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The Unbearable Exhaustion of Being Misunderstood

“Have you lost weight?”

I shift from my right leg to my left, leaning against the wall. The cold plaster rests against my shoulderblades, something solid to hold onto, preventing me from running. An alternative I’d rather like to take, but not a polite one.

“Uh, no,” I say, eloquently. “Pretty sure not.”

“Are you sure? Your face looks thinner. You’re so lucky you can lose weight so easily.”

Uh, no, I think, pretty sure not. 

This time, I shrug it off and keep it to myself, awkwardly steering the conversation in a new direction.

For the record, I’ve weighed pretty much exactly the same for the past 18 months, and my conversation partner had been on a diet for six weeks. I took Psych 101. I know a textbook case of projection when I see one.

But that’s not the point.

Even these days, still, sometimes I’m struck by how much empty space can fit between the people around me and a reasonable thing to say to another human. It feels like someone’s trying to stick a three-pronged electrical plug into a USB drive. The motivation is good and makes sense on a macro level, but something’s just getting hella lost in the execution.

Maybe what’s getting lost is the thread of my metaphor. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It’s not really a complaint, anyway, more a bewildered observation: that dear God, some people do not know how to talk about food and bodies and mental health. Three things that, in my daily comings and goings, are really important to talk about at least OK.

Have you lost weight?

I bought this cake but I don’t want it. Here. You’ll eat it, right?

Wait, hang on, why are you crying? You always look so put-together and in control.

(Excuse me, with that last one? Don’t make me laugh. It’s disconcerting to laugh and cry at the same time.)

When I’m lying awake in bed, way too late at night, I let my mind wander. And what it wanders to, more often than I ever expect, is a place where everyone understands one another perfectly.

Where I no longer need to pretend to be motivated when all I want is to crawl back into bed and stay there until summer.

Where I can be perfectly, unrestrainedly happy, even when everyone around me is having one of the Top Five Worst Days in Recorded Human History.

Where people will look at me from across the hall in my apartment building and realize 1) that person did not lose weight, and 2) it’s probably a pretty terrible idea to ask strangers about their weight without being prompted.

Because if there’s one thing more exhausting than having to cope with a brain that operates differently than the brains of most of the rest of the world…

It’s having to pretend like you don’t.

Having to pretend that chatting with other people about their diet and exercise regimens is fascinating conversation.

Having to pretend that changing plans at the last minute in a way that messes with my exercise routine still throws me for a loop, even though it shouldn’t, even though I wish it didn’t.

Having to go through my day being pleasant, approachable, responsive to feedback, eager to learn, and then coming home at 8 p.m. to lay on the couch and idly google variations on “how to stop feeling sad.”

I’m doing fine. Really. Seven out of 10 days are pretty good, and the three that fall at the low end of the bell curve, well, I can handle those.

But it would make it a metric fuckton of a lot easier if we as a species could set up a couple of groundrules:

  • Do not expect others’ relationships to their bodies to match your own.
  • Do not expect others’ moods, breaking points, or needs to make sense in the context of your own emotional paradigm.

But really, Bill and Ted put it best:

  • Be excellent to each other.

Don’t be a jerk. Give people space to hurt. Give people space to cry. Give people space to grow.

And we will grow.

Just maybe not in the way you expect.

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Owning Up to “Guilty Pleasures”

Will I ever pass up the chance to have Tom Hiddleston's name on this blog? No. The answer is no.

Will I ever pass up a chance to reference Tom Hiddleston on this blog? No. The answer is no.

This sounds like a departure from my normal topics, but it isn’t, really. Hear me out. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and the reason has a lot to do with Olive Garden.

Yep, Olive Garden. Here’s where I’m coming from. I moved recently, from one unreasonably cold Midwestern city to another slightly more unreasonably cold Midwestern city with a significantly higher number of Walgreens. In my new neighborhood, there’s an Olive Garden across the street from my apartment. When driving past with a friend who came into town to visit, he pointed out the restaurant and said, “I see you’ve got the height of class in this city.”

I looked at the off-yellow stucco, then back at him. “What’s wrong with Olive Garden?” I asked.

“Well, you know. It’s not exactly high Italian cuisine, is it?”

High Italian cuisine? What was this, an episode of Chopped? Was I going to be docked points for inappropriate plating?

“I,” I said, drawing myself up to my full (seated) (not very impressive) height, “love Olive Garden.”

Maybe it doesn’t have the makings of the Next Great American Novel, but this micro-conversation made me think. Should my ever-abiding love for Olive Garden be a “guilty pleasure”? Is there such a thing as a “guilty pleasure”? Is anything that makes us happy really anything to feel guilty about?

