Real-Life Photoshop: How Cosmetic Surgery Resonates 10 Years Later

As a kid, I had small moles on my face. By the time I reached middle school, they were prominent and I hated them. I once took Biore pore strips and placed them strategically, only to cry my eyes out when they didn’t remove moles. I took pictures of pretty actresses and drew brown dots on their faces to see if they were still pretty and showed them to my mother. When she wasn’t hitting me, the woman was terrified of being anything other than my best friend, so she caved and throughout seventh and eighth grade, I had five moles removed from my face, in a series of outpatient procedures. I was too young to make this sort of decision, but I don’t regret it.

A half-naked 14-year-old who had never even been kissed, I was mortified by the instructions “bend over like you’re diving” as Polaroids were taken in the plastic surgeon’s office. I asked when I’d get the pictures back and teared up when I learned they’d be kept on file for insurance purposes. In short, I was waaaay too young to be getting a breast reduction.

child surgery

Despite this, my mother was a nurse and used her pull to find someone who would agree to do the surgery. The doctor tried to talk my mother into waiting a few years, or at least until I’d lost a little weight, but I insisted and she agreed. The insurance claim was sent after my fifteenth birthday, in September. By December, I was excited for my first ever surgery, which just happened to be both cosmetic and elective.

I had claimed shoulder pain and the insurance company decided they’d save money in the long-run to just nip (pun only realized during proofreading) this problem in the butt. I did not have shoulder pain. I was humiliated by breasts that nearly sagged to my belly button and was forcing them into a size DDD bra that did not even fit. Those monsters don’t come cute. I’ve never regretted the decision. I have scars and can’t feel the underside of my breasts, causing sores from broken underwires to go unnoticed until looking in the mirror… and I still don’t regret it.

In fact, these procedures changed my whole outlook on plastic surgery. Previously having been one of the many individuals who consider plastic surgery to always be fake and self-indulgent (at age 11?), I soon realized that it’s just about the person undergoing the changes in themselves, and no one else. It’s hard to say someone should be happy with who they are when you were purchasing granny bras at age eleven while tearfully declaring you “look like a chocolate chip cooke!” I had parents who were too busy screaming at each other to make sure I bathed properly or washed my clothes regularly; forget about dressing cute, listening to the right music, or you know being nice to people. Fitting in wasn’t really my thing and the self-consciousness that came with facial moles and Big Mama breasts did not help.

granny bra
For realz. Change into that in the locker room before sixth grade gym.

 All that having been said, my mom made a bad decision on both counts. Ell oh ellsies. My mom made a lot of bad decisions…

  • the time she offered to buy us beer at 15
  • letting me and other people’s children jump off the roof onto the trampoline at age 12
  • kicking me in the stomach when I didn’t clean the litterbox
  • using the knowledge that I was a cutter as leverage to threaten me with therapy when I argued with her
  • giving me the “just be home before I go to work in the morning” curfew at sevenfuckingteen 

memory lane

Today, I’m a relatively confident adult. I’m fairly comfortable with who I am and how I look. I’d like to be about fifteen pounds lighter, but I’d rather have hips and red gummy worms than no hips and no red gummy worms, so… meh. Whatev. I am of perfectly sound mind to make the decision that I’d like to have the mole on my back removed, because I’m generally kidding when I tell Gail I’m going to do so with a cheese grater… or a blowtorch like that scene from Sons of Anarchy. I’m also twenty-five. I cannot fathom letting a child choose elective surgery. Regardless of the fact that the insurance company considered the above procedures to be necessary, I wasn’t afraid of cancer, nor did I actually have any shoulder pain. My issues were all psychological. Rather than destroying my view of therapy for the rest of my life by threatening me with it to get her way, my mother should’ve acknowledged the whopping self-esteem issues I had and arranged for me to speak with someone every couple of weeks, while putting me in social groups that were relatively free of teasing and judgement, like a church youth group. If, by age 16, building my confidence still did not fix my issues with the moles on my face, fine. She could schedule a consult with a dermatologist. If, by age 18, building my confidence did not fix my issues with the nipples at my bellybutton, she could schedule one with a plastic surgeon. Waiting three years seemed like an eternity at 15… which is why my mother should’ve helped me to see the big picture and made certain I could handle the decision I was making. Honestly, that time wouldn’t have changed my mind on either issue, especially the breast reduction (a pound and a half was removed from each), but it would’ve lessened the chances that I’d regret choices I made in utero.

baby-in-utero
“Hey, you up there! This nose seems a bit squished. Schedule a rhinoplasty.”

