I’m Thrilled For Meghan And Harry, And Stoked For The Oprah Interview

It’s official: as of February 19th, Meghan and Harry are no longer working royals. As in, they’ve quit as working members of The Royal Family. Not a shock: they agreed to revisit their decision to no longer live as working royals after twelve months, and eleven months later … boom. As usual, two statements were released, because when does Buckingham Palace resist the chance to release a staid, boring statement? “The Palace” AKA “The Queen and Co.” announced, according to Town and Country:

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have confirmed to Her Majesty The Queen that they will not be returning as working members of The Royal Family.

Following conversations with The Duke, The Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of The Royal Family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service. The honorary military appointments and Royal patronages held by The Duke and Duchess will therefore be returned to Her Majesty, before being redistributed among working members of The Royal Family.

While all are saddened by their decision, The Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family.”

Staid, boring, and oh snap, Her Royal Majesty just stripped away all Harry’s honorary military titles (despite him being a veteran of Afghanistan, where he served on the front lines, according to Elle), plus England Rugby and the Rugby Football League. Meghan got her patronage of the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the National Theatre yanked. Oops. Apparently, only working royals get patronages along with their mandatory nail polish shades.

Meghan and Harry Don’t Need to Be Working Royals to Serve

Chris Jackson/Getty

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who still get those titles at least, even if they’re stripped of using HRH (His/Her Royal Highness), hit back with a statement of their own, says the AP:

“As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the U.K. and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organizations they have represented regardless of official role.

We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”

Daaaaaaamn. Scary Mommy’s unofficial translation: “We don’t need to be working royals to serve the public, so take your Royal Family living off the backs of the British people and shove it.”

This all comes, like, five days after Meghan’s baby news hit headlines around the world. Speaking of babies, despite the working royal rift, Harry remains sixth in line for the British throne, Archie number seven, and their next child number eight, says Elle.

Working Royals? Please. 

Being working royals meant taking the official palace line — ignore, ignore, ignore — when it came to racist attacks against Meghan. Headlines commented on her “exotic DNA,” and how she was “(almost) straight outta Compton,” reports NBC. Harper’s Bazaar said it often came through in microaggressions that the palace refused to address.

And real talk: when did The Royal Family last do anything meaningful other than provide fodder for The Crown? They cut ribbons, play polo, and live off British taxpayer funds: almost 95 million dollars in 2018-2019, according to British Heritage. Meghan and Harry cutting themselves off from “sovereign funds” is super mega awesome.

So now they’re living away from British racism, free to speak out against it, and refusing to take cash from average British taxpayers? Um, total win.

And Now There’s This Interview…

Aaron Chown – WPA Pool/Getty

Meghan and Harry have announced they’re sitting down with none other than the queen of chat, the one and only Oprah, for a special to air on CBS March 7th. Can you say must-see TV?! Buckingham Palace is collectively losing their shit. In a totally oops move, the Palace announced that just hours before the Oprah interview, they would be airing their annual Commonwealth Day service. It’ll feature televised messages, according to People, from Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Prince William, and Kate Middleton, among other working royals.

Apparently, that time slot was decided about three weeks ago.

Can you say awkward?!!

CBS says, according to People, that Oprah’s interview with Meghan will deal with “everything from stepping into life as a Royal, marriage, motherhood, philanthropic work to how she is handling life under intense public pressure,” and that they’ll be joined later by Harry.

This could be the most awesome (read: scandalous, gossip-ridden, royal family-embarrassing) interview since Princess Diana sat down with Martin Bashir in 1995 and talked, according to The Independent, about her bulimia, self-harm, adultery, and Charles’s affairs with Camilla, saying that, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

Because, let’s admit it. This is what working royals are good for: scandal. Scandal, and those cute little Eton suits Prince George wears. Meghan and Harry are walking away from all that, and yay for them! Archie will grow up without people shoving cameras in his face. Meghan can clap back at any racist crap lobbed at her; the Sussexes can live how they want to live — without taking cash from the British taxpayers — and Meghan can wear outfits that aren’t monochrome.

She can also pick her own nail polish.

Win-win.

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Why I Refuse To Turn Off Ad-Tracking On Social Media

In this age of internet privacy and security, many of my friends on social media remind us less discerning folks about the dangers of sharing all our internet habits with the big social media companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. They tell us to up our privacy settings, clear our cookies, clear our caches, and either sign out or delete apps that might be listening in.

And I get it.

I totally see the need for keeping our data private and ours. Why should big companies make money collecting, storing, and then selling my information to who knows what? Is my data aggregated with others or is there some thick FBI file on me based on my Google search history in some centralized location where my various writerly queries about sex toys, strangulation petechiae, and the best ways to hide a body triangulate into some highly specific (and yet, not inaccurate) online portraiture of myself?

And yet, despite all these very good reasons to up my social media privacy settings and run ad blockers, I refuse.

At risk of sounding incredibly shallow (not that has ever stopped me), HOW ELSE WILL I KNOW WHAT TO BUY?

If there’s anything I enjoy, it’s a well targeted ad that knows exactly what I need to see in order to part me from my husband’s hard-earned money. (I mean, I make money that contributes to the family pot too, but it amuses me to think of my spending coming from his contribution rather than mine. I don’t know what that says about me, but I prefer not to examine that too closely.)

