How The Filtered World Of Social Media Is Changing Our Kids

Last week, as my daughter and I were driving, I noticed an odd series of gestures happening in the front seat next to me. A quick glance to the side and I realized that it was my daughter taking picture after picture of herself with different facial expressions each time. When I asked her what the heck she was doing, she replied, “I’m doing my streaks.”

After realizing (thankfully) that she was not referring to the act of running buck naked through a crowd, I quickly regrouped to inquire what that meant in “teenspeak.” I should have known from the get-go that it was one of those social media time-sucks that seemingly drives teens and parents to the brink of insanity on a daily basis.

After a quick tutorial from her about Snapchat stories, I was in the know. If I have this right, Snapchat streaks require kids to keep up a daily routine of sending out live shots of things they are doing throughout the day to pretty much anyone they have ever met or will possibly ever meet or will never met. If perchance they happen to be sick, Wi-fi fails or they lose use of their opposable thumbs, then the streak ends and apparently the world with it.

I couldn’t quite shake the concept that across the globe, millions of kids like my daughter were doing the exact same thing. The idea that they were under the gun to send quick snap shots of themselves with forced smiling faces really bothered me. I decided that this was worthy of a discussion over a glass of wine with friends on a recent girl’s night. I was ready for my friends to rally behind me and share in my dismay of what our kids are doing on social media.

I was surprised, however, to find out that both of my friends used Snapchat themselves. One friend even told me that she actually kept up her daughter’s streaks for her when she was at camp and didn’t have phone access. I was floored. I mean props to my friend for taking that on, but the irony of sending her daughter to camp to unplug for a week only to keep said daughter “virtually” plugged in the whole time astounded me.

The heart of the issue for me is the constant need to present a happy facade. This is not reality, obviously. I worry that the lines between what is presented and what happens when the phone is off will become muddled for kids. The need to perpetuate a false persona on a regular basis seems a dangerous road to travel for anyone, much less an impressionable teen.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my smartphone and it is never far from my grubby little hands. I like looking at 100 versions of chocolate chip cookie recipes on Pinterest. I LOL frequently at the clever memes on Instagram. I even don’t mind the constant string of humble brags on Facebook. I’ve been guilty of that myself. I understand that that has become the new “norm.”

I am not okay, however, with the incessant stream of social media that portrays kids as some Stepford version of themselves. Where does that end? Will they never reach out when they need help because they don’t want anyone to see that they are not really happy 24/7?

Omkar Patyane/Pexels

It comes down to this for me — I want my kids to realize that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. Happiness is great and boy do I hope that my children are living that dream as much as possible. But I also think it’s equally important to be able to deal with the problems and issues that life will throw their way, because that is inevitable and unavoidable.

A more recent car ride with my daughter prompted a conversation around this very subject. I think it’s unrealistic to expect her social media habits to drastically change. We did, however, have a very candid talk about knowing that it’s all right to raise that little white flag and show her true self. We discussed the importance of talking to her friends about her problems and to listen to theirs.

My hope is that my daughter realizes that, despite what she sees and sends on Snapchat every day, it is not real life. Life is not all rainbows and sunshine and Kylie filters. Real life is taking the good with the bad and learning to deal with everything in between. I know that her smiley faced “streaks” will continue, but I will also be there to nudge her back to reality too.

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We’ve Got To Change The Way We Talk (Or Don’t Talk) About Periods

People, let’s stop whispering about periods. We all do it. I’ll be the first to admit that there is nothing more annoying than hearing some person say, “Ew, gross,” because someone says they are on their period. News flash: Half of the population deals with periods! I grew up in a household of girls–periods were a normal occurrence. When that time of the month came and the cramps and mood swings (and occasionally, the chocolate cravings) arrived, the world didn’t stop spinning. Shocking, right?

In fact, I was so used to being casual about my period that it wasn’t until I had someone in high school ask to borrow a tampon in the smallest whisper ever that I realized some people aren’t casual about periods. I started watching every time “periods” were mentioned, and it was always talked about in a hushed whisper. So frustrating. Eventually, I got in the habit of whispering about periods too because I wanted others to feel comfortable. But as I lowered my voice to talk about blood and tampons, I internally rolled my eyes.

Then I met my husband. When I mentioned something about being on my period, it was no big deal. He’d happily pick up a box of tampons or pads, whatever it was that I needed. There was nothing about a period that made him pause or say something uncalled for. And forget queasy, they seriously didn’t faze him. It was a breath of fresh air. Is it because he grew up with a sister? Maybe. Or maybe it’s because he’s a mature guy who realizes that people get periods. Here’s the thing: All men should be perfectly fine with them.

Periods are messy. Periods suck. Sometimes, periods leak or surprise you. This is especially true when it’s your very first one. We’re in the 21st century people, why are period sufferers still scared to talk about Aunt Flo? Do men not realize that they are here on this earth because of a period? Well, the beginning stages, or the lack of a period. Whatever, you know what I mean.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of blue water mimicking our blood. If I’m leaking blue water, you’d be seeing me in the emergency room stat. I’m sick of the whispers and clever names, the hiding during cramps and the countless trips to the bathroom with a tampon tucked in our sleeve. It’d be a lot easier to say, “Yep, I’m on my period. Cramps are a killer, am I right?” All other period sufferers would give you the Hunger Games salute and cis-men would silently praise whatever they believe in that they don’t have to experience the horrid stomach pains on a monthly basis.

Wouldn’t that be nice?