 This problem, however, is not limited to youth. The “mommy makeover” has taken even the middle-class by storm. One plastic surgeon reports that mothers are his largest customer base. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS), 36% of the 9.9 million surgical and minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures performed in 2006 were on patients between the ages of 30 and 39; 29% of them were aged 20 to 29.*

I’m not knocking a tummy tuck if you just can’t fix it with diet and exercise. I will criticize the people who couple it with liposuction, without first losing the weight and keeping if off, though. What is the point of taking on thousands of dollars worth of surgical bills if you’ve no guarantee of an ability to maintain the results? I never wash my car. Like ever. So, despite the faded doors and banged up front bumper from my recent fender bender, I’m not paying to have it painted. I may as well light that money on fire, because I’m not going to suddenly start washing my car. Getting liposuction and a tummy tuck and then getting fat again is the same.

If you’ve done the sit-ups and counted the calories, joined that Zumba class, and bought the push-up bra, though, I get it. I do. That doesn’t even apply to just the mommy makeover customers, but also the women who hate that bump in their nose, or the skin hanging from their chin, or those paper-thin lips. I understand how they feel. Trust me. I’ve had breasts that swing.

However… ten years later, I’m acknowledging that I may not have been in the best psychological place when I made the decision to surgically alter my appearance foreverPerhaps, rather than flocking to have ourselves physically Photoshopped, we should spend some time trying to come to terms with who we are and consider that our issues may be psychological. Maybe it’s not so much the wrinkles in your forehead that make you uncomfortable, but rather aging itself. Maybe that loose skin at your stomach isn’t the problem, but instead it’s just that your marriage is lacking some romance and you don’t feel attractive. Maybe you’re just insecure and your nose makes you look unique and distinctive and changing that will just make you look bland.

jennifer gray

The constant photo altering and image filters we see on Facebook aren’t helping this body dysmorphia trend, either. Grown women are enhancing their own clavicles, presenting a slimmer vision to the world, only to be disappointed when they don’t see that in the mirror, even if the real thing is perfectly healthy. I fear for the generation of kids who grow up with “corrected” photos hanging on the wall. The real world will never be as colorful or as unblemished as that photo shoot and they will never actually look like that. If it’s fucking with the heads of adults who are doing it themselves, they… are… screwed. 

Also… maybe I’m completely fucking wrong. Maybe the sagging skin at your forehead is far more severe than you should be seeing at 35. Maybe your husband calls you sexy every day, but you just can’t find business suits that look right. Maybe you more resemble Tucan Sam than Jennifer Grey. I certainly know that I don’t miss the feeling of the underside of my breasts sweating on my stomach. I greatly prefer that barely noticeable scar on my face to the Austin-Powers-worthy mole. Isn’t it worth some introspection, though? Because if I’m right, those problems aren’t going away with a little visit to the doctor. I didn’t suddenly become the awesome and fucking hilarious gal I am today after the stitches were pulled, when I was fifteen. That took years of personal growth. If there are deeper issues that aren’t being addressed in addition to/instead of cosmetic surgery, you’re still going to be having trouble facing your own mortality and changing body. Your marriage will still be suffering. You’ll still be insecure and uncomfortable with the idiosyncrasies that make you who you are. Because, regardless of how content that makes you, that last bit is fact. We are exactly who we were in the womb. We, as a society, should take more pride in that and give serious consideration to its alteration. We should stop this constant catering to insecurity and discrimination with invasive procedures, “repairing” the slightest blemish. We should start practicing what we preach when we tell our little girls that they are beautiful just as they are

colin-firth-bridget-jones-diary

… and if, after trying to come to terms with our individuality, we still hate that fat around our midriff that just won’t fucking DIE, then thank goodness for modern psychology and modern medicine.

Sources

http://www.webmd.com/beauty/treatments/mommy-makeover-a-plastic-surgery-trend

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S#^t I Can’t Do (Part 2): Drive… At All

Preface…

Over Lent, Father shared a series of homilies focusing on the Seven Deadly Sins. Each week, he focused on a different one. This is the same… exactly the same.

Shit I can’t do:

Date Without Being a Jackass
Time Management
Cook on the Stove
Express Sympathy Appropriately
Manage Heartbreak Without Humor
Drive… At All
Share Important News Like a Normal Fucking Person

Drive… At All

It happened. I was in my very first car accident… just hours ago. The story is typical… damn near boring. I was in a rush, tried to change lanes, and was hit by a Saturn Vue. The other driver and I immediately traded information while waiting for the police to arrive. I called the insurance company, the claims department, the body shop, my dad to ask to borrow his Jeep for a few days, my Gramma and Gail to tell them I was alive, my step-mom to tell me it was just an accident, and then my actual mother who ignored my calls because she’s mad at me for some fabricated-batshit-crazy reason… and I did all of this while waiting for the aforementioned cop.

-Phone conversation-
Gail: “Hey. You get everything handled?”
Me: “If I were a rape victim, I’m pretty sure the semen sample would no longer be viable. I am still at the side of the road, waiting for the police. I have been here since the beginning of time.