Without these apps tracking all my searches and dicking around on the interwebs, how will I know what to purchase online? I’m not a particularly trendy person and I hate following Instagram fashion influencers because they make me feel bad about myself — plus I can no longer wander the corridors of my local Target (don’t you dare shame me for finding Target’s affordable fashion so delightful).

Look, they’re going to advertise to me anyway. It might as well be highly relevant products that I want to buy.

Whether it’s in skin care, accessories, clothing, or any manner of household goods and items — very rarely kid-related things because let’s be real, it’s a me-first mentality here — all my favorite things I have bought thanks to Facebook and Instagram ads. The best part is that once I make one purchase, I will be immediately bombarded with more of the same products in the genre! They follow me around helpfully from one social media app to another. They even trail me to the various sites I frequent on the internet!

What a gift that is!

If it happens quickly enough, I may even cancel my previous order and buy a more suitable product from the suggestions!

Do I want a kimono-style dress? They know. Do I want to buy clothes that could only be adequately explained as expensive, giant, oversized sacks? Here are more! Do I love K-pop related jewelry? Check. Do I buy all the South Korean skincare products? ASIAN DON’T RAISIN! Do I want glass tentacled dildos? They ask if I’d like whorls with that. Do I want hype-beast embroidered Japanese Sukujans? Here are all the Asian-inspired sukujans. Do I want pillows styled as corgi butts where the button is a super adorable asshole? YES!

Yes, yes, YES!

I don’t even have to consciously think about it! It’s all preying on my inner Smaug. Give me all the shiny! All the fancy! All the ridiculously cute stickers and stuffies and quippy tees!

Sure, not everything comes as advertised, but I’d say 85% of the time, the product is as described. (Actually, maybe that’s not entirely true, but I have scuttled all the bad experiences into the waste bin of my mind because I perhaps have a really big problem.)

The best part? Whenever I take pictures of my purchases and then post on Instagram or Facebook, I get compliments!! I mean, who doesn’t love compliments? I don’t care if my friends are lying to my face — at my age, I take the props when I can get them. I say thank you and applaud myself for my excellent life choices.

I even pierced five more holes in my ears so that I can accessorize to the fullness I know I am capable of — and if internet shopping isn’t made for filling all my holes, I don’t know what is.

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More Than Half Of People Won’t Travel For A 2021 Wedding

On New Year’s Eve, I ate a steak with my pants unbuttoned, watched my friend get married via Zoom, then took a bath. I was in bed just after 8:00 p.m. It was glorious.

While I would have loved to be up close and personal watching my friend say “I do” in her amazing gold dress (she didn’t hold back just because she couldn’t have a huge in-person wedding, and I love that about her), I enjoyed watching just as much in my pajamas.

Let’s face it — when you’re sans Spanx, heels, and an itchy hairdo, everything is better.

She and her soon-to-be husband knew in 2020 that they wanted to get married. With that being their main goal — to start a life together — they didn’t let the pandemic hold them back. But they knew because of that, they were going to have to make some changes with their original plans.

That’s just what they did. They sent out wedding invites with a link to the Zoom meeting and had a short, sweet wedding … and everyone was able to watch and enjoy it without being at risk.

We’ve heard that weddings have been superspreader events. Last summer, not very far away from my hometown, a small wedding infected 176 people with the virus, which led to one death. There were 68 guests in attendance, but the event caused three times that number of people to come down with the virus. Let’s think about that for a second.

One afternoon of mingling and dancing became one of the biggest spreaders in the state — and it could have been avoided. Parties and gatherings like this are called superspreader events because that’s what they do: spread the virus like wildfire.

Thankfully, potential wedding guests seem to be coming to their senses. According to a recent survey done by Floridapanhandle.com which asked 3,000 Americans from all over the country how they felt about weddings in 2021, 57% of people aren’t comfortable flying to attend a wedding in 2021 under any circumstances.

So, even if it’s a small guest list and you plan on making all your guests wear masks, you may want to rethink your plans if you have your heart set on a large gathering and really want everyone to attend in person. 

There’s no need not to have what you want on your special day, but it’s probably going to require you to wait a bit. Not only are you going to have lots of declines, but it’s important to face the facts here: A wedding is an event where people eat, drink, and mix and mingle. You let your guard down, you dance, you forget there’s a global pandemic going on. No one wants to be responsible for holding an event that infects hundreds of people and leads to deaths. 

The survey did find that if it was a family member getting married, 21% of people would be comfortable flying and 22% would be on board if they knew proper safety measures were being taken, like wearing masks. Only 15% of people would come if they knew there would be a limited guest list.

Those numbers aren’t very high for people hoping to have a good turnout for their special day. Not to mention everyone has their definition of what “small” means. To some, that may be 50 people; to others, it may be 15. 

So, if you have your mind and heart set on a big gathering where everyone can come and celebrate with you — including older relatives, people who have to travel to get there, and people with a compromised immune system — you are going to want to put your special day on hold.