Scary Mommy and PeopleImages/Getty

I think it’s time to stop censoring our periods. But seriously, think about it. If you get a little blood on your shirt when you get a papercut, do you hide away and beg all your coworkers to borrow one of their shirts? Would you go around and whisper in every person’s ear asking them for a Band-Aid? If you would, it’s probably time to get cooler coworkers or a better job. Most people who cut their finger would wince and ask in a regular tone, “Hey, anyone have a Band-Aid?” Then, maybe they’d go to the bathroom and try to get the bloodstain out of their white tee before going right back to their desk and doing work. They could freely complain about typing with the sore finger and about how much the papercut sucks. No one would bat an eye. There would probably even be some office solidarity. Something like, “We’ve all been there. It does suck.”

Why are periods any different? Half of us get them! And we get them 12+ times a year! I can’t even remember the last time I cut my finger, but I can definitely remember my last period. I’d bet that you could, too.

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thank you @instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. you deleted a photo of a woman who is fully covered and menstruating stating that it goes against community guidelines when your guidelines outline that it is nothing but acceptable. the girl is fully clothed. the photo is mine. it is not attacking a certain group. nor is it spam. and because it does not break those guidelines i will repost it again. i will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified. pornified. and treated less than human. thank you. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ this image is a part of my photoseries project for my visual rhetoric course. you can view the full series at rupikaur.com the photos were shot by myself and @prabhkaur1 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ i bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way. in older civilizations this blood was considered holy. in some it still is. but a majority of people. societies. and communities shun this natural process. some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. the sexualization of women. the violence and degradation of women than this. they cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. but will be angered and bothered by this. we menstruate and they see it as dirty. attention seeking. sick. a burden. as if this process is less natural than breathing. as if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. as if this process is not love. labour. life. selfless and strikingly beautiful.

A post shared by rupi kaur (@rupikaur_) on

It’s 2019, and we’ve made some pretty hefty strides for our monthlies. We’ve got lifesaving period underwear, a multitude of period essentials to choose from, and awesome people who are breaking barriers with things like period photoshoots. But, those people aren’t enough. We need the average Janes and Joes of the world to commit to casting aside the taboo that surrounds periods. Seriously, it’s just blood! Periods aren’t dirty, they aren’t embarrassing, and they definitely aren’t a “weak” women’s issue. With both women and men bleeding from periods, it’s important to grow up and stop making a regular bodily function something obscure or strange.

I think it’s time to remind people everywhere that they wouldn’t be alive without periods. That to bring a person into the world, we have to endure a nearly lifelong struggle of bleeding every month for a week or so. Maybe it’s time we start embracing periods. I’m ready for the day that I can raise my hand and say, “Any of you have a tampon? Pad? Cup? I’m on my period.” Sure, I can say it now, and I happily will, but I’d like to say it without a few gasps or widened eyes throughout the room. We have enough to worry about between the painful cramping, headaches, and sore backs. Yeah, periods suck. But the last thing we need is some person’s unwarranted opinion of the best thing to happen to the human race.

Let’s make the world a constant period support group. There’s strength in numbers. I’m done censoring my period. Care to join?

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Why You Need To Put ‘Pose’ On Your Must-Watch List

If you’re on the hunt for a new show that you can binge, have I got a suggestion for you? Pose. Never heard of it? That’s okay, the FX show aired its eight-episode first season last summer to critical acclaim, and now, it’s available for bingeing on Netflix.

Pose was created by Ryan Murphy, of Glee and American Horror Story fame. Taking place in 1987 New York City, much of the story revolves around underground ball culture. Balls consist of primarily Black and Latinx members of the LGBTQ+ community, many who are gay or transgender. Since two of the creators — Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk — are white men, there was a very real fear that the show wouldn’t be representative of the community it represented. But thankfully, Murphy and Falchuk brought in Steven Canals, a black, brown queer man as the show’s co-creator. And they assembled a team of crew, writers, and actors who are diverse as the world they’re representing on the show.

“There are 140 trans actors and crew members on this show, and 35 L.G.B.T.Q. characters who aren’t trans,” Murphy explained in an interview with The New York Times. One of those people is trans activist Janet Mock, who serves as a producer, writer and director.

Unlike many previous films and TV shows, trans characters are actually being played by trans actors. Five of the main characters are trans women, and it’s certainly more impactful seeing members of the trans community getting to tell the stories of their own community.

FX Network

“Every day that I’m on set, I’m reminded of the struggles, the hardships, the deaths and the murders that all of my brothers and sisters have endured and are still enduring,” Hailie Sahar, who plays Lulu Abundance says in an interview with TimeOut New York.

Here’s a brief history lesson on the world of Pose. Described as a “celebration of the life that the rest of the world does not deem worthy of celebration,” the show centers around ball culture of the ’80s. The height of self-expression, balls consist of performers who walk (or compete) for trophies. Usually, the performers are apart of a “house,” or a family of your own choosing, consisting of a mother or father and their “children,” usually newer members of the community. House members often come together after being disowned by their biological families because of their gender identity or sexuality. Sometimes children will leave the house to form their own houses, something that the show addresses in the first episode when Blanca leaves the House of Abundance to form her own house, the House of Evangelista.

Pose FX family Angel

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On the flip side of the underground lifestyle portrayed on the show, we get to see glimpses of mainstream NYC in the late ’80s, when Wall St. and “yuppies” were the ruling class. The show pulls back the curtain on this lifestyle through the character of Stan, a typical white guy from New Jersey who works in Trump Tower and wants a taste of the power that comes from a job in this world.

Naturally, the show focuses on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 1987, it was ravaging New York City, especially the LGBTQ community. The reality of the epidemic isn’t sugarcoated by any means in Pose. You can feel the fear pulsing through the veins of characters as they discuss this part of life. The conversations Blanca and Pray Tell have about the disease will grip you.

