the gilded cyber cage.

a male friend of mine indulges me in the same conversation whenever we are having drinks, one where i list off the things that women worry about constantly that men never think about. he listens to me talk about weight, diet, exercise, body shape, outfits and outfit appropriateness, hair coloring, waxing, nail care, lingerie, tanning, skin care, makeup, on and on, and shakes his head with exasperation. and always replies, “i literally never think about any of that.” my husband agrees and they both tell me that apart from the occasional thought of working on the beer gut, weight doesn’t figure. neither of them have ever looked at another man and thought, “i wish i looked like that.” in fact, both tell me that they have never wished that they looked differently than they do. it has never occurred to either of them.

this conversation comes up often because it continues to astound me how much women go through daily that men never experience. the standards that we hold ourselves to and live by that don’t exist for men. i would say that largely my life revolves around my appearance. my weight, how i look, my hair and skin are things that are constantly on my mind. that’s not to say that there aren’t more important and meaningful things in my life. it’s more like those things are always present, like being a diabetic who always has to be conscious of food choices and blood sugar levels, it’s just something that i live with. having a child changed my priorities and most certainly my schedule, but i still manage to insert those things into my life, i find time to exercise and color my hair and eat well and use seven different creams on my skin every night. because i feel that i must.

the dark side of being a female comes via comparison. social media seems to have taken over the role once occupied by men judging beauty pageants (and sitting in the oval office, apparently). women posting selfies tauting six pack abs or thigh gaps, or padded behinds with teeny tiny cinched waists. waifish girls lounging on beaches in string bikinis holding giant frothy sugary cocktails. all of them implying that there is something natural about it. easy. i don’t know how girls today are supposed to establish any sort of positive self-image when they are bombarded with images of bodies constantly. bodies that are starved or worked into submission, surgically enhanced and photoshopped and corseted and cajoled into looking like a hundred other bodies in selfies posted on social media.

when i see pop stars or internet starlets of the day getting surgery to give them enormous hips and bums with teeny tiny waists that look like cartoon bodies, i wonder how they will feel about it in 10 years when that look is no longer in fashion. but really, what’s the difference between iggy azalea’s hips and jennifer gray’s nose? perhaps kardashian bodies are the baywatch boobs and lip injections are the tribal tattoos of the present day. it does seem to be an evolution, it’s an intense one for sure, but along the same line. and the thing of it is, despite growing up in a different era i am not immune to the current pressure to look bikini booty selfie ready. the effects of being photographed constantly and having a hyper-photo-documented life and feeling like you’re being watched & judged all the time are real. even if you avoid being snap-chatted or selfie-sticked, we’re all seeing those images in a steady stream, all day every day. what you are seeing 8 billion times a day is bound to influence and make one compare themselves to the easy breezy yet perfectly curated minutia of the insta-world.

i often lament that girls today have no personal style because they are flooded with so much information that they don’t have the space to make choices for themselves. to quote chloe sevigny: “I’m very confused by millennials. When I was a teenager, your wardrobe identified who you were. There aren’t any tribes anymore; just teenagers dressing as one.” as a teenager my idols were musicians and actors that had unique styles of their own, i looked for pieces of them that felt true, or like pieces of the puzzle to the woman i was becoming. i wanted courtney love’s lipstick & babydoll dress or winona ryder’s haircut & baggy old man sweaters. i never wondered who their personal trainers were or what diet they were on.

when my mother was a girl she was not allowed to wear pants to school. her generation fought for sexual liberation as the free love generation and became largely a generation of single mothers. my generation fought for the right to be individual and to “speak our truth.” we fought against conformity as the riot grrl generation and we became largely a generation of career moms. when i look at millennials i don’t know exactly what they represent or aspire to, apart from fame. what saddens me is the extremely cut-throat and competitive attitude of girls and young women today. i agree with chloe sevigny, tribes have been replaced by gangs. it’s taylor or katy and kill or be killed.

what’s incredible is that it is the men who are speaking out about this. i noticed in comedy specials by both tracy morgan and dave chapelle that there were complaints about how women hate their bodies these days, and how sick of hearing about it they are. rappers, comedians and husbands everywhere are sick and tired of the selfie culture and the faux perfection it demands from women. and i have to say, aren’t we all sick and tired of it? isn’t it time the reality tv generation grew up and accepted a little reality?

