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Archive for the ‘Appearance’ Category

Mine!

I am a woman. That does not make me a traditional feminist, but while I say that, I’m also not an old-time fundamentalist either. On my hardest days at work, I think we’ve got a raw deal – I’d rather be home playing (and napping) with my tiny girl than slogging through the blech all day. But then, when I do get to stay home, I’m reminded of how hard my husband’s job really is, I re-appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given, and I also re-appreciate all the men and women who’ve been stay-home parents.

What I want, though, is respect. A woman at work put it very concisely this week when she said, “men are pigs.” Another has a bumper sticker on her desk saying, “Men are NOT pigs. Pigs are sensitive and intelligent animals.” OK, now, I’m guessing that there are at least three men who read this blog relatively regularly… so please take no offense, Handsome Panda, The Philosopher, and The Chemist. Just as men stand around and joke about how long it takes women to get ready to go out, women can generalize too. We love you. I know one of you Biblically – and another of you very well – and I’ll be the first to say that you’re two of the best. Which means that you probably can admit to having been a pig, at least once or twice. However, this post is most definitely not directed at y’all.

And, while I’m caveating up a storm, let me say now that this has absolutely nothing to do with the current political environment and all the cries of sexism that are being bandied about. I abhor political rhetoric, and all of that is political rhetoric for its own sake. Yuck. No, this is personal.

So. As I said. Respect. I’m not a frumpy dresser usually, and I do take some pride in my appearance (whether warranted or not). I clean up, fix my hair, apply my makeup with as much care as I can with a toddler hollering “me too, me too!” at my feet. I work in an office where the people mostly dress up – men in ties, women in skirts or slacks and heels, jeans on Friday. But even on Fridays, many still dress up, and “jeans” doesn’t mean grungies, it means trouser-style, dark dye, often still with dress shoes or boots. So I really don’t mind a second look, if offered. I’m self-conscious enough to think I’m having a wardrobe malfunction when I get a second look, anyway. However, by and large, I expect to be treated just like every man or woman, old or young, minority or majority, person in the office, in the neighborhood, or among my acquaintances.

By “respect” and “treated just like,” I’m not even referring to the equal-pay-for-equal-work rant that many women have. It’s hard to quantify all the differences that go into how a person is paid, including things like life decisions that take them away from work, but also including how aggressive they are about asking for what they deserve. Another generalization – men not only are more aggressive by nature, but also, an aggressive man is perceived as a “go-getter,” while an aggressive woman is considered a “bitch.” Go figure.

What I’m talking about is this. What makes it OK for a man (who’s not her husband or best friend) to ask a woman whether she’s “expecting”? Since when is it OK to ask a woman how old she is? Or her weight? Should I be flattered rather than offended if a man I hardly know saunters by saying, “Well nobody told me this was where all the cute girls hang out!”? Well, hmm… I do appreciate being told I look nice today. And I do compliment people when they’ve done something well or I like a particular pair of shoes, piece of jewelry, tie, whatever. But whether I’m speaking to a female acquaintance or a male one, I don’t want to be wondering whether they’re a) contemplating the health and occupancy of my uterus, or b) contemplating how to change the status thereof. If you’re close friends with somebody of the opposite sex, those lines blur a bit. You can joke around more without feeling like your privacy has been invaded. But if you’ve reached that place with someone, you know it, and if you haven’t… well… you damn well should know that too.

This is my body, and it is reserved.

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Monday Morning Panic

Mondays are hazy for me, clouded by weekend delights and antsy anticipation for the rest of the week. Mondays are filled with a panic within me, a quiet disturbance of twisting insides that are calmed by at least the afternoon. 

In grade school, my shoes were never tied right on Monday. My bangs were a little greasy from washing them the night before. High school’s Mondays brought the rest of Friday night’s whispers; the “who sat with who” at the game controversies, soreness from dancing all weekend. My complexion was clearer by Wednesday anyway, so who cared what I looked like on Mondays? The boys did. The boys who would remark if I looked like I managed to lose a pound or two would tell me that my face looked thinner…”If you could just work on clearing it up a bit…”

Adults always told me my skin was beautiful, Monday breakouts or not. I’ve always been fair skinned (thin skinned?) and suseptible to the sun. I wasn’t popular with alabaster skin. The girls who tanned over the weekend were. 

Mondays in college were worse. Skin was worse. Bangs were worse. Procrastination and panic, sometimes waking me hours before my alarm clock. Waves of nausia to wash up on Monday morning shores…I was messy, tired, disappointed that Sundays were so short. Too short. I still panic on Mondays, maybe not as much as my sophomore year at university, but there are still minor trembles of angst at 6:30 or sometimes even 5:45 a.m., right before I finally wake to pretend that I’m awake, drive to work, and brace myself until the afternoon.

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“Do it now, Meredith!”

“MEREDITH! DO IT NOW! YOU’RE SO STUPID!”

“All of us ate it, Meredith, now you have to. DO IT.”

I stood in that dimly lit kitchen at approximately 4:15 a.m., holding a small plastic cup containing my inevitable disgusting fate: peanut butter, chocolate sauce, and brown mustard. Oh and Soy Sauce.

“TAKE THE FRICKING SPOON AND EAT IT YOU BITCH.”

They all stood around me like vultures about to seize my flesh in their gaping, teenage mouths, shrieking obscenities, insults, and reminders that I was the only girl who hadn’t promised to eat whatever concoction was created for the worst Truth or Dare game of my life.

I was easily the prettiest girl there. I had long, straight, sun-streaked hair, fair skin, and a slender teenage body, toned from swimming, dancing, and acting out Broadway musicals in my room. I had started grooming my thick, dark brown eyebrows and wore eyeliner that often shaded my under eyes making them smokey and mysterious. I was just young enough to get away with playing Truth or Dare until the morning hours at a slumber party; just old enough to understand the potential repercussions of admitting too much truth and taking on too serious of a dare.