In my personal history, the answer has generally been “yes.” Of course we should feel ashamed about the things we like. Isn’t the fact that we like them a marker of our own poor taste, the signature on the death warrant of our worth as human beings? I could be immersing myself in hour upon hour of of The Roosevelts or sitting down to read the copy of Infinite Jest that has been collecting literary dust on the bottom of my shelf for months now.

But what am I doing? I’m watching back episodes of New Girl and reading 1500 pages of Game of Thrones in three weeks. I don’t even like Game of Thrones that much. I don’t think it’s well-written, and the intersectional feminist side of my brain is having a small aneurism every single time Melisandre appears (because come on guys, hasn’t the evil demon seductress with a mystical pregnancy been played out enough?). And yet, I’m midway through Clash of Kings and I’ve had that book since New Year’s Day.

Isn’t all this just a demonstration of my poor taste? Shouldn’t I hold myself to higher standards than this? Shouldn’t I at least make an effort to like authentic Italian food and David Foster Wallace?

Well, no.

Because why is it anybody’s business what I enjoy? The point of pleasure is that it’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to feel good. I can like crappy food and poorly written novels and TV shows without any semblance of a plot. It’s not a reflection of my worth as a human, or a being who enjoys culture. It’s just something that I like … because I like it.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to come around to this conclusion. And I think the reason for it is that pleasure, in and of itself, is something we’re conditioned to frown upon. Think about it this way: If you let your reptile brain take over for a day — side note, I hate the phrase “reptile brain” because it is gross — what do you think you would do? For many of us, the answer probably follows the “eat, sleep, and have sex” kind of model. (I recognize that for the asexual community part of this may be inaccurate, but forgive the generalization for the point.)

Now consider how we’re told to think about those instincts.

You like to eat? Selfish. Greedy. Lazy. Unhealthy and worthless. We’re in the middle of “New Year, New Pointless Diet” New Year’s resolution season, we shouldn’t have to stretch to think about how food and immorality are linked.

You like to sleep? Lazy. Unmotivated. Never getting anywhere. Get up and do something productive. Go to work. You’ll get a jump on that useless competition who’s asleep while you’re already at the office plugging formulas into an Excel spreadsheet like a madperson. You want to win, sleep when you’re dead.

You like to have sex? Slut. Whore. Straight to Hell for you. Have fun burning, lascivious monster who enjoys making your body feel good. Explain that to the Devil for me.

It’s odd, isn’t it? That the things our bodies naturally want are the very things we’re shamed for enjoying? That we’re bombarded with guilt for “indulging” in these things, even though we’ve been programmed to want or need them? Odd to say the least.

We’re told we’re supposed to want things that are difficultTaking the easy way out is for people who won’t ever get anywhere in life. Why go to sleep at 10pm when you could stay up all night and get a little bit more work done? Why flip through a magazine when you could pour over Grey’s Anatomy or every individual paragraph of The Goldfinch, regardless of whether or not you like it? Why make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich with the kind of cheese that’s individually wrapped in plastic when you could do something fancy with gruyère and chèvre and other words containing the letter è?

It’s another version of the “not good enough” mentality that hounds us every single day. It hounds us about our bodies – not thin enough, not fit enough, not tall enough, not pretty enough, not anything enough. It hounds us about our minds — not smart enough for this job, not hardworking enough for that promotion, not worthwhile enough for a raise, not worth anything to anyone.

And I want it to stop.

Once I finish writing, I’m going to open up Netflix and pop on the next episode of whatever show is at the top of my list. It will, doubtless, be rated one or two stars. It may actually be targeted toward five-to-eleven-year-olds (you do know about my Disney thing, right…?). And I’m learning to be okay with that.

As a side note: I had Olive Garden leftovers for lunch at the office yesterday.

And they were delicious.

The Body Pacifist Under Minor Renovations

Hey all,

So, as you’ve probably noticed, there are gonna be some changes around The Body Pacifist. No worries, the content’s not going under any serious overhauls. I’m not going to use the same domain name but suddenly start writing in-depth articles about deep sea fishing or the difference between a bear and a bull market. (Unless you want me to. In which case I’ll keep the suggestion under consideration.)

No, I’ve just decided it’s time to do a bit of aesthetic tweaking around here. This is largely because I’m tired of the font on this site coming up so small that I’m squinting at it trying to figure out if I said what I meant to say. So don’t worry if everything looks different from one minute to the next. Don’t worry if the layout of the site has changed three times while you’re reading this post. It will all work itself out soon. Hopefully in a legible font!

