Browsing Tag

body

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

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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…

Binders, Guest Posts, motherhood, Pregnancy

Letter To My Fifteen Year Old Self: For Every Pregnant Teen Who Feels Alone.

April 4, 2015

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By Alma Luz Villanueva.

(For every pregnant teen who thinks, feels, she’s alone.)

San Francisco, the Mission Barrio, 1960-

I see you standing at the very edge of the rooftop, gazing down into the darkness. The garden below. Where the roses are blooming. Your step (real) father, Whitey, tends these roses. Your mother doesn’t believe in roses. You lean into that darkness. No fear. Not really. You were the tomgirl who jumped/leaped roof to roof to avoid the streets for blocks. And just for fun. The thrill shot through your body. You leaned. You leaped. Sometimes barely making it. Barely landing. Fear. Then laughter. Your tomgirl pal following you. Roof to roof. San Francisco, the Mission. Your childhood city.

Why are you leaning at the edge of the rooftop, gazing down into the darkness? The roses blooming. No scent from the edge, but you can see the blood red petals shadowed in moonlight. Some are fully blossomed, ready to shed their beauty. To touch the earth. Die, transform. Some are tight, baby blossoms; tiny slivers of blood red barely revealed. Still in the womb. They sing their whisper song of blood red. Beauty.

You’re pregnant at 15, gazing into darkness. Listening to the songs of the blossomed roses, and the whisper songs of the baby bud roses. Still in the womb. You’re pregnant at 15, alone, at the edge. Leaning. Into the darkness.

Stars pulsing overhead. Some brighter than others. Alive with light. Your favorite place. The roof. View of the city lights. Silence. You sit down at the edge, letting your feet dangle. Night breeze on your sweaty face. You wishing, suddenly, that you still passed as a boy on the city streets. Your night time visits to Dolores Park, sitting high in the pepper trees. The Bay Bridge a shiny necklace across the dark water. A few times you had to run for it when a pervert spotted you, perched so high and happy. Sometimes you sang the old Baptist church song, “I have a joy joy joy joy down in my heart…” And sometimes you sang parts of “Canta, No Llores…Sing, Don’t cry,” the parts you remembered that Mamacita knew by heart. You whisper sing those parts now, your sandaled feet dangling over the edge. And you smile because you see Mamacita, so clearly, in the alive stars, lifting her long skirt. Dancing. You join her, dancing.

You remember the morning ritual of sharing dreams, the hot chocolate, cinnamon on top, steaming your face. You almost always woke up to Mamacita praying, singing to the Child Sun in Yaqui. Her rattle. Tears and joy in that strange, beautiful language you never learned. But you loved to hear. She told you it was a song to El Niño Sol, to be born safely every dawn. You thought if Mamacita didn’t sing that song every morning, there would be only darkness. Night. No Child Sun. Birth. Dawn.

You didn’t know what birth was, being born. Except your mother, Lydia, once told you she almost pulled a sink out of the wall, in the hospital, when you were born. That it hurt like hell, that’s what she said. You asked Mamacita once, “Does it hurt the Child Sun’s Mamå when he’s born?” She laughed, “Every birth has pain, niña, but when la Mamå Tierra gets to hold her child, el regalo de luz…the gift of light, that warm little body, she laughs. Now, tell me your dream, mi Alma.” (All conversation in Spanish, Mamacita never spoke English.)

You would tell her your four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten year old dreams, and she would tell you hers. When you were six you told Mamacita you kept falling in your dream. She gently, then firmly, touched your shoulder blades, left and right, massaging them.

“These are your wings, niña. When you begin to fall in your dream, remember them, where they are. Right here.” Left and right, massaging each one firmly. Gently. “When you begin to fall, remember your wings, open them wide.” She’d spread her arms wide, smiling, her eyes on fire. “You’re ready to fly, niña, remember, open your wings wide. Your wings. Right here.” Left and right, each one.

You remember stealing your first bike as the pre-dawn wind begins to chill you on the rooftop. You lay on your back, the old blanket you hide up there under you. Some of it covering you as you gaze at the brightest star, so alive with light. You don’t know the star’s name- Venus, Quetzalcoatl. Years later you would call this pre-dawn, dancing with light, star by name. This night you remember seeing a brand new bike lying on the street by itself. You were eleven. You walked by the bike twice. No one claimed it, so you did. Riding to Golden Gate Park with your tomgirl amiga, sometimes alone (instead of boring school); riding down the final hills to the so green forest entrance, the scent of green, felt like flying. The magical fern forest, as tall as trees, the sun barely peeked through. Damp earth. The tall fern trees, large flowering plants beneath them. Large purple flowers, the size of a baby’s head, always made you laugh. And when the fairies welcomed you- their small, tinkling voices- you knew you were safe. If they didn’t, you rode away as fast as you could. Flying to safety.

