With Sincere Gratitude

Thank you, creepy asshole man, for grabbing me and forcible hugging me on the street tonight.

I’m so happy that you could see past my “fuck off” exterior and understand my desire for you to give me a tight bear hug.

I’m proud that you didn’t give up, even after me saying “no” and “let go” multiple times, even after I pulled away from you and tried to push your arm off of me.

I’m glad you could tell that deep down I wanted your unfamiliar arms wrapped around my shoulders and my neck, even after I was able to wiggle away.

Thanks for giving me the feeling like I needed to constantly be looking over my shoulder, even after driving back to my apartment; my neck really needed the workout.

Thanks for letting me exercise my neglected imagination by going through a million scenarios of what could have happened if I had been wasted instead of sober.

Thanks for teaching me that it might not be safe for me to walk 5 blocks at night by myself.

Thanks for making me question whether or not I want to go out tomorrow night.

Thanks for giving me pause about wearing an attractive outfit for a night on the town.

Thanks for making me kick myself for not using anything I learned in my self defense class, for wiping my mind of the idea that those moves even exist.

Thanks for letting me experience the overwhelming paralysis of fear.

Thanks for changing the memory of tonight from the night I got to see one of my favorite bands to the night that I felt unsafe, angry, and scared.

You’ll never know how much tonight meant to me.

All About Those Beauty Standards

I was out at the bars with my friends this past weekend when this song, “All About That Bass”, caught my attention. I’m usually an Indie/Pop-Punk/Alt Rock type of girl, but when I’m out on the town, my brain switches to “club music mode” so I can enjoy my evening without getting caught up in an oh-my-god-this-music-is-all-terrible mood. This song caught my attention because of it’s bumping groove and the fact that I heard something about not being a barbie doll. Ok! I’m liking the sound of that! Later, I went to look it up in a setting where I’d actually be able to hear the words, I was a little disappointed in what I heard.

The overall message of Meghan Trainor’s song appears to be about loving your body and not caring about what other people think of it “cause every inch of you is perfect, from the bottom to the top.” She also goes on to call out the unrealistic images of women that we see all the time: “I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop. We know that shit ain’t real. Come on now, make it stop.” In general, I’m a pretty big fan! I mean, especially as a heavier-than-ideal woman, whom society rarely tells is beautiful, it’s refreshing to hear another heavier-than-ideal woman come forward and declare that she loves her body, and so should you.

BUT

I have a few bones to pick.

While I am happy that she says to be proud of your body, I’m really not a fan of the WHY you should be proud of your body. The underlying idea sprinkled in the song isn’t that all bodies are equal and deserve equal respect. It seems to be that the reason you should be okay with your body is because men find it attractive.

Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.”

I can shake it, shake it like I’m supposed to do
‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase,
And all the right junk in all the right places.

So don’t worry, dear, if people call you fat. You should like that big butt because GUYS like big butts! Isn’t it great? Guys’ interests have switched from the skinny girls to the big girls! We finally have a chance! Nevermind if you like the way you look. That’s irrelevant. We’re just here for the aesthetic pleasure of men!

Ok, maybe that’s a little extreme, but you can see my point. The whole song screams “love your body because guys love your body!” There is nothing that points out how healthy self love is intrinsic and must start from within. Even the mom, the female role model that most young girls look up to, tells her daughter not to worry because boys like the way she looks. The words may have changed from “alter yourself to please men” to “don’t change! you already please men!”, but the message is still the same.

I also have a problem with the way she criticizes skinny women and women without a lot of “bass”.

You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll.

I’m bringing booty back. Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that.

This seems to be a really big theme within the supposed “Body Positive” movement. They pump up the body types that are typically seen as being not beautiful (good!), but they do it by tearing down the bodies of women who meet the beauty standard (bad!). We see it all the time with those pictures on Tumblr and Facebook praising Marylin Monroe’s curvy body and proclaiming how much sexier she is than very skinny actresses like Keira Knightley and Heidi Montag. And on fitspo blogs that explain how skinny girls are lazy because their bodies come naturally thin.