Thanks for your patience – I’m by no means a web developer. I know my way around a WordPress interface, but I’m not about to hack NASA. We’ll see how it goes.

Love and gratitude,

-Allison

Looking for a Body-Positive Internship?

Hello, my dear and lovely readers!

If you’ve been with me for some time, and/or you read the one-paragraph bio that I knocked out under the “About” tab, you know that I blog in a few other places than here. In fact, I work as the associate editor for the amazing body-positive website Adios Barbie, which has been providing body-positive resources for bodies at a variety of intersections of identity, and questioning the status quo about our bodies, since 1998. They’re amazing. (We’re amazing?) If you haven’t checked us out and you’re still in the mood for some positivity, discussion, and awareness – of course you are! – make sure you check us out there.

But you don’t need to stop after you’ve looked! Adios Barbie is currently accepting internship applications!

Yep, get excited! You could get involved in a well-established, well-respected, and pretty freaking awesome body-positive community right now, just by sending in your application. Adios Barbie is where I got my start blogging and dealing with these issues, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. So you should all totally get on that.

Plus, it’s a virtual position, meaning that you can join our team from the comfort of your living room! I go to work in my pajamas – what’s not to love?

Interested? For more details, keep reading…

Six-Month Internship with Adios Barbie
Positions Available: 4

Adios, Barbie: The One Stop Body Image Shop for identity issues including size, race, media, and more!
Since the dawn of the world wide web (or at least since 1998), AdiosBarbie.com has been the only site whose mission is to broaden the concept of body image to include people of all races, ages, cultures, genders, abilities, sexual orientations, and sizes.

Adios Barbie seeks diversity- not only in content, but also in our team. Thus, we want folks of all backgrounds and experiences to apply. We believe feminism is for everyone and urge folks who take a stand for or are feminists of color to apply as well.

This groundbreaking movement is seeking enthusiastic, change-minded people to join in the body-positive revolution. Four six-month internships are currently available with the possibility of advancement to a permanent role with the team at their completion.

We are looking for interns in three different fields: Writing/Publishing, PR/Social Media, and Advertising/Marketing. Please see below for the duties and responsibilities required of each position.

Want to intern with Adios Barbie but feel that you have a different skill set? Send us a pitch! Let us know how you can help, and we’ll consider your idea!

Internship Descriptions

Writing and Publishing

*Note – Two positions available

  • Research and develop content
  • Obtain web content in various forms (print, podcast, videos, etc.) for sharing and publication
  • Write one original piece (journalistic article, commentary, media analysis, etc.) per month
  • Have interest and experience in the field of their internship.

Public Relations and Social Media

*Note – One position available

  • Increase the visibility and impact of the organization
  • Maintain and develop media lists, press releases, and basic PR functions
  • Promote Adios Barbie using social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr
  • Communicate and interact with the public via social media
  • Familiarity with WordPress, basic html, and google analytics a plus

Advertising and Marketing

*Note – One position available

  • Assist in fundraising
  • Perform administrative and editing tasks for Adios Barbie
  • Create and promote Kickstarters or other fundraising campaigns
  • Help to create advertising strategies – both to bring advertisers to the site and to spread the word about Adios Barbie
  • Familiarity with Photoshop and design a plus

Ideal Candidate Charactaristics

We are actively seeking candidates who are:

  • Sensitive and compassionate with a working knowledge of the following issues and how they intersect: media literacy, race, gender, age, identity, size, ability, and body image
  • Driven by a strong work ethic and the ability to take initiative needing limited supervision
  • Team players who are open to collaboration

Notes

The internships are virtual positions; thus, applicants must have reliable high-speed internet connections and be skilled and responsible regarding electronic communication. Since the positions are remote, anyone anywhere in the world can apply.

Adios Barbie is run entirely by volunteers. As such, these internships are unpaid.

The time required is negotiable. However, interns should expect to devote an average of ten hours per week to their projects.

How to Apply

Applicants must submit:

  • A resume
  • A letter of interest, including how both you and the organization can benefit from this collaboration
  • A writing sample of 300-800 words on a topic relevant to the work of Adios Barbie

Applicants are encouraged (but in no way required) to submit:

  • Examples of previous related work
  • Links to blogs or other portfolios
  • Letters of recommendation
  • List of relevant coursework

Please indicate in the subject line which position you are applying for.

Interviews will be held via Skype.

Deadline for applications:
Monday, February 17th, 2014

Send applications and questions to:
Pia Guerrero, Founder/Editor
info@adiosbarbie.com

 

via Internship.