You woke up one morning- your first flying dream- the large mirror over the bed you shared with Mamacita. She was singing to the Child Sun. You stood up and looked down at the bed and saw your self sleeping. You felt so sorry for her, that she had a to be in a body, that you knew how to fly and didn’t need her body. In fact, at that moment, her body disgusted you. You didn’t want to return. You looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize your six year old face. What scared you back to life. Back into your sleeping, dreaming (flying) girl body.

When you told Mamacita your first flying dream, she made you cafécito con leche with still warm pan dulce from the store down the street. But you never told her about the girl in the mirror that didn’t need a body- who returned to live. Your life. Who saw your life and stayed. You sipped your cafécito con leche and ate two fresh pan dulces, celebrating your first flight. At six. With Mamacita.

***

You wake up to warmth on your face. The Child Sun licking you with warmth. The bright star fading. You sit up, facing the Child Sun and begin to sing your own song to his birth. And the baby bud roses join you. Still in the womb. You’ll wait for your mother to leave for work, taking your baby brother to his sitter. Then you’ll go downstairs to Whitey’s house (your step/real father), use your key to enter. Fix hot chocolate with cinnamon on top in his clean kitchen Some toast with jam. Go down into the garden to pick some blossoming roses, leaving the baby bud roses to dream. Still in the womb.

(The Birth)

“I can’t marry you. My parents say you’ll have ten kids in ten years.” The boy is crying as you both walk to your favorite restaurant where no one goes. For tea, coffee, a piece of pie. Sometimes the dinner special. He pays. He has two parents and their house is always clean. You go there once. His parents are white and their eyes say, Dirty Mexican. Sometimes you and the boy walk clear to the ocean, talking, laughing, sometimes crying, telling sad stories, and funny ones too. He tells you, “My mother used to tie me up in a chair with clothesline and gag me. She made me stay there for hours and sometimes I’d fall asleep. I learned not to cry or scream, just wait. Till she untied me. When I cried and screamed the rope made me bleed. She’d say, ‘Are you ready to behave?’ I’d nod my head yes.”

Then you and the boy take the trolley back to the Mission, from the ocean. Home. Promising to meet at the corner of 16th and Guerrero. Then one time he doesn’t come. You see him at school and he turns away, his friends laughing. Years later you find out that the word Guerrero means warrior.

Your mother, Lydia, tells a neighbor, “She didn’t want to marry him.” The neighbor smiles kindly into your eyes, “Only the good girls get caught, honey.”

You’re two weeks overdue. The doctor at St Mary’s Clinic, just three blocks from your place, tells you, “It looks like your baby’s small, so that’s okay. Plus, you’re just a kid yourself,” kind smile. But the nuns hate you. They can barely contain their contempt. An unmarried fifteen year old, pregnant, about to give birth in their Catholic hospital. The nuns want you to give your baby up for adoption. They bring in a different nun each time after the kind doctor leaves.

“How do you plan to take care of this baby, child?” Thin lips, contempt. Eyes hard, trying to kill you. You hate them back, refuse to cry. Guerrero, warrior.

“You’re going to suffer for this sin and your baby too. Do you want this for your baby?” You just smile and they finally leave you alone. You also give them los ojos de bruja…the witch eyes. The eyes you’d give to the old church ladies when they’d call you gringita and you knew they went home and broke an egg over their head for protection. You pictured the nuns breaking an egg over their bald heads, and you had to keep yourself from laughing. Guerrero, warrior.

The pains begin around your belly, and your best friend, Judy, is there at your mother’s place. Whitey cooks you special food so the baby will be healthy, and you go upstairs to his place to eat. You also bring your baby brother, John. It’s always clean, some music playing softly, his voice, “Ya look pretty damn good, kid, must be the food so chow down, and your favorite dessert, cherry cake. Hope that baby likes cherry cake, kid,” he laughs.

