Thursday, May 31, 2012

the still life: slowing down without AC

Every summer, when the first beads of perspiration erupt on Steve’s furrowed forehead, he poises for action.  Given a green light, he can bring down the window sashes as if they’re blackout blinds in an air raid.  Even before I’ve  stripped off my winter socks, he can get the freon pumping, the fan whirring, the engine chugging; everything ready to do battle with that dreaded enemy: the heat. 

I’ve never been a big fan of AC.  I like the heat, and since it won’t kill you (unless you are especially old, infirm or perhaps living in a Tupperware box), it seems like an unnecessary use of energy.   While solar panels and electric cars remain cost prohibitive ways of reducing our carbon footprint, it seems foolish not to flip a switch, open the windows, and lop an average of 4% off our household energy use, all without spending a dime. 

Except then we’d be hot.  Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that we should never feel hot in the summertime.  Like cheap gasoline at the pump, and short lines at the grocery checkout, we’ve come to expect the convenience of cool. 

Steve and I always compromised about this by waiting until he couldn’t stand it anymore (usually around July 4th) before battening the hatches.  Then, three years ago, our air conditioner broke.  Assuming it would cost thousands of dollars to fix or replace (and not the $150 it eventually took!), we survived two consecutive Virginia summers without even calling the repair man.  Sure, we had some tough days, especially on the few occasions when the thermometer hit 99 degrees, but something interesting happened to me during that time: I learned how to be in the heat. 

That means, I learned how to be still. 

The heat changes your state of mind.  I am sort of a spaz.  I talk too fast, play the piano too fast, stir cookie batter too fast.  I even pick strawberries too fast.  When it’s 95 degrees outside, you can’t afford to be a spaz.

You just have to chill.

Chill, and listen to the hot.  You’d be surprised by what it will say.  The hot asks you to slow down, minimize and simplify.  The hot asks you to wear skimpy clothes like tank tops and short shorts—stuff that doesn’t hang and cling.  The hot asks you to take cool showers in the evening, wear your hair off your neck, walk slowly and barefoot on the cool dry flat of hardwood floors.  The hot tells you to forget the bra, sleep under a ceiling fan, and eat cold things like fruit salad and popsicles.  The hot thinks you should nap in the afternoon.     

If you can relax into the heat instead of fighting it, simple things will make you really happy, like the sweat on the outside of an icy glass, the clink of your spoon against a bowl of gazpacho, the cut of real lemonade through the summertime grime on the back of your throat.  You will smile just at the thought of a cool damp cloth on the nape of your neck.  Sprigs of mint.  Cold beer. 

The hot asks you to notice and seek out the shade, turn and lift your chin to the breeze.  Sit.  The hot will send you outside in the evening.  While you’re out there, it’ll suggest you greet the neighbors, notice the stars, catch fireflies, listen to frogs. 

We want everything fast, but things happen slowly in the heat.  The hot asks you to wait.  Live in the burn, acclimate.  When you do, you will not feel it the way others do.  They’ll complain about how hot it is today.  You’ll say, “really?”  The shock of walking into air conditioning at Target will give you a headache.  You’ll welcome the calming effect of the hot when it embraces you like an old friend as you leave the store.

I know you’re worried you’ll sweat, you’ll suffer, you’ll actually feel hot. But isn’t there a certain sex appeal to that?  Like a hot date, hot jazz, hot peppers.  Where’s the sizzle in spending a sultry summer evening watching a movie you’ve already seen, wearing fuzzy socks and a sweatshirt?

I was surprised to discover that I'd missed out on so much when I slammed and sealed the front door, leaving my friend the heat waiting outside, alone on the stoop. 

Then, sometime last summer, we fixed the AC.  We still made it until August before an extended forecast of 99 degrees prompted us to turn it on. That’s when Steve implemented a new compromise: that we set a limit on how much hot we’ll endure.  It’s a fair but flawed deal, because once you turn on the AC, it’s really hard to turn it off.  He turned it on this weekend because I was away and the mercury hit 90.  I turned it off today because he was at work and the temp plummeted to 81. 

Suddenly I feel burdened with the convenience of cool.

I already miss those days when there was no choice, when we endured because we had to, when we acclimated and slowed down. 

I miss those days when we learned to be still.

If I must endure a summer with AC, I will miss my friend, the heat.

