Browsing Tag

body

depression, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Writing & The Body

A Tale of 19 Wet Towels or How I Failed to Shed My Skin

March 23, 2017
towel

By Ella Wilson.

1. Birth

Every time in my life that I have had the opportunity – that is to say I have been in the presence of a huge coming or going or leaving or starting, a massive adding on or taking away – every time I have had the chance to step out, to leave behind, to shed, to transform, to butterfly, to snake – every time I could have showered off the detritus of some time in my life that lay heavy on my skin. Every time I could have grown, instead I wet-toweled.

2. Starting school

Here is how you wet-towel. You take the thing you might have stepped out of, a skin, a time, a loss, a tiny pair of pants, a hit in the face. You take that thing and you wrap yourself in it.

3. Suicide attempt age 12

You shiver at first because the wet towel makes you cold. The weight of it makes you slow. After a few days you start to smell old and nothing seems like a very good idea.

4. Puberty

Shame is sticky and the antidote to transformation.

5. Losing my virginity

Shame tells you to hide, unfortunately the tools it gives you for hiding promote shame on shame. Shameless self promotion.

6. Leaving school

When you would rather not be seen it is preferable to hide in anything you can find.

7. Leaving home

8. Getting a job

9. My father dying

When my father died I did not notice. This is not because I was not paying attention exactly, in fact I paid so much attention, maybe too much. Nursing him from when I was 13 to 22. But something can become normal, like someone being ill, like thinking someone won’t really die. So I slept on his hospital floor for months. I swabbed his throat with little pink sponges. I knew the nurses names. He died. I wanted to stay on the floor. I wasn’t ready not to have a father. I wore his clothes. I didn’t cry. I did not become fatherless. I just became personless.

10. Moving to America

11. Being hospitalized for anorexia

12. Getting married Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, The Body

Weightless

January 25, 2017
camp

By Kate Fussner

In the summer, when I was growing up, there was only one test that ever mattered. I’d wait all year for it, suit up on the first day of summer, and arrive at the community pool ready to prove that I was capable of the deep end. Every summer, from the time that I learned to swim, I earned the bright red elastic on the first try and sported it everywhere, as if to declare, This is what I can do. During the school year, I was always keenly aware that I was heavier than the other kids. But in the summers, in the pool, I was powerful and weightless. I dove for plastic rings. I swam laps for fun. I imagined I was a mermaid, a dolphin, a glimmer of light. I was meant to be in the water.

When I started overnight summer camp on a lake in Maine, the stakes were raised. I earned my deep end privileges instantly but there was a greater prize: forty lengths of the dock earned campers the right to swim with an adult to the uninhabited islands in the middle of China Lake. Although the test intimidated most campers, to me it was a welcome challenge. I passed it, with ease, and waited eagerly for the days when the counselors called us few to swim beyond the worn ropes that enclosed us.

There were so few of us who could swim to the islands, and so few that even wanted to once we passed, as those on shore knew it meant leaving behind precious moments to play cards or make friendship bracelets with the friends we only saw during summer. For me, I craved that solitary time in the lake. These moments in the water were almost meditative. I thought of the strokes. I thought of my breathing. I thought of the quiet, untouched shore I’d reach. I thought about what a gift it was that this was what my body could do. Continue Reading…

Anxiety, courage, Fear, Guest Posts, The Body

Body Work

February 3, 2016
anxiety

By Lizz Schumer

I licked the blood off my finger without thinking. To taste what I was made of. My ear had left blood on my fiance’s T-shirt, and we didn’t know why. Startled, I stuck my finger in and considered the source. Every unconscious action is a self-discovery mission. Everything is a symptom of a syndrome caused by something that happened before.

Or I’ve done too much therapy, or not enough.

A scratch inside, turns out. There are answers everywhere, if we know the right questions.

“You don’t have an off switch,” my mother told me once. An inbred love of excess. I write like that, too. Voracious for language, asking the page questions and answering them back, and again, I ford down pages like rivers. My essays explore writing as if the answer is in the language, wandering downs sentences like wormholes, squinting into the darkness ostensibly swirling inside my own mind.

William Faulkner once wrote, “I know what I think when I read what I’ve written.” Faulkner’s luxuriance reads that way. I wonder what answers “The Sound and the Fury” gave him. If he ever found the end of the tunnel. His language leaves me lost for it, looking up from dog-eared pages to find sunset where afternoon had been and I’m bereft of time and place, belonging stolen by the universe imagination created. Through the looking glass words steal me, and I emerge mystified by my own world. My chest always seizes when I return to my own world. It’s been hostile since I can remember, demons hiding in the shadows collecting at the corners of my mind, if nowhere else.