“DO IT YOU LITTLE BRAT!”

The girls kept shouting out me, the girls that I had just confessed my deepest secrets to; who I crushed on, how many boys’ hands I had held and lips I had kissed, how I really felt about my body. They were all turning against me, all 8 or 9 of these girls, chubby, greasy faced, frizzy haired meanies who were probably tormented at their own schools.

My mother was friends with the mother of the host of this party. Earlier that night, I’m sure we dined on pizza and coke, watched a scary movie, and started our friendly game of Truth or Dare just after midnight. Some of the girls were gross: pimples about to burst on shiny faces, braces poking out from chapped lips, glances of foreign and revolting private parts underneath the big t-shirts of the girls who refused to wear underthings because they said it made them feel better. These were the girls that sat in the back of the class. The ones with the strange smell and the bizarre laugh. The ones that would grow up to either be a cafeteria lunch lady, a janitor’s wife, or in spend most of their lives in prison.

I stood there staring down the cup of disgusting, defiant and near tears, as I simply said, “No.”

The host of the party, one of the girls refusing to wear underwear, grabbed it from me and stuck it in my face.

“You’re going to eat this whole thing!”

Maniacal laughter echoed in the kitchen. I started to cry. They knew that eating this goop was my greatest weakness because the thought of vomiting still makes me emotional to this day.

I spent almost the entire 8th year of my life sick in bed after my parents separated. Anxiety was the official cause of my stomach ailment. 16 some years later, I still remember reaching for the metal bowl to get sick, following sobs and low moans from pain, embarrassment, and the loss of the nutrition that my body so desperately needed. The thought of gagging and getting sick in front of these girls was destroying me.

And since my begging didn’t get me anywhere fast, I decided to just go ahead, dip my spoon in the mixture, and take a very small taste. As I placed the tip of the spoon to my mouth, the girls protested, demanding that I slurp up more.

I don’t remember how the spoon got into my mouth, but it did. And I gagged. And I let the tears fall down my young face in front of all those laughing girls who had probably felt like they had finally gotten payback for all the name calling and torture they had received in their young lifetimes. And I ran to the bathroom to get sick, and cry, a sight I’m sure most, if not all of those teenage harpies enjoyed.

I didn’t learn any real life lesson from this experience, nothing about trust, or self-confidence, or standing up for myself. I let the spoon pass into my mouth. I let the mixture linger on my tongue; I eventually tried to swallow it so that these girls would just shut up and leave me alone. If I close my eyes, I can just hear their voices, yelling and demanding, and the contents of that cup: heaps of brown mustard tucked into folds of flowing Hershey’s chocolate, piled on top of lumps of crunchy peanut butter and sprinkled with soy sauce.

And in reality, sometimes, I find myself swallowing things that I should never do, only to try and silence the nay-sayers or appease the masses in my life. I am bullied and I bully myself frequently. I let myself consume thoughts nastier than that stupid Dare in that kitchen all those years ago; one of the many real games of Truth or Dare I’ve ever allowed myself to play.

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Blond Experiment

Today, I am getting my hair done. I will not be dying it blond or red or jet black or even hot pink, all previous colors of my youth. Rather, I will keep my hair in its natural state, a slight dark brown with a couple of caramel splashes.

My mother used to let me dye my hair as a form of expression. Instead of sneaking off and branding myself with a tattoo or piercing some obscure part of my body, I could dye my hair as long as I knew what I was getting into, and as long as I didn’t get in trouble with the principal at my private high school.

Throughout school, from kindegarten to my senior year, I was forced to conform to a silly dress code. Plaid dresses with white blouses in the winter time with stockings that had pre approved thread counts and “loafers”. I shuddered at that word, thinking that my shoes would look more like Frankenstien’s since my feet were unusually large for a girl my age. In the summer, I was to wear a blue and white pin stripe dress, white blouse, and I think I was allowed to wear those shiny, silver LA Gear sneakers that were so popular in the early 90’s. The boys nicknamed them my Star Trek shoes. I would then begin to cry.

It wasn’t until the summer going into my 7thgrade year that I started to push the envelope. I would find create ways to tie that bold, red sweater they made us wear in the winter with our bold red plaid outfit. I painted my nails dark blue. I smeared tiny sparkles on my eyelids on days when I was happy, and on days when I was feeling moody, I’d chip and peel my nail polish. Now, I’m not saying that I started the ‘Emo’ movement, but I was a trendsetter in that little Los Angeles private school.

Then one summer, while swimming with a girlfriend who adored my sense of style and my need for rebellion, sprayed something in my hair that would forever change my life. Sun-in. We spent all day out in the sun, spraying, swimming, giggling about boys, and spraying some more. By the time my mother picked me up, my hair looked like it belonged on the head and body of a cheap cabaret singer in some smokey joint. It was terrible.

From then on, my hair was “treated” by hairdressers, streaked with platinum blond highlights, dyed dark red to emulate my favorite TV show actress, Claire Danes, dipped through hot pink temporary color fo No Doubt concerts, and right before moving away to college, by to its natural state, nearly the same color it is now, dark brown. I still found ways to express myself through my hair in college. After every semester, I would either cut 7 inches off it or dye it a different color, a sort of cathartic thing a woman does after losing a great love in her life. (Oh trust me, I changed my hair after breakups as well).

My boyfriend loves my hair the way that it is, and general consesus of my friend in Austin can’t even imagine a super blond Meredith. To them, I am the dark and long haired woman, wtih poetic pieces of hair that sometimes hang in my eyes, but don’t think that I’m an emo-kid in any way.

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