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Monday, January 30, 2012

I'd Much Rather Be A Brigitte Than A Skeleton

As someone who writes about fashion I am all too aware of size zero being the new six. There is a disconnect when the average American woman wears a size fourteen, yet the models on the runway look like ten-year-old boys.

This is a topic I am passionate about. As are other bloggers. As a woman, and the mother of a daughter, I am disheartned every time I see a model like the one above. Yes, there are some women who are naturally skinny - who can eat a healthy diet and just stay skinny, but they are the excpetion. Most women who look like that model spend their lives hungry. The short and long-term impact on health is not worth being able to slip into those size zero jeans.

As a heterosexual woman I can unequivocally say that I find the Brigitte's of the world much sexier than the Keira Knightly's. If I were a guy I would want to cuddle up to a woman with some meat on her and something more than just skin covering her bones. I know I don't want to crawl into bed with a man who is skinny, so why would a guy want that in a woman?

I am somewhere in between these types. Tall and not really curvy, I'm not skinny, not obese but far from a Kim Karedashian. I find many ways to beat myself up - if I only had bigger breasts, a smaller waist, rounder hips... or if I could only rock those skinny jeans and look tiny. Women dissect their body parts like forensics specialists - thighs that aren't smooth enough, a belly with some padding, breasts that aren't as perky as they perhaps once were, we pick ourselves apart and lose sight of how spectacular we are.

I can grow my hair and wear a nude lipstick, but I will never have the sex appeal of Brigitte Bardot. But I can be the best me I can be. And honestly, the biggest part of sex appeal comes from loving yourself and knowing  the man (or woman) who gets to be with you is very, very lucky indeed.

Perhaps that's the takeaway we need to remember: Being sexy and desirable isn't about being perfect, it's about embracing yourself whether you're a size two or sixteen. Honestly, there's nothing sexier than someone who is comfortable in their own skin and is enjoying themselves. Whatever your body type - super skinny to curvy, just own it and have fun!

Friday, January 27, 2012

It's All Really Simple - A is E

Last Saturday I had a moment of clarity. I was cleaning my house after having had my adult kids in and out for about a month. It felt good to reclaim my space, but in the back of my mind was this persistent angst that has been my unwelcome roommate for longer than I care to think about. Let's just say it's been a while. Then, as George Michael came up on my shuffling play list, I felt a shift. It was this song:

All right, so this may seem weird, but as I scrubbed and listened a feeling of calm came over me. I knew everything was all right. That I was all right. After weeks and weeks of sleepless nights and worry it was all good. No, I do not think that George is an oracle, it was a coincidence, but a week later - basement leaks, unexpected heating bills, and a spray bottle of a cleaner spilling over all the food I'd just rushed around the store to buy while I was checking out. I still felt that way. Yes, it freaked me out to have unexpected expenses, and I initially felt frustrated and annoyed that short on time I now had to re-shop, but as I rushed up and down the aisles I stopped, took a deep breath, and thought how minimal this event was. If this was the worst thing that happened to me that day, I was fine.

So what does A is E mean? Attitude is Everything.

You can think the world is conspiring against you, you can think only bad things happen to you and that nothing ever works out. Or you can have some faith, know that what you might have planned on might not be what's supposed to happen, and adjust your course and your attitude.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beauty May Fade, But You Don't Have To

These two ladies have been in the news a lot lately. Both of these successful actresses have been rushed to the hospital via ambulance to deal with problems allegedly ranging from substance abuse to eating disorders. But I think there's a common thread here - one of self-esteem, and having it too locked into what they look like in an industry based very much on looks.

In Hollywood this is particularly prevalent. It's an industry where women are supposed to be stick thin (but have big breasts - something of an anomaly) and be forever youthful. That's not possible. We are all aging and gravity and time will have its way with us. And it's okay.

That said it doesn't mean you don't take care of yourself and that you just give up. I'll be honest, what I look like matters to me. A lot. It is not what defines me, but I like being considered attractive. It's a fine line to dance across - to be okay with the fact that all of us are aging every single day, but knowing you don't have to not care what you look like.

What saddens me is quotes from Demi Moore where she talks about in her darkest moments feeling unlovable. I know she's not alone. I have those doubts too, and fight against feeling my greatest value is my body and face. As a culture we need to change this. We need to stop making women who've just had a baby feel inadequate because they don't match the "body after baby" magazine covers assaulting them in the checkout line at the supermarket, or that we have some cellulite, or some wrinkles. We need to be kinder, to each other and ourselves.