Pose FX nervous leg

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“We’re not masking it. We’re giving you the truth,” Dominique Jackson, who plays the villainous Elektra Abundance tells TimeOut New York. Blanca, played by MJ Rodriguez is truly the heartbeat of the show. Her HIV diagnosis at the start of the first episode propels the action forward. From forming her own house, to fighting for service in a gay bar, Blanca’s focus is to create a legacy. “I think a lot of women back in the ’80s wanted to fight for the generation that’s going to come, and I think that’s what Blanca is,” Rodriguez explains to TimeOut NY.

It would have been easy to turn Pose into trauma porn, exploiting the struggles of the trans community. But while the struggle is definitely part of the story because it has to be, it is the undercurrent of the action. Angel, the aptly named trans sex worker played by the ethereal Indya Moore understands that her work is a means to an end. But all she really wants is for a man to love her for who she is. But at the same time, she struggles to get a job working in a department store. As we hear stories about transwomen of color being murdered, we realize that as far as things have come for the LGBTQ community, the T part is still largely ignored.

Jojo Whilden/FX Network

And you can’t talk about the cast without mentioning the tour de force performance of Billy Porter. The character of Pray Tell was literally made for him, though he initially auditioned for another part. Pray Tell is the father figure for many of the characters, but he is carrying a very heavy burden on his shoulders. As an older black, gay man, he is wise beyond his years.

Pose FX Blanca and Pray Tell

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On the yuppie side, Stan is played by Evan Peters. Stan admits he doesn’t know who he is, but he finds himself drawn to Angel after picking her up by the pier. At first you expect it to turn into some sort of Pretty Woman-esque fairy tale, but this is real life. Kate Mara plays his wife, Patty, a woman who finds herself thrown into the deep end of a world she isn’t sure she wants to be a part of. And James Van Der Beek plays Stan’s boss Matt, who is arguably the villain in their story.

Pose is a glimpse into the not-too-distant past. The ball culture is still alive and well, and influencing a lot of our current culture. We wouldn’t have a show like RuPaul’s Drag Race without the people represented by Pose. Things we say — “shade” and “read for filth” are phrases uttered by characters on the show. If you saw coverage of this year’s Met Gala and wondered what “camp” is, it derives from the world of ball culture. To understand where we are now, we must look to the past, and Pose does just that.

Pose FX shade gif

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The new season of Pose airs on FX starting on June 11th.

The post Why You Need To Put ‘Pose’ On Your Must-Watch List appeared first on Scary Mommy.

8 Things Fat People Wish You Knew

I’ve been a card-carrying fat girl since 1984, and for better or for worse, it has shaped who I have become. My experiences have been influenced by the way my body looks and fits into the world around me. I can’t deny that life in a fat body is different in some ways than life in an average-sized body.

Courtesy of Katie Cloyd

But honestly, despite the way it influences my choices and my beliefs, being fat is just a piece of who I am. I’m a wife and a mom. I’m a writer. Ask anyone I know, and they will tell you that I’m an excellent cook, and a terrible driver.

So many things about me have nothing to do with my weight.

I recently asked some self-described fat people what they wish the world knew about life in a fat body. Here’s what some of us had to say.

1. Fat people aren’t lazy, and we don’t eat constantly.

This was by far the most common response. We live in the same world as thin people. We are moving at breakneck speeds to try to maintain all the obligations of modern parenting. For most of us, there’s no time to be lazy or snack all day. We have places to be!

Mandy expressed her frustration with this stereotype. “Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I lay around all day eating. I’m in school full-time, and I work. I love to play sports, and I love hiking and swimming. I hardly ever sit still!”

According to Gena, “Sometimes the kids want chicken nuggets, so we eat chicken nuggets with them!” (Note: Thin moms do that, too!) “Our lives and diets are very much the same, no matter what you think our weight insinuates about us.”

2. We know we’re fat.

Sarah wants you to know that “it’s okay to acknowledge that we need more space than smaller people. You don’t have to pretend not to see our size.”

We live in our bodies, and we know how big we are. We don’t expect to always fit comfortably in spaces designed for average sized bodies, but we appreciate any time a business or individual offers a simple accommodation to make our experience easier. Any time an office with a waiting area provides a chair without narrow arms, a host at a restaurant seats us at a table instead of a booth, or a salon keeps a plus-size robe on hand, it makes our day that much easier. And it’s good for business — we are likely to tell our plus-size friends!

3. Some of us are working really hard to be thinner…

The amount of time and energy required to turn a fat body into a thinner one is immense. It isn’t always as simple as you imagine. Losing weight is hard for anyone. Adding a medical or metabolic condition can make the task a million times harder.

“It’s not a great feeling when your body is fighting you,” Amanda laments. “PCOS, thyroid problems and some medications can make weight loss feel impossible. Just because we don’t share it with you, doesn’t mean we aren’t fighting.”

We don’t owe the world our life history in exchange for decency.

4. But some of us aren’t!

Dawn’s attitude toward her body is healthy and positive. “I move my body for the fun of it through hiking and yoga, and I enjoy a wide variety of foods. I don’t care about attaining some ideal of thinness, and I don’t need your tips on how to do that.”

Lydia isn’t here for disrespect. “We shouldn’t have to be working on losing weight for you to deem us worthy of respect and common decency. We’re worthy, even if we DGAF.”

Hello, yes.

5. Fat isn’t a bad word, and many of us prefer it.

The word fat has been used as a weapon against women of all sizes, even those who are considered an ideal weight. I understand why people feel some hesitation when we use it. But, as Kia points out, “When I say I’m fat, I’m not saying it as a negative thing. I’m fat instead of thin, just like I’m short instead of tall. Most of the time I like me as I am.”

I call myself fat, and that is the word I prefer. I don’t mind if someone else calls me fat in a matter-of-fact way. I’m also not offended by overweight, plus-size, obese or heavy. Honestly, unless you’re calling me names on purpose, any word that means I have a body with a higher than average amount of fat on it is fine with me. It’s true, and I’m not ashamed.

