admittedly, and blessedly, the number of girls involved is still quite small, but you could see them as canaries in a coal mine, telling us something important about the way girls see their bodies.”

Just months before the author’s groundbreaking Ted Talk, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published an article stating that the surgical alteration of the labia is not necessary to the health of an adolescent girl, and it can even be considered a violation of federal criminal law in many cases. And yet, girls under 18 have still been getting this procedure, with one of the only major screening guidelines suggested being the examination of whether a young patient has body dysmorphia

For these impressionable young girls, the desire to cosmetically alter their genitals can often stem from our society’s impossible beauty standards and the media imagery they compare their bodies to, along with the infuriating lack of positive sex education available to them in school. According to Orenstein, this assuredly results in female adolescents feeling shame and the fear of humiliation if their anatomy does match up with what they may see online, keeps them from prioritizing their own pleasure during sexual encounters, and leads a bunch of girls to even avoid self-exploration. 

“Kids go into their puberty education classes and they learn that boys have erections and ejaculations, and girls have periods and unwanted pregnancy,” she says. “And they see that internal diagram of a woman’s reproductive system — you know, the one that looks kind of like a steer head — and it always grays out between the legs. So we never say ‘vulva,’ we certainly never say ‘clitoris.’ No surprise, fewer than half of teenage girls age 14 to 17 have ever masturbated. And then they go into their partnered experience and we expect that somehow they’ll think sex is about them, that they’ll be able to articulate their needs, their desires, their limits. It’s unrealistic.”

Obviously, a major fucking shift needs to happen here. It’s ridiculous enough that there is still an overwhelming amount of stigma around periods and postpartum bodies, not to mention living with racist and discriminatory industries that constantly pick apart our perceived physical “flaws” in order to profit off of the self-loathing they helped to create. We don’t need to add into this harmful mix the damaging reality of teens thinking that their vaginas are a problem to be fixed or an area devoid of pleasure. And we certainly don’t need them seeking out a cosmetic genital surgery named after Barbie.

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Stop Telling People To ‘Go Eat A Cheeseburger’

My beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter is a size zero. She looks in the mirror and sees a straight line from under her breast to her toes. In a nutshell, she is uncomfortable with herself in such a way it’s physically painful for me to watch. She is very tall and slim and says she resembles the letter “P” when she stands sideways. 

Ever since the age of five, people have called her a string bean and ask me how she stayed so skinny. She’s angelic and has tiny bones and will probably take after her very thin father.

She’s tried to put on weight. She’s worked out hoping she’d gain muscle. She wears baggy clothing to make herself look heavier. And she can’t stand it when people tell her to go eat something like cake, which they often do.

My daughter has a healthy appetite, as does my son who is six feet tall and weighs about 130 pounds. People make comments about how he looks all the time, too. 

The constant asking what I feed them and if my children eat is annoying and sends the message that in order to be thin, you must be starving, or there must be a secret formula.

These are both wrong. 

Everyone’s body is different. We all have things that are important to us. Some people are naturally thin and don’t have to do a thing to stay slender.

Some people struggle with their weight their whole lives; some suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia (which has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder). Some people fluctuate and don’t give a damn about what size they are — they simply go out and buy clothes according to their size and are proud regardless.

It doesn’t matter what size anyone is, there’s one thing our society cannot stop doing: commenting on people’s size, even if they deem it as a compliment.

The other day, I posted a picture of myself on Instagram as a way to celebrate myself on my 45th birthday. I had just gotten home from a run, something that’s been a struggle for me to do lately. I was sweaty, had on no makeup and thought, Fuck it. This is me. I’m damn proud I’m still running.

There was a time when I never, ever would have posted a picture of myself like that — sans my makeup mask — without looking in the mirror to see what I looked like. But, I don’t care anymore. 

I exercise as a way to keep my head clear and take time for me. It’s the best self-care I’ve ever known and I’ve been doing it for over thirty years. A side effect is that it keeps me in shape.