For women like Heather Locklear and Demi Moore the pressure to be perfectly youthful forever is what most women experience, magnified. As a culture we are youth obsessed, and if it's your face being projected on to a huge screen you are going to feel the pressure to be plumped, Botoxed, and pulled. And when you see the younger and prettier girls nipping at your heels, it's got to be overwhelming and scary.

We need to stop glorifying women who look like pre-pubescent boys, expecting ourselves to go through 9 months of pregnancy and be bikini ready in three weeks, to be a size zero and to never age.

I am a five-foot-ten inch size 8-10. I am considered by model standards to be "plus sized." Models my height are size 0-4.  We don't need to err on the side of obesity, but we need to get real. As in real women have breasts, hips, thighs... we have curves! I don't desire to be skinny, and I think being skinny would make me less appealing and attractive. Who wants to hold someone who feels like flesh over bones?

My hope is that with help both these women will begin to see their true value isn't just what they look like. And my bigger hope is that as we see more Meryl Streep's we will see that we can be beautiful at any age, and that we have much more to offer than a size two ass. Maybe when more women begin to have power in Hollywood that will happen. But for today, love yourself, take care of yourself and accept yourself.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Maybe I Want To Live in An Aaron Sorkin World - Is That So Bad?

I was reading a piece on Gawker tonight about Aaron Sorkin's new HBO series, "The Newsroom," and the writer ripped some pages of the script that were released to shreds. The author seemed to have an issue with the idealism of newscasters gone by. When I read the excerpts I have to honestly say, I kind of liked them, but I'm an optimist and I want to live in a world where presidents make speeches like the one above. I dream of a world where people are impassioned and fight against the bad guys. It's one of the things that helps me get through the day - thinking there are people like that out there. Hope always springs eternal.

Sorkin, best known for "West Wing," "A Few Good Men," "The Social Network," ( for which he won an Oscar) is famous for his rapid-fire dialogue and his famous walking and talking scenes. I love his writing, and I love the message of right winning over might. Heck, I want Andrew Shepard (aka Michael Douglas) to actually BE my president, but alas he can't.

I know it's not realistic to want to live in an idealized world, but if for a couple of hours during a movie, or an hour during a TV show I can pretend that news people want to tell the truth, or a president stands up to the bad guys, I'll take it. Because apparently, in Sorkin's words, I can't handle the truth. Yes, I went there.

I won't apologize for always hoping for the best, and yes, often feeling let down by the worst, but I feel writers like Sorkin give us hope, and remind us of who we can be when we're at our best. The man himself is flawed as we all are, but if given a chance to have an Andrew Shepard or a Jed Bartlet as my president, heck yeah, I would take it. Just as no lawyer is Atticus Finch, the real presidents we have can never live up to these ideals, but ideals are important if for no other reason than giving us something to strive for.

I will keep watching Aaron Sorkin's work, and I will keep dreaming. To do otherwise would be giving up hope. And well, I just can't do that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Does Every Girl Have a Regina George in Their Past?

Anyone who has seen "Mean Girls" knows exactly who Regina George is.She is the Queen Bee, the head of the "Plastics," the prettiest, most popular girls in school. You know that girl - the super-shiny hair, flawless skin, thin, probably had big breasts... yeah your basic ninth grade nightmare. But even worse, she was mean.

I got thinking about my Regina George after reading about Taylor Swift's Regina 2.0. It amazed me that someone who is as successful as Swift still remembers hers - Sarah Jaxheimer. 

I won't name mine because, well, that seems unnecessary and petty, but I will say, I too had my mean girl who made grades five through nine (when I moved) pretty darn terrible. She was smart, had the requisite super-shiny hair and gorgeous skin, was athletic, thin, boys liked her, and could be quite cruel.

At my school we wore uniforms so except for the occasional wild card of a Friday where we got to wear "regular" clothes, we all matched in our gray skirts, white shirts and blue blazers. "Sally" always looked cuter, had more style and let me, and the other not-so-popular girls know it.

The memory of sleepovers I wasn't invited to, and the whispers behind my back have faded but aren't completely gone. And I'm glad. Having been subjected to mean girl behavior I have always gone out of my way to never be that girl, because sadly, mean girl-ing doesn't stop in high school. Even as an adult I've dealt with snarkiness and cruelty, which totally floors me. The need to make yourself feel better by putting down someone else is something I've never understood.

