I’m done hating my body.

I remember the exact moment I began to wage a war on my body, one that would last almost 30 years. I was around 8, and I was jumping off the pool deck into the water at my parent’s house, with my brothers and sister. Drinking in summer’s delights in the way that only small children truly can. I was wearing a rainbow bathing suit, with black “paint splatters” over it, with a giant circular cutout at the belly, a tiny little ruffly skirt underneath it. I LOVED that bathing suit. My mom was sitting there, and turned me to her. She patted my stomach and said, “You better be careful. You’re getting thick in the belly.” She really didn’t mean anything by it-she was raised in a family of incredibly vain Italian women, who constantly commented on appearance. Nonetheless, it stung. It was the first time I recall ever feeling like something about me was defective.

On top of that, I developed breasts at a really young age. I was wearing a bra in the third grade, and I remember wearing a white shirt to school one day, and this boy, Brian, teased me about the fact that he could see my bra through my shirt. I still will not wear white shirts, at 35. My chest became a part of “me” by high school, in that it was a way people identified me: “big tits”,I think, was the phrase I heard uttered most. I tilted my spine inward in an attempt to shrink them, shrink myself. Looking back at photos of myself when I was 16 or 17, it was evident that I had a body that belonged to an adult-it was a common topic of conversation, particularly among the boys I counted amongst my friends. I knew I was supposed to just laugh along, accept it as some sort of compliment. It never felt like one-it felt like a liability. I know now that it was a liability.

As women, our bodies are ALWAYS liabilities. You’re too fat, too thin, too busty (and likely a slut), too flat, too tall, too hairy, too masculine. Our bodies are public domain for comment, for possession, for violation. Leers, comments, touches, judgments.  I remember squatting down at my locker in high school when I was a junior, and my then-boyfriend came up behind me, yanking the waistband of my jeans up, propelling me forward into my locker. “Pull up your pants. I can see your underwear-you look like a slut.” It seems enraging to me now, almost laughable if not so sad, but at the time, I believed him. I thought I did something wrong. Again, shame.

Into adulthood, I became less active and more heavy. For the past 15 years, I have swung so widely, weight wise: there is almost a 90 lb. difference between my lightest and heaviest. Reproductive and endocrine disorders have continuously conspired to make this even more difficult. The problem is, I have always felt huge, a massive distortion from what is acceptable. No matter what size I am. Thick in the middle, as my mom said. I feel invisible and overexposed, at the same time. I lay in bed at night, running my hands over the soft flesh of my abdomen, avoiding the extra fat on my thighs and arms with my eyes,  disgusted by it. As a freshman in college, I noticed a series of tiny, silver stretch marks running along the part of my arm where it meets my chest, and I felt utter horror. Meanwhile, this discovery happened in the midst of an idle moment of a volleyball game, one where my strong, capable body was performing well. But all I really saw, were those marks. Marks that shamed me. The shame I have always felt from my body has felt as normal as a body part-it’s a part of me.

But, I’m tired of feeling bad about my body. My body has carried me through so much in life-a successful athletic career as a teenager, sustained me during times of deep sadness and stress that I thought would overtake me, and perhaps the most incredible of all-it sustained a pregnancy that doctors said would never happen, and delivered the most beautiful boy into my life. Those breasts I hated so much? They provided my child’s nourishment for 15 months, helping him grow strong, into the beautiful little boy he is now. It carried me through the crushing blow of my mother’s death while simultaneously bringing that little boy into the world. While everything around me felt like it was crumbling into dust, I felt so much confidence in my what my body is capable of.

And over these past few years, I’ve become less and less interested in quantifying my worth by my pants size, my weight, my belief in an unrealistic ideal. I am kind and funny and accomplished in my work, smart and driven and eternally optimistic about the future and the goodness of people. Who the fuck cares if my pants aren’t a size 6? I’m tired of chasing one-dimensional concepts of what I think will make me content. I am enough, just as I am. Beautifully crafted at my core.