In all honesty, outside of the inconvenience and 90 degree plus weather, it was pretty much the best car wreck ever. Like, for realz, if there are collisions in that town from Big Fish, they look like mine.

big fish town

If she wasn’t from Spectre (I would make sweet love to Google), I’m pretty sure I hit a fucking Sesame Street character when the word of the day was “understanding”, because that woman could not have been more pleasant. When the cop finally showed, he was the kind of friendly that makes you wonder if he’d gotten into the supplies in the evidence locker and basically told us both that he didn’t have to write a police report unless we really wanted him to, so no one (like the person at fault ::cough:: me ::cough::) had to get a ticket. Then the lady actually apologized to me for making me wait. I was fully responsible.

pleasantville
Is she serious?

In addition to all of that, my dad has a habit of collecting cars he does not need, so I don’t even need a rental while my car is in the body shop. My deductible is only $500 and I needed a new bumper anyway, because…

I am a terrible fucking driver.

I’m not even kidding or exaggerating when I say that I don’t know how I’ve been driving for nearly ten years and this is the first collision I’ve been in, let alone causedI curb check daily, people. I make split-second decisions that are more often than not really bad, like braving flooded streets after a tornado when I drive a hatchback that is about four inches off the ground.

flash flood
Three times, I have managed to use this picture. Fucking Southern spring.

I run out of gas almost as frequently as I get lost and most of those times, I had the money to fill up and just… fucking… forgot. Each and every time I sputter into the station, I scream “Fuck yeah! This car runs on prayer!!!!” like I’m Grandpa Joe, just saw the golden ticket, and leaped from bed for the first time in twenty years.

grandpa joe

Then there are all those times I’ve misplaced the car… with me in it. Gail and I once went shopping… or planned to… with me behind the wheel. The destination was the north side of the city and Gail was supposed to be giving me directions. She took a phone call and looked up to exclaim:

Gail: “What the fuck did you do?!? How did we end up at the Capitol?!?”
Me: “I don’t know! You were supposed to be giving me directions!”
Gail: “I looked away for two minutes! How did you even do thatBelle?!?”
::silence::
Me: “So… um… you wanna tour the Capitol?”
Gail: “Eh. Why not?”

We live in a grid state. Our roads are probably the easiest to follow in America. I have gotten on the wrong Turnpike, taking myself 30 miles out of the way at least four times. I’ve gotten lost on the way to the college where I received my master’s degree more than five times in three years. I was an online student. I don’t even know if I’ve been to that school more than 15 times total. The town of Springfield practically merges with my hometown, Shetland. It’s a Shetland family’s answer to sit-down chain restaurants, the one department store, and the movie theater. Gail and I spent most of high school driving around this town and giggling in the bookstore. I once had a Springfield address and I have gotten lost there recently. It’s sad, y’all. Mice can navigate mazes, on the first trip through, better than I can navigate my hometown. Not only that, but… well… I tend to hit shit. I tore a panel off of the side of the car the day I bought it, because I didn’t see the curb. Luckily it only cost $25 to reattach it, but that was only the beginning.

Incident 1: My extended family is huge. On Christmas day, we rent out the gymnasium of one of the local Catholic schools, where the kids put on a nauseatingly cute talent show, the women fight over their Dirty Santa theme, and the men grudgingly pretend they give a shit which Home Depot card they take home, because their wives made them play. It’s a blast and last year’s was no different… save for the ice. In my area, we don’t get a lot of snow, so when we do, everyone freaks the fuck out. My dad sent me a text Christmas morning telling me not to get out, because of the ice and insisted the party was canceled. My cousins all told me otherwise on Facebook. While I enjoy my solitude most of the time, it was Christmas day and I was not going to stay holed up inside alone like the star of some depressing as fuck Peanuts Gallery special. However, the storm had been raging for days and when I went outside, the entire car was encased in ice.

haird dryer on car

I know what you’re thinking, mostly because I got the same responses when I posted this picture on Facebook.

“That’ll break your windshield!” – Ward
“What the hell are you doing?!?!” – step-momma

But, no. That is not how I damaged my car on Christmas day. That is just an example of one of the “brilliant ideas” of which I researched no possible consequences. Gail actually refuses to listen to anything I preface with the quoted phrase. Close-minded bitch. After about an hour of scraping, during which I slipped on the ice only once, I finally cleared the window enough to drive through the ice and fallen tree limbs to the church. I fishtailed a few times, texted my dad at stoplights to ensure him I wasn’t leaving the house, and finally arrived, no damage to my car. Whew. Then, I pulled into the parking lot and didn’t realize that that curb was a half-wall and rammed the fucker. That is correct. I drove through a Southern apocalypse unscathed only to crack my front bumper in two on a wall while parking.