You’ve been taking care of John, cleaning the apartment, cooking breakfast and lunch. Dinner at Whitey’s. You even go to open house at John’s school, and a field trip to the zoo. When you and John enter the Lion House, just as they’re feeding them, and they begin to ROAR so your bones rattle, he begins to cry. Scream. You pick him up and run for it, like fuck those lions, caged. Their only moment to pretend they hunted, killed that raw mound of meat they’re devouring. That roar. John clings to you, safety. Fuck those sad assed lions.

The pains get worse, so Lydia brings you a ‘screwdriver,’ she calls it, and one for Judy. Orange juice with something funny in it, but it tastes pretty good. You have two. Judy barely finishes hers. You, Judy and Lydia walk the three blocks to Saint Mary’s, joking and laughing all the way. Even the pain is funny (still). John’s with Whitey- “I’ll be up ta see ya, kid, and don’t you worry, women been having babies for-ever!” You think of the baby, the tiny rosebud, trying to be born. Come out of you. You felt her move just once, but clearly, from one side of your stomach to the other. Her foot, that bump. You dreamt her, so you know, her. Her name, Antoinette Therese. You want her to be a queen. You tell no one about the dream, especially the nuns. If Mamacita were alive, you’d tell her of course. But you know Mamacita knows everything anyway. You heard her voice deep in your right ear. Guerrero, warrior, “No te dejas, niña.” She’d toss you out the door when you’d come in crying, to take care of yourself. Fight back. La vida. Guerrero, warrior.

The nuns are shocked, your laughing face. They take you to a room, all by yourself, and leave you there. There’s a window to the street. Guerrero Street. Some trees. You push the window open. Wind. The birds are singing to the Child Sun grown old, tired. Stretches of blood-red-violet. Mamacita had a song for the Child Sun grown old, tired. You hear her voice, the rattle, but not the words. The pain in your belly comes and goes, making you double over and moan. You begin to walk the room between pains and it helps. You’re still a little dizzy from the orange juice drink but fading- no one to talk to, joke with.

You remember how Mamacita floated you when you were sick, so you focus on the fluttering leaves, the sound of the wind, and begin to sing softly- “Old Child Sun, don’t be afraid, go to sleep, dream, in the morning you’ll be born again, Child Sun, don’t be afraid.” Then you double over with the pain but keep floating like the wind, straighten up to breathe the fluttering leaves and walk the room. “Don’t be afraid, old Child Sun, don’t be afraid…”

The door opens. “You should be lying down, not walking around, what are you doing!” the nun shouts. She shuts the window, hard, and leaves.

You get up and open the window, begin to walk again. The pain is like dying lying down, and you’re all alone, but not really. There’s the wind, the trees, the birds still singing, and Mamacita’s rattle filling the room. Her voice. Flotating.

The nun returns, her face full of hate. “I thought you’d be up again, you people!” And you know she means Mexicans, you people. She’s very white, she’ll never have a baby, she thinks God loves her better than you, a fifteen year old girl giving birth, alone. You hate her back, don’t cry. And you think of the baby Jesus born in a manger, his parents poor and wandering. The story goes in the Baptist Church. And you always loved the baby Jesus, and you think of his mother, Mary, giving birth in the cold ass manger surrounded by stinky farm animals. You smile.

The nun slams the window shut, hands you a tiny paper cup. “Here, take these, it’ll make you sleep, it’s bad for you to be walking around like a wild animal.” Face of disgust, hate.

You give her your best malo ojos de bruja and think, sleep. The room is dark, a thin light from the bathroom. Sleep.

You wake up to such pain you scream once, catch yourself and begin to moan. You can’t help it. You wonder how this baby, your daughter you’ve dreamt, is going to come out of you. At this moment it feels like she’s killing you, and, again, how will she come out, you wonder as you moan, the killing pain the killing pain the killing pain…

(Fast forward)

Years later this 5lb 4oz daughter, Antoinette, as Head Nurse Critical Care, will come upon a fifteen year old girl on her rounds, giving birth all alone, screaming. They can’t sedate her. She fights them off. My daughter, to the doctor’s shock, climbs into bed with her, behind her, wrapping her arms around her, telling her, “Breathe, breathe, I’m here with you, you’re not alone, breathe…” The doctor orders her out of the bed. She tells him, “I’m Head Nurse, Dr_____, and you can fuck off!” The birthing girl laughs, relaxes, and gives birth, screaming as the crowning begins, while my daughter holds her tight. “Breathe, breathe, now push…” Later as the girl holds her daughter, she tells her, “My mother was your age when she had me, and you’re going to be fine. You’re a fighter like my Mom, so you and your daughter will be just fine.”