It’s hard for me to expose these things about myself, but I want other people to stop hating their bodies, too. And in order to do that, we need to stop feeling so isolated and shut out by it. The garbage we are fed by the culture and the patriarchy about what about bodies should be, and the bogus value assigned to it, are never going to stop, unless we force it. So, for anyone who has ever thought, “Things will be better once I lose weight, I will be better when I lose weight”…I’m with you. I AM you. And I promise you, you are enough. 


It’s time to tell our stories.

When I was nineteen, I was raped, just a few days after returning to school for my sophomore year. It was something that took me almost seven years to fully process. And by fully process, I mean that I dealt with horrible anxiety/depression, an interruption in my education, weight gain, an inability to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time, and this uncomfortable startle reflex whenever anyone approaches or touches me without warning. These last two issues, while less severe, still linger. It took me a long time to stop feeling like I did something to warrant what happened to me, the ever-expanding list of “I shouldn’t have” statements growing in my mind.

I never reported what happened to me, to the school or police. I told my friends, who supported me in the best way they could. The boy approached me a few days later, as I was pouring cereal into a bowl at the dining hall, to offer a half-hearted apology for “getting out of control”. I didn’t know his name. My body felt hot as I stammered back, “It’s ok”. It wasn’t. I couldn’t meet his eyes. I wonder if he felt absolved. I went to Planned Parenthood, where they tested me for every lingering consequence. Everything was fine, thank God. I still consider those women who treated me to be some of the most important people I’ve encountered in my life. They saved me in a lot of ways, when I had no one else, and changed the way I viewed the world. I couldn’t bear to tell my parents at the time, or the person I was dating. I felt like it would destroy them, that they would find fault with me. I kept this from them, and started therapy, thinking it would help lift the feeling of being suffocated. It didn’t.

I told my boyfriend. He promptly dumped me. I told my mother, and in response, I got “Oh, we’ve all made dumb decisions when we’ve been drinking. Stop beating yourself up about it.” I’d like to believe she was just misunderstanding what I was telling her, but I don’t know how much clearer it could’ve been. I didn’t dare tell my father, as I honestly had no idea how he’d react. I’m not sure if my mother did. These responses from the people I needed the most, sent a very clear message: you did this to yourself. It took me a long time to realize that was incorrect. I never believed that women could feel they were at fault, after a sexual assault. Until it happened to me.

I’ve told a small number of people this story over the years, and the response has always been the same: Why didn’t you report it? And while the 33 year old me has the wisdom to know that I should’ve, the 19 year old me didn’t. I had no voice. I felt like I would be blamed, my actions picked apart, my reputation destroyed. I was smart enough to know how these things panned out, but not smart or strong enough to know how to fight back against it. To say that nothing I did gave anyone permission to violate me in the most heinous of ways. The panic and trauma coursing through me sent one clear message: get away from this. Put it away. Otherwise, I feared at the time, it would follow me. I needed to just move past it.

But it did follow me, an apparition reminding me that life would always be divided into “before the thing that happened at school” and “after the thing that happened at school”. Until just a few years ago, I couldn’t even say the word “rape”, in regards to my situation. It was always “the thing that happened”. The more I thought I was distancing myself from it, the more I realize now that it was tethering me back even tighter.

I’m sharing this not for you to feel sorry or angry for me, I’ve done enough of that for all of us over the years, and I have finally made peace with it. But, I’ve been thinking a lot about my experience the past few days, after reading this article from the NY Times, about the alleged mishandling of a sexual misconduct case of a young woman named Anna at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, here in Geneva. After reading the article, as well as the HWS official response on their website, I can’t help but feel like there’s a fair amount of accuracy in the NYT article, and a fair amount of backpedaling and “Let’s quote our policy and practices to cover our asses” in their response. In my opinion, HWS grossly mishandled this situation, and failed not only this student, but any student who has ever kept quiet about a similar experience, for fear of reprisal or dismissal of its severity. Regardless of all that, more than the pain I feel for the young woman, I feel incredibly proud of her bravery. She is so young and so vulnerable after such a trauma, to have found her voice, and gone to such great lengths to tell her story, her truth. I lay in bed last night, trying to imagine the firestorm that is surrounding her now, how dizzying that must be. I wondered if she second guesses her decision now, and the feedback she’s getting from people. I love that despite the fear and apprehension she’s likely feeling, that she plans to return to HWS in the fall, to continue her education. “Someone needs to help survivors there,” she said.