6. We realize people of all sizes can have body insecurities.

If we dismiss your feelings, call us out! We’ve been so conditioned to prefer thinness over fatness, that sometimes it’s hard for fat people to remember that just because you’re thinner than we are, doesn’t mean you don’t have insecurities. When we need a reminder, feel free to give it to us. Jeanne acknowledges, “We can’t expect respect if we don’t give it to you, too.”

Many of us are doing so much work to love our bodies here and now, critics be damned. Fat people might just be the best companions for your journey toward self-love.

7. We aren’t unlucky in love, and we don’t have trouble finding sex partners.

Everyone is attracted to different things, but our fat bodies don’t exclude us from the dating game. Plenty of people are happy with a plus-size lover. When it comes to sex and romance, fat people are doing just fine.

Candice says, “Fat and sexy are not mutually exclusive! Finding a fat person desirable isn’t a gift to them. Lots of us are hot AF, and rather good at the game.” Jessica adds, “I’ve been married 17 years, have 4 kids, and my husband still slaps my butt every time I pass by.”

8. We know our worth.

Gone are the days when fat people could be shamed into hiding behind over-sized clothes, disrespecting our bodies with dangerous diets, and feeling like we would be more valuable if we weighed less. We might be working toward thinner bodies, but we might not. We feel entitled and empowered to love ourselves today, and we don’t need constant reassurance that we are beautiful.

Nikki agrees. “If a fat person acknowledges their size, don’t counter by telling us we are beautiful. We can be both fat and beautiful at the very same time.”

Of all the comments I received, I think Natosha’s thoughts sum it up the best.

“The amount of fat our bodies carry is not a measure of worthiness. Every body deserves to be loved, admired, accepted, and desired in equal measure based on the soul it carries.”

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These Strangers Give Us A Reason To Feel Warm Inside

There are more than enough things to be disappointed by in today’s headlines. These days, our news is more polarizing than many of us have seen in our lifetime. Despite all the chaos, plenty of folks are doing what they can to encourage others. As sappy and cliched as it sounds, those moments of encouragement give us a second to pause and enjoy the good aspects of living in a cooperative society. They also remind us that we are all much more than our individual selves.

One of the most recent examples of a heartwarming story that reminds what it means to lift each other up is that of supportive strangers Laura Mazur and Jessica Robertson.

Before the Pittsburg Marathon, the persistent pair hadn’t known each other. But, after meeting at the 14-mile mark, they soon became each other’s primary source of support to finish strong — even if that meant finishing late.

“If you stay with me, I’ll stay with you,” the two promised each other, Mazur said.

They didn’t finish first. But they finished, and they did it together just like they promised.

Facebook

“Over the next three-plus hours, Mazur and Robertson took turns holding hands to keep each other on pace, reassuring each other, and even video chatting with Robertson’s mother, aunt, and daughter for outside encouragement. When Robertson, who was running her first-ever 26.2, faltered, Mazur drew on her six years of marathon experience to reassure her,” wrote Jacob Meschke in Runners World.

Their story is encouraging for a couple of reasons.

One is the obvious beauty in two women becoming a mutual source of support in their time of need. Who knows how the experience would have gone had they not had each other to lean on in such a challenging moment? Finishing the race would have been bigger than quitting, where their memories of the race would have been tossed into a pile of regret. But now, the experience can go on in their memories as a time when things got tough and they took the time to persist.

The second is that it sends a message that giving your all and finishing is just as admirable as finishing in the top ranks of a challenge. And those morals are worth supporting.

Despite missing the seven-hour cut-off time, both Robertson (7:22:56 ) and Mazur (07:24:58) got 3,420th out of 3,422, and a few volunteers stayed behind to welcome them as the crossed the finish line.

A few years prior in 2017 and in 2018, Mazur had a very different experience — the premature removal of aid stations, makers, and timing.

“I had no aid stations. It was so confusing, so frustrating,” she recalled. “When they started pulling everything, I’m like, ‘What’s going on here?’”

But this year, things were better.

It’ s a complete 180 in treatment compared to what happened to the later stage runners at the London Marathon earlier this year. Instead of being welcomed or even acknowledged, they were harassed. Elizabeth Ayres shared a post about her experience that eventually went viral.

“The cleaning crew crept up around us and started cleaning off the blue line right in front of me. I wasn’t impressed and made it known to one of the course cars who then asked them to hold back,” she said of the ways she was being rushed.

Unfortunately, things got worse from there. They also had limited access to resources.

“We got to mile 3, and there was no sign of a water station, it had all packed up and gone!! We had only left the start less than 50 mins ago…No water, no station. Thankfully noone needed it at that point, but I was now worried about what lay ahead so contacted my crew at Backpackers Running, and some friends who I knew would try to help,” Ayres recalled.

From there, she described being touched by cleaning crews, a continued lack of water access, and being told she needed to speed up. Still, she did what she could to keep pushing and getting those around her to continue running until they reached the finish line.

One person, Sarah Jane Pringle, who stayed with the 6:30 pacer had an even worse experience. She was sprayed by cleaning crews while racing and was later treated for a chemical burn on her foot.

Running a marathon is about more than speed, it’s about finishing what you set out to do.

The comments and shares on Ayers post suggest that experience for slower runners is more common that one would think. In a time when the running world aims to be more inclusive to folks with a wide range of speeds, the London Marathon seems to be a good reminder of what not to do.

On the other hand, the dedication showed by our persistent pair in the Pittsburg Marathon, and the support they received are examples of how to treat all participants with respect while reminding others that finishing is worth celebrating.

We all hope that Mazur and Robertson’s example let people know that you shouldn’t have to run at a certain speed to experience a marathon. The joy should come from completion, not just the clock.