Saddle block. Numb from waist down. They wheel you into a bright, white room. “Turn the mirror, she shouldn’t watch this.” The birth. Your daughter. You’re too young to insist, “I want to watch.” You finally see the doctor holding up a blue baby by her ankles. You felt nothing. Where she came out of. But there she is and she begins to cry, a thin wail. Her tiny body pulsing pink, alive. Later on, your Tia Ruth tells you Antoinette was born on Mamacita’s birth day. A sliver of Mamacita’s spirit, la curandera, the healer, this daughter.

You begin to cry. You want to hold her, but you’re too young to insist. They take her away. He stitches you up. No one speaks to you except for the doctor, once. “Are you glad it’s a girl?” He tries to be kind, but his voice conveys duty. Not the same one you saw in the clinic, whose hand felt warm on your shoulder, kind.

You nod your head yes. The nurse nun says, “She refuses to speak, doctor, don’t waste your breath.” She wheels you into a room with other mothers and she asks, “Do you plan to breastfeed?” Your mind whirls, breast feed, as in how in the fuck do you do that?

“No,” the word comes out of you.

Look of disgust, the usual hate. She returns and wraps thick bandages around your still-girl breasts. “So your milk dries up,” voice cold.

They promise to bring your daughter the next morning- the Child Sun’s warmth filling the room- you’ve been waiting for hours. One nurse nun said she was bringing your daughter right away, but it’s been hours. You finally insist, “I want to see my daughter.” The woman next to you says, “They promised to bring her baby a couple of hours ago. I’ve already held my baby many times.”

“You’re breastfeeding,” the nurse nun says, warmly. Warmly. The woman is older and white, and she later tells you this is her sixth baby, that she’s Catholic. And she asks, “Are you going to keep your baby, hon?”

She’s so tiny, your daughter. You open the blanket. The wonder of her perfect body. She’s perfect, her so tiny, pink rose toes. Her perfect, translucent hands, each delicate finger. There’s a wound on her belly button, still bloody. You open her diaper- a girl a girl a girl.

A young nurse nun brings a bottle of milk- you’ve never seen her before. “What’s her name?” she asks, handing you the bottle.

“Antoinette.”

“What a beautiful name for a beautiful baby,” she smiles. “A friend is here to see you, so when you finish feeding Antoinette I’ll let her in.”

“Thank you,” you smile into the young nun’s kindness. Sweet face. She’s probably eight years older than you, her twenties, you realize, and you wonder if she’ll become a nasty ass nun when she’s older.

As you feed your daughter, your breasts begin to ache under the tight bandages. It would be this way for the next four days, as they change the wet, sticky bandages. The young nun nurse changes them twice, each time tears come to her eyes. She bathes your girl-breasts in warm, soapy water- the other nurse nuns with cold, soapy water- and she strokes your hair.

Your mother, Lydia, finally comes on the third day after work. “You’re a mother now,” she says coldly. Just those words.

***

A week later, when your daughter’s wound on the belly button falls off, you think she’s falling apart. You bundle her up and run to St Marys crying. The kind doctor explains, “That’s where the cord was between you and your daughter when she was inside of you. That’s how you fed her, that cord. She doesn’t need it anymore, so it fell off. Now you feed her without the cord, isn’t that right?” He touches your shoulder, that warmth.

You stop crying, nod yes, and walk back to your mother’s place, holding your daughter tightly. So you don’t drop her, ever.

*

Your daughter would have colic and cry/scream for a long time after you fed her, every hour or so, in the beginning. You found that laying her on your chest, your heart, she’d fall asleep, and so would you.

One night, she was in her bassinet- the one you decorated with lace and ribbons (yes, you stole them from the five and dime store). You woke up to Lydia’s voice yelling, “SHUT UP SHUT UP!” She was shaking the bassinet, hard, yelling. You were up in one movement, throwing Lydia against the wall- you’d not ever touched her this way.

“If you ever touch my baby again I’ll kill you!” you screamed. You picked up the bassinet with crying Antoinette, taking her to the front room with the sad assed couch. Brought your blankets and slept on the sad assed couch with her on your chest, your heart.

The next morning the cops came. She told them you threatened to kill her. You told them why, crying- your baby, your daughter, barely a month old. Both cops looked at you with pity, telling your mother, Lydia, to work things out and left. She banged things around; it was Saturday, no work. She didn’t touch the bassinet, but she banged things so loudly your daughter woke up crying.