In the music video, there is a traditionally beautiful woman who has been wrapped in plastic wrap, seemingly to represent the “silicone Barbie doll.” I don’t understand why people think it is acceptable to make fun of women who fit the beauty standard when they have about the same control over how their body looks as anyone does. It’s not a naturally skinny girl’s fault if she is born naturally skinny. And even if she did purposely alter her body to fit the mold (by either diet, exercise, or plastic surgery), what business is it of yours? As long as an adult is making consensual decisions that aren’t causing harm to themselves or others, it is no one’s place to judge them.

I understand that it’s an attempt to infiltrate an environment that has been saturated with a fairly narrow beauty ideal with other options, but putting down those bodies that fit is not the way to do it. I imagine a young girl who is maybe on the heavier side hearing this song and feeling inspired, which is great! But I also imagine a young girl who is on the thin side without much curve hearing this song and feeling inadequate, which is horrible. I’m chubby. I’ve spent my whole life growing up hearing that my body isn’t beautiful, never seeing women who looked like me on tv, being told that I should try to lose weight, not out of concern for my health, but in order to look more attractive. It sucks. It sucks being told that how people look is the most important thing, and what you look like isn’t good enough. The fat girls shouldn’t have to hear that anymore. But that doesn’t mean that the skinny girls should.

We should definitely be giving recognition to body types that break the standard of beauty, but why do we have to flip the script and dismiss or put down body types that fit it? Why does it have to be skinny good, fat bad OR fat good, skinny bad? Why does it always have to be one or the other?

https://i0.wp.com/img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20121009000433/pffanon/images/7/77/Porque_no_los_dos.gif

You said it, Old El Paso girl. Why don’t we have both? How about we stop tearing each other down to try and make us feel better about ourselves? How about we stop trying to live up to whatever standard of beauty society currently tells us is “in”? How about we stop trying to change the beauty standard? How about instead we say fuck beauty standards and embrace ourselves and everyone else just as we are?

Let’s be all about that bass AND that treble. And everything in between.

The Fifth Year and How I Got Here

Today marks the first day of my last year in college. Last time I’ll spend an extra hour getting ready in the morning in an attempt to make a good first impression. Last time I’ll get to watch nervous freshmen wander into the wrong classroom. Last time I’ll strut to class with a superior demeanor because I know that I have more experience at my campus than 3/4 of the student population. This would be way more exciting if I hadn’t already celebrated my “last first day” a year ago.

I am about to start classes as a fifth year senior. All of my friends have graduated. I’m living with strangers. I’m the oldest person in my classes. I feel like a fish out of water, like the one drunk person who won’t leave the bar even though everyone has cleared out, the lights have come up, and the busboys are sweeping around their feet.

This wasn’t the plan. The plan was four years. Four years is what my parents expected. Four years is how the normal people do it. Only stupid people and slackers need to stay past their expiration date. Believe me when I say that learning I was going to be stuck here, alone for another year felt like being punched in the stomach.

My college education has been less than ideal to say the least. As an A and B+ high school student, my world was totally rocked when I dropped out of calculus first semester freshman year. I had been struggling in the class, something that was completely foreign to me, to the point that I had been brought to tears in the middle of lecture on multiple occasions out of frustration. Try as I might, I couldn’t comprehend the material, and after two months of beating myself up, I finally had to drop the class or take a failing grade. I felt like the stupidest person in the world. Out of my failure, I developed somewhat of an inferiority complex and lost nearly all confidence in my academic ability. When I received my grades at the end of fall semester, I burst into tears when I saw my final GPA.