Friday, May 25, 2012

be a drug dealer: SMILE

kids doing a good job of "fmiling" at the beach

I was crooked-tree-posing in yoga the other day when our instructor told us to smile.  She said our smiling muscles prompt our brains to produce dopamine—a neurotransmitter that is part of our brain’s reward system: it makes us feel good, reduces stress and can even increase our tolerance for pain. 

Really?  How did I get this far in life without knowing that I have what amounts to a morphine pump built right into my face?  Intrigued, I dutifully carved a smile onto what had previously been a very pensive tree, and waited for my fix.  But wearing an awkward premeditated grin while wobbling on one leg among a bunch of other crooked trees, I felt more like a conspicuous dork than a stoner. 

So I tried it again later, when I felt more relaxed (more relaxed than at yoga?), driving home in the privacy of my car.  While sitting at a red light, I smiled at my dashboard in earnest—except it was totally fake.  How could it be otherwise?  Still, I thought I felt it, a positive change, a hit of happiness.  Was that possible?  

I looked at the person in the car next to me, but they didn’t seem to have noticed anything.  I wondered, is a made-up smile as worthless as, say, a bag of dried porcinis, bought in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert?  Or is it more like a generic drug, cheaper, but with the same effects?

I googled, “can a fake smile produce dopamine?”  I found many articles connecting dopamine to smiling.  This one is from a reputable source.   But, in my brief search, I only found one that specifically addressed fake smiles.  The author, Bernard Weschler, has no apparent credentials on the subject at all (he teaches speed reading), but with no other options, I read his piece anyway (speedily, of course). 

Bernard says we should practice smiling for 20 consecutive seconds every day.  After 20 seconds, apparently, our fake smile will cue our brain to produce dopamine which, in turn, will generate a real smile.  My memories of sitting for wedding pictures do not jive with this theory, but I decided to give it a whirl. 

I stood in my living room with a stopwatch and started smiling at myself in the mirror.  I thought I had a pretty decent smile going at somewhere around 15 seconds, but then my teeth started to get dry and I began to feel like I had a ruler stuck in my mouth.  Hmmm.  Thinking my experiment had been only mildly successful, I stopped smiling and turned back to my computer.  Then I surprised myself with an honest to goodness real live smile.  It came out of nowhere, and I even sort of giggled to myself in the empty room. 

Did my fake smile start a chain reaction that led to laughter? 

Kinda cool.   

Then I got really interested.  If smiling changes the chemistry in your brain, what happens if you hold a fake smile (a “smike,” or maybe a “fmile”?) while you’re upset, or while looking at something that makes you unhappy.  Will it make you feel better?

I tried it.

These are probably the only circumstances under which Mitt and I could manage to fmile at each other (let alone smile).  But here you have it.  He’s smiling.  I’m smiling.  What’s happening? 

Something weird.  I actually felt a twinge in my head at first—a brief disorienting swoop.  I’m serious.  Was there an initial clashing of chemicals?  And does that make Mitt a dopamine inhibitor? I don’t know, but, aside from the fact that 20 seconds is a long time to fmile at this particular guy, I’m amazed to report that my Cheshire grin eventually became real.  Dopamine must be one powerful drug!

Given that power, I think it’s a total waste to practice so much smiling alone. Besides, smiling at strangers is way easier than fmiling to yourself.  So I’ve taken my smile on the road.  I always tried to smile at people before, but now I have a mission about me.  I feel like I’m walking around with a secret tray of jello shooters.  Do the folks at the post office know they were just visited by the dopamine fairy?

If this stuff really can reduce aggression, reduce stress, create feelings of cooperation and happiness, then I say we spread it around.  Smile, smike, fmile, whatever you need to do to get “doped’ up, and then, share!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

strawberry! strawberry!

There is a lusciousness to this time of year.  It differs from August's decadence, when the tomato bounty sometimes borders on the obscene.  I think spring must have invented words like “crisp” and “tender” to welcome the first sentinels of asparagus that arrive, like proud soldiers leading a delicate parade of lettuce, snap peas and spring onions to dinner.   

That's cause enough for celebration, but you know you’ve hit the real paydirt of spring when the berries start to come in.  Bright, succulent, and so fresh you can taste the aura of outside that still lingers about them.

This is what my kitchen sink looked like on Thursday:

 And soon after, my kitchen table: 

All said and done, I cleaned and hulled 33lbs of strawberries.  And the week before?  22lbs.  We freeze them, eat them, jam them, eat them, bake them, eat them, eat them, and eat them. 

But why so many at once? What’s the rush? 