You took your daughter, your baby brother, up to Whitey’s place. He fixed you all a pancake breakfast with bacon. “You could live here for awhile, kid, I’ll take the couch. There’s no talkin’ to that woman, I know.”

You tell him what happened, why you threw her up against the wall. His face goes red. With anger. “Yeah, you and that baby stay here till we can work something out, maybe your own place.”

You’d go to welfare, holding your daughter tight. You’d stay at Whitey’s for a while, taking care of John, but not going into Lydia’s place. You’d never return to her place again, to live. To trust her. She was your birth mother, that’s all. She was not Mamacita.

When you finally got your own place with a roommate, one year older- she worked as a waitress and she was Mexican like you. You stopped taking care of your baby brother- and that broke your heart, but you couldn’t be your baby’s mother and his at the same time. She would yell, “Shut up!” when he cried and forget he was just hungry. You told Whitey to make sure John ate, especially dinner.

“Don’t you worry none, kid, I’ll be on it.”

“Even when you drink cause I’m coming back to check on stuff.”

“Dinner’ll be ready every night, so you and John eat here, you understand, Pocahontas.” This made you smile, your old name. “I’ll make sure things are okay before I get friendly with Jack Daniels, don’t you worry, Pocahontas.”

Whitey would pay your part of the rent and bring groceries every Saturday when he wasn’t being friendly with Jack Daniels. And when he and Jack got together, he made sure to bring you money before he did. And he’d bring your baby brother, John, leaving him for the day. Your daughter in a stroller, your brother in a swing, laughing. Hamburgers, fries and a milkshake later with the $20 Whitey gave you. Later, he’d give you $60 more for the week.

You don’t tell your roommate, Jeannie, about the Child Sun. She wouldn’t understand. She lived in an awful foster home and ran away. She tells you she was beaten with a belt all the time and shows you the scars, and you cry with her. And sometimes you have to throw out some guys she’s drinking with, and you know you have to move again. One of them grabs you by the arm and calls you a fucking bitch, and you won’t allow them in the apartment anymore. So now Jeannie’s mad at you too- “So what if he grabbed your arm, what are you a princess?” Her scars. The one on her face from the belt buckle.

You begin to plan, the edge of things. But not the roof- you don’t want to jump into the darkness. You want to live in the light, the Child Sun, with your daughter. The blossoming bud rose. Antoinette.

Guerrero. Guerrera. Leap into the light.

**This is part of an in-progress memoir.

 

Alma Luz Villanueva is the author of four novels, most recently, ‘Song of the Golden Scorpion.’ Eight books of poetry, most recently, ‘Gracias.’ Many anthologies, textbooks- including ‘The Best Erotic Latin American Writing,’ ‘Califlora, A Literary Field Guide, ‘Prayers for a Thousand Years,’ ‘Fightin’ Words’ (PEN Anthology). Has taught in the MFA in Creative Writing program at Antioch University Los Angeles for sixteen years, living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the past ten years, returning to teach, visit la familia. almaluz.villanueva@gmail.com   www.almaluzvillanueva.com

 

Mother's Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being.  Click photo to book.   "Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing. She listens. She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you. Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening. And what her kind of listening does is simple: It saves lives." ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Mother’s Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book.
“Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing.
She listens.
She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you.
Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening.
And what her kind of listening does is simple:
It saves lives.” ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

 

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 1st cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 1st cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

cancer, Guest Posts

This Is What Cancer Does.

March 6, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Nancy Conyers.

This is what cancer does: it makes your body unknown to you, an alient presence dragging 50lb weights on each ankle and around your neck. You are exhausted, so exhausted physically and mentally your brain can’t send proper signals to get your unresponsive limbs moving. One time, for three days, you couldn’t even wash your face because it was too much effort to lift your arms. When you couldn’t stand your own smell anymore you tried to take a shower. It wasn’t your own body odor you were smelling, it was the drugs you’d been infused with: TCHP, Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin, Perjeta. They were seeping through your skin, through every orifice and the metallic medicinal smell was making you as nauseous as the drugs were. You turned on the shower but the weight of the water pushed you against the shower wall and you struggled to turn the water off. You sat soaking wet on the side of the bathtub until your spouse came to check on you.

“Honey, are you ok?” you heard her ask from the bedroom. When you didn’t answer she rushed in to the bathroom, saw the puddles of water at your feet, grabbed a towel and started drying you off. “You scared me when you didn’t answer,” she told you as she was drying your back. You knew she meant she thought you were dead.