About five years ago I returned to this small, private school on the shores of Narraganset Bay for a reunion. I went mostly to take my mom, who had been a teacher at the school, because as she approached 80, I wanted her to see this lovely campus one more time and connect with former colleagues and students.

I was nervous. I didn't have the best memories of this place, and didn't know what to expect.

I had not been in that tent by the bay for more than ten minutes when Sally made a bee-line for me. She hugged me, an anomaly in itself, and then did something even more shocking. She apologized for how mean she'd been to me.

In that moment I realized she had carried more pain from her behavior than I had. In all honesty Sally never crossed my mind, but obviously I had  hers. I of course told her all was forgiven, but I have to say it was validating that she knew she'd been unkind, and was taking responsibility for it.

It is naive to think of a world where girls aren't mean and support not compete, but I'm always hopeful. If Sally can apologize for telling the other two girls in our class to not be friends with me (it was a tiny school) I'm convinced anything can happen.

It's not easy surviving Girl World., and at the risk of sound like a very old Coke commercial I wonder, can't we all just be nice to each other?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Being Vulnerable Isn't Weak, Quite The Opposite

The other day I watched a TED video on YouTube (I love me some TED talks) and became completely enamoured with Dr. Brene Brown. I highly encourage you to sit back and be amazed, amused and moved by what she has to say. Go. Watch. I'll wait for you to finish. Maybe I'll do my nails or something....

 Wasn't that wonderful?

When she spoke about shame and the "I'm not (fill in the blank) enough," I thought she'd crawled inside my head and read all my secret, shameful thoughts. Not the ones where I spend too much time thinking about shoes and what I'll wear when I go on the fourth hour of the "Today Show" when I promote my book. No, the deeply buried thoughts where I believe I'm a fraud on the verge of being found out, where I'll never amount to anything (you can see how much I must trust you to share this secret shame with you) and that I'm lacking in whatever that elusive something is that makes you lovable.

In my relentless pursuit of perfection I don't always allow myself to be seen warts and all. What she says that separates people like me from the "whole hearted" she talks about, is they allow themselves to be less than perfect.

Embracing being less than perfect. That's hard for me. And many of you I suspect.

The sneaky thing about perfection seeking is that on the exterior you can look pretty cool with things. I (as I was reminded of today :) do not obsess about perfection in my home. I don't care if my house isn't perfect, it's not filthy by a long shot, but I'd rather be writing, reading, being with people than scrubbing the corners. My car isn't neat as a pin, and while I love fashion, I don't always look like I popped out of a band box (which by the way I don't know the meaning of but my mom used to say it).

No, my perfection seeking is hidden from the world. It's the nagging voice that on a daily basis tells me that I'm doing it wrong. And it can be anything from parenting, to writing, who I choose to love, how I am not earning enough money, am I pretty enough, thin enough....and on and on and on. Yes, my brain is a very busy and scary place.

It's not easy to admit this, but my goal is to try to become like the whole hearted and be authentically okay with my imperfections, and by doing so encourage others to as well. To know that I am wonderful. Just as I am. Dust bunnies, crumbs, a run in my stocking and all.

Allowing yourself to be seen is scary. Really scary for some of us. But the alternative of numbing myself from vulnerability isn't an option. You can't avoid your feelings. The beer and banana nut muffin we may choose to self-medicate with as Brown mentions, doesn't work in the long run. We can't selectively numb one feeling without numbing them all. If' you try to avoid feeling sad, mad, love, fear you just sort of shut down. It's all connected.

So my goal is to be okay with all the feelings. And that includes fear, uncertainty, self-doubt, and to realize I, and you are worthy of love and belonging. That's it.

Yeah, sounds simple, but I know I have a lot of work to do. I think the first step is looking in the mirror and saying, I'm not perfect, and that's perfectly fine.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Becoming One With Being Alone

When my daughter left for college several years ago I was bereft. Just ask the woman (who has since become a dear friend) who comforted me in an aerobic dance class when I dissolved into tears the day after I'd dropped her off.

I was in my 40s yet I had never lived alone. My sons had departed, and I clung to her like a life preserver not knowing who I was if I wasn't taking care of someone. Off to college myself at 17, dropping out and moving in with a boyfriend at 18, and married at 20 I had never, ever lived alone. The prospect of it terrified me.