On the plus side, that’s more time for you to save money and plan (just think of all the new ideas that will pop up on Pinterest between now and then!). And, if you aren’t opposed to exchanging your vows with the two of you and inviting all your friends and family via Zoom, it can be really lovely. My friend’s virtual wedding was proof. No one was blocking my view of the bride, I got to watch in the comfort of my own home wearing what I wanted, and the couple didn’t have to worry about their special day being tainted by this deadly virus.

We could all use a little cheer in our lives right now, and weddings are pretty damn magical. But knowing your moment of joy could become a superspreader just sucks the magic right out of it. And since over half of your intended guests will probably agree, you’re better off ringing those matrimonial bells at a later, safer date … or through a screen, where you don’t have to put anyone at risk to celebrate your love story.

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Why Everyone Should Leave Their Hometown

The morning of Georgia’s Senate runoff elections, I was listening to voters being interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition. One voter, Deborah Gordon, described her pride in Trump, her disgust in the “fake” election, and her utter disbelief that the state of Georgia went to Biden. She told the reporter that everyone she knows loves Trump and everywhere she goes supports Trump too—including the two Trump rallies she has attended. (I won’t tell her if you don’t.) Another Georgia voter, Trish White, said this: “I absolutely love President Trump, and I believe the election was stolen in the state of Georgia – absolutely believe it. Look around. No way Biden won this state – no way.”

When you look around and never have your beliefs and biases challenged, it’s hard to see any alternatives to your reality as, well, reality. This is why people must—especially people in rural and small town areas—leave their hometown, if only temporarily.

According to a survey done by North American Moving Services, 72% of Americans live in or near their hometown. 75% of women are more likely to stay in their hometowns, compared to 68% of men. This is what contributes to people’s ability to believe that everyone thinks like them, easily allowing folks to become willfully siloed from others who would be happy to disagree with them.

There’s a lot of comfort in ignorance, and 24% of the people who stayed in their hometown said comfort and familiarity was why they stayed. To be fair, I don’t know if those two Trump supporters have ever left their hometown, but their current place of living isn’t offering much diversity — and this is what pisses me off about humans. People who stay in their safe and like-minded bubbles know what they know because they never put themselves in a position to experience views not their own. They never leave home, and it shows.

College was my excuse, reason, and motivation to get out of my hometown when I was 18, but my degree is secondary and not even directly relatable to any of the jobs I’ve had since graduating from college. The education I got about myself, other people, different religions, races, and ethnicities were the foundation I needed to expand my mind and add peripheral vision to see outside of what I thought I knew. It wasn’t simply the exposure to people who looked and thought differently than myself that helped widen my mind to truths not my own; it was finding commonality in those differences that allowed me to gain a better sense of self and understanding that we all deserve to be heard, seen, and treated equitably. I was fortunate for grants, loans, and scholarships to pay my way through school and I know not everyone will have that opportunity, but going away to college, or moving out of the town you grew up in—even temporarily—is so important.
One study suggests that travel makes us smarter and provides us with more opportunities that allow us to be successful. We all define success in different ways, but survival is the most basic and primal goal. Travel was key to our evolution as a species. The need to find resources and adapt kept the human race moving forward but it also rewired our brains in ways that can’t happen when stuck in the same space, doing the same thing, and around the same people every day. When we surround ourselves with change, we can change too. We can learn. And if we don’t question our own beliefs and what we consider facts by holding them against others’ then how can we be so sure we’re right? How can we know we believe in is right for us? The blue collar, rural town I left at 18 didn’t have enough people to challenge the racist and homophobic views that knitted the community together. It didn’t have enough art or music. It didn’t have enough people from different backgrounds to give each other windows into customs, ideas, and explanations that could start discussions and arguments.
I can’t report on the intelligence of those two voters interviewed by NPR, but their inability to think critically draws me to conclude that they are either brainwashed or not smart enough to fact check. And it leads me back to the assumption that they don’t get out enough or diversify their news sources or vacation plans. They haven’t been asked to adapt, step outside their comfort zone, or allowed any other reality to be considered. Someone who can believe Trump’s lies is either too dumb or too bigoted to believe anything else. Living in a new place and surrounding yourself with new people is mind-opening and forces us to become resourceful as we figure out new standards. Travel introduces us to a wider personal and professional network. Leaving home sheds ignorance and gives us freedom to explore who we are and who others claim to be. Even if after leaving home and our values and voting alignment stays the same, my hope is that we can become more accepting and critical of what we think is the truth. Folks who can second-guess biases are less likely to look around and claim everything they see within eyesight applies to all people.
Because I’m not a hypocrite, I surround myself with people, information, and places that force me to understand nuance while sorting out facts. This means that sometimes I have to admit I’m wrong. I have to research and learn and check my ego. I don’t allow myself to stay stuck in the comfort of ignorance. My agenda includes challenging others to do the same. Because if making people more aware of their own mental limitations is wrong, then I don’t ever want to be right.

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When Does Drinking To Relax Become A Bad Habit?

The pandemic has created the perfect storm for the increased use of alcohol: fear, isolation, anxiety, and uncertainty create vicious cycles of drinking, loneliness, and shame. During the first few months of the pandemic, I worried about the state of my sobriety. I’ve been in recovery long enough to know how to navigate stress and cravings, but when my support systems were taken away or drastically changed because of COVID-19, I struggled to find coping mechanisms that would relieve some of the stress.