We are lucky to have a connection of sorts.  Like the guy in prison who can hook you up with anything from girlie magazines to suspicious cigarettes, we have a strawberry connection--someone who can get us local and organic strawberries—for a price.  If you’ve ever been in the market for these, you know they are hard to come by.  That’s a huge big fat shame because strawberries are one of those things you don’t really want to eat unless they are organic. 

By coincidence, as I cleaned and hulled, NPR did a story on strawberries.   I listened with pink fingers and red-rimmed cuticles as they explained that 80% of our strawberries come from California growers who regularly sterilize the soil with fumigants such as methyl bromide.

Check out this pic of a strawberry grower, looking sort of like a scary government worker from the movie Contagion—except, instead of a bacterial pandemic, the outfit guards against a pesticide.  

Photo: An Oxnard resident picks strawberries at that city's Cambry Farms.
Credit: Los Angeles Times
November 25, 2012

If a farmer needs to wear a space suit to grow it, do we really want to eat it?  And even if you believe a strawberry grown in this way is safe to eat, the environmental detriments of spraying this toxic stuff are indisputable.  Go ahead and spray it in your backyard to guarantee your own high yield strawberry crop, then say goodbye to your little piece of ozone, your lungs, your eyes, and your skin.  But don’t worry, according to the EPA, you won’t get cancer, so I guess that makes it ok. 

The EWG Shopper’s Guide lists strawberries as one of the top three “worst” of the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables for pesticide contamination.  Damnit.  That sucks, doesn’t it? 

According to EWG, some strawberries tested for up to 13 different pesticides.  In his cookbook The Healthy Kitchen, Andrew Weil explains that strawberries absorb pesticides out of the soil, so you can’t even hope to wash them off. 

Suddenly, that beautiful California strawberry looks like a little red toxicity grenade, just waiting to go off. 

It kind of makes you want to go California Screaming! 

Why do big farmer’s think so small?  Why can’t they see past crop yields and profitability projections to the real point of their work:  to feed people?  Do I really want a person in a gas mask to pick a strawberry and hand it over to my kids?

Indulge me while I go a little retro and ask you to look at this little guy (a 14 year old with strawberry all over his face doesn't come off in the same cute way).

yes, that is confectionary sugar. 
it's a family tradition, what can i say?

I didn't know anything about organic berries when I took that picture 12 years ago.  I wish I had.  And the one below: shockingly out-of-season berries (see the fall leaves on the window in the back?).  She requested them, and although we tried to eat foods in season, I hadn't yet learned about methyl bromide.

olivia turns 4

Even though our food options have improved dramatically in the last decade, I know a lot of people still do not have access to organic strawberries.  Does this mean they are lost to you forever? 


Maybe just eat them like a lessatarianWe have so much power as consumers.  If we eat them in season (NOW!), eat them local, and pester our grocers about our desire for organic berries, we can send a message to big growers.  If they cease to make big money, they’ll find another way—hopefully one that takes the gas mask out of strawberry. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

a driver's guide to national bike month, with a dose of drama for good measure

riding over the potomac river toward the lincoln memorial. 
a big safe sidewalk!
photo taken by my friend, lisa

I know I already hit you with the get on your bike message last week.  This week I’m calling on drivers to do their part for National Bike Month. 

What can a driver do?  It’s simple and easy, really.  Just show cyclists a little love.  Look for them on the road; give them room; let them cross; pass them slowly; give them a thumbs-up for getting out there in the sun, the cold, the traffic, the rain—whatever.  Be a bike friendly driver!  I promise, cyclists will appreciate you for it.

I think it’s easy for drivers to forget that cyclists are human beings because, I know, we dress like aliens.  A person wearing a loud, multi-colored jersey, freakishly tight shorts, clunky clip-on shoes, an aero-dynamic helmet, and bug-eyed sunglasses that obscure the face, looks more like a hornet than a person.

Insects are creepy and crunchy.  Many of us kill them without a thought.  But a cyclist?  Under all that shiny paraphernalia, we are soft and huggable (and breakable), just like you.  

To drive that point home, I want to tell a story.  I hope it will teach a lesson to bikers and drivers alike, about sharing the road. 

One day, I ironically sought the safety of the sidewalk as I rode to meet my friends.  With the blessing of that little crossing guy blinking my passage, I began to cross a large intersection.  The driver closest to me, in the right hand turning lane, was not looking to his right (where he would have seen me approaching on the sidewalk).  Rather, he only looked intently to his left as he waited for a space to open in traffic.   I broke my cardinal rule (never break this rule!), and I crossed in front of his car without making eye-contact with him.  I was in a rush.