And she’s right. Interactive videos or other vague educational tools are not going to stop sexual violence. It’s going to take a cultural shift to change people’s attitudes about power, assault, and sex in general. That shift will only come from people speaking up about their experience, and taking individuals and institutions to task their slut-shaming, scrutinizing of a victim’s actions prior to an assault, and dismissing of claims. Boys need to be taught from a young age that girls are not merely there for the touching or invading of space, and girls need to be taught to be strong and comfortable in the claiming of their bodies as their own. Women (and men, in those cases) need to come forward, share their stories, and remind others that without exception, no always means no. Because as I’ve said before-if it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.

If you’ve read the article and HWS response, and are compelled to voice your support for the improvement of the colleges’ handling of sexual assaults, you can do so by signing the following petition:


Sorry I’m Not Sorry.

Have you guys read this post? A few people have shared it via Facebook and for me, it was one of those things you may hear a thousand times, but then on that 1001st time, you really listen. And then you start thinking: what are all the things I am apologizing for, things for which I am not even remotely remorseful?

Over the past few years, I’ve been working on this very tic (which is what it feels like), catching myself apologizing, then following that up with, “No, actually, I’m not sorry”. Which, admittedly, probably sounds a little off-putting to whomever happens to be there, but I don’t care. It’s the only way I can reinforce my commitment to stopping that knee-jerk response. I think that as women, we are given a very clear message from infancy-that we need to act like ladies. What does that even mean? It means that we need to not take up too much space, we need to be quiet, agreeable, and please everyone around us, to the very real sacrifice of ourselves, of what makes us who we are. And, my friends, is bullshit.

Take little girls, for example. Before the world swallows them up, and spits them back out into the world of adolescence, they are vivacious, joyful, spirited, and confident. I watched my niece stand around in her bathing suit recently, little belly jutting out, dripping a popsicle gleefully down her face and arms, and I was jealous. I was actually jealous of the fact that she has no concept of being painfully conscious of her body, her visibility, the eyes of others following those rivulets of melted popsicle as they trickle down her chin. That, is freedom. Not automatically trying to shrink herself into invisibility, wondering what people are thinking about her belly, her legs, the fact that she’s eating for pleasure. That’s all going to erode, though; in 3, 4, 5 years, she’ll start to doubt herself, her body, her voice. She’ll start to be sorry.

And think about all of the apologizing we do to ourselves-the way we might lament speaking “out of turn” at work, or how we hunch over, wearing dark colors and high necklines, because we feel like our breasts are too big, a liability for own safety, and for being taken seriously. Or, my personal favorite-gathering the courage to ask for what you want…and then immediately following that up with “Is that OK? Sorry to ask, but…”.

This article helped me to better evaluate the things I’m apologizing for, overtly or otherwise. And I needed it, because this age of 33, this journey into what I consider true adulthood after the extended adolescence of our twenties, is a beautiful thing. I’m becoming so much more comfortable with who I am, what I represent, and the things and people I value. So, no…I’m not sorry for my body, or my desire to be by myself at times, or my political bent, or for making jokes that “women shouldn’t make”. I’m not sorry for a million things. Those things make me who I am, and I happen to think that I am pretty fucking awesome. I do, however, apologize if you find issue with that. That, is a genuine apology.

Tell me ladies (and you boys, too, if you’re so inclined)-what are you ready to stop apologizing for?

Full-On Mom Jeans.

That’s the nickname I’ve given myself-Mom Jeans. Alas, I have become that asshole that I have always hated-posting a million photos of my baby on IG/FB (that no one ultimately cares about, I know this; I mostly didn’t care about your baby, either), posting inane status updates about my lack of sleep/loss of independence/back pain/baby screaminess, and commiserating with other moms about the glamorous life of parenthood. It’s annoying, and here is where I issue my blanket apology-I’m sorry. I will also not stop, so it might be a good idea to remove me from any social media feeds or defriend me altogether. Maybe block my phone number too, if I’m texting you unwanted photos. But it’s a baby! In tiny shorts!