I also saw the reports that showed the increased alcohol sales in the early days of the pandemic compared to previous years. People weren’t just stocking up on toilet paper and flour; they were buying booze as if it was just as necessary to survive quarantine. I was worried about my addict friends. I’m still worried about my friends in sobriety, and have watched a few of them fall and pick themselves up. But I’m also worried about others for whom “drinking to take the edge off” has become a dangerous bad habit.

One study showed that not only has drinking frequency increased during the pandemic, but the amount consumed per day increased too. Another finding that is troubling (but not surprising) to me is that women reported a 41% increase in alcohol consumption. This is a dangerous statistic because women — specifically mothers — have already used alcohol as a coping mechanism, and our culture has made it socially acceptable. Women and mothers have been asked to carry much of the load during this pandemic, and many are coping by drinking. But when is it time to recognize a coping mechanism as dangerous and no longer helpful?

Dr. Claire Nicogossian Psy. D, Psychologist, Clinical Assistant Professor, and author of the book, “Mama, You Are Enough: How to Create Calm, Joy and Confidence Within the Chaos of Motherhood,” tells Scary Mommy, “Adults who may never have identified as having a problem with alcohol are using alcohol more than ever in their life as a way to cope with stress and the incredible challenges of this pandemic.” She says there are signs and questions folks can ask themselves to determine if their drinking has become problematic.

Craving alcohol, drinking more than you intended, making excuses for drinking, hiding the amount you are consuming, and feeling guilt, shame, and hopelessness during and after you drink are signs Dr. Nicogossian wants people to recognize as red flags of problem drinking. It’s also important to be honest with yourself about why you are drinking. If you drink because it’s your only coping mechanism to deal with stress, because you are bored, or need to escape, then it’s best to reach out to a medical professional for help.

In an interview with NPR, Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, a researcher National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, worries about that ease with which people turn to alcohol as a way to unwind. The NIAAA reports that 88,000 Americans die each year from alcohol related deaths. Dr. Leggio reminds us that 9/11 and Katrina were other recent traumatic events that were catalysts for survivors to become dependent on alcohol because of stress. He knows that patterns of disordered drinking and addiction that have started because of the pandemic will continue well after its conclusion. And because alcohol use can cause respiratory problems, heavy drinkers are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Dr. Nicogossian tells Scary Mommy that the alcohol itself isn’t the problem; it’s the reasons why people drink and the amount consumed that can be problematic. She suggests that a better understanding of different types of coping will help people understand their relationship with alcohol. Active coping is a direct approach to reducing stress and enhancing well-being. Exercise, getting enough sleep, and staying socially connected are examples of active coping. Passive coping, like watching TV or scrolling social media, can calm and distract us but may not lead to improved health or decreased levels of stress. Binging alcohol or actively drinking even when you know you have a problem are coping mechanisms that create avoidance and self-harm. While a drink with a friend can be a responsible and active boost in mental health and mood, drinking out of habit and as a way to numb emotions is not healthy.

The length and intensity of the pandemic combined with the added stigma of addiction yet socially accepted use of alcohol is too much to balance most days. I can’t define other people’s relationship with alcohol, but I know that not all drinking habits are signs of addiction. I also know drinking can be toxic for folks who aren’t addicts. I am also proof that addicts can be high functioning and seen as successful while slowly killing themselves with secrets. The best advice I can give is to be honest with yourself. If you are wondering if you drink too much or have a problem with alcohol, then it’s safe to assume you are worried about it enough to make changes. And if someone points out that you may have a toxic relationship with booze, it’s safe to assume they love you and want what’s best for you.

Please reach out and get support. A friend, therapist, or doctor can be a great place to turn. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers 24/7, 365 days of the year confidential and free services in Spanish and English. 1-800-662-HELP (4357). You aren’t alone.

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My Friends Say I ‘Snapped’ The Year I Turned 40

I’m so tired of being afraid.

I grew up constantly in fear. Fear of my abusive father. Of disappointing and dishonoring my family. Of not being a perfect Asian American kid. Of not being fluent enough — in Chinese or English. Of being judged all the time by aunties and uncles and teachers and pastors.

I was too loud, too brash, too weird, too young, too opinionated, too boy-crazy, too American, too Taiwanese — too much.

I was perpetually afraid of not being good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough — of not being enough, period.

It was impossible being “enough” when I was both too much and too little at the same time.

I tried to change myself — to twist myself into fitting an acceptable narrative — but it would never stick for long. Not because of principles but because it was too much effort. I simply did not have the energy (or acting chops).

So, I hid my insecurities instead. I masked it by being arrogant and haughty. I thought myself better than everyone else. I constantly felt as if other people owed me and didn’t deserve the success they obtained.

I was full of contempt, spiteful, and mean. I was jealous. Though I didn’t usually gossip because gossips are inherently untrustworthy and I didn’t want to seem untrustworthy — I was snide and cut down what other people said or did.

“Who did they think they were?” was a recurring refrain in my mind. It is not lost on me that now, that same question is directed at me — usually by my detractors, and occasionally by myself when I allow lies to whisper louder than usual.

Who did I think I was? Who, indeed.