When I was directly in front of him, he started to pull out. 

What happened next must have occurred in a matter of seconds, but I can only remember a long drawn out series of events that don’t fit into a specified frame of time.   I yelled, “no!” as the grill of his SUV pressed against the left side of my body.  I tried to get his attention by banging on the hood of his car with my left hand, but I found my hand pinned between his car and my bike.  I screamed a more shrill “Stop!” as he kept coming.

I started to go down. 

I put my right foot on the ground to keep from completely disappearing under his car.  I yanked desperately on my left hand without luck.  I felt the power in the car increase and knew he was still looking left, and just one milli-second from peeling out into traffic. 

As the car accelerated, I went completely to the ground, screaming in a primal way that could only be rivaled by the sounds I made when pushing my daughter into the world.  I suppose we only scream like that when life is crossing over.  I’ll tell you, however, it has an entirely different tone when you’re fighting to keep that from happening instead of fighting to make it happen. 

I heard my bike crunch; I saw the wheels of his truck coming, my screaming went sonic, and then, he stopped.     


This is by far the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me. 

And that poor teenaged driver.  I know I damaged that poor kid with my ranting and raving after I scrambled on all fours out from under his car—a spidery mad woman on the loose.  Did you know you could lose your mind on adrenaline?  I paced around the intersection waving my arms, holding my head, crying, raving, laughing maniacally.  I had nearly been run over by those tall treaded wheels, in slow motion.  

I think I did an Exorcist-head-spin right there in the middle of the intersection.

Then, I did what many cyclists apparently do.  I hopped on my bike (which had miraculously survived) and fled the scene. 

Distance.  I needed distance between myself and those events.

I don’t know.  Am I scaring everybody from riding their bikes, right in the middle of National Bike Month?  Well geez, that’s hardly in the spirit of things!

i am not a risk taker, and i would never give up my adventures in cycling. 
here we are caked in mud after 60 miles on the C&O Canal trail.
(i'm in yellow looking like some sort of herculean statue!)

If you’ve ever biked in traffic, then I’m sure you already recognize the dangers. (Just remember to make eye-contact before you cross)!

But if you are a driver who sometimes gets frustrated when you’re forced to share the road with a biker (you know, like when you’re stuck behind a cyclist going 20mph in a 40mph zone—I know it’s happened to you; it’s happened to me too!), try to think about the person under all those slippery clothes and wait for a safe moment to pass.  Chances are, no matter how much we slow you down, you’ll get there before we do!

And if you really want to contribute to a happy and safe National Bike Month: when you’re turning right, remember what we learned about crossing streets when we were kids:  Look Left, Look Right, then Look Left again!   

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

follow the herd; it's national bike month!

trip to d.c. with friends.  i'm in the middle.

I’m an avid cyclist.  Currently, however, that's true only in heart and mind, not necessarily in body. Since I spent the winter recovering from whiplash, I’ve biked very little.  Even my weekly bike trips to the grocery store fell to the wayside. 

While I fattened up like a plump holiday bird, the tires on my bike lost their bulge entirely.  When I pulled out my mountain bike for our trip to Harper’s Ferry, I actually found cobwebs on my handlebars. 

In the last month, however, the weather has turned nice.  My neck feels good.  I've been thinking, "perhaps I should get out my bike trailer and resume my rides to the grocery store." 

Think.  Think.  Think.

The door to the shed sits expectantly ajar, but that creature on wheels has not emerged.  I think it was locked in isolation for too long.  As days blended into nights, perhaps it slowly went mad?  The little scratches on the wall where it tracked the days since our last ride drop off in a line of despair.  It no longer wants to come out. 

Usually I savor my rides to the grocery store.   This 1+ mile ride makes a symbolic gesture to climate change and bike commuting that means a lot to me.  I wrote about this a while back.  Once I’m in the groove of it, I can’t imagine driving.  In fact, when the weather forces me into my car, I’m always surprised by how cumbersome it feels to maneuver that big machine in the too-small parking lot.  Now that I’m out of the groove, however, the excuses abound:  it’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s too late, it’s too early, I just showered, I need a lot of big stuff, my tires are flat… 

Al, the guy at the grocery checkout, asks me every week, “On your bike today?” 

The guilt.

I promised myself I would break out this past Monday. 

Except I didn’t.