The post These Strangers Give Us A Reason To Feel Warm Inside appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

I was getting ready for a hot date last weekend and searching all over my bathroom for my favorite eyeshadow — because nothing makes my eyes pop like a smooth “pixie pink” shadow — and finally found it in my daughter’s room. I’ve asked my teenage girl many times to let me know if she is going to borrow something. That way I can save my energy for things other than tearing my bedroom and bathroom apart looking for my favorite t-shirt, eyeshadow, or all my socks, because apparently, my closet is a boutique for her and her friends.

Before I found my beloved eye makeup, though, I found an empty bowl of guacamole on her floor (right next to several pairs of my socks), which I’m guessing had been sitting there for a few weeks. Next to it was a bag of barely eaten corn chips that were staler than stories about how Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt really are getting back together.

I took a deep breath. And then another.

Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

I applied my shadow, put it back in my closet, dropped off my kids with their dad, and tried transitioning into date night. But first, caffeine.

As I was waiting in line an older man walked up to me and told me to smile. I had fantasies of telling him my mind was drowning a to-do list a mile long because we all know the women of the household run that ship whether they are single or not. I wanted to tell him I didn’t fucking feel like smiling because the mental load I carry around in my head causes my resting bitch face to blossom like a tulip in May. I wanted to tell him he should try being everything for everyone and then get back to me on how much he feels like smiling. Also, he reminded me of an ex-boss who once said to me “Oh look, I see two high-beams coming at me,” as I walked down the hallway to my office. I was in my 20s, he was in his 60s. I should have twisted his nuts but I had bills to pay so I didn’t.

We’ve been taught to keep the peace and not speak up. That shit sticks with you so, when a man you don’t know comes up to you and suggests you morph into a happy person so he can feel more comfortable, we are rightfully angry and we let it be known. And it’s about fucking time.

We’ve had enough.

We feel ignored — at work and at home. We repeat ourselves only to be ignored again.

That evening on my date, the man I was with asked to walk me to my car. I didn’t want company and told him I was all set. He asked again, I said no again. He insisted and started following me anyway and I told him for the third time I didn’t want him walking me to my car.

“Can I at least get a hug then?” In his mind it seemed like the reasonable thing to say, I guess. Just UGH.

Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

The next morning, I walked into my daughter’s room and saw the same bowl sitting on the floor with the stale chips by its side. Any minute I was sure to find a cockroach and together they all would have made quite the ensemble — exactly what I envision when I think about my home.

You know what comes next, right?

Yep, I LOST MY FUCKING SHIT.

I lost all of it right there in the middle of the hallway while my kids were half asleep. I didn’t hold back and I still don’t feel an ounce of guilt about this.

My kids wonder why I’m so angry all the time.  To them, losing it once in a while, after holding it in for what feels like centuries translates as being angry “all the time.”

Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

I’ll admit I’m tightly wound. All I have to do is watch the news for a half hour, repeat myself to an adult male, get another note from school, or find a rotting, leftover buffet on my daughter’s room and I’m a goner.

I give in to that anger and so does every other mom I know because we talk about it all the damn time. As soon as one of my sisters or mom friends start spewing a story about how the world is going to shit, no one gives a damn about them and their needs, and they are the doer of all things, everyone mom within a one-mile radius nods their heads emphatically (and angrily) in unison.

Before the first sentence is even complete, the entire room shakes and no one dares approach the area because they know we need to dish about how there is no un-douching the world and for fuck’s sake, it sucks.

Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

The fact is, what makes moms of the world crosser than a tailor trying to make a living at a nudist colony is that we speak up but no one listens. And frankly, they don’t give a shit about our feelings until our blood boils over and we let it be known we’ve had enough.

We have a ton on our plates. We worry about all the things (including the fact that we worry about too many things), but we don’t know how to stop worrying. It seems so easy for our family to forget all we do and there is nothing like painting a pretty little picture about how our minds operate (while going on strike for a spell) to make us feel better and to reset the family dynamic until the next time they all need a take down by their angry mom.

Moms of the world are angry because there’s a lot to be angry about. That anger builds and builds until it eventually erupts.

Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

It’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It gets shit done — so we can all stop with the guilt we have surrounding the fact we are angry all the time. This is our life, dammit, and we are dealing with it the best way we know how. Sometimes that means we yell in the middle of the hallway early on Monday morning and I’m alright with that.

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Parents And In-Laws: Don’t Forget You Were Once Where We Are

I was upstairs, getting my youngest to bed and listening to my mother-in-law complain about our dishwasher. She was loading it, which is always appreciated, but the criticism? Not so much. She kept saying “unacceptable.” My wife was in the kitchen with her, explaining that it still works, and that we didn’t have money for a new one right then. But she wouldn’t drop it. With each clank of that wobbly, chipped up thing, she told my wife that she deserved something better.

And yes, I will admit, our dishwasher is a hunk of garbage. And yes, my wife, my family, does deserve something better. But we can’t afford better right now. I’m sure anyone with small children who is reading this can understand. The dishwasher came with the new larger house we bought about a year ago. When we moved in, it looked pretty nice, but after using it for a year or so, we discovered that it wasn’t installed properly, and so now every time we open the door, half the thing tips out and smacks the ground, chipping up the front and causing dishes to shift and roll forward. The springs, or something, are bad on the door too, so if you’re not careful it will flop down and hit you in the knee.

But like my wife said, it works. And between our children needing braces and youth sports and our minivan breaking down, we just haven’t had the money to get a new one.

Not that any of that matters to my in-laws, or my parents, for that matter. It never does. I’m in my mid-30s and my wife and I have been married for over a decade. When I was in college and my wife was working full time in retail and I was waiting tables in the evening, my mother felt she needed to discuss with me how the two-bedroom house farmhouse we could hardly afford wasn’t acceptable, and that I needed to be doing more for my family.