Anxiety first chained me to its bosom when I was a child, facing the world for the first time. Yanked from my mother’s womb at 29 weeks, my parents signed a form to authorize an experimental treatment to get my little lungs to inflate. Doctors pumped cow cells into my body with a tiny, blue balloon and I gasped into the world. They transferred me to a clear plastic box for the first few months of my life, where I lived under glass for all to see, poked, prodded and examined every minute of my early days. Electronic blips and buzzing replacing those gentle coos of a normal human’s first hours; frenetic saviors where peace belongs. My baby album is Frankenstein, pages of my body engulfed to the nipples and knees by the smallest diaper they had, an improbably large needle sticking out of my skull. Tubes and wires snake from every orifice, and in some snapshots, a cartoonish hand sneaks into the frame: My mother. On an early video, my father slides his wedding ring over my foot and onto my upper thigh. My first garter, shackle.

Throughout my early years, I wailed and screamed before every class play, every concert, my belly full of a fire I didn’t understand. The idea of all those eyes set me alight, in a way I loved and hated all at once. Special demon, imperfect specimen under glass, the stage enticed and terrified every enigmatic cell. I shook and shattered with excitement my tiny body couldn’t contain. Teenagers can’t rail like children, so I painted my eyes black and rolled inward, writing feverishly through study halls, math class, after school. Pouring that shaking, stuttering soul onto pages black with melodramatic ink, I discovered the roads language could lead me down, the salve of pouring my quivering heart onto the page.

My earliest trauma roots in me like I always thought a watermelon seed would, growing in my belly and snaking through my limbs, into my brain and as I trace the language of my body back, back, back, I reach the edge of that glass box and see the baby inside, squirming under impossibly bright lights. Her head too big for her spindly body, I wonder if she misses swaddling, if that nakedness is why she loves to be held back together in flighty moments, if there’s comfort in breathing deeply after those first, desperate balloon-choked gulps. If everything in us is nurture and nature, if we’re all products of what we were going to be as much as what our worlds shaped us to become, those first few days seem all the more desperate. And yet, the days, weeks, years after fall into a sort of marching order, a tenuous thread stretching from gasping baby to screaming child, scribbling teen and shaking writer with her hand on a pen she trusts to uncover truths her scar-tissued heart has buried.

How much of me is that baby in a box is still me, squirming under the probing eyes and fingers of doctors, fellow patients who know me no better than myself which is to say, they don’t. Not except in the medical sense we know our flesh, our bones hold us together when emotion leaves us languid.

I wonder.lizz headshot

Lizz Schumer is a writer, artist and freelance editor living and working in Buffalo, N.Y. Her creative nonfiction and hybrid poetry centers around the effects of environment, economic climate and sociology on the self. Her first book, “Buffalo Steel” was released by Black Rose Writing in 2013, and she is currently at work on her second book, “Biography of a Body.” Lizz‘s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Connotation Press, The Manifest-Station, Minerva Rising, Love Your Rebellion, Robocup Compendium, Wordgathering, Salon.com and many others. She can be found online at lizzschumer.com, @eschumer, Facebook.com/authorlizzschumer or via email to schumeea@gmail.com

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

 

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough. Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

beauty, Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, self-loathing, The Body

The Pretty Machine

January 11, 2016

By Melissa Carroll

When I was little I had an armada of Barbie dolls: Princess Ice Skater Barbie, Safari Barbie, Bikini Beach Barbie. My childhood bedroom was filled with legions of busty blondes. When I was little I was a nerdy girl with a big nose, a girl who got picked last in kickball and faked headaches to miss gym class. At home, when I chopped Barbie’s hair off, I loved the chunked slice of kitchen scissors against her plastic strands. Sometimes I stabbed my Papermate pens into her face to give her blue freckles. Sometimes I curiously examined her, took her pink Velcro dress off, and rotated her stiff limbs in their sockets, plucking out a leg or popping off her head to inspect the plastic bulb holding her impossibly beautiful rubber body together.

*

Certain women in Burma coil brass rings around their necks: slender, braced. The rings weigh down their collarbones, which gives the illusion of an elongated neck. It’s a delicate deformation, the hush of bone and blood.

In Mauritania women are force fed camel’s milk, they are fattened like calves for slaughter. Each brimming calabash promises a man.

Women of North America slice their faces open, peel back skin like almonds boiled in milk—thin, slimy, translucent. They cut their nipples open and insert bags of saline, they paint their faces, bleach their hair, they stick their fingers down their throats.

