Why I Walk Around Naked


11150479_630544590414714_184724744336153178_nI frequently walk around the house naked. I know. Big deal, right? Well, for me, it has become quite a big deal. First things first, though: cards on the table. I am 32 years old, a wife of almost a decade, and the mother of a rambunctious two-year-old girl (remember her, she’s the lynchpin here). I am 5’1 and my weight is currently hovering at 135 lbs. Is my body perfect? No. It’s why I work out at home just about every day, try to eat better than I have in the past, and hit Planet Fitness with a friend a few times a week to run and strength train on the weight machines. No, my body isn’t perfect, but it’s healthy and getting stronger as I continue to work. More importantly than even that, I have a daughter to whom I want to teach a positive body image and comfort, as well as healthy habits. I want my girl to grow up at ease with herself, to find her body strong and capable, to find herself beautiful. Who will she learn that from but me? Whose voice will battle all the others that will bombard her from society, television, movies, toys, etc.? Mine. Mine is the voice she hears all day. Mine is the body she sees working, playing, exercising. Mine are the reactions and self-talk she will learn from. Therefore, accepting, working on, and speaking kindly to myself are not only for me for but for my Elizabeth as well.

Not too long ago, I watched a video from my belly dance class that my teacher had posted in the class’s Facebook group. We were drilling portions of choreography and my posture was wrong, terrible even. And I told my husband:

“I hate the way I look in this video! I look like I’m still pregnant!”

I immediately regretted and kicked myself for the unkind statement, as Elizabeth was sitting nearby playing with her toys. I maintain that, though she’s only two, she understands everything that is said to and around her. So I have to check the negative self-talk, both inner and outer. If I want my daughter to learn to accept herself, love herself, and see the beauty in every curve, line, and angle of her unique body, I have to do the same. She won’t learn or develop a sense of body comfort if she hears me constantly bad-mouthing my own body. My unique, maddening, triumphant body.

So I walk around the house naked, and I let Elizabeth run around in her diaper, especially now that the weather is warm again. Together, we work on her learning that everyone has a body beneath their clothes and that it is nothing to be feared but everything to be respected and appreciated. At the same time, I am working on my own comfort level with being naked around her and explaining the differences between my body and hers, even at her young age.

“Yes, those are Mommy’s breasts; some mommies feed their babies that way. Yes, you have nipples, too.”

We teach our children to name the parts of their faces, their arms, legs, fingers, toes, and tummy as a necessary benchmark of their development, but I think that it is also important for children to see, from their parents, what those bodies will look like as they grow. I want to be comfortable enough with my daughter and her with me that she can ask me questions about my body and her own as she grows older. I want her to see her body as beautiful, no matter what the voices around her might say. She is strong and brilliant, energetic and curious. I want her mind and body to exist and work together, not against each other.

When I was a girl, I marveled at my mother’s waist. She had a stunning curve to her waist that her A-line dresses gorgeously accentuated. I would trace my hands over her silhouette and hope to be as lovely as her when I grew. When she’d let her hair down, I would hold its weight in my hands and stand in awe. I saw my mother’s beauty, even when she couldn’t, but I struggled for a long time to find my own. I would dearly love to protect my daughter from that uncertainty and for her to always be assured of her unique loveliness and brilliance. Even better if she will then, in turn, remind others of their own.

So I stand naked before the mirror, deny the negative self-talk, and call myself beautiful. My little girl comes to stand beside me, as tall as my thigh, and leans smiling against my leg. I hug her close and call her beautiful, and, somewhere in that little child brain full of all things new and amazing, I think that she thinks so, too.

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Her


They all saw her outside. They witnessed her every day. Many remarked on her poise and grace, her intelligence and gentleness. They watched her, saw her, day in and day out. Everyone thought they knew her, knew her story, who she was. But there was, of course, a her that they did not see, that they never saw.

Out of sight, there was the her whose shoulders stooped with the weight of responsibility and yet bore up. A her whose voice rang triumphantly in the celebration of a moment. A her who bit her tongue sharply to remind herself of the importance of silence’s role in making wise decisions. A her who chose every day to be the best her she could be. That was what people didn’t see, what they didn’t hear. But it made her the woman that they saw and knew.

Emotion: Another Four-letter Word


Author’s Note: Sections in italics are quotes directly from the article “Men Can, Too“.

Can I just say that I LOVE The Well Written Woman? They always publish such excellent articles. Heaven only know what they see in mine. ^_^ But today’s really made my day.