I think it was too late, or too wet, or maybe just too complicated.  Oh, I know: I was too lazy. 

Then I realized that it’s National Bike Month!  Sometimes I wonder why we have these random national this-or-that days – what’s the point?  But the idea of doing something with a community is motivating; it plays on our herder instincts, I suppose.  Our propensity to conform and follow doesn’t impress when one considers a mob of people carrying pitchforks and torches through the dark of night, but something like National Bike Month can play on our herd impulses and turn them to our advantage. 

So, on Monday, I checked out National Bike Month and discovered that Wednesday (today) is National Bike to School Day. “Excellent,” I thought.  If I can’t motivate myself, then why not put it on the kids?

I asked Olivia, “why don’t we ride to school anymore?” (as if she’s responsible for that lapse!). We used to ride the 6 miles to her school a few times a week to help her manage a day spent chained to a desk.   We haven't done that all year.  I explained to her that she needed to get her momentum back; she needed to dive in, recommit, motivate! Geez, what a slacker!  

We couldn’t ride today, so yesterday, the poor child dragged herself out of bed 15 minutes early, ate some toast, strapped on her helmet and hit the trail with me in the early morning dew. 

Instead of driving in traffic, we rode for nearly 5 miles through these woods:

When we started out Olivia said, “ugh.  I just want to be in my bed.”  After 30 minutes of dappled sunlight, scampering squirrels, chattering birds and the possibility of late-grazing deer, she said, “The LAST place I want to be is in my bed!”  I sent her skipping into school refreshed, invigorated, and a little worn out.  Perfect. 

Me, I rode home feeling restored, and anxious to ride some more.  Next week I'll be ready if Al asks me about my bike at checkout (please don't let it rain!).


I know you know what's coming...

Do you have a bike?  Does it have cobwebs on the handlebars too? 

Maybe National Bike Month can motivate you too. 

I'm not asking you to give up your car.  We are lessatarians, remember?  We could use our bikes to drive less—even if it’s just a little bit less.  There is a website called the 2-mile challenge.  It claims that 40% of urban travelers make trips of 2 miles or less—in their cars.  The 2-mile challenge asks us to make those trips by bike instead.  Do you have a 2-mile errand?  To school? The post office? Your neighborhood pool? 

I know I said my trip to the grocery store is more symbolic than anything.  I've always thought of it that way because I feel like my short commute makes more of a statement than it does an impact on my gasoline consumption.  The beauty of the 2-mile challenge, however, is that I can log my trips on the website and see the impact they have when combined with everyone else’s 2-mile trips. 

It’s kinda like that herd thing again.  When I posted about biking for groceries last fall, I compared the cars in the parking lot to dumb cattle, trapped in a corral.  But cows aren’t actually supposed to be dumb, are they?  What if we got a herd of them onto their bikes? 

We could make a difference, right?

It's National Bike Month, so yes, the message is: follow the herd; ride your bike!


Friday, May 4, 2012

take that mr. media: reflections on "miss representation"

I took Olivia to see the excellent film, Miss Representation, this week. Since I cannot spare her from the all-penetrating gaze of men, society and the media, I have striven to teach her early to look back—to know the power of her own gaze. I hope that if she learns to keep a critical eye trained on the digitized she-fantasies of media moguls, then perhaps she will be less likely to turn that eye on herself.

The timing of this film is perfect for us. Olivia has just begun to look in the mirror with expectation. So far, however, she hasn’t found anything unacceptable there--saved, perhaps, by the great irony that, at age 11, she still lives in the kind of body to which the rest of us grown women are supposed to aspire. Like so many ears of corn, we’re to forever strip ourselves of our husks, our silken hair, and our many plump kernels of goodness, until there’s nothing left but a hard narrow cob to be accessorized with a boob-job and a pair of low-cut skinnyjeans. How truly hilarious that would be if it wasn’t so completely not funny at all.

I wish that someone had shown me Miss Representation when I was eleven. I did see a similar film, Killing Us Softly, in college. It’s about the ways that women are systematically sexualized and objectified in advertising. The message came too late, however. By the time I saw it, a fast/binge/purge pattern of disordered eating had long since entangled me in its ever tightening noose. I would follow its lead like an obedient dog, well into my twenties.

I do not want Olivia to skip out of her childhood into that snare.