*

I’m in sixth grade, playing in my backyard with my best friend Carly. We’re inventing a rain dance, clucking our tongues, which looks very much like the chicken dance. This time I’m the shaman, pumping my fists in the air, howling vowels at the sky. We laugh wild, unbroken little girl laughs, loud and crackling.

This is before we learn to laugh while trying to look thin, to laugh and pose for anyone who might be watching. This is when our games are simple and our hair is tangled. We are on the cusp of puberty, when our bodies still belong to us. We have no idea that soon, any minute now, we’ll be fed to the American Pretty Machine, like a wood chipper, arms and legs and brains and hearts on the glittering conveyor belt.

The Pretty Machine materializes into plastic surgeries and celebrity gossip rags and eating disorders and an oil slick of self loathing. It pumps young girls with the idea that being sexy is the most important thing in the world, that looking good equals feeling good. Girls are sent, completely unaware, through the machine and come out the other side shellacked and lacquered, shell-shocked and pretty.

* Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Relationships, Sex

Meditations on Desire

September 23, 2015

By Caroline Kessler

 

It scares me sometimes how automatic my body is. When I get too drunk, body takes me home, puts my hands and face under warm water, plucks my contacts from my eyes. Sometimes body remembers to brush my teeth but not always.

They’ll tell you that drinking will kill your liver and that’s probably true but not-drinking will kill a different part of you. Not drinking means I don’t get the stories like when I was studying in India or working in Poland or daydreaming on a train through Hungary—the stories of meeting someone new, picking them up, having them pick me up.

The drinking will say, go for it! Do it all, it doesn’t matter, you charming thing. The drinking will say you’ve never looked this gorgeous, your hair all crazy and your dress all short. For a while, the drinking makes me sharp but then it makes me slow. Slow tongue in my mouth, thick against my teeth, words clanking around like cans in a gutter.

_________

One summer during college, I live in Warsaw, where I have an airy studio apartment all to myself and I can walk to my non-profit job. It is the first time I have ever lived alone and I bask in doing whatever I want.

There is a bar near my apartment frequented by ex-pats, which is where I first meet Daniel. We mumble through an attempt at an introduction: bardzo mi miło / nice to meet you. I give in and switch to English and it turns out he’s fluent and half-Jewish, nearly six feet tall but with bad posture so he doesn’t tower over me. He wears a black motorcycle jacket although he doesn’t drive a motorcycle. We don’t talk about our Jewishness but it is there, the wandering-exiled-questioning-impulse.

His speech is strange, full of language from all the other places he’s lived, Miami and Glasgow and Aalborg. He says what’s the crack? as a greeting and throws around that hurts like silver teeth a lot. When I find out his first language is Danish, I make him speak to me, enjoying the flawless music of it, even though I don’t understand a thing. While he talks, I wonder if I could be with someone who wasn’t able to speak their first language with me—would we ever truly understand each other?

After six years of medical school in Warsaw, he claims he has only learned useless Polish. What could be useless? I say. Let me listen to your lungs, his voice emerges over the din of the bar, first in Polish, then in English. Pozwól mi słuchać płuc. I study his broad shoulders and slight belly, his dark jeans and shiny European shoes. He is attractive enough, I decide. This is the moment when everything shifts.

We leave the bar for a nearby fountain, a block of quiet, because I said I was tired of being in the bar and he is going along with what I’m saying, how I’m gesturing. We decide to keep drinking. He ducks into a small store and I wait outside, feeling too indecisive to be surrounded by merchandise in a language I can’t read. He emerges with a plastic bag nearly breaking with beer bottles. I try to give him a few folded złotys but he refuses, waving them away like it’s silly I’m even offering. We settle near the burbling water. I got a sampler, he says, because you should try a bunch while you’re here this summer.

We keep talking, and he drinks quickly, picking up his third beer while I’m still on my first. The drinking urges me onward: this will make things easier. When he pauses, I put my hand to his breastbone, trying to figure out where his lungs are, huge and honeycombed.

Later, when we are in bed, I put my ear to his chest. Pozwól mi słuchać płuc. I say to his cavernous face, open your mouth. Turn over. He does—and then, he lifts me off of him, pushes my arms open until I am airborne.

Early the next morning, on the tram heading back to my apartment, tiny purse resting in my lap, the sun is blinding. I press my shoulders into the crease of the window. What am I doing? I ask the looming H&M billboards, the massive Palace of Culture and Science, the plastic orange seats in front of me.

