It seems like one Harvard professor or another in exceedingly blue, alarmingly stiff jeans is always coming out with a pop psych book about happiness and how misunderstood it is.
Apparently, people make a lot of the same mistakes about happiness over and over. We keep thinking that we have to work really hard to get to it, and do certain tricky things to capture it, sort of like that scene in “Avatar,” where they have to bond with the giant flying dinosaur things, and they’re just as likely to get killed, because you have to really earn that bond—not just any Na’vi can fly! But man, when you stick your hair tentacle into your bird dinosaur’s tendril thing and make that platonic, yet soulmate-y connection—there is NOTHING else like that shit. So worth it.
My point is, we expect happiness to be hard. But it isn’t really. And instead of fighting and waiting for it, we should probably just work on recognizing where it’s already sneaking around in the shadows of our current lives, like a little smiley cat burglar. It’s there, seriously, I promise.
I think it’s like that with beauty and self-acceptance, too. Keep reading »
A little over a month ago, I stopped using shampoo. And, speaking as someone who has clearly never been in serious bodily danger, it felt like I was being very brave. Just a couple days, I told myself reassuringly. And then, when you look like a horrifying ball of dripping grease, you can do the rational thing and return to the sweet comfort of purifying chemicals and delectable fragrances. Because that is totally how I think of shampoo, when pondering its many virtues alone in the shower.
Honestly, I’m not sure what motivated me to attempt this reckless experiment. An article about the mountaineers who have scaled Everest’s ferocious flanks? That documentary on Netflix about the dude who illegally, triumphantly walked the high wire between the former World Trade Center buildings? Maybe just a quiet, deep-rooted sense of “now or never.”
But seriously, it was weird, considering my history with my hair. Which I am going to tell you. And as I tell you, please know that I am intensely aware of the fact that my last piece for this column was a critique of the phrase “first world problems.” This whole piece might fit into that phrase very neatly. But I am writing it anyway, because you have to hear the truth. Because I have to tell it. Keep reading »
“My drive from work is too short for me to decide what to listen to on Spotify #firstworldproblems” was a recent tweet from the Twitter account First World Problems. The tweet reached over 50,000 people, and it was only one in a long list of mildly amusing little complaints about an easy, well-fed, upper-middle class life.
The idea of first world problems has recently become a meme, with inspired tweeters hashtagging the phrase on the back of every observation that doesn’t seem world-changing or ring out like a strangled scream from the depths of oppression. It’s kind of a fun trend. Maybe it serves to remind us all of what we already have. It offers a little dose of perspective. And when it first appeared, I was totally on board. But then I started seeing the hashtag cropping up a lot more when women were talking about all those things that get labeled “women’s issues.” Keep reading »
“Can I touch your belly?” my friend squealed, rushing towards it, hands outstretched.
Then she stopped in her tracks. “I mean,” she said, suddenly bashful, “only if it’s okay, of course! Are you letting people?”
I am five months pregnant. And I keep reading on the various boards and sites where all of the talk is pregnancy-related (it feels pretty trashy, honestly, but I’m a little addicted to babycenter.com) about how this is the time when everyone starts wanting to touch your belly. It’s true, this is definitely that time. BUT, boards and sites immediately clarify, you don’t have to let them.
This point is very important.
Actually, reading current pregnancy forums gives one the impression that for most of history, pregnant women’s bellies were just constantly being groped by grabby, entitled strangers on public transportation and in the grocery store, and then finally we got feminism, and then, thank god, AT LAST, we could say, with the deepest relief, “Get your hands off my pregnancy, jackass!” Keep reading »
Sometimes I’m walking outside and a guy I don’t know calls out a compliment. Sometimes I like it. I smile for a second and go on with my day. And it has been pointed out to me that this is probably very bad.