Incident 2: Shetland is a suburb and I work in the city, so I drive about 70 miles per hour on the highway, to and from the library. The speed limit is somewhere between 50 and 70. I couldn’t tell you for sure, because I don’t pay attention.

texting and driving

My Gramma is the most adored, most paranoid person in my life, with my dear Gaily taking a close second on both counts. Every night, when I get off work, she calls to make sure I’m no longer in the “bad” (read: not “wealthy and lily-white”) part of town. She’s an elderly white woman from the South and I mock her for it, but she worries, so whatev. I’ll appease My Favorite Lady. This particular night, she called right as I got on the highway. I don’t know that the reason I busted my bumper is because I was on the phone. It probably didn’t help, however, that I only had one hand available for any possible evasive maneuvers when I saw a dead pony in the road. Fine. It was a dog, but it had to be fucking Falcor, because that thing was huge.

falcorI saw Falcor in plenty of time, there just weren’t any options. I was going 70 miles per hour with only one free hand. Had I not had the phone plastered to my ear, I don’t know that I’d have had any other options than to hit it, either, because there were cars on either side of me.  Were I a typical Southerner in a pickup truck, this wouldn’t have been a problem. I, however, drive this…

little tykes car

The guys call it my “roller skate” and the four-year-old boy that Chad and Jay babysit once asked verbatim “Why do you drive that?” It’s a reliable car and I don’t want to replace it yet. It’s cute… because it’s small, and not meant to be driven over stray cattle. Having been the only one affected by said accident…

Me: “Hey, I’ve never even been in an accident, thank you very much.”
Chad: “Technically, hitting that dog and busting your bumper was an accident.”
Me: “That dog was already dead!”
Jay: “That dog could’ve been napping!!!”

… I didn’t bother to make an insurance claim. I know how much the parts are for my car and I know they couldn’t replace a single piece, but would instead need to replace the entire front bumper. It wasn’t worth reporting an accident to my insurance for cosmetic damage, so I… got creative.

hill billy bumper

Psh. I’m kidding. I’m classier than that. I used zip ties. That brings me to today, my “very first accident.” As far as accidents go, it was peachy, since I happened to be driving through the town from the Hidden Valley Ranch commercials at the time.

$500 to fix my bumper / (three separate accidents that destroyed my bumper + the damage done to the other vehicle) = $125 per incident and/or vehicle.

hidden valley ranchThe car won’t actually be serviced until July 9. What can I say? Don’t get into a car wreck during tornado season. I’ve had worse days, though. At least I’m not married to a man who’s insisting the oil was changed and the engine just fell out of the car for no reason, amiright?!? Perspective people.

“Divorce is the coward’s way out”: My yellow-bellied bliss.

A few weeks ago, a woman who was unaware that she was speaking to a once 23-year-old divorcée, told me that “divorce is the coward’s way out.” Fine. She was a coworker, because I am broken and no one I work with knows I’m divorced. Happy, Gail?!? Of course, this isn’t the first I’ve heard of statements such as the above. I’ve ranted about them here, here, and here. I didn’t even comment this time. Now that I think about it, though, that was an inappropriate time to burst out laughing. Once I caught my breath, I started to really consider the implications of this statement. What about leaving my marriage to a sociopath makes me a coward? Then I realized… holy shit, it did take bravery to stay with the man that long. He was terrifying and I was terrified of him. For the last year of my marriage I slept with my wallet in my pillowcase and drove around with my Gramma’s jewelry hidden in my car. I spent my few free hours, between jobs and grad school, chatting and crocheting with Gail in a Taco Mayo, because I could buy a .99 soda and get refills all night and not be home. When I did get home, I drank to take my mind off my misery and would even play the “let’s see how fast can I write this essay before the Everclear kicks in” game. Both drunk and sober, I created entire fantasy worlds where my ex-husband died (through no fault of my own) and just was not in my life. I secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) wished he’d finally give into all of those suicide threats, because then it would be over. To this day, I sleep with a revolver next to me in a gun sock, occasionally cuddling it like a stuffed animal when I have nightmares about still being married. So yeah. It took bravery to stay and perhaps, by extension, cowardice to leave. If that’s the case, though, my cowardice has reaped some fantastic rewards. In the last two years, I’ve made amazing friends, had some hilarious dates, taken several epic day trips, gussied up and gone on too many dates with me-and-only-me to count, reconnected with God, chosen a new career path, lost nearly 100 pounds, taken up a dozen hobbies (only one of which sprung from my fear of my ex-husband)… … and oh, yeah… today, I have officially earned my Master’s degree. That’s right. Despite that sociopathic son-of-a-bitch doing his damnedest to drag me down into the gutter with him, I did everything I ever said I would and am going on to live my life with a bright future. I’ll never again eat free movie theater popcorn all summer or shoplift bags of frozen chicken under the dog food, because that one hundred dollar bill went missing from my wallet. I’ll never find myself pregnant and praying for a miscarriage more than freaking Rosemary, because that baby would have a father without a soul and then weeping with shame when said request was granted. I’ll never miss another holiday just to avoid lying to my family about whether or not my husband has a job and I’ll never again wipe blood from the dog’s paws. I don’t live under constant fear of eviction, since he not only hasn’t paid the rent, but faked having a job. Because I am such a fucking cowardmy life is filled with absolute yellow-bellied bliss and he doesn’t get a single minuscule piece of something for which he did not work. I’ll gladly take this over the scars of bravery any day.