I also eat a clean diet most days because I have horrible bathroom issues if I don’t. However, french fries and brownies are worth it to me a few times a week because I adore them and in moderation my gut does okay. Because of that I happen to be lean. When you finally find something that keeps your bowels and your mind healthy, you don’t want to mess with it. I like the way I look and feel, but if I gained weight, I wouldn’t give a fuck. 

I’m telling you this because everyone’s circumstances are different. There are people who look at me and think I deprive myself and I’m sure there are those who think I could use some help in lots of areas.

Whatever, eat a bag of dicks.

The first comment on that picture was, “Go eat a cheeseburger.” My hackles immediately spiked up because I’ve heard so many people say that to my kids and they hate it — they eat those things all the time.

People, it’s never okay to comment on someone’s body or tell them what they should be eating. I don’t care how much they weigh.

It’s not a damn compliment. It’s rude.

We never have any idea what someone is going through. When I went through my divorce, I dropped some weight because, hello divorce. It feels good to get those extra ten pounds back, have an appetite again, and I feel great. 

There are people recovering from a sickness, or dealing with food allergies and intolerances, or struggling big time with disordered eating. 

Comments about other people’s bodies, whether it’s about their size or what we put into them, are not okay. Ever. They are triggers for many people. How we’ve gotten to this place where we feel we can unload our opinions about someone’s diet just because someone posts a picture, walks by us on the street, or has lunch with us, is beyond me.

Stop making comments about what people eat. This is their choice. What works for you might be the bane of their existence. And what works for them might make you sick.

Besides, there are much better things in life to talk about besides what we put in our mouths. So the time you feel the urge, bite your damn tongue. Or maybe bite into one of those cheeseburgers you’re always talking about instead.

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The Thing No One Tells You About Shame

There is one gnarly emotion I’ve battled against my entire life that makes its presence known in the shittiest of ways. The insidious thoughts that accompany it always stop me in my tracks and leave me feeling like I’m an awkward, seemingly unlovable eight-year old again. It’s a dark fucking place, the spot where this emotion carelessly drops me. And for a really long time, not a single other person could pull me out of it, because no one knew I was even in that painful black hole to begin with.  

That emotion is shame

If you’re as well-versed at the shame game as me, then you know how it usually goes. There you are, going about your life and generally feeling awesome, and then something unexpected happens. Maybe you receive unsolicited criticism from someone you trust. Maybe you just tried on your favorite pants, and they’re surprisingly too small to pull up. Or maybe you messed up at work and totally forgot about a big ass deadline that got you into hot water with your boss. That’s when you’re suddenly transported to an emotional experience that starts to negatively influence every thought you think, every action you take, and every belief about yourself you hold dear. You begin doubting yourself. You decide you aren’t worthy of your own love. And it sucks the big one. 

But what if I told you that there are a few simple ways to deal with this complex emotion that could help you no longer see it — or you — as a chronic problem? Here’s the secret I’ve learned that no one tells you about shame. Just go with me on this one. While I’m not a mental health professional, I am a master-level expert at experiencing lifelong shame. And I think I’ve cracked the code of how to officially kick it to the curb.

Think of yourself like a house. As a child, you had visitors who you may not have felt comfortable asking to stay at the door. They could have been family members, teachers, friends, or just about anyone else in your life. Maybe they were even media messages coming to you from the shows you watched, the news your parents had on, or the magazines you read. These visitors entered your house, with or without your consent, and dumped piles of messes all over your place. Maybe they were recurring people in your metaphorical home, or perhaps they just visited once and left. Whatever the case, you’re probably living in a shit ton of messy piles from these experiences. If you never learned how to pick them up and throw them out the metaphorical door as a child, and if you didn’t know how to acknowledge that they weren’t your messes to begin with, you may likely discover that they’re still inside of your “home” in adulthood. 

You are that house. Shame is the piles of messes left behind by others. And your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to finally clean house. 