I chucked my failure up to culture shock and vowed to make a fresh start. Things seemed to improve second semester, and I started my sophomore year by declaring a major in Journalism. I had always loved writing, and journalism seemed like a practical field to translate my interests into a career. It only took about five weeks in two intro classes for me to realize that I hated it. Reporting the daily news and spitting out boring quotes and facts seemed like a nightmare from hell. Not everything related to writing could be boring, though. Right? My love of reading and writing had to go somewhere,right?  And it was in the spring that I stumbled into my first creating writing class. It was exactly what I had been looking for: taking what I loved to do and turning it into something tangible, something that I could watch myself improve at. I figured that if I was going to study something in college, it should to be something that I actually liked; this was the semester I changed my major to English.

This was also the first semester I got sick at school. Up until this point, I hadn’t even had a simple cold. But my immune system was making up for lost time by handing me a nasty throat infection. I was out of class for almost two weeks, just enough time to throw a wrench in my schoolwork. When I came back to my classes, I was completely lost and spent every day playing catchup. It was like freshman year all over again, and I barely made it out of the semester alive.

The next year and a half was complete hell. I felt like I was constantly sick, contracting strep, the stomach flu, mono, and two relapses of mono, all with sporadic throat infections sprinkled in between. See, my fear of failure had become so overwhelming that I developed serious anxiety about my schoolwork. The anxiety lead to constantly being sick, and the constantly being sick lead to struggling in class which lead to more anxiety. It was a horrible cycle that I couldn’t crawl out of. And on top of this we also get to throw in worrying if I was in the right major, pressure from my parents to figure out what I wanted to do with my life (something I have never had a clear plan for), and my grandma passing away, only a year after my grandpa. As I watched my grades sink lower and lower, my self-esteem plummeted, and I fell into a depression. I had no motivation to go to class or do homework. I knew that my grades were important, but I didn’t care. I didn’t see the point. And if I failed because I didn’t try, that seemed like a better option than trying and failing because I wasn’t good enough. I spent the majority of my time in bed, sleeping the days away and feeling sharp pangs of guilt as I watched the clock count down to the start of each of my classes from underneath my covers.

Last Christmas after getting my grades for the semester and seeing the classes I had failed, I knew I had to face the reality of my situation, something that I had actively been avoiding. My parents confronted me about what was going on in my schoolwork, and I had a total meltdown as I tried to explain myself. It was like all the feelings that I had been suppressing over the past year and a half came flooding out in a matter of seconds. I had always been the child who excelled in school, who my parents expected so much of, and I felt like I had completely let them down.

After a long, tearful discussion, we resolved that I wouldn’t be graduating that spring. It was like a rock simultaneously being dropped on my head and lifted off my shoulders. Saying out loud that I wouldn’t be graduating college in four years was heartbreaking for me. It was the first time that my projected lifeline had been thrown off course. I felt it shift in a concrete way that I had never experience before. But without the time restriction, there wasn’t as much pressure to be a perfect student. For the first time in over a year, I felt like I could start to relax.

This past semester wasn’t easy, but the fog has been lifted. Or rather, the fog has migrated from swirling around my head/throat area to trailing behind my feet. The main thing that has come out of this spring is the realization that I wanted to change my major. Without an overall negative attitude toward all of my schoolwork, I was able to reflect on where my lack of motivation was coming from, and I concluded that I wasn’t invested in my English classes. In fact, just the thought of having to sign up for another English class was enough to give me anxiety. Shwoops. Time for plans to change again.

So here’s the new plan: 1 more year. 1 new major. 100% effort. In case you haven’t read any of my previous posts, I am very interested in gender issues and sexual politics. Therefore I have decided to change my major to Gender Studies. And let me tell you, the second I entertained this possibility, I got a genuine surge of motivation and excitement for my upcoming education, something that has been missing since the start of my college career. I’m taking that as a good sign.

My parents have been amazingly supportive of my decision and helpful in making my transition. Though my timeline isn’t ideal, they are excited for me and want me to succeed. And I want me to succeed. And I have this beautiful, confident feeling that I will.

After all, fifth time’s the charm!