-end rant-

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a week of outfits.

clearly still drinking all the demna gvasalia ironic kool-aid. also breaking down and buying a little fast fashion when it includes jacquemus-esque puff sleeve tops and celine-esque net skirts. but mostly doing my best to look like james spader’s bitch girlfriend in pretty in pink.

on getting dressed.

there’s something about getting dressed. i never realized how much time i put into the process of outfit selection until i had a baby. suddenly not only the amount of time that i had each morning but the amount of time i had alone became non-existent. the pressure of having someone in the room while getting dressed, asking for your attention can make putting together an outfit feel impossible. i believe this to be the culprit behind moms in sweatpants everywhere. getting dressed is a luxury that many women don’t have. the thing is that i always felt that it was a luxury, and one that i enjoyed even when i drove myself crazy with indecision or self-loathing over what i saw in the mirror.

giving up getting dressed was part of a loss of identity that came with motherhood for me, and looking back it’s interesting how much is involved in losing and re-finding yourself after giving birth. postpartum bodies are soft and stretched and re-arranged and things are out of place. some of them (okay most of them) never go back. pre-pregnancy clothes rarely fit after birth and you spend so much time nursing and dealing with baby fluids and insomnia that it feels pointless to get dressed anyway. the newborn phase, the first year even, is this sort of liminal period between your pre-baby self and your new self. emotionally and physically. it’s only within the last year or so that i’ve started to feel not like my old self again but like my new self. i have always thought a lot about clothes, but having a baby made me realize how much i identify through clothes.

there was a period where i didn’t know what to wear, where i reached for things that i could hide in. this is something that i have always done, at times where i felt particularly bloated or depressed or even when i had to be in business meetings or work situations where i felt i needed to be…shielded or protected in some way. my son having autism has made it really clear when i do this. having to deal with different therapists, case workers and doctors on a daily basis has made me stop to think about what i am wearing. days where i deal with a difficult person or where i feel particularly vulnerable i dress in those ways: ways where i can hide or appear blank. days where my son has no therapy or days where i get a break, i dress differently.

what women wear when they feel like shit is something that interests me a lot. as does what women buy or consume when they feel like shit. there are periods where i buy things that i don’t even particularly like, because i feel some need to disappear: to disappear into a uniform of blankness. of baggy tent dresses made of crappy stretchy synthetic non-fabrics and elastic waists and cheap acrylic sweaters that are shapeless. or something incredibly trendy that has no practical use in my life because i want to feel present or relevant or cool again.

i find the cycles that we go through of cleaning out our closets and then not just re-filling but over-filling them again really interesting. this year i have been trying to pay closer attention to those cycles. because i certainly have cycles of cleaning out my closet, vowing a life of minimal conscious dressing and then i have times where i just want to hit the mall. lose myself in 3 floors of tightly packed brightly colored items. times where i feel a real need to have more stuff, and times where that “gotta have it” feeling overcomes me. and that is a feeling that i enjoy. i’m trying not to beat myself up so much over those times, the times where i want to get rid of everything and the times where i want to buy everything. and to realize that those times are tied to moods which are most certainly fleeting. they come and they go.

part of connecting to myself as the woman that i am now: 3 years after having a baby, after leaving my career and committing to a life of caregiving, has been spending some time in my closet. being at a point where i can take a little time to get dressed has felt like getting something back that was lost. taking the time to stand in my little closet and dig around and pull things out and try them on does feel luxurious, and fun and exciting, even when it’s disappointing.

solidarity.

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“It was clear for example in 1988 that the political process had already become perilously remote from the electorate it was meant to represent. It was also clear in 1988 that the decision of the two major parties to obscure any possible perceived distinction between themselves and by so doing to narrow the contested ground to a handful of selected ‘target’ voters, had already imposed considerable strain on the basic principle of the democratic exercise, that of assuring the nation’s citizens a voice in its affairs. It was also clear in 1988 that the rhetorical manipulation of resentment and anger designed to attract these target voters had reduced the nation’s political dialogue to a level so dispiritingly low that its highest expression had come to be a pernicious nostalgia.” -Joan Didion.

the mother hood.

yesterday was one of those days that kicks my emotional arse. my three year old son has autism spectrum disorder, and there are moments, every once in a while, that knock me down and leave me sort of paralyzed with fear. i can tend to get caught in our little bubble of various therapists who offer encouragement and keep me focused on his progress (as it should be). my son recently started pre-school through the public school system- a special education pre-school for children aged 3-5 with developmental delays. he has done incredibly well as far as enjoying going, and being away from me for the first time in his life. he’s happy to go, five days a week.