We have heard so much lately about gender equality, feminism, etc., and I really tend to stay out of these discussions because people are just so…angry. So I stay out of the discussions and keep my thoughts to myself. But I very much appreciated this article that Tammie Niewedde wrote (“Men Can, Too”). In the article, she quotes her son, after asking him what he thought of an article that showed men screwing up various jobs,

“Being a man who has chosen to be a stay-at-home dad for part of my son’s life, and being that I was ridiculed and criticized by my in-laws, I don’t think these things are funny at all. These supposed jokes are why men try to stay away from being helpful and sensitive. If we are projected as being good at ‘women’s work’, we completely give up our man card. We’re only allowed to be violent and domineering, and that’s what ticks me off.”

And it breaks my heart. Why do we vilify this? Call it ‘unmanly’, ‘unmasculine’? Why do we not celebrate it more? For example, have male friends who put me to shame with the way they care for their homes and the mastery they show at cooking. I admire them beyond words and, actually, strive to emulate them in many ways.

I am not a strong voice in the crowd when it comes to social issues. I usually keep my feelings private or for one-on-one discussions with my spouse and friends. But this…this is near and dear to my heart as I have met far too many men whose hearts and souls are wounded by this. With everything that’s been in the news lately, it can be so easy to make blanket statements from either side.

“All men can be violent assholes/rapists/abusers/etc.”

“All women can be bitches/teases/ballbusters.”

There is nothing built from this! Nothing at all! On either side. I don’t believe in statements like this. I don’t believe in “I know all men aren’t like this but…” I know that the men that I have chosen to cut out of my life are the exception, the aberration in my world. On the whole, the men in my life are wonderful and caring, intelligent and loving. And yet I know that they still struggle with this. I have spoken to them about it, cried with them through it, and loved on them to try to combat it. Destruction of self-esteem and self-image is not a poison regulated to women only. Please don’t forget that. This is a poison that has become so internalized in our adulthood that the damage is often consistent and difficult to repair when it wounds again and again.

My husband is the most masculine man I know, though he might not fall into the damaging cultural stereotype of masculine. He doesn’t like sports, though he played his fair share as a young kid. He gave it up in a preference for poetry, languages, and culture as he became a teenager. He likes music and Swamp Thing, speaking in German, reading poetry to our daughter, playing on his Xbox, singing, and reading fantasy and science fiction novels. He doesn’t run/jog, lift weights, watch football, or things like that. He debates education reform, he’s a conscientious objector, he mows our lawn, teaches Outdoor Pursuits to young people, is an NRA-licensed rifle instructor, and he’s the most masculine man I know.

And that is because he cares for his family, he encourages and supports his wife, he loves on and giggles with his daughter. He calls his mother just about every night and tells her about his day; he seeks out the advice of his parents on his job and important decisions. And yet he struggles with this. I know he does. But he puts one foot in front of the other every day and does his best to be the man I know he is, to be as true to himself as he can. And I love him for it.

I have never been drawn to the posturing, macho, crowing men – the ones who see their ‘man card’ as needing verification. The ones who whistled at me, sidled up to and touched me uninvited in a club, asked me as I passed them if I believed in love at first sight. I am attracted to men with kind hearts, gentle eyes and hands, clever minds, and loving personalities. THAT is my idea of masculinity, THAT is a man to me. THAT is a good person to me.

But in this world, emotion/sensitivity/kindness are seen as weakness. My husband brought up a good point today. What do we do when we see someone crying in public? We try not to pay attention. We may tell ourselves this is so that we do not embarrass the cryer, but the truth is that we are trained to avoid public emotion. It is seen as unseemly or ‘making a scene’ to allow emotion in public. But isn’t that the point of emotion, the reason our bodies have physical responses to it, like crying? Crying is a way our heart cries out for comfort, for the need of someone else – their care, their love, their strength – even when we don’t realize it. Why do we wish to quash this? In men and women? Men who show emotion are considered weak or unmasculine. Women who show emotion are referred to as a ‘bullet’ to be dodged or, more often, we refer to ourselves as a ‘hot mess’, quashing our own freedom to feel. I’ve even noticed this behavior in some of my characters whom I write for, which I think I need to strongly reconsider.

In the Victorian age, displays of emotion were labeled as a medical/psychological illness; we called it hysteria. Hysteria was treated by isolation, which often led to depression (called ‘exhaustion’), when really what that person most likely needed was someone to recognize their need and answer that emotion’s call.

We – men and women – are not weak in our emotion. We are strong in the fact that we are given opportunities to minister to and love on each other. We are given opportunities to strengthen each other in our actions and in our hearts, regardless of what the stereotypical gender roles would have us do. I don’t think I would call myself a feminist (I don’t really like calling myself an anything really, as I’ve discovered lately) but I do believe in the need for equal support from both sides.