Bravery

Cowardice

Real Women Have Vaginas

… and/or two X chromosomes. I’m protecting myself from any potential off-topic transgender/had my vagina removed due to cervical cancer comments.

x chromosomes
That’s mine. I’ll spare you the picture of my vagina. You’re welcome.

I grew up in the 90’s with a dieting mom. This means I played in more than one Weight Watchers’ daycare, took Snackwell cookies for lunch, and don’t like regular Coke as an adult, because I never had it as a kid. It’s actually pretty unfortunate to order my bacon cheeseburger and bacon cheese fries with a Diet Coke, because I’m pretty certain the server is giggling internally and thinking “You want bacon in that?”… then I feel intensely self-absorbed because no one gives a shit what I order. Despite the Jenny Craig food in the freezer and all of those trips to the natural foods store, however, I grew up a little chubby after age eight. When I broke my wrist that year, the doctor weighed me at 106 pounds and my mother (who was and still is overweight) publicly scolded me and acted mortified. Thanks mom. The broken wrist didn’t hurt enough. Also, who’s been feeding said eight-year-old?!?!? Throughout my childhood, I always thought myself fat, though at 25, I realize I wasn’t more than chubby until my senior year and college. Being the chubby girl, though, I was comforted when I saw this movie:

real women have curves

I don’t remember much about it, but the basic premise of this Lifetime-esque title is that, despite being ridiculed by her mother for her weight, the main character can still be and feel beautiful. It’s a great message and America Ferrera, the lead actress, has become a household name and defense for being beautiful and curvy, along with Christina Hendricks of Mad Men and Gennifer Goodwin of Once Upon a Time (though she was fuller figured in her days on Big Love). It’s wonderful that we’re accepting that a woman doesn’t have to starve herself to be beautiful. That having been said, why does this notion have to be accompanied with the phrase “real women have curves” or “zero is not a size” and pictures like this?

comparing weights

We’ve gone from dubbing the gorgeous Keira Knightly as the standard by which we should compare ourselves to claiming she’s not a woman, because she’s physically fit. Zero is just as much of a size as 16, because there’s nothing actually measuring 16″ either. If you want to call her a size 20, you’d better get comfy going by size 33.* In addition, we’ve become outraged that most plus-sized models are a size 10. Why is that so upsetting? I’m a size 8/10 and okay, I can’t actually wear anything in the plus-sized section, but when I buy something that does fit me, the model wearing it is probably smaller than a size 00, and they don’t sell that in my section either. It’s the same. It’s also just marketing. The designers don’t want back fat in the picture, because they know you don’t want to wear something that gives you back fat. Bitch all you want about airbrushing and using  that size 10 model to advertise your size 22 blouse, but no one’s buying it if it gives the model rolls. They just aren’t.

Today, when a skinny woman turns her nose up at an overweight woman, it’s considered tasteless and superior, but society releases a movie titled Real Women Have Curves and insists that “zero is not a size” and it’s empowering? My. Stretch-marked. Ass. Defending obesity is not empowering and I’m pretty sure Marilyn Monroe would be disgusted that she’s now the spokesperson for extra mayonnaise. Christina Hendricks, Gennifer Goodwin, and America Ferrera all have one thing in common: a healthy weight, which, I might add, America Ferrera did not have in Real Women Have Curves. They’re all gorgeous and so was Marilyn Monroe, but they aren’t obese. I point this out, because more often than not, it’s unhealthy (not curvy) women making these statements. Regardless, said “curves” do not make a real woman any more than they unmake her. At size two or 26, if she has a vagina and/or two X chromosomes, then she is a real fucking woman. You don’t get to take her femininity and gender away from her because you’re insecure, whether you’re sneering at the ladies in Lane Bryant or the gals on the beach in bikinis. These are equal crimes and if you’re unhealthy on either end of the spectrum, you need to plan a fitness and diet program that works for you, rather than focusing on the weight of everyone else.

jennifer love hewitt people
Jennifer Love Hewitt went on record to say “size two is not fat.” She’s right. It’s not. She’s also not a size two here and should own up to it instead of acting ashamed of her likely healthy size 8 figure.

Sadly, weight is only one of the ways in which we gals like to tear each other apart. There’s also our professional lives. Since women started entering the workforce in greater numbers, we’ve been debating which is the best course of action, being a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, because of course you’re throwing your life away if you choose not to have children.

until you've counted fingers and toes

Recently, I was discussing with a coworker whether or not I’d like to be a stay-at-home mom one day. The answer is no. I’ve spent seven years in school to help people in my community better their lives through self-education and I know that if I leave my technology-heavy profession for ten years to raise children, I won’t be able to go back. I also know that I don’t have the patience to stay home with children all day, and therefore wouldn’t be content. Everyone would be happier if I worked. I feel that people miss out on time with their families, because of poor prioritization more than by having a career. For example, the average American household has a television on for 6 hours and 47 minutes daily.* In short, turn off the fucking T.V. and raise your babies, whether you’ve been home all day or not and they’ll be fine. I gave my coworker a work appropriate version of that, to which she essentially responded “to each their own”… then threw in “I just didn’t want someone else raising my children” in a but that’s just me tone. She genuinely didn’t mean anything by it, so I didn’t respond, but that is the equivalent of my saying “well, I’d rather contribute to my family in addition to caring for my kids, but that’s just me.” God bless social networking, because I get to read about this ridiculous cat fight all day long, for in the Midwest most 25-year-olds have a few toddlers.

