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 »
Don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for the message “seriously, though, you’re beautiful.” And I agree with the viral clip, so many of us get distracted by all of our perceived flaws. We get caught up in criticizing our appearances and miss out on our own beauty. We are often more generous toward strangers than we are toward ourselves.
I like that the Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign is pointing all of this out. I hope it starts a bunch of conversations. And I hope that my reaction is interpreted as a continuation of the conversation, rather than nitpicking criticism. Because I really don’t want to nitpick, I just want to point out some things I noticed as I was watching.
In the clip, some lovely, thin, mostly white women who are all pretty young describe their appearances to a forensic artist, who sketches them without looking at them. And then other people describe these women, and the artist starts all over again, based on the new description. At the end, the women are shown the two portraits of themselves, and they can see how differently the sketched faces turned out, based on the descriptions. They realize that they’ve been unnecessarily critical of their appearances. 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 »
People like to make things into battles, with two opposing sides. You know, like in the Mommy Wars where breastfeeding is a battle cry and formula feeding is a ferocious counterattack. Oy vey.
Sometimes, in the world of conversations about body image, it seems like heavy women get pitted against thin women. There are a series of memes that have been endlessly cycling through Facebook with pictures of skinny, currently famous women alongside previous pinups with voluptuous breasts and hips. One caption reads “When did this … become hotter than THIS?” suggesting that our thin-obsessed culture has lost its way.
“EEWWW! She’s just skin and bones!” say the commenters. And then thin women get understandably pissed. Keep reading »
I shook my head recently when I read about New York Observer film critic Rex Reed’s personal insult toward actress Melissa McCarthy. In a review of her latest offering, “Identity Thief,” he called her “tractor-sized” and as big as a “hippo.” Isn’t it interesting, I thought, that a man, who himself is part of a marginalized and often supressed segment of society [Reed is widely believed to be gay.] wields his pejoratives so freely when directed toward another similarly ill-regarded community, the “un-thin” or “un-commercial.” The part of our population that still hides in a closet of self-hatred. The part of our population, fearful that they won’t be accepted or seen for anything other than their physical appearance. You don’t have to be overweight to be part of our collective; you just have to have a self-loathing of some physical feature you feel you possess. Surely, this is something that everyone can relate to at some point in their lives and certainly, unless he was blessed to have grown up amongst royalty, Rex Reed himself must have had to deal with.
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 »
I was looking seriously cute. My hair was behaving commendably, my face did not have anything obviously wrong with it, my belt was making my waist look seductive, and my new boots gave me a taller, lither look than I’m accustom to. Even my little boobs were cheerful and holding form in my bra, rather than sliding disobediently down, as is their evil habit.
“You look great!” said my husband, picking up on the whole thing. He snapped a photo on his phone. And another, and then a third.
“Hmm,” he said, “I can’t really get a good angle. Wait.” One more. “Okay,” he said, sounding satisfied. He showed me.
It was a little shocking, how wrong I’d been. My hair was stringy and frazzled at the same time. My face had aged 10 years. My waist was bulging around the belt, and my little stunted legs looked almost hilariously comical in their silly, trying-too-hard boots. Even in the “good” shot, I appeared to be lumbering off to terrorize a small village, possibly to capture a maiden or two and haul them off to my cave for supper. I’m not even going to get started on my boobs. Keep reading »