As much as there is a war against women with the SCOTUS decision about birth control and such, there is also war against men that orders them to never, ever act like a woman. It’s as if during this war, the male camp calls out its own members as traitors if they can cook or clean or change a diaper. Moreover, if a man shows sadness or weakness, even in losing a child, his admission to the Man Club is revoked, and not only by other men, but sometimes by women as well.

[…]

It’s not about superiority. It’s not about winning. It’s about being human.

Amen.

An Unfair Comparison


Author’s Note: This blog post is not aimed at anyone, nor is it an exercise in shaming persons – man or woman, great or small, or what have you. It is simply a post born of a thought and worked through into a premise as I work through my own issues with self-esteem and comparison. You are under no obligation to read it.

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Dear You,

Now, I know that you have read the letters and blog posts that tell you not to compare yourself to others, to not look at their bodies and think yourself fat or unfit or unattractive or what have you. They tell you to remember your power, that you are great/beautiful/handsome/wonderful just the way you are, man or woman. You shouldn’t compare yourself to anyone else; you are individual, you are unique, you are special. Comparing yourself to someone else is unfair to you. And I agree.

But what about me? Yes, me. That one, whether nebulous or specific, that you’re comparing yourself to.  It’s unfair to me, too, you know.  Just as it’s unfair to you when people compare themselves to you. When you compare yourself to me, you not only undo your individuality, you undo mine, too. Such a comparison, at its heart, presumes against the individuality of both the comparer and the compared. It assumes that you and I, or you and someone else, are the same in all things. When you compare yourself to me and wonder why you don’t look this way or do this or have that, you aren’t allowing for one very fundamental detail:

We are not the same person.

Between you and me, there is a plethora of differences – differences in body type, health, family history, maybe ethnicity, life developments and changes, jobs, particular emotional stressors, children or no children, and on and on. So it’s not only unfair to you when you compare yourself and hinge your self-esteem on someone else, but also to the person to whom you are comparing yourself. We are all in this together, but we are all fundamentally different people and far too individual and unique to be comparing ourselves to each other. I am not like you and you are like no one else. So let’s be fair to ourselves but also to others and let them be the special, unique, wonderful people that they are, too.

Thanks, Me

NaBloPoMo Day 1: Dress Fantasies


Dresses from Modcloth.com

Stolen from OpusElenae. Every November, she does something called NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month. It came about as a spin-off of National Novel Writing Month, which also takes place in November. The goal is to write a blog post a day, all month. I have decided to follow my wifey-friend’s suit and try to post every day in November.

So, for today, here is this probably-not-so-surprising declaration.

I love dresses. Absolutely love dresses.

I love feminine fashion and being girly. I am a huge fan of feminine fashion, loving the fit-and-flare, 50s and 60s style dresses, sweaters, skirts, and open-toed shoes that resurfaced this past spring and summer. I bellydance, love to clean and cook when I’m in the mood (and, yes, I have done so in heels and pearls before). I also wear jeans, shovel snow, deal with all the technology in our house, and shoot archery. Yes, I still consider myself feminine. I expect my 4-and-a-half-month-old daughter to one day run around in a tutu and rain galoshes, to put on camo and go hunting with her grandfather, and to love the pretty dresses that her grandmothers buy for her.

But, as for me, I would fill my closet with dresses if I could. Dresses that flatter, satin that feels like cool milk against my skin, lace that froths in the light, chiffon that flows and clings in all the right places and ripples like water when I walk. I love it all. It makes me feel beautiful and graceful and it’s one of the few things that I do for myself that makes me feel so. So no matter how old I get. You’ll never get me to give up my dresses.

TV Show Review: “Bomb Girls”


I LOVE period television shows. Shows like “Downton Abbey” and “Call the Midwife” are my bread and butter. I have discovered a new show, however, a Canadian series called “Bomb Girls”, focusing on four women from very different backgrounds who work in the Victory Munitions factory making bombs. They put their lives into each other’s hands every day as they work in this highly explosive (heh) environment, dealing with not only each other, their own secrets, and the sharp lines of class distinction, but also with the worries of the overseas family members they are working so hard to help with their bombs.

I love all of the characters, such heartfelt, feeling women. Women who are deeply human, struggling to do jobs for which they are often considered ill-suited, being the breadwinners for their families, protecting their children, living up to their ideals, and doing their best to make a difference in a world gone mad. I watched the entire first season in one evening.

I love the style, I love the setting, I love the music. It’s just a great show all around. I can’t wait to start season 2. 🙂