_________

After college, I move to San Francisco and I meet so many men. They are everywhere, in their flannel button-downs and hooded sweatshirts, on their bikes or in their cars. I feel surrounded by masculinity. One night, my friend E. and I are at Zeitgeist in the Mission, having abandoned our guy friends we were with earlier that night, at a Shabbat dinner. We sip beers at the only open table, which is near the speaker, so we have to shout over the punk music.

She tells me about the different people she’s dating, the co-worker she’s in love with, her housemate who she “loves” and is moving out soon and I’m curious—so what do you really want? I shout.

Her eyes open wide, so genuine. I just want to love someone, she shouts back. The desire is the hands on a watch, pointing directly to the hour, minute, second.

Continue Reading…

Contests & Giveaways, Guest Posts

Essay Winner of Scholarship to Emily Rapp/Jen Pastiloff Retreat.

September 15, 2015

 

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station:

This was not easy. This is not easy. I had one spot to give away to our retreat (and yes, we will do it again next year as this is our third year leading the Vermont retreat.) I had one spot which then turned into FOUR, thanks to various generous donors including Lidia Yuknavitch, Amy Ferris, Elizabeth Quant and three others.

And yet and still, we have 70 essays to get through. You read that right: 70. In just a few days, 70 essays piled in.

I sat reading through all of them with eyes spilling over. I was so moved that I decided I could not stop here. I would keep giving and finding ways to be of service. My teacher and mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer, passed away last week- that was his big message. How many I serve?

I intend to carry on that legacy.

I decided I could not stop at these 4 spots to Vermont so I am giving away 3 spots to my New Years Retreat in Ojai, California as well. Nothing makes me feel better than to do this.

I also have 20 spots to give away to my Girl Power: You Are Enough workshop for teens next weekend in Princeton and NYC. Ten available for each workshop. Email me for a spot. I want girls who could not afford the cost to be able to attend. Here are the details. Please note: the Princeton workshop is 13 and up and the NYC workshop is 16 and up.

And yet and still, there are so many others that were not chosen. There was not one essay that didn’t move me. There was not one essay that did not want me to push through my computer screen and embrace the woman who wrote it. Not one. I had a team helping me as I could not do this alone. I think we need to remember that more often: we cannot do this alone.

How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.

Adina Giannelli has been notified and will be attending the retreat with Emily and I next month in Stowe. She is over the moon. The retreat is sold out. Congratulations to Jena. I hope you all will be moved to share this. I know I was.

At the end of my life, when I ask one final, “What have I done?” Let my answer be, “I have done love.”

Love, Jen Pastiloff

My name is Adina Giannelli, and I am submitting my essay “Dayenu (It Would Have Been Enough)” for consideration for the retreat Jen and Emily Rapp are offering in October 2015. It is no hyperbole to say I’m in love with them both, so I’m beyond excited for the opportunity that presents itself, and for whoever is the recipient of this fantastic opportunity.

A bit about me: I’m a writer with no money who lives in western Massachusetts with my 3.5 year old son Samuel. My writing has appeared in publications including Salon, the Washington Post, and (of course) The Manifest-Station (“How to Have a Dead Child, The First Five Years” and “How to Love a Stranger”). Again, I’m blown away by the work of Emily and Jen alike and I would be thrilled to attend their upcoming retreat, which I cannot independently afford.

Thanks to you all for this tremendous opportunity. I am humbled and grateful and wish you all the best as you carry forth to identify your contest winner.

Adina

Dayenu (It Would Have Been Enough)
By Adina Giannelli

 

For more than eleven years I do not have a body—but then I get my period. I do not tell my mother, a drug addict who spends most of her days remotely, building a dependency from behind her bedroom door. She is thin from drug use, her low weight aided and abetted by a steady intake of coffee, cigarettes, and the diet pills I steal from her underwear drawer. In this drawer, she stores boxes of off-label laxatives, energy tablets, appetite suppressants shrouded by slips and lace lingerie I’m not sure she ever wears. My mother hides the diet pills as she stashes food away in her bedroom, and whenever the door is unlocked, I sneak in and take both. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, Young Voices

Bathing Suit Season

July 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Addie Newcombe

Here’s my hunch, most women don’t feel truly comfortable in a bathing suit—not even the 5’11, 130 pound woman with blond hair and legs that go on for miles. I believe it’s because we are constantly comparing ourselves to other women. It is an involuntary action that starts at a young age and just becomes normal, as we get older. I’m 5’5 and 145 pounds and I wear one-piece bathing suits that are a size ten, sometimes twelve depending on the make.