My friends say I snapped the year I turned 40. And though I personally don’t think I changed much, from the outside looking in, I understand. While I had never much filtered my opinions or thoughts when I spoke (which was often), I stopped holding back even more. I altered my physical appearance drastically. I released the last vestiges of worrying about what others would think about me; I shifted from outspoken to unapologetic.

Not everyone appreciated it.

For some, I changed overnight from the “right” kind of outspoken to the “wrong” kind and they didn’t know what to do with me. I was once again, both too much and too little. But this time around, I gave zero fucks.

You know what happened? Nothing. And everything.

I suppose it’s not entirely true that nothing happened — but like, I didn’t die. People didn’t leave in droves. I was happier and more alive than ever. I gained opportunities. My writing improved. Amazing people who I’d never thought to be cool enough to know came into my life and stayed.

I’d already put in the work to gain competence, knowledge, and skills so my confidence wasn’t ill-founded. I was no longer threatened.

I became generous — especially when crediting and acknowledging other amazing people. It no longer hurt me to see other people succeed because I knew their wins didn’t equate to my losses. There was room for all of us.

The world was big enough. And the world opened.

I’ve lost people. That stung — but I chose to be grateful for the season I had them in my life. I trusted we were no longer what the other person needed — and I wished them well.

Of course, I do care what certain people think of me. I care about my family, certain friends, and respected mentors — and their good opinion matters to me — because I value them and their insights.

I worry that I am anti-Black, racist, misogynistic, classist, anti-gay, or transphobic.

I worry that I am punching down instead of up.

I worry that I am causing further harm to the vulnerable.

I worry that I am an unkind and unjust person.

So, when these select people say I’m out of line, I work through my initial defensiveness and shame, evaluate their criticism against what I know of them and what I know of the world, and then I own it. I apologize, I learn from it, and I do better.

My ego gets a little bruised, but it helps me let go of the need to be perfect.

I’ve made enemies, too. But what do I care for what people I don’t give two shits about think of me?

If anything, their hatred amused me. When I hate people, I erase them. I ignore them. They cease to exist for me. So for certain people to go out of their way to castigate or shame me — to paraphrase Regina George, why are they so obsessed with me?

They can hate all they want; I can’t hear them.

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If You Want To Improve Your Life, Don’t Buy Books By Entitled White Women

Girl, just live your best life. You do you. You can do this. You are enough, and you are worthy. Step into the light of your own life, and start that journey toward your better self. You are strong, and you choose your own happiness. Don’t apologize! You don’t need anything or anyone but you. I can teach you how to practice self-care so that you feel refreshed for the challenges you will conquer.

If you’ve read or seen anything on social media over the past few years, you’ve heard these messages, likely hundreds of times. They are shared with you by middle to upper class white women, with perfectly highlighted hair, toned and tanned bodies, dazzling white teeth. They have children who look like Pottery Barn Kids’ models. Pictures of mother and offspring baking together or reading books in designer bedrooms cover their feeds. They are trying to sell you their fantasy, through their books, conferences, podcasts, and social media channels, but the reality is, they can’t. What they have is privilege, often disguised as bravery and confidence. Most of us cannot ever, and will not ever, obtain their best life and make it ours. Instead, we need to create resolutions that are obtainable and personalized, without the faux-help of entitled white women who make money off our desperation.

Every time one of their books hits the bestseller list, I scoff. They are determined to convince you that you can step up your game, your glam, and your fam if you will just buy their book, devour it, and apply the principles to your life. Often, these authors have zero educational or professional credibility. To make up for it, they hire marketing-savvy employees who push a very specific narrative.

We can all be better, if we just buy a $49 ticket with the promise of creating a new and better self and attend the virtual girlfriend conference. Together, women from across the world can hop around in front of our laptop screens screaming, “I can do it! I am worthy! I am fabulous!” while the hostess with the mostest eggs us on. We can shed a few tears, have some good laughs, and then take notes in our conference-issued (not included in the ticket price) notepads. We are just a few hours away from a brand-new tomorrow in which we take command of our destiny and let the universe know just how special we are.

Self-improvement books have been around a long time. I worked at Barnes and Noble for over three years, paying my college tuition with each check I earned. I often stocked shelves, including the self-help section. Even then, I could see how empty and impractical the offered advice tended to be. Most of these books were written by wealthy, white men (and a few women) who declared our life would be changed at the end of the 246 pages.

I’m an author myself. I believe that books and other media can elicit positive change. But what’s disturbing about many self-help books is that too often they rely on the author’s privilege—be it their race, gender, income—to dictate what they tell others to do. Desperate people are vulnerable to buying into a fantasy of a best life that simply can’t ever come to pass, because the reader and the author have very little (if any) privilege in common.

So readers can apply the positive, determined principles all day, every day, and still see no results. An upbeat attitude doesn’t undo a traumatic childhood. Telling yourself you are enough doesn’t pay the rent. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps and out of the job you’re stuck in because you have to provide health insurance for your family, especially for your medically fragile son. You can decide that you are done apologizing and ruin your partnership, because you’ve decided you’re too good for saying you’re sorry when you’ve messed up.

Real life isn’t a Disney movie where the pretty girl lives happily ever after, exploring her interests, falling in love, and pulling up to a palace. The vast majority of us have real responsibilities and real problems, none of which will melt away if we chant “you go, girl” to ourselves in the mirror each morning, wash our faces, and walk into the sunshine.