There are lots of reasons why it’s bad for men to compliment women on the street. They are objectifying those women. The women might not want that attention, and it can feel invasive and uncomfortable. It can feel inescapable. It can sometimes take on an aggressive tone. It can be harassing. Sometimes it is. And that is not OK. Really, not at all.
But sometimes it isn’t harassing at all. Sometimes it’s nice. And it’s interesting to me that this feels like a sort of shameful and risky thing for me to admit. As though I have just failed feminism. As though I owe feminism more, and I’m letting womankind down, and I have gotten mixed up and forgotten some of the basic rules and regulations. I should consult the manual immediately. Keep reading »
I am 19 weeks pregnant. In pregnancy, everything is measured in weeks, and I keep wanting to wish my fetus a happy beginning-of-the-next-week birthday. Because we made it this far and we should celebrate, damn it. But I guess that gets a little excessive. People keep telling me, “You barely look pregnant!” And it’s frustrating, because I am really, really pregnant. I know, because of all the barfing I endured for three months. (So much barfing! Dear God. I can hardly look at a saltine now without a rising sense of dread.) I know, because of the boxing match that seems to be going on endlessly between my very enthusiastic baby and any part of my body he or she can reach. Believe me, I am quite pregnant. So when people tell me, “I can’t even tell!” I have this weird reaction. I know that they are complimenting me. They’re suggesting that I look thin, and I’m supposed to appreciate that. But I also have to resist the urge to stick my belly out and say, “No, no, seriously, look closer! This is the real deal!” Keep reading »
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love, right? Romance and pink things and flowers, too. It’s supposed to be about couples, but I want to selfishly celebrate by acknowledging a woman who made me love myself a little bit more. So often, I think we’re trying to make ourselves appealing and acceptable to other people. We’re worried about how we look to them, how we come across, if we’re pretty and likable. But once, when I was a kid, I saw a woman who made me think there might be another way to do things, and I’ve never forgotten her.
This is my love letter to a buzz cut beauty queen. Keep reading »
She was really beautiful. She was the coolest girl ever. She always knew what to say, and she said it casually, like she barely had to think first. I wanted to be just like her. I was 13, she was 15, and she was perfect to me.
My parents were very supportive. They thought I was smart and pretty and capable. And that is so important, like the concrete they pour into the husk of the foundation of a house when it’s just planks and sticks in the dirt. But the shape of the building, the furniture inside—I think that comes from other girls. That’s how you learn how to be a girl, after all, from the other ones around you. Keep reading »
The other day, a girl emailed me:
“I’m worried that I’m not pretty enough to get a guy. I’m single, and want a serious relationship, but sometimes I think I can’t find one because I’m not prettier.”
I wanted to exclaim, “That’s ridiculous!” But instead I thought, Well, of course you’re worried.
When I was single, I reasoned that being hotter was always better because it would give me more options. The hotter I was, the more guys would be interested in me, and the more choice I’d have in the matter. So even if I thought I looked fine, it would’ve been better to look, well, even better. (And then there is no limit—you can always be hotter, somehow.) And when I thought that I looked significantly, depressingly less than fine, I was scared, because I felt as though I might miss out on something essential.
This is not irrational. It makes sense, when we think of women’s worth as being closely matched, at least initially, with their beauty. Keep reading »
I liked being Jewish. I just hated my face. I wanted desperately to like my face better. I’d spent too many years laughing with my hand over my nose because I thought it looked even bigger when my face was happy. Stupid, right? It’s amazing, in retrospect, the things we are tormented by.
When I was a little girl, I thought I’d grow up to look like a queen—exotic, powerful, with a strong, regal profile. Queen Thayet, in Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals series, had a hawk nose and she was the most beautiful woman in the world! Why not me? I had a hawk nose! I figured I would be decent at ruling a kingdom, too.
But then when I was 14 a girl told me I needed to get my face fixed. She said she had a friend whose daddy could do it because he was a rich plastic surgeon. She said that if I went to him he’d make me pretty.
The things kids say! Keep reading »