Despite all the graphic and horrific images of women portrayed by Miss Representation, the most pernicious thing I learned is that men own the increasingly consolidated media. You don’t have to dig too deep into the theories of political science to learn that he/she who owns the means of communication in a society, controls that society. I did not realize how few women work behind the scenes (producing, writing, programming) in news and entertainment.

Suddenly I’m wondering, do we need a woman president?—or do we just need to take over Fox News? I hear they’re in search of a new figurehead anyway, what with good old Rupert being “unfit” and all. With the standard so low, surely even a woman could do that job!

No wonder women have taken social media by storm. What the male dominated communications industry has tried so hard to contain has come oozing out in blogs, on facebook and in tweets.

On the internet, we can redefine the terms, giving women: power without the bitch, intelligence without the nerd, humor without the ditz, emotion without the hormones, sensuality without the debasement, and of course, beauty without the objectification.

However, while we encourage each other to celebrate the portrayals of women that achieve these ideals (and reject the ones that don’t), we also need to look inward. I think there are a lot of women like me: ex-bingers, ex-anorexics, ex-selfhaters. We look and sound healed, but when this film asked me to examine that more closely, I admit, I discovered a residue. A dirty film left on my psyche by the colonizing eyes of men.

Case in point: I had to abandon my usual workout routine last fall because I injured my neck in a car accident. Instead of exercising my body all winter, I had to exercise patience, standing quietly by as I gained nearly 15 lbs.
It’s really no big deal. I know that.

Except, I lied about my weight on my driver’s license renewal last week.

And, I wonder, what is the first thing you see when you look at this snapshot, taken at Steve’s birthday in March?
The cake? the candles?...Perhaps the roll of fat hanging over my pants in the background? Or if
we really want to take it apart, perhaps my veiny arms? Or my right hand? It looks sort of like the three-fingered claw of a sleestak from that 70s show Land of the Lost, don’t you think?

When I saw this headless photo, I picked everything about my body apart and piled the wreckage of it on the table next to me, a trophy to my inadequacy.

Even though I already knew it, watching Miss Representation reminded me of the insidious nature of such behavior. What’s so bad about a roll of fat? Who cares if my body type doesn’t fit the arbitrary beauty-norms of the late 20th/ early 21st Centuries?

I fit in perfectly if we just go back a bit.

Here I am sitting on a sofa one day in 1876. I know I look a bit sad, but do you think I’m worrying with Renoir about the roll of fat that would have tumbled over the front of my pants were I modest enough to wear any?

Nah. I think I’m just feeling a bit resentful of this painter who wants me only for the beauty of my form.

Here’s another shot of me after the hunt.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m ashamed of my plans to binge on yet another
deer. I’m gripping my bow, trying to talk myself out of the slaughter, reminding myself of the heft of my ass on the rock. It seems, doesn’t it, that I’m calculating the time: can I eat the beast, hide the evidence, and throw it up before my knight in shining armor comes along with a barrel-chested horse to sweep the tremendous bulk of me off my feet?

Nah. I think I’m just marveling at my excellent shot and wondering how the heck I’m going to get that thing home by myself. I’m also feeling a bit irked that I’ve been asked to go hunting then sit on a rock in the nude. Really, Pierre!

Renoir, known for his misogynist views, was said to have stripped women not only of their clothes, but of their agency in nude paintings where he equated their bodies with the earth. How interesting, however, that my body fits so easily into his objectified form, yet fits so badly into the expectations of beauty today. The men with the means to represent are just making this shit up!

Amazing, isn’t it, how the context and the narrative around our bodies so dramatically shapes our vision of them? If Renoir had painted my gelatinous belly in the background of a birthday cake, would art historians note it as a thing to be reviled, rejected and erased?

No. But if I ran for office in a few years and this picture that I’ve so recklessly shared on the internet, were discovered (as it would be), do you think it would make CNN? Would they get out the digital pens and circle the evidence of my weakness for emphasis, marking me as “unfit” for public service?

Even if you deplored the news story, would you inwardly cringe at the up close exposure of my belly roll?

You might. Or perhaps I should say, I might (sympathetically), if it were your belly, spread out over the expanse of a wall-sized flat screen TV.

If women like me, who have bent under decades of programming, want to honestly critique the unnatural standards of beauty foisted upon us by a male dominated media, then we need to start in earnest with the mirror.

We cannot truly reject the random fantasies of men until we fully accept the varied realities of women. With that, we can model for our daughters the self-love we so desperately want them to own.

So there you have it, for Olivia’s sake and mine:

My belly.

My veins.

My sleestak

Take that Mr. Media.