You now spend hours on the internet trying to get more information about cancer, how you could have gotten it, what your chances are, but once you start reading you close your laptop because you don’t really want to know that the survival rate is only 70% five years later for your late Stage 3A aggressive breast cancer. What about 10 years or 20 years you ask, but nobody has those statistics. You don’t want to think in terms of surviving only five years. You don’t want to think that there is a 30% chance you could be dead before the five years are up. You look around your house in Santa Fe, the one you and your spouse bought for retirement that you don’t live in full time yet and you know that in five years she may not be ready to stop working. You want time here together when she retires, time to build a roof deck so you can sit and watch the sun set on the Sangre de Christos every night.

You’ve read all the other statistics about who gets breast cancer, the two most likely being you’re a woman and you’re aging. 77% of the women diagnosed with breast cancer are over age 50. Since when did age 50 mean you were aging, you wonder. Women who’ve never had children, who start their menses before age 12, who took oral contraceptives and who do hormone replacement therapy are at risk. Women who are overweight, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, who are physically inactive and exposed to environmental pollutants are at risk. You fit some of the categories but you never took hormone replacement therapy, you don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol and even though you are overweight you are physically active. Back when you thought you were straight, you took birth control pills for five years. You’ve never smoked. Ever. In your mind only people who smoke get cancer, people who won’t or can’t stop smoking and take drags on their cigarettes from a hole in their neck while they’re hooked up to oxygen.

Cancer. This cannot be your life. This is not your life. This will not be your life. You do not want to understand what these medical terms mean, do not want to become comfortable with spouting out breast cancer vocabulary and treatment options, do not want to know that once your treatments are over the cancer could come back. Once this is all over even if you’re told you are cancer free, it’s only for the moment, that place in time, that snapshot, not forever. You want forever. Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Young Voices

A 19 Year Old On Self-Loathing & Compassion.

February 26, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Karolina.

“If you listen carefully you will know exactly who I am.”

Compassion is a funny thing, it is forgiving, it is comforting, it is safety, and it is scary, but above all, it is strong, much stronger than one could imagine.

I never thought about telling this story. It didn’t even occur to me that it should be something discussed with the public… but I slowly started to realize, why not. This demon lives off of secrecy; grows and grows the more it is hidden. So why not expose it cold turkey. Tell the whole world, cause I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this; who has had an ugly past with food, a destructive relationship with the gym, a disturbing relationship with the mirror, and shattering relationship with myself. So here goes nothing at trying to tell a very complicated piece of whom I am.

A few months ago I would never have thought I’d have the courage to share this part of my past. But to be honest, it’s not in the past, because it’s still going on, current, and will continue to for a very long time.

Last year, if you had asked me if I was content with myself, if I was at peace with myself, if I could look at myself in a mirror and smile; a true genuine smile, I would have lied and said yes, because that’s what I was supposed to say. They always say that the people who look like they’ve got their lives the most put together are either, 1. Actually put together, or 2. Rotting on the inside.

I would classify as number 2.

No one would think I’d be the person to have this kind of internal battle. It would never even cross their mind; I’m that kind of person that is very good, extremely good, at making my life seem incredible, almost perfect, with absolutely nothing wrong ……

Well, now, I’m paying the consequences for that lie, and I’m trying to make it right.

Before I stepped on campus, I thought I was confident in myself. I felt grounded. I thought I knew whom I was and what I wanted to do with my life. I thought I was content with myself, I thought I loved myself, loved my body. And if you asked anyone else they’d say that’s exactly how they saw me too. But what I didn’t know, was that I loved my body, because it got me attention from the opposite sex, not because it was something sacred for myself and only myself.

It’s December, my relationship is falling to shit and I’m standing in front of the mirror; it started like anything else would, very minor, a quick millisecond of a thought… hmm it couldn’t hurt to get rid of that extra layer on my thighs, I mean honestly, just cut down on what I eat for a few weeks.

Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, healing, The Body

Dancing With The Darkness.

February 25, 2015

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By Sian Ewers.

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – Carl Jung

And everything hurts.

It aches. All of it.

Every cell, fiber and atom that makes up my being.

Mind, body and soul thrown into a bowl, mixed, stirred, and formed with hands and words.

I want it all.

I want the bones, the protruding sharp edges, want to feel them beneath my skin, no meat or flesh to cover.

I want the blur, the navy blur of a fuzzy mind that is starving, buzzing with success.