Growing up, we all had people and experiences in our lives that shaped how we feel about ourselves today. A bunch of us were cared for by adults in our world who, whether knowingly or not, tore down or dismissed us for how we looked, behaved, and expressed our feelings. We also received a ton of conditioning from the media and society that left us feeling like our bodies were never-ending problems. Basically, the vast majority of us were taught by external forces that lovability and inherent worthiness were not our birthright and that mistakes or moments of messiness made us somehow “bad.”

When we were young and the adults we trusted didn’t show us the love and kindness we so deserved, do you think a single one of us stopped to realize how fucked up that was? When the television ads were pressuring our young bodies to get skinny AF at any cost, do you think any of us got pissed at these institutions for lying to us? And when we encountered childhood trauma, neglect, or dismissal, do you think we ever blamed those responsible for their abusive behaviors? 

Not a chance.

Biologically speaking, most youth who are abused and shamed aren’t actively hating the parents and grownups they depend on. They learn to hate themselves instead. Think about it. We’re hardwired from birth to need our parents and the adults we trust. When the grown ups we love are abusive, shaming, or even modeling a way of being disconnected from their own self-love, it doesn’t help our young narrative to start rebelling against them from the start. We need these grownups for our survival. It makes much more sense for our young minds to believe them and distrust ourselves.

If there was no one in your world to counter the shaming experiences you had as a youth with unconditional love and support, you may be stuck on autopilot as a grown up and listening to the barrage of negative thoughts in your head that you now believe to be facts. I completely understand why you’d do that, because it’s how I operated for nearly half of my life. But then I learned the dirty little secret about shame. All of the thoughts and beliefs attached to this feeling were originally placed inside of me by others, and they no longer need to be mine to hold onto anymore. And honestly, I never needed to hold onto them in the first place. Because anyone who is shaming someone else, intentionally or not, is also living in the same kind of shame they’ve attempted to pass along to you. Which means that shame, while feeling so tremendously personal, is not actually as personal to or reflective of who you authentically are as you might have previously thought it was.

According to Brene Brown, the University of Houston shame researcher and author of five New York Times bestsellers, shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” This particular definition resonates so much with me, because I spent two long decades believing I didn’t deserve to be loved or belong. I felt like an ongoing problem for everyone around me. After years of childhood abuse and emotional dismissal, I believed that I was too much for this world. And I went to great lengths to avoid being myself so that I could receive the approval of others. 

Over the past four years, a whole lot has changed. I’ve become a mom twice over, healed a lifelong eating disorder, come to terms with a complex PTSD diagnosis, and learned just how many messy fucking piles have been sitting inside of my metaphorical house. As I’ve leaned into the work of self-love and trauma recovery, I’ve started bagging up the old ass toxic shit others in my early life placed within me, and I’ve shown it the door. As a result, I’ve never felt freer to be my authentic self in my entire life. Realizing that shame was never mine to hold, as it had zero to do with my inherent worth as a human being, has allowed me to also realize that when someone shames us, it is never about us. It is always about the other person. 

Now, does this mean I’m advocating for being a giant asshole to everyone around you, throwing care to the wind, and telling consequences and hurt feelings in others to fuck off? Absolutely not. Of course, we want to show up in all of our circles with compassion, kindness, vulnerability, and love. I’m simply focusing on the shame that has laid dormant inside of you for years because it’s still secretly hanging around from your childhood. And when you were a child, nothing endangering that happened to you was ever your fault, no matter how much shame has lied to you. 

Because here’s the thing. We aren’t born hating ourselves. We aren’t even born feeling shame about our choices, actions, bodies, or existence. We are taught to feel shame about ourselves when we vulnerably show up as young, messy, lovable, work-in-progress humans in this world who will eventually grow up into older, messy, lovable, work-in-progress humans in this world. The problem we run into along the way is that others place shame inside of us that incorrectly teaches us about ourselves. Which is why cleaning house at some point, no matter where we are in our life journey, is so stinkin’ important. 

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