After college, it took my wife and I almost two years to get approved for a house loan on a small 1,000 square foot home. It was a huge achievement, and when we showed it to our parents, they told us it was too cramped and unacceptable. They couldn’t understand how we would want to live in something so small. Once we finally moved into a larger, newer, nicer home in a much better part of town, I got to listen to my mother-in-law discuss how we should’ve never bought a used house.

Between raising children, maintaining a marriage, and getting through school, my wife and I have clawed our way into establishing ourselves, and with each step, we have been faced with criticism from our more established parents. And frankly, it sucks. We have always provided our family with a clean and safe place to live. We have always had reliable transportation, healthy food on the table, clean clothing, and health insurance. But none of that seems to matter to them.

And when I think about all the snide comments, I cannot help but wonder if our parents have forgotten where they were at this stage. When my mother was in her early-20s, she lived in a shady trailer park in a rough part of town with my older sister and her first husband. I know my in-laws lived in a rural, rundown, farmhouse similar to the one my wife and I rented when we first got married. I’ve seen pictures of their family cars, and so I know they weren’t stellar.

What I’m trying to get here is a simple truth: it takes time to get established. Years and years, actually, so parents and in-laws, next time you visit your child’s home, think about where you were at this age. Realize that you didn’t have it all together quite yet, either. Then keep your criticism about housing size, appliances, vehicles, or whatever to yourself.

Realize that your children are working very hard, and please don’t expect them to be further along or in a better place financially than you were at that same time. And don’t compare them to where their siblings might be, because each journey is different. Don’t apply your standards and understanding of life and living after raising a family, to where your children are while raising children. Unless the situation is truly dangerous, keep your tips and suggestions to yourself. Realize your children would probably love a larger house or better appliances or a newer vehicle if they could afford it. But until they can, they are living within their means, and frankly, that’s a huge accomplishment that you should be proud of.

So next time you’re visiting your children, take a step back before you comment on that usable, but slight off-balanced and mismatched washer set, or the carpet that has seen a few too much traffic, or the van with the dent in the side, but still runs pretty good, and think about where you were at that same time. Think about the struggle and how long it took you to get where you are, how hard you had to fight and scrimp and save, and then shut it.

Please and thank you.

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Don’t Comment On Someone’s Weight — EVER

Trigger warning: anorexia, eating disorders

I dropped down to one meal a day somewhere around Halloween. It was easier that way. Coffee for breakfast, Red Bull or coffee around 3 p.m., a light dinner. I started dropping weight like crazy. And I found out I liked losing weight. I liked losing it a lot. This is when I started to slip into anorexia 

For me, this looked like not eating for days on end. When you hide how often you don’t eat. When you avoid times and places that may require you to eat, like restaurants. When you substitute things like coffee for real food. When your husband goes out of town for six days, and you eat a total of three times — and you’re proud of yourself. This is much easier, you think, than that low-carb diet you tried. This is much easier than sweating it out on that goddamn exercise bike. You just … don’t eat. And when you do, you make sure to eat as little as possible of foods that have as few calories as possible. If people press you, you can call it “intermittent fasting.”  

In six months, I dropped ten sizes.  

I was technically obese when I started. I’m considered a “healthy weight” now. People don’t look at me and think “recovering anorexic who is struggling to actually eat food like a normal person.” They look at me and say, “Wow, you look awesome! You lost so much weight! Congratulations!”

They are happy for me, and more complimentary of my appearance than ever before.

This is radically problematic. This is why you should never comment on a person’s weight. Ever. Unless someone brings it up themselves, the topic is off the table.  

First, the comment assumes that losing weight is a good thing. It rests on the premise that thin bodies are better bodies. Which is one of the lies I bought into (buy into, most days), and one of the reasons I stopped eating in the first place. It’s dangerous to every woman’s self-image, not just the self-image of a woman who’s struggling hard to make herself eat dinner tonight despite what her head is telling her.

Commenting that someone looks awesome because they lost weight insinuates that women who shop in the plus-size department don’t and can’t look as awesome as their smaller peers. That their bodies are deficient. I certainly thought mine was.

These congratulations over my weight loss also made me feel really good. Really, really good. It fueled me. Because it was outside assurance that my starvation diet was working. Most people who deal with anorexia or anorexia-like behaviors have body dysmorphia issues. That means that, literally, I have no idea what I look like. I can’t tell if I look overweight or underweight. I can’t point to a person who is similar in size to me; I can’t tell what my own body really looks like. So when someone tells me that I look smaller, it’s validation. They might as well be saying, “Hey, that not-eating thing you’re doing? It’s totally working. You should keep that up.” It’s encouragement for my self-destructive behavior.   

But deep down, I knew something was very, very wrong. And I wanted someone to notice. I wanted someone to grab my arm and say, “Hey. I think there’s something wrong. I think you need some help.” Instead of telling me that I needed to see someone, people told me that I was doing a great job. That I should keep up the good work. I felt alone. I felt misunderstood and overlooked.

While part of me basked in their compliments, another part wanted to shout in their faces. Do you understand what I went through to get this small? Do you have any idea what I’m doing? Would you even care if you did know? It just enforced the idea that I was only valuable and good in a thin body. 

It also told me what people really think. I didn’t want to know that. 


Natnan Srisuwan/Getty

It told me that most of my friends don’t really believe in body positivity, especially the male ones. They think a thin body is a better body, and that I look better without extra weight. My husband swears up and down that I’m just as beautiful with or without. But every other male friend I have has commented about it. And in every case, it’s been a positive thing. “Wow, you look great,” or “Wow, you lost a lot of weight!” I’ve learned that family members think I look better at this size than I do at others. 