I want the sunken cheekbones; the ones that make my lips look bigger. The ones that make people tell me my eyes look googly.

I want googly eyes.

I want the falling of hair, the outcome, the prize – the proof that I’m winning.

I want my calves to shrink, the muscle to melt and my thighs to never for any reason touch.

I want the pride. The knowing. The pit of my stomach tightness from no food and triumph.

But everything hurts and the control, the power, is the only thing melting now.

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, healing, Truth

Journey Towards Self-Acceptance.

February 14, 2015

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By Katrina Willis.

My relationship with food and with my body is complicated, slippery, broken. My ability to deal with it from a place of reason and intellect waxes and wanes. No matter how it may or may not manifest itself, I will always have an eating disorder.

Just as rape is not about sex, eating disorders are not necessarily about food. For me, it is a hole that needs to be filled; an endless, confusing journey toward self-acceptance and the ability to say without second-guessing: I am worthy, I am whole, I am enough. It is about control, or lack thereof. It is about shame.

**

I can’t be trusted around food. I don’t trust myself to prepare it. I don’t trust myself to eat it. When other people cook for me, it feels safe. And I know what they choose for me is better than what I might choose for myself.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, Women

An Open Letter To All Companies Who Body Shame Women.

January 27, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Annie Sertich.

I’ve been so inspired by #thisgirlcan (an ad in Britain to get chicks active age 14-40).

So a few months ago, a bestie Mindy Sterling (actor from Austin Powers), and I were shopping at the Promenade in Santa Monica, California. We went into Joe’s jeans.

A sweet, cute, 20-something girl greeted us. We smiled back. Then after about 15 seconds she said to me, and only me… ’Just so you know we have more sizes in the back.’

“Huh?” I said.

“We have bigger sizes in the back.’ She sweetly said.

I laughed.

**And this is NOT a post fishing for anything other than I needed to share how bummed this made me for women/girls eating gum for dinner. Plus really Joe’s? LAME.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

Anonymous, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts

The Turning Point.

January 24, 2015

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

By Anonymous.

I’ll never forget the first time someone called me “little” during my teenage years. It was my sophomore year of high school, during our One Act Play festival. I had just won an award for best director and my opponent’s mother fondly referred to me as “that little Erin girl”. She did not say this to my face, of course. But my mother informed me that she’d overheard it. When my mother repeated it, she said it with a hint of bitterness. But I romanticized the idea, the thought that I was this tiny force to be reckoned with, a warrior in bows and ballet flats.

Shortly after this, I developed my eating disorder. Since my reputation as tiny was solidified, my obsession with keeping it began. I shed invisible tears over the size of my stomach, the slowly growing pile of white that barely puckered over my jeans. “You’re tiny.” I’d tell myself this as I ate increasingly smaller portions, to the point where I sometimes ate nothing at all.

My boyfriend called me little too. “You’re so tiny,” he’d tell me, wrapping his hand around my wrist to illustrate his point. I confided in him that I thought I might have an eating disordeI confided in him that I thought I might have an eating disorder while on the phone with him one night during my freshman year of college.

“I’ll tell your parents if it gets bad,” he said. I wondered what bad had to be, if the ritual of purposely not eating for days whenever I got stressed didn’t apply.

When that boyfriend walked out of my life, I told myself that I’d stop starving myself. If ever there were a trigger to that habit, this was it. But, not again, I promised myself. The boy who gave up on me was not worth it.

Flash forward to a few weeks later, post-breakup. I’ve left to study abroad in the Netherlands. I’m living in a castle and making fast friends. And yet, the self-loathing that I’ve struggled with since high school sets it, tainting everything around me. All I can see is the stick legs and thigh gaps of other girls.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts

Why I’m Fat.

January 21, 2015

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By Martha M. Barantovich.

Someone has written the opening scene of a horror flick.  Slowly they pan the camera back and forth and find that one thing out of place in the abandoned, dust covered room.  The doll with no head, lying face up, arms stretched out, as if reaching for a hug.  And in the background is the slow pulse of music that sets the tone.  It just moves the watcher ever so slowly, creating a sense of angst.  You’re not sure why you feel the angst, you just do.

The sound of a hum.

Just below the surface, between my skin and my essence, like an internal itch I’ll never reach is where it lies.  For as long as I can remember, it’s been there.  It’s an internal noise.  A buzz, a hum, a constant vibration.  It has taken me forever to recognize it and name it and look at it and feel it.  My whole life has been attached to and driven by the noise.  My whole life has been a search for the name; like a miner hoping to make it rich. And that really is the crux of it.  The naming and the feeling.  Because I have finally found THE WORD.  THE WORD that I need to face so that we can change the dance.