I follow almost none of these self-improvement gurus on social media, mostly because what some see as beautiful and hopeful, I see as fraudulent. Filtered, posed, sponsored posts do nothing but breed desire (for something unattainable), jealousy, frustration, and disappointment. No, thanks. Real life is difficult enough without volunteering to add in more anxiety.

The messages in their images, books, YouTube videos, and everything else are redundant and inauthentic. You can sign up for their electronic newsletters, download the first chapter of their new book for free, and purchase their branded (overpriced) merch, and sister, your life isn’t going to change. It’s just not. But the hostess of lies covered in glitter? She gets more money in her bank account to buy trendy, designer clothes and go on vaca with her family while you stay in your misery.

These women aren’t your girlfriends. They don’t know your name or care about your life. They want you to think they’ve leveled up using their determination and discipline, and you can, too. But the reality is that they make bank on your vulnerabilities. Let me ask you a question: Every time you scroll longingly through their pics, do you feel like you’re enough, or do you feel less worthy?

I’m all for women doing their thing. We all know that women have been held back by the patriarchy for far too long. There’s still a lot of gender equity work to do. What I’m not for is wealthy, white women pretending like their privilege (they wouldn’t dare use that word, though) is attainable, through a book, or a podcast, or a conference, or a product. That’s not how privilege works, friends. Don’t fall for it.

If you want to improve your life, by all means, do it. I personally believe that therapy, movement, hydration, meditation, journaling, prayer, and other similar means are more effective in changing your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Don’t try to talk yourself out of your trauma, your diagnosis, or your relationship challenges by making yourself feel even more guilty for whatever is going on and always pushing yourself to be more and better. (Even though, ironically, the same self-help leaders who tell you that you are enough are also trying to make you better.) Perhaps, confronting your struggles, bad habits, and challenges head-on and authentically, with tried-and-true methods, is the way to go.

Don’t waste your time or money on superficial white woman nonsense. You are smarter than that, and yes, you are worthy of something so much better.

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If You Needed An Excuse To Take A Hot Bath, Here It Is

When I was 14, I moved in with my grandmother, and her house, well … it was missing a few things. The home was built in the 50s, I believe, and it still had a rotary phone. In fact, she’d actually been renting the phone from Bell for about 30 years. Her house also didn’t have a dishwasher, so I ended up filling that job. And it for sure didn’t have a shower — only a bathtub, which was something I initially hated, but eventually fell in love with. In fact now, at the age of 38, I rarely take showers because I got pretty accustomed to the simple relaxing few moments I get by soaking in the tub. I have a pretty bad anxiety disorder, and I’ll be honest, when I’m really stressed, a hot bath is my go-to. But as it turns out, taking a hot bath isn’t only good for my mental health.

A very extensive study out of Japan is showing the benefits of soaking in hot water. The study was published in the May 2020 issue of the journal Heart. 30,000 people were followed for more than 20 years. They were asked about how often they soaked in hot water. It wasn’t always in a bath, mind you; Japan is notoriously volcanic, so there are a number of hot springs. So many, that soaking in them is more or less part of Japanese culture, known as onsen. They were asked how hot they like their bath, “lukewarm, warm, or hot.” I like my baths pretty warm, although I will admit, I don’t take baths with people often, or ever… so I don’t know exactly how my temperatures compare.

Anyway, 72% of these 30,000 people said they took a bath almost every day, which I will admit, made me a little jealous. What they found was people who took a bath almost every day, as compared with those who only took a bath twice a week, had a 28% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Taking a bath each day also decreased the risk of a stroke by 26%. How awesome is that? If you have a family history of heart trouble, taking a bath might be a huge benefit to you.

There is science behind all of this. Shinya Hayasaka, a professor at Tokyo City University, did an interview with Deutsche Welle about the studies’ findings. He had this to say as to why a hot bath is so beneficial to your heart: “Soaking in hot water causes the arteries to relax and expand, boosting circulation. The blood brings oxygen and nutrition to all the cells in your body — as many as 37 trillion, by some estimates — and carries away carbon dioxide and other waste products. It is this boost to the circulation that is responsible for the restorative feeling you get when you soak in the bath, as if the accumulated fatigue of the day is floating away on a cloud of steam.” I’ll admit, that last line got me. I kind of want to stop writing this article and soak in the tub for a while.

What about the shower? While this study doesn’t directly discredit them, Hayasaka does mention in his Deutsche Welle interview that the increased rush of modern lifestyle has caused only 40% of people to bathe — in the bathtub, that is — each day. Then he gave the grim assessment that this could lead to a rise in heart attacks and strokes.

Keep in mind, this all comes with a warning. According to Harvard Health Publishing, taking a hot bath is great for lowering blood pressure. But not so awesome for those of you with already low blood pressure. Dr. Adolph Hutter, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, cautioned, “People who are in their 70s and older whose blood pressure is on the low side also should be extra careful.” The reason being, if the water is too hot, your blood pressure might get too low. This can make you dizzy, light headed, and from my own personal experience can cause you to pass out. (This actually happened to me as a teenager as I was getting out of my grandmother’s bath tub, and I ended up with a concussion.) Hutter goes on to say that, “A water temperature of 100° to 105° F is reasonable. Get in slowly, so your body can accommodate gradually.”