Remembering this makes me afraid to eat. Because what if I get bigger again? What are they going to think of me? They won’t comment on my weight then. But they’ll think it. People notice when you gain weight. Look, her face looks fatter. Look, she got bigger. She couldn’t keep the weight off. And it’s not a good thing. They will think I am unattractive. I feel the pressure to maintain the weight loss I’ve managed, and even to lose more.  

That makes it even harder to choke down dinner. I’m feeling guilty because I ate fucking Triscuits and a little bit of a cheeseball today. I don’t mean among other things. I mean that’s all I ate. I’ll have dinner. But those Triscuits will bother me all day, because I know what people will think of me if I gain that weight back.  

Congratulations on losing weight doesn’t mean what you think it does.  

It means good job, you look better now.  

It means you value a thin body more.

It means keep it off or you’ll look worse again and we will think you’ve let yourself go.   

It means now I know what you really think about body positivity.  

And it means you’ve got a lot of goddamn work to do.  

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I Am A Person Of Faith And The Religious Right Does NOT Speak For Me

The 2016 election was considered a major victory for some Christians. I wasn’t one of them.

I’ve gone to church my entire life. I remember wearing poofy dresses and lace-trimmed socks to church, singing “Jesus Loves Me” and “Father Abraham” with my cousins and friends, and putting coins in the collection plate that circulated, hand to hand, during the hour-long church service every Sunday morning.

I vividly remember red carpet in the sanctuary, memorizing Psalm 23, and Saltines and grape juice communion. Women were the potluck-organizers, Sunday School teachers, funeral-and-wedding arrangers, and custodians.

Summers were for VBS (that’s Vacation Bible School for you non-church-goers), church camp, mission trips, and baptisms in lakes. Or, if you were lucky enough, in an above-ground swimming pool. In the fall, we went on hayrides and roasted marshmallows over bonfires.

At Christmas, we went to a candlelight service where we would sing about the birth of glowing (white-skinned, blue-eyed) Jesus. And then in spring, there were Easter egg hunts and car wash fundraisers.

The leadership was all the same: white, middle-aged men. They quoted from King James Version Bibles. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a lot of “thou art,” “thine,” and amen pronounced “ah-men.” (Ironic, isn’t it?)

The ultimate sins were alcohol consumption, anything other than heterosexual sex after marriage, using God’s name in vain, and divorce. Some of these were so horrifying that they were never spoken of outside of gossip. Like when everybody knew one kid at church was probably gay.

I always felt different than most my church youth group peers. I was a skeptic in many ways. I never doubted that God loved me and that redemption was real. The foundational truths of Christianity weren’t in question. Because I worked several jobs to pay my college tuition, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people who weren’t anything like my church friends. I had gay friends, black friends, older friends, and (gasp!) Democrat friends.

What I struggled with then, and I still struggle with now, is the white, male-created rules of what is and isn’t holy. Looking back, it seems that the rules benefited some far more than others.

Not much has changed, has it?

I know the stats, and yes, they embarrass me to no end. Reportedly, a whopping 81% of Trump voters were white evangelicals. (It probably goes without saying, but I was not among them.) How were Christian Trump supporters blind to his two divorces and three marriages, Twitter rants, and infidelity rumors? He couldn’t even properly state the biblical book of Second Corinthians, instead calling it “Two Corinthians.”

Frankly, it’s downright humiliating. I want to walk up to everyone who has told me that they hate organized religion and Christianity more than ever and tell them, “Trump is not Jesus.” Followed by, “I’m sorry that those who claim to be Christians have hurt you, and all of us, so much.” I want to implore them to not abandon their curiosity about my faith.

The reality is, church-goers are often assumed to be conservative, and based on the 2016 election, I don’t blame those on the outside for thinking that all Christians are anti-LGBTQ, pro-life, conservatives, intolerant of anyone who isn’t just like themselves. However, the truth is, Christians are not monolithic.

For example, take strong, female, Christian women including Jen Hatmaker, Austin Channing Brown, the late Rachel Held Evans, and Sarah Bessey, four popular Christians who aren’t having it. The 2016 election fueled each of them, more than ever before, to rise up and resist, amplifying the voices and experiences of the oppressed. Their faith as prompted them to be outspoken on LGBTQ issues, racism, and feminism. They’re unabashedly liberal.

Where does today’s politics leave those of us who are Christians but do not agree with many Christian leaders and institutions? We can’t look to those who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior on Sunday, yet abandoned Jesus and America at the polls.

For my family of six, including our four black children, it meant abandoning church altogether. Almost.

It was difficult to sit next to someone on Sunday morning knowing that on Friday night, they posted a Fox News video with one of the many privileged white male hosts boasting about how Trump was going to build a wall to keep out dangerous “illegals.” Fear mongering at its finest.

This is the same Trump who tossed rolls of paper towels at desperate Puerto Ricans who were devastated by a Hurricane Florence. The same Trump who called white supremacists marching in Charlottesville “very fine people.” The same Trump who bragged, on video, that he “grabbed women by their pussies,” and who later blew off concerns by saying his words were merely “locker room talk.”

How could people of faith, who claimed to love Jesus, support a man who unapologetically commits sin after sin preached against on Sunday mornings? Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. So what about the immigrant? What about the trans-youth? What about the elderly? What about children of color? What about those without healthcare who are suffering?

Essentially, what about every single person besides the Trump-touting, middle and upper class, white, conservatives?

The Jesus I know, and the faith my family believes in, doesn’t exclude people because of the country they are from (or wish to travel to), the color of their skin, their ability, age, or sexuality. My faith has taught me all people have value and were created by God.

In early 2016, my family left the white evangelical church. In 2017, we were close to giving up, exhausted from church shopping. We decided to visit one more church that intrigued us and checked all the boxes. We went back a second Sunday, then a third, and then never left.

What was different about this one? The leadership isn’t afraid to talk about politics and social justice. And not just talk about, but be involved in the local communities, doing the work. You know, the hands and feet of Jesus that the Bible talks about. The people are vibrant and dedicated, and the congregation and leadership are over 95% black.