If you’re interested but the timeline poses a problem, contact us at info@adiosbarbie.com and let us know, and we can talk about your schedule.

Can’t wait to read your applications!

Time Flies When You’re Blogging!

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The other day, a little orange trophy appeared on the right-hand corner of my WordPress dashboard. “Hmm,” I thought, “that’s odd. Are they giving me some kind of award for participation? Like, ‘hey, good for you! You logged on this morning! Here’s a hi-five and a pony!'”

That would be nice, by the way. I think WordPress should look into that.

But, as you won’t be surprised to learn, that was not the case. My dashboard decided to congratulate me on my one-year anniversary of blogging.

Whoa.

Let me tell you, it doesn’t feel like a year. It feels both like two weeks and a decade.

Looking back at some of the first posts that I have on this blog, I realize how far I’ve come in a year. Just comparing my very first post with the very last one I’ve written before this really says something about how much progress I’ve made.

From that first post:

How do I maintain this new healthy weight? I think I’ve forgotten how to “maintain” like a normal person. The problem that I’m wrestling with at the moment is differentiating between the healthy weight I’m comfortable with and my body’s apparent “set point.”

And from the last post:

My belly is full, my body is warm, I just ate about twelve pieces of Hanukkah gelt, and all in all? Feeling pretty awesome.

Two very different tones. Two very different ways of looking at the very same issue. And they’re both me, which is freaking crazy.

Thank you so freaking much to everybody who has joined me on this journey in any way. Whether that’s just reading and finding something in my ramblings that spoke to you, or commenting and sharing your own stories, or challenging me to think about things in a different way. I appreciate each and every one of you who call up this blog on your screens, however often you do or don’t do it. I’ve met some fabulous people through the comments here, and I hope that will continue on into year two.

So, going forward:

In the future, I would love to take suggestions from readers about things that I might discuss on this blog. I always have things that I can rant about or consider, though sometimes I have more than others. But what are you interested in? What do you think would be helpful to talk about? This isn’t me shooting words out into a void, this has the potential to be a conversation. I would love it if it was.

I’m always available by email (there’s a handy-dandy “contact” heading at the top of this page, which should be self-explanatory) if you’d like to give me suggestions. Otherwise, there’s the ever-wonderful comments section below. Hit me up. I’d love to think about something other than my fifteen-page French paper about parental revolt and existentialism in the canon of Jean-Paul Sartre. (Please, someone who’d like to write this paper for me, you may also say so in the comments.)

It’s been a journey, friends, and I’m glad you’ve been there with me. Here’s to the one-year anniversary of this blog, and moving on into the future!

*clinks invisible glass*

A Quick Flash of Positive Thinking

You know that feeling when you’re trapped in a cycle of negativity? You know that continually thinking about the worst thing that could possibly happen isn’t going to do you any favors, and that if you could break the circle of dark thoughts you’d feel better. But knowing it and doing anything about it are two really different things. And so you end up lying on the couch running through the same five or six thoughts for minutes that feel like hours, or hours that feel like minutes.

“I should be [exercising/working/getting up and talking to people/ eating/ not eating/ building Rome in a day], but I’m too tired and lazy and worthless to do it.”

“Everything I do is wrong. Why should I even try?”

“Maybe if I just stay on the couch forever, no one will know what a failure I am.”

“I’m worthless. I’m hopeless. I’m horrible.”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

And the kicker is, you start feeling bad about yourself for feeling bad (or, as you like to call it during times like this, “wallowing” or “whining” or “making a big deal out of nothing”). And nothing’s going to come out of that except feeling worse.

Been there, my friend. Been there.

And so, on this lazy Sunday morning (I wish it was lazy, I’m actually sitting in a library trying to write a paper about Simone de Beauvoir and nature as a metaphor for a Garden-Of-Eden-esque take on sexuality…), I thought I’d share some of my favorite flashes of positivity. Some of these are images that I’ve seen on friends’ Facebook pages or Tumblrs, some are quotes that I love, and some are videos and pictures that never fail to make me smile.

Consider this my early Thanksgiving gift to you. Crack a smile. Be kind to yourself. We all deserve kindness.

——

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tumblr_mwfcblcAdg1rpu8e5o1_500Gifs That Will Make You Laugh Every Time

51 Corgi Gifs That Have Changed The World

28 Of The Best Animal Photobombs Of All Time

(Particularly this one…)smosh-13

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And, lastly but not lastly, my go-to YouTube video every time I’m upset… This probably has about eight million views on it, and most of them are from me.

——–

Hang in there. No matter what you have going on in your life, you are strong and wonderful and important and you can do it.

You can do it.

Happy Sunday!