I wear this style because society has told women of my size that two-pieces are not an option. Is that because others will see the imperfections that come with being human? And what is my imperfection? My legs jiggle when I walk. A little side to side motion. But what bothers me the most is when the bottom of my bathing suit in the front is too tight creating a bubble of fat near the top of my legs. Because of my imperfections, I put on a one-piece and tell myself, “This is what my size is supposed to wear.” And what the hell does this mean anyhow? Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts

I Am Trapped Inside My Body.

June 17, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Amanda Redhead

I am trapped inside a body that I loathe. Drowning in the doughy, white excess of flesh.

I have always struggled with my appearance, riding the roller-coaster of weight before my age was even double digits. I look back at the pictures of myself as a teenager- thin, lithe, strong- and wish I could have that body back. I cannot imagine how I thought that body was overweight, unattractive. However, I am secure in the knowledge that I will never look back upon my body as it is today and want to live inside it again. I am housed inside the body that I have always feared I would I have.

When I was seventeen I was in a group therapy program for fellow teenagers. I was deep in the bowels of a great depression and sat daily in a circle with bored, slack-jawed teenagers whose parents decided, as mine had, that this group therapy would be the answers to all of our ills. We sat in silence while the therapist moderating the group chirped cheerfully at us and nearly begged us to share. There was little sharing, but there was much staring and gawking at the doorway in the corner of the room where a similar group of teenagers met. That group was for fellow teenagers struggling with anorexia. They also sat in stony silence, one by one being led over to be weighed in the corner. Every time a weight was announced outloud, everyone in both groups could hear it.  I would surreptitiously place my hand underneath the back of my shirt and pinch myself painfully at the sound of each number, pinching the fat on my hips until it sometime bled.

The staggeringly low numbers should have saddened me, as should have the appearance of many of the girls- bearing their clavicles proudly to the world, all hard edges of bone and sharp angles. Most of the weights called out were well under one hundred pounds. Some of the girls looked directly from a movie about the concentration camps during the Holocaust- devoid of every bit of fat.  They draped themselves in clothing and blankets, perpetually cold.  I admired the persistence of these girls. I felt shame at my own thick skin. I sickeningly wished that my depression had manifested itself as anorexia instead of the slow-moving, perpetually tired melancholy sickness that had taken over my world.  This thick, molasses slowness felt even more of a failure than it had before in comparison to the persistent, dedicated illness that I saw in those girls. Every pound of flesh on my body felt heavier upon leaving. I wondered if those girls thought of me when purging their food after the therapy sessions. I imagined their disgust. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Binders, Guest Posts, healing

Palms Up

June 16, 2015
Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

By Telaina Eriksen

“I’ve noticed you’ve gained weight. I mean, I haven’t been staring at your body…”

“A lot of weight,” I say.

“I just mean to say… I just want to encourage you… I’m not saying it right, but you deserve to be thinner and healthier.”

I feel the tears spill out of my eyes. So much shame. Ancient shame that I have carried with me ever since my mother slapped my arm repeatedly for salting a saltine when I was four or five years old. Good people aren’t fat. Fat people are ugly and bad and lack control and self-discipline. Men do not like fat girls and if men don’t like you, they won’t marry you, and if you aren’t married, if you don’t have a man, what good are you? The Gospel According to My Mother.

“It’s how I deal with things,” I tell my friend, oversimplifying.

“This fall, I think I know how you felt. I gained a lot of weight, was very heavy for me. I remember thinking, ‘why not? I’m happy with myself’… I’m not saying it right… but I love you. I want you to be happy.”

I am so huge, I require an intervention. I love my friend but I feel like sobbing. Doesn’t she think I know? Doesn’t she know that I always know? Maybe I am naïve enough to believe that some people just accept how I look and aren’t secretly judging me.

I get into my minivan after our conversation. I reach down to feel my stomach, feel the exact proportions of my shame and worthlessness. The exact dimensions of my failure as a woman.

***

As near as I can figure out and remember, I was sexually molested off and on from the time that I was about four to when I was about nine. When I was nine years old, I had my tonsils out and due to complications, almost died. I was without oxygen to my brain for not merely seconds, but minutes. It felt easy to blame my fragmented childhood memories on that illness.

The feelings I remember most from my childhood are terror and anxiety.  Nightmares plagued me. During the daylight hours I constantly sought attention, distraction, love. At night I sucked my thumb and tried not to wet the bed.

***

Here is a list of the things I need to be doing at this exact moment:

cleaning the house

baking my son’s vegan birthday cupcakes

walking the dog

placing the new boxes of tissue around the house (it is cold and flu season after all)

turning in my grades for the semester

mailing the Christmas box to my siblings in another state

scooping the cat’s litter box

cleaning off the top of my desk

loading the dishwasher

wrapping my son’s birthday presents

doing laundry

losing weight

being a good friend, wife, mother and daughter

being Zen (while also being understanding, charming, evolved and happy)

making time for the important things

reducing my social media time

reading more

gossiping less

achieving perfection. Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

The Struggle Is Real: Body Love.