yesterday when i picked up my son his teacher asked me if my son plays with toys at home. this felt like a strange question, which i replied to with a suspicious yes. she asked what toys he plays with. i replied that he plays with play doh, trucks, blocks. she frowned and said, “all of the stuff that we have here, hmmm.” and looked at her teacher’s aide with a raised eyebrow. “we have a hard time getting him to play with anything. he just doesn’t play with the toys. and he is constantly opening and closing all the doors in the classroom.” i felt an overwhelming flood of emotion over this, from shame to sadness to anger (because as my husband put it, “isn’t that exactly why he’s in special ed?”).

part of autism is having difficulty with what is considered “normal” play. my son lines things up, he takes things apart. he spends more time playing with household items (and doors) than he does with regular toys. given a toy truck he will examine it, open and close the doors repeatedly, spin the wheels over and over. after months of therapy he has begun to actually put trucks on the floor and push them around, but there is no “vroom vroom” or pretend driving. he doesn’t play like other children play. instead of wanting to watch frozen or paw patrol, he obsessively watches my workout videos. he will ask to watch them over and over, all day long. prior to exercise videos it was one specific episode of seinfeld, over and over. the only time that he speaks in sentences is when he is repeating lines from videos or shows that he watches. he doesn’t have conversations. he repeats things. he speaks in one or two word phrases. he has made incredible progress over the last year, he amazes me daily. but there are days when i am reminded that he is very different. and that fills me with worry, about how he will develop, and how others will treat him. i wonder if he will ever talk, really talk. or if he will ever become independent, and have a life where he can take care of himself and have fulfilling relationships and a career.

yesterday as i was wallowing in feeling like my child is so different that even a special ed teacher doesn’t know what to do with him, feeling like my husband and i are on an island with him, i decided to meditate. a couple of things popped into my mind. i had spent the day in my own fog of self-pity, but i recalled that as i was leaving his classroom after the teacher had made those comments, i saw another mother with a boy from my son’s class. she was walking her son up a crowded staircase, which was full of older children rushing to leave. her son was crying and refusing to move because he was upset that it was raining outside. he was dragging his feet, refusing to move. his mother looked fully exasperated as she sort of shrugged at me and let out a big sigh. later at the grocery store i heard a baby screaming, angrily. it was impossible to ignore, the type of enraged screaming that usually comes from children in doctors offices or babies with colic. as i got to the checkout line i saw that it was a little boy, maybe 2 years old, in a shopping cart screaming as his mother frantically tried to pay for her groceries. as i walked to my car i saw her slam the car door on the screaming as she let out another exasperated sigh. as with the mother in the school hallway, i gave her my most sympathetic smile.

these two mothers reminded me that every mother deals with enormous challenges. every child has moments of being difficult, and not acting as we all would like them to. every child has tantrums and acts out. every mother feels like they are failing in some way or another. what i was too caught up in my own head to notice was that they were right there in front of me, looking to me for acknowledgement and sympathy, which i gave without a thought because of course i understand what that feels like. even when we feel alone, we aren’t. the motherhood is large, and sympathy is all around us.

on resolutions.

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resolutions. i find it pretty interesting that we make resolutions at the new year. i also find it interesting that we repeat this cycle of binge and purge every winter, the idea of reward and punishment, celebration and repentance that we all subscribe to. it runs pretty deep.

the older that i get, the more clear the patterns of my life become- the highs and lows that transpire each month with my cycle, the annual and seasonal highs and lows. new years resolutions are a pretty good picture of the ways that we battle ourselves. geneen roth says that the way that we eat is the way that we live, and also the way that we spend money is the way that we live. new years resolutions tend to be about the way that we eat and the way that we spend money. most people vow to lose weight, to exercise and eat better, to go on a strict budget or to curb spending. we set high goals for ourselves, often unattainable ones, and then we blow them and beat ourselves up for it.

i can’t help but notice that there are resolutions that i set every year, over and over. somehow i find myself mandating that i try again at the start of each year. this is a big pattern in my life, and it’s all laid out in those annual resolutions: don’t eat sugar. don’t drink alcohol. don’t impulse buy. don’t buy fast fashion. don’t shop. maintain a strict diet. these are things i struggle with not just at the start of every year, but daily. the cycles of restriction and liberation, of control and losing control.

this year after i wrote down my resolutions, i decided that i needed to change my perspective on them. this year i’ve decided to just watch myself. to notice the things that i tell myself i must or must not do. to notice how i react to telling myself that i cannot do something (i.e. you always want what you cannot have). and to try to understand why i feel i need to do or not do these things (e.g. the man/my father/my mother/social media/god told me so). there is obviously a lot to “unpack” around those things. but i figure the weather is crap and pluto is burning up the charts, so it’s as good a time as any to roll up my jeans and wade into the muck of my mind.