We will get there.  To the naming and the feeling. But in order to name, I have to peel away the layers.  The thick, imbedded layers that need to be torn back and examined and turned over and squinted at and sniffed and held and hidden away in shame.  Over and over and over again.  This is how I always seem to do it.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual 2016 Manifestation September 2016. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. One spot left.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Women

On Fainting.

January 13, 2015

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By Jen Girdish.

Fainting is a violent thing to the observer. It’s unsteady footing, whites-of-the-eyes, and limp limbs. It’s a quick fall, a simulation of dying. But to the fainter, it’s like turning down the dial on a radio. The fainter loses hearing, then vision, then to goes to sleep. In some ways, the faint—or syncope—is incredibly compassionate.

I’ve spent the few seconds of a faint in potent and tender dreamstates. I’ve been to my grandfather’s stained glass workshop, pressing the backs of my thighs against the soft benches upholstered in his old flannel shirts. I’ve finally ridden the horse that my father bought me for Christmas—the horse that turned out to be wild and never saddled. I’ve played in a pile of fall leaves with Susan Sontag.

The first time I fainted, I had just pierced my ears at one of those overstocked accessory boutiques at the clean mall. I was eleven or so, and mom finally lost the lobe war. We moved in with my grandmother—a different small town outside of Pittsburgh than the other small town outside of Pittsburgh where we used to live. I lost all my friends, so drilling holes in my ears was the consolation prize.

In our debates over whether to defile my lobes with a 15-gauge needle, my mom often brought up Julianne. Julianne was my mom’s student who ripped apart her ear on the playground with just a chandelier earring and a chain-link fence. I pictured the earring ripping like a tag off a new shirt. Julianne’s ears were my mother’s cautionary tale of growing up too early, of not being happy with you have. Continue Reading…

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, healing

Me Too.

December 23, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Lizz Schumer.

There are some things the body never forgets. The sound of my cell phone splintering against the dorm room wall. How my feet felt cool against the cinderblocks moments before it hit, that breaking I felt in my own chest because I thought I could save myself from him.

Those cinderblocks are never clean in my memory. A handprint in blood smears across three, after we wake up the night after carnage, I mean carnal, relations and my body is fetal away from him, oceans of space between two bodies in a dorm size bed.

“Good morning beautiful,” and he smiled that lazy grin I’d get lost in.

If I don’t look in his eyes, I won’t be ensnared.

Valentine’s Day. He sent me a black and white photograph of a heart-shaped ring of stones. “I took this for you,” he said. Only later, I found out it was part of a class project and this was the photographic outtake, the shot with no clear blacks or whites, uneven borders, textbook darkroom failure.

My own photography class taught me what my heart didn’t want to see: Nothing was ever for me.

“You’re sick,” he screamed, moments before my phone hit the wall. “You’re a sick, fucked up slut and I don’t know why I even date you.”

If the tears coursing down my cheeks made sounds, they’d be wimpers, not screams.

I hadn’t found my voice for him. My neck still remembers his hands around my throat, warm where his fingers hit veins. I pulsed for him, in ways my body remembers every time a new man touches me there.

Touches me anywhere. The body remembers what the mind works hard to forget.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts

To Be Made Whole.

November 5, 2014

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By Melissa Chadburn.

My weight fluctuates a lot— I’d say I gain and lose between 20 and 30 lbs. every year. I think there is a story my body is trying to tell. I think perhaps my body is storing too much pain at times.

The things that weigh on me:

The time I wanted back in with my foster family— so I met my foster parents at their job at the ad agency and gave them a presentation on why they should let me come back. The presentation was complete with ways I would financially contribute to the household, and ways that I would be good, and how no one would hardly notice me.

I only ever hit my mother once. It was a reflex. She was in a wild angered frenzy and threw a T-shirt at me. It had my favorite Superman button on it. A metal button the size of a cheeseburger. Somehow the weight of it landed on my nose and I bled. The shock of it all— my crying the blood, she ran to me, full of remorse. The second she was close I socked her in the stomach. Her face, the face she showed me, is the one that haunts me. My face and her face are so similar that the punishment is simple, it’s the look I give myself when I think no one likes me or that I’ve done wrong. Continue Reading…