June 1, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Jen Pastiloff

Body image. Self-love. The struggle is real. Or can be. I keep seeing that hashtag everywhere. #Thestruggleisreal. In this case it is.

But it doesn’t have to be.

What if we embraced our bodies? What if we loved our bodies, belly rolls and wrinkles and grey hairs and our butts and our teeth (even the one that’s missing because you never got an implant, Jennifer.) What if?

The struggle is real. Especially for me, having dealt with severe anorexia and exercise bulimia (I used to work out for four to five hours a day. Really.) But maybe it is for you too. I shared this video on my Facebook (the one below) and it got over 70 thousand hits in a few days. So I guess the struggle is real for more than a few of us. I’m not that special. (Isn’t that just a wondrous epiphany- when we realize that we aren’t that special? It’s so freeing! Weeeee! I am not alone in my fucked-upedness.)

What if our bodies became our best friends? As my friend Wren Thompson-Wynn wrote here on this very site, “My body. It’s the only one who has been with me and experienced everything with me through my entire life. No one knows me like my body does. She really should be my best friend. So why don’t I let her be?”

I realized that in writing Girl Power: You Are Enough, and in leading these workshops, that I have to be held accountable. I have to walk the talk, as they say. whoever “they” are, the powers that be, the ones who watch over you and call you out for being full of shit. I can’t sit here feeling my stomach fall over my waistband and have it send me into a panic induced slump of feeling worthless. That rabbit hole is hard as hell to emerge from. I lived in it for years. I wore platform shoes and waited tables on concrete floors as I secretly grabbed my fat rolls and vowed, “Tomorrow I will not eat. Tomorrow I will be good.”

I saw a video last week that broke my heart. This 37 year old woman, Rachel Farrokh, was begging people to help her raise money so she could get treatment for her anorexia. She weighs 45 pounds, her husband has to carry her up and down the stairs because she is so weak. As I watched it, I said, “I was never that bad.” And I wasn’t. But it’s not hard to imagine. That rabbit hole. There it is again. Just a little more and I will be happy. Just a little more and I will be in control. Just a little more and I will be perfect. Just a little more and I will be enough. <<< BULLSHIT.

You never arrive at the destination of “Yes, I am finally here. I finally love myself,” by starving yourself. NEVER.

I hope she gets the help she needs, I really do.

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So I made this video on set (aka my living room) and people went crazy for it. I wanted to barf a little as I was making it and immediately after but I posted it anyway. You can watch below right here.

 

Continue Reading…

Gender & Sexuality, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts

I Am Androgynous & I Want To Talk About Body Image.

May 25, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Wren Thompson-Wynn

This morning I watched Taryn Brumfitt’s video. I have watched her video more than once and read her words over and over again. I applaud her as I know many women do. However, I wondered (as I do every single time I watch body positive videos and read body positive articles) why their message doesn’t seem to translate to me. Why don’t I feel what my head tells me I should which is: Your body rocks! I look at my soon to be wife and think my god, she is stunning. There isn’t a thing I would change about her. And I know with fierce honesty that as her body changes through life, I will always be attracted to her physical beauty.

But why does this not translate to me? Then, I realized something. Women like me are kind of left out of the body positive equation. Not intentionally, but because no one notices.

I am androgynous. I identify as androgynous. This is not the same as gender fluid. I identify female in every way, but I prefer to express myself in androgynous ways. Every time I wear women’s clothing, I feel like I am in drag. Flip side to that coin is every time someone calls me “sir” it bothers me (I get extremely embarrassed for the people around me). I began to wonder how that affects my body image. Then, I started looking at what visibility androgyny, specifically for women, has in society. Every single image I found was of waif thin women. There were no “normal” sized androgynous people: male or female. And it occurred to me with the force of a jet plowing into my very ample chest: curves “give away” your gender. Being a regular size and having curves means that others see me as a masculine lesbian, not as an androgynous person. I hate the word “butch.”