Even more startling are my behaviors in private-perpetually tiptoeing around the house, squealing D’s name over and over again so I can get through a shower without him losing his shit (this only works 14% of the time), singing every ridiculous made up song I can conjure off the top of my head, and putting more thought into his outfits in the morning, than my own. Oh, my eating habits? That consists of anything I can grab with one hand, and stuff into my mouth, like a raccoon. This runs the gamut from healthy (apple) to disgusting (finger swipe of peanut butter). I know this is normal, and I don’t hate it. It’s just..shocking, sometimes.

And don’t even get me started about my appearance. My crowning achievement has been that I shower and dress every morning. That’s a non-negotiable for me (although I understand how many people don’t get to it). However, my mascara wand has never seen less activity, my hair is in a perma-knot atop my head, and I don’t so much care that there’s a rivulet of baby spit/drool/milk all over my shoulder. My dirtiest little secret? Even though I fit comfortably back into my pre-pregnancy clothes, I cannot make myself stop wearing my maternity jeans. Please note, I know this is in no way flattering, as they are huge and baggy on my legs and butt, but weeee! Jeans that also feel like sweatpants! Just toss a longer cardigan on, and no one is the wiser…unless you’re walking behind me in Wegman’s, and watching me hike my pants up every 2-3 strides.

It’s all just interesting to me, how you become almost unrecognizable to yourself once you become a parent. Maybe not everyone feels this way, but I do. Like I said, I certainly don’t dislike it, nor do I find it to be a bad thing, but I didn’t always intend to be a parent. I never daydreamed about having kids and all that jazz, nor did I ever think it would actually happen. But now, here I am, with this little redheaded, doe-eyed boy, and I love him so much that it almost takes my air sometimes. He has taught me so much about myself, made me happier, much less willing to abide nonsense from other people, and has given me a sense of purpose that I thought I always got from my career, but is so much more fierce now. I feel incredibly lucky to be his mom, and to have the opportunity to help guide another person to the best life possible. So what if I AM doing it with bags under my eyes and ill-fitting pants? He will grow more independent, and I will look presentable in public again. And I bet, when all is said and done, that I’ll probably miss this time.

Months 3-6: Times, they are a-changin’.

Today marks my entry into the third trimester. A line I’m crossing happily, but also with a bad limp, and slightly winded. The past three months have been full of transformations, realizations, and, well…sugar. Lots of it. But, that’s neither here nor there. So, a few highlights on this journey:

For those of you not in the know, we’re having a boy. I felt all along that it was a boy, and also (not so) secretly hoped it was. Girls-they’re great and all, but I just don’t feel excited about pink, and dance lessons, and her slamming her bedroom door in my face at 15 years old when I ask her how her day was. Of course, I know he will come with his own set of challenges, but that’s stuff I can handle (scoffs naively). Or outsource to his dad. His name will be Dempsey, a name we both love, and were able to decide on easily. Not common, but also not “Pilot Inspektor” weird, either. And his middle name will be Reid, which is Andy’s mother’s family name. I like the history and significance of that. So, one tiny task down. He has a name!

I no longer recognize my body. Over the past three months, my stomach has grown to (what I perceive as) epic proportions, my back feels like someone started a garbage fire in my spinal column, my boobs are huge(r), and nearly everything winds me. I stood in front of the mirror before getting into the shower the other day, and marveled for a minute. It’s certainly not disdain or disgust I feel, because let’s face it-growing a human is a pretty powerful, amazing thing we do, but it was more like, “Is this ever going to go away?” It feels like I’ve always been pregnant, and will always be. Perhaps this is the pre-cursor to me feeling like I can’t remember what my life was like before him. Or, more likely, it’s because all I want is some effing brie, and a bottle of the smokiest red I can get my hands on. And what a glorious day that shall be. I’m also excited about the prospect of painting my toes again, without requiring a nebulizer treatment.