So my friends, if you are on Team Bathtub, I say, bathe on! Use this study as leverage to take a long warm soak in the tub, no shame. Do it daily, and mention that you are just doing what needs to be done to take care of that very important organ: your heart. Your mental health is just an added bonus.

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We Adopted A Pandemic Cat … With A Mega-Colon

His gray paws hit the floor and it sounds like he’s galloping down the hall, all four pounds of him. He comes sliding around the corner and bounces off the wall – literally. He shakes his head a little, looks up at me, and then continues on, leaping through the air to pounce on Nox, the cat who shares this space and is nearly three times his size. With paws wrapped around Nox’s neck, it looks as if he’s trying to ride a mechanical bull.

He’s Corville, our COVID cat. As my children aptly describe him – “he’s crazy.”

I never expected to be a multi-cat household. Nox has been with us for over two years, and although he is handsome, with long black fur and striking green eyes, he is the epitome of aloof. He wants to be wherever we are, but rarely provides entertainment or affection. So, after being stuck at home for a couple of months due to the pandemic, I found myself considering the kids’ request for another feline companion. My daughter, Holly, was the one who kept asking, and the one who pleaded that we get a kitten and she get naming rights. She was willing to pay the rescue fees and even promised to clean the litter box. I knew the latter wouldn’t stick. Holly’s responsible, but she’s also 13 and words like “always” and “forever” are used frequently and loosely. But the other children agreed, so we began our online search and in just a few days, we found Corville through a local rescue.

Courtesy of Nancy F. Goodfellow

The plan was for Corville to live in Holly’s room for the first few weeks so we could slowly introduce him to Nox. Once we knew the two of them could peacefully live together, we’d give him free rein of the house. During the first two weeks, Corville provided more affection and entertainment than we ever expected. He’d let anyone hold him, and frequently fell asleep in our arms or on our chests or laps. And he’d play for hours, chasing shadows, attacking feet, leaping three feet vertically up the wall to capture light from a laser pointer.

But this was a 2020 cat, born in the middle of a pandemic, and in order to be true to the nature of the year, things could not be easy or continue as expected. Corville was still acting the same – like a typical toddler full of boundless energy until passing out from exhaustion – but he was now struggling to poop and, instead of using the litter box, was “leaking” everywhere. Holly’s room had gone from the place where everyone gathered to play with the kitten to a war zone, where we moved carefully for fear of stepping on a landmine and the landscape was riddled with the aftermath of explosions. Just as 2020 turned into a total shitshow, so did the situation in my house. I was constantly cleaning up after Corville and giving multiple kitty baths a day. But as much as he didn’t enjoy the experience, he cooperated and spent hours afterward swaddled in a towel sleeping in our arms. He was literally full of shit and yet he never stopped playing or cuddling.

Courtesy of Nancy F. Goodfellow

Within the first four weeks, Corville cost me over $1,000. Holly and I made multiple trips to the vet, waiting for him to be examined while we sat in the car (because in times of COVID, that’s what you do). After x-rays, bloodwork and an enema, the doctor was finally able to diagnose him with something called mega-colon. As Holly and I sat in the car talking to the vet over the phone, she explained the condition – but pronounced it “mega-co-lawn.” At first, we didn’t quite know what she was talking about, but when she said that his small intestine looked fine, and those words rhymed, we understood. We stifled our giggles and then spent the car ride home laughing as we tried to mispronounce other words with the emphasis on the wrong syllable. It provided some levity to a discouraging diagnosis.

Courtesy of Nancy F. Goodfellow

Basically, mega-colon means that Corville’s colon gets bigger and wider as it fills up, but lacks the motility to push anything out. The condition isn’t common, and the vet had never seen it in a kitten before. But once diagnosed, we were at least able to move to the treatment phase – an expensive prescription diet and medication every eight hours. In other times, I might not have agreed to this. But these weren’t normal times, and this was no normal cat. Even the vet and technicians called him special. He was gentle and playful and forgiving and rambunctious – and you’d have no idea just how sick he was. The vet mentioned more than once how lucky he was to have found us. That any other family may have returned him to the rescue and he would have inevitably been euthanized.

It’s now been a few months since we got the condition under control. Holly’s room has been repainted, steam-cleaned and sanitized. Corville and Nox are co-existing. I have phone alarms set to remind me to feed Corville small meals throughout the day and give him his stool softener. In some ways it seems ridiculous to go through all of this for a cat who isn’t even six months old. But in reality, it makes life scheduled and predictable. Two things we could all use more of in 2020.

Corville actually has many names. To Holly, he’s just Corville, named after an invisible space cat from a silly lip-sync video on YouTube. To my husband, he’s Cor-Cor, for Corville the Coronavirus cat. Sometimes we fondly refer to him as Co-lon, making sure to emphasize the last syllable. For weeks I called him Shitty Kitty. But regardless of his name, he is the cat that has brought smiles to my children’s faces during a difficult time. He has given Holly comfort and companionship during a time of isolation and uncertainty. And provided hours of laughter at his crazy antics. He has reminded me of life with a toddler as I pull him out of the dishwasher and dryer and teach him that ice is cold and the oven is hot. He is a distraction from the uncertain world where everything seems upside down, reminding us to find humor and joy in curiosity, and that it’s possible to be loving and fun, even when you’re in a shitty situation.