My androgyny has always been a liability. In lesbian relationships, my partners have always liked that I am more masculine. However, if I pushed the line of gender expression too far, they felt I was trying to pull them into a illusory hetero coupling. They all left (though J calling it quits was because I was an ass). An ex was transgender. We began our relationship long before his transition. My androgyny helped him anchor into an identity (lesbian) that at least got him a smidge close to who he felt he was. Once he was able to accept his true gender, he transitioned. With every step of his transition, our relationship was easier to navigate the more socially accepted feminine I was. When I would wear skirts and makeup and tight girly shirts, he was nicer to me. When I would hang out in my jeans and tshirts and cut my hair, the more distance and tension and anger existed. The more androgynous I was, the more true to my own self expression I was, the more emasculated he seemed to feel because the more “butch” he felt I was…not androgynous. I hated my body. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, Yoga

On Being Fat, Yoga Teacher Training, and the Right To Be Happy

May 22, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Anna Falkowski

In the back of Yoga Journal, lodged between ads for Himalayan salts and yoga retreats, was a photo of Ana Forrest, a yoga teacher famous in the yoga community. She was in handstand, naked from the waist up. The photo was a back view. Her muscled arms and opened hands pressed into rock ledge. Her bare legs stretched wide in a straddle and spread toes reached to an endless sky. A single black braid fell forward and touched the ground.

When I saw the photo, I felt a pang of longing. I too wanted a body that could do this. A body strong with each muscle defined. Even more, I wanted to be fearless and trusting.

In my head, I say, I have the right to be fat. I have the right to be fat.

I am a full-bodied yoga teacher. I take comfort in the fact there are others out there, luscious like me. In the yoga world, the majority of teachers are lean. On bad days, I look out at the students in the yoga class I am about to teach, and ask myself, Dont they see how fat I am? Why are they taking yoga from me?

Yoga is practiced primarily by women, yet it has strong patriarchal roots and leanings, which means holding up thinness as a measurement of yogic aptitude and success. It’s the order of things.
Sometimes I wonder if being a fat yoga teacher is silently scoffed at. A suspicion that he or she is not doing the work. We must be lazy or sneaking processed foods. Most likely both. Yoga tops can not contain us. We fill out our lycra pants with hips and asses, yet we teach respectable and popular classes despite the fact we’re not skinny.
There are days I love my curves. Each one a chunk of wondrous love and an expression of my sexiness, aliveness and my ability to get down and dirty with a cheeseburger and glass of wine.
As far as skinny goes, I have been down there, in the palace, once or twice in my life, but only because of diet pills, smoking, over-exercising or sticking my finger down my throat. I cut out my risky behavior once I became a mom. But my thin moments are full- color photographs in my memory catalogued between power and acceptance. The truth is I was only ever skinny for a few hours at a time, and then my weight would creep back up again.

Catching a glimpse of Ana Forrest in the back of the glossy trade magazine sent sparks through my nervous system, so I signed up to take her thirty day course, even though I already held advanced yoga teaching certifications. I craved change.

I sat with my therapist a few weeks before the training was to begin and told her I hoped to let go of my body image problems once and for all. Maybe this training would do it. And then I regressed. “If I just didn’t have this belly, I could be happy.” My mid-section had become a bundle of permanent stretch marks, scar tissue and loose skin due to all the times I gained and lost large amounts of fat.

“It’s so unfair.” I hated the way I sounded. Whiny and superficial. Even to me. Especially to me.
I would have preferred to be swallowed by the therapist’s soft couch. Instead I clutched a trendy printed pillow on my lap.

My therapist, a PhD, who never wore the same outfit twice, nodded her head in agreement. “Maybe this would be a good time to get the tummy tuck you keep mentioning. Just get it done and over with. Right after the training. Then you can move on.”

That’s how I ended up in the upscale office of a plastic surgeon, with a brand new visa card with a zero-balance and a $10,000 limit hidden in my wallet. My insides were whirling. The wall-to-ceiling mirrors reflected back a woman with a rounded belly in jeans and a red flowered top. My flip-flops were noisy as I made my way across the marble floor.

In my head, I say, I have the right to be skinny. I have the right to be skinny.

The plastic surgeon was a tall man with big teeth and a spring-time tan. He held a red permanent magic marker in his strong yet manicured hands and waved the marker around as he spoke. As he drew a dotted line along my belly, hips, and even across the top of my ass, to show me where he would remove the fat from, he told me the incision would be tiny.

“In a couple of months, once you heal, you will be able to wear a bikini. Of course how good you will look depends on whether you are a cadillac or a chevy. It all depends on what model you are underneath. I can only do so much.”

I looked down at my recently painted and pedicured toes the color of cruises and cotton candy. When I had gotten them done the day before, I hoped he would notice I appreciated details and pretty things. Now I felt my own foolishness slap my face.
“You are going to love the results,” he said as he put the cap back on the marker. He was giddy with himself. “All my clients do.”