Humiliation 1: For the first few months of my pregnancy, I saw the nurse practitioner at my practice, a woman who I adore. She is warm, and engaged/engaging, and kind, and willing to answer any questions I have. I loved visiting with her. So, the last time I saw her (two visits ago), I brought up my mother’s illness, and how I worry about how that affects my body and the baby, because of the stress it puts on me. We had a great conversation that helped put me at ease, and she shared the fact that her father faced a very similar situation. Of course I cried a ton, because that’s something I do all the time anyway now, but I felt better. I stood up to leave, and thus started the “I think we’re going to shake hands, but you now feel obligated to hug me, given the conversation we just had” dance. We got entangled in this weird embrace that felt like it lasted for 5 minutes, and also ended with her kissing my cheek, which I don’t really think she intended to do. My face was aflame with embarrassment-I don’t particularly like physical interaction with people I’m not close to, and this was off the charts weird. Totally well-intentioned, but just really awkward. So, with that, I decided that when making my next appointment, now was the time to start rotating through the physicians in the practice. Now when I see the NP at the office, we can share a quick smile and wave from a safe distance, and go about our business.

Humiliation 2: I got a packet of stuff in the mail, that was mostly pregnancy/child-related deals, coupons, etc. So, a few of them were for free crap, like baby slings and a nursing cover. So I thought, why not? I hopped online, ordered them up, raised an eyebrow at the URL of the nursing cover website, but otherwise moved along. The next day, I paid some bills online, then ran over to the mall to pick up the iPhone 5. I made my intentions clear to the sales guy, rebuffing all his offers of additional accessories (no, I don’t want that wood-veneered Bluetooth device, OR that terrible phone case), and handed over my card to pay. Declined. Wait, what? I asked him to run it again, please, and again…declined. So, that of course embarrassed me, and I asked him to hold tight while I ran to the satellite office that my bank has in the mall. The girl at the window informed me of my balance, which was exactly what I thought it was, and allowed me to make a cash withdrawal, but also told me that maybe I should call ‘fraud protection’, because sometimes they place holds on cards that aren’t immediately visible. Having had my identity conveniently stolen previously, during Christmas 2011, my stomach tightened. Not again.
I ran back, picked up the new phone, and then got into the car, and called fraud protection. Todd, who was most likely not older than 21, took my call. He informed me that they had tracked some potentially odd purchases, and locked my card as a precaution. So, then he started to read them off to me to verify. Yes, I said, as he read 3 purchases off that were legit. Then, he says, “And this next one from “ooo, oooo-der covers.com?” “What?” I asked, and he repeated himself. “Oooodder covers?” Jesus. Oh my God. That stupid nursing cover I picked up online had a shipping charge associated with it, which I placed on my card. My face flamed red again, and I cleared my throat, trying to be an adult. “Um, it’s uddercovers.com.” “Oh, um…”, he said. “Look, don’t worry about it, it’s legit, nothing to be concerned about,” I said. I heard him take a breath in, to start speaking again. Oh my god, I thought, we are going to keep discussing this, aren’t we? “Well, usually, odd-sounding websites trigger us that something isn’t right. People’s cards get stolen and used for porn sites, stuff like th-” I stopped him. “Whoa, no no. This isn’t that sort of thing. It’s a baby site. For nursing covers,” I said. “Uh, um, yeah, well, OK, as long as it’s a purchase you made,” he hesitated. Clearly, he wanted this done as much as I did. “OK, great, thanks for your help. Are we all set then?” I asked. Given an affirmation, I hung up. Just another incident in an increasingly-long string of things I never imagined having to participate in. I guess given all the indignities that I will have to endure over the coming years, this is small potatoes. But, God, come on.

So, that’s where I am. This is all starting to get very real to me, signing up for childbirth classes, and not being able to tie my shoes without assistance. It’s scary, but it’s exciting. I can’t wait for him to be here, to figure out what our new normal looks like. And stay tuned-my friend Angie and I recently decided to attend a La Leche League meeting, which ended up being a totally hilarious (and slightly terrifying) debacle. But, that’s its own post.