I stopped yearning to give up. Our church is different. Refreshing. Authentic. Subversive to the Trump cult. Everything that is preached and done stems from God’s powerful and redemptive love.

What I have given up on is looking to leaders who are cowards, terrified of the rising of people of color and women and the fact that Jesus was a Middle Eastern, radical guy who showed up. He wasn’t afraid to turn over tables, love “the least of these,” and speak truth into dark spaces.

I know there are many other women just like me, women who are tired of fellow Christians not getting on board with inclusivity, acceptance, and living the way that Jesus lived. Women who are exhausted by another white guy telling us what’s best for our families, our schools, our careers, our environment, and our healthcare. Women see right through the façade and acknowledge that fear is what’s driving some leaders, not faith.

We aren’t having it anymore. And perhaps we don’t always have the perfect solution, but there’s one thing I know for sure. We aren’t giving up.

*Rachel Held Evans, mentioned in this article, tragically passed away on May 4, 2019. She was a bestselling author, wife, and mom of two young children.

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I Needed To Get An HIV Test

I sat on the crinkly tissue paper on the exam table at the campus infirmary, embarrassed by the noise it made; it’s not like I could do anything to NOT disrupt the silence with sharp, papery sounds, but I hated how the peacefulness of the room was disrupted by my presence. I was a freshman at Penn State and at the first doctor’s appointment I had ever made on my own.

I looked down at the medical intake form. That was a first too; I had never been the one to answer for myself. Name, birth date, and reason for my visit. Easy. I could answer those questions. I was there because a small sore grew on my right cheekbone, about an inch under my eye. I thought it was an oddly placed zit. Then it got bigger and itchier and more irritated. I had diagnosed myself as having ringworm of the face and went to the campus pharmacy for fungal cream. The cream just created a lovely home for whatever was on my face to keep growing.

My medical history was tougher to complete. I come from a long line of obese relatives who have high cholesterol and smoke too many cigarettes after never exercising. Cancer or heart disease of this nature is not hereditary, but if laziness could kill me, then I had all the things. My sexual history? Well, that was complicated at best. I didn’t know if I had a STI or had ever been exposed to a partner with HIV. I went to the campus infirmary to get relief and answers for a growth on my face, but I left with the need to wait for the results of an HIV test.

Technically I was a virgin. By the conventional definition of intercourse, I still am. No penis has ever entered my vagina. I have had plenty of sex to know I am not a virgin, though. But the difference between then and now is that I had never had consensual sex. I am a sexual abuse survivor. I performed sexual acts on another person for years. I had sexual acts done to me too, but I couldn’t tell you what all of them were. There was no protection used, and I don’t know how many sexual partners my abuser had. I had a lot of sexual experience with very little information.

It was just a piece of paper, but it felt like someone was finally asking me questions about things I wanted to talk about. I was relieved and terrified to tell my story, but I wanted to be honest. I did my best to describe the almost 10 years of sexual abuse done to me by a female relative. The medical professional who then went over the form with me tried to understand the details I wanted to share, but I couldn’t answer some of the questions.

As a sexual abuse, incest, or rape victim and survivor, we don’t always know what happened to us. Memories are blocked (sometimes for our own good) and other times there just are no memories to be had depending on the situation. We have to fill in the blanks, not to make stuff up, but to try to understand the fear, the panic, the pain of what happened to us. Not knowing what went into our bodies or not knowing how a bruise or cut appeared on our bodies doesn’t mean we are lying about the fact we were violated. It means our brains either shut off to protect us or were shut off by other factors both in and out of our control. A lack of memory does not mean lack of abuse; not all of the dots need to be connected on a dot to dot puzzle to know that what we are looking at is an elephant.

The medical provider who was there to determine why my cheekbone was breaking out in sores helped me nurse some wounds not seen. She was very gentle when asking if I had ever been tested for sexually transmitted infections. Have I ever had an HIV test done? I had not been tested for anything. Because my abuser was a woman, I was at a lower risk for what she wanted to test for, but it was important to my physical and mental health to have answers to questions that should not have needed to be asked.

The person who hurt us did not take precautions to protect us, so we have to protect ourselves and the ones we love. Of course I was willing to be screened. But when we are violated, when we become victims of sexual violence, we have to accept at some level that our story is directly related to someone and something that repulses us. The results of my HIV test and any other exam involving my sexual health would be my responsibility despite my innocence. The reality of an infection or life-altering disease fed into the fact that the unknowing is as bad as the remembering.

I had blood drawn and waited.

The spot on my face was herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). HSV-2 is the sexually transmitted virus that causes genital blisters, but the type 1 cold sore on my cheek blistered too. The medical professional I saw chalked my outbreak up to stress or fatigue. Maybe a weakened immune system or hormone changes. This felt like a sign, though. Or a reminder of what could be. She was determined to get me the answers I needed. While the blister was not an STI, she took the time to explain safe sex, even between same-sex partners. She wasn’t shaming me, just giving me information I deserved. She also gave me a prescription for Valtrex—yes, the antiviral herpes medicine. Not only was the blister painful, but it was very close to my eye. I was at risk for a bigger problem if I touched my own eyes after touching the cold sore.

She called several days later to let me know the results of my blood work. Her voice was like the sharp, crinkling sounds of the exam table paper. Since leaving home and settling in at college, what small sense of peace would be disrupted by the presence in my life I had no control over? In this case, it wasn’t, at least not physically. I tested negative for HIV and the other panel of STIs she screened for. But mentally, I knew it was just the beginning. I may have been medically healthy, but when it comes to sexual violence, mental wellness is always a balance of the unknown with the very vivid reality that our lives are the product of nightmarish memories.

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