stay at home moms

working moms

You’re both wasting an awful lot of  time in an e-slap fight for two people who claim to be so busy. A woman who stays home with her children takes on the job of full time teacher, maid, cook, financial adviser, personal shopper, and psychiatrist and she does it all day long. The woman with a career performs her professional duties and then those listed above when she gets home. Neither is less of a mother or woman than the other, just as the childless woman is no less a woman. Being an adult, raising a family, having a career, and being in a marriage are all hard when you do them right, regardless of which of these life choices you make or combine. What works for one may not work for another and that is wonderful, because I don’t want to live in fucking Stepford. We need to be supporting, not shredding, each other. Women complain constantly about men keeping them from success, but you know what? We don’t need men to tear us down as long as we’re so good at it. We want to be taken seriously in the workforce and society but those of us who can’t wear that extra 20 pounds to work proudly and still love our skinny stay-at-home mom friends for their life choices, don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

marilyn monroe on society

perfect mother

There’s some supportive advice I can get behind.

Sources
http://www.marksandspencer.com/General-Womens-Size-Guides-Product-Information-Help/b/47647031

http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html

An Epidemic of Lost Boys

stepbrothers

When I was 4, my brother and I bounced up and down on my mom and dad’s bed holding hands and shouting about how he was turning 8. It’s an oddly precious memory from my childhood, because it sounds like something from Fullhouse, rather than the more accurate Roseanne, but we could not wait to grow up. Lately, though, I’ve been observing my generation – not just on online dating sites – and I’ve realized… a bunch of people don’t want to anymore.

Today, I’m 25 years old. I work two jobs. I’m in graduate school. I pay my own way, more or less. I’m on my mother’s cell phone plan and give her my share monthly. Every now and then my dad will buy me a new set of tires and my Gramma will give me money to get a new coffee maker… or a new coffee maker… or a new coffee maker. Seriously, that was the shittiest damned coffee maker.

coffee maker
This one. Do not buy this fucking coffee maker.

Overall, I don’t get a lot of outside support and I can’t wait until the day I can say I get no outside support. I know we’re in hard economic times, because I buy groceries and pay my bills. I understand the guy who can’t afford to live on a first-year teacher’s salary or the girl who can’t work enough to support herself while going to law school. I also know that sometimes the world falls out from under you. Gail spent two years living in her old high school bedroom (cough :: parents’ new storage closet :: cough) after her infant daughter died. She substituted with me and tried to figure out how to rebuild her life in the safety of the only home she knew, surrounded by unused picture frames and stuffed back rests. When I was going through my divorce, I used to go to my Gramma’s house just to sleep in her bed for a few hours, because it was the only place I felt safe and protected. I had no high school home I could retreat to to lick my wounds and if I had, I’d have moved back. I fully admit that.

There are exceptions… and there are the people with full-blown Peter Pan syndrome. The people to which I refer aren’t in college or trade school. They aren’t saving their money to buy a house or putting in the hours until they get promoted to full-time. They’re stagnant. They “live at home” and work part-time jobs… or they don’t. They pay a few bills… or they don’t. It’s senior year of high school eight years later… and it’s happening all the time. We have an epidemic of Lost Boys.

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A summary of your online dating search results.

Historically speaking, Failure to Launch is a trend in tough economic times.* Currently 56% of men and 43% of women ages 18 to 24 live with one or both parents.* If you weren’t paying attention, men top women in this trend by 13%, whereas women historically were more likely to stay home as adults. Compare that with my parents’ generation leaving home around age 20.* These are some interesting statistics, but that’s all they are: numbers. No one knows why this is happening, so allow me to speculate from my insider viewpoint.

Our parents saw an easier life for us than what they’d experienced. College was a dream for them and therefore the key to happiness; so they told us we could be anything we wanted. They remembered the harsh bullying and exclusion they experienced as kids; so they gave out “participation trophies.” They grew up with Depression Era parents who didn’t want to spend the extra dollar for entertainment; so they went into debt buying every new gadget. They left home at 20; so they let us stay indefinitely. They loved us; so they completely overcompensated.

Now, we are Millennials. We learned to type by chatting with friends over AOL Instant Messenger. We knew how to work the parental controls on the Internet better than our parents did. We went from Duck Hunt to Call of Duty without blinking an eye. We memorized the television prime time lineup. We invented cyberbullying. We were the first generation to Google the answer and do the research online the night before. Our authority figures stumbled over themselves to safeguard against the dangers involved in all of the above, but could never quite keep up, because they were still learning themselves. Essentially, we were a technological experiment… and look at the results.