Later that evening, sitting with my husband, I told him I thought the plastic surgeon was an ass. “But he does really good work, so I think I’m gonna go for it. After the training.” I looked at Matt for approval.

Then he said the thing my husband always says. “If you need to do this, I support you all the way. But Annie, I could care less what your belly looks like. Just make sure that whatever you do, you continue to have sex with me.”
He leaned over and kissed me while his hands groped under my shirt for my belly. “God, you’re hot.” he said.

Acutely aware of the red lines that would not wash off and delineated my muffin top, it took everything not to pull away from the man who loved me.

In my head, I say, Stay. Stay.

The first day of Ana Forrest’s yoga teacher training was as I suspected. I was the largest women in the room. It’s not that I’m obese, but I carry rolls and padding in a crowd that had nothing extra to spare. It was a significant difference. This did not stop me from walking past every single size-two yogi and plunking my yoga mat down right in front of the teacher. Ana Forrest looked directly at me. I made eye contact back. For the next 30 days I would put my mat down in the same exact spot and every day we would greet each other with our eyes. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Video, Vulnerability

The Body Remembers. (Vulnerability Alert.)

April 27, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff

Today, on what would be my dad’s 70th birthday. I’m wearing my LOVE sign for him. I wept watching Parenthood last night in bed here in Seattle. (I’m almost finished with the show so please, no spoilers.) I miss my dad every day. I feel cheated every day. I will never “get over it” but yet, I am here. I am not dead. I get out of bed. (Most days.) I lost my license in security and felt frustrated and upset even though I was wearing my LOVE sign. And then I realized that it was his birthday and how the body remembers. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Relationships, Sexuality

Terminus

April 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Jennifer Berney

According to the subway map, the Red Line ends in Alewife. Until today, you’ve always gone in the opposite direction, riding from Harvard Square to Newbury Street, or Park Street, sometimes catching the Green Line to Copley or the Orange Line to Chinatown.

But today is January 8, 1995, and you are riding to Alewife.  It is your eighteenth birthday and the day of your first lesbian date. You woke up this morning with a fever, but Tylenol masks it now.  Your stomach feels heavy, like you are trying to digest stone. You are sick enough that you should have canceled, but how could you be sure that there would ever be another date?

Since you were seven, you’ve dreamed of someone rescuing you, of pulling you from a car wreck and carrying you into a different world, a world where you weren’t the designated reject. In the fantasies you were never yourself; you were a double-D woman with blonde ringlets and, not, of course, a dippy brunette with crooked teeth. Who would rescue you? Even now that you’ve grown into yourself a bit, now that your teeth are straight, your favorite song goes like this: If you don’t think I’m pretty/ I understand. Lately, you’ve been lonely because half your friends have left for college and the other half have paired off, rescued each other.

Your date is five years older than you and wears black leather.  She has a half-inch of hair which she peroxides. She works full time at a franchise bagel shop spreading strawberry cream cheese on banana walnut bagels for Harvard students. You’re not sure what she sees in you: high school girl with a ponytail, President of the National Honors Society.

She meets you at the terminus, which is nothing but an expanse of parking lots. It’s dark already, and frozen.  The trees are bare, gray in the streetlights. Your coat is open and the wind cuts through your shirt. She walks you to the bowling alley.  As a first date gesture, she buys you nachos, and you pick at them. She teases you about not liking orange cheese. You don’t say much; it embarrasses you to bowl, to wear the rented shoes and watch your ball veer towards the gutter.

On your second date, you walk across the Harvard Bridge which brings you to Allston, land of low rents and twenty-somethings, land of dog shit and unshoveled sidewalks. She lives on the third floor of a triplex with six other friends. The ground outside smells like onions. She makes you dinner, kisses you at the kitchen table, and asks if you’ll sleep over. You call your mom to tell her you won’t be coming home.  She knows the situation, but can’t find words to protest. She says: Oh, and Okay.

The door to her bedroom bears a sign made of construction paper; it says Grit City with a picture of a bat. A sheet divides the room in half. The other side belongs to another couple. She lights candles and you quietly make out beneath her sheets. The couple comes to bed while you’re awake. They mumble and bicker and laugh.

In the morning, some of the housemates are watching TV in the common space, smoking, wearing hipster morning hair.  Their smoke gets tangled in the sunlight, which is so bright that you can barely see what’s on the TV.  You sit on her lap in an armchair. The housemates don’t acknowledge you. She whispers in your ear, I love you. You blush and you’re wet. You know she’s not supposed to say that yet, but you like it.

You walk home across the bridge again, alone. Your body feels different, stretched and touched. Continue Reading…