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Adult Acne Is A Bummer – Here’s How To Deal

I’ve battled adult acne since I was, well, an adult. I only had the occasional (but nevertheless mortifying) pimple when I was in middle and high school. The year I was finishing college and was engaged to my long-time boyfriend was also the year I faced major breakouts that no amount of foundation could conceal. We ordered a then-popular skincare line by mail, and I slowly saw some improvements. I chalked up my adult acne to the stress of working two jobs, planning a wedding, and going to school full time. After the wedding, moving, and taking a summer off, my acne disappeared. Well, for a time period, anyway.

Throughout my adult years, my acne has come and gone. After a particularly bad breakout last winter, which I think was an allergic reaction, I finally went to a dermatologist. She offered me a few topicals, plus warnings to avoid anything that would clog my pores. She also said that acne can take three months or longer to clear up, so I shouldn’t expect immediate results. Much to my dismay, the topicals did little for me. It was only when I made some major dietary changes and drastically simplified my skin care regime that I saw some improvement. This leads me to wonder, for those of us with adult acne, how do we know if our zits are caused by a dietary or dermatology issue?

If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of products out there that promise to give you a blemish-free complexion. Additionally, there’s always cosmetics to cover up the redness, bumps, and scarring. If you’re wondering if those products are pricey, the answer is yes, they are. Plus, attempting to clear up your skin while concealing the zits is trial and error.

Scary Mommy reached out to two board-certified dermatologists, Dr. Annie Gonzalez in Miami and Dr. Gretchen Frieling in Boston, to get to the bottom of the adult acne frustrations. We’re tired of handing over our hard-earned cash on products that don’t work, and in some cases, make our skin worse. Plus, what if the root cause of our pimples is something we’re eating? All the facial cleansers, toners, and moisturizers in the world won’t be able to fix an internal issue.

Whom to see first for adult acne?

Dr. Gonzalez says it’s best for a person struggling with adult acne to visit a dermatologist first, because acne is a common problem that dermatologists deal with. “A dermatologist specializes in the treatment of hair, skin, and hails whereas a dietitian or allergist may not have the same information and resources.” However, this doesn’t mean a dermatologist is your be-all, end-all. Dr. Gonzalez told us that a dermatologist can refer a patient to other specialists if necessary.

What causes adult acne?

Dr. Gonzalez says the primary causes of adult acne include physical and emotional stress, hormones, clogged pores, diet, and contact irritation. Hormonal acne may be caused by fluctuations or too much of a hormone which can result in “a pH imbalance of the skin, inflammation, and excess sebum production” (AKA: oil). Stress is problematic in that it can “create biological changes in the body” which is an acne trigger. Anything that rubs the skin, like a mask, razor, or scrub, can irritate, weakening the skin’s protective barrier. There’s some evidence — though not much — that certain foods like dairy, greasy foods, and high-sugar foods may be the culprit (or at least, a contributor).

If at first you don’t succeed, then what?

Dr. Gonzalez wants you to give your prescribed treatment a fair shot, which is ten to twelve weeks. After this, you might need to try a different route, such as a new medication. She wants us to know that it can take time to find the right treatment for your adult acne. Yes, friends, patience is needed.

But it’s hard to be patient with adult acne.

Dr. Frieling suggests we give treatments four to six weeks to begin showing results, and during this time, it is possible we will see more breakouts. She explains, “Whenever we introduce our skin to a new product, especially a chemical exfoliator with strong acids or retinol creams, it has to bring out the junk before getting rid of it.” She also shared that some active ingredients – specifically vitamin A, BHAs, and AHAs — “trigger cell turnover, prompting your skin to exfoliate.” While we prefer a speedier process, we need to know that breaking out isn’t always bad. Rather, it’s a necessary evil in order to bring out what’s lying in the skin’s deeper layers.

What about natural and homemade products?

Dr. Frieling warns us, “Don’t expect the same results as a clinically tested product.” Natural treatments may not only be ineffective, but unfortunately, might even pose danger due to the ingredients. She also says that patients may have allergies, then haphazardly slather products with unknown ingredients onto their faces. She acknowledges that DIY treatments might be more cost effective, and they aren’t always dangerous.

Adult acne can have an emotional impact on a patient.

Anyone who has suffered from adult acne can tell you that blemishes and scarring aren’t just a physical issue. Just like a teenager can have an epic freakout session over a single pimple, an adult can struggle emotionally with their ongoing battle with acne. Dr. Frieling shares, “Certain studies have found that those who suffer from acne experience social, psychological, and emotional problems similar to those with chronic health issues.” If you find yourself canceling social plans due to your acne, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.

I was hoping that by my age (close to forty!), I would no longer be combating acne. What I’ve learned is that the journey to clearer skin is rarely quick and simple, but there are products and changes that can help. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan or perfect, natural treatment which is why having experienced, educated professionals guide you is important. My skin isn’t flawless, but I’ve seen a lot of improvement by visiting both a dietitian and a dermatologist.

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