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Yes, many of us are moving forward with our tech skills, but because our parents were buried beneath a mountain of debt giving in to our (and their) every whim, we were constantly told how much being an adult sucked and to enjoy childhood as long as we could. Now, a number of us are doing just that. The aforementioned Lost Boys “live at home” to “save money.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. They don’t live at home. I live at home. That’s what home is. They live at their parents’ home. Also, how much money have they saved? Ohhhhh, they can afford a nicer car and more nights out living at home? That’s not saving money, that’s spending money. Those are opposites. It is not expensive to live here. I survive on about $1,400 a month. Comfortably. That’s why people move to the Midwest. I have personally met many people my age who just have no reason not to live on their own. Some even have college degrees and decent jobs. They just don’t want to grow up, because it comes with more responsibility. Yeah. It does. It’s also not optional. No one’s going to freeze at 19 until they decide to get on board with this aging thing. They’re going to stay home and play video games while pulling the occasional evening shift at the movie theater and then what? They’re going to wake up at 28 and turn on the game system instead of going to their high school reunion, because they haven’t moved forward in ten years.

The thing is, this stagnation takes funding. The electricity running through that laptop to create that sad Plenty of Fish profile isn’t free. I am not blaming our parents. We are adults now. It is no one’s fault but our own if we choose not to move on with our lives. Just maybe, though, the parents with the 28-year-olds in the back room should stop enabling them. They aren’t scared teenagers searching for direction. They’re lazy, unaccountable, users and they’re eventually going to have to join society in their own right. It’s never too late for someone to turn their life around. It’s also never too late to sit them down and say “I love you, but I’m not funding this lifestyle anymore. You have three months.” No matter the coddling that took place growing up, it is up to us to be an active part of this world and not to take advantage of the parents who loved us so much that they destructively committed to giving us everything we ever wanted in life.

I was told over and over that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up.

victorias secret angel
A Victoria’s Secret Angel
Princess Eugenie
An actual princess
beyonce
Beyonce Knowles

Now I’m 25 and it’s time to realize that I will never look that good naked. I don’t have royal blood. My singing could offend Helen Keller. I hope my generation will find a balance between the “walk it off” and the “participation trophies” when we’re raising our own kids. I hope that all of these people who think being an adult sucks will realize… they’re doing it wrong. The Lost Boys are missing out on so many things, from cooking naked, to having late night television marathons, to masturbating without worrying anyone will hear, to singing loudly off key, to only ever having to clean up their own messes, to playing their video games on their own time and dime, to feeling a sense of autonomy and accomplishment when they’ve mastered their budget. Most importantly though, their parents are missing out on some of their best years to do the same things. We’re taking advantage out of selfishness and misplaced fear.

“You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone. You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.” – Andrew Largeman Garden State

I love Garden State, but my ass. There’s no reason you can’t live alone and be single and make yourself a home. You’ve just got to actually try.

Citations

http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneywisewomen/2012/06/06/failure-to-launch-adult-children-moving-back-home/

http://www.lohud.com/article/20070426/CUSTOM02/70423004/Failure-Launch

http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/prc/_files/pdf/workingpapers/00-01-01.pdf

Formerly Fat

In August of 2010, I weighed 260 pounds. I had miscarried and Gail’s little girl had died in the last year. I was starting graduate school and working two jobs even then. I had a husband who wouldn’t get a job and constantly stole from me, refusing to get the hell out of my house even though I’d asked him to leave a hundred times. I couldn’t afford to buy healthy food, when I could afford to buy food at all, I didn’t have time to work out, and it wasn’t really a huge concern of mine considering the debilitating depression I experienced as my life crumbled around me and I kept it from everyone. While I’d been overweight most of my life, I was officially morbidly obese.

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Today, I weigh 172 pounds, up from 160, the lowest I got before I wrecked my back in February. I’d like to get down to 150, but I’m still pretty danged content. I don’t know if I mean for this to be motivating for people trying to lose weight this New Year (my weight loss was not a New Year’s resolution) or if this is just me being grateful that my whole world is different, but here are my favorite things about being “average”.

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The Clothes
I own fucking jeggings. I’m wearing them right now. They’re a size medium, but when I wear my normal jeans, they’re an 8. At 160, I comfortably wore a 6. A 6! That’s fat Anne Hathaway according to The Devil Wears Prada! You know what looks good on me now? An electric blue zebra print tankini. I own that! I also own several adorable sundresses and sweater dresses and I wear them all the time. Dresses rock! They’re like nightgowns, but sexy.

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I should probably take down the Christmas tree, though.