My coping strategy involved to stay as busy as possible and to be home only when necessary - like for bathing and sleeping. Thankfully I did not jump into a series of bad relationships, men were not my drug of choice, achievement was. I went back to school, took on an internship, started a novel, joined a writing group and worked out relentlessly.

I'll not delve into how run down and sick I was by that June, let's just say I didn't handle it well.

As we fast forward to 2012 I have made peace with living alone. At times quite enjoying it. I hadn't realized how at peace I'd become until this past week when all three of my children and my brother descended upon my usually quiet writer-retreat type lifestyle. For someone who never wanted to live alone I seemed to have taken to it quite well.

As a writer I need a certain amount of time to myself and quiet. By the time the sons and brother left, leaving me with the daughter who is not unlike me in needing space, I was exhausted, and in desperate need of not wanting to talk to anyone. For at least a couple of hours. I hunkered down in my bedroom, quietly going over emails, and began to feel my overwhelmed brain start to unwind. Given that space ideas came to me (other than what to make for dinner and how i should throw in a load of laundry) and I felt myself returning to a more balanced place.

I have spent my entire adult life surrounded by others,which probably means something about having been afraid to face myself etc etc. Finally, at this stage of mid-life I've made peace with solitude. Believe me, I don't want it 24/7. I make sure I see people every single day.I am friendly, sociable and love people. I have just learned that to be happy and balanced I need time by myself.

Once in a while this need for alone time has made me wonder if I could ever lean into a full-time partnership with someone - could I marry again? Live with a love? I believe I could. I think if I loved someone enough to decide to share a domicile we would know each other well enough that he would understand my need for space.

And if he didn't get it right away, he certainly would when I stopped talking and closed the door in his face. But just for an hour or so.If he really loves me he'll get it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Want To Keep Your Resolutions? A Life Coach Might Be Key

This is the time, when faced with a clean and fresh calendar and 365 new days ahead of us where we sit down and make those lofty resolutions. Resolutions are a great idea - in theory, but as we know, by the second week of January we're not any more organized, we're not working out, and we've fallen down on eating better. Why is this? Why do we seem doomed for failure?

Well, it's not because we have no will-power (well, I think in terms of homemade chocolate chip cookies that may be my problem) or that we are weak, or otherwise lacking. The problem is we usually don't have a plan, we're trying to do too much at once, and we're trying to do it all alone.

When I was going through a divorce several years ago I went to a therapist who was wonderful. She listened to me cry week after week, supported me, and helped me through a painful chapter in my life. There came a point however where I got tired of my angst and sadness. I wanted to move my life forward and stop looking backward. So after seeing Cheryl Richardson on "Oprah" I found myself a life coach. 

I know, sounds super first world doesn't it? Who needs a coach to help them be better at life? It completely sounded like a privileged Oprah-ism to me. But the thing is, it works. 

When I hired my first coach, we had a deal - I could whine and complain for the first five minutes of our hour long phone session, after that it was all about what I was going to do to change my life. And I did..I actually was so inspired by how great it felt to have my own cheerleader/feet-to-the-fire-holder, I went through two years of training to become a life coach myself.

What does a coach do? A lot of times the first thing I do is to help a client define and clarify their goals. Again, the reason most resolutions don't work is because they're too amorphous, too vague. "I want to lose weight," "I'm gong to write that book," "I'm going to get rid of clutter," "I'm going to be happier," are way too daunting. You need to break it down into doable steps, and chart a path to achieving each one.

When I work with clients I become their best secret (or not so secret) weapon. I am going to be there every week to hold them accountable to what they want. In a way I give my clients permission to put their goals at the top of a very long to-do list.

I work with clients to create balance and keep going even when they don't think they can.

I believe we are all stronger, more capable and can achieve more than we think we can. I also believe people can change.I absolutely despise the saying, "I am what I am."  You are what you choose. If you want different, choose different..

So what do you want not just this year, but the rest of your life to look like? Time whizzes by and one year turns into another and we're still not where we want to be. How about making the investment in yourself to finally do those things you know you want to do? What would that look like?

Maybe this is the year that you are ready to finally make it happen. If that's so, email me, and we can see if hiring a life coach might just give you the edge you need to create the life you've always wanted. Taking care of yourself, and being happy is the best gift you can give not just yourself, but everyone around you.