Happy Sunday, ya’ll.

The goodness of people (or lack thereof).

Despite my snark and sarcasm and at-times judge-iness (is that a word? No? It is now), I really do believe in the general goodness of people.  I believe, against all logic, that people have good spirits and souls and hearts and have a deep, basic need to connect to others in a meaningful way.

And then I get confronted by drunk, college kids.

I got home last night around 12:15, and there was no parking in my building’s lot. You know, the off-street parking I pay for, monthly.  I drove down my one-way street, looking for alternative spaces, of which there were none, due to all the excess snow mucking things up. So, I circled back into my lot, and created a sort of non-space, that was obstructing an already snow-blocked sidewalk. I got out, and saw 6 guys and 1 girl walking my way, clearly fueled by an evening of Monroe Avenue boozin’.  The exchange went like this:

Girl: Excuse me, but you’re blocking the sidewalk.

Me: Excuse ME, but I live here, there’s no parking and I am 5 months pregnant.

Girl: Ooooh, sorry…just trying to look out for your slut, knocked-up ass.

Entire group erupts into laughter, and are now within feet of me.

Boy, getting nearly right into my face, yells  “SLUT!” at me.

The sudden gesture, and his entrance into my space caused me to lose balance on the uneven snow, and I fell back into a fairly large snowpile. I didn’t get hurt, but given the shock of all I immediately started to cry, and they all just continued laughing and went on their way, still yelling things over their shoulders. Now, I share this with you not for you to feel any pity, but because I fundamentally can’t wrap my head around what would allow them to feel as though they could do or say any of that.  Nothing in my  heart would ever, EVER permit me to feel as though I could treat someone that way, alcohol or not.

I take issue with the girl, for violating all that I find sacred between women, with her attempt to demean and humiliate me. A stranger she doesn’t even know.  To paraphrase Tina Fey in Mean Girls, a woman calling another woman a slut or a whore just makes it OK for men to think they can call you that.  A silly example, perhaps, but it’s fundamentally true.  And for that boy to feel entitled to enter my personal space because I’m a woman, to invade me that way, and call me something that tries to subdue me, intimidate me, made me wish for things to occur to him that I am not proud of, in the clear light of day.  And for the rest of them, complicit in their laughter, their unwillingness to do the right thing, and call their friends out, is also highly foul to me.

The thing is, it’s hard not to understand how people develop such hardened hearts when it comes to the world-at-large, when there are things like this happening  everyday, and on much more severe levels.  I laid awake last night, still fueled by adrenaline, and felt alternately grateful and horrified by the fact that I’m naive enough to believe that people wouldn’t do such things.  I’m so sheltered from experiences like that, and I wonder now if that’s a good or a bad thing.  I want to keep an open heart, I don’t want to grow fearful or resentful of others, but I also don’t want to hold a blind eye to the fact that people can be kind of shitty (and that’s a charitable description).  And how I help this child we’re having navigate a sometimes nasty world with the strength and fortitude to defend him/herself, and be a force for good, in all situations?

I witnessed a very small, yet still hurtful, example of unprovoked hate last night-which is the very worst variety.  And I believe those are the seeds that produce the large-scale atrocities that we see around us-because no one does anything to stop it.  It’s virulent if left unchecked-even if it seems harmless enough.  So do me a favor, my friends…and join me in doing the right thing, and committing to be more proactive about  being that force for good the world so badly needs, even when it’s hard.  Because whenever something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.

The art of István Sándorfi.

My father and I were talking about art today, and he showed me this video of the work of the late artist István Sándorfi. Maybe I’ve been foolishly in the dark about his art, but I was completely captivated by what I saw. The raw, yet surreal way he captured the female body in particular communicated so much to me about the way that not only society, but we as women, see ourselves. I saw resiliency, torment, invisibility, beauty, and the unfinished stories of who we are. It’s beautiful and sad and I want to cover every inch of my space with it.