The Cheap Clothes
These jeggings cost me $20. Lane Bryant jeans cost $60. My size 6 skirt from Goodwill cost $3 and looks brand new. The last plus-sized skirt I had was $50. It’s impossibly easy to find super cheap clothes that look adorable on me, because I’m tiny by comparison to my 260 pounds self. I can even find cute Wal-Mart outfits. When I was bigger, Wal-Mart clothes looked terrible on me. They aren’t shaped, they’re just large. Now I can buy $9 jean shorts and they look great. Since my thighs don’t rub together like those of a cricket in spring, they last forever, too. Since my boobs aren’t enormous, I can wear $20 36C bras. My 40DD bra cost me $40. It was on sale.

The Food and Drinks
Thanksgiving Day of 2010, I tearfully told Gail how bad things had gotten in my marriage and that he was finally leaving the next day. Then I drank 8 Long Island Ice Teas, her drink, and our friend’s drink and ate a full meal. The bar tab was $75. Today, after 3 Long Island Ice Teas, I’m too drunk to want another, even if I’m crying.  I can’t even imagine racking up a $75 bar tab at my current size. Meals that would have once been satisfying are now to-go box material. I spend $50 a week on my groceries and it’s plenty. In fact, I’m quite the food hoarder, because I once couldn’t afford it, and have about 6 pounds of meat in my freezer right now.

The Way I Move
Alright. No one who hasn’t been overweight is going to get this one at all. When you’re big, you can’t do that thing where you pull your legs up into the chair and put your chin on them. It’s not an option, because your belly gets in the way. You can’t cross your legs, because you have too much thigh. Running up the stairs or bolting to the mailbox because it’s cold and you were too lazy to put on shoes, causes dry heaving because you can’t breathe. It is physically uncomfortable to be heavy. One of the best parts of being smaller is that I can actually curl up. I bought a papasan chair for myself for my birthday and I spend most hours at home curled up in that chair like a fucking embryo. It. Is. Awesome. They should put that in the Jenny Craig commercial.

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My skinny nest.

I Can Look At Myself Naked
I used to stand in front of the mirror and think the most degrading things. They were usually funny, but still incredibly negative.

“I look like a shaved gorilla.”

Sometimes, they were just depressing.

“I don’t even feel like a woman anymore. If I leave him, no one will want me again.”

I’ve taken 3 baths this week. If you’ve ever been unhappy with your body, you know that taking a bath isn’t relaxing at all. It’s staring at your wet body, thinking “ew” and calculating how much weight you have to lose to no longer be obese. It’s picturing what you look like sitting in said bathtub and analyzing the water level compared to your weight. I actually do things naked now. I mean, I’m not joining a nudist colony, but it’s not humiliating to be alone in a room without clothes on any longer. If I want to do the dishes naked, so I don’t get water on my clothes, I’m okay with doing that. I don’t remember why but I once vacuumed my whole apartment naked. Seriously, not a nudist.

The Self-Confidence
Guess what. I am almost never the fattest person in the room anymore. It’s so rare that I am, that I don’t even check now. It used to be automatic. The hits to my self-esteem still occur, of course. Did he not call me because I’m fat? But now I actually question that. It’s not just a given. When I substitute, the students call me Velma, because I have short hair and sometimes wear my black-rimmed glasses. Occasionally, it’s meant as an insult. You know what, though? They never call me the fat sub. Ever. And that’s terrific.

The Sleep Shirts
At 260, I wore a size 2xl t-shirt. So, working at the movie theater, I had to take the adult large Ice Age promotional shirt and stretch it out and wear an undershirt beneath it. It was humiliating. Today, that is my favorite sleep shirt and one of many.

I Know Who Loves Me
When you’re fat, you think people treat you differently because of it. You’re in line at the grocery store, they open a new register, and there’s a choice between you and a thinner person. They motion for the thinner person. People who’ve never been there would say you’re being paranoid. You’re not. They did subconsciously choose the more attractive person. People are friendlier to me than they ever were when I was 90 pounds larger. That sucks, but that’s the way it is. That’s why the people who loved me at 260 get so much credit for it.

When I met my guys, I was married, miserable, 250 or so pounds, had hair halfway down my back I only wore in a ponytail or pigtails, never wore makeup, and didn’t own anything that wasn’t a t-shirt and jeans. It was at this weight that I became “not a girl, Belle”, invited out to dinner and New Year’s Eve with “just the guys.” They never cared that I was bigger and didn’t dress like a girl. They liked my sense of humor and loyalty. At 160 pounds, they didn’t treat me any different. I got the same jokes and inclusion. Additionally, Gail’s seen me fluctuate from my high school 190 to my college 260 to my lowest 160 and my present 172 and has never treated me any different in ten years. When someone checks me out, I know they wouldn’t have been interested 2 years ago and that’s okay. But it’s always comforting to know that there are people who feel the same no matter your appearance.

So… maybe I was just broken and damaged and never ate or slept when I lost that first 30 pounds and insanely determined when I lost the next 60, but it’s been so awesome to be normal sized for the first time in my life. Just thinking about it encourages me to stay this way, because even in hindsight, being overweight sucked. Happy Resolutioning!